Innovative tech brings the cloud to location sets, catalyzing major changes in filmmaking

Digital filmmaking was watershed to the entertainment industry, but this new tech from Frame.io promises to streamline and speed movie, TV, news, and commercial production shoots.

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Image: Frame.io

Since producers, execs, editors, costumers, etc., are the ones who green-light projects, provide funding, and work on promotions, it makes sense that they are anxious to see the progress being made on an on-location or on-set (but away from the studio) film, television, news and commercial shoot. The process has always been an odious one, made only a little less so by digital filmmaking and the adoption of the use of drives, which still need to be physically sent and delivered to studio/offices to allow for the viewing of the previous day's shooting; in industry parlance, those clips are called "rushes." 

As announced today, in what will be a Hollywood game changer, a secure camera-to-cloud workflow allows filmmakers to instantly upload and stream images from on-set cameras to creative post-production teams anywhere in the world: Camera-to-Cloud (C2C), from cloud-based collaboration platform Frame.io

C2C initially enables instant proxy uploads right when cameras stop rolling, allowing for the department editorial to start editing footage, all within moments of the call for "cut!" 

Additionally, Frame.io C2C can live-stream footage to an authorized user's device both on or off set. For productions which have been hamstrung by the limitations imposed by COVID-19 protocols, this greatly reduces the number of people needed on set. 

In other words, editorial and other traditionally linear parts of the creative process can happen in parallel, while footage is still being shot.

"Essentially it allows people to shoot right from a camera into the Frame.io  cloud," explained Michael Cioni, Global SVP of Innovation at Frame.io.

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As simple as that sounds, that technology has never really been done before. Being able to make that rapid response happen that quickly and connecting the most critical device on any production  (the camera) right to the end user.

"Everybody figured out how to do this with the smartphone, because that's a camera that shoots to the cloud and that's a relatively new technology," Cioni said. "But when it comes to professionals, it's never happened," as it was missing "the mechanism or the vehicles or the collaborations to put the power of speed and collaboration from a camera directly to the cloud." 

The new camera-to-cloud workflow requires a Frame.io C2C-certified device connected to compatible cameras from Arri, RED, and Sony. Once authenticated, certified devices--such as the commonly used Teradek CUBE 655 and Sound Devices 888 or Scorpio recorders--record, encode, and send timecode-accurate H.264 proxy files with matching filename metadata directly to Frame.io by using an encrypted and secure connection through LTE, 5G, or Wi-Fi

It is this process which provides near real-time delivery of editable proxy files to a producer, dailies facility, or editor located anywhere in the world. "Cameras in the field shoot really big, high quality files," Cioni said. "In order to work with that, we shrink it down into what we call a 'proxy file.'" Big files were previously compressed into small ones "so that people can shuttle them around on hard drives and edit reasonably efficiently." 

"But the problem was, up until now, all of this happened with one specific component and that is shipping a hard drive from the set to somebody else. That was the only way to move things. And if you remember before hard drives, we had videotapes, we had to ship videotapes. And before videotapes, you had film and you had to ship the film to a laboratory and they had to do an overnight development process, which sometimes took one to two days of delays before you could see anything. And so, if we look at this, we call this the universal workflow backbone." Now, with Frame.io's new tech, those steps are eliminated, and can be viewed--even in real time--by those designated through the internet.

Users who are located on set, or anywhere in the world, who are given proper authentication credentials can view a live stream of footage while it's being shot from the comfort of their computer, iPhone, or iPad; collaborators can immediately share ideas for the creative vision, while those who need to track production progress stay informed.

The new tech provides a "super, super fast turnaround," said Emery Wells, CEO of Frame.io. The standard conventional method was too time consuming. "If you have a crew, pausing to download the footage, get that drive, even if there is an editor on set, the production crew has to stop and say, 'Okay, now we're going to get this footage over to the editor.'" Now, "they don't have to do that. They can just be focused on shooting, clips are automatically going in, and you're just going to absolutely fly."

C2C has already been used on a film, Wells said: "One of our beta customers was the first feature film to shoot camera-to-cloud, 'Songbird,' directed by Michael Bay (Transformers, Armageddon)."

The requirements are simple: Wi-Fi, a supported camera, the Teradek CUBE 655 (which connects with the camera), and a Frame.io account; recipients view footage through an app. It costs $15 a month, which is included in the Frame.io plan. 

Frame.io C2C's security has full TPN and SOC 2 Type 2 compliance. TPN is the global, industry-wide initiative that defines requirements and best practices for protecting content and was developed by the MPAA and CDSA. Rigorous access controls were implemented to ensure C2C is a security safe method to share media with authorized viewers and collaborators.

Also introduced today is the new Frame.io Cloud Devices API and C2C certification program which enables hardware and software manufacturers to create their own C2C compatible products. Frame.io C2C launches with three partner integrations from Teradek, Sound Devices, and Colorfront, thus making it compatible with more than a dozen professional camera systems from RED, Arri, and Sony.

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A Paris-location movie set.

Image: iStock/kirill-liv

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By N.F. Mendoza

N.F. Mendoza is based in Los Angeles. She has a BA in Broadcast Journalism and Cinema Critical Studies and a Master's of Professional Writing, both from USC. Nadine has more than 20 years experience as a journalist covering film, TV, entertainment, b...