Collaboration is a fundamental part of the filmmaking process. From pre-production through production to post-production, filmmakers have for many decades worked together in-person to achieve their creative vision and deliver the final product - be it a commercial, music video, short film, television series, indie feature film or Hollywood movie.
The benefits of in-person working are obvious, and to a large extent, essential to content creation. Live action films cannot be shot without a physical space to shoot in (be it a studio or on location), and crew and actors to occupy that space and actually shoot the film. The discussion and development of ideas and plans are often best achieved when people are physically together, able to flesh things out and foster career-spanning relationships.
Remote access does not mean remote collaboration
Opportunities to leverage the benefits of remote working in the film industry are becoming more and more prevalent - especially within post-production. Post-production processes, like editing, visual effects, grading and sound design, that have traditionally taken place in dedicated facilities on dedicated hardware infrastructure, can now be done remotely from home. Tools like LucidLink, Postlab, Jump Desktop and others play a vital role in allowing workers to access systems and media assets remotely. The recent news of Amazon Studios’ and Avid’s partnership shows how far the industry has come in this space.
These tools, however, solve the problem of access (to workstations and media), but not the problem of collaboration.
Asynchronous remote collaboration has been the industry standard
Asynchronous (non-realtime) tools like Frame.io have been the industry standard for remote collaboration - and it's easy to see why: they provide a way for remote creatives to have all their work-in-progress assets in one place whilst enabling collaborators and clients to share feedback easily and accurately. And even when in-person working is involved, creatives need to be able to review in-progress projects on their own devices and in their own time.
Before industry-specific asynchronous tools existed, remote review and feedback would be achieved by sharing files via various download links, flash drives or even email attachments. Feedback would come in in dribs and drabs from various stakeholders via various communication tools, which could quickly become unmanageable and a pain for all involved. Frame.io, Wipster and others stepped up to solve that pain point.
The problem with asynchronous collaboration
For remote working to be as - or even more - effective than in-person working, the industry needs collaboration tools that can recreate the experience and benefits of being in a room together.
This is where asynchronous (non-realtime) remote collaboration tools often fail - as with email, asynchronous collaboration isn't realtime and is prone to the clarity and essence of notes and feedback being lost. Not to mention the in-built time delay that asynchronous tools introduce to a workflow: export an edit, upload it, send out a link, wait to receive notes, receive the notes, action the notes… rinse and repeat. Minor creative changes that should take no more than an hour or two with people working synchronously can often take many hours or days when working asynchronously.
Imagine for a moment an editor and director are working on a movie scene together. In an edit suite, they can verbally communicate with one another, read body language, talk through footage, look through takes of an actor’s performance together, and try out different versions of an edit over the course of an afternoon. Trying to do the same thing remotely using an asynchronous tool, by contrast, would be a hugely counter-intuitive process - and one that would take many times longer than the synchronous alternative.
Synchronous, realtime remote collaboration is the next step
Realtime, synchronous remote collaboration tools are needed to bridge the gap between asynchronous collaboration tools and in-person working.
With access to ever-faster workstations, the ubiquity of high quality internet connections and new tools, it is becoming easier and more affordable than ever before for post-production professionals to collaborate in realtime.
In-person working is synchronous, realtime, immediate. Creatives can bounce ideas off one another and discuss things without them getting lost in translation. Creative changes can be made on the fly and feedback is immediate. The challenge for synchronous collaboration tools is to offer the benefits of in-person working without the experience feeling like a compromise, or having the technology 'get in the way'.
By using a realtime collaboration tool like Louper, which allows creatives to livestream their in-progress work in ultra high quality combined with built-in video chat and tools like on-screen drawing, the benefits and the experience of in-person working can be achieved remotely:
- The immediacy of feedback and the ability for people to try various creative options ‘on the fly’ translates into significant time-savings (in the order of hours, days and weeks) on projects
- Time and cost saving on cross-town, cross-country and international travel
- Ability to live and work anywhere
- Better work-life balance
- Many creatives, directors and producers have deep and long-lasting working relationships which are made possible only through synchronous collaboration
The benefits of synchronous remote collaboration don't extend only to post-production. By livestreaming production camera feeds from set, remote stakeholders and even directors can ‘be on set’ from anywhere in the world - removing the physical barrier to content production. With Louper, we’re working on additional ways to recreate the experience of being on set by enabling the livestreaming of 360° witness cameras alongside the production camera feed.
Synchronous remote collaboration really brings the best of two worlds together: the benefits of in-person working combined with the benefits of working remotely.
Choosing the right tool for the job
There’s a time and a place for both synchronous and asynchronous workflows - they are not mutually exclusive. Some projects and clients are suited to asynchronous tools, others perhaps in-person only and others synchronous-only. An increasing number of teams are starting to embrace a hybrid model, utilising all three methods of collaboration.
Some creatives may have clients who they wouldn’t want to spend all day on a synchronous session with, and in those situations it’s a case of managing not just the tools you use, but how when and with whom you use them. A combination of asynchronous and synchronous collaboration may be the most effective solution on a given project.
It is evident that many creative projects - television shows, feature films, commercials and more - stand to benefit greatly from introducing synchronous remote collaboration into their toolset.
We expect the use of VR and AR to play a large part in this space going forward - to not only recreate, but improve on, in-person working environments.
It will be fascinating to see how the film industry adapts and evolves over the coming years to new collaboration workflows. It will be equally fascinating to see what tools and products will emerge to enable and empower those workflows.