Digital Production Buzz
April 23, 2015
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
(Click here to listen to this show.)
Jem Schofield, Founder, theC47 / The Filmmaker’s Intensive
Sam Mestman, Workflow Architect, FCPWORKS
Bryan McMahan, Colorist, Modern VideoFilm
Larry Jordan: Tonight’s Digital Production Buzz is brought to you by Shutterstock and Other World Computing.
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Voiceover: Since the dawn of digital film making…
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Voiceover: …and content creators around the planet.
Voiceover: From the media capital of the world in Los Angeles, California, The Digital Production Buzz goes 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, our effervescent and well relaxed co-host, Mr. Mike Horton. Hello, Mike. Hello Mike?
Mike Horton: Yes. Back from NAB. Hello.
Larry Jordan: I tell you, NAB must have been worse…
Mike Horton: Yes, it was really exciting.
Larry Jordan: Well, I think it was the day after the Supermeet is what took you out.
Mike Horton: Oh boy, I’m still recovering and I know you probably are, right?
Larry Jordan: Yes. It’s amazing. We did 12½ hours of programming in 3½ days. You had 1200 people in the audience, standing on their chairs screaming.
Mike Horton: At least.
Larry Jordan: That was very cool.
Mike Horton: It was wonderful, and thank you for showing up and going to all of our sponsors and thanking them, each and every one.
Larry Jordan: I told them that Mike Horton sent me and that I was…
Mike Horton: And that’s why we got no complaints. “Larry visited me.”
Larry Jordan: We’ve got a great show. We’re going to start our show with Jem Schofield. He’s a producer, director and founder of theC47, which is an education resource focused on teaching the craft of video production. Tonight, Jem shares his reaction to the 2015 NAB show that was last week in Las Vegas, although it seems like just yesterday, along with some new lighting products they released at the show.
Larry Jordan: Next, Sam Mestman, the workflow architect for FCPWORKS is a leading integrator for the Final Cut Pro X platform. Sam designed the workflow for ‘Focus’ the recent Will Smith release which was edited entirely in Final Cut Pro X, and tonight he explains what they did and a brand new shared storage product, which is just causing all kinds of interest on the web.
Mike Horton: Yes, Sam showed that last night at the LAFCPUG meeting and it’s blowing up all over the web today. It’s impressive.
Larry Jordan: Very interesting. I want to learn more about it. Finally, Bryan McMahan joins us in the studio for a discussion about color. Brian recently color graded ‘Knight of Cups’ directed by Terrence Malick, and tonight Brian shares his secrets behind the look of the film.
Larry Jordan: By the way, last week The Buzz produced an amazing 12 hours of programming, covering all the leading companies in our industry at NAB and, for the first time, we covered the show with video as well as audio. You can see all of our interviews at nabshowbuzz.com and, Mike, what do you remember most from NAB?
Mike Horton: Did you get up to the drone pavilion upstairs? Did you get to see anything?
Larry Jordan: I saw some of the south lower, but that was it.
Mike Horton: The drone pavilion was really fun. It was this enclosed cage of drones flying all over the place and lectures and people talking about drones. That was a lot of fun and then I sort of quickly walked around. After the Supermeet, I was dead and I walked a little bit and saw some great monitors and a lot of 4K. Everybody was talking 4K. Every sentence, 4K.
Larry Jordan: Well, it was like 4K was a given. It’s just interesting.
Mike Horton: Yes, every sentence was 4K. By the way, did the video work out for you? Were there any glitches?
Larry Jordan: Oh, it’s amazing. We did individual interviews and complete shows.
Mike Horton: And it all worked?
Larry Jordan: It’s all working.
Mike Horton: Amazing.
Larry Jordan: We had a great team.
Mike Horton: That’s hard.
Larry Jordan: They are still recovering.
Mike Horton: Yes, I bet. It’s hard.
Larry Jordan: A lot of bodies lying around. It was amazingly difficult but looked really good and we talked to so many industry experts. It was a wonderful opportunity to get a status report on what’s happening in the industry.
Mike Horton: And you had wonderful licorice too at your table.
Larry Jordan: Yes, it was great.
Mike Horton: I stopped by and got that.
Larry Jordan: You can learn more at nabshowbuzz.com and remember to visit with us on Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. We’re also on Twitter, @DPBuZZ, and you can subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com for an inside look at both our show and the industry. Mike and I are coming right back with a summary of NAB and a conversation with Jem Schofield, right after this.
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Larry Jordan: Jem Schofield is a producer, a director and the founder of theC47, which is an educational resource focused on teaching the craft of video production and filmmaking. He uses production based workshops throughout the United States and abroad to teach some of these concepts. He also runs the Filmmakers’ Intensive, which is a biannual program that focuses on the art and science of documentary and narrative filmmaking. Hello, Jem, welcome.
Mike Horton: Hello Jem.
Larry Jordan: Hey, Jem. Somebody say hello.
Jem Schofield: …Larry. I’m here.
Larry Jordan: There we go. We are glad to have you with us.
Jem Schofield: I’m here. Hello? Hello?
Larry Jordan: We got you now. There’s a little bit of a delay.
Mike Horton: A slight delay.
Larry Jordan: A small delay.
