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Transcript: Digital Production Buzz – November 20, 2014

Digital Production Buzz

November 20, 2014

[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]


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Larry Jordan

Michael Horton


Barry Frechette, Director of Integrated Production, Connelly Partners

Kevin Railsback, Director of Photography, Filmmaking Naturally


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, 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; and by Other World Computing, providing quality hardware solutions and extensive technical support to the worldwide computer industry since 1988.

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. Hi, my name is Larry Jordan and joining us is our ever-handsome co-host, Mr. Mike Horton.

Mike Horton: Hello, Larry.

Larry Jordan: Mike, it’s good to see you back this week.

Mike Horton: It’s one week ‘til Thanksgiving. It’s one week. I’m doing the cooking dance.

Larry Jordan: You’re not really cooking. You don’t really cook, do you?

Mike Horton: I do, and my world famous turkey will be done next Thursday.

Larry Jordan: Oh, it’s going to be so cool.

Mike Horton: You should stop by for a taste. Then we will send you on way because I will not allow you to take any home.

Larry Jordan: Just carve a leg for me. That will be great.

Mike Horton: I will.

Larry Jordan: There won’t be anything left. What do you mean, you’re going to save some?

Mike Horton: If you stop by early, I’ll give you a piece.

Larry Jordan: Does Tuesday count?

Mike Horton: No.

Larry Jordan: Oh. Oh well, we’ll try.

Mike Horton: I’m brining on Tuesday. I brine on Tuesday for two days and then I cook it. It is just phenomenal.

Larry Jordan: I am anxious to hear the report of how it sounds. By the way, next Thanksgiving we are doing a new show. It’s going to be great, but it’ll be on tape, so those of you who tune in to listen to the live show, you don’t need to – we’ll have it posted just before the start of Thanksgiving.

Larry Jordan: But tonight we’ve got some great guests. We’re starting with Barry Frechette. He’s the Director of Integrated Production for Connelly Partners, which is an ad agency and creates media campaigns. But he’s also an independent film maker. Recently, Barry closed a successful Kickstarter campaign and tonight we learn how he did it.

Larry Jordan: Then Ned Soltz is an author, editor, educator and consultant on all things related to Mac Digital Video.

Mike Horton: We haven’t talked to Ned in forever.

Larry Jordan: Ned is coming back because, after too long an absence, he’s going to bring us up to date on the latest camera technology; and Kevin Railsback is a Director of Photography who specializes in nature and wildlife cinematography. His work has won awards at film festivals around the world and tonight he shares the secrets to getting great wildlife images.

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 and thanks, Take 1, for making the transcripts possible.

Larry Jordan: So big a turkey, Mike, do you get?

Mike Horton: 15 pounds.

Larry Jordan: No way!

Mike Horton: Really. It depends on how many people show up for a piece. I only give them a piece, because there’s nothing more wonderful than the day after, with leftover turkey – leftover turkey soup, leftover turkey sandwiches.

Larry Jordan: You’ve got people taking naps all through the weekend, don’t you?

Mike Horton: Oh, I just stuff myself with turkey and then I do it all again at Christmas. By the time I’m done with digesting turkey, I’m doing it again. Hello.

Larry Jordan: That sounds so wonderful. We’re going to fly out to visit family in the Midwest, so we’ll just have to dream dreams of what your turkey actually sounds like. Well, I know what it sounds like, it goes quack.

Mike Horton: It does. Just like the music. The music is quacking right in my ear right now.

Larry Jordan: Well, thinking of interesting quacking sounds, remember to visit with us on Facebook, at; we’re also on Twitter @DPBuZZ, and you can subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter, it publishes every Friday and you can sign up at for an inside look at the show and our industry.

Larry Jordan: We have got a great show and we’re going to be starting with Barry Frechette right after this.

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Larry Jordan: Barry Frechette is the Director of Integrated Production at Connelly Partners, which is an ad agency. They create TV ads, videos, websites and other media products. However, what caught our attention is that Barry is also an independent film maker and he just closed a successful Kickstarter campaign for his feature ‘Paper Lanterns’, which we want to learn more about. Hello, Barry, welcome. Tell us what ‘Paper Lanterns’ is.

Barry Frechette: It’s a project of mine, a bit of a casting project… but it’s a documentary I’m putting together. It’s a story that really has two parts. The first one is rooted in a young man, Normand Brissette, who was a 19 year old airman shot down over Hiroshima on 28th July 1945 and was actually… with 11 other PoWs in that part of Hiroshima; and actually, when the atom bomb was dropped on the 6th, he and the 11 others were a mere thousand yards away from ground zero.

Barry Frechette: Normand was one of the two that survived that day and unfortunately passed away about 13 days later due to the radiation exposure, but it’s an amazing story and luckily enough I was able to come across a lot of documentation and his family members actually live very close to me. So this is a story that, frankly, has been around in my home town of Lowell, Massachusetts for a long time but not a lot of folks have known about it.

