Frame.io Web App Aims to Simplify Collaborative Post Online
Sign-Up Is Now Open for Public Beta Launch This Fall
If you work in a collaborative team from remote locations and, like most creatives, are routinely buried under a mountain of emails, passwords and Dropbox, Vimeo and WireDrive notifications alerting you to yet another private version of your project, a new Web app called Frame.io could be your long-awaited lifeline.
Emery Wells, the founder, creative director and chief workflow architect of New York post services facility Katabatic Digital, and Katabatic's chief scientist John Traver, have spent the past two years developing a radically simplified, elegantly designed cloud-driven interface that streamlines the review and versioning process while also providing a robust and searchable place to store all those increasingly fat files of source material. Frame.io—a separate venture from Katabatic Digital—will be in public beta in the next few months. The company today launched the beta sign-up, plus a sneek peek at what to expect when the app goes live.
"This app was born out a necessity to build a collaborative product that combines all those services that video pros have to cobble together—from Dropbox, Wiredrive, Vimeo and email—to be able to work together online," says Wells. "And each of those things has serious limitations. For example, with Wiredrive, there is no two-way feedback. You end up sending something with a note that says, 'Email me later.' We wanted to create something that combined the sheer power of cloud storage, which can handle a massive amount of files, and video review with light asset management that organized all your source files and versions and comments in one place. With this app, every member of your collaborative team, your clients and all of your assets can convene and communicate here."
Just as critical, adds Wells, is the app's ability to convene and organize source material that often gets lost in the shuffle. "Probably 99% of source material never ends up online and instead sits on some RAID somewhere that only a few can access, or gets shelved completely," he says. "These are fuzzy numbers, but by some estimates, about 70 million TB of video are captured every year. With the cloud, we now have the ability to handle a global amount of data."
Despite the cloud's promise and the broadband revolution already in progress, there are still limits on just how much you can upload to a Web-based app. Wells and Traver have already addressed that. "We've built this app with an eye toward the future," he says, "and we'll have a solution for getting 10 TB of files uploaded into the app very soon. It is actually working technology right now." There will also be a cap on the number of collaborators per project.
The browser-based app's clean, uncluttered interface lets you begin uploading as soon as you drag and drop files from your desktop. It also gives you an instant hover scrub once the file has uploaded—something those annoying java applets in other online review interfaces can't claim. "Our uploading technology is built right into the app, [which is] a real breakthrough and unique to our architecture," says Wells. "Users don't want to have to see how something is uploaded. They just want it to work and work fast." The app instantly transcodes videos to HTML5 at upload, though all source files are also available at any time in their original formats for local download. "Anyone on the team that wants to view something doesn't have to encode it. They can just grab it and go," he says. You can even navigate away (though only within the app) to look at another project while new files continue to load. A built-in basic, yet robust, asset manager lets you easily search and tag media into projects and folders. And a share button lets you send out branded presentations to clients, much like you would with Wiredrive.
"The Internet has allowed so many of us to work at a distance from one another and our clients," Wells says. "Now, it's increasingly common for folks to work remotely. But with that came this explosion of interfaces and user names and passwords we have to remember. We want Frame.io to be the home base for collaborators and clients so you can eliminates all those multiple usernames and passwords you have to create every time you get invited to use someone else's preferred mode of upload and review. We looked at other apps and anywhere there was friction we wanted to remove it. That starts at the very beginning when new team members are invited to join a project. We'll have Google and Facebook login options to make this a really usable product that people will want to invite their clients to. With just two clicks, you are in the project."
Critiques in context, including video annotations, and visually intuitive version control are the app's calling cards. A Facebook-like text bubble sits below the video window for comments during playback, automatically pausing the video while you type. Everyone on the project that enables notifcations will get an email after any member of the team comments on works in progress. The settings icon includes a drop-down for controlling permissions and selecting only those emails you want to receive at particular points in the process. Comparing different versions is also simplified. Version stacks include a side-by-side view button (photo, at top) to save time and eliminate the frustration of cycling through different versions on Vimeo one by one.
A price for the app has yet to be set, though Wells says a tiered monthly subscription model will be most likely. Native iOS and Android mobile versions are in the works. He also thinks other media beyond video will find a home inside the app. "We're focusing on video tools first because that's the hardest part to get right. Filmmakers could easily upload stills and music, but we also see this being used by photographers and musicians in their own right."