Digital Production Buzz
November 12, 2015
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
(Click here to listen to this show.)
Tech Talk with Larry Jordan
BuZZ Flashback: Howie Schwartz
Chris Haeffner, Product Development & Integration Specialist, OWC
Walter Biscardi, Owner, Biscardi Creative Media
Scott Sorensen, Director of Photography, Mythbusters
Larry Jordan: Storage is the most critical element of media production, and storage technology is changing daily. Tonight, on The Buzz, Chris Haeffner specializes in storage fro OWC, and he shares his insight on the future of storage technology.
Larry Jordan: Next, Walter Biscardi is legendary in our industry, and the founder of Biscardi Creative Media. Tonight, he explains why Atlanta is such a Mecca for media.
Larry Jordan: Next, it’s time to bust a few myths. Scott Sorensen has been the Director of Photography for MythBusters for the last nine years. Tonight, we go behind the scenes to discover the production gear he used to create such memorable programs.
Larry Jordan: All this, plus Tech Talk, a Buzz flashback and Randy Altman’s perspective on the news. The Buzz starts now!
Announcer #1: Tonight’s Digital Production Buzz is brought to you by Other World Computing at macsales.com; and by Blackmagic Design at blackmagicdesign.com.
Announcer #2: Since the dawn of digital filmmaking… Authoritative…one show serves a worldwide network of media professionals… Current…uniting industry experts… Production…filmmakers… Post production…and content creators around the planet. Distribution. From the media capital of the world in Los Angeles, California, The Digital Production Buzz goes live now. 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 the world’s longest running podcast for creative content producers covering media production, post production and marketing around the world. Mike Horton has the night off.
Larry Jordan: Yesterday, as you’ll learn from Randi Altman in a few minutes, HP announced several high performance mobile laptops. A striking part of their announcement for me was that Thunderbolt 3 will be built into this next generation of workstations, shipping in December. Thunderbolt 3 is significant for two reasons. First, its speed and, second, it’s connector. The initial release of Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt 1 supported a data transfer rate of 1.1 gigabytes per second, while Thunderbolt 2 supported up to 2.2 gigabytes per second though, in practical terms, the speed was limited to about 1.3 gigabytes a second. Because Thunderbolt supports both data and displays in the same protocol, there were challenges with Thunderbolt 2 for displays, since most editors don’t need the fastest speeds that Thunderbolt 2 can provide. However, Thunderbolt 2 was not fast enough to support external 4K or 5K monitors.
Larry Jordan: Now, we have Thunderbolt 3, which supports up to 4.4 gigabytes per second, which is fast enough for two 4K displays. This is four times faster than USB 3.1, but the real news is the connector. Thunderbolt 3 removes the need for a mini display port adapter, instead it uses a USB C connecter, which provides both power and data. Now, this soon to be ubiquitous connecter, offers the possibility of Thunderbolt to move out of the rarified air exclusive to high performance workstations, into the much broader market that USB offers. Plus, USB C connecters are a fraction of the price of Thunderbolt. Apple now provides USB C connecters on their latest MacBook Air, but hasn’t announced any immediate plans for supporting Thunderbolt 3.
Larry Jordan: Also, I want to remind you to subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Every issue, every week, gives you an inside look at The Buzz and the industry and every issue is free. I’ll be right back after Randi Altman with Chris Haeffner.
Larry Jordan: This is Randi Altman’s Perspective.
Larry Jordan: Randi Altman has been writing and reporting in our industry for more than 20 years. She is the editor-in- chief at her own website at postperspective.com, and we were able to track her down on the streets of New York. Hello, Randi, welcome back!
Randi Altman: Hi Larry, good to back.
Larry Jordan: We missed you last week. I hope you had a good time and, in fact, it’s about that good time that I want to ask. What have you been up to recently?
Randi Altman: This week I spent in New York. There’s been a few different things going on. I spent my first two days at an HP launch event, where they introduced a whole new line of mobile workstations, the ZBook line, and they’re faster, stronger, thinner, lighter, about 4.5 pounds typically, and they are built for our industry. They’re built to run editing software and let people work wherever they want to work.
Larry Jordan: Randi, PCs in the past have been pretty weak on style, has HP picked the style points?
Randi Altman: Absolutely. The systems look much more slick than they had. Again, they’re thinner and lighter, so that makes it easier to work with. A couple of weeks ago, Dell also introduced a new mobile workstation that, I believe, is under four pounds, and it’s very thin, very light, powerful as well. So they’re not giving any of our post professionals an excuse to work at the office. You can work anywhere, anytime, and still get the power that you need to run the software.
Larry Jordan: You know, Randi, thinking about the new workstations that HP and Dell announced struck me in contrast to what Tim Cook was saying, which is that the new iPad Pro is all the PC most people will ever need. Are you seeing a dichotomy there?
