When Will Camera-to-Cloud Technology Work for Productions?


Is reliable camera-to-cloud technology a real possibility for filmmakers, or just a figment of our imagination?

Cover image via Adobe/Frame.io.

Almost two years ago, in February 2021, Frame.io launched C2C (or “Camera 2 Cloud”), which is precisely what it sounds like—sending footage from your camera to the cloud to allow collaborators to view and edit the project entirely remotely, instantaneously. They also recently announced a significant update to this feature with in-camera integrations with RED and Fujifilm cameras!

How they do it is pretty straightforward (in theory). By using current LTE networks and WiFi, they transmit low bandwidth, high-quality H.264 proxies with matching timecode and filename metadata straight to the cloud. Let’s look at the announcement video they released for this year’s Adobe MAX.

This “C2C” feature isn’t anything new with RED, given the use of their Cube 655 Teradek Encoder. Still, this new Frame.io feature is revolutionary for this type of production without relying on external technology and proprietary tech.

The new C2C update is available for the RED V-Raptor and V-Raptor XL, and they can both upload 8K REDCODE RAW files directly to the cloud from the camera.

Now, of course, this update requires that you have access to high-bandwidth networking (wireless or ethernet). So you can’t exactly go out in the desert and expect C2C to work. However, that seems like an improbable scenario for most shooters out there anyway.

This new update also works with the incredible new Fujifilm mirrorless camera, the Fujifilm X-H2S. Perhaps one of the most exciting cameras that Fujifilm has released in while, the X-2HS is gaining in popularity as more filmmakers discover its incredible sensor and hybrid capabilities for video and stills.

It’s no surprise that Frame.io chose this model to include with this new C2C update. Frame.io has said in this recent announcement that the inclusion of this camera is meant explicitly for still photographers.

When paired with the FT-XH file transfer attachment to establish an internet connection, photography workflows will be fully cloud-based. The new update features high-resolution RAW files with loupe, navigation, and annotation tools. Goodbye, annoying tether! This does indeed reduce many stressors that come with shoots, whether it be the number of people on set or the time it takes to transfer image files from the photographer to the client.

This “stills photographer” inclusion will also be massive for social media influencers and on-staff photographers for editorial brands and content. But, the X-2HS isn’t just limited to stills. You can upload ProRes and proxy video files as well. Imagine shooting a wedding or event that uploads directly to the cloud while you’re shooting, so an editor can start working and possibly let you know that you need to reshoot something you missed.

As someone currently waiting (patiently) for a client to let me know where to send a drive full of footage, this will be a welcomed update once the feature rolls out to more camera manufacturers. The peace of mind that will come with knowing my footage is instantly backed up, saving me time in the review process—it’s a game changer. Hopefully, we’ll see some Blackmagic Design and RED Komodo inclusion down the road.

Now, to play devil’s advocate to my excitement, I have to ask, is this camera-to-cloud technology something to pay attention to? Or is it another future-focused idea more fun to talk about than actually using it? We’ve all seen how many camera focus fads have come and gone over the last decade (RIP Lytro).

The answer might truthfully fall somewhere in between, where C2C is indeed a way of the future, if just a bit impractical. Still, we’re still here to do our due diligence and help interested parties explore camera-to-cloud technology and if it might make sense for your production workflows.

The Opportunities of Camera-to-Cloud

As shown in the video above, Camera-to-Cloud is already being offered by brands like Frame.io. Frame.io uses devices like a Teradek Cube 655 and a Sound Devices 888 or Scorpio recorder to automatically stream low-bandwidth, high-quality proxy files over WiFi or 4G LTE into Frame.io.

This means no shipping of hard drives, waiting for Dropbox download links to send, or any other traditional means of data management and sharing. C2C is perfect for anybody shooting on a sound stage who needs to send the footage to a post house immediately—what a luxury. This will help cut down time on turnarounds, revisions, miscommunications, and the overall length of productions everywhere (as this writer nervously says as he appreciates the extended day rates he gets to charge when shoots last longer than expected.)

Honestly, the fact that this technology exists is pretty mind-blowing and a testament to how quickly this industry can adapt and innovate to provide film and video professionals with the best solutions for quick and intelligent content creation.

And there’s no doubt that for many high-end production companies and agencies looking to create fast-moving and top-of-the-line content for some of the biggest brands in the world, this technology has been instantly implemented.

The Challenges of Camera-to-Cloud

Still, just because you can—in theory—work with this technology doesn’t necessarily mean you should or need to. Right off the bat, the most significant caveat to this tech is that each separate team needs a powerful WiFi or 4G LTE connection.

The better the connection, the quicker and higher quality the footage transfer can be. In contrast, the poorer or the more unreliable the signal, the more likely the footage may be lower quality or not come through exactly when you expect it.

In many ways, this camera-to-cloud tech is also working against many other recent innovations in film and video technology. That includes new ways of working to reduce team sizes and allow individual videographers with more tools to work as solo producers.

If you’re writing, directing, and shooting your projects, it’s not like you can edit your films simultaneously as you’re shooting them. You’ll still need to remove recording cards or SSDs and plug them into your computers to edit.

When Might C2C Be Right for Your Productions?

Ultimately, camera-to-cloud technology might come down to your preferred workflows, specific video needs, and your studio’s internet connection capabilities.

I can see the highest-end teams specializing in big-budget commercial or corporate production or post-production being some of the first to implement these technologies. Agencies who work with these specific clients might also be close behind, as they’re usually disconnected quite a bit.

Those who work in traditional television or broadcast news media might also be interested in exploring how this C2C workflow works compared to their models. Traditional broadcast workflows are already moving digital, of course, so this might also be a way of the future.

However, for those solo producers and run-and-gun videographers, this C2C technology might take a bit to find a foothold. Scan cards and SSDs are getting smaller, quicker, and cheaper, so working with hard drives might still be easier and more reliable—especially for those working in the field for documentaries or other projects that don’t always have instant internet access.

Still, even if it’s not your desired workflow today, it’s undeniable that C2C is here to stay. It’s worth keeping tabs on, trying out, or even implementing yourself if you want to stay at the forefront of this still-blossoming industry.

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