Q&A with FilmRiot Host and Creator Ryan Connolly at NAB 2019


Ryan Connolly is the host and creator of the wildly popular DIY filmmaking YouTube Channel and show FilmRiot. Over 1.4M subscribers tune in to hear Ryan’s clever, creative, and often comical take on the art and process of filmmaking.

In this Q&A session with David Kong (who heads Product Intelligence for Frame.io), Ryan talks about the making of his short BALLiSTIC, and how Frame.io was an integral part of the process working with editors, his composer, and VFX artists spread around the country.

Watch the session

Session highlights

Here are the highlights to take away from the video.

  • Ryan Connolly of Film Riot acclaim made a big splash last year with his phenomenal sci-fi short film, BALLiSTIC.
  • The workflow for BALLiSTIC was almost completely remote, with a crew spread from St. Louis and Los Angeles, to Dallas and even England. Only final editorial was done in person.
  • Ryan sends individual versions of clips to his team for review, so everyone can give their feedback without being influenced by others.
  • When you’re working with someone for the first time, Ryan says Frame.io makes the process much more productive, because there is time to sit and process before sending or receiving feedback.
  • Ryan wants Frame.io to be the one-stop-shop of his whole workflow, from pre-production and project management, to final delivery and pitching to clients.
  • Frame.io is so fast, Ryan wonders if it’s powered by demon magic.
  • What’s next for FilmRiot? “Who knows. You just push forward.”

Video transcript

David: All right. Well, thank everyone for coming. Frame.io plus Film Riot, the great Ryan Connolly. Let’s give him a hand. Thank you, Ryan, for coming out here.

Ryan: Thank you.

David: So, Ryan, I think you’re one of our big, early advocates. I remember the day in the office.

Ryan: I invented it.

David: Pretty much.

Ryan: I mean, let’s be honest.

David: It was an exciting day when your video came out. I remember like, ‘Oh guys, Ryan Connolly uses Frame.io. This is so cool.’ This was back when Frame.io was a lot smaller than you can see it is today and it was a very exciting moment but today, we’re going to talk a little bit about Ryan’s recent film, Ballistic, and to get us started, I’m going to show a quick little trailer for it. If any of you have not seen the film, go watch it. Look it up on YouTube, it’s wonderful. You also have some excellent behind the scenes stuff as well you can go look up but I’d love to talk a little bit about your work though here because as you guys may know, he’s based in Texas, but this crew was all over the place.

Ryan: Yeah. It’s St. Louis, I had a bunch of people in LA, I think someone was in Ohio. I don’t think [inaudible 00:02:08], I don’t think there was anyone in Texas other than me so pretty much everything was done through Frame.io minus the editing but half of it was done through Frame.io ’cause I would go to my editor in St. Louis and I think, in the end, total, I was there with him for 18 days over three different trips, but in between, we were constantly working on it so a lot of work was happening on Frame.io, even through the edit.

David: [inaudible 00:02:38]. Sorry.

Ryan: Can I ask you, if you were a tree-

David: So, you say you’ve got LA, St. Louis, Texas … Sorry, where in Texas?

Ryan: Dallas.

David: Dallas, Ohio, and you have some people in Europe, England, all using Frame.io. Can you tell me a little bit about how that worked and how you used Frame.io for all these different people?

Ryan: Yeah, to start, it was all the edit and Lucas, my editor, started just by doing assemblies and then that kinda gave us a range of where we were at with the scene so I could start wrapping my head around the footage that we shot ’cause we shot over … I don’t know how many days. It was seven days, eight days, something like that. My DP is actually right there, Chase. Hi, Chase. Yeah, let’s give it up for Chase. He’s good looking and talented. Hi, Chase.

So, I was able to wrap my head around what we shot again and kind of remember the tempo of things and what we didn’t get, which is always a thing and then I would be able to go out with a general idea and then after that first pass, where him and I got a decent pass of the scene going, then we could really start working in Frame.io. Before that, it was just assemblies until we really sat together. I didn’t give any notes at first and then there was a lot of going back and forth with him and different alts. And so, these are reviews that we sent out in the end and some people send out a review and everybody comments on them. I like to send it out individually, that way people aren’t influenced by other people’s thoughts like, ‘Oh, that guy said this was a problem. Maybe it is so maybe I should say something about it.’ I want fresh takes. How many people are pointing out this moment and how many people are not affected by it at all? So, if I have eight people who haven’t said a work about it but one does and I like it, then maybe I’m like, ‘All right, maybe that’s not the problem.’