Randi Altman: Absolutely. I do see that that is the way that they want to go, and they want people to be working on tablets and through the Cloud, but right now people are embracing these mobile workstations that are very, very powerful, and you know that Dell and HP are very happy that Tim Cook did mention that, because they’re looking forward to getting some more of that market. If it does happen, it’s not going to happen overnight. I understand that’s their goal, but it’s a big wait and see right now.
Larry Jordan: Turning our attention to software or anything else in the industry, what’s caught your attention this week?
Randi Altman: Well, last week Autodesk announced a Flame software version, and also some new subscription models for the company, and I think this is a long time coming. I think it’s what users have been asking for and they finally get their wish. So now, to have a Flame you don’t have to be tied to a turnkey system through Autodesk, you can just buy the software and its subscription model. So you could buy a subscription for a year, and I think it’s 500 a month for Flame, and it’s a little bit more if you do it month to month. But I’ve been noticing on some forums that people are excited. They can finally work on the Flame, and it’s going to open the software up to a lot of people, and I think it’s the right time because I think people were looking for alternative ways to do that kind of work, and now the subscription model allows them to get their hands on software that they couldn’t have afforded in the past.
Larry Jordan: Anything else before we leave you this week? What else has caught your eye?
Randi Altman: Well, I actually just got to the CCW show, which has now been rebranded NAB New York. So I’m eager to go down and take a look at what’s being shown, but that’s news as well, is that now NAB has a show in New York.
Larry Jordan: And we also look forward to the NAB show coming up in Las Vegas in a few months. Randi, thanks for joining us today. Randi’s website is postperspective.com, and we look forward to talking to you next week.
Randi Altman: Thanks, Larry.
Larry Jordan: To read more from Randi Altman, visit postperspective.com.
Larry Jordan: Still to come on The Buzz …
Larry Jordan: When you’re working with media one thing is essential: your computer needs peak performance. However, when it comes to upgrading your Mac, there are so many different options to choose from that the process can be confusing. That’s why Other World Computing carries the best upgrades that let your computer performance and storage grow as your needs grow.
Larry Jordan: Since 1988, OWC has become one of the most trusted names in quality hardware and comprehensive support to the worldwide computer industry. With an extensive online catalog of Mac, iPhone and iPad enhancement products, as well as a dedicated team of knowledgeable experts providing first rate tech support, OWC has everything you need to take your current system to the next level. Whether you need to maximize your system’s memory, add blazing speed or enhance reliability, look no further than the friendly experts at OWC. Learn more by visiting macsales.com today.
Larry Jordan: Chris Haeffner is a mass storage specialist in product development and integration at OWC. He’s been with the company for 12 years, and was the driving force behind their brand new Jupiter storage product line. Hello, Chris, welcome!
Chris Haeffner: Hello!
Larry Jordan: It’s good to have you with us today. Thanks for taking time out of your day to join us.
Chris Haeffner: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: Chris, what first got you interested in storage technology?
Chris Haeffner: Well, I like to fancy myself a little bit of a geek, so I’ve always been interested in anything that had to do with computers and technology, so personally that’s how I got involved in this whole arena.
Larry Jordan: Well, there’s nothing like being a geek to get your interest! I was thinking, your title is Specialist in Product Development and Integration, which sounds really impressive, but what does that mean in English?
Chris Haeffner: Yes, it’s kind of a … title. It means that when I develop these products I’m always looking to make sure that they’re integrated with customer workflows, with other pieces that are the product puzzle, so to speak. We’re not designing the product just to tackle one specific task, we’re designing a product that will be adaptable for what you need it to be, as much as possible. I mean if it’s just a piece of the bigger puzzle, that’s great too. So we’re trying to build products that really integrate on many different levels with the workflow and our entire product line.
Larry Jordan: Well, with the possible exception of camera technology, I can’t think of anything that’s changing faster than storage technology, and it’s going in multiple directions at the same time. What technology and storage is currently driving the market? Is it still spinning media, or are we trying to find the way to make SSDs affordable? What’s driving us right now?
Chris Haeffner: I do think solid state definitely has a big impact right now. I’m not going to count spinning hard drives out of the mix, though. I think they are still part of the bigger puzzle driving the storage. The video market and the storage market really kind of walk hand in hand. They both feed off each other, and we still have a lot of capacity with standard spinning hard drive media at a lower cost than we do with some solid state technology right now. So they really are still both very important.
Larry Jordan: So tell us about the new product line that you were involved with, that I was reading about on your website. It’s called Jupiter. What’s this?
Chris Haeffner: We have Jupiter Callisto and Jupiter Kore. Callisto is a unified storage appliance, and the fancy word means that it can do both NAS and SAN if you want it to. So it’s a flexible system. Most people go the NAS route, it’s a little bit easier. So we’re talking about an SMB protocol, AFP protocol, NFS networking protocols. Jupiter Kore is a JBOD mini SAS expander system, really high performance. You can use that as a standalone storage system, so you attach it to a RAID card or a Thunderbolt RAID adapter, mini-SAS RAID adapter attached to your computer, and you can have extremely fast and very large storage.
