Joshua Cruse has a motto: “Good stuff, quick.” Josh is the senior producer with GMedia, the creative agency for Green Machine Ensembles at George Mason University. In addition to being Virginia’s largest public research institution, George Mason University is also home to a collection of nationally recognized musical performance groups like the Green Machine Pep Band, the George Mason University Indoor Drumline and the George Mason University Winterguard. Here’s how Josh and his team use video and a revolutionary camera to cloud workflow to tell great stories in no time at all.
Before there was GMedia, there was an enthusiastic student with a camera and a passion for musical performance. Josh grew up as a musician, going from piano to percussion to pipe organ. “I was one of the youngest people I knew who decided to take up pipe organ in middle school,” he says, laughing.
Out of that came the desire to capture audio, and then eventually video: “I was in a jazz band and I filmed a rehearsal … just filmed a bunch of B-roll and cut it together.” He remembers the delight he felt when his bandmates saw the results. “People were just amazed,” he says. “I just remember it was a special feeling.”
When Josh got to George Mason University, he kept recording. “There was not a band video dude, for lack of a better term,” Josh recalls, “I just was basically running around with a camera.” These days, Josh works with a full team of students and staff to capture everything from quick candid shots to social media sizzle reels to end-of-year celebration videos.
“The social media part of what we do is in some ways the byproduct of our primary goal,” Josh admits. While social media represents a large chunk of GMedia’s output, the real power of video is in capturing the attention of stakeholders and funders.
“For everything you see on stage … there’s countless hours of things going on behind the scenes. When we’re able to show a little bit of that… [viewers] also get to know the people behind it,” Josh says, “Just being able to help empower people to tell their stories, that’s what I love doing.”
Life before the cloud
Until recently, Josh worked within a traditional video production workflow, complete with all the traditional headaches. “We had a very typical workflow,” Josh says, “and the result of that, looking back on it, is we were all exhausted.” Josh and his team would spend hours waiting for media to off-load onto traditional disks. And that was after a long, full day of recording Green Machine performances. “It was a lot for one person to do in one location,” Josh tells us.
At the same time, things that should have been upgrades only added to the burden on the production team. High-quality 4K video, for example, looks great but results in massive data transfers. “It didn’t feel like the post-production workflow evolved nearly as fast as cameras did,” Josh says. “It just wasn’t something that was as revolutionary as when C2C came out and became accessible to us.”
The magic link
Josh and his team started implementing a Camera to Cloud (C2C) workflow after learning about the Atomos Connect module for Ninja and its integration with the Frame.io creative collaboration platform. It was a natural transition since GMedia was already using both Atomos monitor-recorders and Frame.io.
“Whenever [the Atomos Ninja] first came out, I got one,” Josh says, “and that was back in the [late] 2010s. Now here, the almost mid-2020s, I could use that exact same device that I could afford as a, you know, young freelancer to be able to do all this cool stuff.”
For Josh, this continuity is valuable. It allows him to keep up with the latest innovations without constantly reinventing the GMedia workflow. Plus, there are environmental benefits, too. As Josh points out, “The fact that we can use gear, and it has longevity beyond the normal depreciative life cycle of an asset — that’s a really great sustainable practice that we can implement on a small scale that makes a difference.”
Most importantly, implementing a C2C workflow with Atomos and Frame.io has made life better for Josh and his team:
“The fact that we can integrate these tools that are important to our storytelling and help us capture the quality of content that’s going to directly enhance our storytelling — the fact that we can marry that with this quick turn season of content creating that we’re in right now – this is the magic link between those two for us. It’s cohesive, it just works, and it’s accessible from anywhere. And it saves time. Those things, I can’t say it enough.”
Time is more than money
Josh is adamant: Time is not a renewable resource. “Time for me is time with family … We can get money. We can get all these things, but we can’t get more time back.”
The GMedia C2C workflow is all about saving time and making life easier for Josh and his team. Each camera kit is outfitted with an Atomos monitor-recorder with C2C connectivity. For GMedia, it’s most often an Atomos Ninja with a Connect module attached. As the footage is captured, the Connect module automatically uploads proxy files to Frame.io through Atomos Cloud Studio. There, they are accessible to anyone on the GMedia team.
This has two benefits: First, the near-instant file uploads allow editors to start working on craft edits sooner, speeding up post-production. Second, the proxy files stored in Frame.io are perfect for creating quick social media edits.
“I can just start working with [the proxies],” Josh explains, “and get something out quick to meet the quick turn goal. Then I can go archive the footage for the end-of-year montage … I can accomplish both things in less time — a lighter lift.” Josh emphasized the importance of properly archiving your full-quality media. With Atomos and Frame.io, he doesn’t have to sacrifice recording quality for a quicker turnaround.
“Camera to Cloud is really solid, and it’s saving time,” Josh says, “ It’s making us healthier and happier people, and it’s helping us tell our stories better and quicker than ever.”
C2C in practice
Back in early April 2023, Josh and co-producer Christina Telep were scheduled to cover a weekend Green Machine event. Then Tina got injured. “She wasn’t going to be able to make it to the on-site production,” Josh recalls, “So what I did is I just said, ‘Okay, well, I’m just going to have you try editing the stuff in real-time.” This wasn’t something they had tried before, but the situation demanded a creative solution.
That weekend, Tina sat at home with her foot in a boot, pulling the footage down in near real-time. Meanwhile, Josh was onsite with an airpod in his ear, confirming that his shots were coming through. “Then all of a sudden,” Josh says, “she would be like, ‘You know what, Josh? You got me a lot of shots of that person. Can you get something else?’” Spontaneously, Tina had become a remote producer.
“That is something that I didn’t even know was going to be possible for our workflow until we were in the middle doing it,” Josh reflects. “It was just this cool thing of I was being directed by someone who was another state away … and it was only possible because of C2C.”
No going back
Implementing camera to cloud with Atomos and Frame.io has been much more significant than any boost in megapixels or image quality. “The megapixels don’t save me time in the same way,” Josh reminds us. “Like, my gosh, I can get content to Tina in North Carolina and she can edit this thing while I’m packing the gear up in the parking lot.”
For Josh and the GMedia team, C2C is not a short-term solution; it’s a new, better way of making good stuff quick. “We are in it as long as Frame.io and Atomos are supporting it,” Josh confirms. “So long as this is the type of work that we are doing, we’re going to be utilizing this and whatever new exciting things they come out with.”