Digital Production Buzz
July 3, 2014
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
to listen to this show.]
Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney and Labor Reporter, TroyGould & The Hollywood Reporter
Jeremy Pollard, Product Manager, Cospective
Philip Bloom, DOP, Editor, Director
Voiceover: The Digital Production Buzz is brought to you by Blackmagic Design, creators of the world’s highest quality solutions for the feature film, post production and television broadcast industries; and by TOLISGroup, the BRU guys, pioneering the development and support of ultra-reliable data backup, archival and restore solutions for nearly 30 years.
Voiceover: Live from Ralph’s Maytag Museum and Podcast Studio in beautiful downtown Burbank, it’s the Digital Production Buzz.
Voiceover: Production, post production, distribution.
Voiceover: What’s really happening now and in your digital future?
Voiceover: The Buzz is live now.
Larry Jordan: And welcome to The Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for creative content producers covering media production, post production, marketing and distribution around the world. My name is Larry Jordan and joining us is our ever affable co-host, Mr. Mike Horton.
Mike Horton: I’m back.
Larry Jordan: We are glad you are and you’ve got a front as well, which I think is even better.
Mike Horton: I’m actually trying to get into the live chat.
Larry Jordan: And it would be good to have you there. We always have a lot of good conversations going in the live chat.
Mike Horton: And it’s really easy. All you have to do is just type in your name and all of a sudden you’re there. It’s really cool.
Larry Jordan: The thing I like about you is your technical acumen, Michael, just leaves me breathless.
Mike Horton: Uh-huh.
Larry Jordan: We’ve got a great show tonight. We’re going to start with the Aereo case, which the Supreme Court ruled on last week. This has implications for independent filmmakers, especially regarding new ways of distributing content. Last week, Jonathan Handel of Counsel at TroyGould in Los Angeles gave us a quick update on the breaking news. This week, we wanted to take some more time, so we invited Jonathan back to help us understand why this decision is so significant.
Larry Jordan: Cospective won an Academy Award for Cinesync, then they built on that technology to create Frankie, a remote shot review and approval system. Tonight, live from Australia, Jeremy Pollard, the Product Manager of Cospective, joins us to share the latest news on this collaborative tool.
Mike Horton: Australia? What time is it in Australia?
Larry Jordan: It’s about 10.15 in the morning, if I remember right.
Mike Horton: Oh, I thought it was, like, 10.15 or 5.15 or…
Larry Jordan: No, the world is a big place, Michael, and the sun doesn’t necessarily shine in two places at once. Anyway…
Mike Horton: Just Los Angeles and New York.
Larry Jordan: Two weeks ago, during my speaking tour in England, which is on the opposite side of the world to Australia, I interviewed Philip Bloom, the highly respected director, director of photography and filmmaker, about what he’s learned shooting and editing 4K video. Tonight, we present the second part of his two part interview, which is picking the best 4K camera.
Larry Jordan: Just a reminder that we’re offering text transcripts for each show, courtesy of Take 1 Transcription. Now you can quickly scan or print the contents of each show, as well as listen to it. Transcripts are located on each show page. Learn more at take1.tv and thanks, Take 1, for making it possible.
Larry Jordan: Michael, it’s been a busy week. Apple updated Final Cut Pro 10 motion and compressor on Friday morning.
Mike Horton: Yes, tell me your feelings about that real quick. You only have 30 seconds.
Larry Jordan: Well, I think the updates look really good. I like the new media management especially, the ability to be able to properly manage render files and optimization files and proxy files, and there are a lot of new features that Apple hasn’t talked about. There’s some cool stuff, including a new codec called ProRes 4×4 XQ.
Mike Horton: Oh my God, another codec?
Larry Jordan: Another codec and not only is it another codec, but the next day ARRI announced a brand new camera that records natively in the ProRes 4×4 QC format, which gives us, I think, some potential for amazing image quality and still in a somewhat compressed, not RAW, format.
Mike Horton: So it’s called 4×4 XQ?
Larry Jordan: XQ, as opposed to HQ, which is high quality. This is extreme high quality.
Mike Horton: Ok.
Larry Jordan: And what’s been the reaction on your email?
Mike Horton: Actually, the reaction’s been pretty good, especially about media management, but I’m seeing a lot of incremental increases, but you’re seeing features.
Larry Jordan: Oh yes. Well, the media management’s incremental but good incremental and there are some interesting features that I found especially interesting. I’m spending the weekend writing and recording some new training, so if you ask me on Monday, I’ll have a whole lot more information for you.
Mike Horton: Well, I shall talk to you tonight before it comes out.
Larry Jordan: Yes, except I haven’t done my homework yet.
Larry Jordan: Be sure to visit with us on Twitter, @dpbuzz, and subscribe to the free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com. I’ll be back with Jonathan Handel right after this.
Larry Jordan: Blackmagic Design is now shipping its production camera 4K, a super high resolution 4K digital production camera for ultra HD television production featuring a large Super 35 sensor and a professional global shutter. It also offers EF and ZE compatible lens mounts and records to a super fast SSD drive. Capturing high quality ProRes files, the Blackmagic production camera 4K gives customers a complete solution to shoot amazing high resolution music videos, episodic television productions, television commercials, sports, documentaries and much more.
Larry Jordan: The Blackmagic production camera 4K also features an incredibly tempting price of $2,995. Learn more about the Blackmagic production camera 4K that is definitely priced to move. Visit blackmagicdesign.com. That’s blackmagicdesign.com.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is an entertainment and technology attorney of Counsel at TroyGould in Los Angeles. He’s also the Contributing Editor on entertainment labor issues for the Hollywood Reporter and he has a blog at jhandel.com. Hello, Jonathan, welcome back.
Jonathan Handel: Well hi, Larry, hi guys.
Mike Horton: Hi Larry. Larry! Hello, Jonathan.