Chris Haeffner: The Callisto is really good. It’s the bigger piece. It’s expandable. A lot of cool features baked in there.
Larry Jordan: Well, I was reading on the website that these devices can be either Network Attached Storage, NAS, or Storage Area Network, a SAN. What’s the difference between the two?
Chris Haeffner: It’s a good question. It essentially boils down to file level versus block level. When you have the Callisto set up to do a SAN, you’re basically saying okay, take this storage that I traded and project it out as an iSCSI target, in this case. So it’s basically saying here I am, I’m a block level device, just like a hard drive would be when you put it into your machine, whereas NAS will be more of a file level approach, so that you’re saying here are these files that you can add access to.
Larry Jordan: Is there a difference in performance, or do end users see a difference as they’re using a NAS versus a SAN?
Chris Haeffner: Performance is pretty darn good with both of them. Callisto has onboard ten gigabit Ethernet ports, 10GBASE-T ports, so they have backwards compatibility with Gigabit Ethernet. Both methods will completely saturate that plus more. You know, there are certain applications where you do want block level, where it’s just going to be a little bit more efficient. They can … databases, internet … that category, but for a lot of scenarios, the NAS method is perfectly fine and more than acceptable, more than needed.
Larry Jordan: Well, I was just thinking in terms of Final Cut X. Final Cut X only supports network storage when it’s formatted as an Xsan, as opposed to other storage area network environments. Do you emulate or can we run Xsan on these devices?
Chris Haeffner: Yes, you can. You need iSCSI initiator software, which we do sell, and a Mac to initiate to the projected out iSCSI targets. I’m trying to keep this simple, but with the software it will then present the LUNS to the Mac operating system that it then can be used with Xsan.
Larry Jordan: I’ve just thinking, we’ve got a variety of other RAIDs from OWC. Thunderbay is probably the well known of the group. What makes these different from the Thunderbay RAIDs that OWC already sells?
Chris Haeffner: That is a very good question. With Callisto we’re talking massive storage. When we were looking at developing the Callisto product, we wanted it to use technology and use a file system that was fundamentally meant to be expanded and expanded and expanded. ZFS is what we actually used for the back end of this. We do have plans to gradually roll in different features of software, which is what we actually pair with the Thunderbay system. So, again, talking about the integration, we’re really trying to make sure that we can hit different pieces of the puzzle and tie them all together. But yes, with the ZFS it gives us is an enterprise next generation file system, so to speak. It allows us to expand beyond belief. I think we originally set it for a … but it’s almost infinitely expandable, not that I’d recommend that. There’s always a practical limit in there, but ZFS is the storage backend in Callisto. It was really designed to allow you to easily expand as you need to and as you grow.
Larry Jordan: With both devices, one of them has a mini-SAS attachment, which means we’ve got to have a fibre channel go into all of the different rooms at our editing suite, and the other is 10Gb Ethernet. For people that are Ethernet wired, as opposed to fibre wired, what cabling do we need to be able to run the Ethernet device into an edit suite?
Chris Haeffner: So we have 10Gbase-t ports built into Callisto as the two default connections on there. We can add in optical based 10Gb Ethernet ports as well. But with 10GBASE-E, you use standard CAT6A, CAT7 cables, so a lot of times places already have that built into the walls. So, one of the reasons we chose those ports is because we wanted to have that backwards compatibility with Gigabit Ethernet, but allowing us to get a 10 gig switch into the mix and take … at the 10 Gb Ethernet speeds without having to upgrade your entire infrastructure.
Larry Jordan: What happens if we’ve only got CAT5 or CAT5E? Does that mean the systems don’t work or they just don’t work as fast?
Chris Haeffner: They can work, definitely not recommended. There’s not enough shielding with those rated cables. You can actually do CAT6 cables, which are pretty common out there. Officially it’s supported up to 55 meters. With CAT6A and CAT7, you can go almost double that. So it does boil down to interference, crosstalk in a lot of that stuff.
Larry Jordan: No question. I’m just thinking there are a lot of shops out there that are not yet wired for fibre, and not yet wired for CAT6 or 7, and I’m just trying to get a sense of whether they should even consider this hardware or not.
Chris Haeffner: Yes. You know, because of the 10GBASE-E, they can use it perfectly fine as Gigabit, and with a switch you can set it to be only communicating a Gigabit, so really it is about getting this very robust system in there and you upgrade as you need to, to take advantage of the speeds, or as your budget allows you to gradually upgrade your infrastructure. So again, we did design it with those ports on there, so that you can use it now, even if you can’t upgrade your infrastructure to get the higher performance cables in there. You can use this system, you can use it five years from now, with the existing infrastructure you already have.
Larry Jordan: What are we looking at for pricing for these two units?
Chris Haeffner: Starting just under 5,000 for an eight bay system. That’ll be an eight bay Callisto system. For the Kore systems, which are the mini-SAS connected systems, those are starting just a little bit over 3,000, so 3288 for an eight bay 16TB.
