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The Future of Browser-Based Creative Review with ftrack and cineSync

Browser-based creative review is already a staple for collaboration in the industry, so what does ftrack’s acquisition of Cospective mean for filmmakers?

We understand that great cinematic accomplishments are almost never a solo endeavor but, rather, the work of a team — or in many instances, an entire army. When it comes to great creative minds collaborating, communication is vital, and the minds at ftrack know this all too well. They recently acquired Cospective, and their banner application cineSync, to cement their already-steady footing even deeper in the media review community — and to change it for the better.

We had the chance to ask a few questions about ftrack and the Cospective buyout, as well as shine some light on the products that could very well become standard operating procedure in the industry. CEO Fredrik Limsater and GM Rory McGregor discuss how ftrack’s project management is quickly changing and leading the charge. Here’s what they had to say.

cineSync

cineSync in action.

PremiumBeat: For our readers that may be unfamiliar with ftrack and cineSync, could you provide us with a rundown on the purpose and functions of both programs?

Fredrik Limsater: ftrack Review is a media review and collaboration platform that enables creatives to communicate and collaborate directly on creative media, whether that’s a video clip, an image, a PDF, or any of a large number of other formats. This makes feedback centralized, clear, and defined by pixel-perfect precision, instead of having it confused by long email threads, where the original point can quickly become lost.

ftrack Studio is the next step up from ftrack Review. It contains ftrack Review’s media review and approval functionality, alongside a wealth of other features. ftrack Studio enables its users to plan out production schedules and to, then, tackle each step of that production. With ftrack Studio, users can track every asset involved in even the most complex of creative projects, and guide them towards completion. It’s like hacking a path through a dense jungle — ftrack shows the way through production. ftrack Studio is also deeply customizable thanks to the ftrack API. This enables studios to modify and flex ftrack Studio to their unique pipeline needs. ftrack Studio integrates with many of the leading content creation apps used in post-production today.

Rory McGregor: In a nutshell, cineSync offers similar functionality to ftrack Review but takes it to a much higher level. cineSync offers secure, fully synchronized media review, meaning that two or more session attendees can view the same footage, at completely different ends of the globe, in total synchronization. This is useful because even the simple motion of drawing an arrow on a frame can answer a million questions. cineSync has helped everyone from small boutique animation houses to industry titans like Christopher Nolan, Jon Favreau, and Steven Spielberg. It’s also proven pivotal in the creation of every season of Game of Thrones, multiple Bond films, and every entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s become a part of production DNA, from pre to post.

cineSync

ftrack began its friendship with Cospective in 2015.

PB: What was the motivation behind ftrack’s acquisition of Cospective?

FL: We started working with the Cospective team in 2015, during which time we developed an integration that linked ftrack Studio with cineSync. We partnered at many events, shared many meals, and became friends, as well as colleagues.

Over the years, we spoke a great deal about the synergies between our two companies, not just in terms of our aspirations (to make creative collaboration as seamless and efficient as possible), but also in our company cultures and the way in which we like to work. It became obvious that this was a natural fit. In October 2018, we sealed the deal and acquired Cospective, which is now ftrack Australia. Via this new structure, we have access not only to the products previously owned by Cospective, but also to the minds that make them. We’re excited to absorb that expertise into the broader ftrack team and to create some great things together.

PB: Any specific scenarios where your products would be extremely useful?

FL: If you imagine any stage in any creative project, you will find a scenario in which our products might be useful. On Game of Thrones, for example, cineSync was used in Northern Ireland, Iceland, Croatia, Spain, and Calgary to review storyboards, previs, techvis, and concepts with the producers, directors, and others, wherever they were in the world. On projects like Avengers: Endgame, ftrack Studio was used to break down thousands of creative assets, to track their development through the production pipeline, and bring them all together into a unified whole for the project’s stunning final form. ftrack’s review and approval functionality is used on all kinds of 2D animated projects, to make sure that the creative is headed in the right direction and that any revisions are made accurately and swiftly. All kinds of creative productions, and all the different stages of those productions, benefit from these tools.

Simply put, if you’re working on a creative project, there is a tool in the ftrack ecosystem that will help you to tackle that work — in a streamlined and efficient way — wherever you happen to be in the process.

Shooting Game of Thrones

cineSync was readily used on several locations for The Game of Thrones series.

PB: 2019 seems to have been an extremely busy year for ftrack with the release of ftrack review in April, and now the acquisition of cineSync. Could you tell me what this year has been like for ftrack and cineSync?

