Get the Latest BuZZ Each Week

Transcript: Digital Production Buzz – December 14, 2017

HOST
Larry Jordan

GUESTS
Kain Tietzel, CEO and Founder, Start VR
Ryan Ritchey, Creator, VRonMac.com
Ian Forester, Founder, VR Playhouse
Nick Bicanic, Founder, RVLVR Labs
James DeRuvo, Senior Writer, DoddleNEWS

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Male Voiceover: The Digital Production Buzz is brought to you by KeyFlow Pro; media asset management software, designed to meet the needs of work groups at an affordable price.

Larry Jordan: This week on the Buzz, we are looking at virtual reality; storytelling and beyond.  We start with Kain Teitzel; he is the CEO and Founder of Start VR.  This is a company that creates interactive cinematic VR entertainment for their clients.  Tonight he talks about the difference between VR and filmmaking and what it takes to create VR environments that you can explore.

Larry Jordan: Next, Ian Forester is the Founder of the VR Playhouse; he’s looking for ways to use VR to create amazing stories.  Tonight he explains what makes 360 VR different from traditional storytelling.

Larry Jordan: Next, Ryan Ritchey created a new website called VRonMac.com, that’s devoted to covering VR.  Why?  Because, as a filmmaker and an editor, he couldn’t find anything on the web that helped him with the creative process of creating VR; so he invented it.

Larry Jordan: Next Nick Bicanic is the Founder of RVLVR Labs; tonight, he takes us behind the scenes of writing a VR script, then choosing the right gear to shoot it.  All this, plus James DeRuvo with our weekly doddleNEWS update.  The Buzz starts now.

Male Voiceover: 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.

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.  Hi, my name is Larry Jordan.

Larry Jordan: This morning, at 5:30am, Apple released the latest versions of Final Cut Pro X Compressor and Motion; I’ll have more on these new versions in my segment at the end of the show.  However, for now, I just want to mention that, if you haven’t turned up auto update in system preferences, you are probably already working with the new version.  For those that haven’t upgraded yet, I always recommend waiting until you’re done with a project before upgrading.  Now this waiting isn’t required, it just decreases your stress.  Also, if you use a lot of plug-ins or third party gear, be sure that it is compatible with the new version before you upgrade.  The new version has lots of fascinating features, but they’ll still be there if you wait a bit before you upgrade.  A little research now can save a lot of pain later.

Larry Jordan: By the way, I want to invite you to subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com.  Every issue, every week provides quick links to the different segments on the show, plus articles of interest to filmmakers.  Best of all, it’s free and comes out every Saturday.  Before I introduce James DeRuvo, I want to mention that we taped his news report yesterday, before Apple announced the release of Final Cut Pro X.

Larry Jordan: So now it’s time for our weekly doddleNEWS update with James DeRuvo.  Hello James.

James DeRuvo: Hi Larry, how are you?

Larry Jordan: You know, it’s the holidays and I can start to smell Christmas trees in the air.

James DeRuvo: And all that fruit cake that’s being baked.

Larry Jordan: Truly enough.  So what have we got in the news this week?

James DeRuvo: Just in time for the holidays, Apple has given us all an early Christmas present; they’re shipping the new iMac Pro.  It’s available with up to 18 core Intel processors; up to 128 gigabytes of DDR4 RAM; SSDs up to four terabytes and it’s driven by AMD’s Radeon Pro Vega GPUs to Apple’s 5K retina screen, with 16 gigabytes of RAM.  Dude, seriously, this thing is going to be a beast.

Larry Jordan: Given the fact neither of us have played with it yet, what’s your reaction?

James DeRuvo: Simply put, the iMac Pro has so much performance, honestly, it could end up making those involved in post-production forget that Apple is promising to release the higher priced modular Mac Pro sometime next year.  Who’s going to need a trashcan mark two when you’ve got this beauty?  I think this is the one that fulfils the promise that Apple cares more about the Pro market again.

Larry Jordan: Okay, that’s Apple.  What else have we got this week?

James DeRuvo: Well, Panasonic GH5 is getting a firmware update; it’s a scheduled update that promises to boost the GH5’s image stabilization with variable rate recording, plus there’s support for Leica’s 200mm f/2.8 lens.  There’s also a great deal going on right now for the GH5 in a bundle with the Atomos Inferno Recorder, which offers ten bit 4K60 recording in pro res.

Larry Jordan: What are the rumors I’m hearing about this update?

James DeRuvo: Some are saying that this scheduled update sets the stage for a rumored GH5s that may come out next month at CES.  It’s got a sensor based on the G9, which promises to have better low light performance and put it head to head with the Sony A7 line.  But, if that’s true, its best feature may be that it lowers the price of the current model; because, whenever a new model comes out, the previous model goes down in price.  I think it’s a good update that will tide over those who want to upgrade; but, you may not need to.

Larry Jordan: Okay, that’s Panasonic.  What else have we got this week?

James DeRuvo: From our friends Down Under, RØDE has announced a new audio interface called the AI-1.  It’s designed for home recording, but it offers pro studio quality, with a single combo XLR quarter inch input; plus two balanced monitor outputs.  It’s got a dynamic range of 104 dBu; frequency response better than plus or minus 1dB and it’s USB powered; so you can take it anywhere you take your computer.

Larry Jordan: Well you said this is for home recording.  Do you see that as the principle target market?