Larry Jordan: There’s so many different ways that we can buy storage, from standalone units directly attached to the computer, to networking devices such as this, should we make decisions solely based on price? Or how do we decide what storage to get?
Chris Haeffner: I’m not a big fan of basing purchases just strictly on price. You know, we take a lot of time whenever we sell a Jupiter system to talk to the customer, get an understanding of what they’re trying to do with it, what their expectations are, what they would like to see in the future for it. You know, what they envision of what their workflow will become in the future, and we try to build a system that will let them do what they need to now, but also allow them to grow easily into what they want to become. Price is a big part of it, and we were very competitive. That’s another part of our mission is to give the video market a little bit of TLC and not charge them an arm and a leg just to get the performance they need from a shared storage system. You know, there are different pieces that go into it. Price is a big part, but the care and attention that we try to give our customers is, I think, an even bigger part.
Larry Jordan: Thank you, Chris. Chris’s website is macsales.com. He’s the Product Development Specialist in Storage and Integration. Chris, thanks for joining us today.
Chris Haeffner: Thanks very much.
Larry Jordan: Still to come on The Buzz …
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Larry Jordan: Walter Biscardi is the owner of Biscardi Creative Media, an Atlanta based post house and, for more than 20 years, Walter has produced and edited programming that airs on CNN, the Food Network, NBC, PBS, The Weather Channel, Univision, Georgia Public Television, the list is almost endless. Walter, it is always good to have you back. Welcome!
Walter Biscardi: Thank you. The list is almost embarrassing, actually!
Larry Jordan: After 20 years, I would be very proud of that list. That’s a lot of work and a lot of effort. That’s a good news read, not a bad news.
Walter Biscardi: Thank you, I appreciate it.
Larry Jordan: I was reading on your website that your company says that, “We’re the people who make video production easy for you.” I was thinking, in this day of iPhone, video and ubiquitous YouTubers, is easy still relevant?
Walter Biscardi: Well yes, I think so. I mean there’s very much a black art mystery and “How do you guys do this stuff and make it look good?” I mean just shooting a video with an iPhone or whatever, yes, anybody can do that, and anybody can make a really fun cat video or anything like that, but when it comes to a client coming in the door and saying “I need a video,” they don’t just mean I need a video. They mean I need a message, I need a marketing hook, I need a training video. I need something that is going to satisfy both what I need and what my boss is telling me that we need, and that’s not always simple. What I get sometimes is clients coming in saying that they’ve been scared off on the video production process in the past, because the companies come in and they just start talking technical jargon and they start throwing around terms, and all these camera angles and this that and the other, and they get scared that they don’t understand it. My whole philosophy is I just come and talk plain English. You don’t need to know all the technical wizardry that goes on behind the scenes. Who cares? I’m just here to find out what exactly is your need, what’s the end game we need to get to, and we’ll get you there. We’re not even going to concern you with all the technical yatter-yatter-hatter that makes it happen. Who cares?
Larry Jordan: Well, beside the fact that you and I care deeply about all the technical yatter-yatter, it sounds to me like easy is another word for we take the fear away, that they don’t have to be afraid that they don’t know how all this magic works.
Walter Biscardi: Exactly. One of the things I really enjoy is educating the clients on what it takes. We got the best compliment in the world. We just finished recently a new educational programme for the Gwinnett County Schools here in Georgia. They’re one of, I think, the ten largest school districts in the United States, 175,000 kids. The idea was to kind of sort of reboot Bill Nye, Science Guy, but with very specific lessons just for the schools. On the fifth day of shooting, after six months of prep and everything else, my client said “I had no idea how much went into just doing this.” And that was the best compliment she could have possibly given us. She was with us all five days. We shot 127 scenes in five days in four locations, and she was floored at how seamless everything went, and yet she knew nothing about what was going to happen when we actually showed up. She was doing script approval, she was looking at my props that I was making, this, that and the other, but she had no idea what was going to happen when we actually showed up, and we made it fun for her, she really enjoyed the five days, and that to me is the epitome of video production made easy. Brought in a crew, did the scripts, shot three videos, 45 minutes’ worth of finished content and she just said, “I had no idea what went into this, but this was fun.”
Larry Jordan: That is fun. You know, I was thinking you are not located in LA. I checked the map, and you’re not located in New York.
Walter Biscardi: No! No?
Larry Jordan: Is there any media in Atlanta anymore?
Walter Biscardi: What, you mean television media?
Larry Jordan: Yes.
Walter Biscardi: Well, obviously we’re one of the film capitals of the United States now, thanks to the tax credits. In fact, there was just an article recently and they were talking about crew here. They’re scrambling to educate new crew, so they can actually do the work! Yes, you know, it’s funny because post production is not a part of that credit, so I had not been affected so much in that area, but yes, it’s still here. Gosh, you can’t drive two miles without tripping over a movie set these days. It’s funny, it’s really funny. And you’ll see like 20 signs going down a road. Of course they’re all code names, just pointing in every which direction. You’re like seriously? Don’t you guys like run into each other on the street somewhere? If you want to be in crew on the set, I mean I got to say man, Atlanta and Georgia is hopping right now. It’s stupid crazy right now.
