I first learned about the Workflow from Home web series from Frame.io when Ep 5 – Conan O’Brien in the Cloud went viral in all my social media channels – which gave me the incentive to check it out further – and ultimately, I signed up for a Team account for our Video & Imaging Services group where I work.
Even though my group is just a small Marcom video production, animation and product photography dept. for a large biotech company, the necessity for a better reviewing and sharing workflow for our teams of editors, designer and scientists has been on my list for the past few years as we’ve grown from producing about 50 projects a year to over 200. The pandemic SIP that’s happening globally was exactly the push we’ve needed to act on this now, especially everyone working from home and having issues with connecting to our workgroup servers remotely and trying to download videos to review.
So when the opportunity to interview the folks at Frame.io that developed this series came along, I jumped at the chance to learn more and to review the entire web series in depth to learn how we can better capitalize on how their workflow process can benefit productions of any scale.
What is Frame.io?
(Excerpted from Press Release June 29, 2020) Frame.io is the world’s leading cloud-based video collaboration platform, designed to streamline the entire creative process by centralizing all media assets—and all feedback—in one secure place that’s easily accessible from anywhere in the world. Frame.io integrates with major professional video tools, acting as the hub of the entire creative ecosystem. Conceived and designed by video creators, the UI is intuitive and flexible that’s grounded within a powerful platform along with a collection of award-winning iOS apps for both the iPhone and iPad. The world’s leading creators and innovators trust Frame.io every day to help power their creative workflows, including Turner Broadcasting, Disney, NASA, Snapchat, BBC, BuzzFeed, TED, Adobe, Udemy, Google, Fox Sports, Media Monks, Ogilvy, and VICE Media.
Frame.io’s purpose is to allow everyone involved in the creative process to collaborate as if they’re all in the same room, no matter where they are in the world. Frame.io redefines the modern creative workflow.
I ended up getting the Team account for my group since there’s just 3 of us producers and dozens of potential reviewers. Only the producers will upload anything and we then designate the appropriate technical editors, art directors and clients for each project to review and comment. That consolidated feedback then comes back to us inline and quickly identified by the comments on the sidebar. It also has integration capabilities with FCPX, Resolve and Premiere Pro – which is great if you have a fast enough internet connection I’ve discovered.
Who I interviewed:
Michael Cioni, Global SVP of Innovation, Frame.io is one of the most well known international voices for workflow technologies in the cinema space. After winning four National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Emmy® awards, Michael founded and served as President and CEO of Light Iron, a workflow-centric post production company. After Light Iron was acquired in 2015 by the largest international camera rental group, Panavision, Cioni served as SVP of Innovation and became the product director of Panavision’s Millennium DXL 8K large format camera ecosystem.
A frequent speaker on workflow and camera systems at many international industry events, Cioni is also an active member of the community, focusing on research, development, and the education of all people in the media and entertainment space.
In addition to being the Global SVP of Innovation at Frame.io, Cioni is a provocative speaker, trusted leader, effective motivator, patent holder, published writer, successful innovator, and accomplished musician, known for taking risks and breaking down complex topics so they can be effectively communicated to audiences on big and small stages.
Andrew Gomez, VP, Brand at Frame.io and NY-based producer for Workflow From Home. Andrew played a critical role in providing feedback and guidance for the direction of the series as a whole. He was one of a few team members who participated in the review & approval process, reviewing original cuts of the series’ episodes and providing commentary for Vince to go in and make appropriate edits to each episode.
Work From Home by the Numbers
To help inform the series’ content, the team at Frame.io conducted multiple customer surveys to gather data around user feedback on remote work. The survey results revealed that 73 percent of respondents were equally or more productive when working remotely. Before quarantine, more than half were already working without direct client interaction or supervision, and this number increased by 10 percent during the quarantine. These results demonstrate a strong case for long-term adoption of remote workflows.
