Digital Production Buzz
April 30, 2015
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
(Click here to listen to this show.)
James Gardiner, The CineTech Geek
Jess Hartmann, CEO, ProMAX Systems
Justin Thomson, Founder, Ashridge Films
Larry Jordan: Tonight’s Digital Production Buzz is brought to you by Shutterstock and Other World Computing.
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Larry Jordan: Since the dawn of digital film making…
Larry Jordan: …one show serves a worldwide network of media professionals…
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Larry Jordan: …film makers…
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Larry Jordan: …and content creators around the planet.
Larry Jordan: 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, as ever, our co-host, Mr. Mike Horton.
Mike Horton: Hello everybody and hello Larry.
Larry Jordan: Good to have you with us. We’ve got a great group of guests tonight, starting with James Gardiner. He’s the CineTechGeek. He helps theaters transition from film to digital projection. His 30 years in the industry have focused on software development for digital cinema and content preparation. He joins us this week to discuss the recent CinemaCon conference and trends in digital cinema.
Larry Jordan: Jess Hartmann is the CEO of ProMAX, which has developed a series of products that enable backup and archive of valuable media assets. This week, he discusses techniques that we can use to safely protect our precious media assets long into the future.
Larry Jordan: And Justin Thomson is an actor and filmmaker with over 20 years of acting and producing experience. However, until this year he’s never attended NAB and, Mike, he’s never…
Mike Horton: Oh my gosh.
Larry Jordan: …attended the Supermeet.
Mike Horton: Oh my gosh.
Larry Jordan: He joins us in the studio this week to share his reactions and insight on these two key industry events and what they mean to young filmmakers.
Mike Horton: A little bit off his bucket list.
Larry Jordan: Mike, it’s an exciting time in the industry as manufacturers turn their promises into products. As you look back at NAB and the haze of Supermeet, anything special stick in the mind from the stage presentations that caught your attention?
Mike Horton: You mean the stage presentations on the floor?
Larry Jordan: Well, Supermeet, because I know you were really watching those closely.
Mike Horton: I love Cirina’s. I did. It’s not just because Cirina’s the producer of this show, but I really loved what she did because it was inspirational and also because she was the only woman on stage. You know how hard that is to get? It’s really hard to get a woman on stage; and not only at my local user group meetings, but at Supermeets.
Mike Horton: We were lucky and fortunate enough to have two great editors at the Amsterdam Supermeet, the ‘Star Wars’ editors, but it’s very difficult to get women because, you know, it’s a boys’ club. NAB’s a big boys’ club, so the more women you get on stage in front of other women, it’s really ,really important. So Cirina getting in front of those women empowered the women in the audience and she didn’t know that, but I knew that and it was a big deal and she was great.
Larry Jordan: That’s very cool.
Mike Horton: So I was very, very happy for her and for us.
Larry Jordan: What was the highlight of the Supermeet besides Cirina’s talk? You had 1200 people in the audience. What was it that got the biggest reaction?
Mike Horton: I don’t know because I’m so busy working backstage with the boys from Ripple Training because of 10.2. There were a lot of FCP X fans out in the audience. I didn’t know that and I didn’t think that there would be, but there were a lot of Final Cut Pro X fans and that’s a big difference between this year and maybe a couple of years ago.
Larry Jordan: Oh yes.
Mike Horton: And so that was surprising and they got a lot of applause. But quite frankly, and not to be politically correct, all the presentations were great. They were fun, which is what Supermeets are all about. You’re going to learn a little bit, but they’re fun.
Larry Jordan: That’s a cool thing. Remember to visit with us on Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. We’re also on Twitter, @DPBuZZ, and subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com for an inside look at both our show and the industry. Mike and I will be right back with James Gardiner after this.
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Larry Jordan: James Gardiner is one of the co-founders of DigitAll, a technology company that develops software and intellectual property for use in cinema exhibition. However, he’s better known as the CineTechGeek and for all the videos he’s created explaining digital cinema technology. Hello, James, welcome.
James Gardiner: Hello, Larry, how are you today?
Larry Jordan: Well, we’re talking to you, so that’s a great place to start; and thinking of that, what got you started as the CineTechGeek?
James Gardiner: Many years ago, I don’t know, about six or seven years ago, I started a company that was just doing the VPF contracts for Australia. The VPF contracts were where the studios would help cinemas transition to digital and at that time it was a very difficult thing for these cinemas to do because it’s like a completely different sort of model to what they’re used to, going from the cogs and wheels of cinema to basically an IT infrastructure and they had very little idea what was going on, so I basically took it unto myself to start making videos to try and help them understand and be informed about the technology that they were going to buy and hopefully hasten the transition, because it’s easier to transition to something that you understand than to something that you don’t.
Larry Jordan: You’ve been in software development for, gosh, 30 years I would guess. What is it that caught your attention about digital cinema?
James Gardiner: Well, you had black and white to color and you had the no sound and the talkies etcetera in the original days, those are historical transitions in the art of cinema, and I just saw that that was coming again, with the change from film to digital, and I wanted to be involved with it and to contribute to it because I thought it was such an historic thing to happen and I wanted to be there.
Larry Jordan: When I think about a theater – and this is because I don’t know as much as I should – you’re just taking out a film projector and putting in a digital projector. What makes the transition so much more difficult?
James Gardiner: Cinema is an art form and it’s something that people are extremely passionate about. For example, there has been lots of discussion about which is better, film is or digital, over the years and even now with Mark… I think the director’s name is, there’s lots of talk about him and he wants to stay on film and the studios are still keeping Kodak going for the next so many years because they want to keep access to that content or a capability to still create on film.
