Sean Le Blanc, Service and Support Coordinator, BenQ North America
Simon Robinson, Co-Founder & Chief Scientist, Foundry
Jiri Matela, CEO and Co-Founder, Comprimato
Martin Tlaskal, Head of Development, FilmLight
Bruno Munger, Director of Business Development,, Colorfront
James DeRuvo, Film and Technology Reporter, DoddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight on The Buzz, we are looking ahead to NAB and previewing some of the announcements that will be made there. We start with Sean Le Blanc, he’s the service and support coordinator for BenQ, a company that makes video monitors. With the increasing interest in HDR video, all our video monitors will need to be upgraded. Tonight Sean explains what we need to know to pick the right monitor for editing and color grading our projects. And what they are showing next week in Las Vegas.
Larry Jordan: Jiri Matela is the CEO and co-founder of Comprimato. They are a company that invented a new accelerated encoder using JPEG-2000 for image storage and video compression. He explains what their product does and what they’ll be announcing at NAB.
Larry Jordan: Martin Tlaskal is the head of development for FilmLight, the company that makes Baselight. Tonight he talks about their color grading tools, the shift into HDR images, and their announcements at NAB.
Larry Jordan: Bruno Munger is the director of business development for ColorFront. While best known for their color management and grading software, recently they released Transkoder, for fast, efficient video conversions. Bruno explains what Transkoder is, what it does, and what they are announcing at the show.
Larry Jordan: Simon Robinson is the co-founder of Foundry which is the parent of Nuke. We talk with Simon about visual effects, trends that he’s watching, and what they’re announcing next week.
Larry Jordan: All this, plus James DeRuvo with our weekly DoddleNEWS update. The Buzz starts now.
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Larry Jordan: Welcome to the Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for the creative content industry, covering media production, post production and marketing around the world.
Larry Jordan: Hi, my name is Larry Jordan. The big news this week echoes the big news from last week. Adobe just updated and released all their creative cloud applications just prior to the start of NAB. While the updates centered on Premiere, all their media applications got attention, and James DeRuvo will have more on this in our DoddleNEWS segment in just a few minutes. What struck me about the announcements was Adobe’s continued expansion in work group editing, where multiple editors can work on the same project at the same time. Adobe for Teams provides this collaboration, without the significant hardware and cost overhead of Adobe Anywhere. Continuing the collaboration theme, Adobe has made it faster and easier than ever to move projects between their different applications. We’ll have more on what Adobe is doing during our NAB coverage next week.
Larry Jordan: I’m also impressed at the number of third parties that are finally starting to support Adobe. For years, the majority of third party developers focused exclusively on Final Cut 7 and ultimately, Final Cut X. That emphasis is now balancing. At NAB you’ll hear announcements from a number of vendors partnering with Adobe from cloud services to stock footage, to plug-ins and high end utilities. I view all of these developments as positive. Adobe Premiere has been overlooked for a long time and rather than giving up on it, Adobe poured resources into it enabling it to grow and develop a feature set that is unique. It’s reassuring that both Apple and now Adobe are paying attention, both to each other and the market as they continue their rapid development of these essential applications.
Larry Jordan: Don’t forget to join us starting next Monday for all our NAB coverage live from the trade show floor. Visit NABshowbuzz.com for our lists of shows and guests. Now it’s time for a DoddleNEWS update with James DeRuvo. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Hi Larry.
Larry Jordan: What is all the news today? It’s like a never ending cascade of new stuff.
James DeRuvo: The news is blowing up this week. It’s insane. Running up to NAB, we have so much news going on right now. This week, Panasonic responded to the autofocus issues of the GH5. Through one of their luminaries, Panasonic moved quickly to address concerns of problems with the new GH5 autofocus hunting and having issues locking onto its subjects. What they’ve done is they’ve offered a work around until a solution could be crafted. The firmware update that’s scheduled for later this month will not include any fixes however, but Panasonic says they’re committed to finding a solution and there is a second update scheduled for later this summer. Though the autofocus issue is quite serious, I think Panasonic is getting ahead of this and unless there’s a serious hardware fault, I’m confident that Panasonic will solve the issue given the time Larry.
Larry Jordan: OK, so we’ve got Panasonic on the case. What else is happening?
James DeRuvo: Well, as we learned from your prolific reporting Larry, Adobe has updated everything. Major updates to Premiere, After Effects, Audition, Media Encoder and Character Animator is themed around the power to create, collaboration in a seamless fashion, and providing a streamlined workflow. But as you mentioned, the focus is on Premiere as more features and controls are migrating from other applications. This addresses the reality that most editors and colorists just prefer to work within the app and simply don’t have time to learn anything else. History has shown though that the more bloated an app gets, the less effective it becomes, so Adobe’s going to have to pay close attention to balancing editors’ wants, with keeping the Premiere workflow manageable.
Larry Jordan: I think that’s a very good point. It’s easy to throw something into an application until you have the kitchen sink but then it becomes really hard to work with. Adobe so far is walking a very nice line. I like how they’ve updated the app with new features without making it seem really tightly constrained or overly packed. What else you got?
