7 minute read
Camera to Cloud for Documentary Creatives
Early Access Program winner Dru Smith photographs and films local entrepreneurs in an artful documentary project, using a connected Frame.io Camera to Cloud (C2C) workflow
When it was first revealed in late 2022, the Frame.io Camera to Cloud (C2C) workflow for Fujifilm cameras was a ground-breaking step for stills and video image making at large. While creatives around the world waited eagerly for launch, 10 individuals were selected for a real-world, hands-on trial through the FUJIFILM Camera to Cloud Early Access Program contest. At their skilled fingertips, the potential of C2C was unleashed. As the contest moved into its second phase, creatives were presented with an opportunity to push C2C further still – producing a meaningful personal project of scale. Dru Smith is one such winner.
“I started what I call my visual diary last year, as another way of exploring my art,” Dru recalls, thinking back to the foundations of his Early Access Program project. “I announced a documentary portrait session, looking for people who had tattoos that represented Black excellence – depictions of anyone from Malcolm X to 2Pac. I picked my favorite subjects and we all went to a studio together.”
As creatives are prone to, Dru quickly felt a desire to expand. Ideas were in place, and so were the means, but a fitting subject proved more elusive.
“I was looking to add documentary filmmaking into whatever I did next, alongside the stills, but didn’t find anyone who inspired another body of work. Searching my mind for subjects, I thought of Jevon Taylor, the founder of Green Spaces, who I’ve known for a couple of years. He’s been going places with this new company and is always looking out for the people in his community – especially the people of color out here in Colorado. That’s something I’ve always respected him for,” Dru reveals. “Jevon became the heart of the project.”
Centrally located in Denver, Green Spaces is a mixed-use hub designed for local artists and small businesses. On top of its commendable green initiatives and supportive programs, the site has become a home for a community displaced by urban developments.
“The community aspect of Jevon’s work was an essential part of what I wanted to document,” Dru notes. “I’m an entrepreneur, and so is my wife, so I know how hard it is to achieve that goal. Jevon has done that for himself, but he’s someone trying to make it better for other up and coming individuals. That was inspiring to me.
“The cost of living out here in Colorado is getting higher, so that’s another barrier for many people. When I found out Jevon was creating this space for small vendors to come and start their business from within his, it hit home for me. Seeing someone from my community trying to make way for the rest of us was special.
“I went to Green Spaces to pitch my project to Jevon,” he continues, “and he loved the idea. We started having conversations about what I wanted his involvement to be, then he started bringing other people who work within the collective’s space that would also be exciting subjects for the portrait series. Everything evolved from there.”
When it came to deciding between stills and video on a subject-by-subject basis, Dru’s vision was clear.
“I wanted to tell the whole story of Jevon and Green Spaces – that’s where the video aspect would come in. He’s had such an interesting path in life, and I wanted a way for him to share that,” he explains. “The stills show some of the vendors at Green Spaces. We could share a sense of who they are through stills, especially by giving each one their own set. I went to visit their businesses, got a feel for their vibe, then came up with my own ideas of how to present that. I brought those visuals back to the vendors so they could approve of the aesthetic, then we made the portraits.”
Equipped with FUJIFILM X-H2S and FT-XH File Transmitter, Dru tapped into the astounding potential of Fujifilm’s integrated Frame.io Camera to Cloud (C2C) workflow. Image and video files were sent directly from Dru’s camera to the cloud in real time, facilitating more seamless collaboration than ever before – a factor which quickly became a cornerstone of the project.
“Early on, I realized I needed a team,” Dru reveals, “partly for the fast turnaround, but also so everybody could stay on top of their individual part of the process. I oversaw everything through pre-production, but when it came to production day, I wanted the sole focus of working with Jevon and the talent. So, I got a team behind me to make sure everything else was running well. I ended up with a handful of creatives for all aspects of the process. Honestly, they made the whole project run smoothly.”
The most notable benefits came through Dru’s close work with his editor and set designer. With no need to separate production from post, what transpired was an instantaneous joint effort. Tight timelines were met and, more importantly, the images themselves were elevated.
“My editor was right there in the studio. I could keep my attention on the individuals in front of my lens, then would go and check in to see photos that already had a look and feel edited into them,” the creative enthuses. “I could say ‘yes, I love that’ or ‘let’s cut back on that’, and it allowed me to adapt as I worked. It was amazing to stay so entirely in the moment.
“My set director had my mood board up, and she knew exactly what I wanted. The C2C process allowed her to sit with the editor as he was working, look at what I was creating, then get her own ideas. She’d say: ‘Dru, let’s bring in more candles to fill this space up a little bit’. Being able to make those specialized adjustments right there was great.”
Moments of documentary footage provided an even more crucial opportunity for Dru to craft his story. He stepped into the role of director, handing all other elements of the session off to respective experts, and staying entirely connected with Jevon.
“I knew I had to ask the right questions – without distraction – to share Jevon’s story the way it deserved to be shared. C2C made that happen,” Dru continues. “My camera operators handled balancing the image, my set designer took care of that whole side of the scene again, and my production assistant was there making sure all the files were going through to Frame.io smoothly. The cloud workflow helped in all aspects.”
Despite being a brand-new technology, Dru felt there wasn’t a steep learning curve and he was able to pick up the essentials of the in-camera process quickly. Once photos and videos were in the cloud, continuing through the pipeline was just as seamless.
“I spoke with the Fujifilm tech experts, connected to the cloud, then added all my accessories. Our files were large because we were recording 6.2K ProRes, but we used proxies to cut upload times. Wi-Fi connection also determines that speed, but I love that I could disconnect at Green Spaces, go home, then pick the transfer right back on my home network. There wasn’t a need to wait around for files to transfer on location. As creators, we want to work with the best files possible, but we also don’t want to slow the process down. Discovering how to get the best of both in the C2C workflow was key.”
With his first C2C project completed, Dru is left looking ahead. For creatives, every technological breakthrough is viewed through a lens of potential – and Camera to Cloud is far from an exception. Simply put, there is much more to come.
“I wrapped with a client earlier this month, who came to me in need of an editor,” Dru closes. “Production had finished, and all her footage was on Frame.io. I love to see it becoming part of the industry standard – and the brief was so easy because I could just follow her timestamped comments. Having experienced the other side of the workflow to what I did on the Green Spaces project, I know how much better it is for the post-production specialists I’m collaborating with.
“I’m also excited that C2C will let me potentially meet and work with people who aren’t even here in Colorado. I can collaborate around the world because now there’s a way we can work. If I see an editor in New York and love their style, I can work with them the exact same way as my editor who was physically next to me. With C2C and Frame.io, everyone involved is in one digital place, no matter where they are. That’s going to be huge.
“What Fujifilm and Frame.io are doing will open so many doors for people. And it’s going to allow people to focus on the content, rather than thinking about the small stuff. You’re in a system you can rely on to work. Once that’s in place, simply go out and create.”
The world’s first native digital stills camera integration for Frame.io Camera to Cloud is now available for FUJIFILM X-H2 and X-H2S via via FT-XH File Transmitter and is fully integrated into FUJIFILM GFX100 II.
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