James Gardiner: It’s a very passionate thing and the industry still wants to hold onto it, and good on them for doing that. But going to digital for exhibition was such a big change for them that they needed help to understand it, we needed more understanding on how it was going to change the business, because it is completely different now in terms of what’s running up there in the bio booth. It’s nothing like it used to be and I wanted to help people to understand it, but as I kept making… I’d get more and more involved and deeper into the knowledge and the technology and right at this stage now, the digital transition is considered roughly done.
James Gardiner: In Australia it’s pretty much 100 percent done; in America it’s about 98 percent done. Only in Africa and some of those other countries they are around 85 percent, so realistically we are now digital in cinema and the interesting part of this year is that there’s a lot of focus shifting from all the changes happening in cinema now that we are all digital and more interested and movement happening to NAB, where we’re going to take advantage of being digital. High dynamic range, for example, was pretty much the topic of the show for both CinemaCon and NAB.
James Gardiner: If you were lucky enough to go to CinemaCon, you would have seen the Dolby cinema projector with the amazing contrast ratio. When they did a demonstration of that projector in the Coliseum at Caesar’s, they showed basically a typical projector and how the black levels were a certain brightness and then they showed the capabilities of the new Dolby projector and you literally heard the audience go, “Wow!” all at the same time because it was that impressive.
James Gardiner: High frame rates, for example, which is a capability that is coming via digital, there’s a lot of resistance to it and the industry isn’t really taking it on. High dynamic range, it looks like it’s completely the opposite. They seem to want to embrace high dynamic range and it’s probably going to push us quite fast into that sort of realm and there is an amazing amount of work being done by SMPTE and many organizations, trying to figure out how to get us there as soon as possible, especially the TV manufacturers who want to sell us new televisions. So it was a very interesting year this year.
Larry Jordan: James, I want to contrast something. NAB is a trade show which really focuses on the creation of content. How would you differentiate NAB, which most of us in the audience know, with CinemaCon, which most of us have not heard of. What’s the difference between the two shows?
Mike Horton: CinemaCon is specifically aimed at what I’d call exhibitors, the side of the business which shows movies to the public in the big theaters. CinemaCon is focused on them and how they do their business and their needs. There are lots of presentations there about how to market your cinema, there are popcorn manufactures, lots of seat manufacturers; all the things you would need to make a really nice cinema are there.
James Gardiner: As you could expect, the transition to digital was where it was focused and that’s where I was focusing. It’s a very niche market and that’s one of the reasons I focused on it, because there’s no-one else in the world really doing my sort of content, but I thought it was very much needed because we all love cinema and that’s where we see these images.
James Gardiner: You were talking about ‘Star Wars’. I was a kid, I was eight or nine when I saw it and that’s what made me fall in love with cinema to a degree, was that story on the screen that changed the way I thought about my life and what’s going forward. As you can see, it’s very important to many of us and I’ve really put it on myself to try and help those transitions and make that magic as magical as possible going forward.
Mike Horton: Yes, you bring up ‘Star Wars’, but wasn’t ‘Star Wars’ – at least the one that’s coming out here in December – shot on film?
James Gardiner: That one was still shot on film, yes, and there are lots of people who still make the decision to shoot on film. That’s a creative decision. We shouldn’t think of it as one’s better than the other, we should think of it as a creative decision and that’s one of the big things that I’ve found out that came up at the show, especially at NAB.
James Gardiner: With the advent of immersive audio, object based audio and all these new capabilities, high dynamic range etcetera, we now have so many options and so many new tools that we can’t really say one is better than the other or one should be used and one shouldn’t be used. We have to holistically take a look at it as these are now all tools in our filmmaker’s toolbox that we can take advantage of and that’s a good thing that I’ve actually seen over the last couple of years.
James Gardiner: The polarization of one technology being better than another technology needs to be put behind us. We need to basically just take all these technologies as a set of tools and make the best of all of them together.
Mike Horton: You talk about making videos to help the theater owners understand this whole digital projection system, but how hard was it to convince them to pay all the money to take all their film projectors out and replace them with digital cinema projectors, which are very expensive?
James Gardiner: It wasn’t an issue of convincing them, it was just a commercial reality that it had to happen. My main issue was that at the time there was a lot of misinformation around. I wasn’t really happy with the way some of these things were being sold and how some of these people who were new to this area were taken advantage of and realistically that’s one of the main reasons I started my videos. It’s why in a lot of them I say, “You need to make informed decisions,” because a lot of them weren’t being informed correctly, so I was hoping my videos would help combat that thing that I didn’t like happening in this market.
Larry Jordan: James, what were some of the subjects of your videos? What were some of the things you were talking about?
James Gardiner: This year in the videos I mainly talked about how laser is pretty much coming on – this was the year of the laser to a degree with the introduction by Barco of a full road map of lasers to replace the current Xenon based systems. This is quite a significant issue because it brings on another partial digital transition. In a couple of years, it has pretty much been indicated that Xenon lamps will no longer be viable, or lasers will be so much more efficient that you won’t be buying Xenon based projectors any more.
James Gardiner: But the whole industry… not selling Xenon projectors any more, that means, like film, Xenon lamps may eventually die out. At some stage in the next ten years, everyone will need to replace their projectors again because of that and that’s significant news that I covered and it’s the sort of thing I like to socialize with the cinema owners.
James Gardiner: As you know, when cinema converted, there were a lot of little cinemas which held fundraising to try and switch to digital because they weren’t really prepared for it economically and I don’t want that to happen again when something like this happens, so I’m trying to educate the market early, socialize it early so they do put $5,000 away per year so they know that when it comes to that next transition they’ve got the money, they can move forward and we don’t lose any screens. We don’t want screens going dark, as it’s mentioned in the industry.