Jonathan Handel: How are you?
Mike Horton: Happy 4th of July pre-4th of July.
Jonathan Handel: Happy 4th of July to you both.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, last week you were on giving us the breaking news on the Supreme Court decision on the Aereo case, so before we get into the significance of it, give us a summary of what the Aereo case was about.
Jonathan Handel: Sure. Aereo, again, was a system that, in broad outline, looked sort of like a cable system. You could watch live broadcast TV on your mobile device or your other internet connected device but what was key about the way this system worked, key to understanding the case, is that Aereo would assign an individual antenna to the user when you logged on and clicked that you wanted to watch a particular channel.
Jonathan Handel: That antenna would be tuned to that particular station only in response to your request that you wanted to watch a particular channel, the signal would stream from the antenna to a designated part of the hard drive just for the individual user, even if someone else was watching the same program at the same time, and the from the hard drive to the user with something like a seven second delay, even if you were watching live.
Larry Jordan: Now, what was their thinking in putting this kind of very individualistic antenna system in place?
Jonathan Handel: Well, they were relying on a case in the Federal Court of Appeals in New York, the Second Circuit, from several years ago called Cable Vision and that was a case where broadcasters challenged Cable Vision’s remote storage DVR, so that’s a DVR functionality where the hard drive and the control and so forth are located at the cable company’s head end, the cable company’s offices, rather than in your set top box and the Court decided there that a remote storage DVR was legal, was legitimate, basically relying on the 1984 precedent in the Betamax case, where the Supreme Court had decided that video tape recorders were permissible, were not a copyright infringement.
Jonathan Handel: What Aereo did was they said, “Ok, let’s design a system,” that, in Aereo’s thinking, follows those rules, or in the thinking of the broadcasters who later sued exploits a loophole, depending on your point of view, “and we’ll design a system where there’s an individual antenna so there’s a private pathway from the antenna to the hard drive, there’s a private one to one pathway from the hard drive to the user; even when they’re watching live, they’re actually watching delayed,” so they’re watching DVR functionality – a digital video recorder has recorded the program and is then streaming it them remotely – and so Aereo constructed a system that on the one hand looks a lot like a cable system but with internet capability, but on the other hand looked a lot like a remote storage DVR, and that’s what they presented to the courts when they were sued.
Larry Jordan: How did the Supreme Court actually look at this case?
Jonathan Handel: Well, the Supreme Court looked at it and they saw basically one thing only, which was something that looks like a cable system. They said, “Look, we recognize these technical details in the way you’ve implemented your system, but those are details that are under the hood. They don’t make a difference to the consumer, they don’t make a difference to the aggrieved broadcaster and therefore they don’t make a difference to us in our analysis of this.”
Jonathan Handel: Now, that’s a little curious, because if you read copyright cases over the last several decades involving networks and computers and copies of software and things of that sort, you’ll find that these cases are very technical, that they read almost like a cross between a legal opinion and a computer technical manual, looking at buffer copies and temporary copies and how long is this copy made and it’s a complete copy that the program kept in memory at the same time and all sorts of stuff like that, so the courts have gotten very much into the technical details in trying to analyze what provisions of copyright law do or do not apply.
Jonathan Handel: But in this instance, the Supreme Court declined to do that and instead said, “Look, this really resembles a cable system.” Now, they’re not saying it is a cable system because if it is a cable system, it would be entitled to a compulsory license from the broadcasters. Now, they’d have to pay for that license, they didn’t pay for the broadcasting that they were doing, which is what the broadcasters were aggrieved by, so the Supreme Court sort of left Aereo hanging in the worst possible position. It’s not a cable system, but it looks so much like one that for purposes of an infringement analysis, we’re going to treat it that way.
Larry Jordan: The specific decision was that Aereo was violating copyright and, because of the violation of copyright and because it was not paying fees, the broadcasters won and Aereo lost. Is that the right summary?
Jonathan Handel: Yes, that’s exactly right.
Larry Jordan: Then what did Aereo do since the decision?
Jonathan Handel: They put their service on pause.
Larry Jordan: Oh what?
Jonathan Handel: Pause.
Larry Jordan: That’s what I thought you said. They haven’t died, they haven’t lived, they’re pausing.
Jonathan Handel: They’re pausing. They’re merely pausing, they say.
Larry Jordan: How do you interpret that?
Jonathan Handel: Well, I think they’re dying. They’re pausing for what, exactly? You could say, well, they could negotiate with the broadcasters and maybe they are trying to, and one of their main backers financially is Barry Diller, who of course is one of the founders of the Fox network and all sorts of stuff, you know, a very long Hollywood broadcast pedigree, so they certainly would have the channels to try to negotiate, but where’s the leverage?
Jonathan Handel: The court has said what you’re doing is infringing and they’ve built this system that doesn’t have technological value apart from complying with or exploiting a loophole. It’s sort of unclear. They did say in their brief at one point, “Look, our array of 10,000 micro sized antennae,” because these are little dime-sized antennae for each user, “fits in a box and is smaller and has certain technological advantages and size advantages on rooftops. You can sometimes put it up where you can’t put a receiving antenna up,” so, I don’t know, is there some value to the technology itself and some value to doing it Aereo’s way, if it’s licensed, as opposed to doing it some other way? Maybe. It’s unclear, but it doesn’t jump out at you and say, “Gee, this is a really strong negotiating position.”
Mike Horton: Well, apparently they’ve taken the issue to the users and asked the users to write to their Congress people to tell them how much Aereo means to them and their families to try to overturn the decision. Now, this is a very ignorant question, but has Congress ever overturned a Supreme Court decision?
Jonathan Handel: Yes.
Mike Horton: Ok.
Jonathan Handel: Congress has and Congress could here, if it were so inclined, because this is a statutory decision, not a constitutional one. In other words, the Supreme Court didn’t say the constitution dictates such and such a result. The Supreme Court said, “We’re going to interpret the copyright statute.”
