Digital Production Buzz
September 25, 2014
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
to listen to this show.]
Tom Bassett, Founder & CEO, Bassett Partners
Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor Reporter, TroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter
Rollo Wenlock, CEO, Founder, Wipster
Michael Schiehlen, Director of Sales and Service, Zeiss Lenses
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 TOLIS Group, the BRU guys, pioneering the development and support of ultra-reliable data backup, archival and restore solutions for nearly 30 years; and by shutterstock.com, a global marketplace for royalty free images and videos. With over two million royalty free HD and 4K video clips, Shutterstock helps you take your creative projects to the next level.
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?
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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 back again from the wilds of IBC in Amsterdam is our ever affable host, Mr. Mike Horton.
Mike Horton: Hello, Larry. It’s great to be back.
Larry Jordan: You know, it has been, like, forever, Michael.
Mike Horton: I know, it has. I mean, you’ve lost weight and you’ve…
Larry Jordan: You don’t love us any more.
Mike Horton: …your hair’s just a little grayer.
Larry Jordan: It is not grayer, I’m dyeing it that way. What do you mean, grayer?
Mike Horton: Really?
Larry Jordan: Well, look who I have to work with.
Mike Horton: My hair’s a little grayer. I miss Amsterdam. It was awesome. It was beautiful.
Larry Jordan: Did you have a good time?
Mike Horton: Oh, I had a great time.
Larry Jordan: Did anybody show up for the Supermeet?
Mike Horton: They did, at the last minute. They all showed up at the same time. It was a rush. I was a bit panicked in the morning but everybody showed up and the Amsterdam people are just the best.
Larry Jordan: It is a wonderful city. I’ve always enjoyed my visits.
Mike Horton: Yes, but you never stay there to play tourist. I stay there to play tourist.
Larry Jordan: I only get invited to give a speech and the guy…
Mike Horton: Yes, and then you get right back on the plane and go home.
Larry Jordan: …doesn’t even buy me dinner.
Mike Horton: I did, didn’t I? No, I bought you, like, bitterballen.
Larry Jordan: A McDonald’s…
Mike Horton: You passed out.
Larry Jordan: …I think was all you gave. You and I have to talk about this whole concept of expense reports, guy.
Mike Horton: Yes, exactly.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of interesting places to go and interesting people to meet, we’ve got a great group of guests today. Tom Bassett is the Founder and CEO of Bassett Partners. He talks about his new film, ‘Briefly’, which looks at the relevance of the creative brief.
Larry Jordan: Then Jonathan Handel of Counsel at TroyGould in Los Angeles and Entertainment Labor Reporter for The Hollywood Reporter tells us about a recent court decision affecting CNN and its employment practices.
Larry Jordan: And Rollo Wenlock, the CEO and Founder of Wipster. It’s an Australian based video review and collaboration website and he explains why Wipster is better than Scenios or Production Minds or Media Silo, A Frame. They’re sprouting up from all over, so we’ve got to figure out what’s magical about Wipster.
Larry Jordan: And in a special report from IBC 2014, which was last week in Amsterdam as Mike will attest, Buzz producer Cirina Catania interviews Michael Schiehlen of Zeiss Lenses about some new still and cine lenses that they’re announcing this week at Photokina in Cologne, Germany.
Mike Horton: That’s on my bucket list, just to get a Zeiss lens for my camera.
Larry Jordan: That’s amazing.
Mike Horton: Oh my gosh.
Larry Jordan: Just a reminder, 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. You can learn more at take1.tv and thanks, Take 1, for making the transcripts possible.
Larry Jordan: So, Mike, tell me about the Supermeet in 20 words or less.
Mike Horton: It went great. Of course, we had our keynote speakers, the two editors of the new…
Larry Jordan: That was the ‘Star Wars’, right?
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: How did they do?
Mike Horton: They were terrific. They were really wonderful. Delightful ladies, very articulate about the craft. Of course, we did not show any ‘Star Wars’, but they showed before and after scenes from ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ and also ‘Super 8’, so we got a little film school for about 45 minutes.
Larry Jordan: That was so cool. Well, you know, that’s so important, is to be able to see the kind of magic that the editor does, because by the time the editor’s done, it’s so glossy you don’t understand the work that went into it.
Mike Horton: Exactly, so it was terrific and they were terrific and, like I said, I miss Amsterdam.
Larry Jordan: Well, you’ll just have to go back next year.
Mike Horton: Yes, I know. Yes we will.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of interesting places to go, be sure to visit with us on digitalproductionbuzz.com. We’re also on Twitter and you can chat with us @DPBuZZ, and Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter. It comes out every Friday morning, at digitalproductionbuzz.com, for an inside look at both our show and the industry. We are going to be taking a look at whether the creative brief is still necessary, right after this.
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Larry Jordan: Tom Bassett has over 20 years’ experience developing brand innovation, advertising and design strategies for clients like Nike, Sonos, Microsoft and The Harvard Business School. Before starting his own company, Tom headed up strategic planning at Nike’s global advertising, Apple’s global advertising and Yahoo’s global advertising. The man clearly only associates with the best. Welcome, Tom, good to have you with us.
Tom Bassett: Thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: Our goal is to have you say that at the end of the interview as well and so far we haven’t had anybody die this week. I think we’re doing ok.
Tom Bassett: Oh, I feel safe.
Larry Jordan: Tom, the reason we’re talking with you today is that you’re about to release a new film entitled Briefly that explores the role of the creative brief in shaping innovation. But before we talk about the film, tell us briefly about your background.
Tom Bassett: I started my career in advertising and, like you said in the intro, I worked in a discipline called account planning and account planning’s role is to write creative briefs, so you develop a sense of where the consumer understands the brand and write a brief that hopefully inspires great work.