Barry Frechette: I read that story and got hooked on it, trying to picture myself as a 19 year old man with an unfortunate front row seat to one of the worst events in our history. The second part of it comes from a gentleman in Japan who was an eight year old boy in Hiroshima who survived. His name is Shigeaki Mori. He… survived but later in life, doing a lot of research about the bombing, came across images of 12 Americans and one of them was Normand and he took it upon himself to spend 35 years detailing these 12 men and how they lived their last few days and where they were killed and in a lot of instances their family members didn’t know what happened to them, because given the situation information was very sparse.

Barry Frechette: But in a lot of cases, he reached out to each and every one of the family members of the missing PoWs and provided a lot of closure, even right down to making sure that these 12 Americans were listed in the peace memorial as victims of the bombing. It’s a really fascinating story and it’s an interesting juxtaposition, listening to his story and what he has done for these Americans. He’s provided a lot of comfort and a connection to a lot of folks who have suffered a lot and lost a loved one there.

Larry Jordan: It’s especially touching, I think, because it affects families that are so close to where you live in Lowell. Why did you decide to fund your project using Kickstarter?

Barry Frechette: That’s a good question. I spent a lot of time going back and forth on it. I do have a few folks, and I was able to do a lot of the research, and get enough content and a trip to Japan to actually meet with Mr. Mori which I funded myself, but I just felt like it was an interesting story that I could gain at least some interest from folks out there because it is such a compelling story and I believed it in. I was telling everybody I could about it and I think there was a lot of interest there.

Barry Frechette: I looked at Indigogo, and I looked at Kickstarter and there’s a great community here in the Boston area of film makers. So I was able to meet with a lot of folks, and we’re very open about which way to go, and I just felt that Kickstarter had a very strong community, and I think for me getting it out there into Kickstarter and using that community to leverage, is a bit of a…. I spent a lot of time on it and I just felt like crowd sourcing would be something that would be very helpful to me.

Larry Jordan: Well, your write-up on Kickstarter was spectacular. It was a wonderful, personable, direct appeal for money and exactly what you were going to spend it on. Is this something you invented on your own or did you go somewhere for advice on how to write the proposal?

Barry Frechette: It’s interesting. We’re… advertising and most of my stories are 30 seconds or 60 seconds long in a commercial form, but I launched my Kickstarter at the very beginning of October. I fully intended to have the thing live by August, but I spent a lot of time actually planning it. I think one of the really interesting insights for me was the planning of it all and even being a little more patient, because I think I was in a rush to get it out there and get going. I think creating the content was really important and actually it helped me synthesize a lot of the things in my head that I had taken for granted. It’s all rolling around up there, but it really helped me get it on paper.

Barry Frechette: I created a website separate from Kickstarter to help support it, but for me the trailer was something that I spent a lot of time on. I think it’s version 22 that’s up there. I tried it a lot of different ways. I wanted to tell the whole story and get it out there and I had a lot of folks say, “Whoa, it’s too much,” and also too, I think… They said, “Listen, it’s got to come from you. It’s got to be in your voice and, frankly, you’ve got to have your face in it.” A lot of folks just said, “Listen, if you’re appealing for money, they want to put a face to it. They want to know who is actually making that appeal instead of it being someone behind the scene.”

Mike Horton: That’s a great tip. No-one’s ever said that, at least no-one that I’ve ever heard. All I’ve heard about Kickstarter campaigns is you’ve got to work 24 hours a day and it’s a lot of stress, especially as you get down to the last day and you maybe have not reached your goal and you go, “Oh my God, I’ve worked so hard.”

Barry Frechette: It was stressful. When I hit that ‘Go live’ button, I was like, “Oh my goodness.” Luckily, I think my sister was the first one to put some money in, so I at least felt I had made some progress. That was really good advice, to put my face in there.

Mike Horton: That’s great advice.

Barry Frechette: Yes, and I think it helped a little bit.

Larry Jordan: You had a $17,000 goal and when I checked earlier today you’d reached about $21,500, so you’ve more than met your goal. What are your plans for the money? Oh wait, before I ask that, time out, when did the money come in? Did it come in smoothly or was it all, as Mike suggested, in the last two and a half seconds before the clock is over?

Barry Frechette: It actually came in spurts. I sort of had a plan, as best I could. I have a day job, but for me I really set a goal that I felt was modest enough that I could make. I really hit my social media and hit up the folks from that network. Luckily, I’ve got a strong one and it’s everything you can think of – it’s friends, it’s family, it’s folks from the Lowell area that this appeals to, but also the production community here in  Boston, which was great.

Barry Frechette: I sort of started in that network and I made a lot of progress, and then I had to slow it down. I sort of went onto different networks and I sent it to folks in different areas who might have connections, whether it be in the New York community of production, the LA community. I actually saw a lot of progress from Japan. It got shared a lot and it ended up coming back through different networks from Japanese Americans who were really intrigued by it.

Barry Frechette: I felt pretty confident that I was going to make my goal as it got closer, because I had done a few things within the categories to donate that were not only personal donations, but some of them were corporate. So I had a few of the corporations or smaller companies, but companies nonetheless, that were able to donate in a little bit larger sums and that helped a lot. I found myself meeting my goal on Saturday, which was nice so I didn’t have to wait until Tuesday.