Larry Jordan: Do you find, with your company, you’re doing more production or more post?
Walter Biscardi: We used to do all post, and now that everybody and their brother can get a laptop and get Final Cut, Resolve, Premier Pro, you know, we have definitely turned into more of a full turnkey production house. I would say when I started the company back in 2001, I don’t even think we did a production until like 2003, 2004, and now it’s probably you know, 75 percent of our business is all turnkey.
Larry Jordan: So let’s put your guru and industry wizard hat on, which you are known for. What production trends are you seeing that have caught your attention?
Walter Biscardi: Oh wow! You know, cheaper, faster, better, obviously. That is coming quickly, or it has been around. I mean we keep talking about the kids, the kids, the kids, but I got to say the kids are good these days. I work with a local high school, and I’ve actually hired one of the recent graduates to come in and edit as she’s so good at editing because she’s already been doing it for five years. You know, go figure. So the younger kids coming up are so much more advanced at the level that they’re coming out of high school and college than we ever were. I graduated back in 1989/90, so you know, it cost $2 million to get an edit suite, so if you wanted to edit you had to work for somebody else. But now you actually don’t. A big trend I see is just people hanging their own shingles outside their homes and saying I’m a producer and I’m an editor, and so you’re competing with a much larger pool if you want to go it alone.
Walter Biscardi: On the production side, I mean 4K is certainly here to stay, and it’s gotten cheaper and easier to shoot, but I don’t see a lot of people paying much attention to storage, and not just the amount of storage, but having the right kind of storage to play back your media faster, and everybody’s complaining that well, my system doesn’t work anymore and it used to. I say well yes, it used to, but now you got a lot more data, and you’ve got to figure out archives.
Larry Jordan: 4K is always about storage. The computer can handle it, but the storage is a big issue. Before we go further in that direction, I just realised you’ve got a special event coming up on Saturday, and you’ve stolen our producer, which I haven’t forgiven you for. Tell me what’s going on.
Walter Biscardi: We are having the Atlanta Creative Ball. It’s the final event of the Atlanta Cutters a professional user group here in Atlanta, and we always say thank you to SF Cutters for letting us borrow the name. We’re going to be talking content, content, content. The push to deliver as much digital content as quickly as possible across the digital universe. So yes, we’ve got Cirina Catania coming in. We’ve got Dan Dome coming down from Late Night with Seth Myers. We’ve got Jonathan Tortora, who is the Senior Producer, Digital Content at CNN, we just helped launch a great big story, and we’ve got Sean and Stefani Mullen coming down, who launched Rampant Media Design Tools, and I will be moderating. We’ll be talking about how everything has changed in the past couple of years, especially of what our job titles are, what kind of content we have to get out there, and then even for people like myself, I’m now moving to be more of a content creator and starting up a new digital network. You know, the opportunity is now there for us to do anything, so it’s going to be two hours of fun. We’ve got a huge raffle giving away a Blackmagic URSA Mini. We’re giving away a Micro Cinema camera, FSI’s got some monitors in there. I don’t know, I think 30 or 40 raffle items in there now, so. yes, come on down! Saturday night, go to atlantacutters.com and all the information is there on how to get your ticket. Come on down, Saturday night at seven o’clock.
Larry Jordan: Is there still room for mere mortals to attend, or are you sold out?
Walter Biscardi: Plenty of room for mere mortals. Well, I won’t say plenty of room; we’ve actually had a run on tickets! So yes, there is still room to come down, and I highly recommend it, because it is our last event of the year and if you want to network in Atlanta with other creatives, this is definitely the place to do it.
Larry Jordan: I want to come back to one quick thing. Are you finding business is still strong, or are you getting eaten up by all the people who can do it in their basements?
Walter Biscardi: It goes back and forth. You know, working in your basement isn’t bad if you know what you’re doing! I mean I’ve done it. But it goes back and forth. The trend is boy, I really, really need it cheap and it’s like well, that person didn’t really work out, so let me try to find somebody a little bit more experience. A lot of people are walking the line between I need somebody with experience but yet I still got a budget, and that person might be out of my reach. You know, we’re building up our own camera package and things like that, so we can help the clients with their budget and we don’t have to bring in, you know, a crew and all that.
Larry Jordan: Walter, thank you for joining us. I could talk with your for another half hour.
Walter Biscardi: Delighted.
Larry Jordan: It’s biscardiacreative.com. Walter Biscardi is the founder. Walter, thanks for joining, I’ll see you soon.
Larry Jordan: Still to come on The Buzz …
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Larry Jordan: Welcome to Tech Talk, sponsored by Key Code Media.