Jonathan Handel: Now, in fact, part of their interpretation was based on the last time that Congress created a massive overhaul, in that case a massive overhaul of the copyright statute, because the Supreme Court had made certain decisions related to early cable TV systems and one of Congress’s purposes in acting the 1976 Copyright Act, which is the current Act that we’re under – it’s been amended since then but it’s the current overall version – one of Congress’s purposes was, in fact, apparently to overturn one of those Supreme Court decisions. More recently and notably, there was a decision the Supreme Court made in how much equal pay someone can sue for, how far back – if they’d been discriminated against, can they sue? – and the Supreme Court’s decision was a very conservative, very narrow one and Congress effectively overturned that by revising the statute.
Jonathan Handel: So Congress could, but how many users does Aereo have? It never revealed the numbers, but no-one that I know of thinks that it’s in the millions.
Larry Jordan: The number that I saw that was discussed the day after the court case was that Aereo had said they had 500,000 users.
Jonathan Handel: That sounds like a…. I don’t know.
Mike Horton: And they’re all in New York.
Larry Jordan: We’ve got two questions on the live chat that I want to get here. Eric is saying it’s all going to be the internet soon anyway. Is this case really important? And Grant says it’s just a bunch of old media dinosaurs trying to cling to their old methods of viewing media. Right now, the Supreme Court has said Aereo can’t do what it’s doing. Why should filmmakers pay attention? What makes this case so important?
Jonathan Handel: Well, what makes it important is that it extends the clinging on to existing business models that the broadcasters have. What it means is that in the next couple of years you will be able to get broadcast TV on internet connected devices, but it will be from applications that are approved by the establishment, by Hollywood and the broadcasters, and one of the things that will be required, that already is required in the case of, I think it’s ABC that has an app out there already, is that you’ll have to be a cable subscriber.
Jonathan Handel: So in other words, if you want to get free over the air broadcast signals on your cell phone, you’re going to have to be a paying subscriber to cable, so it extends the control that large media companies have and that does reduce access, I think, for independent filmmakers. It’s complicated because it also props up cable channels that might otherwise have a hard time existing.
Jonathan Handel: The big issue here that really was never argued in the briefs is that Aereo posed a threat to cable system bundling, where you have to pay for 500 channels and pay 100 some odd dollars, even if you only watch typically 15 of them. Unbundling, which is good for the consumer, is going to be slower to arrive but unbundling also has an impact on the creative community, because it means there may be less money to go around and fewer channels alive. SAG-AFTRA, for example, and I think some of the other unions as well, filed briefs against Aereo and in favor of the broadcasters.
Larry Jordan: Well, broadcasters and cable have been losing audience steadily. Will this ruling help or hurt the trend?
Jonathan Handel: Steadily but fairly slowly and it’s not clear if that trend’s accelerating or not. It’ll be very interesting to see in the next couple of years. I think this ruling in the short term helps the cable companies, because somebody who wants to cut the cord but nonetheless wants to be able to get, say, broadcast sports on their cell phone, to the extent that sports is still broadcast and hasn’t moved to ESPN and so forth, it’s a harder decision for them.
Jonathan Handel: They’re going to have to continue to subscribe to cable if they want to be able to watch that content on cell phones. In the short term, it helps but it also allows the cable companies to continue to raise prices and I think ultimately you’re going to see some very adamant backlash. I talked about people cutting the cord but, of course, younger people are really more cord nevers rather than cord cutters. They just haven’t subscribed to cable, they watch Netflix and they watch YouTube channels and other content, MCNs, and that’s what they watch.
Mike Horton: Why did the Supreme Court even hear this case and where’s the FCC in all this?
Jonathan Handel: Well, it’s not an FCC issue because this isn’t a cable system. It’s a copyright infringement issue rather than a cable loyalties issue, and that’s a very almost tangled distinction, but it is the distinction and it was the challenge that the broadcasters brought. They didn’t bring an FCC type communications law challenge.
Jonathan Handel: The court could have said, “Look, this is only at the preliminary injunction stage. Go back and have a trial and finish this,” but the broadcasters were filing across the country in multiple courts and Aereo ultimately agreed to have the Supreme Court decide this. They didn’t challenge the appeal.
Mike Horton: Well, sounds like they’re dead.
Jonathan Handel: I kind of think so.
Larry Jordan: Do you think that the ruling will have an impact on Netflix or what Apple’s doing or what Google is doing?
Jonathan Handel: Well, it may help Netflix and Amazon, for example. Apple and Google have less of a bead on how it might affect them but Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, if you want to watch Hollywood content on your internet device, on your mobile for example, this is one less competitor for Netflix. It allows Netflix to grow.
Larry Jordan: Well, it sounds like the last shoe has not fallen, although for right now Aereo is fading out of the picture. We’ll see what happens over the coming months. Before we let you go, because we still have a couple of minutes left, I know Mike is very interested in the answer to this question – what’s going on now with SAG-AFTRA?
Jonathan Handel: I was worried that you were going to ask that.
Mike Horton: I keep reading ’24 hours more, 24 hours more’.
Jonathan Handel: Well, that’s right, that’s right. The contract expired Monday night, June 30th, and they’ve extended three times now in increments of 24 hours to continue negotiation. The issue seems to be that they are still hung up on exactly how to merge their television contracts. Now, how far they’ve gone on that, I don’t know.
Jonathan Handel: Again, to put this in context, the DGA did a deal six months ago or so, October of last year, I think, actually. The Writers’ Guild did a deal several months ago following the DGA template in terms of things like the wage increases and some new provisions for residuals for Netflix and that kind of thing.