Larry Jordan: Now you’ve got 21,000 in Kickstarter. Walk me through the mechanics. How do you get your hands on the money and how much does Kickstarter keep?

Barry Frechette: Kickstarter keeps a percentage from the goal itself – four percent and then there’s also a transaction fee on the credits cards – so it adds maybe to, give or take, under ten percent, which is not awesome but at this point for me, if you go anywhere else, it made sense. Indigogo was a different way to look at it. I felt that plan could have gone forward, but if you don’t make your number, you still get some of the money but certainly some of it gets taken out.

Larry Jordan: Do they do a bank transfer? How long does it take for you to get your hands on the cash so you can start?

Barry Frechette: It’s about 20 days or so. It took a little while for me, I had to set up a different bank account separate from all the projects I was doing. That had to be vetted. You run that through Amazon. You get that set up and there’s a bank validation process, making sure the accounts are all locked up and secure, and there’s a process at the very end where you can actually have your entire project verified by Kickstarter, and I actually felt better doing that.

Barry Frechette: Everything was set up, everything looked right, but I then submitted it prior to going live to Kickstarter to be authorized. I got an email back saying you’re set, you’re good, everything there is set up correctly, and at that point I was like, “Great.” I felt confident about it and then it was waiting until I had everything ready. But it wasn’t a hard process. There are a lot of steps to it and it took longer than I thought.

Barry Frechette: This is a spare time job, but I felt good being able to go to Kickstarter and having them check my work and making sure everything was set. At this point, I got an email confirming that I had made my goal, which was a nice thing to get, and then folks at that point have confirmed that the money’s being transferred from their accounts to the Amazon process. There are a few instances where somebody’s credit card could have expired or whatnot, so within the system we can tell that and those people have been alerted. That’s the sort of process I’m going through now.

Larry Jordan: So their credit cards have not yet been touched, until you reach the goal, so that they’re basically making a pledge against a credit card but they’re not spending the money until you close the project.

Barry Frechette: Exactly right. It sort of sits there and waits and if I hadn’t made my goal, at that point Kickstarter would close down and no-one would have been charged. There’s kind of an all or nothing thing behind Kickstarter. It’s nerve-racking, it really is. You kind of go to bed thinking, “Oh my goodness. I’ve got to send out more tweets or I’ve got to keep pounding the pavement.”

Larry Jordan: All right, so let’s take the finance hat off your head and let’s put the director/producer hat on. What have you shot so far, and what are you going to be using the money to shoot, and what are you shooting with and on?

Barry Frechette: So far, I’ve shot probably six hours of interviews here in the Lowell area and those interviews include Normand Brissette’s sister, Normand Brissette’s best friend growing up and another family member who really has a good grasp of Normand’s history. His name is Tony … He did a ton of work gathering assets.

Barry Frechette: Through the Freedom of Information Act, he was able to gather an amazing trove of detailed records and certainly that in itself is incredible because I now have Normand’s enlisted reference, I have his medical records, I have the telegram that was sent back to his parents saying he was missing, I’ve got really important documents that the family’s been great about letting me have access to. …. and actually made connections with Mr. Mori and went out there back in February and shot probably, oh, I don’t know, I probably have about seven hours with him that is in the process of being translated from Japanese to English.

Barry Frechette: When I was in Lowell, we shot on two C300s. We used a local access studio up in… that a friend of mine let us borrow for the day. We shot two C300s, two camera shoot, and it worked out really well. My trip to Japan, since I was bankrolling it, I had big lofty dreams of bringing along a DP but it turned out to be me and a backpack, two tripods, my Canon 6D. I had an H4N external recorder with the lav that for me was a little godsend because I was able to go to Mr. Mori’s home for two days, and we interviewed, and we talked, and he showed me a lot of research he had, which was incredible, and the Film Commission in Hiroshima was so helpful. … out there, I made a connection before I got there. He was so very helpful, went with me to Mr. Mori, met with him and his wife, and talked about his role, and what he’d done and the PoWs.

Barry Frechette: The next day, we went to all the various sites and actually followed Normand’s steps where he was the day and the days after with Mr. Mori as he talked about it and we were very mobile. I just had a backpack and we set up and I shot as best I could. I actually wasn’t really planning on using a lot of that for the documentary. Even with the goal I set for Kickstarter, I was trying to be pretty modest.

Barry Frechette: I would love to have a lot of money for it but at this point I know full well that if I keep the goals modest, and keep my plans modest, and buy into the fact that I want it just to feel like a simple documentary, I don’t want to get too fancy, which isn’t quite the word I want, but I want the people’s stories to come out from the screen and let them tell the stories without trying to get intricate. I really just did very simple shots, and the content itself and what they talk about is so moving that at that point it’s really just letting them speak about it. It’s been really great to hear their stories.

Larry Jordan: Once you get it all shot, where are you going to post produce it? Do you have tentative release date that you’re shooting for, at the very least?

Barry Frechette: I will go back to Japan in probably early spring and then I’ll do a shoot here in Lowell with some other experts. I’d love to get in the post production in the second half of the year and try to have at least a good cut by the end of the year. I’ll be posting it here in Boston. I’ve actually cut the trailer myself, but I’ve got some other folks here in town who will be helping me out when it comes to the post production, some great folks.