James DeRuvo: I do.  Whether you’re a one man crew, or a YouTuber looking to up your game, the RØDE AI-1 can certainly provide pro studio quality at a home studio price.  It’s essentially plug and play and just enough connections to do the basic tasks that we all rely on.  At 129 bucks, you just can’t beat the price.

Larry Jordan: Okay, so that’s Apple and Panasonic and RØDE; what other stories are you following this week?

James DeRuvo: Other stories this week include why you should be shooting in 4K already; FreeFly goes mobile with the new Movi Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer and how about peeking behind the curtain on how RED makes its iconic MONSTRO cameras.

Larry Jordan: Where can we go on the web to get these and other stories?

James DeRuvo: All these stories and more can be found at doddlenews.com.

Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the Senior Writer for doddleNEWS and James, as always, thanks for joining us this week.

James DeRuvo: Okay Larry, see you next week.

Larry Jordan: When you can’t find your media, you need a media asset management solution.  KeyFlow Pro.  This simple but powerful software is designed specifically to help you organize, track and find your media.  Whether you work alone or part of a group, its intuitive user interface helps you easily store, sort, search, play, annotate and share your media; using team based shared libraries over a network.  Its wide range of features are all at a very affordable price and, with the new 1.8.3 update, rescanning is up to ten times faster.  Plus, KeyFlow Pro is integrated with Mac OS notifications, enabling you to collaborate faster and smarter all in real time.  KeyFlow Pro is available in the Mac App store; or get a 30 day free trial at keyflowpro.com.  KeyFlow Pro, simple, elegant and surprisingly affordable.

Larry Jordan: Kain Teitzel is a serial entrepreneur, who’s been working with technology startups, creative agencies and media companies for over 20 years.  Currently, Kain serves as the CEO and Founder of Start VR; this is an award-winning full service production studio specializing in immersive interactive cinematic entertainment.  Hello Kain, welcome.

Kain Teitzel: Hi Larry, thanks very much.

Larry Jordan: What does the term immersive interactive entertainment mean to you?

Kain Teitzel: It’s a really good question to start with.  Within the realm of VR at the moment we have, you know, the entry point I guess is a lot of linear 360 video and, at the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got a lot of video game type mechanics. Whether you’re creating 3D universes or worlds, it’s very game orientated.  We’re trying to create something unique and in between those two concepts.  We’re still telling immersive stories like you would with regular film and television; but we’re adding another layer of navigational light interaction, to help you, as the user, feel more engaged in the storyline as you shape the outcome.

Larry Jordan: Are these fictional stories, or are we recreating something from the past?  Give me a perspective.

Kain Teitzel: It can be a combination of fiction and fact driven, or documentary.  In the way that you might watch a travel documentary, most travel documentaries would be linear; this actually enables you to go to a destination and to hear those local stories, but to explore the environment at your own leisure.  Then, on the fiction side, it’s telling some larger narrative pieces that will enable you to shape the outcome in different ways; either choose to explore a path in more detail, or an area of discovery or to, you know, effectively be led by the narrative as well.

Larry Jordan: VR has been described to me as though we were standing at the center of a globe and looking out in this 360 sphere at the world around us; front, back, top, bottom, left and right.  If that’s a true statement, how do we explore an environment?  Are we just pushing this globe around with us, or am I not seeing the concept?

Kain Teitzel: In the technology sense, we refer to them as 3DOF and 6DOF.  3DOF stands for Three Degrees of Freedom and six stands for Six Degrees.  3DOF effectively gives you a 360 degree view; up, down, left, right, all around and that’s the globe premise I guess you’re talking about there.  But with 6DOF we can actually move around our environment; we have more freedom and liberty to interact with the environment.  Within the 6DOF experience, I can look underneath a table, I can look around a person, I can walk around an object and engage with it.  Pick up objects and, you know, have a very tactile experience inside VR.  Whereas, a 360 sphere, you are limited to that one particular sphere of view.  Both technologies are available and both are used to tell different types of stories.

Larry Jordan: The 6DOF is the one that I’m traditionally familiar with, with games, where everything would be programmed; but you’re not doing a game; you’re doing something which is simulating real life.

Kain Teitzel: That’s correct, yes and that’s the challenge.  That interactive cinematic VR that we work with, we’re trying to create cinematic worlds using the same kind of language we use with cinema, but also visually trying to create something that looks more than just video.  We use a range of different techniques to make sure that we can create those environments.  For example, in order to be able to move around an environment, we will use techniques like photogrammetry; which is effectively taking thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of photos of a physical location; you then run those photos through a piece of software and that turns those photos into a realistic 3D model.  Once you have that 3D representation of that physical space, it feels as if you’re there and you can move around it.

Larry Jordan: What those photos allow me to do is to walk around an object and see all the different sides of an object; as opposed to simply being again in my sphere.

Kain Teitzel: That’s correct, yes, and it’s not just an object, it’s a location.  One of our projects, we went into the Temples of Damanhur in Italy and captured these amazing almost like Egyptian tombs with friezes and pieces of artwork.  You know, by taking these tens of thousands of photos, you can then, in VR, walk around those locations and you can get up close and detailed as if you were literally there.

Larry Jordan: How would you compare the roles of the kind of immersive entertainment you’re creating with the kind of immersive entertainment that we see every day in a movie theater?

Kain Teitzel: For starters, I guess, movie theater experiences are linear; there’s a start and an end and in the middle is where the story is.  As a viewer, you have the story told at you, so there’s very little room for interpretation.  Whereas VR, you’re not so much watching an experience, you are in the experience; so, instead of watching a James Bond movie, you can be in the James Bond movie; you can be one of the extras helping James, you know complete his mission.  You’re feeding him information, you’re helping shape the outcome of the story; which the idea is, to try and heighten the sense of immersion, to get closer to the characters, to get even deeper into these universes than you can than just watching it on a flat screen.

