ftrack, creator of the production tracking and media review platform has acquired Cospective, creator of the Academy Award and Emmy-winning remote review tool cineSync.
ftrack and Cospective have enjoyed a close working relationship since 2015, and have already developed a deep integration that links ftrack with cineSync. This acquisition enables Cospective and ftrack to work even more closely in the pursuit of better workflows. In the short term, little will change, Cospective will continue to support cineSync. The only immediate change will be in Cospective’s support availability, which will increase to 24-hour, around-the-clock support thanks to the larger resource capability of the ftrack organization.
Fredrik Limsäter, CEO at ftrack, comments: “We respect Cospective not only as a creator of highly regarded products but also as a group of collaborators and individuals. We’re excited to welcome such accomplished media experts to the global ftrack organization.”
The Cospective team will remain in Adelaide, Australia and will grow to better support the development and growth of the media review and approval suite. The global ftrack organization will expand all areas of the team in Adelaide, from development to support, sales, and marketing, and is also looking to hire in the US, Europe, and China in 2020. There will be no redundancies.
cineSync nor ftrack customers will experience any disruption or immediate change. cineSync will continue to be supported now and in the future. The Frankie product will, for the foreseeable future, be supported and developed by the Cospective team. At the same time, Cospective will contribute to ftrack Review, a web-based review platform that will expand on the feature set of Frankie, while offering similar functionality.
cineSync will continue to support integrations with Shotgun, NIM and other production tracking applications and maintain all existing integrations with third-party software vendors, with new integrations to come.
We spoke directly to Rory McGregor, CEO of Cospective.
FXGUIDE: cineSync has been the pioneer in interactive annotated review, what drove that in the past, was it security, (for example the files were never on CineSync servers) or was it avoiding heavy bandwidth requirements? Are these still the things that drive CineSync’s use and success today?
RM: Security and simplicity absolutely remain crucial to what we do. The third element is cineSync’s interactivity.
Regarding security, studios have always liked cineSync because no confidential material ever passes through any third-party servers. As a company, we never have access to any client material – the only data that passes through us is control information, i.e. “play, pause, go to frame 27, draw an arrow” – and even that data is encrypted. Facilities can run fully secure review sessions without the material ever leaving the safety of their firewalled facility.
Simplicity is important, because most people (but particularly directors and producers) hate having to learn new tools, or to use complicated tools that cost more time than they save. They like things that just work. While there’s a lot of engineering under the hood, we ensure that whatever features we add, cineSync retains its simple interface and intuitive interactivity.
Finally, the main feature of cineSync, and still the reason why it’s used, is that interactivity between participants. cineSync affords the ability to see what everyone else is seeing, in real time, and to point to specific things on screen in total confidence that people understand what you’re showing them and communicating.
All of these things defined cineSync in the past, and continue to define it today.
FXGUIDE: In this age of multiple video conferencing – Skype, MS Teams, Discord, Apple FaceTime not to mention advances with products such as frame.io, what do you see as the strengths of cineSync?
RM: There is nothing more detrimental to remote collaboration than doubt; doubt that what you’re showing is actually being seen. Everyone has had laggy screen-sharing conferences where you’re talking about one thing while everyone else plays catch-up, 15 seconds behind. It’s frustrating and it sucks the confidence out of the discussion. The strength of cineSync is that it’s built to bypass that awkwardness. The technology is so robust that people can just get on with the conversation as if they were in the same room. If the technology is noticeable, it’s not doing its job. cineSync gets out of the way, becomes almost invisible, and allows the creative and collaborative process to take center stage.
Video chat is brilliant for adding that personality to a remote discussion, and a lot of people use it alongside cineSync, but it doesn’t help much when it comes to reviewing video. And that’s where cineSync excels.
Frame.io and other similar tools are excellent at what they do, but they’re essentially a place for people to leave feedback and hope that it all makes sense when someone reads it. They lack the ability for immediate followup questions; they’re not a tool for conversation, just a tool for tracking feedback. The immediate context provided by cineSync’s interactive reviews allows for more free-flowing discussion, faster decisions, and a smoother feedback cycle. And that all equates to better work up on the screen.
FXGUIDE: Is the product mature now – or are there major UX issues still to be tackled?