Jonathan Handel: Those kinds of issues that have already been set, presumably the SAG-AFTRA contract will follow those as well, but there are issues that are specific to actors and among those this year was, ok, we merged the unions two years ago but we still have separate SAG and AFTRA TV contracts with separate wage rates – the AFTRA wage rates are 3½ percent higher.
Mike Horton: I can’t imagine how complicated and political this is.
Jonathan Handel: Yes, very complicated and very political. That’s absolutely right.
Larry Jordan: Well, that just slowed everything down by months.
Mike Horton: Well, no. It’s amazing, increments of 24 hours and 24 hours. Either somebody has really done their homework and they’re making it a lot easier than we think they are, but it seems to me on the face of it that it’s just so difficult and so complicated when you’re dealing with two separate entities, trying to bring them together. Who is it? David White or…
Jonathan Handel: Yes, David White’s the National Executive Director.
Mike Horton: Oh my goodness, I wouldn’t want to be him.
Jonathan Handel: No, and you know what? It’s actually one entity. It’s two contracts but SAG-AFTRA is a single union now, right? But they’re trying to unify these legacy contracts and meanwhile they do still have two separate health and pension plans.
Mike Horton: Right, again. Oh my Lord.
Jonathan Handel: And the actors, they have so many constituencies that even in a normal year, they’ve got to not only get through the template that’s been set by the DGA or whoever, but they’ve got to deal with, ok, what more are we going to give the extras, the background actors? What are we going to give the stunt community? And so forth, so there’s just always a quantity of stuff they’ve got to get through.
Mike Horton: I wish you could sit through some of those negotiations. It’d be a lot of fun, make a great book or a great television miniseries.
Jonathan Handel: Yes, your definition of a lot of fun is maybe a little elastic.
Larry Jordan: So they’ve extended until when, midnight tonight?
Jonathan Handel: Midnight tonight.
Mike Horton: And they’ll do it again because tomorrow’s July 4th.
Larry Jordan: Do you think it’s going to get resolved tonight or are you expecting another extension?
Jonathan Handel: This is one where I would leave odds making to the folks in Vegas.
Mike Horton: It’s a 50/50 coin toss.
Larry Jordan: Could be anything.
Jonathan Handel: It’s really a coin toss but, you know, if they extend it’ll probably be two or three days rather than 24 hours this time.
Larry Jordan: Yes, probably because of the holiday and to give people a chance to think about stuff.
Jonathan Handel: Right.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, by the way, I have to say in the seconds we have left, your blog has an excellent, excellent series on driverless cars, which has nothing at all to do with media…
Mike Horton: Oh, I’ve got to read that.
Larry Jordan: …but an outstanding look forward to the future on what driverless cars are. Brilliant writing and congratulations.
Jonathan Handel: Thank you so much. Thank you so much.
Larry Jordan: And your blog is where?
Jonathan Handel: It’s at jhandel.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s jhandel.com and Jonathan Handel’s of Counsel at TroyGould. Jonathan, thanks for joining us today.
Jonathan Handel: Thanks very much.
Larry Jordan: Take care.
Mike Horton: Thanks Jonathan.
Jonathan Handel: Goodnight, guys.
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Larry Jordan: Jeremy Pollard is Product Manager for Australia based Cospective, the award winning company behind Frankie 2.0, which is browser based software that allows content creators in multiple locations to interactively review, annotate and discuss videos. Hello, Jeremy, welcome back.
Jeremy Pollard: Thanks, Larry. Thanks for having me on the show again. It’s wonderful to be here.
Larry Jordan: Well, you did such a good job the first time, we always like rewarding people by inviting them back. Good to have you with us.
Jeremy Pollard: Great to be here.
Larry Jordan: Give us a quick capsule. What is Frankie?
Jeremy Pollard: Frankie is a browser based video review tool. It’s designed for collaborative reviews of video where the participants are in different locations. Now, that could just simply mean different floors of the same building, or it could mean continents apart, and you could have several people involved. The idea is we want to replicate the concept of all sitting around the same screen discussing, pointing at screens and talking about the media in that really casual way that makes people feel like they’re properly connected.
Larry Jordan: What got Cospective started in this business of remote video review in the first place?
Jeremy Pollard: We started out with a solution called Cinesync, which we launched in late 2005 and that was designed for feature films. We have a sister company involved in visual effects for feature films and they were looking for a way to essentially synchronize playback of QuickTime videos, so that was the start of it and over many years we had feedback from people saying they’d like to use this same kind of technology on short form production and so we wanted to build something that was lightweight, really easy to use, really fast and suitable for creating TV commercials, music videos and other types of short form media, particularly when you have non-technical people involved who just can have creative input without having to worry about the technology.
Larry Jordan: What’s in the latest version of Frankie?
Jeremy Pollard: We’ve actually come a long way, Larry, since we last spoke. We are now up to Frankie 2.4, which came out recently, and the biggest part of that is that we’ve introduced new pricing plans as part of that Frankie offering. Previously, we just had the single plan, keeping things really simple but, over the past 12 months or so, we’ve had demands from a lot of smaller studios and freelancers who tell us how much they love Frankie, the simplicity and ease of use.
Jeremy Pollard: Some of them have used it at the larger shops or some of them have just tried out the software, and so we wanted to make some versions available where they could use it on all of the jobs that they’re working on, not just the larger ones. We now have new plans starting from $49 a month – that’s our basic plan. We have a Plus plan at $99 a month and the top level Pro plan at $249 a month.
Jeremy Pollard: The Pro plan is essentially what people have been using previously, but it offers a whole lot more capacity than before and a whole lot of great new features. Hand in hand with these new plans, we’ve also introduced the ability to pause your account when you don’t need it between productions, so this means for a small monthly fee – just $9 a month – you can retain everything, all of your content, your data and your settings and the knowledge that Frankie is there, ready to go to switch on as soon as another production comes on. You don’t have to bear the cost in between, you don’t have to worry about losing that data.