James DeRuvo: Well Sony announced the A9 this week. They say they’ve managed to create a stacked full frame camera sensor that is 20 times faster than previous models, but provides a battery life two and a half times longer than the previous mode. Captures a 6K image and then converts it down to 4K and this was only available previously in the Super 35mm mode, but now it’s the full frame sensor. Though there are other alpha models that have more pixels on their sensor, the A9 promises what Sony calls a high quality, 4K footage, with exceptional detail and depth. The aim here being speed and performance over chasing resolution. It looks like Sony may have found the best of both worlds in the A9.
Larry Jordan: We have Panasonic, Adobe, Sony, who’s next?
James DeRuvo: Well other stories as we head into NAB include NVIDIA releasing video drivers that could make your old 2010 cheese grater Mac Pro a powerhouse again. It’s like they’re resurrecting it from the ashes. DJI is announcing an upgraded Phantom 4 advanced UAV and GoPro has given us a taste of their new Fusion 360 spherical action camera and there’s more lens stories that I haven’t time to talk about. It looks like NAB is going to be quite busy for the professionals in attendance and we haven’t even heard from Blackmagic yet.
Larry Jordan: I want to emphasize what NVIDIA has done because they’ve re-energized the Mac Pro by providing current drivers on an older piece of hardware. This means we can extend our computers until Apple ships something faster, would you agree?
James DeRuvo: Oh I agree. You know, the trend has been lately that the processors that we get in the modern computers, they’re really not giving us leaps in performance anymore. More handling the performance better, and doing more with less. So I think what they’re doing is probably going to shoulder most of the graphic stuff onto the graphics card that’s going to free up the processor to do a lot more, and it’s really going to resurrect some of those old computer rigs. I’d be willing to bet the prices on those old cheese grater Macs are going to go up and you’re going to see them become quite popular on eBay.
Larry Jordan: Before we wrap up and before this cold carries me off, what are your plans for NAB? What’s DoddleNEWS doing?
James DeRuvo: Well I guarantee you that I’m probably going to put about 25 miles on my feet throughout the entire thing, visiting every single booth that I can get hold of. We’re going to be at the Blackmagic press conference first thing Monday morning to see what they have to offer. We’re going to go to Panasonic, Sony, Adobe and get up close and person with their new features, and we’re going to report every day at five o’clock live on Digital Production Buzz.
Larry Jordan: Not only am I looking forward to that, but I’m also looking forward to reading your reports during the day, and where can people go to keep current with what the news is?
James DeRuvo: All these stories and more can be found at doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the senior writer for DoddleNEWS and returns with our weekly DoddleNEWS update next week, every day, live from the trade show floor as the Digital Production Buzz covers NAB. Thanks James.
James DeRuvo: See you Monday Larry.
Larry Jordan: Enter the new digital eco system of media, entertainment, and technology, where behavior and business have merged to redefine content, workflow and revenue streams. It’s the M.E.T Effect, a cultural phenomenon fuelled by hybrid solutions and boundless connectivity that’s changing the very nature of how we live, work and play.
Larry Jordan: Join more than 100,000 attendees from 160 countries at the NAB show. Conferences are April 22nd to the 27th and exhibits are April 24th through the 27th, at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Let’s thrive and I’ll see you there.
Larry Jordan: Sean Le Blanc works with customer engagement support and service initiatives for BenQ in North America. Sean is currently focused on building the BenQ brand of video monitors in the professional design space, which they’ll be showcasing at the 2017 NAB show. Hello Sean, welcome.
Sean Le Blanc: Hey, how’s it going Larry? I appreciate the opportunity to be on your show.
Larry Jordan: Well I am delighted to have you here, because you can answer a question I’ve been stewing over for months. Is it pronounced BenQ or BenQ?
Sean Le Blanc: It’s pronounced BenQ.
Larry Jordan: Good, I guessed it right. I should have checked. So it’s not a household name, what does the company do?
Sean Le Blanc: We’re a major manufacturer of a lot of big screen and small screen devices, so we make everything from large 85 inch multi point interactive flat panels, to very high quality, high end, professional style gaming monitors with refresh ranges in the 144 Hz range. We’re just recently getting into more of the color management space with the photo editing monitors and digital video monitors we’re going to be showing at the show coming up.
Larry Jordan: I want to talk about that in just a minute but I have one more piece of trivia I need to find out. What does BenQ stand for?
Sean Le Blanc: Bringing enjoyment and quality to life.
Larry Jordan: Be still my heart. Say that again.
Sean Le Blanc: Bringing enjoyment and quality to life.
Larry Jordan: Very cool. So let’s shift gears and talk about monitors. There’s about seven billion monitors out there. I spent this morning counting all of them. What criteria should we use to pick a monitor for the task we’re going to do?