So, I send all those out individually and that’s what this is. And those are alts from my editor so there’s a lot of flashback moments, a lot of stylistic emotional pulls. So, we went through a lot of versions of those, trying to dial in the best way to pull the emotion out of those moments. So, that was probably where we landed the most in Frame.io was able to really dig into those and swap shots around and I think, for every flashback, Lucas had 10 versions that we were messing around with to see what landed the hardest.

David: I can see that you’ve got some looks. A 13 minute cut here, this is most of the film, but you also have some of these tiny little pieces. So, you’re just going over a single sequence here like a two minutes or 40 seconds here and you’re going over that and I think we’re going to jump into one of them here and we got a … Sorry, I have to crane your neck a little bit to comment, but … And you can see some example comments here but let’s jump right into the effects. So, tell us a little bit about how that worked.

Ryan: Yeah, as a basic pipeline, we had a shot list of the v effects and then we’d be able to go through reviews here and this was great having that needs review approved system there ’cause it can get pretty crazy, as you can see, especially as you get towards the end. At first, you start with the intention of being as organized as possible and then, at least for me, by the end, it’s the biggest mess ever. Things are just tossed everywhere. So, it’s really nice to be able to have the approved needs review and then versions are obviously put into the same folder together pretty much, which is great. And I do like … I think it’s on here. I like to talk in numbers with my VFX artists. I work with a lot of VFX artists and I learned that from them is just, ‘Could this be a little bit bigger?’ And they’re like, ‘Well, what the hell is a little bit bigger? Do you want a Godzilla or do you …’ So, I try to talk in percentages or even with editing, for instance, you could say, when I’m sitting with my editor, I can say, ‘Can you cut 12 frames off of that?’ And that’s great ’cause then he can play it right back and, ‘Oh, that’s wrong. Could you put two frames back?’

In Frame.io, not as much, so I like to leave it up to their judgment a bit and that’s where percentages come in. So, instead of saying, ‘Cut 12 frames’, I could be, ‘Cut 10% off the top’. And then he’ll take his judgment to the pacing on that and that’s pretty much the same thing with the VFX, ‘Could this be 30% smaller?’ I’m not saying, literally do the math and make this. It’s kind of a round about that they can bring their own judgment to it at that point.

David: And then can you walk us through a little bit, I know that you did most of your work at your home base in Dallas but you also traveled a little bit. Can you tell us a little bit about how you were working with these people remotely and then in person and how that transition went and how’d that go for you?

Ryan: Yeah, remotely for everything but editing was pretty much the entire process and then people in England, I wasn’t going out there, so that was the entire process. So, VFX, it was the entire process. We worked with the video co-pilot guys on this as well and that was the entire process. I didn’t go to their studio for any of that, but with the finishing … They’re in LA, yeah. But for the finishing with the color grading and the final sound mix and the music, toward the end, I just did one trip where I just went out there and I sat with all of them for the finishing, to dial everything in. Everything else was done all through Frame.io because it’s really possible how detailed you can get. With the VFX, you’re drawing on the image, but you can go frame by frame with this stuff and I really liked that disconnect of not being in the room and being able to sit with something ’cause oftentimes, you have an idea of what that moment is supposed to be and then somebody brings their perspective in and it doesn’t mean that it’s a wrong perspective, it might be the better one, but the first time you see it, it’s like, what the hell is this? This isn’t what I said.

So, I like to watch something, watch it again, wait a day, and then watch it again, and then give my review. And doing it this way, really helps to do that and even get granular down to the going to the frame instead of having to do a Google doc of being on this exact frame at this moment, it’s a lot more specific.

David: How many of all have received notes that say, ‘At this point in time in the video…’ Oh, I hate that kind of thing. Yeah, I can see some hands going up. It’s the worst. It’s really interesting. That’s something I had not really thought about with Frame.io before but I think what you’re saying is that, when you’re sitting there in the room, there’s sort of a lot of pressure on that moment, but if you are doing it asynchronisly, on your own time and you can take a little time and there’s not that interpersonal pressure where you’re standing over their shoulder. Is that right?

