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Atomos Cloud Studio at Sundance

Posted on May 19, 2023 by Samara Husbands

Atomos Cloud Studio cuts production time with Camera to Cloud at the high-altitude film festival

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Collating, cutting, editing and packaging content at the Sundance Film Festival has been a laborious process over the years. But not any more.

The Sundance Film Festival is one of the most prestigious in the world. Held annually in Park City, Utah, it has a reputation for showcasing original, thought-provoking films – often by up-and-coming directors.

Many pictures that debut at Sundance go on to become critical darlings, with some even winning major awards. What’s more, the festival attracts industry professionals from around the world – from producers to distributors and buyers. This allows filmmakers to network and potentially secure distribution deals for their films.

In short, Sundance is a place where careers are made – the fulfilment of hopes and dreams all in one place. That means it’s a lot of work for those on the front line.

Less need for a night shift

Gathering footage during the day and then editing it at night for The Daily Recap to be distributed the next day isn’t an easy job.

“There is a lot of lead-up to the festival,” explains Michael Bodie, content producer for Sundance Institute. “We are in a mountain town in the middle of the winter. But when Sundance hits, that’s tens of thousands of people that are flying into Park City. Traffic everywhere. Icy roads. And we are supposed to be everywhere throughout the day. That makes it really hard when we have these things like The Daily Recap, which, if you can believe it, is being shot and then put out into theatres the very next day.”

The Daily Recaps bring the in-person festival experience and magic to those
who unfortunately cannot attend the event. They are about making them feel part of the independent film community,  inspiring them to participate online, and encouraging them to make plans to join in-person in the future. 

The Recaps also provide an opportunity for festivalgoers in Utah to take in more of the action. With hundreds of premieres, screenings and events spread across Park City and Salt Lake City, it’s impossible to see everything. Prior to every film, audience members can see what other movies and events they should seek out and get glimpses of unique moments that can only happen on the mountain, all while reinforcing their love for independent cinema and its community.

Introducing Atomos Cloud Studio with Frame.io to Sundance this year meant that the production process changed, but for the better. Footage was delivered live throughout the day to the edit team, with next-day packages complete by end of play – hugely reducing the need for work to be done overnight.

Racing the sun

“The biggest hurdle for us is time,” explains RJ Glass, lead video editor for the festival. “We had about a dozen camera teams in the field at any given time, and with them is a field producer. Every camera had an Atomos Ninja V on the top. The Ninja was critical because, without it, we can’t connect to Camera to Cloud. More than half a dozen editors are cutting throughout the day, into the wee hours of the night.”

Glass explains how the team is responsible for lots of content at the festival. “This includes content for The Daily Recap as well as press clips and social media ranging from TikTok to Instagram to Facebook,” Glass explains. “We also capture panel discussions to deliver for people at home.”

Jason Nichols, creative director at Sundance Institute, describes how his team was ‘racing the sun’ at that time. “We were running out of daylight,” he recalls. “Immediately, we would start getting clips from people on the street who couldn’t tell you enough about the films they saw. We were bringing the shots into Premiere and editing on the go. Quickly, we were building this edit, almost in real time; we could see the elements that were still missing and get them all before the sun went down.”

Glass explains how the team is getting used to the Camera to Cloud workflow. “That’s what really opened it up for us. One of the biggest impacts is simply time saving,” he enthuses. “I mean, that may seem sort of obvious, but in this context, it’s everything. Having tools that allow for easy collaborations are key.”

It’s a view shared by Bodie: “It’s amazing to know, once you press cut on a clip, it’s going straight back to the offices.”

“We’re pulling those down as they come in,” Glass says. “Some of us were already working on string-outs for that day’s Daily Recap. Our producers were just double-checking that all the footage we were shooting was coming straight in.”

Finding the way home

If the Atomos Ninja V loses Wi-Fi signal while recording, when it picks up a signal again, it carries on uploading where it left off. The crews found this out while driving around – the Wi-Fi would reconnect, and the upload would automatically recommence. “It’s like the media can find its own way home,” quipped one of the camera operators.

This allowed for a safety net. As Nichols expresses it: “Our schedules are now as watertight as humanly possible.” Over the course of the eight-day shoot,
the camera crews uploaded more than 100GB of data using multiple carriers with five of Sclera Digital’s bonded Wi-Fi modems. Thanks to Atomos, when it comes to projects like this, things have just been made a lot easier. 

Originally published in the May/June 2023 issue of Pro Moviemaker.

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