Each episode of “Workflow From Home” explores how video professionals have adapted to and embraced changes they may have never before considered, and how oftentimes, these changes led to more productive and efficient work.
Cioni concludes, “A lot has changed in our world. A lot is changing in our industry. But what hasn’t changed is that people will always need to tell stories, maybe now more than ever. Stories are what keep us connected, and I think that connection is what’s enabling us to document this extraordinary time in history.”
Jeff Foster: Frame.io has been used by professionals for collaborative productions and client reviews for some time now before the global shut-down due to Covid-19 and forcing teams to work from home this spring. Can you tell us how you got started with the concept and development of the platform and service?
Michael Cioni: Our founders Emery Wells and John Traver got the idea for Frame.io in 2014 when they were doing post-production on Saturday Night Live Digital Shorts. Feeling the pain of making high-quality videos on a short deadline with lots of opinions coming through email, they created a platform that would allow all feedback to appear on the precise video frame.
We had the company’s fifth birthday as quarantine began, and we’re just getting started. We could never have predicted a global pandemic, but with over 1 million users on our platform, Frame.io is uniquely positioned to help distributed teams keep operations running smoothly during this challenging time. That’s why we created the Frame.io Workflow From Home series – it is meant to be a resource to help our growing community navigate remote workflows together.
Foster: Can you tell us how the networks and studios that are current Frame.io customers have responded and shifted their processes since the shut-down?
Cioni: Now more than ever, distributed teams across the globe are relying on the cloud to serve as a central hub for collaboration. Feedback is always an essential part of the editorial process, and it can sometimes be the hardest part – especially for creatives during the creative editorial or color correction stages. Studios are unified in exploring the best solutions for synchronous review (multiple parties watching the same asset in different places) and asynchronous review (multiple parties commenting on assets and sending them back to the source). These features are where Frame.io stands on its own.
The Frame.io Workflow From Home series was inspired by numerous conversations with studios and networks who were reaching out for solutions to issues that teams were experiencing as they moved to distributed models virtually overnight. While the cloud is not a new idea to major networks and studios, the scale and speed of adopting cloud models due to COVID-19 is unprecedented. The episodes and interviews for Frame.io Workflow From Home were designed to respond each week to the major topics that were in the minds of the content creators. Like a checklist, our series paralleled key questions that arose at the beginning of the shutdown and matured new topics throughout 14 installments in accordance with the market.
Foster: It’s doubtful everyone will be returning to the way they were working previously for a long time, so how do you envision production and post teams will benefit from Frame.io workflows in a hybrid situation of some on-site crews and remote editors?
Cioni: I actually think it’s doubtful we will ever return to the way we worked prior to COVID-19.
As challenging as rapid change can be, this particular situation shed light on areas that desperately needed exposure. Nothing unites people quicker than a common enemy, and COVID-19 shutting down our industry truly brought everyone together with the same struggles. Thanks to this unified space, everyone is rethinking the production and post production process including and especially cloud technologies.
Frame.io became a life preserver for many productions because we not only store footage for review, but we became a distribution hub for footage to other vendors in the workflow. We created a new application, Frame.io Transfer, that serves as a conform assistant. We improved our Watch Folder uploading system so more automation was possible across teams sending to the cloud. We improved security measures since more productions were putting sensitive material in the cloud. We saw an increase in use for files beyond video; documents and databases became more common in Frame.io and we saw more people using us for higher quality transmission such as 4K ProRes or even EXR files.
We also used the Frame.io Workflow From Home series to test out a new technology prototype we call camera-to-cloud. From my home in Los Angeles, my 8K footage from a RED Helium was sent immediately to the Frame.io cloud and automatically delivered to our editor. He immediately received editable proxy files directly in Frame.io and could instantly start the editing process. The cloud is not just a central way to access assets for professionals, it’s a time machine that will streamline processes and make them nearly instantaneous, regardless of geography.