Sean Le Blanc: Well, there are very defined monitor spaces, for example if you are in the digital media space and you are creating or editing or proofing any type of digital media, and I’m talking anywhere from a graphic design artist to an architect, highly specialized professions that need highly specialized tools to get the job done. That’s one category, and then we have the gaming category where the monitors do the same job, but they’re apples to oranges as far as what you’re going to be using them for. Then there’s the standard home and office monitor, typically IPS style, good color, very simple to use, sleek design, looks good on a desk. There’s different tiers to it for sure.
Larry Jordan: We’re really focused on filmmakers and digital video and color grading. What monitors do you have that meet that, and what criteria, what standards are you trying to reach? Why should we even consider you guys?
Sean Le Blanc: BenQ are trying to dominate the color management space, and it started with the SW2700PT. This is a fantastic entry level color management monitor. It’s able to be hardware calibrated, and that’s something you’re going to look for. If you’re in that digital realm and you’re manipulating digital media, the first thing you’re going to want to do is calibrate the panel separate from your GP output and that is where you can separate the cream from the chaff. That is the defining characteristic of a high end digital media monitor.
Larry Jordan: I’m trying to get a sense of how do we decide which monitor to buy. Should we be looking solely at the manufacturer? Solely at the price? Pixel density? What criteria should we look for here?
Sean Le Blanc: The first thing you want to look for is the monitor that is going to suit your needs, so if you’re a media creator, if you work with film or if you’re doing any type of live action digital media, you want to look for a monitor that’s going to provide you with that hardware calibration which we provide. And you’re also going to want to look for something more open ended, like the PV2700 or the PB270. This is Technicolor certified, so you’re going to be able to operate in these wide digital color spaces. It’s P3 capable so you can operate in the SRGB color range, at 99 percent. Adobe SRGB at 96 percent, and 100 percent Rec. 709. It’s a true 10-bit monitor, so that’s what you’re going to look for. These are the specs that you’re going to look for in the spec sheet.
Larry Jordan: You mentioned Technicolor certified, what does that mean?
Sean Le Blanc: That’s going to be a wide color space management. So color spaces are defined by their width on the palette and so Technicolor allows you to draw from a wider color space so the P3 of the digital media color space which is pretty much what everyone uses for digital color correction in film, or other digital movement media, but not photography. Technicolor allows you to draw from all three color spaces, not to mention that you’re able to calibrate the monitor using our software. What’s also neat about this monitor and what you need to look for on other high end specs, is the ability to create your own set of calibration parameters. So you can create whatever color space that you need to operate in, and it’s extremely customizable.
Sean Le Blanc: If you’re looking at a monitor in the high end digital realm, those are absolutely bar none the hardware that you’re going to need. In my experience if you’re not calibrating your monitor, using a hardware calibration, you’re missing out on using the eight or 14-bit LUT or look up table and this is going to give you the best color correction possible because you’re just not going to be able to achieve that using software calibration that distorts your VPU output and it’ll distort the image on the screen. The reason why Technicolor is so important is because when you’re in the editing process, or going through your workflow, you want to make sure that you’re running the widest file size possible as you’re going through your editing workflow and that’s what these monitors are for.
Larry Jordan: Two questions come to mind. The first is, it sounds like we have the same problem with HDR media that we did with standard def which is that we can calibrate the monitor, but we have no control over what the ultimate playback device is. Do we really care that the monitor’s calibrated when we can’t control what the end user is using?
Sean Le Blanc: That’s a really good point. Yes, I think that technology’s going to have to catch up to it. Look at Peter Jackson who did ‘The Hobbit’ in 60 frames a second and the 48p territory, and that’s insane. You’re just seeing these films coming out, and so these monitors are ahead of the curve as far as the media space is concerned. Some of these higher end ones, these are really powerful pieces of equipment so that’s valid. For photography it’s a little bit different, like digital print or digital media where you’re creating graphics and printing them out, that’s a little bit different as far as the color correction gamut. That’s super important for those individuals that are looking more for photography or stills type editing, but for digital media, yes, that’s a really good point.
Larry Jordan: You mentioned that it supports the Technicolor spec as well as Rec.709, and I’m sure others as well, but you also said that we could tweak the setting so we could get exactly the look that we wanted. But doesn’t that fly in the face of trying to get the stuff to look good at the end user monitor as well as the head end where we’re doing color grading? Don’t we want to honor the spec?
Sean Le Blanc: Yes you do. I guess this is for people who like to operate on a little bit of a brighter scale. You can bring in the rest of that calibration to meet your values, so you’re not overblowing these Delta E figures and your monitor just failing these calibrations over and over again so you’re able to correct the curve that you want. I see what you’re saying as the end user. You’re watching this on maybe a smart phone on a bus, and I get what you’re saying, it’s not the same as a big nice DLP picture where you’re getting this true color through your nice projector that’s also Rec. 709. I guess this is really more for those users who have a really defined home theater set up with the capability to use that type of color space, or appreciate that type of editing. So I guess it’s really kind of user user if that makes sense?
Larry Jordan: Absolutely. What’s a popular monitor that we should look at first on your website?