Larry Jordan: Now, take a breath for a second. Tell us what a creative brief is. You say you worked strategy and creative brief. Define both terms.
Tom Bassett: The creative brief is a document typically written out where you talk about what the objective of the campaign is and who the target audience is specifically, what the leading insight is that you’re going to base your advertising message on and then what the message is that you want people to take away from that; and then there’s some support that goes around it and that is the starting point, really, for the creative time – usually an art director and a copywriter – to begin their work of trying to figure out what the ad campaign will look like.
Larry Jordan: So the creative brief really tries to explain what the market is so the creative team knows how to address the market?
Tom Bassett: Yes, and that’s where I think the film gets interesting, because what defines a brief varies a lot. In advertising or design or architecture, it’s going to vary to some degree. Obviously, the complexity of the project is going to vary, but essentially it’s laying out the vision for what it is you’re trying to accomplish. There’s usually a brief that comes from a client first that says, “here’s our marketing problem or our marketing situation,” and then the agency often will respond with what they call their creative brief, which is how we took your marketing brief and turned it into something that gets creative people fired up to do their job.
Mike Horton: So is a creative brief a pitch?
Tom Bassett: I don’t know if you’ve watched ‘Mad Men?’
Mike Horton: Oh, sure.
Tom Bassett: They usually go in at some point and say, “Hey, how do you position the codec carousel?” in the case of one particular episode, how do you serve it up to people? And you can say, “Here’s this thing that spins negatives around,” and drop some in front of a light, but that’s not really exciting. What creative people do is they try and find just a new and unusual way of seeing something, or serving something up, or explaining something to people in typically a more emotional way, something that resonates with them emotionally.
Larry Jordan: Here you are living at the strategic level of the some of the major brands in the world – Nike, Yahoo, Apple. What is it that got you interested in coming down from the mountain and actually making a film?
Tom Bassett: It was a long fall. I think I was somewhat innocent, to be honest with you. I had this idea bouncing around in the back of my mind for years of making a film about the brief and not necessarily wanting to just look at advertising or design or any individual creative discipline, I think in large part because the boundaries amongst those creative disciplines are collapsing, and if you look at Fuseproject, which is where Yves Béhar works, one of the people in the film, historically they would have been framed as an industrial design firm, but they have become a branding firm, an advertising firm, a logo firm and user experience firm. We were just curious to understand how a range of creative people understood the brief, so first of all how they defined it, what made for a great brief and equally what made for a bad brief, what stories they could share with us about the briefs and then finally what advice they might give to creative collaborators that could help inspire them to do their best work.
Larry Jordan: There are several questions that are coming in my mind. There is a quote in the film that was in the trailer – oh, by the way, when does the film release?
Tom Bassett: Next Tuesday, on the 30th of September. It’ll be available free online at bassett.tv/briefly.
Larry Jordan: We’ll come back to that and give you a chance to give the website again at the end, but there’s a quote in the trailer that really intrigued me. They were talking about the creative brief and a gentleman says, “Whether the creative brief is written or verbal, it’s our job to challenge it.” Why is challenging and reflecting on the creative brief so important?
Tom Bassett: That was David Rockwell, who’s a legendary designer and architect, and he’s worked across architecture and design and theater. He did the recent TED design and he’s done the Academy Awards. He’s very well renowned in his space. I think my observation is that they have to take ownership of the project at some point. In the film, John Boiler talks about, “Don’t tell me what and how, tell me why,” and so I think the reason they’re challenging it is they’re trying to find a highly unusual solution that hasn’t ever been found before and so it’s their way of finding creative solutions to challenge everything, so they challenge the briefs, they challenge the client, they challenge the technology landscape. It’s just their way of trying to find some nugget in there that they can make their own and bring to the project.
Larry Jordan: How long did it take to shoot the film?
Tom Bassett: We were about a year in the making and that’s everything from the start of the first shoot to pretty much where we are now. I guess it’s a little bit more than a year. It’s been a while. I don’t know if you’ve read Ed Catmull’s Creativity Inc? It’s a book, he’s one of the founders of Pixar. It’s a great read, if some of your listeners are interested.
Mike Horton: Yes, there are soundbites all over the internet and people quote him all the time.
Tom Bassett: Yes… at a local bookstore as well. He’s quite a fascinating guy. One of the things that I learned from him in this book was that at some point the director will get lost, and I did… what it was like to make a film and I think one of the things I learned first of all, you do get lost at some point. Luckily we found ourselves again, but I just think you experience a certain amount of vulnerability. It’s one thing to sit behind the scenes and write a strategy, which is what we really do, but it’s another thing to actually make a film and put yourself out there. I think that’s been a tremendous learning experience and one of the things that John Boiler, who’s the CEO of 72andSunny, which is an ad agency based in LA, very hot ad shop – they do the Samsung advertising etcetera – but his point was that planners or strategists should really be makers, that this is a whole new era where you can’t just ivory tower it, to use his words that you’ve actually got to get your hands dirty, and so I think this is a great exercise for anybody who’s been around this to get their hands dirty and that’s, I think, part of the reason I made a film, is just let’s try this, let’s actually do this, and it’s hard.
Mike Horton: Making a film is one heck of a commitment and it took you, you say, a year if not more. But you’re doing it on the subject of a creative brief. One makes a film because they’re passionate about the subject or they want to teach somebody something about it. Creative brief – why? Why the subject?