Barry Frechette: The great thing about this community here is they understand the story and, once they hear it, they’ve been really great about raising their hand, even just to help me organize footage or help me understand and ask a lot of questions.

Mike Horton: The images of the paper lanterns floating down that river in front of the Peace Museum must be spectacular.

Barry Frechette: It really is, and that’s where the inspiration came from for the name. The paper lantern ceremony is something that they do every year on the 6th, on the anniversary, and it’s meant to symbolize the souls moving off and moving onwards. I haven’t been there yet. I would like to get back there. The 70th anniversary is coming up on August 6th 2015.

Mike Horton: Oh, so you haven’t been there?

Barry Frechette: No, not to the university, no. The folks in Japan have been great and actually they did send a crew and they’re going to send me footage of it.

Mike Horton: Actually, there’s a lot of good stock footage, because I’ve seen a lot of it.

Barry Frechette: Oh, there’s a ton of it. You’re absolutely right. It’s beautiful and I think that’s one of my big goals. It’s such a big anniversary coming up, I’m excited to try and get back over there because it really is hallowed ground for everyone.

Larry Jordan: Barry, for people who want to take a look at the trailer – and the trailer is amazingly moving – where can they go on the web to learn more and stay in touch with you about your project?

Barry Frechette: My website is You can get an overview there and the trailer’s about halfway down the page or so. You can subscribe and I can keep people updated and keep it moving forward.

Larry Jordan: Very cool. The website is and Barry Frechette is the whole shooting match behind it. Barry, thanks for joining us.

Mike Horton: Thanks, Barry.

Larry Jordan: We wish you great success with the project.

Barry Frechette: All right, thank you very much, I really appreciate it.

Larry Jordan: You take care. Bye bye.

Barry Frechette: Bye bye.

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Larry Jordan: Ned Soltz is an author, an editor, an educator and consultant on all things related to the Mac Digital Video world. He’s also a contributing editor for DV magazine, a moderator on 2-pop and Creative Cow forums and a regular here on The Buzz, for which we are grateful. Hello, Ned, welcome back.

Ned Soltz: Hello, Larry, it’s good to be back.

Larry Jordan: It has been forever.

Mike Horton: Ned, I haven’t talked to you forever.

Ned Soltz: Oh, and Michael too. What a bonus.

Mike Horton: Yes, I am here.

Ned Soltz: With the new studio while I’m on standby, I can’t hear what’s coming before so I was surprised to hear that it was both of you tonight.

Mike Horton: Yes, we are here and we are grateful to be talking to you after so long.

Larry Jordan: You know, you never call, you never write.

Mike Horton: That’s right.

Ned Soltz: Oh, I know, I know, I know, I know. Yes, mother, I know.

Larry Jordan: Ned, what I want to do before we make you feel even more guilty for being such a stranger is take a look at some of the latest news in camera technology. What’s shaking?

Ned Soltz: Oh, too much is shaking, that’s the problem. I think there are simply too many cameras, and the choices are simply too great and they’re in all ranges. I am still impressed with GoPro, as I love GoPros anyway, and now the GoPro 4, with high frame rate, better quality 4K, this is amazing, and all the add-ons that are there; and Samsung has produced its NX1 and while it really is more consumer oriented in its 4K, it’s the only camera that’s actually recording to H.265.

Ned Soltz: The bad news, of course, is that none of the NLEs are understanding H.265 yet, so Samsung provides you a plug-in to dumb it down to H.264 4K so that your NLE can edit it. But that’s really the face of the future right now. Everything is 4K.

Larry Jordan:  Are you really saying that, in a year or so, we’re not going to be able to get a camera that doesn’t shoot 4K?

Mike Horton: How do you compete?

Ned Soltz: I think it’s going to be very highly specialized. I still think we are going to see the ENG style of cameras for a while. Note the fact that Canon is always the last to adapt and the only Canon 4K camera right now is the C500 and that’s really shooting just a motion jpeg internally and you really need an external recorder to get the optimum 4K out of it. But no, I think that virtually every camera is going to be 4K or UHD or have a 4K option and everybody’s jumping on the bandwagon.

Ned Soltz: Just this past week, in fact, at the CCW show in New York, JVC introduced three 4K cameras. The one that’s of greatest interest, I think, to our audience would be the GYLS300U; and, Michael, before you say anything, I may be a walking encyclopedia of Skewes but I actually do have the number right here in my notes. So don’t think that I spend my days memorizing model numbers, complete with all of their prefixes.

Ned Soltz: But that’s really a pretty cool camera because it’s got a full Super 35 sensor, it’s going to record UHD, which is the 38/40 variant of it. It’s got a micro four-thirds lens adapter so you can use virtually anything on that, including a sensor that automatically is going to detect whether you have a 35 lens on it or a Super 16 lens on it. It’s going to be rather a low data rate 4K, but suitable for the web and certainly for YouTube videos.

Larry Jordan: Ned, here’s the problem I’ve got, though. We may be shooting 4K, but if we’re compressing that down to an H.264 or, even worse, H.265, we’re throwing so much image quality away that you’re not even seeing the value of the 4K, I don’t think.

