A Technical Guide to Frame.io C2C

A Technical Guide to Frame.io C2C

Frame.io Camera to Cloud (C2C) is our brand new, secure service that instantly connects your creative teams and stakeholders to the cameras on your set, wherever in the world they might be. It removes legacy bottlenecks and optimizes your workflows in ways that were previously impossible. And we’re just getting started.

But before we take a deep dive into what Frame.io C2C offers, let’s take a look at a traditional digital cinema workflow.

The old way

Traditional workflows are sequential. That means step 2 can’t happen until step 1 is done, and so on. Let’s unpack that.

Day of production

On the set, the camera records to camera cards, which are sent to the data or DIT cart. Sound is recorded simultaneously to separate media, typically SSDs or SD cards, and these also head to the DIT cart. While scenes are being shot, the script supervisor records performance notes and circle takes into their script report.

Standing ready at the DIT cart
Digital imaging technician Ellen Feldman stands ready at her cart.

On the DIT cart, the camera cards and SD cards from sound are offloaded using a checksummed copy to a local RAID storage and a shuttle drive. The DIT also grades the image out of the camera for the cinematographer and the director, saving those grades as CDL files.

At the end of the day, after the last camera cards and SD cards are offloaded, the DIT adds their CDL files and data reports to the shuttle drive. This drive and the paper camera reports from the camera team are then handed off to a PA, who is driven to the dailies lab by a member of the transportation team once one is available. The script supervisor then emails their script report to the dailies lab and editorial once it’s finalized.

Sound engineer and field recorders
Kally Williams monitors the audio as it’s captured to separate devices.

Overnight

The dailies lab receives the shuttle drive from set and offloads the media to RAID storage. The drive contents are verified and production is notified if anything is missing from set. The dailies lab then begins syncing the footage based on jam sync timecode and manually adjusting for drift or other jam sync issues. And they’ll also log the footage based on the audio metadata, script reports, and camera reports.

A dailies colorist then grades the footage based on CDLs from set, balancing cameras and modifying the look further. Once the color is set, the dailies colorist pulls stills to send to stakeholders.

Dailies for editorial and web review are then transcoded from the original camera files to local storage. After transcoding, the dailies are inspected for accuracy and completion. And finally, the dailies lab creates a bin for the editorial team that contains all of the day’s dailies, organized by the specifications provided.

The next day

At the end of the dailies lab shift, which is early in the morning, the web dailies are uploaded to the web dailies platform and the editorial dailies are sent to the editorial team, usually using a transfer service like Aspera or MediaShuttle. The dailies lab also creates LTO tape archives of all the camera media, audio files, and collected metadata.

Set prep
Prepping the set for the next day’s shoot.

Next, the editorial team receives the editorial dailies and dailies bins. The assistants go through the dailies and perform their own QC, checking against the reports from the set and looking for missing scenes and takes.

Once everything has been accounted for, the editorial team releases the web dailies to a wide group of recipients for review. The editorial team then begins organizing the footage, grouping cameras, and assembling scenes.

Missing content from the set is received by the dailies lab and processed accordingly. After processing is complete, the missing dailies are sent to editorial and the web.

A diagram of a traditional dailies workflow.
A traditional dailies workflow. Download the full-res diagram.

The new way

Frame.io C2C eases many of these inefficiencies by making many of the procedures parallel. Here’s how.

Day of production

On the set, the camera simultaneously records to camera cards and sends a video signal to a cloud-connected encoder box like a Teradek Cube. The encoder box receives scratch audio from the camera or from a Comtek provided by the sound mixer, and generates proxy files with camera metadata as the camera records.

Panavision DXL2 camera rigged for C2C
A Panavision Millennium DXL2 rigged for Camera to Cloud operation, operated by DP Allisa Rooney 

As soon as the camera cuts, the proxy is uploaded to Frame.io and is immediately available to view and download. Sound is recorded simultaneously to a different system like a Sound Devices 8 series, which uploads WAV files to Frame.io as they’re being written.

The moment the recording stops, the editorial team can download the proxies and can begin organizing the footage, grouping cameras, and assembling scenes. Additionally, crew members not on set can watch takes as they’re being recorded.  This is how Camera to Cloud can elevate your workflow and what makes it a game-changer.  Editorial teams no longer need to wait until the next day to start their work.  They can begin cutting while the shoot is still happening.  While Camera to Cloud can dramatically enhance your workflow, it also operates side-by-side to make sure you still have all the assurances and safeguards you need and are used to.

