FX9 and Content Browser Mobile – Review

part of a series from End of the Dial

On a recent shoot following Covid-19 guidelines we had a reduced crew. I was DP and wanted to experiment with handling playback and script supervisor review from the FX9. It has these capabilities

  • works with up to 3 devices simultaneously
  • live monitoring
  • camera control
  • playback of proxy files
  • endless metadata and note taking abilities I didn’t touch

Normally on set the monitoring setup is based around live viewing of each shot. Every department (wardrobe, art, SFX, producers) views what is happening in real time because playback is such a huge deal. This leads to traffic jams at each monitor and causes crowding for the people that actually need to watch, like the director and script supervisor.

My plan would be to use frame.io and Content Browser Mobile (CBM) so that everyone who needed or wanted to see could watch previous takes.

End of the Dial dailies in Frame.io

The director had a wireless monitor on a stand and CBM on his phone to watch back previous takes. I had the monitors on the camera and the viewfinder to watch live but also CBM to review previous takes when setting the new shots. I also used CBM to control the camera when it was up on a jib for a few high angle shots. All this was happening while the script supervisor also had CBM on an iPad Pro and was monitoring live through that while also going back to check previous shots for her own reasons.

The best change from this was each person controlled their own playback. Each job position has their own needs and reasons to watch previous takes. The script supervisor is checking lots of things that I the director and DP wouldn’t check regularly. The DP has lots of reasons to check shots that don’t need to be sent to the rest of the production while they are jumping around. Expand that to makeup and set dressers and gaffers and it becomes much more useful.

New features in Frame.io

At the end of each shoot day, desqueezed dailies were made and posted on Frame.io for everyone else to check and for nicer reviewing. One of the downsides of the FX9 and CBM is that it cannot desqueeze anamorphic footage in camera. Just a design choice of the FX9 that will hopefully get added at some point. What is possible is burning the camera LUT into the proxies used in CBM so everyone sees the correct Rec709 images.

End of the Dial proxy thumbnails in Content Browser Mobile

The negatives…

There isn’t an option to limit control on the camera side. In the app you can lock the screen to prevent accidental changes but it should be an option to lock on the camera side. Not really bad but be cautious when handing out camera control to everyone.

Wifi on the FX9 isn’t very reliable and I just take my own router with me. GL Net 300M has a great signal and can be powered by a small USB battery for a few days. The FX9 and each iPad or iPhone connects to the network generated by the 300M. For our shoot the size and capability was great. This solves the problem and the router can be put anywhere and doesn’t have to be next to or on the camera. I have done some larger shoots where I have a bigger wifi router at the DIT station.

When you play back a recorded clip it works great but when you ware watching live it is 480p and blocky. Not great. Kind of a shame.

What about the future?

In the future I see Content Browser Mobile being a tool I use personally to control the camera myself. If I am going to get into a situation where other people need to watch I will find a different solution. The biggest problem is camera control. The more people you give access to CBM the more likely you are to have an accident where someone stops recording during a take or starts recording accidentally when everyone goes to lunch.

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