Sean Le Blanc: If you are into digital media, there is no doubt the SW2700PT is the monitor to get. It’s listed as a photography monitor, but you can also double duty it as digital media. But this came out a couple of years ago and it uses IPS which is fantastic, but back then we had issues with the color gradient across the brightness uniformity and the gradient across the monitor, and that was due just to the way the IPS was structured and you’d get a grid across it. So as you would tweak down through your settings and you’re tuning your color and editing your picture, you would be able to see them and it created a lot of havoc. That’s the monitor I would recommend first off if you’re just getting into color correction or color management.
Sean Le Blanc: Then the PV series is more of where you get very serious. This is really for your studio level production where you’re doing a lot of high quality color correction. It’s got to be extremely accurate because you probably have a demanding director who is managing your whole direction and you need these monitors to really help your work shine. I would only recommend the PV series to professionals who know how to use the monitor, whereas the SW you can learn and train on. The PV270, we’re going to be showing that here at the show so people can kind of get a feel and touch of what it looks like. It’s very interesting, both monitors come with a shade hood. Stop me if I’m running away with this.
Larry Jordan: Before we run out of time, I do want to ask you, where are the monitors priced?
Sean Le Blanc: The SW2700PT is around $600. The SPV270 is around the 899 to $900 mark.
Larry Jordan: Very cool. You say these have been shipping for a while. What are you showing at NAB?
Sean Le Blanc: We are showing the PV270 and the PV3200 which is larger. You have more anchorage, but it does less than the PV270.
Larry Jordan: Very cool. For people that want more information Sean, where can they go on the web?
Sean Le Blanc: They can go to benq.com and benqdirect.com, that’s our factory outlet they can purchase all these monitors online.
Larry Jordan: That’s benq.com and Sean Le Blanc works with customer engagements, support and service for BenQ. Sean, thanks for joining us today. This has been fun, I appreciate you taking the time.
Sean Le Blanc: Absolutely Larry, I appreciate it, thank you for having me on. Have a great night.
Larry Jordan: Thank you, you too, bye bye.
Sean Le Blanc: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Jiri Matela is the CEO and co-founder of Comprimato. He created the idea of a JPEG-2000 encoder, and decoder based on the capacity of a GPU which enables software only processing of Ultra HD, 8K and 360 VR video to support interactive video editing. Hello Jiri, welcome.
Jiri Matela: Hi Larry.
Larry Jordan: Tell me, what problems do your products solve? What were we trying to fix?
Jiri Matela: It’s pretty much the exploding resolution of Ultra HD and electronic video. First it’s one of data, and then it takes a lot of time to process and this is what we are fixing with our JPEG-2000 codec and most recently also with our UltraPix format, which can be plugged into Adobe Premiere which I believe you are talking about today.
Larry Jordan: Why the focus on a GPU? What benefit does that provide?
Jiri Matela: GPUs can provide, roughly speaking, ten times more performance than CPUs, therefore we get this idea that whether we can use the GPU computing power, the performance, to leverage it and use it for video encoding or decoding. So this is what we did with JPEG-2000. We took it and implemented it on GPU or for GPU, so it goes much faster than on CPU.
Larry Jordan: So the benefit of the GPU is you’re probably running the compression on multiple processors at the same time, which means you’re getting parallel encoding and much faster throughput, is that the idea?
Jiri Matela: Exactly.
Larry Jordan: Why JPEG-2000?
Jiri Matela: One of the advantages when it comes to processing high resolution video like Ultra HD, for example one of the things is it’s based on … so it allows for so called resolution scaling, or resolution scalability, so you’re pretty much working with one file, like 4K or 8K resolution, and on the fly you can decode from that file just small resolution, so you can on the fly switch to let’s say HD or even super HD resolution while still working with one file. You don’t need to do any proxies or anything. Everything is already there. And JPEG-200 also provides better compression ratio, better compression performance than other formats out there.
Larry Jordan: Your product works across a number of different applications, but focusing on media and entertainment, what are typical applications where your product is used?
Jiri Matela: Anybody who is struggling with Ultra HD video production while Ultra HD video editing, really from anything color grading up to VFX, people are struggling with the high benefits of the video, and also the slowness of decoding of such a video and playback, is really not smooth playback. So this is what we are solving with UltraPix here. Providing smooth editing experience for people working with high resolution video.
Larry Jordan: Is this software, hardware or both?
Jiri Matela: It’s software only. It’s software that runs either GPU or also CPU. Windows, Linux and Mac is supported.
Larry Jordan: Now we’ve got a sense of what you’ve been doing, what’s the new stuff you’ve got coming at NAB?
Jiri Matela: New is our integration with Adobe Premiere and Foundry Nuke. It’s a plug-in called UltraPix which in essence is JPEG-2000 based video editing format. It’s based on JPEG-2000 and an MXF container and we created this integration with Adobe Premiere, also with Foundry Nuke.
Larry Jordan: If I’m running Premiere, and I’ve got your plug-in, I can just deal with JPEG-2000 and it handles it natively, except it handles it with greater speed?
Jiri Matela: Exactly.
Larry Jordan: What does it cost? Both the existing products and or the new one?