The camera cards are sent to the DIT cart, along with the SD cards containing the sound files. While scenes are being shot, the script supervisor records performance notes and circle takes into their script report.

Because they have access to the recorded takes, editorial can give feedback in realtime while production is still shooting, letting the team know whether or not something has been captured. Other members of the crew, like producers, can also give feedback in realtime. The on set crew can then capture and take action on those notes before the set or location is wrapped.

Editorial feedback
The editorial team can provide live feedback before the wrap.

On the DIT cart, the camera cards and SD cards from sound are offloaded using a checksummed copy to local RAID storage and a shuttle drive. The DIT also grades the image out of the camera for the cinematographer and the director, and saves those grades as CDL files.

At the end of the day, after the last camera cards and SD cards are offloaded, the DIT also places their CDL files and data reports onto the shuttle drive. This drive and the paper camera reports from the camera team are then handed off to a PA, who is then either driven to the dailies lab or ships the drive for overnight delivery. The script supervisor then emails their script report to the dailies lab and editorial once it’s finalized.

Once the editorial team receives the script report, they can release the proxy dailies with scratch audio to a group of recipients for review.

Overnight

The dailies lab receives the shuttle drive from set and offloads the media to RAID storage. The contents are verified and production is notified if anything is missing from set. The dailies lab then begins syncing the footage based on jam sync timecode and manually adjusting for drift or other jam sync issues. And they’ll also log the footage based on the audio metadata, script reports, and camera reports.

The dailies colorist will use CDLs created on set by the DIT.

A dailies colorist then grades the footage based on CDLs from set, balancing cameras and modifying the look further. Once the color is set, the dailies colorist pulls stills to send to stakeholders.

Any “hero” dailies (ie, dailies with custom audio sync and a color pass) for editorial and web review are then transcoded from the original camera files to local storage. After transcoding, the dailies are inspected for accuracy and completion. The dailies lab creates a bin for the editorial team that contains all of the day’s dailies, organized by specifications provided by the editorial team.

The next day

At the end of the dailies lab shift, which is early in the morning, the hero web dailies are uploaded to the web dailies platform and the hero editorial dailies are sent to the editorial team; in this case, they can both be uploaded to Frame.io. If desired, the original proxy dailies can be “versioned up” in Frame.io to the hero dailies. This will seamlessly replace them for the recipients. The dailies lab also creates LTO tape archives of all the camera media, audio files, and collected metadata.

Next, the editorial team receives the hero editorial dailies and dailies bins. The hero dailies are relinked to the proxy dailies and are replaced in the sequences created the previous day. Editorial can then work with footage coming in from set from the next production day.

Also, because Frame.io supports it, the hero web dailies can be generated in HDR. So creatives and stakeholders can review this content in HDR on their mobile device, the day after shooting.

Previewing the dailies in HDR on a tablet.

Any missing content from the set is received by the dailies lab and processed accordingly. Once processing is complete, the missing hero dailies are sent to editorial and the web.

With a Frame.io C2C workflow, editorial can move many of their tasks from the Next Day to the Day of Production, which then allows dailies to be released sooner and editorial to work more quickly and more accurately. Editorial’s feedback also allows production to work more efficiently by avoiding reshoots and next day pick-ups.

And here’s what all of this looks like. (Purple is used to indicate processes that now take place earlier in the pipeline.)

A diagram of a dailies workflow with Frame.io C2C.
A dailies workflow with Frame.io C2C. Download the full-res diagram.

How Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices work

Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices work by automatically uploading new files directly to Frame.io. The moment a new file becomes available, the device pushes it up into a Frame.io Project, using simple, secure authorization to make sure your files get there quickly and safely.

Before we breakdown the on set workflow, let’s take a look at how it’s built and where everything goes.

Setup

At a basic level, there are two parts to a Frame.io C2C workflow: hardware on set and Projects on Frame.io. A Frame.io C2C Cloud Device on set either generates proxy files or takes original files and uploads them into a designated Frame.io Project on your account through an internet connection.

On set

Frame.io C2C workflows start on set, with hardware that connects directly to a Project in your Frame.io account. Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices can be paired through the Frame.io iOS app by Team Managers and above.