Ned Soltz: Well, with the 265 you’re not throwing away the image quality as much as the 264. The 265 is the higher compression.

Larry Jordan: Yes, but it reduces the file by another 30 percent. You’re still squeezing stuff down. The question I’ve got is are we seeing any kind of codecs coming out that are really focusing on image quality as opposed to small file size so we can actually see all these pixels?

Ned Soltz: Well, I would say it is the 265 because it’s also called HEVC, high efficiency video codec, and that really is the delivery format right now for 4K. The infrastructures and so forth that are all being created are for HEVC, H.265. That will be the delivery format, much as you can say that all the great HD that’s really being shot is being then compressed down to an MPEG2 transport stream to go over cable and satellite, so there’s naturally going to be compression.

Ned Soltz: The question is how to get the highest quality compression, because otherwise the other 4K that you’re really going to see is obviously then going to be in a theatrical sense, in a DCI sense, where that then is really going to be on disk with the whole DCI player protocol protection and the like, which is out to the big screens. But in the meantime, that’s what we’re working on right now, is the quality of delivery.

Ned Soltz: I think more and more this is going to be happening. We’re only going to be moving away from a world in which television content is necessarily going to be delivered by cable providers. We’ve talked about this before. More and more, this is really going to be IP based. We see it right now, that as we speak, for example, the President is giving his address on immigration, maybe it’s over by now, but the fact is that wasn’t being carried, as an example, on CBS, on the network. The programs weren’t pre-emptive. That was carried on CBS’s new web based 24 hour news service. We’re going to see more and more content moving in that direction.

Mike Horton: By the way, the President did mention, Ned, that you can stay in the country.

Ned Soltz: Oh, he did? He let me stay? I’m glad of that, I really am.

Mike Horton: For six more months.

Ned Soltz: And say thank you, me and the whole family… I am so thrilled to hear that.

Larry Jordan: That’s a really good point, first that you can stay in the country; but the second is that so much of the delivery of video these days is not going to be over broadcast or cable, but it’s going to be delivered via YouTube, Netflix, Amazon and Apple TV that really…

Ned Soltz: And there are the opportunities for 4K.

Larry Jordan: I was just thinking, because I was talking with Mike about this before the show, that’s exactly where The Buzz wants to go as well. We want to be able to take advantage of some of these new delivery mechanisms, because broadcast is foreclosed to us but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something else. It’s an interesting concept and H.265 is coming but is not quite ready for mass distribution, it sounds like.

Ned Soltz: Not quite ready yet, but all of the hardware encoders are being produced in that direction and I think that’s where we’re trending right now. As we see, for example, virtually every network show now is shot in 4K. It’s ultimately going to be delivered in HD, but it’s ready for the point where all of these shows can be repurposed for 4K.

Mike Horton: Do you know what’s really cool? I just saw a couple of weeks ago the Panasonic 35, which is a rental, it’s about $55,000 or something like that, but it shoots 4K, it shoots 2K, it shoots HD and you can get this option for RAW all at the same time.

Ned Soltz: All at the same time, right. You can have all of these simultaneous recordings going on at the same time, so basically you have your 4K that you’re putting away in a vault for repurposing…

Mike Horton: You’ve got your 4444 master thing and you’ve got your 2K. It’s incredible.

Ned Soltz: Right, and then you’ve got your proxies in there to edit and re-link, so it’s really pretty incredible. That was one of the cameras I was going to mention, in fact, was the VariCam because it’s really available in two forms. The record part head is the same, it’s the head that’s going to be different. One head is going to be for a high speed HD camera. The other head is going to be for a 4K camera and you maintain the same…

Larry Jordan: Hold it, Ned, take a breath. There’s so much to talk about. We haven’t even talked on camera accessories. Can we bring you back next week and continue this conversation?

Ned Soltz: Oh, absolutely. I’ve got a whole list of accessories to talk about.

Larry Jordan: Well, hush up for a minute. We’ve got to wrap it up. Ned Soltz, we’ll be back with you next week. You take care.

Ned Soltz: What a pleasure. Take care, guys.

Larry Jordan: Bye bye.

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Larry Jordan: Kevin Railsback is a Director of Photography who specializes in nature and wildlife cinematography. His work has appeared in programs on National Geographic, Animal Planet, the Discovery Channel, as well as theatrically released films and commercials. His work is described as a painting on film and his latest entries into the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival took home both the Gold and Silver Eddy Award in his category. Hello, Kevin, welcome.

Kevin Railsback: Hello, Mr. Jordan. How are you this evening?

Larry Jordan: Both Mike Horton and I are doing great and both of us…

Mike Horton: Hi, Kevin.

Larry Jordan: …are looking forward to saying hello. Why did you decide to specialize in nature and wildlife photography?

Kevin Railsback: I’ve always had a passion for nature and wildlife. I started off in the still photography end of things and one of the first photographs I ever took was of a walrus in Brookfield Zoo and I’ve always just been fascinated by nature and wildlife and that’s just kind of where my passion lies.