Ryan: Yeah, especially when you’re just starting to work with someone because it’s a very emotional thing. Everybody’s wearing their heart on their sleeve in the moment and you’re putting you into what you’re doing. If you care, that’s what should be what’s happening. So, if I’m sitting with my editor and he does something that’s not quite right and I’m sitting there silently trying to process it, it’s a little weird for a moment. Later, and now, with me and Lucas working with each other, it’s all fluent and it’s all good, but in the beginnings, being able to have that time apart to sit and think about it and live with it for a minute and then send him my feedback and let him sit and live with the feedback and not argue it right away but process it, and then if he wants to argue it, argue it, but having that disconnect, at least upfront, at least I find it really useful.

David: Cool, yeah. Well, I think we got a little more time and I’m going to open up a little bit for Q&A. Any questions for Ryan about any of this, Ballistic, Frame.io, how you’re working with people remotely, shout it out and I’ll repeat the question to make sure everybody hears it. Any questions? You were first over here, I think.

Speaker 3: So, all of these files that are being traded back and forth, those are all through proxies, is that what’s going on or is it … I would imagine that might be used.

David: That’s a great question. Do you want to take that, Ryan?

Ryan: Yeah, those are all proxies until they’re finals. Some of my VFX artists are always delivering the finals just in case that’s the final and then I’m like, ‘Great, approved, you’re done.’ They’re like, ‘Cool, download it.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, okay, cool.’ So, the finals are delivered through Frame.io as well but during the course of figuring things out, it’s usually proxies, yeah.

Speaker 3: Is it fast to deliver the finals?

Ryan: Yeah, it’s shockingly fast. Uploading and downloading from Frame.io, I find whatever demon magic they’re doing in the background, which they pay me to say. I’m kidding, they don’t pay me. Whatever demon magic they’re doing in the background, it’s faster than anywhere else I upload or download. So, we do everything through that.

David: When I’m giving the Frame.io sales pitch, I encourage everyone to take the same file and upload it to whatever online service you may be using as an alternate and just time it.

Speaker 4: Did you use any of Frame.io for pre-production or [inaudible 00:11:36]?

David: Pre-production, yeah.

Ryan: I always do. I want to do more of that. You have the PDF stuff now so with pitches and stuff, that’s definitely going to be a thing that’s super helpful. So, going forward, I would love it to just be the one stop shop for all pre-production and post-production, but we definitely do a lot of test shots or test VFX, different things like that, in pre-production. So, yeah, it’s definitely used for that sort of stuff and any kind of sizzle reel or pitch reel, it’s a better presentation to send to people and be able to put the password on it instead of it being like Vimeo, YouTube or some Google Doc video. It’s just … And you can trust it more. There’s been a lot of times where people are telling me that it won’t play off Google Docs or whatever and so, I’ve never had that problem in Franme.io so I do all that through Frame.io as well.

David: Over here.

Speaker 5: So, right now, I work a lot with Webster and I’m looking to switch because sometimes whenever I’m working with a 12 bit video and we’ll color it and then we’ll upload it to Webster, it compresses it and flattens it and the clients always make commons about, ‘It looks really flat.’ And I’m like, ‘No, it’s really not.’ Have you ever noticed anything like that with Frame.io.

David: I don’t want to turn this into knocking on anyone else but just speak to Frame.io only.

Ryan: Well, I’ve never used Webster so I couldn’t say one way or the other but no, never. Everything looks exactly like you’d … When we upload to YouTube, we’ve come accustomed to shifting how our episodes look ’cause we know it’s going to shift a little bit on YouTube so we actually do our post to head in that direction. With Frame.io, that’s never been the case. It seems pretty correct and unified across wherever we send it.

David: Way in the back there, shout it out and I’ll repeat it. Or I’ll just … Talk right in the mic.

Speaker 6: When you were doing the comments and the notes and stuff, did you mainly do it inside premiere or did you mainly do it in the web interface?

David: Oh yeah. He’s talking about the premier extension, you have a panel on the side of it, it’s in Premier.