Larry Jordan: Can you even develop a narrative with this, when you can’t control where the viewer is going to look or go next?  In traditional filmmaking, coming up with a storyline is relatively easy.  It sounds like it becomes much more of an engaging experience, but much less of a plot.

Kain Teitzel: No, not at all.  A good story can still be told inside VR, we’re just having to create a new language by which to sort of create these narrative experiences.  In the same way that we did with film, you know, and it took 100 years to get to where we are now; by learning shots and tracking and different production techniques.  We’re effectively starting low again with VR.  How do we tell a story but still give people that freedom and liberty?

Kain Teitzel: Even though you give people a world of choice, most people don’t want to take that.  We’re using other simple techniques such as, you know, if the user doesn’t make a choice one way or another, we still put them back on a track and help propel the story forward.  But they still have options to branch off if they want to and they’ll still come back into the main plot and central narrative.

Larry Jordan: How long do these stories run, in terms of duration?

Kain Teitzel: Most of the experiences we create are between five and 15 minutes.

Larry Jordan: What gear do you use to create your experiences?

Kain Teitzel: The gear we use to create, it all depends on the type of aesthetic feeling we’re looking for, what the budget allows and what type of interactive experience we want.  For a lot of our commercial clients, a lot of the work we do is linear 360 video and within that, we have a Nokia OZO camera, which is a 12 lens stereo 4K 360 video capture device and we use that primarily in most of our projects.  But we’ll also use other cameras, maybe dual pair Blackmagic 180 lenses; we might use a couple of GoPro rigs.  It depends if we need to put it on a drone and weight’s a factor.

Kain Teitzel: Mostly we use the Nokia OZO for our 360 video production.  Then, when it comes to some of the other projects with photogrammetry, volumetric capture, you know, we’ll use dedicated services to help us create those experiences.  We didn’t talk about this in the interview, but that allows us to capture a holographic performance of a real human being and bring that into virtual reality.  For that we’ve been partnering with Microsoft Mixed Reality Studios, out of their Redmond Studio and the data involved in that is astronomical.  That enables us to create really incredibly lifelike human performance capture, as if you’re standing next to someone.

Larry Jordan: Where does Start VR fit into this?  Are you the creative team?  Are you the hardware that builds the creative?  What do you see as the role of the company?

Kain Teitzel: We’re the content creators and we’re trying to define a new form of narrative, which is that interactive cinematic narrative.  We’re pioneering techniques, creating our own IP, but also licensing IP; to try and tell bigger stories inside VR.  There’s a certain amount of video production, film production, narrative and interactive storytelling and software development.

Larry Jordan: Let’s say that I was a client that wanted you to create say a short five minute experience, doing the kind of work that you’re doing now.  What would be an approximate timeframe?  In other words, is this something that gets done in a week or a year, and what’s an approximate budget?  Just give me some ranges.

Kain Teitzel: I think there’s generally been a rule of thumb that a minute of 360 video is $10,000; so that’s probably your very basic rule of thumb; so your five minute video might cost you 50,000.  But for 360 video that’s coming down all the time.  When it comes to the sort of larger, more interactive experiences, there’s software development, there’s a range of different media we have to create; a project like that might come in between 150-250,000.  Then, when you’re looking at some of our bigger projects, you know, with volumetric capture and Hollywood actors, much larger production values, they might come anywhere between, you know, half a million and a million dollars and that’s still keeping it relatively cheap.

Larry Jordan: Time to produce?

Kain Teitzel: From a 360 video, the minimum time to turn that around is probably three to four weeks, but ideally six to eight and most VR projects we have will take between three and five months to produce.  If it’s larger, six to nine months.

Larry Jordan: You’ve been founding companies for a long time, are you still excited about this one?

Kain Teitzel: This is my favorite one.  I mean, I love this company, I love this industry, I love this business.  This brings together all the things I love, which is technology; innovation; on the bleeding edge; media production; storytelling; design, you know, it’s got all the best things going for it.  It’s all still so new, so there are rules to be made and broken again and again and that keeps me on my toes and keeps me driven, that’s for sure.

Larry Jordan: For people that want to learn more about the titles you create, where can they go on the web?

Kain Teitzel: To learn more about what we do, you can go to startvr.co and, on our website, you can experience some of our great work and sign up to a mailing list to hear about our new product announcements as well.

Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, startvr.co and Kain Teitzel is the Founder and CEO of Start VR and, Kain, thanks for joining us today.

Kain Teitzel: Thank you for your excellent questions Larry.  Have a great day.

Larry Jordan: Ian Forester launched VR Playhouse in 2015, uniting digital entertainment and live storytelling with immersive experiences in 360 video, pre-rendered VR and interactive VR and all the different fusions in between.  Hello Ian, welcome.

Ian Forester: Hey Larry, thanks for having me.

Larry Jordan: How would you describe VR Playhouse without using all the terms I just used?

Ian Forester: At our core we’re a creative studio, we came together to create transformational experiences in the digital space and, as we were quite early, before the massive hype of 2015-16, we became a go-to for people looking to create VR content; so we became a pretty robust service offering for a company who wanted to get into the space.

Larry Jordan: What is it that you find so attractive about virtual reality?