James Gardiner: But also, there’s the fact that high dynamic range is coming, like was shown by Dolby. Very interesting. I’m not really sure how that’s going to affect the industry. I’ve got some videos coming out from Barco where we talk deeply about what is required for high dynamic range and the ins and outs and it gets very geeky. But if you’re really into that side of the market, the post-production side, the contrast ratios required, ambient light issues, having all these technical issues together and being standardized through SMPTE you’ll find all that stuff very interesting and this is going to shape how we see pictures on screens in the future, so it’s worth talking about.
Larry Jordan: I want to come back to this idea of high dynamic range. I had a chance to see a demo at Dolby probably nine months ago now, showing Dolby’s version of high dynamic range and you can almost feel the heat radiating off the sun or feel the coldness because the contrast ratios are so great and the images just scream off the screen. But don’t we have to shoot all new material to be able to take advantage of HDR?
James Gardiner: Not at all. Most cameras, 15 up stops, actually have enough information in those images for you to pull out a high dynamic range picture. You do have to take it to another grading process. For example, there were a number of demonstrations at the show where they had an original film that had gone through a typical post-production workflow and they give it back to the editor, give him a brand new high dynamic range monitor and they’re capable of regrading it to the capabilities of these new displays and new projects, and pretty much that’s what you need to do.
James Gardiner: The real work that’s going on in the standards community these days is more about this is going to affect you and your production workflow, you don’t want to have to grade the thing once for 709, once for high dynamic range, once for this light level for 3D, once for that light level for that etcetera. The proliferation of masters is becoming a big mad, it’s just crazy, so there’s a lot of work to try and come to standards so we know how we can go, for example, for a high dynamic range master and easily come out with standard def masters or processes to enable these masters to be displayed on these new higher grade monitors, which may be a certain percentage of P3 or 20,20 and there’s a lot of working being done there, because you don’t want to have to make masters for every type of capable monitor out there.
Mike Horton: Just quickly, you brought up the Xenon lamps and I think that probably every theater owner out there would love to have those things go away because they’re extremely expensive to replace. When do you see lasers coming in to fruition and replacing the current digital cinema projectors?
James Gardiner: Xenon lamps are not really that expensive compared to lasers currently. The current main lasers are known as the primary base lasers, where red, green and blue are created by sets of lasers and those in the big Christian Barco lasers that go to the super bright 60,000 lumes, they’re only really used for what’s called LPF or Large Premium Format, where you’ve got screens which are towards 30 meters, the biggest screens you’ve ever seen.
Larry Jordan: James, I’m going to need to wrap you up. Where can people go on the web to learn more about the stuff you’re writing?
James Gardiner: Well, I’ve started posting my NAB videos at cinematechgeek.com and also on youtube.com/cinematechgeek. I’ve posted three so far.
Larry Jordan: That’s cinematechgeek.com and James Gardiner himself is the CineTechGeek. James, we could talk for another 20 minutes on this. Thank you so very much for your time. Take care.
Mike Horton: I’ve got so many more questions!
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Larry Jordan: Jess Hartmann, the CEO of ProMAX Systems, has a strong background in computer engineering and is deeply involved in the development of products at ProMAX that help us to back up and archive our valuable media assets. Hello, Jess, welcome back.
Jess Hartmann: Hey guys, how you doing?
Mike Horton: Hi Jess.
Larry Jordan: We are doing great. For people who haven’t been paying attention, how would you describe ProMAX?
Jess Hartmann: I would say that ProMAX Systems is a manufacturer of workflow servers for the media and entertainment industry.
Larry Jordan: Which means that you both design and manufacture your own gear, or you’re reselling gear from others?
Jess Hartmann: We design and manufacture our own gear. As you guys know, we’ve been in the business since 1994 and there was a period of time when the original owner created it and I took over that it was really important for our business, but over the last three to four years we’ve really turned it back to being a manufacturer.
Mike Horton: Jess, that brings up the question. When did you decide, “We’re not going to do this VAR stuff any more. We’re going to manufacture our own thing and become a whole new ProMAX”?
Jess Hartmann: I decided, because I had to find my passion back, I’d been building technology and doing software development for almost 30 years now – I hate to say it – but about three or four years ago I was just working with customers and kind of got excited about doing some things that others weren’t doing in the industry and that was really around the idea of collaboration and improving workflows, and certainly you can do that with lots of third party products and putting them together as a VAR, but really the passion started when I thought we could create our own thing.
Mike Horton: Yes, you obviously did a heck of a job. But that was a risk, wasn’t it? That was a big risk.
Jess Hartmann: It’s called… the boats, right? On the beach, that’s what we did.
Larry Jordan: Oh, I can identify with those. One of the challenges that all media folks have is protecting their assets for the long term, not something that we just need for day to day but what we call archiving. Why can’t we simply store our media on a hard disk?
Mike Horton: Yes!
Jess Hartmann: Well, some of you can and for some of it, it works out. But then there are other people who try to spin those hard drives up and find out they don’t work any more or find out that after they stored their projects on them and they hadn’t backed them up, that there’s corruption and you can’t get the data back and so you know what happens. All three of us have been there.
Mike Horton: Oh, I got a story for you because I tried that two nights ago on a project that I needed to bring back onto my computer. It was stored on a hard drive that was left on my shelf for two years. I can’t get into it, I can’t do anything. I finally was told by somebody to put it into a refrigerator – no, seriously. I put it into my refrigerator, left it in there for eight minutes, took it out and it worked again. But that’s luck.
Larry Jordan: Those are frozen assets.