Mike Horton: We’ll fix it in post. Jem, do another webinar on fixing it in post.
Larry Jordan: Jem, NAB just finished. What struck you as some of the highlights?
Jem Schofield: It was an interesting year. For me, it didn’t have the normal splash of previous years. We had the normal Blackmagic stuff, 38 products that they released. I think for me it was a lot of companies who were refining things that they’ve been trying to get really right for a long time. We did have Canon announce the C300 Mark II, that long awaited camera, but almost everything else in the space was an evolution of products that each of these companies have been making for quite some time, so I thought that was interesting.
Larry Jordan: I was watching the podcast that you did where you were talking about the cameras at NAB and I was struck by the number of different new cameras that caught your attention, from the C300, although you like the FS7 better. You had a number of other camera highlights that you liked. What was it that caught your attention?
Jem Schofield: Yes, I definitely wouldn’t say I like the FS7 better. The C300 Mark II doesn’t exist yet and in a lot of ways it might be the camera system I lean towards because I have been using cinema EOS cameras for a long time. It seems like Blackmagic has finally, I don’t want to say become a camera company, but they’ve announced a camera that they will release, which is the URSA Mini, which seems to be kind of their first camera except for the little pocket camera, that you could say has been designed in an ergonomic way for a real world tutor without rigging it.
Jem Schofield: JVC came out with, not at NAB, but they were really showing their 300, letters, letters 300, which is their… mounted with a 5mm center base camera system, kind of the promise of what people were hoping the X200 was going to be, which is a camera announced by Panasonic which is a micro… fixed lens camera and I have a long history with DVX cameras. I still have my DVX100A downstairs in the studio and I use it as a mini DVD deck, basically, when the need arises, not very consistent nowadays, so yeah.
Larry Jordan: Did you see any new lighting gear that caught your attention? The reason I ask is I was struck by the number of new LED lights that were now focusable.
Jem Schofield: I did. Lighting is really my specialty and the vast majority of what I taught at NAB this year in the post production world conference… and a lot of my workshops is about lighting. Composition and camera movement as well, but lighting is really where I spend most of my time you know figuring out. I’ve been a big fan of the evolution of LED face technology It doesn’t have that same color spectrum as the omni light that I have right now boucing has you know… but things like remote phosphor from companies like …
Jem Schofield: Now we have some really interesting things like FLEx light from… It’s a completely flexible water resistant LED light source which you can basically gaffer tape onto the wall and the same or better output than a regular by one LED light, so some exciting stuff. …the one behind me is from icam, built other companies… and they’re edge based LEDs, so they just basically glow a flat panel, kind of like what… but you don’t see the individual tiny dots, so it just feels like soft panel… Lighting is getting pretty exciting.
Mike Horton: Jem, we’re having a little bit of audio breakup on your end. If you have any apps or browsers or anything open, can you turn them off and just leave Skype? That might help.
Jem Schofield: I only have Skype open.
Mike Horton: Oh, you do? Then it’s your fault.
Jem Schofield: Only Skype and… I can’t wear the headphones. It’s blasting through. I don’t know what’s going on. It might be a little iffy so I’m going with the flow.
Mike Horton: Ok, well, that’s where we’re going through.
Larry Jordan: I want to talk about theC47 that you started, but before we do could you define – because I think it’s a great story – where C47 came from?
Jem Schofield: The most common story?
Larry Jordan: We’ll take the most common, but the one you want to tell, whichever.
Jem Schofield: I think the most common one goes back to the golden age of Hollywood and white items to be reimbursed for budgets on feature films and people using clothes pins to hold gels and diffusion on barn doors on lights, and then putting in to be reimbursed for clothes pins and getting rejected and resubmitting under C47s, and probably jacking up the price by ten, 20, 100x and getting reimbursed no problem.
Larry Jordan: I’d always heard that clothes pins were a line item in a grip catalog and it was the product number for clothes pins in a grip catalog, but I like your story too.
Jem Schofield: I’ve heard that one too and I’ve also heard that there were pins in the military, out the planes pins and clothes pins also labeled C47s, so there are lots of myths and it’s good that way.
Larry Jordan: Tell me what theC47 is and why you started it.
Jem Schofield: I started theC47 really because I’d been an educator already… for a long time in the post production space, but I had been producing during production and I realized there were sort of… 5D Mark II. There was a black hole in terms of production based training so there was very little going on, even… lighting, camera movement, any of those things, and so I started theC47. I started to do a daily video podcast back then five days a week over 3½ years.
Larry Jordan: When you’re putting these educational programmes together, what’s the focus in terms of what subjects are you trying to teach? Describe a typical student.