Larry Jordan: It’s called the multiband compressor. Now there’s two, ignore anything that’s got legacy after it, that’s for an older version, I just want to work on the new version.
Larry Jordan: Grab it and drag it on top of a clip. What the multiband compressor does is this. Notice that I’ve selected the clip. Notice in the Effect Control, click on Edit and oh my goodness, just this is just out of control! What do all these controls do? And the good news is, you can ignore all of them, because there’s a pre-set that we can take advantage of. What this filter is doing is it’s amplifying the softest passages of a piece of voice, and not amplifying the loud passages, and it’s doing it, breaking it down into four frequency bands.
Larry Jordan: If we look here, on the left hand side, this is frequencies below human speech, low range human speech, high end human speech and frequencies above human speech. So really we’re tweaking these two. Now, remember low frequencies are your vowels. This gives your voice its richness and its warmth. High frequency sounds are your consonants. This provides a voice its diction. So what we’re doing is we’re amplifying the low frequency a different amount than the high frequency, and the setting you want to use is broadcast.
Larry Jordan: When you open this up, change to any other setting, I don’t care what it is, and then go back to broadcast, and it resets the filter so all the broadcast settings are set. This is a wonderful default setting for human speech, men or women, makes no difference. What it’s doing is it’s amplifying the softer passages more than the louder passages and, at the same time, it’s setting a limit.
Larry Jordan: Look down at here. See where this margin category is? If you have a voice, dialogue, a narrator, and it’s the only piece of audio in your project, set this number, the margin, to negative three.
Larry Jordan: If this voice is part of a mix, where you’ve got dialogue and sound effects and music, set this number to negative 4.5.
Larry Jordan: I’m going to set this to negative 3 because I’ve only got this one audio in here. What you’ve told the system to do is to amplify the clip, but at no time should any portion of the clip ever exceed negative three dB. Whatever the setting is in the margin, that’s the loudest that part of the clip will ever be.
Larry Jordan: See, what’s happening is this. As the clip passes through time, let’s say that this instant here is negative 20, and I apply, say, 15 dB of gain to it, it goes from negative 20 to negative 5. I’ve taken the soft passage and made it louder.
Larry Jordan: The next one is negative 18. I apply 15 dB of gain to it, it goes from negative 18 to negative three, no problem. But the next one is negative 15. I apply 15 dB of gain, but it hits that negative three limit above which it can’t go. The rest of that amplification gets thrown away. So the louder passages are always limited to whatever you set in the margin setting, in this case negative three, and the softer passages get full amplification. This means that the whole clip has the perception of being louder. This is the basis of both the multiband compressor and the limiter filter. We’ll see the limiter a little bit later.
Larry Jordan: So listen to the difference. Let’s just close this clip here. So let’s press this. Let’s bypass it, so we don’t hear what this sounds like, and listen … “This is microphone one. One of our key audio challenges is getting …” Okay, and now let’s turn it on. “This is microphone one. One of our key audio challenges is getting the same talent recorded on different days, using different mics, to sound the same.”
Larry Jordan: Let’s just take a different clip here, and let’s go this one. I’m just going to drag it over to there. This is a two channel clip. I’m going to select both channels, and apply the multiband compressor to both. Notice that it’s got an on effect track one and effect track two. I’ll set this to broadcast. I’ve got to switch off it and then switch back to get all the settings to be correct, and set the margin, that’s the only one that we adjust, to negative three. Off broadcast, and then back to broadcast. Set the margin to negative three, because it’s the only things that are going on at this time, and now play it.
Larry Jordan: This is with it turned off. “Alright, um, we are here at the … Booth, and I’m here with … There are no words in the industry.” Alright, not great. Let’s just turn our compressor on. ” …launched at NAB of 2010, and quickly garnered a couple of significant award …” Can you hear the difference? Without me having to make any other changes, just by applying the multiband compressor, it takes the softer dialogue and make it loud enough to be able to hear and yet guarantees that it doesn’t distort. That’s what that margin is doing, it’s preventing any distortion by having the audio go too loud.
Larry Jordan: Scott Sorensen has been the Director of Photography for MythBusters ever since he graduated from college nine years ago. Before that, he says, he was a fishmonger, which is clearly training for the job! I can’t think of any other show that blows through more gear than the MythBusters. Hello, Scott, how are you?
Scott Sorensen: Hello, very well, how about yourself?
Larry Jordan: We are so excited to be talking with you, because MythBusters is one of our favourite shows. I was just thinking, nine years ago when you were in college, did you know that you wanted to be a Director of Photography?
Scott Sorensen: No, actually, to be honest I kind of thought sound design would be my path. I just found sound design to be really intriguing while I was in school. But when I got hired on MythBusters, I was actually first hired nine years ago as the production assistant, like the only production assistant for the entire show, and just fell into camera pretty quickly. After a couple of months there, the high speed camera operator left to go and work on something else, and I just filled in his role and just went from there.
Larry Jordan: So I have to ask, what was it like to work with that cast?
