Superproducer Ted Hope on...

September 22, 2012

Scenios is the Cloud Based Virtual Production Binder You've Been Waiting For

In 2010 I directed a 30 minute short indie film. My crew and I made use of a domain-level install of Google Docs to manage our production documents from the convenience of the cloud. It was fantastic to have everything all in one place, and we loved that it was on another login separate from our personal emails. However, there were scary hiccups, including strange non-forwarding emails, un-downloadable attachments, and login issues. As wonderful as Google is, we felt Docs left something to be desired. Considering this experience, I'm very excited to share with you another platform that offers that same closed garden approach, with added security and functionality, tailored specifically to filmmakers. It's called Scenios, and the well-made welcome video is available after the link:

Word to the wise -- don't skimp on the pitch video, and you gain instant street cred. Word.

Scenios was founded by media entreprenuer Mark Davis, and Emmy-winner Jeff Wurtz (of Inside the Actor's Studio fame). The Scenios platform is primarily a web app which congregates all production documents, daily videos, calendars, etc, into one place via a smooth interface. In addition to being a web app, Scenios can also be downloaded locally and is sync-able using the aptly named Scenios Desktop Sync app. It works across all platforms, including PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Android. This cross-compatibility is huge, as everyone on a production is likely to have their own flavor of computing device. If you'd like to give it a spin, the creators have taken a great step towards building an audience by allowing full access to the app for one project for free. Full free trials are usually the make or break for me when considering an intangible app purchase, so having a complete trial shows they have confidence in the product.

When you create a project in Scenios, you'll see the Production Documents section is the main section of the app. It is divided into the following subcategories:

  1. Contact List
  2. Script
  3. Locations
  4. Call Sheets
  5. Budget
  6. File Cabinet
  7. Wrap Book

Each category contains the ability to either import an existing document created externally to Scenios, or create a version right inside of the app itself. So take the Script section for example; you can write your script in Final Draft, save out a .fdx file, and have it imported directly into Scenios complete with cards and a watermark. Granted, you won't be able to edit the document as Final Draft is a proprietary format, but when you're in production, you're likely pushing out updates anyway. You can also create documents in a Microsoft Word-like interface, or using a custom spreadsheet. (If you're making call sheets, it's also worth noting that according to the training video, you can email them for a call sheet template free of charge that works in Scenios.)

The way you push out updates is fantastic as well, and I find it the main pull to the platform. Everyone on your production signs up for a Scenios account, and every user can be divided into different departments or permission groups you can customize. Have a Blue Draft to push out, and only want it to go to actors above the line, as well as your AD? Scenios is completely adaptable for situations like that, as demonstrated by this how-to video:

By the way, each section of Scenios features a handy Video Tutorial like that one.

Speaking of video, Scenios also has an option for uploading rough and final cuts for daily reviews. This is also all sortable by permissions as well. Storage space is not an issue as well with the 5GB you get with the free version.

There's more than just the free version though, so let's get down to brass tacks. According to the Scenios pricing page, for $20 a month you get to host two productions, join two productions, and get 100GB of storage. Not bad. For $50 a month, everything is unlimited, including production joins, creations, and storage. If you're producing several deliverables a month/quarter, this platform really could function as your virtual production office. I can see this option being a huge boon for businesses large or small, especially considering how much many companies spend on Microsoft Outlook/Project pipelines anyway. (Which are the bane of my existence.)

My overall impression of the app is similar to how I felt about the Google ecosystem. I think it's amazing to have a one stop shop for your production on the cloud. I mentioned just yesterday that large backups to the ominous cloud can be a bit stressful. However we're not talking about large backups, a couple hundred megabytes (minus dailies) maximum, and this app makes your production documents completely downloadable. All you need to do is download yourself, have a couple of producers download as well, and boom -- you're completely redundant, and can sleep at night.

Here's another good video featuring a case study. Granted there's a staged feeling to the video, but I took it with a grain of salt... yes they're being teleprompted, but it's plausible just the same:

I also think it's worth noting that this app has some very good support behind it; within 20 minutes of signing up for the platform I received a friendly email from a customer service rep assigned to my newly created account. That's incredibly reassuring -- there are real people behind this -- and again, conversely when Google Docs went down, I was SOL. Don't get me wrong, I'm still a Google-lover through and through, but have you ever seen all the un-answered pleas in Google help before? I don't think this will be the case with Scenios. They want to be the next Final Draft, or Celtx, or Paper, or Dropbox. They've listened to production professionals needs, and I really think they're on their way.

I usually direct, and I've been looking for an excuse to get an iPad for my next production. With this and a few other great products coming out, I can see myself finally moving entirely to the cloud. Call me Kid Icarus? (Anyone?)

Have you ever used cloud-based platforms for production management? Also, I'd love for our readership to take this new app for a spin and report back here with impressions. Any takers?