Tom Bassett: Yes, it’s potentially… I hear you. It’s a reality of everybody in the creative business, I think, whether you’re on set in Hollywood or whether you’re designing the next product. It’s the starting point for every project, right? There is a brief. A director will work with an actor and say, “Here’s the character I want you to develop or manifest, these are the characteristics I want you to work on,” and so since every project starts with a brief, we were curious to know why do some projects land up more exceptional than others? So far, at least from the Twittersphere and the views we’ve had online and anecdotally, the feedback we’ve had, for some reason it’s striking a chord with a lot of people, I think because it is a starting point. I think what’s happened in large part is that creativity itself has evolved but the brief maybe hasn’t and there’s a certain frustration around what a brief maybe should become, but it’s really still operating as to what it used to be.
Larry Jordan: Who did you see as the audience for your film? Clearly, everybody is the obvious answer, but who’s your core target?
Tom Bassett: We’re definitely not for everybody. I saw our audience as anyone who either writes or receives a creative brief and more specifically I look at who is the 99 percent, right? The people in the film are who I deem to be in the one percent of creative talent in this country, and in some cases the world, but the 99 percent looks at that one percent and thinks, “How do they do it? How do they get there? What are they doing? We want to be better. We want to make better ads, we want to make better products, we want to make more relevant designs. How do we do it?” and so that’s really the audience. It’s not everyone at all, it’s really people who either write or receive briefs and what they can learn about what the masters have done to arrive at exceptional places.
Larry Jordan: This audience, the 99 percent of people who are creating creative products, once they’ve seen the film what do you want them to do? What’s the takeaway for them?
Tom Bassett: The ultimate thing I’m hoping is that more products and services and creative endeavors are better. In some cases, I think the clients could be better about how they work with creative resources. One of our biggest clients is Nike and we did a preview screening up there with, I think, 70 or 80 of their designers, many of whom work in a group called The Innovation Kitchen. A number of them came up to me after and said, “We need the product teams to see this, we need the marketing teams to see this,” because in a way I think it helps explain who they are and how they work and how they want to work. That’s hopefully the ultimate outcome, that there are better products and better manifestations of creativity. I think on a tactical level, if there are more and more conversations about the creative brief and maybe how it needs to evolve to catch up with where creatives are at, that would be a great win too.
Larry Jordan: Ok, put your director hat back on, let’s talk technology for a minute. What gear did you use to shoot this? What camera and what did you use to edit it?
Tom Bassett: We edit on Premiere. We used to be on Final Cut Pro. We have three editing suites here at work and our Director of Production, Scott Fitzloff, said at some point that he felt that maybe the Final Cut Pro support from a software point of view wasn’t as aggressive as it used to be, maybe because they were spending a lot of time on iPhone, and I don’t blame them – they make a lot more money off that than they do Final Cut – so we’ve been working in Premiere. The cameras are really Canon cameras. We shoot on digital SLRs but I don’t actually know the model. I approved the invoice or the bills to acquire the equipment, but I don’t know the actual equipment that we’re shooting on, if you want to know the truth.
Mike Horton: You had one hell of a cast here. How did you get these people?
Tom Bassett: There was a trick. It’s really six degrees of separation in this case. I know Yves Béhar personally – my wife works at his company and we surf together. I know John Boiler because I worked with him at Wieden & Kennedy, I know John Jay. David Rockwell came through a woman by the name of Vanessa Humes, who used to be his personal assistant and I know her through my wife and so she called him up and said, “Hey, you need to be in this film,” and he was like, “All right.”
Mike Horton: Wow.
Tom Bassett: And then similarly, Frank Gehry was a bit of a crown jewel and a former girlfriend of mine knows him because she was Jay Shiau personal assistant for seven years and so she mustered the courage to go ask him if he’d do it and he said yes because he adores her. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have had a chance of getting to him, so it’s really personal connections.
Mike Horton: Let’s do a show on networking and having the right girlfriends.
Tom Bassett: It does come down to who you know; and then luckily David Rockwell knew Myra Coleman, so he made a call to her and she said sure she’d do it, so it’s so much about relationships and who you know and having the audacity in some cases to ask.
Larry Jordan: I understand, if my notes are correct, that something unusual happened with your film when it was at Cannes. What happened?
Tom Bassett: That’s a bit of a myth that we weren’t responsible for. There was a slide that was put up – I don’t know if I’m allowed to swear on your radio show, am I?
Larry Jordan: Go ahead.
Tom Bassett: The slide said ‘Fuck Briefs’. It was put up by a couple of people who are, I think, at RGA, which is an advertisings agency, and then Dre By Beats and I think the ultimate message was similar. I think they’re expressing their frustration with the way the brief has been handled in advertising. It’s sort of a very Byzantine process and it’s really a static document. The way the brief is treated in advertising, it hasn’t changed in years and years. If you watch ‘Mad Men’, it’s the same thing. I think they were just expressing their frustration, but somehow it got attributed to us, that we were leaking this thing ahead of time to create a story and I wish we were that clever to have pulled that out.
Mike Horton: Well, people get to talk about it and the more they talk about it, the more we talk about it.
Tom Bassett: Well, that’s the thing. If it generates conversations, I think that’s really what’s going on. If you look at a broader cultural level, the fact that they had that slide in Cannes, we’re creating a film about it, maybe that will trigger a series of conversations that will make people rethink what the role of the brief is and maybe what it should be.
Larry Jordan: You’re distributing this free online. It’s hard to make money when you distribute it free online.
Tom Bassett: Yes, business models were never my forte. We try and find interesting ways for brands and designers to think like human beings. It never occurred to us, I guess, to charge for it in part because I thought if I went to Frank Gehry and I said, “Hey, I want you to be in this film and by the way we’re going to sell it,” now I’m making money off his back and I didn’t know how he’s respond to that. So we came to them and said, “Our idea is that we’re trying to inspire the 99 percent of business people who maybe aren’t doing their best creative to do better and students in the future who are working in creative spaces and our distribution model is we’ll do it free online, what do you think?” and they very quickly and resoundingly said yes. So really from the beginning we had this idea that we would release it free online.
