Camera to Cloud: Frame.io’s Latest Workflow Innovation

by | Jun 23, 2021 | Film News

“Shoot, Look, Share.” These are the steps that Michael Cioni, Global Senior Vice President of Innovation at Frame.io, says we all experience when sharing moments of our lives through pictures and video.

“We see something interesting, we shoot the picture, we look at our phone to make edits, and we get the content ready to share to anyone across the world.”

This is the process we’re all familiar with within our social media lives, and Cioni wanted to bring this concept to video production.

The result is Frame.io’s Camera to Cloud.

For those unfamiliar, Frame.io has emerged as the leader of the pack among the handful of online video review and collaboration software. Full disclosure—Hurrdat Films moved over to using Frame.io in October 2020.

Camera to Cloud is Frame.io’s attempt to take those principles from sharing content on social apps and apply it to us, video production professionals, managing terabytes of content.

For Hurrdat Films, our typical production workflow consists of three phases (as do most productions): Pre-Production, Production/Principal Photography, and Post-Production. In between those phases, a handful of other processes exist—most notably Log and Ingest or media management.

This is one of the most overlooked elements of a production shoot that is never seen by talent or clients. It’s the process of ingesting the camera media and transcoding the files to an editable format. The higher quality of the camera, the less editable the camera’s native footage is.

On our projects, the ingestion process can delay the start of editing by a day or more. If footage has to be copied to a hard drive and mailed to an editor, this could delay editing by multiple days.

This is the fundamental selling point of Camera to Cloud, creating proxies on the fly and uploading them instantly to the Cloud allows the editor to start as soon as the camera has finished recording that take.

Camera to Cloud allows video creatives to instantly create proxy files (lower resolution and smaller file size video files used for faster and/or immediate editing) while shooting on set, upload those files to Frame.io’s Cloud system, which can then be shared and viewed by anyone with an internet connection across the world. The initial benefit of this process is getting working files to an editor who can start working on a rough-cut or a client to start making decisions on the best takes.

Cody Jones is a fellow Cinematographer and Colorist based in Omaha, a freelancer who collaborates with us at Hurrdat Films on occasion.

Cody recently was hired onto a production using a beta version of Camera to Cloud on a set in mid-March and was generous enough to give us a little “Monday Morning Quarterback” review of the experience.

Beyond the benefits of instantly creating and delivering proxies, Cody noted being able to build a remote video village was key. The production used Camera to Cloud to build a remote video village that was streaming video and audio directly to nine people, who could not be on-set.

A Video Village is a sort of “hub” where clientside representatives and producers can watch exactly what’s coming out of each camera.

Camera to Cloud allows for real-time streaming from the production camera (even when it’s not recording), so members of the team can still view and give input on the production from anywhere in the world. Both the proxies and streaming are transferred using secure access, so privacy and security are addressed by Frame.io.

Cody immediately saw how the program could create budget efficiencies for production. “Depending on how many people need to be flown in…it could be cheaper to hire one person to handle the remote video village than to fly out a bunch of people, put them up with room and board—and that’s what we’ve been seeing,” Jones said when we were talking about potential budget savings Camera to Cloud could create for a production.

He continued, “It’s an incredible tool to offer a faster turnaround. I think it increases the potential for people to produce and deliver work. And hopefully, allow for even more creative stuff to be made by reducing friction and pain points for people in general.”

The downside to Camera to Cloud is that some fairly significant hardware is necessary to execute the program, namely a Blackmagic Teradek System (needed to encode the video stream). If the audio isn’t being baked into the camera feed and distributed that way, a Sound Devices 888 or Scorpio will be needed to transmit the audio files. So depending on the scale of your production and production company, a low five-figures worth of hardware could be a non-starter as of now. But rental houses could offer a viable solution for smaller teams interested in the many other upsides.

Currently, the program doesn’t support frame rates higher than 60p, so if you’re doing a lot of sports or commercial work shooting at high framerates, this is also not super attractive.

Like most things though, as the technology involves and user bases grow, you have to think that high framerate support will be at the top of the list of added features for future of versions. In fact, the future is something Cody and I talked about a lot.

“With how the internet is becoming integrated into our world, I think it’s naturally going to become something that’s going to be needed more on set…I think it’s only natural that we would start to upload bigger camera files, better camera files,” Cody explained.

Frame.io has that same expectation. In their Camera to Cloud training video, they’re predicting that by 2026, it’ll be very normal to shoot proxies from any camera. By 2028, original camera files (OCF = full resolution, non-proxy files) will be transmitted directly from the set to the Cloud. And in ten years, in 2031, removable media (SD, XQD cards, SSDs) will no longer be necessary for production, just like how we moved past VHS tapes into digital formats.

It’ll be interesting to see how the industry evolves on the production side. There was a full pendulum swing when quarantine started. Productions were canceled or had to find creative workarounds to keep everyone safe.

“Hopefully, through all of that…and how the internet is kind of leveling the playing field a little bit, I think the chances of being able to do something great from places like Omaha, Nebraska are definitively there or are growing.”

As the pendulum now seems to be swinging back to something like normal, the worlds of creative, agency, and business, in general, are seeing remote work remaining as part of their work mosaic, improving both budget efficiencies and worker satisfaction. Camera to Cloud could be what brings those same benefits to the world of small and indie productions.

James Chramosta is a Cinematographer & Colorist with Hurrdat Films. He served as the Director of Photography on 50 Summers and Best Kids in Texas. Both films are currently streaming for free on Amazon for Prime Members, and available from iTunes from rent or download.