Foster: What kind of issues have you seen that have been the most challenging for some of your high-end customers transitioning to working from home?
Andrew Gomez: When this all started, I think everyone’s gut-reaction was about security. We actually unpack the differences in the introductory episode and Episode 1 of Frame.io Workflow From Home so customers can begin to look at security in a different way. Some groups default to a fully air-gapped (offline) workflow. Others explored a hybrid solution that is partially cloud and partially local. The ability to control media in a secure way without having to worry about being offline is not something every studio or network can deploy at once, but our series focused on introducing hybrid workflows, which previously weren’t traditionally considered.
Cioni: Security is a top priority for Frame.io, and we’ve made it a cornerstone to the platform, earning us several top international awards for cyber security. Frame.io is TPN and SOC-2 type 2 compliant. But compliance is the baseline; we’re continuously making improvements to set the standard for industry security. Watermarking is also core to our security to prevent leaks of sensitive content.
The other challenge to our customers is believing their home internet is sufficient for professional work. The general consensus is that “my internet is too slow to efficiently work from home.” So in Episode 2, we spent time demonstrating how to use equations to determine your internet speed and what type of files were high quality and easy to transmit. This helped ensure remote teams could gain confidence in workflows that they previously didn’t think could be done without an enterprise-class fiber internet connection.
Foster: How does the Frame.io workflow support what many creatives have enjoyed with on-site synchronous post-production workflows – and how do those teams work on the same productions now?
Gomez: Production and post-production has relied on people working together, in close proximity to each other for decades. One of the most common questions that came up when we all started working from home was, “How do I replicate how I work in person if I can’t get close to people?” But, as the months have passed, and we’ve started to adjust to new ways of working, we realized that perhaps we were asking the wrong question.
A better question might be, “How has using the cloud improved my workflow?” Or, “What can I incorporate from this experience that will improve my workflow in the future?”
Cioni: One discovery we’ve made is that a lot of what we do in post-production doesn’t actually require nearly the amount of synchronous communication we initially thought. In fact, when it comes to post-production, relying more on asynchronous communication can actually be an advantage. For example, if you think about phone calls vs. emails and text messages. Prior to smartphones, we made calls to communicate in a synchronous way. But once email and text messages came to be, our way of communicating changed; we got faster at it, more succinct, and were able to have more specific threads of information happening concurrently. This is not to say that asynchronous communication is the only way to work; rather, we didn’t rely on it for creative communication until COVID-19 forced us to go “all-in”. Because Frame.io utilizes integrations directly within NLEs and color tools, the ability to have a conversation has increased the efficiency of all collaborators in a time-coded, timeline text message.
Foster: How does Frame.io integrate with various editing and color correction applications?
Gomez: Today, DaVinci Resolve is the only color correction application with native integration. This is designed for typical asynchronous collaborative review. In creating the series, we got a lot of questions from our community about *remote* color collaboration, so we dedicated a full episode to exploring LIVE remote color grading – Synchronous Review.
In Episode 9, we examined how to create actual synchronous color grading sessions from opposite sides of the continent using Frame.io’s integration with Resolve, along with our latest app, Frame.io Transfer, which we decided to release ahead of schedule as a beta specifically to help enable this kind of workflow.
Frame.io is also integrated into the key non-linear editing desktop tools including Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects and AVID. Additionally, the Frame.io API seamlessly connects professional tools to help automate and simplify video workflows, in turn driving increased productivity across organizations. Frame.io is the connective tissue between the many creative tools in the filmmaking process.
Foster: What would be your recommendations for independents and remote corporate video clients that could benefit from utilizing Frame.io for their teams and clients?
Cioni: In addition to watching the series?! It’s simple – check out the platform. The Workflow From Home series is not lightweight marketing, rather it’s a deep dive into complex workflows and can absolutely provide the building blocks for improved workflow. We’re on a mission to help video teams work faster, now more than ever. I have had numerous senior-level Hollywood execs contact me and say how much they learned from the Workflow From Home Series. I’ve also had people from developing nations say the exact same thing. The truth is, regardless of your geography and budget, we all generally use the same tools and therefore face the same challenges. Many parts of Workflow From Home are just as relevant to corporate video clients as it is to Hollywood feature films.