Ian Forester: You know, to me, I think that there is a lot to be gained from the agency of being able to affect the media with your behavior; even if you’re just talking about 360 video.  Just that agency of being able to look around, I think, has a powerful effect psychologically.  I’m excited to see what the long tail of the medium becomes as it becomes more prevalent and as we start using it as a device.

Larry Jordan: You’ve been working in VR for a couple of years.  How is storytelling different in VR than from traditional media?

Ian Forester: I’d say that, in traditional media, the authorship and the character and the role of the author is very well defined and has been well defined for a long time and that role is to say, sit back, take a load off, be easy, I’m in control now and I’m going to show you everything you need to know.  There’s a real masterful art in ordering information and presenting it in such a way that makes that a very pleasurable experience.

Ian Forester: Like I said, there’s a real masterful art to that.  I think when you’re talking about immersive or interactive work, what you’re talking about there is less a single stream downward, but more you’re setting traps, you’re creating what a teacher friend of mine calls serendipity machines.  I think that, you know, creating little pockets of delight for people to discover is very fun and rewarding to me.  I think that’s part of the difference.

Larry Jordan: It sounds like you’re almost designing an Easter egg hunt.

Ian Forester: I think that’s a great way to put it Larry.

Larry Jordan: In your website, you talk about something called spacial mapping.  What is that?

Ian Forester: Spacial mapping is sort of a broad term to include the capture of any type of physical space and transferring it into the digital world.  If a place exists in real life, how do we map its space and then, you know, be able to import it into some kind of interactive engine, or even just being able to film it with a virtual camera.  You know, I use that term because it encompasses, broadly, capture using light arc, or capture using photogrammetry; capture using light field cameras, as well as volumetric cameras and conversion techniques.

Larry Jordan: I’ve got a philosophical question for you.  There seems to be a bigger social question, as we move toward VR, in that we’re pushing viewers into their little individual worlds surrounded by the headset.  Given that it’s hard enough to get people to communicate on a day-to-day basis, are we fragmenting and isolating us in society even more?

Ian Forester: Well, I think that’s certainly one way to look at it and that is a pressing concern, I think, for everybody in the VR space.  One of the reasons that I decided to jump into the space, beyond my passion for communicating the types of experiences I was doing in the analogue world for a digital pipeline, was, I could see the opportunity and I wanted to be part of the group that was creating this future; so that I could influence it in a direction for people to connect to each other.

Ian Forester: I think that there is far more profit to be made in separating people into what I call thought ghettos and then charging them to gain access outside of that cohort.  I think this is something that Facebook’s made a really prime example of.  You get pushed into your own sort of thought feedback loop and that becomes its own virtual reality, its own echo-chamber of a reality.  How do you then break outside of that?  Well, you have to cross through the center of the circle and that includes going through Facebook and there’s a toll for that; you have to pay for that access.

Ian Forester: Like I said, there is a real danger of that, you know, as well as the massive new data that is available from VR users, Kevin Kelly, the former Founder and Editor of Wired said, you know, if the cell phone is a surveillance device we all willingly carry in our pocket, VR is a full surveillance …  You know, to track the kinds of behavioral metrics of somebody before VR was prohibitively expensive and very invasive to their lives; so it was nearly impossible to gain consent for that.  In VR, those metrics are readily available and that kind of surveillance is invisible and cheap; so it now becomes very possible and attractive for people who want to profit off of it.

Ian Forester: I think that we’re going to have to understand what this tool is and where it can be used.  It can be used, you know, to create incredible experiences for people and some radical change in the lives of individuals; but we also need to temper that and understand that with a real priority placed on transparency or personal ownership of data.  I think that’s going to be the next big fight when it comes to technology and today’s FCC decision is an interesting data point in that progression.

Larry Jordan: It will be an interesting thing to watch as the future unfolds.  For people that want to keep track of the products that you’re creating and follow your work, where can they go on the web?

Ian Forester: Sure, you can check us out at www.vrplayhouse.com.

Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, vrplayhouse.com and Ian Forester is the Founder of VR Playhouse.  Ian, thanks for joining us today.

Ian Forester: Thanks Larry.

Larry Jordan: Take care, bye-bye.

Larry Jordan: Ryan Ritchey has been an Editor and Producer for 17 years, working in industrial video and documentaries.  He also served as an Associate Producer on the recent revival of the cult classic TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000.   But, what I’m excited about is, he’s the Creator of VRonMac.com.  Hello Ryan, welcome.

Ryan Ritchey: Hi Larry, thanks for having me.

Larry Jordan: What first got you interested in VR?

Ryan Ritchey: Well, for the longest time, I was in the camp that this whole VR thing was a fluke and wasn’t going anywhere.  I think it was because it didn’t speak to me.  Then about ten or 12 months ago, just about a year, we took my two Nieces to a local VR arcade, for lack of a better word; it was only two different headsets.  When I saw them use it and saw how they interacted with it, I started to think, you know what, this isn’t necessarily a flash in the pan and, so, with my background in video editing, it looked like 360 video was sort of the bridge between the world I knew and sort of getting into this world of VR.

Larry Jordan: Why VRonMac?

Ryan Ritchey: I ask myself that every day.  What had happened was, I’ve been an Adobe Premiere Editor and then a Final Cut Pro Editor basically from Final Cut Three and that means I’m used to a Mac workflow.  Over the summer, with the announcements at WWDC regarding VR support coming to the Mac, I was really excited; this is my chance to get involved.  As time went by, I kept looking for information and resources and where are we right now. I’m doing this and I couldn’t find them.  My Wife actually got tired of me every night complaining, I can’t find the information; why can’t I find this information?  She said, you know what, you need to just make the website you’re looking for; so that’s what led to creating it.

