Off the wall with the makers of cineSync and Frankie
by Ian Failes
(reprinted with permission from VFX Blog)
Some of the most-used apps in visual effects and post-production are ones that audiences rarely get to see. I’m talking about Cospective’s cineSync, a mainstay in teleconferencing reviews, and Frankie, the company’s browser-based solution. I don’t often have the opportunity to cover the use of these tools, so I thought I’d have some fun with the team, who are based in Adelaide. Here they answer my questions about their favourite content right now, what they’ve heard about their tools in production and some blue sky ideas for where the tools could find other, more unconventional, uses…
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE STORY ABOUT HOW CINESYNC OR FRANKIE HAS BEEN USED LATELY IN PRODUCTION?
Rory McGregor, CEO: My favourite is an old story, but still relevant. Jon Favreau was asked how Captain America’s shield ended up in Tony Stark’s workshop in Iron Man. He said it actually started off as an in-joke – an artist at ILM added it into a shot as a gag during a cineSync session – but Favreau liked it so much he ended up leaving it in. So cineSync indirectly became responsible for the very first character cross-over in what became the Marvel Cinematic Universe! I’m sure the royalties will start pouring in any day now…
Neil Wilson, CTO: We had a meeting with a major studio recently, who told us about a cineSync session they had with the director on one of their tentpole releases only a couple of weeks out from release. Delivery was getting very tight and there was a massive budget on the line. The execs were all in a meeting room on the lot, but the director was on a couch at a party. In the background the execs could hear “What are you doing?” “Making a movie” “Wow, cool, are you a director or something?” “I sure am, baby!”
Robby Bartlett, Engineer: I spend most of my time working on Frankie – I find the way that the UK’s RAW Post are using Frankie to be the most interesting. They don’t have an office or a fixed facility and they run everything remotely for advertising post-production. Lots of people see the cloud as an extension of their facility, but RAW have fully embraced the idea of having no bricks and mortar at all, and Frankie is a big part of making that work. VFX Legion run a similar distributed setup using cineSync for film post-production, which is cool to see.
Rolly Empson, QA and Support Engineer: From a QA point of view, I love the customers that trust us enough to try our beta versions in production. cineSync Pro on Suicide Squad was a great example – those guys gave us some great feedback, which allowed us to enhance our integration with Shotgun, which was also used on the show. That kind of collaborative environment is awesome for QA – no matter how well tested you are, something always crops up in production. It’s also good for the show, as they get the tools they need quickly and seamlessly.
IF YOU COULD, WHAT WOULD YOU USE CINESYNC OR FRANKIE TO DO THAT IT’S NOT REALLY INTENDED FOR?
Neil Wilson, CTO: I would love the see the synchronisation framework we’ve built used to sync other types of data, not just video. We have prototyped a synchronised 3D model viewer, for example, which could be used across many industries, like game development, architecture or even medical.
Rolly Empson, QA and Support Engineer: We recently sponsored an art exhibition in London named SHE. Attendees worked together to create interactive artworks with other artists in Vietnam and the US using cineSync. It was a really different kind of use of the software, and one we’d love to see more of!
Rory McGregor, CEO: I’ll often be in phone conversations about something very visual – with a web designer or our marketing team about booth layouts for a tradeshow, for example. I’ll think to myself, “If only I had a way of just showing them what I mean…” And then I’ll remember, yeah, we actually already have that! I’ll just load up a Frankie session and start sketching, purely as an interactive whiteboard. Internally, we get so used to thinking of cineSync and Frankie as video review tools that we sometimes overlook how powerful a simple shared whiteboard can be.
Robby Bartlett, Engineer: We’ve got a few ideas around building an interactive game as an easter egg in Frankie or cineSync using our sync tech. As soon as we have the free time, we’ll look into it!
WHAT IS THE CRAZIEST OR MOST ASKED FOR FEATURE IN CINESYNC OR FRANKIE THAT YOU’VE COME ACROSS?
Rolly Empson, QA and Support Engineer: From a QA/Support standpoint, I see people coming to us with issues, only to find that they’re on a cineSync version from eight years ago, they’re running on a 10-year-old laptop from Best Buy. We still try our best to make the tools work from them though, despite those limitations!
Robby Bartlett, Engineer: Two of our most common requests are: 1) make it easier to distribute and share media and 2) make it more secure. That’s simple enough to do inside a single facility, but our tools are based around the need to share information between facilities and countries. On the face of it, they’re competing/mutually exclusive requests, but we think we’ve cracked it – over the next few months, in conjunction with some of our partners, we’ll be rolling out some features that will cover both requests simultaneously. Watch this space…
Rory McGregor, CEO: A lot of the current requests are around VR – and I completely get that the content needs to be reviewed and approved – but the idea of synchronising a live VR space, so that everyone in the session is forced to look at the same thing, regardless of where they’re moving their head, seems like a neat way to make people’s heads explode. But we’re working with a number of different customers to see what we can do…
Neil Wilson, CTO: Some of the requests we get come about from people not quite understanding the product – like synchronising multi-screen video walls, or live telestration of sports events. However, even those requests can be jumping off points for discussions on how the products can be expanded…
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT GO-TO FILM/TV SHOW/INTERNET VIDEO AND WHY?
Robby Bartlett, Engineer: Daredevil and Jessica Jones. I just finished up the second season of the former and I’m really interested to see where they’re going to take things with the Punisher and Luke Cage standalone shows.
Rory McGregor, CEO: I recently really enjoyed Stranger Things on Netflix, but I just found out there’ll be a third season of Halt and Catch Fire, which has been my standout favourite for the past couple of years. Both shows trade in nostalgia to a degree, but it’s combined with modern filmmaking and the effect is electric – plus the music is awesome. Iceland’s Trapped was also amazing. And The People vs OJ Simpson. And The Knick! And…there’s way too much great TV these days. I also recently saw Lenny Abrahamson’s Room last week and it knocked me for six. With so many massive blockbusters these days, you can sometimes forget the potential of two great actors and one well-explored idea.
Rolly Empson, QA and Support Engineer: Current internet video go-to is a couple of channels of daily bloggers. Roman Atwood’s pranks are hilarious. I also enjoy Rose Ellen Dix’s channel Let’s Play Games. Watching them play Until Dawn was comedy gold.
Neil Wilson, CTO: Silicon Valley. Being a software engineer I find it comically relatable – we definitely all see reflections of ourselves in the characters. (Only the flattering bits of course!)