Jem Schofield: It depends on where I’m teaching. At NAB, it’s really at the highest level students that I’d be teaching because it’s usually working professionals who are going about their craft on a daily basis and they’re either coming on their own or they’re being sent by the company they’re working for to get trained in post-production posts. I think both of you have probably noticed a trend in the corporate world where, because there’s so many video footage going out that’s being produced, they’re bringing in in-house producers to start with and then they’re building teams of in-house production departments, and so I’m seeing that. I’m seeing Google… Sci-Fi Channel…
Jem Schofield: I went down to Mali where we did on-site training to about 12 people there, producing seven to ten videos a day, so we’re seeing a big change. But education is important in this place and, while in the beginning when the 5D Mark II came out while we were transitioning from… production… because now cost of entry was even lower. We’re really seeing it again now so I’m seeing a lot of producers, I’m seeing a lot of DVDs and sometimes I’ll run programs for people who are just beginning and some are…
Jem Schofield: Then at NAB, I’m teaching people who have been at it for a long time. Maybe they’ve been doing something the same way… I can show them that. Working with negative field photographers and other… and also ways to move their camera, more cinematic, integrating tools like motion control systems from companies like Kessler, free fly systems, MoVI and shoulder mounted rigs, which have been used since forever… what are clients looking for in a frame and it’s not shooting at…
Larry Jordan: Are you finding it easy or hard to get people to attend face to face training? Mike is always remarking on how challenging it is to get people to come out and participate in activities with a group. I was wondering if you’re finding the same situation with your clients.
Mike Horton: Yes, how was attendance at Post Production World this year?
Jem Schofield: It was very good. It dipped a few years ago, but I think that dip was overall for the conference. But it’s been a healthy attendance, as far as I can see from the numbers in my classroom. My classes average about 100 to 150 people in a class at Post Production World. …is a hot topic, a mystery topic, but I think it also brings a lot of… to the seats. I think we’re in better shape in production than we are in terms of trends we’re seeing happen with post production training. I think that’s largely moved to an online distribution model.
Mike Horton: But you do that too, don’t you? You have video tutorials up there for people to watch.
Jem Schofield: I do. They’re not paid, though, so I think that’s a little different. What I try to do is I try to produce educational content either through theC47 or, fortunately by producing and hiring things like Canon, that is… I believe in the models that… and have, but they’re just not the model that I’m in and I think there’s definitely an expectation from an audience’s standpoint that they would rather have… content and be able to learn and not pay for it.
Mike Horton: Anything above free is expensive.
Jem Schofield: Pay for content, though there are corporations and companies that are definitely set up and willing to do that and again some of the models are out there, so it’s an interesting space.
Larry Jordan: Interesting is a very interesting word to use. Fascinating is another one and terrifying is a third that comes to mind.
Jem Schofield: The third one, yes, that third one I can say.
Mike Horton: Terrifying, for sure. I’ve got to make a living!
Larry Jordan: Yes, bills are due. You just won an award for some of your lighting products. Are my notes incorrect here?
Jem Schofield: No, they’re correct.
Larry Jordan: What did you get?
Jem Schofield: New…com awarded Westcott, a company that people have probably heard of, best lighting product and it was specifically for a new lighting control system that they’ve released that I had a lot to do with called Scrim Jim Cine, the evolution of the Scrim Jim line, and I’ve been working with them for close to ten months – I’ve been using their products for years – and I was able to design two specific kits for them based around this new system.
Jem Schofield: One of them is a DP kit, it’s a portable four by four foot frame that breaks down into 20 two inch tubes; and the other one is a four by six foot… kit and they’re really designed for small to medium sized productions, easy to travel with and allow people to get consistently great results, not just using Westcott’s lights but anybody’s lights to really bump up their productions and production value.
Jem Schofield: Yes, it’s kind of nice but it’s just the beginning. They’re probably going to come out… final tweaks and I actually have… game plan the next six to eight weeks so we can create… system, start to teach people how they work and do some sneak peeks on whatsapp.com… that whole system. Yes, it’s kind of cool
Larry Jordan: That’s very cool. Congratulations.
Mike Horton: Yes, congratulations.
Jem Schofield: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: We’ve got about two minutes left. What aspect of being an educator do you think is most valuable to your students? What do they turn to you for, rather than somebody else?
Jem Schofield: Well, I don’t know if it’s rather than somebody else, but I would say that I’m in it for the long haul. I’ve been doing it for 15 years. I’m passionate about education and I’m constantly learning myself so that I can teach people new skills. I would say in a classroom, I’m enthusiastic about people learning for application. This is a doingness business that we are in it’s not about passing tests.
Jem Schofield: It’s about every day is different and we’re problem solving and that’s how I approach my education. I don’t teach for an outline, though I always have an outline. I teach for the people in the room and I think that’s why people come back, because I’m here to give them everything I can with the time that I have and hopefully they’ll walk away having a different viewpoint or having learned a new skill that they can actually apply to the work that they’re doing. That’s probably what.
Larry Jordan: That’s very cool.
Mike Horton: But you don’t get 150 people in your class at Post Production World unless you’re good.
Larry Jordan: That’s for sure.
Mike Horton: And Jem’s one of the best.
Larry Jordan: Jem, where can people go on the web to learn more about what you’re doing?
Jem Schofield: Easily, at thec47.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s thec47.com and Jem Schofield is the founder of theC47. Jem, it’s been a delight visiting. Thank you so much for your time.
Jem Schofield: Thank you Larry, thank you.
Mike Horton: Thank you, Jem.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
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Mike Horton: A wide angle lens, I think.
Larry Jordan: It’s our brand new hidden in the rafters camera.
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Sam Mestman is the workflow architect for FCPWORKS, a leading integrator for the Final Cut Pro 10 platform. He’s also the CEO of We Make Movies, the world’s first community funded production company. But he has an even deeper secret, which I’m going to tell you about in just a minute. Hello, Sam, welcome back.