Connecting a field recorder to Frame.io
Connecting the Sound Devices 888 to Frame.io.

Once connected, the hardware will automatically upload files to the designated Project. This connection is made securely with a one-time pairing code displayed on the device screen and entered into the Frame.io iOS app by the user. Frame.io checks the code and clears the device to upload to the Project. The device can’t access or do anything in your Project or account other than upload files, which Frame.io will automatically organize.

Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices require an internet connection to move files to Frame.io, and will need to either be connected to a WiFi network with internet access, or equipped with an internal or external modem. This connection allows Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices to keep anyone who’s not on set in sync with the production.

Teradek Cube and external modem
Ali Ivosevich connects the Frame.io C2C devices to the internet.

In situations where an internet connection isn’t possible the device can store the files locally and automatically upload them once an internet connection becomes available.

Should you need to pause file transfers for any reason, you can do so individually or for all devices linked to a Project. Devices can also be “forgotten” (requiring them to re-pair before they can reconnect) with a single button push in the Frame.io iOS app, and you can set an expiration date for devices.

Once set, the device will be removed from the Project at the desired date and time.

Example workflow

Here’s what this looks like in a real-world example.

A camera on set sends a video signal over SDI to a Teradek Cube which has been connected to the designated Frame.io Project by an authorized user on set (typically a member of the camera team or the DIT). When the camera starts recording, it sends a start flag through the SDI signal to the Cube, which responds by recording a proxy video file internally to the device.

Teradek Cube on-set
When the start flag is received, the Teradek Cube records proxy files.

The start flag carries metadata, like clipname and timecode, which the Cube uses to ensure that the proxy has the same filename and timecode as the in-camera clip.

Once stopped, the camera sends a stop flag to the Cube, which then stops its own recording and uploads it to Frame.io.

Our sound is being recorded to a Sound Devices 8 series, which uploads the original WAVs directly to Frame.io after they’ve been saved.

On Frame.io

On Frame.io, Projects on your account can be enabled as Frame.io C2C Projects and then paired with hardware on set. Only Team Managers and above can turn this on (or off). Once enabled, and once a device is paired to the Project, files are written to a Cloud_Devices folder within the Project. Once there, they can be viewed, commented on, moved, copied, or shared just like any other asset on Frame.io.

Getting feedback live on set
Michael Cioni with Rachel Bickert and Jen Pawlowski view live feedback on set through the Frame.io mobile app

In our workflow example, our connected hardware uploads files to Frame.io as soon as they’re available, anyone with access to the Frame.io C2C Project can play those files back, anywhere in the world, almost immediately after “cut” is called. No offloading, no transcoding, and any feedback goes straight to the people on set.

In post-production

Once uploaded, files from Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices behave just like any other asset on Frame.io. This means the edit-ready proxies can be downloaded using the Frame.io Transfer App or imported directly into your NLE through one of our integrations.

In our example workflow, this means that an editorial team can begin importing proxies with scratch audio as soon as they’re available. The Teradek Cube passes through the original clipnames and timecodes, and since the Sound Devices 8 series is uploading the original WAV files, these can both be imported directly into the NLE. This means that these proxies can be relinked to both the original camera and sound files or higher quality dailies later.

Immediately after wrapping a scene, the editorial team can begin cutting it. This allows them to give faster, more actionable feedback to the set, saving both time and money.

Cutting on the same day
Editorial can start cutting immediately

And since the proxies are viable dailies, productions can still process the camera and sound files through a traditional dailies process if custom color correction, geometry, framing, or refined sound sync is desired. The key difference is that the editorial team can now start working much sooner, and, because the Teradek passes through clipname and timecode, these newer dailies can be relinked to the Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices proxies at a later time, seamlessly, without the editorial team losing any work.

In addition to organizing, grouping, assembling, and cutting, the editorial team can also begin to filter through the proxies. This means that they can release dailies to a distribution list at the end of the shoot day instead of the next morning. Creatives can go home and see what they just shot. These released dailies can also be seamlessly “versioned up” to lab-produced dailies overnight using Frame.io’s Version Stacks.

How do I find my files?