Larry Jordan: Stop complaining and do the work.

Ryan Ritchey: Exactly.

Larry Jordan: What are your goals for the site and, by the way, I’m looking at VRonMac now.  It’s one word, VRonMac.com and it’s just a very clean, lovely, information rich site and I’m really impressed with it.  Nice job and, in the short time you’ve had to create it, it looks lovely.  What are your medium and long-term goals for the site?

Ryan Ritchey: For me, you know, it’s interesting.  I feel like, for now, the same group that is interested in creating VR and creating 360 video, in large part, is the group that’s consuming it.  For now, we don’t have a huge installed base with the bigger headsets, the Vive and the Oculus Rift and so forth; so I’m approaching it as, let’s look at what’s happening on the creation side.  What’s new for 360 editing, you know, what’s new in Adobe Premiere, what’s new in Final Cut and, then into the gaming engines, Unity and Unreal.  But then, as this stuff starts to come online that you can experience it on a Mac, you know, also we want to have reviews of, well here’s a web VR experience you can have today with your Mac.

Ryan Ritchey: It’s really both sides.  I want to keep an eye on creation, because that’s important to me and my business and then, also, the experience and how you can consume this content on a Mac.

Larry Jordan: Well, does that mean you’ve given up editing, or are you doing VR on the Mac on the side?  How does this fit in with your schedule?

Ryan Ritchey: VR Mac is definitely a side project, it will not pay the bills; so I’m still an Editor and Producer first and foremost.  But I’m really interested in exploring what we can do with 360 video, especially how that bridges the gap between traditional video and then the VR side, which we start to get into more of a video game model at some point.

Larry Jordan: You are balancing between the old and the new; the older form of traditional movie making and VR.  What do you see as the medium term for VR?  Is it still a flash in the pan, you just want to take advantage of it; or has it got legs, is it going to replace filmmaking as we know it?  What’s your thought?

Ryan Ritchey: The analogy I use is, I think we’re at the point where, think about the telephone and if you were standing there with Alexander Graham Bell and said, well what do you think is going to become of this telephone?  At that point you couldn’t even imagine the uses; the fact that, years later we would use that same copper line for internet and that kids would need to have these devices with them all the time.  I feel like that’s where we are with VR; it is its own thing, it’s not just a video gaming system and it’s not video production.

Ryan Ritchey: Medium term, I think what we’re going to start to see is a movement to, you know, more of the phone based headsets or mobile headsets; because I think those are what we’re going to see deployed in mass.  The bigger question of, what content will people be watching on those headsets I think is still up in the air.

Larry Jordan: For people that want more information about your website and VR in general, where can they go on the web?

Ryan Ritchey: Sure, they can stop by VRonMac.com, or also on Twitter, VRonMac.

Larry Jordan: That’s all one word VRonMac and Ryan Ritchey is the Creator and Founder of VRonMac and, Ryan, thanks for joining us today.

Ryan Ritchey: Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.

Larry Jordan: Heres’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 platform 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.

Larry Jordan: doddleNEWS is a part of the Thalo Arts community, a worldwide community of artists, filmmakers and storytellers.  For photography to filmmaking, performing arts to fine arts and everything in between, Thalo is filled with the 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: Nick Bicanic is an award-winning Film Director and Software Entrepreneur; he’s also the Founder of RVLVR Labs, a virtual and augmented reality storytelling company.  He’s currently working to figure how to make virtual reality storytelling compelling for audiences.  Hello Nick, welcome back.

Nick Bicanic: Hey. Thank you very much for having me.

Larry Jordan: Well we had so much fun the last time you were on a few months ago, we decided it was time to invite you back to learn more about what’s happening in the world of VR.  What I wanted to do tonight, because we’ve been talking with some other folks about VR as well, but they’ve all been focused on production and the point of view of the audience.  What I’m interested in hearing from you is, the process of writing a script for VR.  When you’re writing for a VR project, what do you need to pay attention to?

Nick Bicanic: Well, in my opinion, when you’re writing for any kind of project, the first and foremost thing you pay attention to is the story.  At the risk of sounding obvious, that doesn’t change, no matter what medium you’re in.  Whether you’re writing a graphic novel, or whether you’re writing a movie or a short film or, in this case, a piece of VR, you have to think about story, character and plot.

Nick Bicanic: The easiest way to describe this is to think about, what is different in the way in which you approach writing for, for example, 360 video or interactive narrative; versus how you might write for more traditional things; be that a video game or a movie.  The answer is, not a massive amount.  At the high level, a story is a story and if you can nail story, character and plot, you can nail the emotional connection with the audience; the rest is details.  They’re important details but they’re details nonetheless.

Larry Jordan: Well let me play devil’s advocate.  How can you write a story when you have no control over the flow and you have no control over the order at which the people that are viewing your story consume it?  It becomes much more of, not a story but an experience.

Nick Bicanic: You’re touching on something that is, at the moment, a sharp distinction between multiple parts of VR.  There is such a thing in the VR industry that’s referred to as 360 video or VR video and, in this particular case, the experience is not as interactive as you’re suggesting.  For sure, the person who’s consuming the experience, the viewer shall we say, can choose where to look; but they cannot, for example, decide to go in a completely different direction.  The story can only go where the camera has been.  If you decide to add elements of interactivity or, shall we say, viewer agency, you’re describing something that’s much more of a video game than a direct narrative story.