Scott Sorensen: It’s a funny day for you to ask me that, because we actually just wrapped Adam and Jamie yesterday. We had a wrap party last night, and we’re all feeling a little groggy today from it, but it’s really been phenomenal. The way I think of it is it’s been like the best postgraduate work I could ever have hoped for. You know, I learned so much about cinematography and television production, but then also just learning from our hosts who are very skilled people, super smart and creative, and I picked up skills just from watching them for years. It’s been great.
Larry Jordan: Well, we are all depressed that the show is ending, because I don’t know what I would do with my life without being able to watch MythBusters, so let us pretend that the show hasn’t wrapped for the next couple of minutes. Walk us through a typical show. When would you know what’s in the script? When do you start planning? Walk us through that workflow.
Scott Sorensen: Well, our usual shooting schedule is 12 to 14 weeks on and then we’ll take a few weeks off. So each shooting block, at the start we’ll have a planning week where the Executive Producers will sit down with the producers and camera and sound, and everyone, and we’ll kind of just hash out these stories that we’ve picked for that shooting block. From there, producers start researching and getting into finding the crazy things that we need to acquire and destroy in some fashion. We have that initial kind of planning week, kind of get a sense of what might be on the cards, and then we just kind of take it on a week by week basis, and just roll with whatever the test results are. You know, we like to think that we kind of have an idea of what might happen, but we’re often surprised.
Larry Jordan: I was just going to ask, how much of each show was planned and how much of it is roll with it on the fly on set?
Scott Sorensen: Well, there’s a basic outline that we start each episode with, but it’s all dependant on the science. If the test goes a certain way, it might scrap the next three-quarters of the episode, and we have to just kind of roll with it and okay, well, this doesn’t work so let’s try this and, you know, it kind of evolves as we go.
Larry Jordan: It’s sort of a cross between a documentary and a reality show?
Scott Sorensen: It is. But the nice thing about MythBusters versus some reality shows I’ve day played on, you don’t have to shoot every single thing, every single line of dialogue. We’ve gotten really good at knowing we’re going to be building this things and we know how much we need to film and you just kind of learn like these are the big beats. You know, we’re not trying to create some kind of tension between housemates or something, it’s more about the experiment than anything else.
Larry Jordan: I was just thinking, some of these experiments are one time only. You can only blow something up once. How many cameras as you covering and what cameras are you using?
Scott Sorensen: Well so our main cameras, which I do most of the filming with, is the Sony XDCAMs, the old soldier. Then our second cameras, the majority of our cameras, we’ve been using the Blackmagic Pocket Cam for the last two years. We’ve got about ten of them now, that we use. We won’t use ten for every single thing, but we’ll set them up just in a variety of different shots, trying to think of every possible case of what might happen. Because ultimately we’re there to document the experiment, and if our coverage doesn’t show what happens, if you miss this part of this test, then you’ve lost some of the result. We’ve got the ten Blackmagics, two FF-700s, a Phantom v12.1, a NACK 4, an older high speed camera. Honestly, we’ve had a number of GoPros in the past. I think at our peak we maybe had 15 GoPros. As of today, I think we’re down to maybe 6.5.
Scott Sorensen: We actually almost killed six cameras in one shot a couple of weeks ago, but to their credit they’re not quite dead. We’ve got a thermal camera that we will use on certain experiments.
Larry Jordan: Wait, take a breath! I’ve already lost count. We’re up to about 7500 cameras at the moment!
Scott Sorensen: We’re not shooting on every single camera every single day. You know, we don’t break out the Phantom for everything. We don’t have ten cameras going on everything, we try to be sensible so that we don’t kill the edit assistant who has to go through all the footage.
Larry Jordan: Sensible is not a word I would ever use to describe MythBusters! Aside from that, you’re shooting about six different codecs. Which codec do you edit, and how do you deliver dailies to editorial?
Scott Sorensen: All our post production is done in Australia, just outside of Sydney. The production company that makes MythBusters is Australian. So every Friday we send a box with a couple of hard drives and maybe like a dozen or so XDCAM discs, FedEx every Friday to Sydney and they cut it all there. In terms of codecs, the pop hits we’re shooting in ProRes 422 and the XD is just the highest bit rate we can get out of them. The FS is pretty much the same story, AVCHD. GoPros are MPEG. The post production deal with a lot. We kind of hit them from all angles with every different kind of footage and, to their credit, they can stitch it all together and make it not jarring that we’re shooting on all these different kinds of cameras.
Larry Jordan: We have a live chat going at the same time as the show, and Donna on our live chat’s asking, “With all the craziness going on, does anybody get injured in production?”
Scott Sorensen: The worst injuries that have ever occurred on the MythBusters set, and I haven’t been there for most of them, they’ve all involved safety equipment. Mostly the blast shields, the bullet proof shields that you often see us crouch behind during an explosion or a firearms test. Those suckers weigh like maybe 200, 250 pounds and shifting them around can be hazardous. I think we had a broken thumb, maybe a couple of broken digits, but that’s pretty much the worst we’ve had.