Link: Scenios - Move Your Production into the Cloud

Your Comment

13 Comments

I personally think this is an awesome idea. I'm going to test it out for my next short. Seems like a great organization tool for cast and crew.

September 22, 2012

-1
Reply

This is pretty great. So simple and smart, makes you wonder why someone didn't think of it earlier. I always hate all the paper we tend to print for productions and this really seems like a fantastic solution.

September 23, 2012

0
Reply

Sounds like the professional/commercial world has finally caught on to "wrecking," the sort of open-source-like repository that's produced projects like Iron Sky.

http://www.wreckamovie.com/

This looks, of course, to be much more in line with what mainstream users would want...as opposed to just highly nerdy fan artists.

September 23, 2012

1
Reply
trackofalljades

trackofalljades, that's an awesome link. I'd heard of Iron Sky before, but never happened upon this site. Thanks for the link. Though I have to admit... their crossing out of keyboard cat has me worried: http://www.wreckamovie.com/mission : )

September 25, 2012

0
Reply
avatar
Benjamin Dewhurst
Writer
writer/director

Very interested in testing out this app. I used the Google Doc method for my last project. It started out just fine, but quickly got out of hand, disorganized and eventually left for dead.

I also like the green element to it. John Morse nailed it. This very much clears a path to paperless (or at the very least, paper-reduced) production. Also saves money (no more printing).

Great find!

September 24, 2012

0
Reply

I agree all around. I think my next filmmaker-y purchase will be (dundundun!) an iPad of all things, largely because of this app, and Paper.

September 25, 2012

0
Reply
avatar
Benjamin Dewhurst
Writer
writer/director

No stripboard. They say it's coming later in the year but I really do everything from the stripboard otherwise I wouldn't use it. Scenechronize does that nicely and is free for small productions. Would like to compare the two though when the stripboard becomes available.

September 27, 2012

0
Reply
Maguffin

I agree with Maguffin about Scenechronize--it does everything listed here, plus you can do all the scheduling within the system, including generating all the production paperwork. It's great to be able to not just push out the Blue pages, but also to push out the paperwork that shows how it affects the schedule. Plus, it's tried and true--they've been around for a few years now, so it's pretty mature as a platform.

September 27, 2012

-1
Reply
Mike

The Scenechronize platform is also worth mentioning Maguffin and Mike. They appear to have very similar services, some names under their belt, and some slick web pages marketing the service. It may be worth pointing out that they don't seem to be mobile yet according to this page, at least not until "fall". That's kind of the whole point for me... I want to walk on set with an iPad and be good to go (or Android, or laptop, etc).

September 28, 2012

0
Reply
avatar
Benjamin Dewhurst
Writer
writer/director

I recently did a film with google docs and I'm definitely not that big a fan. It's kind of hard to keep up with updates, as well as loggin and sync problems or lags.

Hopefully scenios will work better...the idea of thing is fine...but production members should not be forced into paying, and (hopefully) getting reimbursed by productions. They should maybe have a certain number of users and you buy in for whatever size of production (you have a smaller price for little films with 10 production members, and then have a big fee for big hundred crew member shows...).

October 1, 2012

-1
Reply
Daniel Mimura

The last couple of productions I've used Dropbox. Nice idea, except that you always end up with someone deleting a file instead of copying it. So then you need 2 dropbox folders, one for Production, and one for crew/cast. Dropbox is just a storage really., but it lets you access your files offline. I'm not sure with these cloud programs?
Scenios looks very good, I also checked out Scenechronize, but for scheduling movie magic is still the better one, in my opinion. Has anyone used Setkick, Lightspeed, 5th kind or Edictive?
I do think 50-100 dollars a month (Scenios) is expensive, as Daniel mentions above, and it should be more based on the amount of people in the project. For a major Hollywood production, 50 or 100 a month is peanuts.

January 18, 2013

0
Reply
Jenny

Look again - they went to NAB and decided to go the Scenarize route - except twice as expensive.
http://scenios.com/page/pricing
We are a community / film school alumni group shooting a couple or more shorts a month - that just went from $50 a month to $300 or more.
Fired off an angry email to Mark Davis (CE0 Scenios) about policy on the run and value of consulting more than
NAB attendees - will see how he responds.
We were building a similar app in google apps to be distributed for free to student/guerilla/community filmmakers before we found scenios - that project might now be ripe for reactivation (sadly).

Hopefully Scenios can respond and find a plan for frequent no budget filmmakers around their $600 year
previous model - I mean that's not exactly nothing...

Dan (Sydney Filmmakers)

April 15, 2013

1
Reply
Daniel Punton

Update - Mark replied pretty well immediately with a request for a skype conference tomorrow to find a way for us - so hopefully my most dire fears with not come to pass.

April 15, 2013

1
Reply
Daniel Punton