Ryan: For me, it was the web interface because I wasn’t editing on this one. I would do some … When we weren’t together, I would take something and it would be easier to show him ’cause he would send me a drive with everything so I could just open up and he would constantly update the premier file so I could constantly have the latest. So, I’d go in and maybe do a, ‘Hey, I mean something like this.’ And then I would send it through premier, but for the most part, he was sending me everything or my VFX artists are sending me everything so, for me, it was all web interface. For him, he did most of it in the premier panel though.

David: Follow up right here.

Speaker 8: Do you have educational packages, bundles, that we could … ‘Cause I work at a film school so maybe if we wanted to get 60 licenses, could we do that?

David: We don’t have a dedicated educational pricing but talk to our sales team and we’ll put together a package for you, an enterprise package, ’cause you’re probably using a lot of storage and stuff so we can hook you up.

Speaker 7: How much storage did you end up having to use for this whole project ’cause it’s pretty large but probably the top end of what any of us would do.

Ryan: I don’t even know but it was a lot. If it was a terabyte, I would not be surprised. Cause it was all raw footage and I think, in LA, we had seven or eight cameras. I can never remember how many there was but we had seven or eight cameras with, I think it was three rolling at all times across three days, and then for the rest of production, which I think was seven days, was it, Chase? I’m looking at you. Seven, let’s call it seven. We had two cameras rolling at pretty much all times and all rolling raw so it got hefty. It got big and then a lot of my VFX were just always uploading the final instead of proxies so that kind of went up a little bit so it was a lot, yeah.

David: I forgot we have … I should’ve invited Chase up here. I didn’t realize he was going to be here. But any questions about cinematography, I’m sure he can answer them.

Ryan: Ask Chase.

David: Any questions about Ballistic, working with Frame.io or just shooting cool stuff and making great movies?

Ryan: With Chase, that’s the one thing that Frame.io came in handy ’cause he’s the DP obviously, but he went off to other projects so him being in the suite when we were doing the color was not really a thing so much. So, being able to send him stuff and him give notes and then he would even build out stuff that showed, ‘Hey, this is what I was thinking of the final’, that I was able to take to the colorist and even the colorist doing a temp pass and then sending that to Chase and getting his feedback all happened through Frame.io as well, which is really useful because obviously he’s the DP so I want his final vision of what we talked about and what he was trying to accomplish with the color in there, which I have what I … It’s kind of like that across the border ’cause I’m mostly a writer/director so I could do a little bit of everything ’cause of film right and that’s just what I’ve come up doing but I’m not a DP, I’m not a colorist. So, it just comes to a point where it’s like, me and Seth, we can get to 80% of the way there, but then you bring people in and now all of a sudden, it’s 100 and you’re like, God bless you.

So, the colorist will send me stuff and I’m like, ‘That’s not quite right.’ And I’ll send notes and then it comes back worse and I’m like, ‘That’s not what I meant.’ So, now I can send it to Chase and he’s like, ‘Well, dummy, say this.’ And I’m like, okay, so I say that and I’m like, ‘Oh, perfect. I should’ve just said you do it.’ So, it’s collaborating that way across this stuff and even having multiple people on a VFX shot. We had, Andrew was kind of VFX suit for the whole thing so he could come in and look at everything and give the notes on that, which would take something from being me going back and forth with the artist trying to get it there, to Andrew giving one comment and now all of a sudden, it’s perfect, and I’m like, ‘Dammit.’ So, that stuff just brings the whole team together in a really useful way when you’re not all in one location. It’s like a digital studio really.

David: All right. One more question and then we’re going to wrap up.

Speaker 9: What’s next for Ryan Connolly?

David: You can say whatever you want.

Ryan: Damn you, Scott. No short films this year. We’re working on stuff behind the scenes. Hopefully something big to announce at some point but who knows? It’s the industry. You just push forward. Ballistic was sort of a proof of concept of sorts and we’ll see what comes of it.

David: All righty. Thank you all for coming and let’s give Ryan a hand and wrap it up.

Ron Dawson

Ron is an award-winning video producer with over 25 years experience telling stories in the video medium. He's a coach, speaker, and author of “ReFocus: Cutting Edge Strategies to Evolve Your Video Business." Ron was also the host and producer of Radio Film School a podcast described as "This American Life for Filmmakers." You can follow him on Twitter @BladeRonner.