FL: We’ve barely stood still for a minute. Not only did we launch ftrack Review and acquire cineSync, but we grew the ftrack team by 107 percent, launched new integrations with apps like Adobe Illustrator and Houdini (and released betas for integrations with Unity and Unreal Engine), and launched two new versions of ftrack Studio (4.2 and 4.3). It’s been absolutely incredible. But, in many ways, 2019 still feels like we’re just at the start of our journey, as much as it does the culmination of a decade of hard work.

RM: Obviously, our year has been heavily based around our acquisition by ftrack. The opportunities the acquisition gives us — the increased resources and the much broader platform for interactivity — are amazing. The whole Cospective team is feeling very energized.

On the cineSync side, we’ve really enjoyed hearing the feedback from our customers — and how they use cineSync with their customers.

In the end, we’re all just film geeks, and we’re very proud that we can provide our bit that makes filmmakers’ lives easier.

Ad Astra — a cineSync production

Ad Astra — another production to take advantage of cineSync. (Image via New Regency Pictures.)

PB: Does your software aid your companies on a day-to-day basis with collaboration and simplifying project management?

FL: Absolutely. ftrack Studio is actually used to track and manage development on itself — quite meta, in a way. We also use ftrack Review when discussing any creative assets or videos produced at the company. We really do find it the best way to make feedback clear, concise, and understandable. There are fewer rounds of feedback needed when you’re communicating visually, in that way.

PB: ftrack launched into a pretty competitive space for project managers. What does it do, as a company, that can help differentiate itself? Will cineSync be a major player in helping ftrack rise to the top of creative workflow assistance/review software?

FL: Firstly, it’s worth mentioning that ftrack (like cineSync) was born in a real production environment and in response to real production problems. We weren’t just creating something that we thought filmmakers needed, but that we knew they did. The requirements of post-production are built into ftrack’s (and cineSync’s!) DNA, so we were already starting from a solid foundation. From that point, we’ve differentiated our products from the competition in numerous ways — in the ease of use and accessibility of ftrack, in its simpler, cleaner UI, in the introduction of artist-friendly concepts like kanban boards, and other agile workflow solutions.

RM: With regards to our input at ftrack Australia, cineSync will certainly play a large part in maintaining ftrack’s status as a leader in workflow assistance/review software. We are already working hard to help improve and augment ftrack Review’s capability, and you can expect some exciting news in the coming months. The ftrack Australia team is also leveraging its expertise to help the ftrack product ecosystem grow in some exciting ways. That means new features, new products, and new ways of working — all to come soon. We can’t offer anything more specific than that, at this stage . . . but watch this space. We’ll announce it all when it’s ready.

Whatever we create, it will be built with the same core aim — to make collaboration easier and to optimize workflows for creatives working on complex projects, all around the world.

Captain Marvel — cineSync

Captain Marvel also used cinSync during its production review process. (Image via Marvel Studios.)

PB: Your software seems tailor-made for large-scale productions and creative teams. How useful will these tools be to the smaller agencies or independent contractors working in the production world?

FL: ftrack Studio is built for scale. We have customers at 1,000+ facilities, as well as small ten-person teams working on ambitious projects. Whatever the needs of our users, ftrack will flex to meet them. ftrack Studio is particularly useful for independent contractors who can use it to easily jump into the flow of a project, and to understand what’s been completed and what needs doing next. It makes for a very seamless production experience as you bring people in. And, of course, we have ftrack Review, which is perfectly tailored to smaller agencies who don’t need access to the broader project management functionality, but still need a way in which to communicate clearly with clients.

RM: As for cineSync, it’s really built for person-to-person communication, rather than for large groups of people. It helps to forge those creative connections between small groups of people and to align them behind a singular idea, rather than having multiple groups of people rallying behind different ideas. cineSync builds creative consensus. Its users can then go on to communicate those goals to their larger creative teams.

PB: What are you most excited about for the future of ftrack, and how do you imagine the company will fit into the future of cinema?

FL: By building a better product and a better resource base with which to tackle the increasing complexity of modern filmmaking. We want to make the admin side of things as simple as possible, so creatives can get on with doing what they do best — making stunning experiences for those watching the big screen.

PB: Will browser-based creative review be the death of production email chains?

RM: It’s another part of the puzzle, for sure, but I doubt it will be the death of email chains. Every user is different and has their own preferences when it comes to communication. And, there are always going to be moments where a quick email might be easier to relay an obvious, clear-cut bit of information. Variety is the spice of life, after all, and different kinds of criticism are sometimes best suited to certain platforms. However, that said, browser-based creative review is absolutely the best way to discuss complex, creative work in a visual, and immediately understandable, way. In that sense, where abstract ideas need to be given form, or a specific pixel must be specified, browser-based creative review is 100 percent the best way to communicate, and it should be the norm for any studio looking to reduce feedback rounds and optimize their revision process.


Cover image via cineSync.

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