Jiri Matela: The existing product is actually JPEG-2000 SDK, so it’s more like a development library or codec for other software companies that licensed us. I could name for example Telestream is using Comprimato, Imagine Communication license Comprimato, and so on. But the new thing is actually a standalone plug-in that anybody can download from Comprimato website, comprimato.com, and start using it inside their video editing software, Premiere and Nuke.
Larry Jordan: Have you determined a price?
Jiri Matela: The prices are $99 per installation, per system. There is a 30 day trial version that is full featured, just limited for 30 days.
Larry Jordan: Where can people go on the web to learn more?
Jiri Matela: Go to comprimato.com and products and UltraPix is in there. There is all the information.
Larry Jordan: That website is comprimato.com and Jiri Matela is the CEO and co-founder. Jiri, thanks for sharing your time with us today.
Jiri Matela: Thank you very much for having me.
Larry Jordan: Martin Tlaskal was one of the original Baselight developers when the product started its life as an internal grading tool at the Computer Film Company in London. Now he’s head of development at FilmLight. Hello Martin, welcome.
Martin Tlaskal: Hi Larry, how you doing?
Larry Jordan: How would you describe FilmLight?
Martin Tlaskal: We’re a company which deals with color in moving images, so we write technology to ensure that you can color correct pictures and films and we make them look lovely.
Larry Jordan: If that’s FilmLight the company, what is Baselight the product?
Martin Tlaskal: Baselight the product is the suite of technologies which together allow us to manipulate images. We have full Baselight which is the high end grading system, and then we have various plug-ins for Avid and Nuke. We have Prelight which is an onset product. We have Daylight which is for dailies. Baselight is essentially the engine which runs all our products.
Larry Jordan: How does Baselight compare with DaVinci Resolve?
Martin Tlaskal: I think they have quite different philosophies. Baselight came perhaps from a more DI digital intermediate style background, so it came from the land of color timing and that sort of area, whereas DaVinci came from more of a video background. Those starting philosophies, the very beginning of the products, still reflect in the way you grade. But essentially they have quite different philosophies in terms of how they work, in terms of how you grade. Also, Baselight in more recent times, we’re putting a lot of work into moving into light visual effects, whereas Resolve is putting a lot of work into moving into editing. So, the products have quite different focuses from the teams I think, and that’s reflected in the products.
Larry Jordan: So I’m debating whether to get Baselight or Resolve. Talk to me about what Baselight does. What are some of the key features that I should consider, in deciding whether to get it?
Martin Tlaskal: I think the first thing is color management. None of the grading tools are worth a damn unless you can be very confident that the pictures you produce will look right on the display device that you’re intending to output on. Baselight has world renowned color management in terms of how we deal with the various input camera formats. How we deal with HDR. How we deal with aces. So I think it’s pretty agreed that we’re very good at that. Then you have the color grading tools which have been refined for a long time, and they don’t really work like a lot of the other color grading tools out there. They have a different focus, for example, we have a new color grading tool called Base Grade which has just been introduced which works in its own color space based on human perception, which gives it quite a different feel which a lot of people seem to really like. Then we have the whole suite of new tools which are arriving in version 5, stuff like paint, which be tracked in perspective, mesh warps, green screen keying, we have matchbox shaders which you can load from Flame. All sorts of really nice light visual effect tools, and I think people whose job is to make pretty pictures will really appreciate.
Larry Jordan: So what are you announcing at NAB?
Martin Tlaskal: There’s a few things that we’re talking about. The first one and probably most important to people who are colorists or want to become colorists, is Baselight Student. Baselight’s always been perceived as a very high end system and we sell bespoke turnkey systems. Our problem has been historically, it’s difficult for people to learn because it’s hard to get access to a seat, to actually make yourself learn all the buttons and knobs, and make yourself productive on the system. The various editions like Baselight for Nuke, Baselight for Avid have helped with that so you can learn to color grade, but it still doesn’t really help you with all the stuff about conforming and things like this which you really need to know to be a colorist or a colorist’s assistant. Baselight Student is our answer to that. It’s essentially a program where you can get in contact with us on our website, state that you want to learn Baselight, and you’ll be provided with a freely licensed, for nothing version of Baselight which allows you to try all the color grading tools, try how to render out, how to conform, all that stuff, so you can become a Baselight expert simply from joining Baselight Student. The only restrictions are that you can only render to lower quality video formats like H.264 and stuff like this.
Martin Tlaskal: We also are showing version 5 of all our products including Prelight which is our new onset grading tool, which has been in beta for several months now with a lot of very good feedback, and we’re showing the new version of that. We’re also showing all the V5 versions of Baselight for Avid and Baselight for Nuke which have some quite interesting new features. And obviously we’re showing V5 demonstrations of version 5 of our software with all the new visual effects tools. So those are the major things.
Larry Jordan: Where are you going to be at NAB? What booth so we can find you?
Martin Tlaskal: We’re at booth SL3828 which is in the standard hall where all the post production stuff is. It’s the north hall, we’re in a similar place to where we are every year. If people have visited before, I’m sure they’ll find us again.