Sam Mestman: Hey, Larry, how you doing?
Mike Horton: Hey Sam.
Larry Jordan: We are doing great.
Sam Mestman: Oh, hey Mike.
Mike Horton: Yes, I’m here.
Larry Jordan: Sam, let’s get right to the star part of this. You were involved in setting up the workflow for the recent Will Smith film, Focus. What did you do?
Sam Mestman: It was a privilege to go and work with all the guys from Focus. We basically put together the workflow to allow the first group of editors in to edit a studio feature on Final Cut 10 and the truth of the matter is we proved that you can do it and it was a pleasure to work with Jan Kovac, Glenn Ficarra and the team to go and make this thing happen.
Sam Mestman: What I did was largely help the studio approve the process and then was there during production and then on through post. I remember we had a bit of a conversation while I was there in New Orleans as that was happening that I guess we can now talk about. That was right before you were at, I think, IBC?
Larry Jordan: Yes.
Sam Mestman: So that was right when that was happening, almost two years ago now, and now the movie’s out and it’s pretty clear that this actually did happen.
Larry Jordan: The film was edited in Final Cut Pro 10. Did they work with a custom version of Final Cut or was it off the shelf?
Sam Mestman: This was entirely off the shelf. This was shipping software throughout. There was no custom version. This is the way we made the movie and it got better as we went along. We transitioned from 10.9 to 10.1, when 10.1 came out, the library model, and we finished in 10.2 when it was all said and done.
Sam Mestman: I think the workflow grew and evolved as the software grew and evolved and we incorporated new tools like the Mac Pro and a new version of ExEn and Maverix and all of these other things. It was kind of a journey, I guess, from where we started to where we ended.
Mike Horton: Isn’t the rule as a consultant to tell your people that they’re not supposed to upgrade during a project?
Sam Mestman: Well, in the Final Cut 10 world, we do things a little bit differently. The truth of the matter is there were some very clear reasons why we made those decisions and there were clear workflow reasons. It was a judgment call, definitely, but the fundamental app and the way that things worked shifted so much between 10.9 and 10.1 that it was a call that we had to make, although we did not take it lightly.
Larry Jordan: Workflow is a delicate balance between engineering and editing. What makes the creation of a workflow so interesting to you?
Sam Mestman: I think the most important aspect of workflow is figuring out how to get in the shortest way from Point A to Point B and it’s not just about the software you use, it’s how you’re going to get from set to the DIT to dailies to editorial to sound to color to VFX – what is your pipeline? Assembling that and going from department to department and figuring out the best way to do that for a team is what’s really interesting on the workflow side.
Sam Mestman: It’s not just about, “Well, we’re going to edit here, we’re going to do this many revisions and this is the process.” It’s literally how you’re going to take this thing that’s shot on set and get it up onto a screen in front of millions of people and I think there’s a lot more to that than just what NLE you’re using.
Larry Jordan: Oh, I’m a firm believer that there’s a whole lot more than just the software you use for editing. Thinking of that, part of what makes editing such a challenge is the amount of storage that we need for our products; and I can’t anywhere on the web today without reading about this shared storage product you announced yesterday. Tell us about it.
Sam Mestman: Well, actually, it’s kind of interesting. Mike, you saw this in person last night, but it’s right here – this is it.
Mike Horton: It’s a big box. It’s a huge box.
Larry Jordan: It’s got blinking lights on it.
Mike Horton: It’s got blinking lights. Or do those lights blink?
Sam Mestman: You’ve got the blinking lights and it’s a box. That’s literally all it is. It’s simple. Most people are used to seeing a giant rack and a chassis and all of this other stuff and it’s loud. I’m doing this interview right now, do you guys hear a server going?
Larry Jordan: No I don’t.
Mike Horton: Yes, we had this set up last night with about seven computers and seven monitors and this box. You couldn’t hear a thing and that was in a small intimate place.
Larry Jordan: But Sam, it’s a server. Why should we care? I mean, it’s just yet another server, is it not?
Sam Mestman: Well, you could say that about anything, but what it really is is a collaborative workflow solution that allows a group of editors to work with their Final Cut 10 libraries on the server, which I think is a fundamental difference to what most people currently are able to do; and not only that, but we were shooting out 84 streams of 4K across six machines last night, so the power in the group with the… you can do at the price point that we’re delivering at, I would love to see someone else show me a better solution. We designed it because we were looking for a solution that didn’t currently exist on the market.
Larry Jordan: So when you say ‘we’, who’s ‘we’ and does this thing have a name? Or is it just the big box with green lights?
Sam Mestman: I literally just pushed publish and I think there are a couple of changes that I need to make on the new site, so the official promotional flyer is there for the Lumashare, which is what this is called, and I think you know Neil Smith pretty well, and this is from Lumaforge. Neil Smith is actually the designer and he is the person who put the pieces together and I kind of came in and helped refine the workflow and how this might work for a Final Cut 10 user and really, to be honest, the creative work group in general.