Mike Horton: That’s frozen assets.
Larry Jordan: Jess, walk me through – I want to read this so I get it right – walk me through a process, not in terms of equipment but of process. I’ve just completed my film, I’m starting to make money on it. What should I do that would allow me to make money on different versions of the film, in other words I’m going to cut it and cut it and cut it, depending upon who needs it. I want to sell my B roll to a stock footage house and, most importantly, I need to keep track of all the different media that I’ve created along the way. Help me as a filmmaker figure out what questions do I need to ask and what answers do I need to seek to be able to make money from my film in the future?
Jess Hartmann: I think you’re talking about figuring out how to monetize existing assets, and you’ve got to look at a system of organization to do that. Clearly, one project, no problem. Five projects, no problem. 20, 30, 40 projects, attempting to remember where everything is, attempting to be able to find that clip is pretty critical, so you need a system of organization, an asset management system of some form, and that can be done in a lot of different ways. We built it through our existing Viacom system, we built an asset management feature right into the shared storage device so that you can find stuff and you can get it out to the customers quickly.
Larry Jordan: So where do you fit in? Are you providing the hardware that this asset management system hangs off of? Or do you provide the actual software that allows me to track the assets? And what’s the difference between tracking assets during production and archiving assets for the long term?
Jess Hartmann: What we do is we build something called a ProMax platform, which goes all the way from a very portable device all the way through an online system that runs hundreds of users. It is a shared storage collaborative workflow server and I particularly call it a workflow server because what we are trying to do and what we do is, from ingest all the way through to archive, we’re going to manage that asset.
Jess Hartmann: We build the hardware, we build the software, we make an appliance and to me, in this industry, the reality is what creatives care about, what is important to them, is working on their craft and the result of their project. They’re not necessarily excited about being a technologist. I think most of us don’t want to be a technologist in this field, and so we built an appliance that’s going to take you from ingest to archive.
Larry Jordan: Now, when you say an appliance, what does that mean?
Jess Hartmann: It means hardware and software put together, tested through various different workflows that you can bring into your facility, plug in and begin to use. So you’re going to log into the thing, you’re going to have the authority to have asset management; if you ingest your clips into it just by copying your information onto the shared storage device, it’s going to index it and it’s going to generate proxies for it; it can set up transcode workflows so that media is transcoded into your mezzanine format; you can edit directly onto the system; you can transcode back out and all of that will be tracked in the asset management system.
Larry Jordan: And this works?
Mike Horton: Good question, Larry.
Jess Hartmann: Well, yes actually.
Mike Horton: We can’t accuse Jess of selling.
Jess Hartmann: Hey, it’s hard to be in the industry for 30 years unless you can figure it out, right?
Mike Horton: Absolutely.
Larry Jordan: One of the challenges we’ve got is with archiving, because there’s no media out there that allows us to store permanently forever and be able to pull it back. What media are you recommending for not day to day backups, but long term archives? What media are you recommending and how often do we need to update it because that media changes?
Jess Hartmann: I think LTO is still one of the industry standards. It’s accepted by insurance companies that insure projects. As you guys may know, last year we purchased Cache Corporation, which is an archive appliance organization, we purchased those assets and that software to be able to integrate it into our core platform product and we still believe that LTO at the moment is one of the better bets. It’s a 15, 20 year shelf life.
Jess Hartmann: It’s about a three model back approach, which means that if you’re LTO6, you can read back to LTO4, and so you want to stay within three models of the current LTO drive appliance and once you do that you’ll be able to read it. They say 15, 20 years as long as it’s stored in the right temperature environment kind of the cold archiving is probably going to last a lot longer than that.
Mike Horton: You know that in these secret labs in Japan, optical disks are 50 years.
Jess Hartmann: That’s right.
Mike Horton: I’ve heard that.
Jess Hartmann: That’s what they say.
Mike Horton: I have no idea if it’s true.
Jess Hartmann: …
Larry Jordan: But there’s a, I’m not going to say it’s a downside but it’s something people need to be aware of with LTO, is that about every 18 months we go from LTO5 to 6, from 6 to 7, from 7 to 8 and they’ve published the road map and said, “This is where we’re going,” so it’s not a surprise. One of the things that, as media creators, we need to pay attention to is that about every three to five years we’re going to need to buy a new LTO drive and migrate all of our assets. Is that still a true statement? Because we won’t be able to read LTO1s on LTO6 devices
Jess Hartmann: Yes, I think that’s true, but what you’ll find, Larry, is even though it’s been a cycle of 18 months, we’re starting to stretch that out. LTO7 is not really going to be available until the beginning of next year. The capacities are about doubling every time we go up to a next generation and so, although maybe we can get 2½ terabytes on a current LTO6 device and maybe we can get close to five plus on an LTO7, there’s a place here, unless we’re all storing everything in 4K, where you’re not going to have to continue to upgrade your drive. Your projects are going to be just ok on an existing drive.
Larry Jordan: But I think it’s important to note, and again you’re welcome to disagree with me, that we sort of need to in the back of our mind plan for having to upgrade our archives every period of time, whether that’s three years or five years or eight years, that we can’t just simply put the tape on the shelf and expect it to last forever.
Jess Hartmann: Yes. Well, I think the point is that it’s not going to last forever but it can last 15 or 20 years. Your issue is do you have a drive that’s going to be able to read it? So if you keep your same drive system in place and that drive system’s operating accurately, then you don’t necessarily have to re-archive stuff. But if obviously you can’t get hold of that drive any more or can’t use that drive any more, then you have to re-archive.