Foster: Many producers and editors like myself are working REALLY remote with limited bandwidth from Satellite or 4G networks. What are the minimum requirements for getting the most they possibly can out of a Frame.io workflow?
Cioni: Bandwidth can be tricky right now – and we thought our audience would actually ask us just that. So in our very first two episodes of the series, we demonstrated a formula to make this question easier to answer when working with a hybrid cloud workflow depending on different NLEs, file types, and processes. On the whole, this formula allows you to plan ahead based on bandwidth limitations. Once those are factored in, even poor internet connections can be fully utilized in remote workflow because Frame.io automatically transcodes assets and allows you to choose which files you want based on your available bandwidth. And when it comes to travelling, in our Frame.io 3.6 launch, we introduced “Offline Mode” for our iOS apps so you can download encrypted clips to your phone so you can watch and comment while being offline.
Foster: A lot of corporate Marcom teams are having to utilize Zoom or Google Hangouts to capture video interviews and messaging with totally unskilled talent using their smartphones and laptops. Would you have any recommendations that might help producers with their remote talent to get the best quality they can and still utilize Frame.io in that workflow?
Cioni: Absolutely! We actually dedicated an entire episode in the series to this. In Episode 6, I walk through the best practices for shooting your own shows (starring yourself or other remote interviewees from home). In producing the series, we show the best techniques that we arrived at through trial and error. Believe it or not, there are lots of simple ways to achieve high quality production from your living room depending on the gear you use, lighting, and even how to set up the best teleconferencing to conduct interviews.
Gomez: We found that the best way for interview participants was to join a Zoom call with their computer webcam while also recording the conversation on their personal iPhone at eye level. It’s how we made sure the quality was consistent for all 13 episodes.
Foster: Can you share with us where you see the direction of Frame.io heading into the future, and what additional technologies and features can we look forward to?
Cioni: As we look to the future, we’ve learned that we can absolutely adapt to a new way of working, but the goal isn’t to adapt to a change in technology – the technology we work with is going to have to change in order to adapt to us. What we did in this series made us push the tools we now have, and helped us see more clearly what else needs to happen.
In Episode 13, we did a survey across professionals and used that to help predict some of the future trends. In short, the future is more flexible, more mobile, and less centralized. One of the biggest changes that our future holds is an improvement in quality of life. Remote work can mean distributed living to cities that have a lower cost of living. The technology we are developing is centered around making remote collaboration more robust and more powerful than before.
Gomez: Our mission at Frame.io has been, from day one, to be a centralized operating system that enables creative teams to create. We have some exciting projects up our sleeves to re-imagine the filmmaking process and further establish Frame.io as the central operating system of our industry.
“Over the last three months, all of us have been experiencing a new form of normal,” Cioni says in the episode. “During this journey between the old and the new normal, we’ve all faced some enormous challenges, but I’m finding we are on the edge of making an innovative breakthrough.”
Explore every episode from Frame.io’s “Workflow From Home” mini-series:
- Frame.io Workflow From Home: Introduction to Remote Workflows
- Ep 1 – Setting up at Home
- Ep 2 – Air Gap Editing
- Ep 3 – A Remote Post House
- Ep 4 – Offline Team Editing
- Ep 5 – Conan O’Brien in the Cloud
- Ep 6 – Self Recording
- Ep 7 – Remote VFX
- Ep 8 – Zoic Studios Goes Remote
- Ep 9 – Resolve Remote Grading
- Ep 10 – Scaling Remote Post Facilities
- Ep 11 – Async Review
- Ep 12 – The Making of WFFH
- Ep 13 – The Future of Work from Home