Larry Jordan: That’s booth in the south lower hall. 3828. By the way as head of development for Baselight, what trends are you watching for the future?
Martin Tlaskal: What we’ve noticed is that our clients really are getting a desire from their clients to do more with the image. A simple color grading is not, lift gamma gain style stuff is not really sufficient anymore. A lot of work on the texture of the image, beauty work, cleaning up skin tone, making someone look younger, making someone look older, if you need to make someone look a little bit thinner, or make someone’s eyes stand out a bit more, you can use a grid warper to subtly change the ratios and stuff within the image. Stuff like lens flares, various things to sweeten an image are becoming very important, and that’s where we’ve put a lot of work. A lot of invisible VFX happens in the grading suite now, you have something like ‘Fury Road’ which was done by Eric Whipp on Baselight. That had 600 sky replacement shots done, all in the grading suite because they could be finessed with the director there.
Larry Jordan: For people that want more information, where can they go on the web to learn what FilmLight offers?
Martin Tlaskal: Our website should be a first port of call which is HYPERLINK “http://www.filmlight.ltd.uk” www.filmlight.ltd.uk which has information on all our products.
Larry Jordan: That website is filmlight.ltd.uk. Martin Tlaskal is the head of development at FilmLight. Martin, thanks for joining us today.
Martin Tlaskal: Thanks very much Larry, pleasure talking to you.
Larry Jordan: Bruno Munger is the director of business development at Colorfront. He has over 25 years experience in workflow design for file based 2D and 3D image capture, file based delivery, VFX and digital intermediate color grading. Hello Bruno, welcome.
Bruno Munger: Hello Larry.
Larry Jordan: What does Colorfront do?
Bruno Munger: We started doing two products for dailies, express dailies and on set dailies. We do feature film and episodic television and in the last two years, we came up with a mastering tool called Transkoder.
Larry Jordan: Transkoder is not color grading, it’s something different isn’t it?
Bruno Munger: It’s mastering. It’s actually making the VOD and the final deliverables for studios. So we sit in between the final color grading and the delivery of the final product.
Larry Jordan: What makes Transkoder different from other products that are out there?
Bruno Munger: We’re the fastest and the more flexible systems. We actually make our deliverables faster and with better quality than most of our competition.
Larry Jordan: What are you announcing at NAB?
Bruno Munger: NAB for us is a continuation of HDR, high dynamic range deliverables where in the last two, three years with the advent of Dolby Vision and what we call dynamic metadata, we continue to be at the forefront of creating deliverables for HDR using Dolby Vision or other means for HDR dynamic metadata.
Larry Jordan: Who’s the market for Transkoder, who should buy this?
Bruno Munger: Any post facility, any transcoding facility that actually are in the business of doing versioning, QC and or just plain finishing, creating IMF or DCPs.
Larry Jordan: What’s the price?
Bruno Munger: The price is a turnkey system, is around $50,000 including computers and everything.
Larry Jordan: Do we need to get your computers, or can we use off the shelf hardware?
Bruno Munger: It’s all on the shelf hardware. We prefer to have the system configured by our system integrator, but it’s all on the shelf hardware. HP and Super Micro.
Larry Jordan: What operating systems does it run on?
Bruno Munger: It’s all Windows 7 and Windows 10.
Larry Jordan: What are you going to be showing at the booth? Are people going to be able to get their hands on the software, or is this a technology preview or what?
Bruno Munger: We do not have a booth. We do private demos at the Renaissance, and we have partners booths at NAB with HAA, Panavision, Canon and Dolby.
Larry Jordan: That’s HAA, Panavision, Canon and Dolby. For people that want to learn more, where can they go on the web?
Bruno Munger: They can go to HYPERLINK “http://www.transkoder.com” www.transkoder.com or colorfront.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s colorfront.com and Transkoder is spelled with a K, transkoder.com.
Bruno Munger: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Bruno Munger is the director of business development at Colorfront, and Bruno, thanks for joining us today.
Bruno Munger: Thank you Larry, it was a pleasure.
Larry Jordan: Here’s another website I want to introduce you to. Doddlenews.com. DoddleNEWS gives you a portal into the broadcast, video and film industries. It’s a leading online resource, presenting news, reviews and products for the film and video industry. DoddleNEWS also offers a resource guide and crew management platforms specifically designed for production. These digital call sheets, along with their app, directory and premium listings, provide in depth organizational tools for busy production professionals. DoddleNEWS is a part of the Thalo Arts Community, a worldwide community of artists, filmmakers and storytellers. From photography to filmmaking, performing arts to fine arts, and everything in between, Thalo is filled with resources you need to succeed. Whether you want the latest industry news, need to network with other creative professionals or require state of the art online tools to manage your next project, there’s only one place to go. Doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: Foundry co-founder, Simon Robinson, who’s also their chief scientist, began his career at IBM research in New York. He subsequently worked in technology development at companies including Digital Pictures, Rushes, Framestore and MPC before starting Foundry in 1996. Hello Simon, welcome.