Nick Bicanic: Obviously there’s a gray area in the middle, where you could have something that’s a partially interactive narrative where, depending on what you might do the plot might bifurcate or branch, as people often say in the industry.  There are various different degrees of types of narrative; there is a traditional passive narrative, where the story goes in one particular direction and you can’t affect it; there is the opposite extreme, which is a fully interactive environment.  It’s easier to think of it as a video game than it is an experience, because in a video game we know that you can pick up a joystick and move the character into various different directions and do different things; and then there’s the middle ground, which is a hybrid form; a partially interactive narrative, or a branching narrative.  Frankly, the rules are still being written on exactly how this stuff works and what you should do.

Nick Bicanic: The point that I was making is not that there’s no difference between interactive narrative and traditional passive narrative, but there’s no real difference when you apply it to VR; so, if you’re thinking about writing for an interactive game that’s played on a PC, the similar skills would apply when you’re doing that in VR.  If you’re thinking of writing for a traditional movie or a short film, exactly the same writing skills apply when you’re writing a 360 video, which will be consumed in a VR headset.

Larry Jordan: How much of the VR script is written ahead of time and how much of it evolves during rehearsal and performance?  I’m thinking of the difference between say shooting a film and live theater.  Live theater gets its whatever it is from the rehearsal process and filmmaking gets its whatever it is from the actual process of shooting that scene.  Is there something similar with VR?

Nick Bicanic: There is, for sure.  Let’s assume, for the moment, that we’re talking about the segments for VR which involve photorealistic images; in other words cameras and people.  Because, the moment you push into computer generated imagery, you change the dynamics completely because, in effect, the animator is controlling absolutely everything and everything takes place in the computer.  If you are shooting real people, so actors, then there is definitely an element of what you can call either blocking, or staging, or choreography, or all of the above, which helps the final story take shape.

Nick Bicanic: But, I don’t know that there’s a hard and fast rule for this yet, because, this is a storytelling language that is still evolving.  We don’t have the benefit of 100 years’ worth of fairly stable and known tools for montage and mise en scène and camera movement.  What we’re doing here is that, we have to try and think in a slightly different way.  We know that the audience member could look in any particular direction; so, in a way, we have to act a little bit like a magician, because we’ve got to take a guess as to which way the audience is looking and try and get them to not look in completely the wrong direction.

Nick Bicanic: At the same time, we don’t want to confuse them and we don’t want to make it entirely obvious; because the last thing you want to do is constantly be, as a viewer, responding to somebody who’s going, hey, hey, look over here, look over here.  If it’s too obvious it’ll get really annoying.

Nick Bicanic: For sure, there is an element of a story that forms itself during a rehearsal; but in many cases, the degree to which this happens is dictated by the budget.  You might not have the time to spend two or three days doing detailed dress rehearsals and, shall we say, table reads or whatever the equivalent of a 360 video table read would be; which would allow you to think about camera movement and blocking and choreography.  The more of that you can do, the more immersive and emotionally engaging experience you can make.

Larry Jordan: Let’s get back to writing the script again.  How much of this blocking or staging do you see as your writing and how much of it occurs during the rehearsal or shooting process?

Nick Bicanic: A lot of that depends on the experience of the writer.  In many cases I, as a Director, don’t mind one way or the other; I’m perfectly happy to interpret a traditionally written screenplay with traditional screenplay beats.  In my head, I internalize the vision both for how I feel I’d like the camera to move and approximately what the rhythm of the edits would be in these movements.

Nick Bicanic: One of the reasons that I do that on my projects is that I have significant experience both as a Director and as an Editor.  If you are working with a much bigger crew and a much bigger project, where you are forced to specialize more significantly, that can get a little harder.  In many cases, you are forced to rely on multiple people to have to interpret all of these different things and, in many cases, much like in heavy visual effects shoots, previsualization forms a key part of the production process.  You would go, written screenplay, into basic previsualization and/or storyboard, into some element of blocking/choreography and then into your shoot.

Larry Jordan: Which gets me to the projects that you’re working on.  What was a recent VR project that you did?  Because I want to have you bragging for a minute.

Nick Bicanic: I appreciate that, I’m always happy to brag.  I’ve been doing a lot of work in scripted narrative.  Although, as a company, we’ve done a lot of different branded content projects, the most recent project we got a lot of acclaim for was a scripted narrative piece called Cupid.  Scripted narrative is very hard to do in 360 video; generally people have been quite scared of editing; they’ve been quite scared of increasing the pace and it’s made for what, in my opinion, is a lot of beautifully shot, amazing environments, but not necessarily dynamic fast-paced stories.

Nick Bicanic: We tried to do something a little different, with a project called Cupid and it was very well received; it was featured both on Oculus Video and on Samsung VR.  We’re actually currently in discussion with Samsung about doing a number of follow up episodes; essentially an extended season of the entire show; so that looks really good.

Larry Jordan: That’s very exciting.  For people who want to keep track of the work that you’re doing, where can they go on the web?

Nick Bicanic: The best place is to go to our website, which is rvlvrlabs.com.

Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, rvlvrlabs and Nick Bicanic is the award-winning filmmaker that’s running the whole place.  Nick, thanks for joining us today.

Nick Bicanic: Thank you for having me.

Larry Jordan: Bye-bye.

Larry Jordan: You know, I was just thinking, this morning, as I waited for Apple to launch the latest versions of Final Cut Pro X, about the process of upgrading.  Upgrades are a delicate balance.  As users, we always want the latest and greatest features, but, we don’t want the upgrade to change the way we work and that is a difficult challenge to meet.