Mike Horton: Just quickly, because we only have a couple of minutes here, but I’ve got to ask this question. You talk about the brief being either a document or verbal. If it is verbal, how important is the performance? Do we all have to be a Don Draper or can Betty Boring give that brief?
Tom Bassett: I think you’re going to always do better with Don Draper.
Mike Horton: Ok.
Tom Bassett: You have to convince people. To me as a director, this is a story about belief, right? You have to believe in what you’re doing, you have to have something believable to tell people and you have to believe in others that you can have a relationship during the course of the making to be able to have the hard conversation to say, “Your product isn’t good enough,” or whatever. Really, I think you have to believe in what you’re going to do if you’re going to be successful because you have to convince people that that’s the right direction. Even someone as famous and talented as Frank Gehry was struggling with the Eisenhower Memorial, so even the best of the best goes through this.
Mike Horton: Sure.
Larry Jordan: Now that you’ve done your first film, are you going to do another one?
Tom Bassett: I’m exhausted. I sent a preview to John Boiler at 72andSunny and he said, “This is great,” you know, it was a very nice email and he said, “I’m looking forward to the next one.” How do creative people get up for it over and over again?
Mike Horton: Part two. Part two’s coming out.
Larry Jordan: A lack of intelligence, I think, has a great deal to do with it.
Tom Bassett: Or you have a death wish. Yes, I admire them, people in the creative industries who keep putting out films and films and advertising, buildings. I mean, just to keep doing that over and over again, you put your heart on the line.
Larry Jordan: True enough. And quickly, before we do run out of time, where can people go to learn more about it?
Tom Bassett: Yes, bassett.tv is the site.
Mike Horton: And it’s out next week, September 30th.
Larry Jordan: That’s bassett.tv and Tom Bassett is the Founder and CEO and director of Briefly. Tom, thanks for joining us.
Mike Horton: I’m looking forward to it.
Larry Jordan: Take care.
Tom Bassett: Thanks. Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
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Larry Jordan: It is time for Michael to get off the table and Jonathan Handel is an entertainment technology attorney of Counsel at TroyGould in Los Angeles. He’s also the Contributing Editor on entertainment labor issues for The Hollywood Reporter and has a blog at jhandel.com. Hello, Jonathan, welcome back.
Jonathan Handel: Well, hello Larry, hello Michael.
Mike Horton: Hello Jonathan.
Larry Jordan: It has been a long time since we’ve had you on. We’ve been feeling lonely.
Jonathan Handel: I don’t want that.
Larry Jordan: Listen, there’s been a lot of news that CNN has been making, not just reporting. What’s been happening at CNN?
Mike Horton: What hasn’t been happening for the last year?
Jonathan Handel: Well, it’s been an interesting one for them. This was last week, actually. They lost a case at the National Labor Relations Board regarding employees in their New York and Washington DC bureaus and the issue was kind of complicated. First of all, I should say the case has been percolating for about ten years. This has to do with layoffs that happened in 2003. They had been using an outside services company to supply crew for those offices and that outside services company was unionized, the crew members were represented by the Communications Workers – NABET, the National Association of Broadcast Engineering, well, I don’t remember exactly what it stands for, actually, to tell you the truth, it’s just NABET. CNN decided to in-source, decided to terminate the contract with this outside company and hire people as employees. Lo and behold, they didn’t hire very many of those formerly unionized employees and they refused to recognize the union, even though it was some of the same people certainly doing the same or similar sorts of jobs.
Larry Jordan: So then what was the ruling?
Jonathan Handel: The ruling was that CNN had violated the rights of the workers. The dramatic quote here was, “The evidence of animus,” meaning anti-union animus or prejudice, “in this case is overwhelming, as is the evidence that CNN’s explanations for its conduct were protectoral,” in other words that CNN was saying, “Well, you know, we did this for the following reasons,” but in fact, according to the Labor Relations Board, CNN really was making it up. The Board cited evidence that CNN manipulated the hiring process in order to discriminate against employees who had a great deal of experience but were union activists, for example, had been active in the union and instead hired other people who did not have the same level of experience.
Larry Jordan: If I remember correctly, this affected about 100 employees directly and about 200 that were owed back wages. Is that true?
Jonathan Handel: That’s right, 100 directly were ordered to be re-hired and another 200 compensated.
Larry Jordan: I can understand why this is important for the employees, I can understand why it’s important for CNN. Do the rest of us need to care?
Jonathan Handel: Well, yes. Just to put a bow on it with CNN, by the way, this was a particularly tough time for them because what management has been saying is going to go on in the Turner Broadcasting sector of Time Warner, including CNN, is not that they want to hire new people but, in fact, that there are going to be layoffs and, I guess, have been some layoffs and also people have been offered voluntary buyouts. To have to rehire people at a time when you’re shrinking the operation is particularly difficult. Now, why should the rest of us care? I think one of the things this illustrates is just how precarious in some ways the position of Hollywood unions is. This is a sister company, Turner Broadcasting and CNN are sister companies, of the Warner Bros studio. They’re both subsidiaries of Time Warner, obviously. Although you’ve got Warners with a very unionized operation in terms of SAG-AFTRA and the Directors’ Guild, the Writers’ Guild, IATSE crew, what you see here is that at the higher management level in these companies, there’s very much an attempt to limit and fence off the degree to which unions will have influence within the companies and will represent people. If you really step back and remember things like the alleged 40 hour work week and the weekend and so forth, Newman wage laws, all this were products of the union movement, I think what you see here is another element of a continuing shift in pallor from workers to executives, frankly.