Sam Mestman: This works just fine with Premiere, Resolve etcetera, it’s not just for Final Cut 10, but it is optimized for it. It is lumaforge.com and I’ve got a couple of revisions to make but it’s launching on May 1st, so that is when the new site’s going to debut. We’ve got a little bit of a placeholder with the announcement now and I’m looking forward to seeing the video from last night, but we’re really excited about it.
Mike Horton: Is there anybody actually using this yet, Sam?
Sam Mestman: There is, actually. He was there last night. You know Chuck Riverman?
Mike Horton: Yes. Well, we all do.
Sam Mestman: So Chuck Riverman has this in his office currently and Patrick Southern, who was helping us with the demo last night, is putting it through its paces and this is in the wild, it’s working and we’re looking forward to hopefully a lot more in the wild.
Mike Horton: And it’s pretty much plug and play.
Sam Mestman: It’s as plug and play as collaborative workflow gets. It ships with IPs built in. You can connect clients immediately. If you’re going to go into Final Cut 10, there are a couple of things that we want to do for reader optimize, but aside from that you can go and be up and running out of the box. It’s configured for you.
Larry Jordan: Very quickly, about how much storage and what price range?
Sam Mestman: Ok, so HD workflows start from about $9,000 and 4K workflows start from about $23,000. Basically, depending on what type of drives and how many users, the price is going to fluctuate. You can also do SSD workflows and those prices start at around, I think, $50,000. But I think the sweet spot for 4K is 2½ inch drives. Nine to 15 3½ inch drives, 36, sorry Larry.
Larry Jordan: Sam, I’m going to cut you off. Where can people go on the web to learn more about this toy?
Sam Mestman: Lumaforge.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s lumaforge.com. Sam Mestman is a workflow architect for FCPWORKS. Sam, thanks for joining us today.
Sam Mestman: Thanks for having me, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Mike Horton: Thanks, Sam.
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Mike Horton: Oooh, dramatic pause.
Larry Jordan: It’s nice to finally see somebody in studio.
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Bryan McMahan is a feature film colorist at Modern VideoFilm who’s collaborated with talented cinematographers such as Emmanuel Lubezki and director Terrence Malick. He works on productions such as Knight of Cups and Tree of Life; we talk with him tonight about his amazing work color grading Knight of Cups. Hello, Bryan, good to have you with us.
Bryan McMahan: Thank you, nice to be here.
Larry Jordan: Bryan, what first got you interested in the process of light and color?
Bryan McMahan: Oh boy, I started doing color when really digital color first started off. No-one really knew where it was going at the time and I did a little bit of film timing to learn from those guys, who were the masters.
Larry Jordan: Now, what does film timing mean?
Bryan McMahan: Film timing is the old timing for a film, no digital. You’re on a Hazeltine, I don’t know what it’s called now. You’re using lights – red, green, blue or yellow, magenta, cyan, depending on where you are – and it’s manual light timing of film.
Larry Jordan: So you would shine a faint red light through a film to give it more of a red color?
Bryan McMahan: You would look at a monitor but you were changing the red/green/blue, you had from zero to 50 lights. If you wanted to brighten everything, you just turned them all up or down, depending on what element you were on, and the whole image would either get lighter or darker. If you wanted to warm something up, you would add red and it’s an overall cover. Nothing like digital.
Larry Jordan: It sounds like you get it right or you screw it up.
Bryan McMahan: Yes, yes.
Larry Jordan: And you can’t change your mind.
Bryan McMahan: You’re a little limited.
Mike Horton: Yes, no wonder these guys were the masters.
Bryan McMahan: Yes, yes.
Larry Jordan: So what did you do with Knight of Cups?
Bryan McMahan: I got involved in the very beginning. Terry and Chivo asked me to do the dailies. It was in edit for about a year and Terry is going to get used to the look of the dailies, so we wanted to make sure that everything, all the dailies were done right, that the look was what was intended so that when we did the final color it was what everybody was used to.
Larry Jordan: You were color grading on set?
Bryan McMahan: No, they were shooting locally, I would do it every morning, kind of like the old traditional dailies.
Larry Jordan: But you were color grading before they would review the dailies.
Bryan McMahan: Yes, yes.
Larry Jordan: That’s a lot of pressure to get it right, isn’t it?
Bryan McMahan: Yes. Well, Chivo and I talked almost every day and I would send in stills. The movie was shot with various formats, so I would send them off stills every day of what we were doing and he would call me if he had any changes and we’d take it from there.
Mike Horton: Were there big changes from day to day? Or was it pretty much just matching day to day, so that what you did last Tuesday is the same as Thursday?
Bryan McMahan: The film is not necessarily like a traditional film where you have a whole scene in one area and then you move to another area. It bounces around a lot. If there was something specific they were looking for, then we would talk ahead of time. But Terry goes for what he calls a no look look, so he’s not trying to make it very warm or very colorful, very dark, very moody. It’s pretty much like looking out of a window, so in that respect it wasn’t that difficult, for dailies at least, to just do a normal pass on it.
Mike Horton: Yes, well he shot in, what, 35 and he shot in 65 and he shot in different formats throughout the whole shooting of the movie, right?
Bryan McMahan: Yes, every day I would I have not a lot of 65 but every day we would have 35 millimeter, ARRI and GoPro.
Mike Horton: GoPro?