Larry Jordan: Let’s come back to keeping track of all these. We’re going to need to be able to keep track of our assets for productions on a daily basis. This is what asset management is all about; and then we need to be able to keep track of what’s on tape because we’re storing that for the long term, that’s what archive software is all about. Do your systems provide both daily asset management tracking and archiving? Or do they lean and specialize more in one than the other?
Jess Hartmann: As we bought Cache Corporation, we bought that for the purpose of integrating the Magic Veil TO management into our platform appliance, so today where those are somewhat separate in separate catalogs, within the year those will be integrated and so what that means is that as you have your shared storage, your collaborative environment, you’re putting your production on that, you’re working on it and ultimately you push it off to archive, all of that information that’s pushed off to archive, whether it be the metadata of the clips, the metadata of the project, all that information as well as proxies remain in the core system so that you can go in, look at those proxies even though the footage is on the tape.
Larry Jordan: Cool. I forgot to write down, as I was looking at your website, what this stuff costs and whether it can be afforded by independent filmmakers or do I need to have a studio behind me to buy it?
Jess Hartmann: The products range all the way from the portable which is just under $6,000, all the way through in a price level that’s going to run into six figures. But the core platforms are very affordable, especially to studios. You’ve got systems that are certainly less than $10,000 and we work pretty hard at not nickling and diming. You can look at base prices on a lot of systems and they look very inexpensive and then you start throwing everything in and it gets crazy. But when I give you those prices that includes all the software. It’s an appliance, so everything comes with it.
Larry Jordan: How about installation? One of the things that you mentioned, I think, that’s absolutely true, and we’ve discovered it here in our own office, is that we love doing all the editing and putting the projects together, but getting all this stuff hooked up and working requires a different set of brains. Can we get this appliance working ourselves or do we need to hire a consultant or your company to come in and put it together?
Jess Hartmann: As a manufacturer now, we have resellers and distributors in 22 countries and so we’ve got hundreds of resellers that are selling our product. We don’t typically do the installation or anything, we have resellers and there’s a huge network of folks that do this stuff. It is pretty easy to do, so many, many, many, many – I don’t know what the percentage is but I would say at least 50 percent – of the installations are plug and play, people buy them and they don’t need somebody to come on site and install. When we do larger organizations, then it’s an installation but mostly it’s just get it out of the box and turn it on.
Larry Jordan: You’ve done a really wonderful job, I think, of repositioning ProMAX as a developer of its own hardware and the platform is just a very cool product. Where are you taking it? Where’s it going to go in the future? What should we look forward to not necessarily in terms of product announcements, but what trends are you following?
Mike Horton: New cameras!
Jess Hartmann: New cameras, new codecs. I mentioned this at the NAB show: the reality is that, from my perspective – and if you saw the number of shared storage vendors that were at NAB, we had 34 shared storage vendors and I was watching The Buzz from last week and there was another one that just got announced that was on your show – the reality is that shared storage as a collaboration technology is becoming a commodity and, as a commodity, that means that the prices are going to come down, which is good for the community at large, but it doesn’t make it easier to use.
Jess Hartmann: Just because shared storage is available to everybody and it’s a commodity doesn’t mean it solves workflow problems and so where we’re taking it, where I’m taking it, where I’ve always wanted to take it is an intelligent appliance that really helps you through the workflow, really helps creatives who don’t want to be technologists with how to do this stuff, how to make this a very simple web interface, control your environment, be able to really get from ingest to archive more simply.
Mike Horton: Yes, it’s really hard to choose the right shared storage system because there are so many out there and everybody seems to be doing the same thing but they’re not doing the same thing.
Larry Jordan: You’ve only asked him the hardest possible question to answer with 30 seconds left in the show, so for people who need to know the answer to this…
Mike Horton: Well, can we bring him back?
Larry Jordan: We’ll bring Jess back but, Jess, where can people go on the web to get the answer to the question of why they should pay attention to ProMAX?
Jess Hartmann: They can take a look at our stuff at www.promax.com. What you’ll find is we concentrate on workflow, we don’t concentrate on the hardware, and at the end of the day what you need to do is improve your workflow process from ingest through to delivery so that you can get your projects done.
Larry Jordan: And that website is promax.com. Jess Hartmann’s the CEO. Jess, thanks for joining us today.
Mike Horton: Thanks Jess.
Jess Hartmann: Thanks, guys, see you soon.
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Larry Jordan: Then I figured, as long as I was recording, I added new techniques and new ways of working that I’ve discovered and written about in my newsletter over the years. We’ve updated our workflow in editing training with 31 new movies and effects with 41 new movies. This makes our Final Cut training the most comprehensive, most up to date and most affordable way to learn everything about this amazing software. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s complete.
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Larry Jordan: Justin Thomson is an actor. He’s a filmmaker and he’s the founder of Ashridge Films. He has over 20 years’ experience in the industry, but he’s never attended the NAB show, nor has he ever attended the Supermeet, if you can believe people like this still exist. So tonight we want to chat with him about his experiences and what he’s learned at both these events that applies to young filmmakers. Hello, Justin, welcome back.
Justin Thomson: Greetings.
Mike Horton: Hi Justin.
Justin Thomson: Yes.
Larry Jordan: I want to find out first, before we grill you on all of the things that you’ve learned, what was your overall impression of NAB?
Justin Thomson: Well, it was very exciting.
Mike Horton: Really?
Justin Thomson: Yes. I loved it.
Mike Horton: Actually, my first one was very exciting too. Go ahead.
Justin Thomson: Being a NAB virgin, the only thing that I found disappointing is I thought there’d be some sort of initiation thing, like ‘Burning Man’ has.
Larry Jordan: You just walk through the front door and you’re initiated.