Larry Jordan: Do unions take heart from this or do unions continue to be on the ropes?
Jonathan Handel: They take heard from this decision, except that CNN does have the right to appeal and I was just taking a look at the Labor Relations Board docket and there is a mention of some court action or something that happened a couple of days after this decision, so that may indicate that CNN has filed an appeal. It’s not quite clear to me. Unusually, they can appeal into more or less their choice of whichever Federal Court of Appeals they want and they’re likely, it seems to me, to choose the one that encompasses Atlanta, where CNN has its headquarters, rather than the more liberal Courts of Appeal that cover New York or Washington. This may not stand up, this may end up in the Supreme Court, it’s hard to know. But it certainly is possible that a more conservative Court of Appeal will reverse the Labor Relations Board. To answer your question, unions do take heart in this particular decision but I think there’s a degree of trepidation and not knowing what’s going to come next.
Larry Jordan: Who’s representing the workers themselves?
Jonathan Handel: Well, the union is attempting to. That is the function of a union. This was a unionized workforce, people lost houses, some people have died in the interim, in the last ten years. It’s a tough situation for workers.
Larry Jordan: One of the things that we’ve learned is that the Hollywood and union situation extends throughout the country and around the world and nobody covers it better than you. What are some of the other trends you’re looking at elsewhere outside of CNN?
Jonathan Handel: Outside of CNN, I think it’s worth noting that the Hollywood unions did, as we’ve talked about in the past, achieve some victories in this round of negotiations in terms of merging the SAG and AFTRA TV contracts, the basic cable, improving residuals or really instituting residuals in high budget streaming video on demand programs on Netflix and Amazon and so forth. But we live in an era of a lot of technological change and I think to try to predict, ok, what is television going to look like two or three years out from now and how is that going to affect workers and the unions is a hard one. I do think, speaking locally in terms of LA and California, that it’s going to be interesting to see whether the tax incentive legislation that Jerry Brown signed will, indeed, bring more production back into LA and reverse the trend towards runway production that’s been very difficult for people who live here. We don’t know yet, but that’s one of those fights state versus state, really, who’s going to grant the biggest incentives to different productions.
Larry Jordan: There’s no shortage of stuff to watch and we always appreciate the chance to talk with you. Jonathan, for people who want more information about what your thoughts are and what you’re writing, where can they go to read it?
Jonathan Handel: They can go to jhandel.com and thrlabor.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s thrlabor.com and jhandel.com. Jonathan Handel himself is the voice you’re listening to, of Counsel at TroyGould. Jonathan, thanks for joining us today.
Mike Horton: Thanks, Jonathan.
Jonathan Handel: Thank you very much.
Larry Jordan: Take care. Bye bye.
Jonathan Handel: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Rollo Wenlock is the CEO and Founder of Wipster. He’s an entrepreneur and a film maker interested in how we make better films, and Wipster is a digital media review and approval platform designed for content creators, media teams and anyone creating short term video projects. Hello, Rollo, welcome.
Rollo Wenlock: Hello and thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: We are delighted to have you on the show and especially interested in learning more about Wipster. But before we talk about the website, what got you started in the industry?
Rollo Wenlock: It’s an interesting thing. When I was very young, when I was 15, my father was an architect and I was absolutely sure that I wanted to become an architect, looking at all the buildings he was designing – hospitals and things – and then I watched films with him and well and when I first watched films at that young age, I started to realize that if you made films, you could do everything inside a film. You could do imagery, music, design, everything and you could put everything creative inside a film whereas architects only had the idea of space, light and design. So film got me because I was like, “I can do everything.” That’s why I got into film.
Larry Jordan: From there, what got you involved in trying to come up with something like Wipster? What was the transition that led to the website?
Rollo Wenlock: The transition happened because I was working professionally in film and video for 15 years. I was doing post production, I was directing TV commercials, music videos for bands, doing all sorts of things. But with every short form job, there was a client and with every client meeting there was pain and the pain generally happened around trying to get on the same page with what each person was talking about. If I sent them a video file, they had to write me an email, they’d write all the timecodes. But then also, because there’d be more than one client, they’d all be sending me different emails and most of my creative job was actually figuring out what people wanted in changes rather than working on the film, you know what I’m saying?
Larry Jordan: Yes, true enough. So then you sat down at your keyboard and you invented Wipster. What’s Wipster?
Rollo Wenlock: Well, that’s kind of how it happened. This is how the idea came to me, and it’s kind of cheesy but I think you’ll enjoy it. It was very early in the morning, I’d just had my first child, so she was one month old and she wakes up very early. I was looking out a window and the sun was just coming over the hills and, as the sun came over the hills – and we don’t clean our windows all that often – the sun hit the dust on the glass and as that dust lit up – and there was a separation between me and the view which was the dust – it suddenly clicked to me. I thought, “Why don’t people making videos have conversations on the video?” and that was the moment where it hit me and then I just went crazy, started designing it in my head, I was drawing it all day long and then, within a very short period of time, only a few days, I’d gone out to the wider community of technology people and found a co-founder called Nick Green who could build this software with me; and then from there the rest is history.
Larry Jordan: How long did you spend in development?
Rollo Wenlock: I think software is always in development. It’s always been S rated, you’re always listening to customers, but before we launched it, it was being developed for ten months and through that period we gained a designer with user experience, a head of marketing. We raised investment, almost a million dollars, to push this company forward and…
Larry Jordan: So your daughter is not in high school at this point.
Rollo Wenlock: No, no, she isn’t even at school yet. She’s still under the age of two. It’s quite interesting because…
Mike Horton: But very inspirational.
Rollo Wenlock: …the company is the same age.