RM: cineSync is mature, in the sense that its core functionality is very much the same as it was 10 years ago. Of course, we’ve re-engineered over the years to adapt to 4K workflows, higher data rates, and new frame and video formats. We’re always adding new features, too. (Marvel is a feature-requesting machine, and we’re always keen to take that feedback on board.) But we haven’t had to change the UI much – to the great relief of our users!
FXGUIDE: How key to cineSync is the integration with project management tools in general? Is ‘Schedule Integration’ the natural growth area right now?
RM: Integrations with other industry-standard tools are very much key to cineSync’s adaptability with day-to-day workflows. We spend a lot of time working on ways to securely move information from a project management tool into cineSync, so that we can enable the collaborative review portion of the project, and then smoothly move all that cineSync data (notes, saved frames, etc) back into the project management system. That keeps a complete record of the conversation.
Nobody wants to spend a huge amount of time setting up their pipeline for every show they work on. If we can simply plug into their preferred workflow, it makes life easier for everyone, so that’s what we endeavor to do. It’s worth noting that, although we have been acquired by ftrack, we will continue to support and even enhance our integrations with third-party products like Shotgun and NIM.
FXGUIDE: How key is mobile (tablet etc) to cineSync moving forward?
RM: Mobile is definitely a part of our plan. There’s always someone on a train, or on set, or on the move that needs to join a review. But in an ideal world, we’d like to think no-one’s giving detailed feedback about complex VFX shots while looking at an iPhone.
We’ve built a dedicated iOS app, and it works really well alongside our integrations with ftrack and Shotgun. It’s simple, intuitive, and a lot of people use it. However, I would say our primary focus remains on fixed hardware installed behind a firewall, with the grunt to play 4K – or two 4K streams – at 60fps and higher.
FXGUIDE: Can you talk about Frankie in this context?
RM: Frankie is optimised for the web browser, so it’s naturally more adapted to the mobile experience, in the sense that users are already working with smaller file sizes and generally lower resolutions. Frankie users are also more interested in fast turnaround feedback, and place less importance on large file sizes and security. Mobile is definitely a big part of that approach.
But the key to Frankie – like cineSync – is still interactivity and synchronized viewing, combined with the simplicity of the review experience. Frankie is absolutely the simplest way to have a synchronized review. Guests can join with a single click of a link, and the interface for the mobile Frankie app is all about simple user experience.
FXGUIDE: In terms of markets – cineSync is seen as a Vfx (film/video) tool… Frankie moves to a wider creative market… is this non-film space, something that you see a growth area?
RM: Frankie is definitely addressing a broader market. The advertising/marketing area is a couple of degrees of magnitude larger than VFX in terms of the number of companies working in that space. However, VFX/post-production for high-end film and TV is absolutely a growth space right now. The explosion in content created around the world for the streaming market – Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney, Apple, etc – combined with some pretty aggressive incentives to shoot and post in far-flung locations, is a perfect storm for growth in remote collaboration!
FXGUIDE: Any chance of a pricing review on Frankie? $1200 annually for 3 projects ($99 a month) is a lot compared to say Adobe for their apps. How do you respond to the pricing premium?
RM: We offer annual pricing on Frankie, so a Plus account is $990 a year, or $82.50 a month. But Frankie is also a tool that offers a specific function – there is no other fully interactive, synchronised, multi-browser, multi-OS review platform in the world. Ensuring such reliable interactivity requires a fairly comprehensive infrastructure, which isn’t cheap. Ultimately, our customers value the unique feature set of Frankie, and recognise that the money they save with accurate communication and quick, interactive decision making vastly outweighs the cost of the platform itself.
FXGUIDE: cineSync is based in Australia, how does the Aussie culture fit with the Swedish?
RM: Apart from initial shock that you can’t buy a cold six-pack of beer in a Swedish bottle shop, we’ve found that Swedish and Australian culture aligns very well.
Workplace culture is very similar; there’s more emphasis on teamwork than there is on hierarchy and chain of command. And, as far as Cospective is concerned, we’ve never had a partner who so closely mirrors our own approach to customer service, to development and support, and to valuing the team over individual achievement than we’ve had with ftrack.
That’s the reason we decided to take the plunge with ftrack and join forces. We’re very much looking forward to building some very cool new things with them!