Bryan McMahan: GoPro, a little bit of Blackmagic here and there, pretty much whatever they could throw at it.
Larry Jordan: How hard was it to work with all those different formats? They all start from a different place.
Bryan McMahan: They do. It wasn’t bad once you establish a look for it. The GoPro is a little bit limited as far as what I can do, but it’s amazing how well it cut together. Every day, I would sit and watch a 15 foot screen and I’d do the 35 millimeter and then I’d do the ARRI and then I’d do the GoPro and it all kind of flowed together pretty well.
Mike Horton: Why so many different formats?
Bryan McMahan: Different look.
Mike Horton: Just one of those different looks.
Larry Jordan: A different looks, but you want it to all look the same. How do you reconcile those two sentences?
Bryan McMahan: Well, the GoPro, obviously, with the lens difference, it has a different look. They can throw it around, do things that they can’t do with everything else. The ARRI is a beautiful low light camera, but nothing can catch the bright, the highlights like film.
Mike Horton: I’m finding this interesting because he used an ARRI digital camera, is that what you’re saying? The Alexa, and then I always thought Terrence Malick was a bit of a film snob like Quentin Tarantino and they just wouldn’t shoot digital. But he obviously wanted that look.
Bryan McMahan: Yes, yes.
Mike Horton: If there is such a thing, because I can’t tell the difference. Maybe you can. That Alexa and the RED, they’re very cinematic looking cameras.
Bryan McMahan: They’re great cameras. They are.
Larry Jordan: We have a live chat going and Sore Feet’s asking is there a certain film type or a certain camera format that you really like to work with?
Bryan McMahan: I love film. 65 is great but you don’t see it very often.
Mike Horton: Yes, you’re like one of the last people actually to be able to work on that. That’s really cool. There’s nobody who’s using it.
Bryan McMahan: It’s amazing, yes.
Mike Horton: Christopher Nolan, maybe, and a couple of other people and that’s about it.
Bryan McMahan: Yes. I like the ARRI. I just like the look of the ARRI. But, like I said, you just can’t get the highlights like you can on film.
Larry Jordan: Now, when you’re shooting with ARRI, are you shooting a RAW format or are you shooting one of the baked in formats? And, if so, is there a special trick to working with RAW?
Bryan McMahan: No, there’s no special trick necessarily. On this picture, we did all RAW, so we took the RAW ARRI, I used an ARRI LUT, just a standard ARRI LUT. Sometimes I go without a LUT, it depends on the scene. It’s pretty standard, really, but I like to work with the RAW as much as I can.
Larry Jordan: Because?
Bryan McMahan: If I need any handles of exposure or anything like that, I can get to them. I’m not limited by somebody’s idea of what I should be looking at, which is what happens with LUTs.
Mike Horton: A lot of colorists say that. That’s kind of interesting.
Bryan McMahan: Well, especially if you were messing with them in the early days, most LUTs were film based in the early days, so I’d get a LUT and it would force me into a film kind of area… It’s somebody else’s idea of how things should look and it’s a great tool, but I find myself more and more not using them at all.
Larry Jordan: Seeing as your job is to create the look, you’d want to be as unrestrained as possible.
Bryan McMahan: Exactly.
Larry Jordan: Sore Feet is also asking how you’re coping with the under film.
Mike Horton: You don’t sound like you care. You sound like a digital guy.
Bryan McMahan: I love film. Look, film’s going to be around. We’re still doing a lot of the older movies, we’re doing restorations on them.
Mike Horton: Yes, thank goodness.
Larry Jordan: Can’t light those, though.
Bryan McMahan: Oh boy, they’re beautiful.
Larry Jordan: Some of the black and whites are just stunning.
Bryan McMahan: Oh, we just did Thin Red Line and it’s just gorgeous. But I really like the ARRI.
Mike Horton: You just remastered Thin Red Line? It’s not that old a movie.
Bryan McMahan: We just did a 4K DCP. It’s beautiful.
Mike Horton: Oh really? Wow.
Bryan McMahan: But the ARRI is great with low light and things like that. It’s a great camera, but it doesn’t quite have the range of film.
Mike Horton: I’m telling you, only you guys and cinematographers can see that. I just can’t see it. I love going to the movies now, when you can go to a movie two weeks after it’s opened and there isn’t a hair or a split or any of that stuff, it’s just a nice clean, crisp image and I love it, so I don’t miss film at all.
Bryan McMahan: I miss film as a pick-up, as a recording medium, as a capture. Personally, I don’t miss film prints that much.
Larry Jordan: Yes, true, true. Tell us about what Knight of Cups is about and how did you achieve a no look look?
Mike Horton: Yes, tell us what it’s about. Tell us what that movie’s about, will you?
Larry Jordan: Just a summary for people who may not have yet seen it.
Bryan McMahan: It’s a guy who’s wandering through life, much like we do when we walk outside and we’re just thinking to ourselves. The no look look, like I said, is like looking out of a window. It’s like looking at each other. It’s not anything specific – don’t make it dark, don’t make it light, don’t go colorful or not colorful, just natural, as natural as we can make it, which is actually a lot harder to do than giving something a look.
Larry Jordan: Why’s that?
