Review: Forbidden Technologies FORScene – edit, log, publish via the cloud

FORscene Trim monitor with in and outgoing frames

By Brady Betzel

Over the last year or so I have seen many products touting the “work from the cloud” moniker. In fact, the largest post software developers, like Adobe and Avid, have bet the farm on the future of editing from anywhere.

Avid introduced Avid Interplay Sphere which is pretty amazing to watch and use, but that doesn’t come without a large investment in both networking infrastructure and hardware to run it the way it should be run.

Adobe introduced Adobe Anywhere, which is also amazing, considering Adobe Premiere is a highly viable NLE option, but they are still gaining traction with the big-wigs.

Well this is where there is a nice little niche for a post-production software company to come and invade. Forbidden Technologies (www.forbidden.co.uk) based out of London has stepped up to the plate and developed FORscene, an integrated cloud-based post solution that is available as “Software as a Service,” meaning you rent the seats you need on a monthly basis. It also uses a server in conjunction with your storage to process the media into proxy files and upload to the cloud server.

WHAT IT CAN DO
FORscene has the ability to log, edit, review, and publish content locally and globally via any Internet connection. I tested FORscene from a shoddy WIFI connection as well as a blazing fast T1 connection, both worked. The only problem with the WIFI is if the connection dropped, so did my project I was working on. (If I had used FORscene’s version control features I would have been fine).

Before I go any further there is one important piece of information that needs to be shared. The editing, logging, and publishing features are Java dependent, so if you are using a new Mac that lacks the newest JRE (Java Runtime Enviornment) you will have to download and install that first to work. Forbidden Technologies has locked onto the security inside of Java instead of going to an HTML5 or other code for the backend. That’s not to say it can’t publish HTML5-compliant videos however, but I will get into that later on.

FORscene New Release with two vid tracks

FORscene is accessible via the Internet where you are given a login and password. Once inside, you will see all the projects you have permission to view and how they are accessible to you. For instance, you may only be able to review material or you may be able to upload, edit, and log material. Once you are inside your project, the set-up is much like a simple NLE. All windows can be moved and placed wherever you want and there are even customizable keyboard layout options to make the stubborn editor even more at home with their personal layouts. The standard Source and Record monitors are available as well as the timeline.

For this review I will be focusing on FORscene’s use within a broadcast environment. FORscene does have workflow solutions for sports and news type productions that can be found on www.forscene.co.uk.

DIGGING IN
The first section I will look at is ingesting footage. I am well versed in Avid workflow, so here is how it would look for an ISIS/Unity setup: Ingest your footage at whatever resolution you like and FORscene uses watch folders to initiate the proxy creation, so in theory you can watch the MXF folders and begin processing immediately.

Across other NLE platforms, FORscene works by tapping into your storage, processing the source files with metadata inside of watch folders through the FORscene server to create a proxy file (low-resolution), and finally uploading the resulting proxy file with metadata to the FORscene Cloud. After the media is in the cloud it can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection to log, edit, and review. Once shots are selected an EDL (edit decision list – compatible with all professional NLE programs) can be created, exported, and imported into your NLE for conform and onlined with your NLE of choice.

After footage is ingested into both your NLE, proxied through the FORscene server, then uploaded to the FORscene Cloud — the media is then viewable by everyone with the proper permissions. At this point proper metadata logging should be started. If it’s not, I can only wish you the best with catching up and maintaining a proper searchable index. (Hint: it will take time, lots of it and time is money. So keep up with your metadata! Sorry to be so forceful, I will try to keep my post-production OCD to myself from now on).

Anyways, FORscene has some nice little features that make logging easy. One feature is the use of Keysets. Keysets allow you to program the F1-F12 keys to type words for you. So if you need to add a heading to each piece of media logged such as “0811213 {RIVER} – CU LAKEHOUSE” you can program F1 with those words, streamlining the logging process and saving hundreds of keystrokes and your hands from arthritis. In addition, you can program abbreviations to be replaced with full words. So if I typed “BB” I can tell FORscene to replace it with BRADY BETZEL, which not only saves keystrokes but it guarantees that my name is always spelled the same and correctly. Over time misspelled names add up to triple the amount of searches for Betzel, Pretzel, Bretzel, etc. So yes, custom keystrokes are very valuable features.

FORscene metadata search results

After many people have logged into FORscene from all over the world to log clips, the preditor can begin prediting. Inside of FORscene we can search dynamically through the footage to find the perfect b-roll for my scene. You know that Blue Jay that lands on the mailbox looks around and flies away, that clip. But really some pretty sweet cloud-based features are packed into FORscene. If we shot multicam footage that needs to be grouped, multi-clipped, stacked, synced, whatever the kids call it these days, FORscene allows grouping up to nine cameras into a new nine-way multicam split. We can add transitions, fades, source and sequence markers, create a freeze frame, trim, match frame, fit-to-fill, adjust audio, and even add speed ramps (or motion effect as they call it).