Larry Jordan: We’re going to talk a lot about how you manage to get the shots, but there was a comment that you made in your film, ‘The Standing People’, which is a film you released in 2012 about the relationship between humans and nature, which I felt was a very interesting perspective on why you even want to cover this stuff in the first place. Do you remember what that was?

Kevin Railsback: Was I talking about the connection between man and nature?

Larry Jordan: Yes, exactly.

Kevin Railsback: What really amazed me or interested me was that we mow down all of these trees and prairies and we put up shopping malls and housing developments, but we name them Oak Road and Cedar Ridge and things like that. So we still want to have this connection with nature in some way, even though we’re bulldozing it down to make a parking lot. I’m really fascinated with that connection of why is it that we feel the need to have that connection.


Larry Jordan: Which I think is a very interesting comment, because it infuses all of your work as you’re trying to show how both nature in and of itself and how nature interacts with people. Some of your images and your photography is just phenomenal. It’s just gorgeous, so pat yourself on the back. There are some lovely things here.

Kevin Railsback: Oh, thank you. I watch all the productions from BBC, on Animal Planet and things like that, and those guys raised the bar so high that I’m just thrilled to hear somebody say they appreciate my work.

Mike Horton: Yes, one thing that those guys all have in common, and I’m assuming you do too, and I’m assuming that if we want to get good at this sort of thing, we have to do this, but you have to have an infinite amount of patience.

Kevin Railsback: Exactly. One of the things that I like to do is I’ll pick the longest line in the grocery store and I’ll stand there just to be patient, because we’re in such a hurry, we have such an instant gratification society that we want results immediately and nature works on its own timescale. You can’t say, “Ok, it’s going to be 8.30 and I want a deer to walk through these woods.” It just doesn’t happen. You have to really have a love of nature because you spent a lot of time out there doing nothing, really.

Larry Jordan: Let’s do a nature shoot for a second. Are you building a blind from which to shoot or do you have special techniques to keep yourself awake while you’re waiting for the animals to fortuitously show up?

Kevin Railsback: It really depends on what I’m going after. One of the things I really love to do is show wildlife in its environment. So many of the hunting magazines and TV shows and things like that, they want in your face, they want that grizzly bear right in your face, and my thing is I always want to try to infuse a bit of the environment that the animal lives in. So one of the things that I really like to do is to go places where the wildlife is acclimated to people, places like Yellowstone National Park or Kruger National Park in South Africa. There, you can get natural behavior without really pushing the animals too much.

Kevin Railsback: Wildlife is under enough stress as it is with shrinking habitat and things like that, so I really don’t like to push wildlife that much. I like to go places where the wildlife is already used to seeing people or I will do things like go on the Mississippi River and eagles are used to seeing people in cars, so I’ll use my car as a blind. Sometimes I get… when I’m not expecting it. I could be going through a tall grass prairie with the intent of filming wild flowers and all of a sudden some wildlife opportunity presents itself. So you never really know but the best thing I like to do is to go places where the wildlife is used to seeing people already.

Mike Horton: So you’re not the kind of guy that goes up in Tibet in the mountains and stays there for eight days in the freezing cold waiting for a snow leopard?

Kevin Railsback: I would, I saw that footage that they shot and that was just incredible. I’m kind of out of shape, I don’t even know if I could walk all that camera gear up the hill.

Mike Horton: You do that with the ax.

Larry Jordan: That gets me to the question, what kind of camera gear are you using?

Kevin Railsback: I grew up in HD with a Panasonic. I started out with the Panasonic HVX200 and I ordered that before it was even announced. I think it was just a block of wood under a cloth and so I was one of the first ones to have had that. I progressed up to the Panasonic HPX170 and then the HPX250 and now I’m shooting with the Panasonic PX270, which I absolutely love.

Larry Jordan: Now, why do you love the 270?

Kevin Railsback: The 270, it’s smaller than the HPX250 and you know how with flight restrictions and things like that, weight and size are really coming into play, especially when you’re traveling abroad. It’s smaller than the HDX250, which I love, but the one thing I really, really love about the PX270 is it shoots 1080p/60p, so I can get some slow motion. The thing is that wildlife encounters are measured in seconds.

Kevin Railsback: You may just see a deer come out of the woods or a buffalo comes up out of the stream or a grizzly bear comes up over a ridge and you only have seconds before that situation changes. So when you’re shooting in 24p, that second is just a second, but shooting at 1080p/60p, I can stretch that encounter out a little bit in slow motion and really get to enjoy the encounter that much more.

Mike Horton: I was just wondering, you’ve been doing this a long time and now you’ve got this wonderful equipment, but ten years ago you were working with different equipment and you were getting probably different images. Do we need these very expensive cameras with the 600 millimeter lens with extenders and all this in order to produce the kind of images that we really want? Or does it really matter?

Kevin Railsback: I grew up in the still photography end of things before I moved into digital video and the standard lens was like a 600 F4 lens. Anything more than that, you’re really shooting through a lot more atmosphere so you start getting a degraded image. I love the PX270 because it’s a fixed lens, I don’t have to worry about back focus issues or dust or anything like that and I still license footage that I’ve shot in standard definition.