Simon Robinson: Hi there Larry.
Larry Jordan: Simon, I am consumed with curiosity. What does a chief scientist do?
Simon Robinson: There’s a bit of a history to it. One of my passions within the company and within the industry is image processing. As the company’s grown up, I’ve taken a lot of responsibility for the research side of the company. I sort of made up chief scientist because I thought it sounded awesome, and described the kind of work we were trying to do. Having said all that, it’s important to recognize that as with all things, Foundry now has people who are better, faster, younger than me, at most things. So it’s a title I hang onto with a certain amount of joy. There are better people than me today in the company doing that kind of work.
Larry Jordan: Why did you decide to start Foundry?
Simon Robinson: We started because my co-founder, Bruno Nicoletti and me found that we were doing a lot of software together, freelancing, mostly in London. My co-founder had already started a project to do plug-ins for what was then Discreet Logic Systems. We often get asked, “What was your ambition and where did you see the company going?” To be honest, the answer we usually give is, “We decided that we were better together than apart and what the hell could possibly go wrong?” So that was really our ambition, we just thought we’d have a lot more fun together.
Larry Jordan: I’ve learned over the years that there’s two major types of effects. Effects that are visible, and effects that are invisible. I can understand a visible effect like an explosion but I’m having a hard time getting my brain wrapped round an invisible effect. What are those?
Simon Robinson: I think invisible effects have always been with us, but they’re becoming a greater part of filmmaking. Really all we’re talking about is doing something in order to set a shot or a scene up, where the end audience doesn’t really, and shouldn’t be aware that anything has happened. Obvious examples of this are background scenery replacements, so swapping one location for another, or maybe ensuring that a street scene for a period drama happens to look like it belongs to the right period by removing all modern parts of the shot. And it’s things like that where you don’t expect the audience to notice it, but doing that kind of work well really helps sell a shot, or sell a scene, or frankly sell a movie.
Larry Jordan: So it’s used essentially to enhance the believability of the shot? Not for the audience to say, “Oh, cool effect?”
Simon Robinson: Exactly, and I think the reason why things like background and environments tend to come first to my mind is because filmmaking’s always done this. The whole objective of producing a set that looks a bit like ancient Rome when you’re doing a movie about Rome, was generally the job of carpenters and talented riggers like that. Today really it’s moved more into the digital realm, but still trying to achieve the same effect, which is you’re trying to sell the idea that what you’re watching is plausibly set where the audience thinks it should be.
Larry Jordan: You guys live at the high end of effects creation. The stuff that you and your software and your team create just boggles the mind. What are you seeing as effects trends in current films?
Simon Robinson: Well I suppose the invisible part is a strong piece of it. But apart from that, trends we’re seeing I guess can be summed up by one customer who said to me, “Frankly we can just about make anything we want these days,” so really the era of struggling to make plausible visuals, it’s not like it’s over, it’s still extremely hard work, but we can these days pretty much make whatever we want. The one thing I think which stands out still as being extremely difficult, is things like digital humans. So there has been a trend over the last few years of doing better and better synthetic humans such as we’ve seen in ‘Rogue One’ recently, but it’s been a long term kind of trend, and I think that’s one of the interesting areas where we really aren’t quite there yet. We’re very close but there’s a massive amount of research effort still going in.
Larry Jordan: With all the software tools, and the effects that are out there, how should filmmakers balance between the effects they can create, versus the effects they should create? It’s easy to get enamored with effects.
Simon Robinson: It is, and I think that sort of debate will never go away. Clearly, effects are used, as we discussed earlier, to try and help sell a scene, and I think there’s a lot of value in that at all times. On the other end, if we were trying to categorize it crudely, the end of explosions and giant killer robots, there’s always a place for that because part of the reason we also go to the movies is not purely to escape into another world but to be wowed, to be impressed, to be overwhelmed possibly by what we’ve paid to see, and I think effects are just an important part of that.
Larry Jordan: Foundry has a whole host of products that it creates for varying kinds of effects creation. How would you describe them? What are they, and give me like a two sentence description of what they do?
Simon Robinson: The software we use is clearly used a lot in visual effects and a lot of that work is around two dimensional image processing, basically a lot of stuff around the compositing area. But also we do software for 3D content creation. When we talk about that really we’re talking about 3D content creation in the sense of both designing things and visualizing them, and that’s whether it’s for entertainment use or for industrial design, product design and things like that. So everything we produce is a combination of getting 2D stuff and 3D stuff done well, for the purpose of ultimately coming up with a beautiful picture.
Larry Jordan: Well thinking of beautiful pictures reminds me of something I saw on your website. You’ve got a whole section devoted to apparel. Effects on apparel is not something that I normally think of when I think of Foundry. What is this, and is there a market?
Simon Robinson: That really points to the fact that a lot of industries today rely upon digital technology to visualize what they will make or what they have made or what they’re trying to sell. The tools and the skills that go into creating visuals for things in apparel or footwear or handbags, a lot of those technologies are the same as you would ultimately use for producing a piece of high end movie making. That’s the reason we have a lot of customers in that area, so they’re not trying to necessarily make exciting exploding handbags, I hope, but they are still trying to achieve that job of visually selling an idea in a very plausible fashion.