Justin Thomson: Yes, but I thought we’d have to run a gauntlet naked with just our name tags and that was it, that you’d be part of it. But no, there’s this unique experience where, when those doors open, there is this huge flood of people because they want to know what’s on the cutting edge of the industry, what’s out there, what’s next. I thought it was amazing. As a filmmaker, it’s not only important to see what the technology is that’s coming up, but it’s meeting the people that are behind it and just spending face time so you can understand where the future of the whole industry is going.
Mike Horton: Did you have anything that you specifically wanted to see before you even got through the doors?
Justin Thomson: You.
Larry Jordan: You!
Justin Thomson: You.
Mike Horton: Good answer.
Larry Jordan: You poor guy, I’m so sorry.
Mike Horton: I don’t think this microphone is working. By the way, if it’s not working, guys, you can come in here. This is a live show and we can just make the thing work.
Justin Thomson: Or we could share. I’m willing to share.
Mike Horton: Or we can share, yes, all right.
Justin Thomson: We’ll go back and forth.
Mike Horton: No, I’m getting notes that say the mic’s not working, which doesn’t matter because nobody ever listens to me anyway.
Justin Thomson: It’s like you’re married to this microphone.
Mike Horton: So talk to Larry and I’ll just sit back.
Justin Thomson: You just look so pretty.
Mike Horton: Yes, exactly.
Larry Jordan: Before you walked into NAB, I’m sure people had told you that it’s an overwhelming experience, and it truly is, but what were you expecting before the doors opened and you saw the show for the first time?
Justin Thomson: What was I expecting? Well, I didn’t have anything particular, I wanted to be a totally open book. I knew that there were going to be amazing gizmos so for people like us, it’s almost like porn. You’re walking around and you’re like, “Oh my God, I love this, I want to look at this, I want to touch it. Can I play?” Shotover had that incredible aerial rig which is a half million dollar rig without the camera included – they’re competing with Cineflex – and you get to play around with this stuff. It’s awesome and not everybody gets to do that every day. It’s an exciting expo.
Larry Jordan: One of my favorite sections was the helicopter section, not drones but where they’ve got actual news helicopters and then the Belcher.
Mike Horton: Oh, you mean outside.
Larry Jordan: Well, actually it was in the back of Building C. They’ve moved it outside but it used to be in the back of the Central Hall; and then they had $6 million remote trucks just to track their trailers and I called my wife, I said, “Jane, I have to buy a helicopter.” Now, she’s very smart, she did not say no because she knows that I would have figured out a way to buy the helicopter. Instead, she says, “Larry, where are you going to park it?”
Justin Thomson: Oh, minor detail.
Larry Jordan: At that point, she had won the argument because I couldn’t park it in the backyard.
Mike Horton: That space in the RV lot just doesn’t work for a helicopter.
Larry Jordan: Now that you’ve attended NAB, what are some of the highlights that stick in your head?
Justin Thomson: There are a few. There was something called Supermeet, are you familiar with it?
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: A whole Supermeet.
Mike Horton: Did you actually go to that? I’m always backstage, so I never get to see anybody.
Larry Jordan: But hold the thoughts on Supermeet, I want to come back to that. I want to talk NAB for just a second.
Justin Thomson: Sure. At NAB, I found, of course obviously the drone section this year in particular…
Mike Horton: Wasn’t that fun?
Justin Thomson: …was incredible.
Mike Horton: Yes, it was really amazing. You never got up there, right? It was this big sort of…
Larry Jordan: Cage.
Mike Horton: …yes, netted kind of thing where the drones would be flying around while people would be talking about them. I was just hoping to see 50 drones just flying all…
Larry Jordan: Be crashing into each other.
Justin Thomson: Drone battles.
Mike Horton: Yes, exactly, drone battles. That would have been wonderful.
Justin Thomson: No, there were some amazing pieces of kit which were shown and one of the things that I think was most impressive was the Isotope RX4.
Mike Horton: Oh yes.
Larry Jordan: Mhmm, that’s amazing.
Justin Thomson: Unbelievable.
Mike Horton: That’s stupidly magical. It makes morons like me just…
Larry Jordan: Well, what you can do with it…
Mike Horton: You can really screw up in post production or production.
Justin Thomson: We don’t even have to do anything any more.
Mike Horton: Exactly.
Justin Thomson: There’ll be footage and everything, it’ll edit and do a storyline. It’ll be like a studio film. It’ll just happen.
Mike Horton: It is, it’s amazing.
Justin Thomson: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Now, the other part to NAB – and even though he’s here, we still have to talk about Supermeet – Supermeet is… well, what’s your reaction to it? How would you describe Supermeet to somebody who hasn’t been there?
Justin Thomson: How would I describe Supermeet to somebody who hasn’t been there? It’s a room full of cool nerds who are amazingly energetic and jazzed up. It was, and I don’t say this purely because you’re here…
Mike Horton: Well, you should.
Justin Thomson: Ok, I’m saying it just purely because you’re here.
Mike Horton: You say anything bad, I’ll throw this coffee in your face.
Justin Thomson: It is amazing. It is an excitement and an energy and through the presentations it’s a window to the future, like Isotope did the demonstration of the RX4 there, some of the Adobe stuff – I love the Adobe animation thing that they’re starting to develop.
Mike Horton: Wasn’t that amazing?
Justin Thomson: It’s incredible.
Larry Jordan: Mhmm, character animator, yes.
Mike Horton: Yes.
Justin Thomson: And you get to interact with…
Mike Horton: Or Morph Cut.
Justin Thomson: Yes, Morph Cut, incredible. So you get to interact with the people who are giving these presentations, like the guys from Brain Farm who are creating some of the best films that I think exist currently visually.
