Creative professionals – anyone working in media, entertainment, gaming, advertising, music, etc. – are special (we probably don’t need to tell you that). Specifically, they have special needs for remote collaboration and communication that simply can’t be addressed with the traditional conference call.
In a perfect world, creatives working remotely on video content should be able to talk face-to-face while securely reviewing footage from wherever they are located and easily comment and make notes.
Additionally, due to issues such as intellectual property rights and piracy, security is always paramount. Add to the fact that co-workers are often spread out across the globe, you are also often dealing with bandwidth, CPU, and latency issues that can quickly lead to communication breakdowns (and perhaps a few tears).
In the past few years, several tech companies have developed platforms promising to solve these myriad of challenges. But how successful are they? In this blog post we’ll take a deep dive, comparing functionality, features, and services so you can make an informed decision.
What’s out there?
In a nutshell, some of the top remote collaboration and video conferencing software tools used by creative professionals are:
- Evercast - combines HD video conferencing and live streaming on a secure platform (that’s us!).
- Zoom - online meetings, phone, screen sharing and real-time chat on any device including iOS and Android.
- Microsoft Teams - the collaborative component of Microsoft 365 that lets people discuss as well as work on projects/documents together.
- cineSync - real-time sync for footage review, annotation and approval.
- Clearview Flex - high-resolution, low latency collaboration from pre-production to FX with color and audio accuracy.
Other popular video conferencing solutions include GoToMeeting, BlueJeans, Cisco Webex, Discord, and Skype. (For the purposes of this piece, however, we’ll only focus on the ones above.)
On the surface, most of these solutions seem the same: they all use buzzwords like “collaboration,” “secure,” and even “award-winning.” So how to choose? Let’s go over them one by one.
Evercast was designed for creatives by creatives. The founders of Evercast worked closely with peers in the industry to build the platform as the ultimate conferencing and collaboration software that satisfies the needs of both small production teams and large studios. With the ability to stream moving content and video conference at the same time, teams of up to 15 people or so can work as if they were together in the same room. The platform has been vetted by all the major Hollywood studios as well as industry leaders in gaming and advertising. Security features include encrypted streaming, invite-only private rooms, and protected recordings. Latency is about 150 ms on average, faster than the blink of an eye. And in 2020, Evercast received an Engineering Emmy for addressing issues related to Covid-19.
Some top features include:
- Secure video conferencing
- Real-time streaming
- Native recording and playback
- Easy drawing and annotation
- Google Chrome browser-based; no downloads to join a meeting
- No uploads/file sharing
- No expensive hardware
- No setup fees
- Approved by all major studios
Use cases include: editorial; VFX reviews; dailies; music and sound production; live streaming cameras from set; animation and game development; production meetings; and more.
One of the most popular conferencing software products, especially since the pandemic started. Easy to use and available on mobile devices as well, Zoom offers connections from almost anywhere; however, the software has quite a few security issues that continue to disrupt meetings and the screen share feature isn’t up to par for working on high quality video content.
Zoom works well for no-frills video meetings and large-scale (one-to-many) webinars. Not specifically built for creative work, Zoom offers a screenshare function, but lacks the quality necessary to review full-res video. Zoom is commonly used for corporate work, education, healthcare, and government.
Made for integrating with Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams lets you have audio, video, chat, screen sharing, and more. Microsoft Teams also has specialized devices that can help make remote communication even easier. For example, they recently released “Together Mode” where it makes everyone look like they are sitting in the same room, which adds to the fun. But for creatives at work, it’s function over form.
Microsoft Teams is popular in healthcare and corporate environments. It’s also used for enhancing productivity and communications in labor roles such as warehouse work. Again, it is not built or used specifically for the creative or entertainment industry.
cineSync comes from Cospective, a subsidiary of ftrack, which is an Australian-based company that produces popular production tracking software. cineSync claims to deliver quality playback of high-resolution video from anywhere in the world, perfectly synchronized for all viewers. While it also includes basic annotation tools, cineSync does not offer video chat or workflow streaming for real-time edits; additionally, all guests in a given session must have their own video files pre-downloaded and locally-accessible on their devices in order to view them through the platform.
cineSync is primarily used among VFX teams working remotely. For a deeper look, read about cineSync and its top alternatives.
From a company called Sohonet, Clearview Flex boasts real-time streaming of hi-res footage for up to 30 viewers; they also promise color and audio accuracy. While they tout impressive latency (less than 100 ms) and the ability to view on any device, in order to stream content, Clearview Flex requires sizable specialized hardware that costs $1200 per year plus a $500 setup fee on top of the subscription cost. There is also no built-in video call option, no ability to draw or annotate on-screen, and if you need to take notes, you’ll have to use another app or the good old fashioned pen and paper.
Clearview Flex is best used for remote, real-time review of footage. However, because of the limitations on communication, it can be challenging to actually make cuts or changes live.
The pandemic has dramatically changed the way we connect and collaborate, forcing creatives to become, well, more creative. As the situation has unfolded, we are able to see the strengths and weaknesses of the new technologies available to us and how they can best be put to use.
While Zoom or Teams may be a tempting go-to for your yoga class or virtual cast reunion, for streaming moving content, the video quality and lack of advanced features make them less than ideal; cineSync will let everyone see and doodle on screen, but doesn’t have the built-in ability to facilitate real-time communication; and Clearview Flex has an impressive low latency, but the hardware and setup fees combined with the lack of other features can be prohibitive.
Now that you have the lowdown of what each of these tools offer, hopefully you’re able to make an educated choice.
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