Kevin Railsback: A lot of my friends are shooting with REDs with the dragon sensors and all this, but it’s like article writing – it all comes down to content and if you shoot wonderful, incredible, beautiful looking content, it doesn’t really matter that much if it was in 4K or standard definition. Obviously, there’s a huge gap between standard definition and 4K, but I still license some of that stuff every quarter, so it’s still relevant.

Mike Horton: You had a great line in one of the articles that you wrote that says, “Hey, if you shot Bigfoot in standard definition, people are going to buy that.”

Kevin Railsback: Well, exactly. If I shot it with my iPhone, I’m probably going to be able to write my own check.

Mike Horton: Exactly.

Larry Jordan: One of the things that the Panasonic 270 is known for is its low light sensitivity. Why is low light important to you?

Kevin Railsback: The reason why that is so important to me, and when I read Panasonic was coming out with that I really wanted this camera badly. Because wildlife is most active early in the morning or late evening towards dusk. So with the 250, as great a camera as it is, I would have to stop shooting at a certain point around sunset, but I have the 270 out on the tall grass prairie at a local nature center and I was shooting some wild flowers and I looked at the time when I started packing up and it was 17 minutes after sunset.

Kevin Railsback: That was incredible for me and that allows me to be more creative and more productive, because I’m shooting more wildlife when it’s active. Having the PX270 is really important because it does have that extra low light capability without adding additional noise, and that’s the key thing. You can always top up the gain if it’s something really incredible, but then you start degrading the image. Being able to shoot in lower light without additional noise is a huge thing for me.

Mike Horton: Have you seen those Sony A7s? Have you fooled with them, those low light ones? Boy, I tell you, what I’ve seen on the internet is that you can shoot bats in caves with those things.

Kevin Railsback: Oh, it’s incredible. It’s like you visually can’t see what it is that you’re shooting but the camera’s able to capture it. So the technology for nature and wildlife photographers is just really getting incredible.

Mike Horton: Oh boy.

Larry Jordan: What codec do you shoot? What video format?

Kevin Railsback: I shoot AVC Intra right now.

Larry Jordan: Ah, an excellent codec.

Kevin Railsback: It’s beautiful.

Larry Jordan: How are you recording?

Kevin Railsback: What do you mean?

Larry Jordan: Are you recording to a P2 card inside the camera or are you using an extra recorder?

Kevin Railsback: Oh yes. No, I’m going directly to the P2 cards.

Larry Jordan: I was just distracted by thinking of shooting Bigfoot on an iPhone. I had to just sort of get that image out of my head. Have you ever had a serious encounter with wildlife, running from a grizzly or something like that?

Kevin Railsback: I haven’t really personally had a serious encounter. I did have a situation in Utah where we were filming mountain lions and my ex-wife had a red 49ers jacket and obviously mountain lions must not be 49er fans, because the mountain lion was up in the tree and all of a sudden it locked on to her coat because it was red and so there was a little bit of tension there, that that was going to end really, really badly. Being the horrible husband I was, I was thinking…

Mike Horton: I’ve got to get the camera.

Kevin Railsback: …if this mountain lion comes out… I’m going to get some incredible footage.

Larry Jordan: This is a bad decision. Oh my goodness. What gear do you take with you on a shoot?

Kevin Railsback: Basically, it’s just a camera, a lot of the P2 cards, some extra batteries and a tripod. The thing is, nature wildlife photography or film making takes a lot of travel time. I need to be light. Sometimes I’ll carry a small 24 inch slider with me if I want to do something a little bit more cinemagraphic, but otherwise it’s just a camera, batteries, P2 cards and a tripod in a case and that’s it.

Larry Jordan: When somebody gives you a project, what kind of planning do you do? You can’t obviously cue wildlife, but what sort of pre production do you do?

Kevin Railsback: Usually I try to research the area that I’m going to and find out what kind of indigenous animals or wildlife are there, and then I do a lot of studying on behavior because wildlife film making is all about behavior. If you can understand the behavior of an animal, you’re more likely to encounter that animal during a feeding time, where it likes to feed, what it likes to eat, does it like to stay up low? Does it like to stay in the trees? Does it come out in the open? I usually try to do as much research as I can to learn the behavior of the animal and I think that really increases my chances of having a successful encounter with the animal.


Mike Horton: Do you have a favorite animal? Do you have a relationship with a particular animal?

Kevin Railsback: Wolves. I love wolves. I could film them forever. They’re just fantastic animals, they’re so misunderstood, but they’re so regal, so majestic and, yes, I could film wolves seven days a week.

Larry Jordan: Mmm. What do you do for sound?

Kevin Railsback: For sound? Usually, I just record whatever is on camera with the on-camera mic. Sometimes, if I need to do sound, I’ll have a Sennheiser ME66 or something like that that I’ll record to, but usually most of the stuff I license, they just want the footage and they’ll supply their own music or their own sound, their own foley.

Kevin Railsback: I really don’t concern myself too much with sound. The other thing is that you’d really be amazed how much nature lives in urban settings. So there’s probably not a huge call for a white tailed deer buck with a Harley motorcycle driving by in the background. There’s really not a big calling for that kind of footage.