Mike Horton: I wish they would have shown more video. That’s the only thing that I didn’t like.
Justin Thomson: It’s unbelievable; and then there’s, of course, the raffle which is exciting and seeing people who literally, these incredible gifts are changing somebody’s life and potential career trajectory. It’s totally awesome.
Larry Jordan: Well, the reason I ask is, as you look around NAB and as you look around the Supermeet, it tends to skew a little older and for young filmmakers, they say, “Why should I even bother to go? It’s just a trade show,” how would you convince them that NAB and Supermeet’s a life changing experience?
Justin Thomson: You make a really good point. People just see it as a technical thing, it doesn’t apply to me as a filmmaker, as a creative. But these are the tools that we use in order to make the films and the better understanding you have of it, the more you can push the possibilities of getting your vision across and telling a story. It’s crucial to do it and you have to also develop the relationships in person with those people who create the products in order to give suggestions. I mean, I gave some suggestions to people who developed sliders and jibs. Combine those things, it’s an ideal possibility for brainstorming. It’s not just a trade show.
Mike Horton: Yes, there’s nothing like face to face.
Justin Thomson: Oh, totally.
Mike Horton: We tend to spend our lives virtually, you and I do. My son, who’s 25 years old, has gone to NAB a couple of times now. He’s an editor and he’s getting more out of those face to face meetings than he would from all this virtual stuff that he meets and sees on the websites and things like that, and that’s the big difference. You do have to force yourself and you do have to have a few bucks to go to Vegas and a lot of millennials don’t, so that’s the way it is.
Justin Thomson: You make a good point. You’re also going to Vegas, why would you not want to go? And there are some incredible parties. AJA threw an unbelievable party.
Mike Horton: Yes. Did you go to that one?
Justin Thomson: I did.
Mike Horton: Oh man! See, I’m too old to go to that party, they won’t let me in. Larry and I, we went together one time, they wouldn’t let us in.
Larry Jordan: It was how you were dressed, Michael.
Mike Horton: I think that was it. They said they saw your gray beard and my gray hair and they said, “No, you’re too old.” You couldn’t get past the ropes.
Justin Thomson: It’s only because they didn’t want you to show them up on the dance floor, that’s why.
Mike Horton: Exactly. White men can dance.
Larry Jordan: As you look at NAB and think of the toys and tools that you saw there, how would what you saw change your life as a filmmaker? What’s going to change your creative vision?
Justin Thomson: Big question. Well, I just realized that there are more tools with which I can capture images in a more cost effective way than ever before. I think when you look at Brain Farm, they make some incredible content, but part of what allowed them to achieve it is they said, “You know what? Let’s take a Cineflex system, which is normally just put on a helicopter, and we’re going to put it onto a truck and we’re going to put a Phantom into it and we’re going to be able to capture images in ways that we didn’t do,” and I think that kind of technology is a great example. It’s completely changed the way that they approach filmmaking and they’ve made it into something really special.
Mike Horton: They were one of the first to put the Phantoms on a drone.
Justin Thomson: Yes.
Mike Horton: Did you see that viral video they did with the truck going through the mud? It’s just so cool.
Justin Thomson: It was at Freefly, they had an Alexa attached to their giant drone…
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Wow.
Justin Thomson: …it was unbelievable.
Larry Jordan: But that was the drone that was about eight feet across, wasn’t it? I mean, that was huge.
Mike Horton: Yes, those things cost a lot of money. Those are octocopters or whatever the heck they are, they’re not those dinky little things with the GoPros. These are big, big expensive drones.
Justin Thomson: I asked if I could just attach a chair to it and then fly myself over 405 traffic.
Mike Horton: Did you find a toy that you really, really wanted or did you buy a toy while you were there?
Justin Thomson: I did not purchase a toy, no. The Shotover aerial rig, yes, I loved that, but half a million dollars is a little tricky.
Mike Horton: Really? Oh, ok.
Justin Thomson: At this point, you know?
Mike Horton: Yes. Who knows? Aim big.
Justin Thomson: But I think the 3DR solo drone was incredible, because what they’ve managed to do is they’ve made it very consumer friendly where they actually do camera movements that are pre-programmed into it so you say…
Mike Horton: Holy cow, really?
Justin Thomson: …”Ok, I want to have this swooping 360,” and I think they’re even including specific shots for movies, so you basically click on that and then the drone will perform that.
Mike Horton: Oh!
Justin Thomson: It’s amazing.
Mike Horton: Well, for that kind of money it’d better be.
Justin Thomson: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Mike is just unhappy that nobody bought him one for Christmas.
Mike Horton: No, we really wanted to show drones at the Supermeet but we can’t get permission to fly drones in the ballroom.
Justin Thomson: You know, one thing that I thought was really nice was at Supermeet, it’s not just technical presentations but like Cirina Catania’s presentation, which was about the support of filmmakers all together creating content and that we have each other’s back. That was beautiful.
Mike Horton: Yes, we have to thank OWC, because it costs to be on stage at a Supermeet and it costs a lot of money and they said, “Well, we just don’t want to get up there and sell hard drives. We want to be inspirational,” and they sent Cirina up there and it worked out just great, and we would love to have those kinds of presentations all the time but unfortunately they do have to sell product every once in a while. But it’s user driven, that’s the difference. It’s not marketing driven, it’s user driven. A user will get up there and say, “This is what works for me, this is how I did it and this is how it solved my problem,” and that’s kind of the difference between a Supermeet and a lot of other presentations.
Justin Thomson: Because one can identify with it.
Mike Horton: Yes, exactly. I’d rather listen to a user than a marketing guy.
