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:
- Contact List
- Call Sheets
- File Cabinet
- 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?