Larry Jordan: Well that’s a tribute to you for paying attention to safety, so congratulations.
Scott Sorensen: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: What size crew are you working with on a typical shoot? I know typical is a weasel word!
Scott Sorensen: Well, so the core crew is myself and my two operators, Will Nail and Duncan Clark, as well as our sound recordist, Matt Jepson. We’ll shoot the bulk of the show with Adam and Jamie, and we’ve got our director, Steve Christiansen and Declan Marker, they kind of split duties with direction. Then the nice thing about the show being such a small crew is we’ll pull PAs onto camera duty, have them operate the Phantom and we had a kind of an all hands on deck situation two weeks ago, where we laid waste to the … runway over about 3,000 feet of kind of a path of destruction. I think I had every PA we had on that shoot with a camera in their hands.
Larry Jordan: As you look back on it, what’s been the most bizarrely memorable episode that you’ve shot?
Scott Sorensen: Bizarrely memorable? That’s an interesting question. I would have to say the most bizarre thing I’ve ever shot was the President of the United States. We went to the White House to start an episode, where President Obama made a request for the MythBusters to retest an old myth, and it was kind of surreal being in the White House, filming the President. I was filming the President single, and it was strange. It was like you’d look into the viewfinder and think okay. It’s kind of like watching television, but then you’d open your other eye and be like ooh, okay! I tell you that’s crazy. That was probably the strangest for me, personally.
Larry Jordan: What are you going to miss now that the show is wrapped?
Scott Sorensen: I’m going to miss working with the crew on like a daily basis. I know that we’re all going to stay in touch. I think we’ll all kind of gravitate to each other here in San Francisco. But you know, it won’t be five days a week, nine to five. There’ll be different circumstances.
Larry Jordan: Well, I can imagine what it’s like to wrap after you’ve been on a show for as long as you have. What are you going to be working on next?
Scott Sorensen: Next up, I don’t know. You know, I’ve been trying to think of that for a little while now, but the last few weeks have been appropriately huge in terms of what we have coming up to end the show, and I really haven’t had a moment to focus on the next thing. It’s just like okay, I’ve got that today, maybe tomorrow, but beyond that I don’t know. We’ll see!
Hopefully, you know, more explosions are cool. I’d be into that.
Larry Jordan: It’s scary to go back and shoot something that doesn’t blow up on you all the time!
Scott Sorensen: Yes. Well, after a while you get so used to things blowing up, you know, like okay. It’s not as startling.
Larry Jordan: Maybe not for you, but it’s still fascinating television. If you haven’t had a chance to watch the MythBusters, go to Discovery.com/tvshows/MythBusters. Every episode is incredible and Scott, thanks for joining us. It’s a show I’ve loved fro years and I very much appreciate your work.
Scott Sorensen: Thank you very much, it was my pleasure.
Larry Jordan: Scott Sorensen is the Director of Photography for MythBusters, which wrapped yesterday.
Larry Jordan: It’s time for a Buzz Flashback. Five years ago today.
Harry Schwartz (archive): “I’m the typical entrepreneur. One of my clients leaned over and said, you’re really good, you should open your own place. And I said would you be my first client? They said absolutely. They never showed up, but … I took my Bar Mitzvah money and some money I got from a car accident that I was in, and I built the studio. My original goal was to make musical signatures for products.”
Larry Jordan: This was a Buzz Flashback.
Larry Jordan: Harry Schwartz was legendary in the audio industry in New York. His HSRSY just set records for the kind of music and production that it did. It was sad to see them close a year after we spoke with him on the show.
Larry Jordan: I was reflecting on Walter Biscardi’s comments on the business in Atlanta. It’s easy for us to lose sight of the fact that production is much more than the people in front of the camera or the producer/directors, but crew is critical, as we heard with Scott Sorensen and the work that he was doing with the MythBusters. There’s plenty of opportunities in Atlanta, and it’s good to know that the media world is hopping down there. I want to thank our guests for today, starting with Chris Haeffner. He is a storage specialist at OWC, talking about the new Jupiter storage products. Walter Biscardi, the owner of Biscardi Creative Media in Atlanta, and Scott Sorensen, the Director of Photography for MythBusters.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot of history in our industry, and it’s all posted to our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Here, you can find thousands of interviews, all online and all available to you today. Please sign up for our free weekly show newsletter. It comes out every Friday. Talk with us on Twitter, @DPBuZZ, and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Our theme music is composed by Nathan Dugie Turner, with additional music provided by smartsound.com. Text transcripts from Take 1 Transcription. Visit take1.tv to learn how they can help you with your transcripts. Our producer is Cirina Catania, who’s currently heading to Atlanta. Our engineering team, led Megan Paulos, included Ed Golya, Keegan Guy, Hannah Dean and James Miller. On behalf of Mike Horton, my name is Larry Jordan, and thanks for joining us for The Digital production Buzz.
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