Bryan McMahan: Because when you give something a look, let’s say we’re going to make this area very warm and desaturated. We give it that look and it’s kind of easy, everything is warm and desaturated. You have a little bit of a crutch, almost. To give something a no look look on a continuous basis when you’re bouncing from different areas, it’s tough.
Mike Horton: When you go to see a Terrence Malick movie, you never sit there and go, “That’s really a no look look.” There’s always a look to a Terrence Malick and it has something to do with where they’re placing the camera and where the angles are and everything else. But he has definitely got a style.
Bryan McMahan: Oh yes, yes, and you have Chivo shooting it. I mean, it’s beautiful stuff.
Larry Jordan: Thomas also in our live chat is asking, when you say ARRI, you mean the ARRI Alexa?
Bryan McMahan: The Alexa, yes.
Larry Jordan: He just wanted to be sure and he was confused.
Bryan McMahan: Yes.
Larry Jordan: What software were you using to create the look for dailies and how did you prevent that from baking into the clips so that you could go back to the RAW and update it later?
Bryan McMahan: In the dailies process, we were scanning film at 2K. We were on a Colorfront. We were scanning the film at 2K and obviously the ARRI was what it was, but none of that was used when we did the final. We scanned all the film at 4K.
Larry Jordan: Did they all get scanned at the same time or did you only scan the stuff you were going to use?
Bryan McMahan: Just the stuff we were going to use. There’s a lot of film. I think it was about a 45, 48 day shoot and we were doing about three to five hours of material a day.
Larry Jordan: Oh my goodness.
Bryan McMahan: Yes, it’s a lot of stuff.
Mike Horton: Of film?
Bryan McMahan: Well, that’s everything.
Mike Horton: Oh, that’s everything, ok.
Larry Jordan: With the color grade at the end, what software?
Bryan McMahan: The Resolve, Blackmagic Resolve.
Mike Horton: Is that your baby? Is that your favorite? Have you worked on any of the others?
Bryan McMahan: Oh yes.
Mike Horton: Any of the big guys?
Bryan McMahan: Yes.
Mike Horton: The $200,000 Pablos or whatever they’re called.
Bryan McMahan: Yes. I’ve probably been on at least a dozen platforms over the years. I’m an old DaVinci user. I ran a different system for a while, I ran a Baselight for a while. It’s what you’re used to. They’re all good, they all have their good points. I like the Resolve.
Mike Horton: Do you like what Resolve is doing now, putting it into a fully fledged editing system within the program? That doesn’t get in your way, I’m assuming?
Bryan McMahan: I don’t do a lot of conforming myself. A lot of the guys do that ahead of time. I am working in clip mode, so I do need to be aware of what’s going on that way, but the editing is not something that I get into that much.
Larry Jordan: You talked about doing dailies at 2K and the final color grade at 4K. Does resolution make a difference in your color grade?
Bryan McMahan: No, not in my color grade, but remember, especially with film, we scanned everything at 2K. Well, now, this is a year or two later, now we’re scanning everything at 4K. They don’t match. I have to go by memory or how we did it the first time.
Larry Jordan: Why wouldn’t they match?
Bryan McMahan: It just doesn’t. In a perfect world, yes.
Larry Jordan: All right, that solves that.
Bryan McMahan: Yes.
Larry Jordan: The other question that we’ve got from Sore Feet, he said there were a lot of wide angles shot in Knight of Cups. Do wide angles make any difference to you? Does the angle of the shot make a difference when you’re coloring?
Bryan McMahan: Not really, no. Obviously there are differences in the cameras, but the angle or the subject, no. It’s all pretty much the same kind of thing.
Mike Horton: What makes a great colorist? What makes you able to work with Terrence Malick and not get fired?
Bryan McMahan: Well, Terry’s a real easygoing guy.
Mike Horton: No, but obviously you’re good at what you do. What makes a good colorist?
Bryan McMahan: Communication, I think, more than anything. I mean, you have to know what you’re doing but it’s how do I.
Mike Horton: It’s got to be more about learning. I know the tool but I was looking for those things that we can’t see?
Bryan McMahan: Yes, it’s pretty much how do I see what you have in your mind? What color is in your mind?
Larry Jordan: Oh, that’s easy. How do you see what he has in his mind?
Bryan McMahan: Well, if you explain a scene to me, I have to pretty much feel what you’re thinking, get an idea of what you want to see. That’s probably the trickiest part of it.
Larry Jordan: So how do you want the director to talk to you? Is he describing it in terms of food or in terms of emotions or colors?
Bryan McMahan: Oh boy, I’ve heard everything.
Larry Jordan: But what do you like? What seems to communicate with you? Because no director’s going to be able to talk color the way you’re going to want to think color.
Bryan McMahan: It’s pretty easy to get the point across usually. The hardest ones are when people don’t know. They just go, “It doesn’t look right, I don’t know why. Fix it.”
Larry Jordan: Oh, that’s helpful.
Bryan McMahan: Yes, and I’ve heard that a lot over the years, but usually it’s.
Mike Horton: That’s how directors talk to actors. “I don’t know, just do it better.”
Bryan McMahan: Yes, yes, exactly.
Larry Jordan: Do it differently.
Mike Horton: Yes, do it differently.