Frame.io C2C workflows on Frame.io will place your uploaded files in a reliable, expected Fixed Folder Structure, so you’ll always know where your files are going to be, even across production units. This folder structure is in a top-level folder in your Project, so it’s always easy to locate and access. But before we break down the Fixed Folder Structure, let’s examine who on your account can access Frame.io C2C settings and files.

Frame.io C2C Permissions

It’s crucial to control who can turn on and off Frame.io C2C access and who can see Frame.io C2C files. Here’s a table describing the different permission levels on Frame.io and what they’re allowed to do with Frame.io C2C.

Account Role Connect Cloud Device Disconnect Cloud Device Forget Cloud Device Manage C2C Settings View Cloud Devices Tab C2C Fixed Folder Structure
Account Owner
Team Manager
Team Member
Collaborator

 

Collaborators

Currently, Collaborators have no Frame.io C2C permissions. To let Collaborators see files from Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices in the Fixed Folder Structure, you can either elevate them to Team Members or share the files via Review Links or Presentation Links. Since Collaborators are typically vendors or external contributors to your production, it makes sense to block them from potentially sensitive assets.

Team Members

Team Members can see the Fixed Folder Structure, take action on the assets inside, and see what Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices are currently paired. However, they can’t pair or forget Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices or enable Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices workflows on a Project. Team Members should be part of your internal team and can typically be trusted to see files coming directly from set, so they can share files to Collaborators via Review Links or Presentation Links at their own discretion.

You can find out more about Collaborators vs Team Members here

Team Managers

Team Managers and above (Admin and Account Owner) can pair or forget individual Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices as well as pause or forget all Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices. They can also enable or disable Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices workflows across a Project.

However, since Admin and Account Owners have powerful permissions on Frame.io beyond Frame.io C2C (like access to billing, creating and editing watermark templates, and team creation), it is recommended crew members on set tasked with setting up Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices be given Team Manager permissions.

Fixed Folder Structure

Despite the name, the Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices Fixed Folder Structure allows your Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices workflows to be more flexible.

Each Frame.io C2C Cloud Device uploads into this structure, and Frame.io makes sure everything goes where it belongs. Because the receiving folder structure is fixed, it allows you to have several different types of Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices (like sound and image) and stay automatically organized at the same time.

At the top level sits the parent Cloud_Devices folder. This holds every uploaded file from all Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices and is created automatically when the first file from a Frame.io C2C Cloud Device is uploaded.

Inside the Cloud_Devices folder, Frame.io will create dated folders for new uploads. The date is based on the timezone of the user who paired and authenticated the Frame.io C2C Cloud Device. Frame.io will then create a unique folder for each Frame.io C2C Cloud Device that uploads during that date window. Each Frame.io C2C Cloud Device will then upload its files into that folder.

For example, if there are multiple Teradek Cubes and one Sound Devices 8 series recording on September 14th 2020, each of those devices will have a unique folder inside of the 2020_09_14 folder. If, however, on the next day only one Teradek Cube and one Sound Devices 8 series are being used, then folders for only those devices will be created. This allows the Frame.io C2C Cloud Devices storage location to be elastic and react to a particular day’s shooting setup and workflow.

Multiple Shooting Units

Some productions may be using several shooting units and it may be difficult to separate footage from one unit from the others. Additionally, some units may have different lists of users with different access. In these cases, your workflow can be separated into several Frame.io C2C Projects within a Team, or even several Teams with additional Projects. This allows for even further organization and security of content coming from set.

Conclusion

Frame.io Camera to Cloud empowers filmmakers and content creators with new ways of working and can dramatically improve existing workflows. From accessing your footage sooner to providing near-instant collaboration from remote crew members, to pushing the production cycle beyond yesterday’s barriers, C2C keeps your production on schedule, organized, and secure.

Production slate
Get to the take you need faster with C2C.

Frame.io C2C is a huge leap forward for all of us. Frame.io has always been the best place to share your content for review and approval, but now you can introduce all of these great tools into more parts of your pipeline. We’re excited to hear from the community about how you’re using C2C, and can’t wait to see what you create.

Frame.io Camera to Cloud will become available in March 2021. Meanwhile, you can learn more and request early access through our C2C beta program.

 

Thank you to Robert Loughlin for contributing this article.

Robert Loughlin is a technology specialist on Frame.io's Innovation team. Based in the New York area, he has spent the past decade at the cutting edge of dailies and post-production.

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