Larry Jordan: Give me an example. You said that one of the reasons you created Frankie was to be able to use it for smaller shorter form projects. Give me a couple of typical examples of where Frankie could be useful.
Jeremy Pollard: Sure. We actually have a great local example, a company here in Australia based in Melbourne, called Airbag Productions. They contacted us earlier this year and were interested in trying out Frankie and expressed a lot of positive feedback after using it.
Jeremy Pollard: They compared several different solutions on the market and, after trying all of them out for several months and weeks, they decided that Frankie was by far the easiest to use and they really loved the PDF summary – I think I spoke with you about that last time, the way that you can generate a PDF document that encapsulates the entire review – and so they really wanted to use Frankie, but the scale of the jobs that they tended to work on, being a smaller shop, didn’t justify the full plan.
Jeremy Pollard: We introduced these new plans and they’ve now come on board on our Plus plan and can now utilize Frankie as part of their standard tool set on every job that they work on.
Larry Jordan: How does it actually work? Do I need to load all of my media files up to the cloud? Is it working with proxies? What do I need to have where and what kind of hardware do I need to support this whole program?
Jeremy Pollard: The hardware requirements are minimal. Basically, your standard modern computer will work. We run everything in the cloud, so the media is stored in the cloud and our servers are all run remotely. When you’re using it, you’ll simply upload the files you want to distribute for review and when you’re ready send out a link to each participant you want to provide feedback.
Jeremy Pollard: They just need to click on that link and they don’t need to install anything – it will run in multiple browsers across all of the platforms – so it’s a really simple way of sharing that media; and the great thing is you’re not just sharing it, you’re giving them an interactive environment where they can draw on the video, they can add notes and you can save all of that feedback both in the active review and also in that PDF summary that it will generate at the end of it.
Jeremy Pollard: You can also, if you choose to, run it as a kind of offline review where as a host you don’t have to be present. We find that that’s definitely the most effective way to do things, but there are times when you might find that schedules don’t align or you’re working with people in other time zones and so you can gather that feedback while you’re out of the office and when you come in the following morning, it will all be there ready for you to have a look at.
Larry Jordan: Sorry, I was taking notes. I wanted to make sure I got it all down before I finished writing.
Mike Horton: I’m finding it fascinating.
Larry Jordan: How many people would be involved in the collaborative process for Frankie to be useful? If you’re a team of one, you just need to talk to yourself, which Mike does on a regular basis, but for the rest of us, what size group is this optimized for?
Jeremy Pollard: It caters for a whole range of sizes of group. We have people who will just be working with maybe one other person, either in the same city, perhaps – they just don’t want to deal with traffic – or another part of the world; and then we have jobs where you’ll have dozens of people involved and multiple levels of approval, and so we’ve had Frankie sessions that ranged from just a single person, believe it or not, we have a client that regularly uses it just for note taking in that way because it provides a really effective way to summarize thoughts in a combination of visual drawings with the comments providing supplementary notes; and then we’ve had reviews where we’ve had perhaps six connections in different parts of the world and each of those connections are probably two or three people looking at the screen, so it can be really good for even those very large meetings where everybody wants to have their say.
Jeremy Pollard: One of the new things that we’ve added, actually, in the latest version is a presentation mode, so we find some of those larger meetings, people just want to have their say and so they want to draw on the screen and click around and participate, but there are times you want to keep everybody focused on the task at hand, so the presentation mode allows you to take control of that session and lock out the guest controls so that you can just go through the ideas you want to, and then you can switch it off and later on have everybody interactively add their feedback.
Larry Jordan: Is the biggest challenge that Frankie helps to resolve allowing multiple people to share media at the same time or to be able to collaborate on note taking or to be able to gather up everybody’s comments in a single place? What’s the hottest hot button?
Jeremy Pollard: It actually addresses a few different points. One is the tyranny of distance, of course. We all know that productions are now regularly conducted in a distributed fashion, so people need to find different ways of working together. There are visual effects shops popping up that are entirely virtual, where everybody involved is all over the world. But beyond that, it just helps people work more effectively together.
Jeremy Pollard: We have a customer in South Africa called Embassy and they’re a production and post house and they did a story with us recently and commented that their Frankie sessions are more effective than being in the same room because everybody is focused on the session. They find that it just means people concentrate on the task at hand; and then beyond that, as you say, it gives you a way of keeping all of the feedback coordinated and connected with the media that you’re talking about. In the short form production world, historically people might email a QuickTime somewhere and then the feedback would be in disparate forms.
Jeremy Pollard: Somebody might email a response, somebody might call up and just give you a verbal rundown on what they think, somebody else might type it into a spreadsheet; and then trying to coordinate all of that feedback later was a really big task, particularly when you weren’t sure what version they’re talking about. With Frankie, you know exactly what version you’re referring to, you have all the feedback in one place and, as a bonus, you get a very neat PDF summary at the end of it that you don’t even have to manually generate.
Larry Jordan: Jeremy, for people who want to learn more, where can they go on the web to learn more about what Frankie can do?
Jeremy Pollard: They should visit www.frankiereview.com.
Larry Jordan: And the Product Manager of Frankie is Jeremy Pollard, working with a company called Cospective and, Jeremy, thanks for joining us today.
Jeremy Pollard: Thanks very much, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Take care. Thanks, we’ll talk to you soon.
Larry Jordan: When I was recently in London, I had the chance to talk with Philip Bloom, a gentleman who needs no introduction. He’s a director, director of photography, an editor ad extensive writer and the owner of Some Like It Shot Productions. This is the second of two parts of the interview that I did with Philip and, in this interview, we look at picking the right 4K camera and specific issues revolving around shooting and editing high resolution media.