Larry Jordan: One of the things that intimidates me about effects software, whether it’s Foundry or After Effects or Motion or anything, is that I feel like to be successful using it, I need to be an artist. To use Foundry’s tool successfully, do I need to have artistic skills, or mathematical skills or engineering skills? What makes for a successful user?
Simon Robinson: It’s probably a combination of all of those things, but not necessarily all in the same person. Since I’ve been doing work in this industry for a long time, I’m kind of pleased that over the last couple of decades there’s been a strong push towards artistic tools used by artists with an artistic bent, over the need to be highly technical and highly engineering based. Certainly, when I started, I think the tools we were using 20 years ago, 25 years ago, you really needed a strong engineering maths brain to make sense of what you were trying to create and today, it’s quite nice that you don’t necessarily need that heavy background and what we try and do when we design our software today is take account of the fact that it should be useable and pleasantly useable by people who want to be artists, and not people who want to have to wade into a bunch of maths and engineering to get things done.
Larry Jordan: Part of what you’re working with is developing new software. Where are you investing your R&D dollars today? What trends have got your attention?
Simon Robinson: The new things we spend the most time on are in the area of helping our customers get what they need to get done, and get it done faster. This comes back to the earlier point around if a customer today is confident they can make any visual they like given enough effort, what work can we do to improve the speed and efficiency with which they do that? That’s becoming almost as much of an issue for us to solve as “How do we create a beautiful picture in the first place?” It’s more along the lines of “How do we create a picture in a certain amount of time and budget?” So a lot of background work there in terms of the efficiency in which people work, and the pipeline of tools they use. That’s a big area for us.
Simon Robinson: The other big areas are, expanding into making greater use of cloud for compute, for applications and for storage. So what is the future of the industry as more and more work can be migrated into a cloud environment rather than being in someone’s office? We do a lot of work in that area. We wouldn’t be on trend if we didn’t also do a lot of stuff these days around VR and so far that’s been a lot of stuff around 360 video. But VR in general, and AR is something that engages us quite a lot. So we put all those things together, those are big work areas for us, but a large part of the company obviously is still devoted to maintaining, supporting and expanding all the other tools we do already.
Larry Jordan: I’m impressed that you’re looking at so many different areas in your research, but frankly, I have to get right down to what’s in it for me today? NAB is next week, what are you guys announcing?
Simon Robinson: At NAB, we’ll be showing stuff in the cloud work we’ve been doing, and what we’ll actually be showing is a service we’ve been developing called Ilara, and Ilara is a complete cloud based service for post production. So it’s a way of using a web browser to set up possibly a small studio, with you and some friends, and using Foundry applications and applications of other people ideally we’re trying to demonstrate we can provide the pipeline, the tools and the infrastructure you need to do post production. That’s one of the biggest things we’re doing at the moment, and it’s one of the things we’re going to be highlighting at the show. So we’re doing that. We’re also showing our latest version of Nuke which will be Nuke 11. Nuke is our flagship compositing product and it’s the background to a lot of our expertise in image processing in general. So that’s going to open beta over the next couple of days, so we’ll be showing people all that at NAB. We’ll also be showing some updates we’ve been doing for our tools for virtual reality, so this is our product called Cara VR and we’ll be demonstrating improvements to that, and in particular, improvements to acquiring depth from camera rigs as well as just straight 360 video. We’re showing some work we’ve been doing with a Nokia camera on that. Those are probably the highlights of what we’re announcing for NAB.
Larry Jordan: For people that need all the details, where can they go on the web?
Simon Robinson: The easiest place to go on the web is to our website, foundry.com/events which has a list of all the events we’re doing and obviously top of the list at the moment is NAB.
Larry Jordan: That website is foundry.com and Simon Robinson is the co-founder of Foundry, and Simon, thanks for joining us today.
Simon Robinson: It’s been great, thank you Larry.
Larry Jordan: One of the things I like best about NAB is discovering all the new tools and new toys the companies have been working on for the past year. New tools, new ways of looking at traditional problems, and updates to old friends. Remember to join us for our NAB coverage starting Monday at 11am, Las Vegas time, as we present The Digital Production Buzz at NAB. And you’ll learn more at NABshowbuzz.com.
Larry Jordan: I also want to thank our guests this week, Sean Le Blanc of BenQ, Jiri Matela from Comprimato, Martin Tlaskal with FilmLight, Bruno Munger with Colorfront, Simon Robinson with Foundry, and as always, James DeRuvo with DoddleNEWS.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Here you’ll find thousands of interviews all online, and all available to you today. Remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter that comes out every Friday. Talk with us on Twitter @DPBuZZ and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com.
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Larry Jordan: Our producer is Debbie Price. My name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to The Digital Production Buzz.
Larry Jordan: The Digital Production Buzz is copyright 2017 by Thalo LLC.