Larry Jordan: As I wrote in my blog this morning, what Apple has done with this release is to position Final Cut for the future; the application now supports 360 degree video, HDR, HEVC and HEIF codecs.  These codecs allow us to import and edit video and stills shot on iOS 11 devices and media frame sizes can now range up to 8K; which I think is a ridiculous amount of resolution and an excessive amount of bandwidth, but someone will find a way to describe it as the salvation of western civilization as we know it and we’ll be stuck using it in the future.

Larry Jordan: The engineering to support these changes on Apple’s part is massive; but, for many of us, who aren’t working in these formats, it can seem a bit anticlimactic.  But I think a better way to think of what Apple has done is that, now, we won’t outgrow the software as we experiment with new ways of working with media.  Fortunately, Apple didn’t change the interface, except in two key areas; color grading and 360 VR.  The color tools have undergone a massive update, with color wheels returning to the app and the new addition of a wide variety of color curves.  Once you start using the new color tools, you’ll never look back.

Larry Jordan: While 360 VR can feed an HTC Vive headset, providing you have the right computer, for me, what is more exciting is that any Mac that can run the latest version of Final Cut can now display and edit VR on their computer monitor.  This opens most of us to playing with VR without making a huge investment in new hardware.  As you heard earlier on tonight’s show, there is lots of opportunity in VR out there and, finally, Apple has given us the ability to play.

Larry Jordan: For those who want to learn more about this latest release, I’ve created new video training, almost 26 hours, that covers everything from workflow, to editing, to color grading, to effects.  You can learn more by visiting my store at larryjordan.com/store.  It’s a compelling upgrade and I’m looking forward to hearing what you are doing with it.  This is just something I’m thinking about.

Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests on tonight’s show, Kain Teitzel from Start VR, Ian Forester of VR Playhouse, Ryan Ritchey of VRonMac.com, Nick Bicanic of RVLVR Labs and James DeRuvo of doddlenews.com.  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.

Larry Jordan: Remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter, that comes out every Saturday.  Talk with us on Twitter @dpbuzz and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com.  Our theme music is composed by Nathan Dugi-Turner, with additional music provided by smartsound.com.  Text transcripts are provided by Take 1 Transcription; visit take1.tv to learn how they can help you.  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.

Male Voiceover: The Digital Production Buzz was brought to you by KeyFlow Pro, a simple but powerful media asset manager for collaboration over a network.  Download a free 30 day trial at keyflowpro.com.

Digital Production Buzz – December 14, 2017

Virtual Reality (VR) is starting to develop some structure as a medium, and story-telling is increasingly possible. Tonight, we talk with several creators who are deeply involved in discovering how to tell engaging stories in VR.

Join host Larry Jordan as he talks with Kain Teitzel, Ryan Ritchey, Ian Forester, Nick Bicanic, and James DeRuvo.

  • The Challenge of Immersive Entertainment
  • VRonMac: An Online Resource
  • Interactive VR Story-telling
  • Writing the VR Script
  • The Weekly DoddleNEWS Update

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Guests this Week

The Challenge of Immersive Entertainment

Kain Tietzel

Kain Tietzel, CEO and Founder, Start VR

Kain Teitzel is the CEO and Founder of Start VR, a company that creates interactive cinematic VR entertainment for their clients. Tonight he talks about the difference between VR and filmmaking and their ability to create VR environments you can explore.

VRonMac: An Online Resource

Ryan Ritchey

Ryan Ritchey, Creator, VRonMac.com

He didn’t want to do it – but there just wasn’t anything out there. So, Ryan Ritchey, editor and webmaster, created VRonMac.com. This brand-new, go-to resource covers everything you need to know to view and create VR on Mac systems.

Interactive VR Story-telling

Ian Forester

Ian Forester, Founder, VR Playhouse

Ian Forester lives about three months into the future; looking for the next wave of technology to inform story-telling. He, and his company, VR Playhouse, are looking for ways to use VR to create amazing stories. Tonight, he explains what they are doing.

Writing the VR Script

Nick Bicanic

Nick Bicanic, Founder, RVLVR Labs

How does writing a VR project differ from writing a traditional film script? Tonight, we talk with Nick Bicanic, founder or RVLVR Labs about that very subject.

The Weekly DoddleNEWS Update

James DeRuvo

James DeRuvo, Senior Writer, DoddleNEWS

James DeRuvo, Senior Writer at DoddleNEWS, has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. With experience covering technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James presents our weekly DoddleNEWS Update.

Transcript: Digital Production Buzz – December 7, 2017

HOST
Larry Jordan

GUESTS
Heath McKnight, Editor-in-Chief, Doddle
Simon Browne, VP Product Management, Clear-Com
Rob Read, Business Development Manager, Roland
Ali Ahmadi, Director of Products and Marketing, K-Tek
Michael Kammes, Director of Technology, Key Code Media
James DeRuvo, Senior Writer, DoddleNEWS

==

Announcer:  The Digital Production Buzz is brought to you by KeyFlow Pro, media asset management software, designed to meet the needs of work groups at an affordable price.

Larry Jordan:  Tonight on the Buzz we are looking at audio and new changes at our sister site, doddlenews.com.  We start with doddleNEWS.  Heath McKnight is the editor in chief of doddleNEWS, a website devoted to media industry news and reviews.  Tonight he joins us to highlight their latest redesign and their goals for the website going forward.