Bryan McMahan: It’s communication. It’s more communication than anything else, just talking about it.
Larry Jordan: Starting how soon? How much time do you want to think about a color gradient?
Bryan McMahan: Well, on this picture we talked a little bit about it in the beginning and then we just started in. I’m lucky, I’ve been able to work with these guys on a few pictures, so…
Mike Horton: But a lot of times, and I’m sure this has happened in your career, you work with these guys and they tell you what they want and then they go off and do another job and they don’t come back until whenever and you’re left to your own devices and hope to God it works, because they’re just not there all the time.
Bryan McMahan: That’s a lot of it.
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: What to you is the most fun as you’re grading a picture? And give us the opposite side, what’s the most difficult? What’s the most fun?
Bryan McMahan: When I have the director and the DP in the room, I can nail it if I’ve got them there. Sometimes when they’re not around, I don’t have any input, I’m guessing. It’s easier on a digital capture to do that, it points you in the right direction, but on film scans it’s a little more difficult.
Larry Jordan: And what’s the most difficult? Just when they’re not there? Is there a particular part of the job that’s trickier than others?
Bryan McMahan: No, it comes down to, once again, communication. Some people know how to communicate. They don’t have to tell me exactly. I’ve worked with two directors who are brothers, on two different pictures, and they both used salmon, they said, “It needs more salmon,” but they both have a different idea of what salmon is, so it’s figuring it out and getting a feel for what they’re going after. But some people just don’t know how to communicate, they just don’t know what it is that they’re looking for.
Mike Horton: What’s your favorite reference monitor?
Bryan McMahan: Dolby.
Mike Horton: Oh, that new one?
Bryan McMahan: Well, the Pollstar is great.
Mike Horton: That’s big bucks.
Bryan McMahan: Yes.
Mike Horton: Yes.
Bryan McMahan: Yes, I just did some work on it, it’s amazing.
Larry Jordan: For people who want to take a look at the kind of work that you and your company is doing, where can they go on the web?
Bryan McMahan: That’s a good question. I don’t really know.
Larry Jordan: How about mvf.com?
Bryan McMahan: Mvf.com, yes.
Larry Jordan: What a great answer that is. Stands for Modern VideoFilm, mvf.com and Bryan McMahan is a colorist and not a webmaster for Modern VideoFilm. Bryan, thanks for joining us today.
Bryan McMahan: Thank you very much.
Larry Jordan: Take care.
Larry Jordan: There’s never enough time to get everybody in and out of the studio. We have got to figure out a way to stretch that. Poor Mike is just dashing to get from one side…
Mike Horton: I could have done it in my 20s much faster.
Larry Jordan: Yes you could, and that was just a couple of years ago. Mike, did you notice the big gossip today is that Randy Ubillos has retired from Apple.
Mike Horton: Yes. I actually sent him a note and he wrote back, because the whole web is blowing up and…
Larry Jordan: Randy Ubillos is the principle designer for Final Cut 10, all the Final Cut series. He also designed Adobe Premiere, the first three versions of Premiere, designed Aperture.
Mike Horton: iMovies.
Larry Jordan: The industry is hugely indebted to the work that Randy did.
Mike Horton: Yes, and he’s going off to snorkel in a week.
Larry Jordan: To snorkel?
Mike Horton: He’s going to snorkel. He’s going diving, as he says, but it’s snorkeling, I said.
Larry Jordan: I can see it now, new software for deep sea diving coming shortly.
Mike Horton: Well, I’m sure we’re going to hear a lot about him for whatever he’s going to do and I don’t think retirement is the word.
Larry Jordan: No, sitting in a rocking chair does not strike me as something he’s good at.
Mike Horton: No.
Larry Jordan: The other big news is that it looks like Comcast and Time Warner are not going to be merging, according to Bloomfield.
Mike Horton: I didn’t find that as a shock, but I still kind of find it as a shock, because generally the government, for whatever reasons, allow these behemoths to merge, much to the chagrin of the rest of the world. But it isn’t going to happen.
Larry Jordan: Yes, that’s going to be an interesting time.
Mike Horton: Which is a good thing.
Larry Jordan: But Comcast owns NBC Universal.
Mike Horton: Unless you’re a Dodger fan, then it’s a bad thing.
Larry Jordan: Not that you have strong opinions on this.
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests for today’s show – Jem Schofield, the producer, director and founder of theC47; Sam Mestman, Final Cut workflow architect and founder of FCPWORKS; and Bryan McMahan, feature film colorist at Modern VideoFilm.
Larry Jordan: There’s lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com, including all of our NAB coverage. You can talk with us on Twitter, @dpbuzz, and Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com.
Larry Jordan: Our theme music is composed by Nathan Doogie Turner; additional music on The Buzz is provided by smartsound.com. Text transcripts are provided by Take 1 Transcription.
Larry Jordan: Our producer is the ever beautiful Cirina Catania. Our engineering team is led by Megan Paulos, and includes Alexia Chalida, Ed Goyler, Keegan Guy and Brianna Murphy. On behalf of Mike Horton, that’s him, my name is Larry Jordan; thanks for watching and listening to The Digital Production Buzz.
Mike Horton: Man, I’m going home to sleep. Goodbye.
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