Larry Jordan: So you’ve got yourself funding and you’ve created the website, so now let’s talk about what Wipster is. I was doing some homework before we started and Cloud based review websites are sprouting up all over. Without even doing much research, I can think of Scenios and Production Minds, Aframe, even MediaSilo. Why should somebody pay attention to Wipster?
Rollo Wenlock: That is a good question. The major difference that we have as a product is that we’re not building a product for video makers per se. Now, that might sound controversial because our customers are video makers, but what the video maker really wants is a product that works for their customer, and if they’re non-technical customer, who’s maybe a marketing person in a company or somebody somewhere else who wants a video made, if they can’t communicate to a very simple piece of software and ask for changes that they would like or discuss changes together on top of the video, then the product has failed. Our number one aim from day one was to make a user experience that was so simple that I could send a link to a video to my mother, who’s 72 and can hardly use a computer, and she’ll be able to write me comments. I did that test and she wrote me comments on top of the video, which…
Mike Horton: Perfect.
Larry Jordan: Congratulations on passing the ultimate mother test. That’s a good thing.
Mike Horton: He is right, because some of these other sites are a bit complex and it takes a learning curve, and it shouldn’t take a learning curve.
Rollo Wenlock: Oh yes, yes. No, absolutely.
Larry Jordan: But I also like the fact that you’re focusing not on the production team, but you’re focusing on communications from the production team out to the client.
Rollo Wenlock: That’s exactly it. Really, what our product is, it’s a productivity app, you know? It’s a communication app, it’s not a video making app. The success for us comes from more and more people wanting to make videos for their companies, make videos about themselves knowing that they can use this platform and really smooth out the process of working with a creative video maker. The amount of people that I spoke to when I was researching for this product, talking to companies saying, “How’s your video going? Hiring people? Getting people in-house?” and they go, “Really, there are some fantastic artists out there but we have such a tough time,” and really they would make more videos if the process of review and approval was smoother, so that was the impetus for me to make it work for them, number one. We have it now so that a video maker sends a link before the video’s even uploaded, really, really smooth, and when that link goes to a person, that person, as soon as they open the video, they don’t have to log into anything, there’s no password, they just look at the video and as soon as they click on the video, it already knows who they are; and they click, they start to write a comment, it goes, ‘Comment by Mary at this time’, people can reply to those comments. These comments with little frames of where it was said then get emailed to everyone. It’s such a smooth experience. It takes out all the confusion and the annoyance of video and just makes it creative again.
Larry Jordan: Sorry, I was taking notes.
Mike Horton: No, good answer. I’m sold.
Rollo Wenlock: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: Your website says that you’re focused on short form programs. Why the focus on short form and does it really make a difference?
Rollo Wenlock: It doesn’t make a huge difference, but really when you’re early stage – and a company that’s under two years old is still fairly early stage – it’s really good to have a target that you aim for and then you can expand on that. It’s in no way saying that if you uploaded a feature film it wouldn’t work but with the speed of the internet and compression, uploading a two hour film for a quick review is still a bit of a laborious thing. But uploading a five minute video, we have it down that our uploading is so incredibly fast that you can upload a five minute video in under ten seconds, have it to somebody in under ten seconds again and you were getting comments in under a minute.
Larry Jordan: Yes, but that’s in Australia.
Mike Horton: Yes. Try that in Los Angeles.
Larry Jordan: You have monumentally fast speeds over in your part of the world that the rest of us may not have.
Rollo Wenlock: Oh no, it’s not that. No, no, no, it’s not that we have pretty fast in New Zealand. We really don’t have internet that is that quick. It’s just how we deal with video uploading has really made it quite a fantastic experience. It’s highly compressed before it goes up, it’s only ever a view video, so it doesn’t have to be fantastically sharp and so you’re having people sharing videos. I mean, if we were to talk about social video sharing sites, they often take minutes if not an hour to upload and share a video and I’m talking in under a minute you’re getting comments back on your video. We’re speeding up the review process sometimes by days. It’s really joyful.
Larry Jordan: When does the site launch? When does the service go live?
Rollo Wenlock: Interestingly enough, the product is live right now. You can go to wipster.io and you can sign up and start to use it for free for two weeks on trial and then we have a free account for people who only want to upload a small amount of video. We already have paid customers all over the place. We’ve got customers like NBC Universal using our products. We’ve got Evernote, who make a lot of in-house videos and they use the product internally. We actually got a quote from the video producer at Evernote, Andrew Burke, who said, “This is the most useful productivity tool I’ve used in the last ten years,” so we’ve really hit a nerve in the industry, I feel. We’ve got people coming to us in droves going, “Oh my God, you’ve fixed it. It works now,” so it makes me feel really good.
Mike Horton: And let’s thank your daughter for that.
Rollo Wenlock: Yes, it’s all her fault.
Mike Horton: It’s all her fault.
Larry Jordan: I’m trying to think about the logistics here. If I want to use your service to communicate with my client to get them to review the video, am I uploading a proxy file to you, just a low resolution copy? Where’s the original media stored? How does that process work from my point of view, who wants to upload a video to get comments?
Rollo Wenlock: Yes, sure. If you’re doing an edit in, say, Final Cut Pro X, you’d do a low res export, you’d do like a 960 by 540 pixel export, H264 – I’m using all these technical terms because I’m speaking… having a listen – and you’d have a video file which would probably be under 15 megabytes, which is going to upload very, very quickly. Then you simply drag that video file into the browser when you’ve got your Wipster account open. You drag it in, it starts to upload. As it’s uploading, you can click the share button, enter the email address and name of each person you want it to go to, write them a message, hit go and as soon as it’s uploaded and it’s encoded, so it plays anywhere on any device, as soon as that’s done it sends it automatically out to each of those people.