Larry Jordan: Philip, you and I have been wandering the cities of the United Kingdom this week for a tour that’s been sponsored by TV Bay and I’ve been fascinated with your presentation on looking at 4K from a practical point of view. A business question and then a production question – can you charge more for your 4K work or are they not willing to pay more money for 4K?
Philip Bloom: You have to charge more for your 4K work. If you’re not going to get paid any more for your 4K work for clients, you don’t do it because it’s costing you more money on the hard drives and everything else. If you can’t pass the cost onto your client, you should not be doing it.
Larry Jordan: For filmmakers who are trying to decide what they should do, either what camera to rent or what camera to buy or whether they should shoot 4K and they don’t have an unlimited budget, what would you recommend?
Philip Bloom: I get very scared when I read some of the questions that are asked of me. I get a lot of emails and a lot of Facebook questions and tweets to me saying, “I’m going to buy this camera. What do I need with it?” and my reply would generally be, “Why do you want to buy that camera?” because they say, “I’m just starting out and I’m going to buy this 4K blah, blah, blah camera,” and I am scared for them.
Philip Bloom: I have to ask them, and it goes back to that fundamental question, why do you need 4K? Considering 95 or 99 percent, or whatever it is, of professionals working today do not need it, why do you need it and why is somebody who’s just starting out, with a limited budget, are you even considering such a thing? If you have clients who are saying, “We need 4K from you,” fine. If you don’t, then why are you doing this?
Philip Bloom: Because don’t forget there is such a thing as rental. You buy an HD camera, one you can afford, one you can use for jobs, and then when a client does say they want 4K, you rent it, you pass the cost on. It’s very simple.
Larry Jordan: What is going to have the biggest impact on our picture, a 4K acquisition, a better lens, better lighting or better codec?
Philip Bloom: You missed the most important thing out of all of those.
Larry Jordan: Ok.
Philip Bloom: You. You are going to have the biggest impact on the camera, the lighting, the lens, the codec, by far. You can have the best camera in the world and you could have the worst camera in the world and if you have no skills, that great camera won’t give you great pictures, but if you have amazing skills, that really bad camera, you’ll make it sing and that’s the key thing. An expensive camera that shoots in fancy formats isn’t going to make you better. It’s not the most important thing, by far.
Philip Bloom: Now, if you’re going technically into it, sensors are incredible important and then it’s the processing behind the sensor, because we have cameras with the same sensors and they’re so different because it’s what’s done behind them. Optics are incredibly important, but you don’t have to go out and buy Master Primes. You don’t have to do that. Stills glass, fine. There’s some amazing stuff. They have their limitations – most of them are mechanical more than anything, just the way they operate.
Philip Bloom: Codecs are important but for the web, for HD, ACHD is fine. The key thing is, when you’re working with a more compressed codec, you just need to make sure you get things right in camera more, which is what you should be doing anyway.
Larry Jordan: Get things right how?
Philip Bloom: Expose correctly. That’s the key. Obviously, focus and stuff like that, but exposure’s key. You’ve got more latitude when you shoot RAW if you scrub the exposure, but don’t deliberately just, “Oh, I’m not sure if this is ok, but let’s just hit record anyway.” With ABC HD and compressed codecs, you just simply have to make sure you get it as close as you possibly can, which is really what you should do in the first place, so those are key, really.
Philip Bloom: But yes, I think you are the most important person. Don’t think buying the latest, most expensive thing that’s out there that you are being told by whoever that this is what you need is going to make you any better or more successful. The only way a more expensive camera can make you more successful is purely for appearance’s sake and getting the work from the clients.
Philip Bloom: A client is more likely to hire you if you have a C300 than if you have a T2i or something like that, so that actually is important when it comes to owner/operator sides. You need to have a camera which is in demand, but you can always rent. You can always rent and that’s the key thing.
Larry Jordan: Philip, for somebody who wants to experiment with 4K video, what cameras would you recommend they look at?
Philip Bloom: 4K cameras which are affordable – affordable is a very difficult word to define because something that’s affordable to you is not affordable to somebody else – certainly the cheapest by far that’s of good quality is the GH4. I only had it maybe three of four weeks…
Larry Jordan: That’s from Panasonic.
Philip Bloom: From Panasonic, yes. It’s Micro Four Thirds and it records in HD as well, but does a 4K, a compressed 4K, and that’s part of the reason why it’s good, is that the format is a relatively low bit rate, it’s only 100 megabits a second but it just means that you can put on, I think, 45 minutes to an hour, something like that, on one 32 gigabyte card, which is wonderful when we’re talking about half a terabyte for 24 minutes.
Philip Bloom: This is a camera you can play with and I showed some stuff today, the first time I’ve seen some GH4 stuff on a 4K projector, and I was very impressed with how well it held up. Is it the best 4K camera in the world? No, but for the money it’s great and you don’t need to spend a fortune on it like, say, the Blackmagic 4K, which is of a comparable price, slightly more money, but you need to then spend a lot of money on SSDs, rigs, battery solutions, so many different things for it, and it isn’t anywhere as good a camera as the GH4. It may shoot ProRes HQ and at some point it’s going to shoot RAW, but these things don’t make a camera. Just because it can shoot in a higher quality format doesn’t make the camera any better and it certainly isn’t. This GH4 is wonderful.
Philip Bloom: I always carry a proper camera with me wherever I go and it’s been with me solidly since I got it and it’s nice to be able to just capture some beautiful video of some amazing things in 4K. I was Asia recently, in Thailand, and I was just flying into a resort in Thailand and I was in a window seat and there were the most astonishing clouds I’ve ever seen in my life. It was like a window into another dimension just opened, I’ve never seen anything like it – it was at sunset – and I’d been told that the cloud formations in that area were spectacular, but I’ve never seen anything like it. I was agog.