One of my favorite features in FORscene is how it prioritizes downloading of clips. When editing, FORscene intelligently downloads what you are watching from the center outwards. So if I am watching at 01:00, the footage will be available at that point first and then incrementally before and after that point (i.e. 59:50 through 01:10). So you can continue to work even if everything is not downloaded. While all these cloud based features are awesome let’s not forget the main point of editing, to get your work seen. Depending on the permissions granted to the user, they can output directly from FORscene to social media platforms such as Facebook, Youtube, HTML5, etc.

In the end, FORscene is a great addition to a post workflow that travels across the world and edits at home base. Preditors can be on the scene doing quick rough cuts or just posting dailies while the footage is being sent back to home base for ingest later to be relinked via an EDL, tape logs can be printed and email, and execs can be watching the rough cut before the masters even arrive back home. While the world of cloud-based post is still evolving, Forbidden Technologies have taken a step forward in bringing it to the mainstream with FORscene, the cloud based post workflow solution.

A BIT ABOUT THE PRICING
Here’s the breakdown…there is no special hardware required.

• Software costs for a larger facility or post house
    – User license per month (including 100 hours of proxy storage) =  $ 200/Month
– FORscene Server annual software license = $4000/Year

• Software costs for a smaller facility
– User license per month (including 100 hours of proxy storage) =  $ 200/Month
– FORscene Server annual software license =   $1,000/Year

Brady Betzel is an editor at Bunim Murray Productions (www.bunim-murray.com), a reality television production company. He is one of the editors on Bad Girls Club. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com.


3 thoughts on “Review: Forbidden Technologies FORScene – edit, log, publish via the cloud

  1. Michael Kammes

    Thanks for the review.

    Were any workflows surrounding Avid or other NLEs tested? Standalone, the workflow is pretty straight forward. But when dealing with Ingest, import, or AMA, transcoding locally, cloud editing, then reconforming locally, things can get kinda sticky. Any testing?

    Reply
  2. Brady Betzel

    A basic conform was done in Avid Media Composer 7. I uploaded a few Quicktimes through the FORscene login at my local Starbucks, did an edit (simple edit – nothing more than a few cuts, dissolves, and a little audio futzing), output an EDL, and conformed in MC7 by AMA linking to the Quicktimes and re-linking each file then transcoding over to DNX175 (All on local storage). Like I said, this was a simple conform, nothing like a conform that would be done in a heavy production – more of a field package cut in the field to be sent back to home base for color, mix, and output). It did the job of cutting a quick 3 minute package in the “Cloud” and then I conformed on my own. Basically a “Cloud” based offline workflow with simple cuts and then performing the online locally.

    I had inquired about running a networked environment test (ISIS/UNITY), unfortunately the stars did not align with the local vendor out here and so I couldn’t perform the testing that FORscene says will work. Here is my conversation with the folks at Forbidden regarding FORscene being used in a network storage based environment (ISIS/UNITY):

    ME : I am in the middle of writing the review for FORscene for PostPerspective.com and was wondering if you could answer a question for me:
    In regards to getting media onto the FORscene server in an Avid based ISIS/Unity post-production workflow:
    When working in Avid Media Composer does the FORscene server have the ability to grab directly from the Avid ISIS/UNITY after being ingested into Media Composer (i.e. the MXF media that Avid creates upon ingest) or does the RAW media (i.e. Quicktimes) need to be placed onto the FORscene Server (or somewhere where the server watches for media) for it to upload/proxy it to the cloud?

    Forbidden: Both workflows are supported. The preferred workflow is the Avid MXF workflow, but media can be uploaded directly.

    ME: …so FORscene grabs the MXF media and starts processing on its own? Or do I have to initiate the processing from the FORscene server?

    Forbidden: Once the watchfolder is enabled it becomes an automated process. We don’t “grab” but rather scan, read and transcode the media. So whether you want the MXF or the RAW files to get into FORscene, putting them in the watchfolder will kick off the automated process

    Hopefully that can kind of clarify my process for you Michael. Thanks for reading!

    -Brady

    Reply
  3. Michael Kammes

    ISIS works, we’ve tested it in house, with an ISIS 5000 We only tested with MXF wrapped DNxHD. FORscene monitored the Avid MediaFiles folder, created the proxies and uploaded them. We then edited in the cloud, and conformed from the EDL (can’t remember if it was an EDL or AAF…) That worked great. I didn’t test any AMA workflows.

    The only hitches we saw were read times from the ISIS were slow (I presume because at the time of testing, there was no Linux ISIS client, and there was a VM of Windows) and the transcode times from DNx175 to their Blackbird codec was slow. FORscene told us that the preferred workflow is capture / ingest into MC to a low res codec (14:1, for example), this gets flipped to their codec, uploaded, edited, and reconformed to the raw media still sitting on cam original disk or other media – not the ISIS, which is housing your low res edit media (14:1, etc). I see this has being a flaw, but I understand the need to save precious Tier I disc space for lower res media, not fat broadcast ready media. This, of course, varies from site to site. Reality, for example, may find this a preferred workflow given the staggering amount of footage.

    Good to hear you had positive results. I love the direction the industry is moving (remote collaboration: Interplay Sphere, Adobe Anywhere, FORscene, etc) and the fact this works so well is an indication the concept is ready for prime time. Thanks again!

    Reply

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