Rollo Wenlock: It gives each person a unique URL so it knows who they are and when they click open, they write the comments, they close the window, you’ve got the comments. You will then get an email showing you all the comments with all the frames that the comments were made on with a timecode. You can then either reply in the email or you can reply back with Wipster to those people saying, “Yes, I’ll do that change,” or “I’m sorry, we don’t have another shot for an option,” or “Oh my God, that is a spelling mistake, I’ll fix that.” But if you didn’t want to reply, all of those comments are also kept as a really handy to do list and that’s automatically created out of all the comments and as you’re working through the changes you tick them off and when they’re all ticked off, you upload version two.
Rollo Wenlock: You export another QuickTime file from your edit suite, drag version two on top of version one so you have a version stack of each edit you’ve ever done, and that automatically invites them again. They’re making comments, they sign it off and then you deliver the final. If you want to deliver a final file, we can also do that too, which is enormously handy because then you don’t have to use anything else to deliver the final. If you upload the high res, so if you upload a one gigabyte file, a two gigabyte file, it’ll take a little bit longer to upload but once it’s there, we create a proxy file in the cloud so when they’re playing it, it plays low res and it loads very quickly. But if they click download, if you’ve allowed that to happen, if they click download for the final file, they get the high res. So you’ve essentially delivered them the final video file.
Mike Horton: Just looking at your pricing structure. It’s interesting, you go with minutes rather than gigabytes.
Rollo Wenlock: Yes, yes.
Mike Horton: That is kind of cool. Free for 15 minutes.
Rollo Wenlock: I think that’s very important.
Mike Horton: Upload 100 minutes for 25 a month. Interesting. Minutes.
Larry Jordan: Now, is that minutes of source files, not minutes of viewing time?
Rollo Wenlock: Yes, it’s minutes of video uploaded. If you upload 90 minutes and it’s watched 10,000 times, we still only charge you for 90 minutes.
Larry Jordan: Is that pricing enough for you guys to stay around for a while? I mean, it sounds reasonably inexpensive.
Rollo Wenlock: It’s inexpensive if you view it as a competitor to the old fashioned companies who are doing review and approval and are charging hundreds, but that’s because they’re going for a different market to us. What we’ve discovered is that there is this modern market which is growing at 60 percent per year of companies who make their own videos or have their own in-house video producer or are freelancers that have loads of customers that they work with who make online videos, and so our customer is a company that wants to use a productivity app, not a video making app, and they want to spend $100, they want to spend $25. There are so many millions of these people that we’ve got a pretty fantastic looking company as we scale, whereas companies charging a few hundred dollars or maybe even a few thousand dollars, they’re really limiting their market to very big production companies, TV companies, film studios and we’re not going for those guys. We’re getting them as customers because they like the product so much, but we’re aiming at the everyday company.
Larry Jordan: We can’t help but worry about security for all of our stuff, especially if we were doing a commercial for a customer that hasn’t released the product yet and, at least in the States, places are getting hacked on an hourly basis. How are we keeping the files secure?
Rollo Wenlock: The files are as secure as any cloud platform could be because every modern app is built on a cloud platform build by a multitrillion dollar company. Our product is built on Azure, which is owned by Microsoft, and their security levels are insane, so our product is as secure as their product because we’re built on top of it. They won’t let us build anything security wise less than their level, because otherwise they’ll just turn our app off. You can be rest assured that we are as security unbreachable as the biggest companies, because it’s the same infrastructure. In saying that, Apple supposedly got hacked the other day, but what really happened there was that somebody got someone’s password to their account. So even what looks like a hack generally isn’t actually a hack. They’re not actually hacking into someone’s cloud storage, they’re just getting someone’s password for one account. In terms of security, it’s really unbeatable. The one thing that I do get questioned on is that these links that get sent out to each client where they don’t have to log in or anything, what happens there because that person can then forward that email on and then that link is available to anybody to click?
Rollo Wenlock: What we see there is that the people that are being sent the links are the clients and so they are the people who own the video and they have the product that hasn’t been launched yet and they don’t want anybody to find the video, so if they send that on then they’re only killing themselves, you know? There’s got to be a certain amount of business savviness that people have to not send those links on. We want the user experience to be so smooth that they don’t have to log in. If they keep breaching that – and so far none of them – but if they do, we would just implement a two way authentication where there’s a password sent to a cell phone… you need a password every time they get sent a link, but that’s really only a certain… of customer wants that sort of thing, like a sound studio with IM7. They would say, “Ok, I need this to be sent to me on a thumbnail with a security guard,” and you go, “Ok, fine, well, use another product because that’s not us,” so that’s kind of how it goes.
Larry Jordan: The other thing on privacy is that many videos that get posted to the web get scanned by search engines. How do you avoid a search engine picking up video which isn’t released for the public yet?
Rollo Wenlock: Absolutely. There are ways for private apps like our one, our one is completely private, there are no public links, there are ways for us to code the product so that Google can’t look at it. You can put in a whole lot of layers of code where the Google bots are told to not search and they can also, even if somebody wrote a weird bot, they still can’t do it because it’s been written in a way that they can’t read it. It’s encrypted. So none of the videos that are uploaded – and there are thousands uploaded every week – none of them can be viewed by Google, ever.
Mike Horton: Sold, Larry?
Larry Jordan: Yes.
Mike Horton: Larry has a problem with the cloud. Big, big problem.
Rollo Wenlock: There’s always a problem with the cloud, right?
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: My problem with the cloud is security and what happens if you guys, well, you see, the big thing that they’re doing that’s interesting is that they’re not taking the master files from us. They’re taking proxy files, so even if they collapse because they have such a great idea that…
Mike Horton: Well, this is a review process.
