At times over the past two years, production has felt precarious. It’s often unpredictable as to whether a shoot can go ahead, who might be able to fly in, and which country’s borders might shut at short notice. For producers (the natural problem-solvers of our industry), the landscape has been turbulent for some time. Directors, too, have seen their processes change. Directing remotely, whilst once considered near-impossible, is now not only an accepted element of production but an often-necessary one.
Remote Filming was set up in the summer of 2019, responding to some of those issues, and before some were even on the industry’s radar. When EP and founder of Good Films, Yanina Barry, was working on a shoot herself in 2019, she faced a common but tricky problem: the creative director couldn’t fly in from New York. He was trying to view the shoot via an on-set laptop and Skype instead.
It was the catalyst for something she’d been thinking of for years - what if remote filming didn’t have to be complicated?
Realising the tech itself wasn’t out there, Yanina set to work with Alex Seery, a highly experienced Digi-Tech, Digital Workflow Designer and Supervisor, to create the solution: Remote Filming, a virtual service that can stream any shoot from anywhere to everywhere, easy to set up, easy to operate, with security and clarity.
It’s a solution for producers and filmmakers, created by producers and filmmakers.
Remote Filming now counts the likes of Amazon, Google, Unilever, and Netflix as clients using the solution across the world.
Here, LBB sits down with Yanina to discuss the launch of Remote Filming’s multi-camera streaming app - the first of its kind - to find out how Remote Filming works, why security is key, and how being producer-led means the company can meet client needs.
Since 2019, Remote Filming has been able to stream from set to screen from a single camera, viewing live feeds and playback. But Yanina tells LBB that while Remote Filming’s first iteration was a ‘much-needed’ advancement for the industry, there was still a gap: the ability to stream from multiple cameras.
But now, it’s possible. “It’s an immense breakthrough,” Yanina says. “The fact you can see multiple cameras in one stream is a big deal for everyone.”
Yanina tells LBB about a conversation she had early on with a film executive who raised two issues: the lack of security when streaming, and the options on the market being too tech-heavy. “Take Q-TAKE, for example - to stream with the QTAKE system, you have to have their equipment. It isn’t available everywhere so it limits producers’ choice of which streaming system to use,” Yanina says.
“If you have a celebrity for 10 minutes with three cameras on him/her, you don’t have the time for playback. They aren’t going to wait around. There was a huge gap for tech for the situations where you don’t have playback options, but you do have multiple cameras. And nobody was doing it,” says Yanina.
Yanina says her remotely-based team can get users set up and ready in just five minutes, and viewers can control what it is they are viewing, whether that’s a single camera or multi-cameras, in gallery or film strip mode.
“Our Multi-Camera system was born out of real film professionals seeing a problem without a solution.” And the pandemic context is important too, says Yanina: “Obviously, it pushed us to perfect the product.”
But regardless of Covid, the industry has been moving towards more sustainable practices. Whereas in many cases remote filming is done out of a necessity where clients, agency or even the Director simply can’t be on set, Yanina suggests that now, Remote Filming can offer the opportunity to help protect the environment by avoiding unnecessary travel to shoots.
While the aforementioned film set moment that spurred Yanina to launch Remote Filming came before the pandemic, in the last 18 months it has proved crucial that productions should have this kind of technology on hand. LBB was eager to dig further into that moment.
“The key decision-maker couldn’t be there,” she says. “And the only way for him to participate in the shoot was for him to be on a Skype call on a laptop being held up to a monitor in the street, somebody trying to show him see what we were shooting. It was frustrating.”
As Yanina reflects, it seems strange that this kind of solution didn’t exist before. “I sat at teatime with my crew and I said - ‘Can’t we stream directly out of camera?’ And we couldn’t.”
It’s worth noting that pre-Covid, the technologies we now use daily - Zoom, Google Meet, Teams - were not widely used, says Yanina: “Those were the options. And none of them were secure or even close to good enough image quality.”
Security was absolutely key to why a new solution had to be created. “In the commercial field, as in all fields of filmmaking, we are NDA-d up to our eyes,” says Yanina. “And there was no way that I could stream my rushes through an unsecured system.”
Yanina and her crew spent three days reviewing and looking into how it could be achieved but found there was no way of doing it securely. “At that point I looked to Alex and said, we should do this, thinking it was just something that could be put together as if we could go to the technical supermarket and take things off the shelf, mix them together and make a cake and that was going to be the solution.”
It goes without saying that the tech market is full of hard-to-use, complicated software that doesn’t speak directly to the people using it, suggests Yanina. “I feel strongly about how Remote Filming has been created by real producers,” she says. “It’s key to understanding the market.”
That producer-first approach can be seen running through the DNA of Remote Filming’s offering. Rounds of testing and experimenting with the tech now means the company has near-zero latency on its streaming, and with simplicity at its centre, users just need a Macbook and capture card to stream and can view from any device. No specialist crew needed, no training required.
And the market has changed, too. “When I first got into production, you learned everything and you knew what a camera looked like and you knew how it worked, you knew that 10 cameras that were on the market, you knew the lenses, and so on. But now, there’s new tech constantly and as a producer, you struggle to keep up to date,” she says.
“So, if there’s a tool you need, you want to be able to operate it yourself. You don’t want to rely on other people And so simplicity and keeping the instructions straightforward is important, it’s been designed for production professionals - anyone from the runner to the DOP.”
At its core, Remote Filming meets the needs of its industry without compromising on anything. “Everything is designed with producers at the forefront,” says Yanina. “It’s been developed by real filmmakers, not tech people in offices who don’t know what we do and who have never been on location in a field at 6AM. It’s then that everything simply has to work, without any fuss or need to email a support department and join a queue. Remote Filming has come from real-life experience.”
“And now adding multi-camera streaming to our offering, we can meet producers’ needs even more so. It’s huge for us,” she adds.
The mass adoption of remote working amidst the pandemic means that Remote Filming’s technology now finds itself pushing at an open door. In a recent interview with LBB, RSA Films’ global managing director Kai-Lu Hsiung observed that “[filming remotely] has had a positive effect on the environment”, and Area 23’s SVP of broadcast production Chinkara Singh noted how remote working was instrumental creating the award-winning SICK BEATS campaign.
With the practice now normalised, Remote Filming’s tech offers a faster, more convenient way for producers to get the job done. In an increasingly uncertain global landscape, it’s an idea whose time has come.
Yanina Barry is the co-founder of Remote Filming.