Larry Jordan: Grant, who’s joining us on the live chat, lives in Australia and suggests that you need to go to Australia to film kangaroos, wombats and koala bears and stuff.

Mike Horton: Yes, Grant’s got tons of them right in his front yard.

Larry Jordan: I’m sure he’ll be glad to buy your plane ticket.

Kevin Railsback: I would love to go to Australia, it’s on my bucket list. Africa was on my bucket list and I checked that one off, but I would love to go to Australia, so if anybody wants to sponsor me to go out there, I would be right out there.

Larry Jordan: We will have Grant send you the money by wire transfer.

Kevin Railsback: That would be fantastic.

Larry Jordan: What projects are you working on now?

Kevin Railsback: Right now, I’m putting some stuff together for a local film festival. I haven’t entered it in a few years, so I’m just going through and trying to come up with some kind of idea. One of the things that I’m working on right now is on the theme of man’s connection with nature and that is trashing out nature. I spend a lot of time on trails, and natural areas and it amazes me how much trash, how many water bottles, and candy wrappers, and used diapers, and bowling ball bags.

Kevin Railsback: You wouldn’t believe the stuff I find. I really want to try to get to the bottom of why it is that we feel we need this connection with nature and we seek it out, but yet we treat it like everything else and throw our cigarette butts around and we’re basically just destroying it. That’s one of the projects that’s close to my heart right now that I’m working on.

Larry Jordan: One quick question, because we’ve only got about a minute left. How do you keep your gear warm when it’s below freezing?

Kevin Railsback: …in northern Minnesota, it was about 14 or 15 below zero and the LCD screen actually started to freeze. I take one of those chemical hand warmers and I take a rubber band and I put it on the back side of the LCD screen and that keeps it warm enough to keep it from ghosting and freezing.

Larry Jordan: Amazing stuff. Where can people go on the web to learn more about the projects you’re working with and keep track of the stuff you’re doing?

Kevin Railsback: My site is and you can see what I’m up to, but my thing is also to teach people how to shoot better nature and wildlife film. So there’s also tutorials and reviews and things like that on there as well.

Larry Jordan: I’ve read some of those tutorials. They are extremely helpful and thank you for taking the time to write them, because a lot of people want to not only know what your shots look like, but how you went to get the shots.

Mike Horton: Yes, thanks a lot, Kevin, that’s awesome.

Larry Jordan: That was really cool.

Kevin Railsback: Well, thank you, I appreciate that.

Larry Jordan: Kevin Railsback is a Director of Photography who specializes in nature and wildlife cinematography. You can visit his website at Kevin, this has been fascinating. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Kevin Railsback: Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity.

Larry Jordan: And good luck, we’ll talk to you soon.

Kevin Railsback: Thanks. All right, bye bye.

Larry Jordan: Bye bye.

Larry Jordan: Mike, I don’t think I could be a nature photographer. I would stand on top of the hill with a bullhorn saying, “Deer, get out here, I need to take your picture.”

Mike Horton: I’m a nature photographer. Did you know that?

Larry Jordan: I did not know.

Mike Horton: If you go to my Facebook page and click on photos and start scrolling, you’ll see 1,000 pictures of elephant seals.

Larry Jordan: I was going to say, it has to be elephant seals.

Mike Horton: Yes, and some of them are actually good. I wonder if I can make any money on it. He’s making a lot of money on stock footage.

Larry Jordan: After a thousand pictures, you’ve got to get one of them good.

Mike Horton: Yes, exactly. There’s one of them in there, it’s really good.

Larry Jordan: What is it about elephant seals?

Mike Horton: I don’t know. Their personalities. Well, they sleep a lot.

Larry Jordan: They do, and they’re the size of…

Mike Horton: Which I can relate to. I look at them and I go, “Boy, I wish I was sleeping like that.”

Larry Jordan: I had a chance to see some about a year ago and they are some amazing animals.

Mike Horton: Yes, I go up there two or three times a year and I take thousands of pictures.

Larry Jordan: And some of them are good.

Mike Horton: I think of the same elephant seal.

Larry Jordan: Probably. Sand covered, with a yawning mouth?

Mike Horton: It’s the one with the personality. The one with the little smile on its face.

Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests today. We started with Barry Frechette, the Director of Integrated Production for Connelly Partners, that’s an ad agency, but he’s also an independent film maker working on a Japanese/American film; Ned Soltz, the author, editor, educator and consultant talking about cameras. Ned will be back next week and looking forward to talking with him on our Thanksgiving show; and Kevin Railsback, Director of Photography and film maker specializing in wildlife.

Larry Jordan: There’s lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website, – hundreds of past shows, thousands of interviews, all searchable and fascinating.

Mike Horton: Wow, Grant posted pictures of kangaroos in the chat. There are thousands of them in Australia. There are thousands of them, they’re like rats. They’re huge.

Larry Jordan: Visit with us on Twitter, @DPBuZZ. The Buzz is streamed by Producer is Cirina Catania, our co-host, the ever voluble Mr. Mike Horton. Engineers are Megan Paulos and Ed… My name’s Larry Jordan, thanks for listening…

Mike Horton: I’m going to Australia.

Larry Jordan: …to the Digital Production Buzz.

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