Larry Jordan: …but I don’t lose my master file, I’m just losing a review file, which is a proxy file, which is an entirely different thing, which I think is cool and I wish you great success. Where can people go on the web to learn more about this?
Rollo Wenlock: They can go to wipster.io.
Larry Jordan: That’s wipster.io and Rollo Wenlock is the CEO and the Founder of Wipster and, Rollo, thanks for joining us today. This has been fascinating.
Rollo Wenlock: Well, thank you for having me, I’ve had a great time.
Mike Horton: Thanks, Rollo.
Larry Jordan: And you take care. Bye bye.
Rollo Wenlock: Ok, bye bye.
Cirina Catania: This is Cirina Catania reporting from the 2014 IBC. I’m here with Michael Schiehlen and I’m in the Zeiss booth. There’s some great stuff here that is not being announced until Photokina, so we’re right on target with this. Tell us a little bit about what I’m looking at here.
Michael Schiehlen: First of all, we have a new lens line called Loxia. It actually at the moment consists of two focal lengths. It’s an F2 35 and an F2 15 millimeter lens made for still photography and especially made of the Sony Alpha 7 series, so they cover the full frame sensor, 24 by 36 millimeter, and both lenses have a manual focus, a very long precise focus rotation and a manual aperture control which you can also de-click. You can use the clicked version for still pictures and you can also de-click with an easy and small screwdriver, so you can use the aperture control smoothly like the focus control for video applications.
Cirina Catania: And quietly, too..
Michael Schiehlen: It’s very quiet, exactly. The lenses are quite handy, quite small and compact and fit pretty well to the new Sony Alpha 7S camera, which is very trendy at the moment as far as we can see in the markets all over the world and I think this is a pretty good combination with our Loxia lenses.
Cirina Catania: We’re really excited about this. What else do we have here?
Michael Schiehlen: We also have the second member of the new Otus lens family. We call it a non-compromising lens. We don’t talk about aberrations here because they simply do not exist. We launched a 1.4 55 already last October, in 2013, and now at Photokina we have the big presentation of a 1.4 85 and if you see the press and the web reviews, please check them in Google, people are talking about the best lens which have ever been developed, so we are pretty excited about that.
Cirina Catania: Well, you should be. I’ve taken a look at it, it’s absolutely wonderful. What else do we have here in the cinema lens line?
Michael Schiehlen: Right. I was talking about still lenses so far. We have a new member of the compact zoom lens family. We have two zooms already in the market, which is the compact zoom 70 to 200 and a 28 to 80 millimeter, both T2.9. Now, we’re coming up with the third member. It’s a 15 to 30 auto wide angle zoom. No distortion, no vignetting. Very compact design and, as the other two lenses, the 15 to 30 also features the big advantage of covering a full frame sensor like 24 by 36 millimeter, which is unique in the cine market – there’s no other company which can do it – and we also feature the interchangeable mount set so that our customers can swap the mounts and use this system on different cameras PL mount cameras, Canon, Nikon, Sony, you name it you can use these lenses on different cameras so it’s a really future-proofed solution.
Cirina Catania: It’s amazing. I don’t know what more we could want.
Michael Schiehlen: There is not much more we can give you at the moment, at least not new. We have, of course, here in Amsterdam at the IBC all our other well known lens families like the Master Prime lenses, which have been used in many blockbuster movies like ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘King Kong’, ‘The Perfume’ and so on. We show the other prime lens family, 16 focal lengths from eight to 150 millimeter. It’s a standard lens line in the rental house market, I would say; and then we have our company prime lens family. It’s a very flexible solution, just like the zooms we presented over here. The most successful senior prime line in the world in the last four years, so we’re very happy with the company prime lenses. Last but not least, we are also showing our SLR lenses for Nikon and Canon DSLRs.
Cirina Catania: Thank you so much for taking the time and for speaking to me about something that’s really going to be announced next week. I appreciate it. We’ll take good care of this and will we see you at NAB?
Michael Schiehlen: Yes, of course. We will meet each other at NAB..
Cirina Catania: This is Michael Schiehlen with Carl Zeiss in Deutschland, but we’re here in IBC Amsterdam for the 2014 show. Thank you so much.
Michael Schiehlen: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: And that was our producer, Cirina Catania, speaking with, in English as opposed to German, Michael Schiehlen. He’s with Zeiss lenses. The Zeiss website is zeiss.com/cameralenses.
Mike Horton: Cirina had a nice accent going there.
Larry Jordan: Yes. Cirina did a great job.
Mike Horton: It’s very nice to talk to you.
Larry Jordan: It’s interesting listening to her…
Mike Horton: Very nice to hear Cirina talk like that.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests: Tom Bassett, the Founder and CEO of Bassett Partners…
Mike Horton: I can’t wait to see that movie.
Larry Jordan: …Jonathan Handel of Counsel at TroyGould; Rollo Wenlock, the CEO and Founder of Wipster; and Michael Schiehlen with Zeiss lenses.
Mike Horton: I’m going to start speaking like Cirina.
Larry Jordan: Cool.
Mike Horton: An Amsterdam accent.
Larry Jordan: We will speak strongly to her…
Mike Horton: Very nice talking to you, Mr. Zeiss.
Larry Jordan: She will give you language lessons like you would not believe.
Larry Jordan: Music on The Buzz provided by SmartSound; The Buzz is streamed by wehostmacs.com.
Mike Horton: Very nice to be here, Larry.
Larry Jordan: The Buzz is streamed by wehostmacs.com. Text transcripts by Take 1 Transcription. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cirina Catania is our producer, engineer Adrian Price. The voice at the other end of the table is Mike Horton, my name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening…
Mike Horton: Auf wiedersehen.
Larry Jordan: …to The Digital Production Buzz.
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