Justin Thomson: Any day.
Mike Horton: Right. Right, Larry?
Larry Jordan: Well, I think most of the time that’s correct, because if all you’re doing…
Mike Horton: Although marketing guys know their stuff.
Larry Jordan: If all you’re doing is just pitching the product and not pitching the benefit of the product, then that’s no value. But I’ve listened to a lot of users talk.
Mike Horton: And some of them are good and some of them are not. Yes, I know.
Larry Jordan: But what you really want is you want to hear a presentation that talks about the benefits that you get from using something as opposed to it’s got this size and that speed. It’s how do I benefit by buying this toy? And the more that you remain focused on the benefits that you get, whether that’s a really smart marketing person or whether it’s a really smart user, but when you focus on the benefits then people tune in and pay attention.
Mike Horton: Very good point.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of other good points, NAB is not only about what, it’s also about who. We’ve already established the fact that Cirina has completely knocked the socks off the entire audience, but aside from Cirina who else at NAB or Supermeet impressed you? The who, not the what.
Justin Thomson: The who. I was very impressed with a couple of individuals. There was a gentleman from Panasonic, and I cannot remember his name now, but they have this 4K camera that’s not just your standard kind of kit but it’s perfect for documentary filmmakers because you have digital zoom included on… switch out lenses, everything like that, and he was a man who took the time and truly explained things. I thought he was awesome. And I know I keep going back to it, but there was a guy at Shotover who was probably the best pitch person I’ve ever met.
Mike Horton: Who was this?
Justin Thomson: I can’t remember his name.
Larry Jordan: What’s the company?
Justin Thomson: Shotover. They do these aerial stabilization kits and what’s special about them over Cineflex is they have an extra axis that they can rotate. I’m just a regular filmmaker, I’m not necessarily going to buy this, but it didn’t matter. He took the time and allowed me to engage with it. Now I’m the biggest fan of this company ever and I never knew they existed. I’m telling people if they’re like, “I need to buy a home video camera.” “Go to Shotover and get the aerial rig.”
Larry Jordan: Well, now that you’ve had to add two more suitcases to your luggage to fly home…
Justin Thomson: Yes.
Mike Horton: I’m looking at their website right now. Oh gosh! Yes.
Larry Jordan: Where can people go on the web to learn more about you and the projects you’re creating?
Justin Thomson: There are two places. One is the website, www.ashridgefilms.com; or Instagram, BJustincredible.
Mike Horton: I hate Instagram.
Larry Jordan: That website is ashridgefilms.com. Justin Thomson’s the founder of Ashridge. Justin, thanks for joining us today.
Justin Thomson: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: Michael, as you’re booking the Supermeet, who do you look for as a guest? What qualities are you looking for? Because clearly Justin was impressed.
Mike Horton: Well, we do actually send a one page thing on what works and what doesn’t and we do like user driven types of presentations because people can relate to users, like we all said. It’s one thing to have a marketing person up there who’s very articulate and is always going to be very, very good – for instance, Al Mooney from Adobe. You can’t get better than him and he can sell you a refrigerator in Alaska in the winter. He is passionate and he is good but users tend to relate better to the audience and that’s who we like.
Larry Jordan: More human.
Mike Horton: Yes, more human. This is my problem, this is what solved it, this is how it’s solved, and that’s the kind of demos I like.
Larry Jordan: That’s very cool. How long have you been doing Supermeets?
Mike Horton: 15 years.
Larry Jordan: Seems like 30, doesn’t it?
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: You got anything coming up that we should pay attention to?
Mike Horton: We might have an announcement next week.
Larry Jordan: Cool.
Mike Horton: So yes. But, of course, the next Supermeet will be in Amsterdam, definitely.
Larry Jordan: Which is for IBC.
Mike Horton: For IBC, which you’ve done.
Larry Jordan: I have. I remember, I was there three years ago, it was wonderful.
Mike Horton: That’s right. You were there…
Larry Jordan: I flew in, gave a speech then left.
Mike Horton: …you flew in, gave the speech, flew out, yes. You didn’t see any of Amsterdam.
Larry Jordan: The shortest trip I’ve ever made in my life.
Mike Horton: That’s Larry Jordan for you. You want him to come play, he’ll fly in and fly out. That’s the way it is.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests for today: James Gardiner, the CineTechGeek; Jesse Hartmann, the CEO of ProMAX; and Justin Thomson, filmmaker.
Mike Horton: Jesse Hartmann? Jesse Hartmann? It’s absolutely perfect. Jess Hartmann!
Larry Jordan: Did I say Jesse?
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Well, I shouldn’t have. It’s Jess.
Mike Horton: That’s what he used to be called when he was 12.
Larry Jordan: I’m sorry, Jess, it’s my fault. Michael obviously picked up on the mistake. By the way, for all of our NAB coverage, visit nabshowbuzz.com – more than 80 interviews with industry leaders showcasing the latest in technology.
Mike Horton: By the way, next week I promise to shave.
Larry Jordan: Uh-huh? I’ll believe it when that actually shows up.
Mike Horton: Yes? Ok.
Larry Jordan: Visit the digitalproductionbuzz.com website to listen to any current or past show, along with thousands of interviews.
Mike Horton: Do this, save water.
Larry Jordan: You could use makeup too. Talk with us on Twitter, @DPBuZZ.
Mike Horton: I could use makeup.
Larry Jordan: Our theme music is composed by Nathan Doogie Turner; additional music on by smartsound.com. Text transcripts are provided by Take 1 Transcription. Our production crew is led by Megan Paulos, producer Cirina Catania. Mike and I say goodnight and thanks for listening.
Mike Horton: Goodnight.
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