Philip Bloom: I just pulled out the GH4 and started shooting it and I looked back at it and went, “My God.” It captured it so beautifully and that in itself is just wonderful. It’s just in my bag and I got the shots of it and that’s lovely, I love being able to do that.
Larry Jordan: Can you do 4K on a handheld? Or do you have to lock it on a tripod?
Philip Bloom: It depends on the camera whether you need to have a tripod or not. Most cameras, unfortunately, have what’s called rolling shutter issues, which is the way the CMOS sensor captures images. You see it on your cell phones and in Smartphones. It’s Jell-O. Everything goes wobbly, so you’ve got to be very careful with certain cameras, and the same with the GH4.
Philip Bloom: What’s going to help is a tripod, sure, but you’re not always going to have a tripod on you, so a lens which has image stabilization is key. I have the GH4 in my hand right now and it has a stabilizer lens on it. Walking around with a camera with a lens, especially a lens that isn’t that wide, that’s just like a standard length, if you don’t have stabilization on, unless you are a rock, you are going to get vibrations through it and it’s awful.
Philip Bloom: Maybe I don’t have enough coffee, maybe I have too much coffee, I don’t know what it is, I can’t use a camera without a stabilization handheld, because you see it. Now, there are cameras with global shutters – the Blackmagic 4K does have a global shutter. You may not get the Jell-O, but you’ll still get vibrations, don’t forget. Vibrations are going to be there no matter what and that looks ugly, so image stabilization lens is absolutely key, I think, for shooting handheld. They make such a difference.
Larry Jordan: You’ve liked the GH4. What’s the next camera up that you like?
Philip Bloom: I own a ludicrous amount of 4K cameras. You want me to list them for you? It’s ridiculous.
Larry Jordan: Pick your top three.
Philip Bloom: Ah. Well, I have a mobile phone, it’s a Sony Z2, which is ok as 4K goes. Do you really need it in a mobile phone? Of course you do not, but it’s there. The GH4 is very cool, Blackmagic 4K is ok, but I would say the next camera up from that is a 1DC. The Canon 1DC is still probably my favorite camera of all time because it is a beautiful stills camera, it is a beautiful 4K camera, shoots lovely HD, it’s built like a beast, it’s wonderful. It’s quite expensive, though; and then probably the camera up from that, which I think is the best camera out there full stop, period, whatever you want to call it, is the Sony F55.
Larry Jordan: The F55.
Philip Bloom: It’s a beast. It’s very expensive, it’s the first camera I’ve bought that I’ve had to have a business plan in for about six years. Every other camera price, a couple of jobs will pay this off. Suddenly, I have to figure out how I’m going to pay this off, and that’s a bit of a scary thing and I spent about $20,000 on media for that camera.
Philip Bloom: That was scary when I worked that out, but it’s incredible. It is the most beautiful camera, it’s capable of shooting amazing images. It can be a feature film camera, can be a documentary camera. It’s not small, but it’s not too big. It’s a proper camera. I think it’s the most flexible thing out there. Shoots amazing super slow motion and it’s incredibly good in low light. It ticks all the boxes I need. The only thing it does, it just takes my money.
Larry Jordan: When you move to 4K, from what I’m hearing from you, it sounds like there’s a fair amount of risk involved in terms of you’ve got to learn how to shoot it, you’ve got to learn how to light it, you’ve got to learn how to edit it, you’ve got to learn how to store it and we haven’t even touched on archiving, which is a whole other issue. It seems to me that if you’re trying to decide what camera to buy, the best option is to rent.
Philip Bloom: Renting has become very common practice again in the past few years. In the old days, you’d buy a camera which would be a digital Betacam from Sony and it would last you forever, and those days are long gone. Camera lives are very short, maybe two years, three if you’re lucky. The thing is, you buy a camera and it’s been replaced, it doesn’t mean your camera is suddenly no good any more.
Philip Bloom: It’s as good as it was when you bought it, it’s just there is another camera out there which is better and the only thing that’s going to cause you problems is if a client’s insisting on that new camera. You need to make sure that you can pay off your cameras. If you can’t pay off your cameras, then you shouldn’t be buying them. You should buy a simple camera and then rent everything else. The days of you dictating what’s going to be used, I wouldn’t say they’re gone completely but the days of a DP saying, “We are shooting on this,“ are very rare now. That’s going to be decided by somebody else and you may own an F55 and you need to pay it off, you need to use it, and they’re insisting on a RED Epic.
Philip Bloom: Well, that’s unfortunately tough luck. You have to rent the RED Epic, that’s what the client wants. It this is happening all the time, that’s a huge problem, so should you have bought that camera in the first place? It’s a very scary thing. If you have to think about and it’s no longer spontaneous, you need to really sit down and think, and that’s what’s key. Work it out, figure out if this is what you need. Very few big really successfully directors of photography actually own their cameras.
Philip Bloom: It’s the smaller production companies, the one man production companies, people like myself who will own the cameras. The top end Hollywood guys, they don’t own cameras, of course not. They’re brought in. The only people who actually would do that of those are guys who are savvy when it comes to money. They’ll buy the cameras for themselves, for their companies and rent them to the productions. They know they’re going to be used, they know they’re on a series which is going to last eight months of filming, they know that they can pay off this camera and then some by buying it and then renting it to the production.
Philip Bloom: That’s very rare for most people, so just be very careful about spending lots of money and getting yourself into debt to have a camera that you don’t even know is going to get you work, because there are some cameras that will cost a fortune and you still won’t get hired to have them. I think RED is a very good example. Nobody’s going to hire you because you have a Scarlet. They’ll hire you if you have an Epic, but, “Oh, we must get this guy, he has a Scarlet,” it’s not like that.
Philip Bloom: They’re going to want the best, so unless you can offer the best, then you must be able to afford it. Same with the C300. People are going to hire you for a C300, not because you have a C100. The 100’s a great camera and it will be used by you, but just not as, “Hire me because I have a C100.” It’s just “Hire me,” and the camera’s a side product of it. Just remember that.
Larry Jordan: An email just came in and the person’s asking you, “Philip, what’s the best camera?”
Philip Bloom: That email has come through a thousand times since we started and I have an auto responder on my email which actually says, ‘If you’re asking which is the best camera, go to this blog post.” I list the pros and cons of all the current cameras, because what’s good for you isn’t necessarily going to be good for me and vice versa most likely.
Philip Bloom: If I tell you you need this, I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what work you do, I don’t know what your budget is, I don’t know what your skills are. I don’t know anything about you. There are so many questions that need to be asked. Only you can decide. There is no best camera. The best camera would be an F55 in the size of a GH4 and the price of a GH4, and that doesn’t exist.
Larry Jordan: Not yet.
Philip Bloom: But when that does exist, we’ll want something more. We’ll want the next thing, which is the size of an F55 and the price of an F55 and we’ll want that, it’s never ending. There is no perfect camera. Just tick as many boxes as you can, that’s the key thing.
Larry Jordan: To me, aside from the fact that we all need to improve our skills, the real trick, I think, is in good lighting. Good lighting is what really makes for pictures that catch people’s attention. Would you agree?
Philip Bloom: Without light we have nothing, of course. The biggest problem we had when DSLRs came out and suddenly we had cameras which were sensitive to lower light situations is people without experience found that they weren’t getting exposure, so what did they do? They put the ISO up wrong. Lighting creates mood, creates feeling, creates emotion, creates everything. Lighting can make something and it can ruin something, it’s good and it’s bad. Bad lighting kills it, good lighting makes it.
Philip Bloom: Lighting doesn’t necessarily mean putting up lights, it’s about harnessing available light, harnessing natural light. Look at Terrence Malik’s work. Watch something like Tree of Life, using only available light. But look how beautiful it is and look how clever it is and just think about where the light sources are, if they’re going to change, all that sort of stuff. Don’t have your back to your main light source. Think about what sort of mood and feel you want to go for, how contrasted you want it to be. It is something you need to learn about, it really is. One of the best ways of learning how to light is watch stuff.
Philip Bloom: My lighting is always very, very simple. Very rarely will I put up a lot of lights. It depends on what it is. A lot of my interviews, you do traditional lighting for interviews, three point lighting. Good, learn your three point lighting and then don’t bring three lights out. Bring out what is needed for the shot, which can be one. It could be two, sometimes it could be six if you’ve got something really problematic and you need to highlight different areas, but I like to keep things very simple.
Philip Bloom: More lights up, longer things take. The more limited your angles are and where you can point the camera. A limited amount of lighting, but enough to actually make it suddenly have a character, the light is the character.
Larry Jordan: Philip, for people who want to read what you write, where can they go on the web?
Philip Bloom: They can read my full of spelling errors and bad grammar and correctly spelled words, though, lots more vowels than you use on my website, which is philipbloom.net.
Larry Jordan: That’s philipbloom.net and, Philip, thanks for joining us today.
Philip Bloom: You’re welcome.
Larry Jordan: Michael, you’ve been doing a lot of webinars, especially covering 4K. What are the hot topics?
Mike Horton: Big time. There’s a lot of controversy, obviously. Number one, the difference between acquisition and the actual broadcast. I’m looking at a CRT television here in the Maytag Museum here…
Larry Jordan: We have the good one upstairs. This is sort of a museum piece down here.
Mike Horton: First of all, there’s very little 4K out there that you can actually broadcast, but acquisition, that makes a big, big difference and, of course, it is very complex because you’re dealing with storage capability and editing and all this other stuff, so acquisition good, distribution [MAKES NOISE]. It isn’t there yet, Larry.
Larry Jordan: But there’s a middle ground, which is post production and whether you edit 4K or shoot 4K and scale it…
Mike Horton: I still don’t understand why people edit in 4K. I don’t. I don’t understand it. Why can’t you edit in just ProRes in just an offline/online sort of deal? I guess if you don’t want to do an offline/online, fine, but that’s a lot of storage, that’s a lot of hard drives. If you’re a one man band, you’re talking about towers and towers of storage here because it takes up so much space.
Larry Jordan: True enough. We’re going to be covering more on 4K as the year rolls on. We were just talking with our engineer, Adrian, who’s saying that Samsung has decided it’s going to be producing 4K cameras come the fall.
Mike Horton: Yes, by the way, that new codec is at…
Larry Jordan: ProRes? The 444 XQ codec is designed at a high data rate to provide really outstanding color and a high dynamic range. It’s going to be cool. I’m looking forward to learning more about it.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank this week’s guests, Jonathan Handel…
Mike Horton: Sounds boring, actually.
Larry Jordan: …of Counsel. Jonathan is not boring.
Mike Horton: No, Jonathan’s not but…
Larry Jordan: And he’s of Counsel at…
Mike Horton: Are we doing a whole show next week on codecs?
Larry Jordan: Codecs, it’s going to be wonderful.
Mike Horton: Oh God.
Larry Jordan: Jeremy Pollard, Product Manager…
Mike Horton: I’m not going to be here.
Larry Jordan: …at Cospective; Philip Bloom, director, director of photography and filmmaker.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot happening at The Buzz between shows. Check it all out at digitalproductionbuzz.com.
Mike Horton: And I’ll see you in two weeks.
Larry Jordan: Visit with us on Twitter, @dpbuzz, and Facebook, digitalproductionbuzz.com. No-one knows codecs the way Mike Horton knows codecs. Music on The Buzz provided by SmartSound. We’re streamed by wehostmax.com. Transcripts are provided by Take 1 Transcription. Our producer is Cirina Catania, our engineer Adrian Price. The snoring voice at the other end of the microphone is Mike Horton. My name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to The Buzz.
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