Larry Jordan:  Then we shift gears into audio which encompasses a lot of territory. For example, Clear-Com specializes in audio communications, especially for live productions.  Tonight, Simon Browne, the VP of product management for Clear-Com, explains what we should consider when setting up a communication system, either in the field or the studio.

Larry Jordan:  Roland may be best known for music, but they are actually much more.  Tonight, we talk with Rob Read, business development manager for Roland, about the gear we need for live broadcasts because when you’re creating live, you need the best audio and video equipment you can get.

Larry Jordan:   K-Tek makes tools that make audio better.  Boom poles, microphone cases, kit bags of all kinds.  Tonight, Ali Ahmadi the director of products and marketing for K-Tek tells us about the kit we need to get our audio act together.

Larry Jordan:   Michael Kammes continues the age old debate about whether to mix on speakers or headphones.  Nothing brings you closer to your audio than headphones but which are the best for mixing project audio?  Tonight, Michael Kammes, the director of technology for Key Code Media examines what’s out there, when to use speakers and when to use headsets, then provides suggestions on the best headphones for mixing.

Larry Jordan:   All this plus James DeRuvo with our weekly DoddleNEWS update.  The Buzz starts now.

Announcer:  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.

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.  I got my start many years ago working in radio and truthfully, audio still has a very warm place in my heart.  So tonight we’re looking at different aspects of the audio industry, but audio, like video, is a pretty vast space, encompassing communications, live and recorded productions, editing, mixing and consuming.  There’s a lot of sounds out there which is what interests me about tonight’s show.  We look at different pieces of the audio puzzle to learn what’s new and see how they all fit together.  I’m looking forward to the conversations.

Larry Jordan:  By the way, I want to invite you to subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com.  Every issue, every week provides quick links to the different segments on the show, plus articles of interest to filmmakers, and best of all, it’s free and comes out every Saturday.

Larry Jordan:  Now it’s time for our doddleNEWS update, with James DeRuvo.  Hello James.

James DeRuvo:  Happy holidays Larry.

Larry Jordan:  And a happy holiday to you as well.  What have we got in the news this week?

James DeRuvo:  Well, Canon is announcing three new pro grade prosumer grade camcorders, with 20x optical zoom, support for XLR microphones and two of them, and 1080p 60 frames per second recording.  They are also rumored to be working on a C300 Mk III and maybe a C400 that will record in 6K and we’ll know about that after the first of the year.

Larry Jordan:  With most cell phones shooting 4K images these days, are these cameras coming late to market?

James DeRuvo:  There’s no doubt that they’re definitely late to the party, the fact is that Canon’s development of cameras happens with such a glacial pace.  I have wondered Larry that with these new 1080p HD cameras being announced, would anybody really care in a 4K universe?  What’s more interesting to me is this anticipated C300 mark III, although maybe recording at what we now would consider a modest 6K, even that seems a little too late to the party.

Larry Jordan:  That’s Canon’s new cameras.  What else have you got on the camera front?

James DeRuvo:  Moondog Labs has expanded their accessories for iPhones.  You may remember Moondog Labs for their 1.33x anamorphic lens adaptor.  I think it’s beautiful, does a great job, but now they’re coming out with some new accessories which include filters to support lenses from Zeiss that you can actually attach to your iPhone, and this is the one I’m really excited about, these little weights that you can add to a three axis gimbal stabilizer like the DJI Osmo mobile or the new free flying Movi for the iPhone, which would compensate for the extra weight when you use those lenses.  … weights which would sit on the bars of the gimbal, it’s really kind of cool.

Larry Jordan:  How good are Moondog’s optics?

James DeRuvo:  They’re fantastic.  There’s no denying that Moondog makes a superior optic like the anamorphic lens adaptor which enables you to shoot wide screen, 1.33x.  It looks cinematic.  So you can bet that with these filters will add UV and polarizing support but it’s those cool counterbalance weights that got me excited.

Larry Jordan:  Alright, Moondog has got some new accessories and I was just thinking, you haven’t talked about drones for a while.  Anything happening on the drone front?

James DeRuvo:  Well there’s not really a lot going on on the drone front.  We’re kind of waiting for after the first of the year.  But Freefly Systems has created a new three axis gimbal stabilizer for the iPhone and it’s called the Movi, because everything Freefly makes these days seems to be called the Movi and it’s designed for one handed operation, it’s a smartphone version of the Freefly Movi which offers many of the same features of their cinematic line including smart modes for moving time lapse, majestic mode, orbit mode, smart pod mode and echo mode.  Then we’ll also be able to learn new features with simple firmware updates via a USB connector.  So this is really going to add another heavy hitter to the smartphone, three axis gimbal mobile filmmaking market.

Larry Jordan:  What are your thoughts on a stabilizer for the iPhone?

James DeRuvo:  Well, the Freefly Movi is a split design.  It has a vast quiver of tools that are controlled by their free iOS app that will make your smartphone video look really smooth and cinematic, and it may be a little bit more expensive than the DJI Osmo mobile for example, it’s $100 more, but the features it has makes it downright compelling, and I think that this is the kind of thing that you want if you are shooting on a smartphone and you really want to have that steady cam like look, these handheld gimbals are really the way to go.

Larry Jordan:  What other stories are you working on for this week?

James DeRuvo:  Other stories include Rode wants filmmakers to help them launch their new My Rode Reel film competition.  We talk about how to monitor your camera sound without an audio jack, and Sony upgrades their CFast 2 cards to make them ever faster.

Larry Jordan:  James, I should also mention that your new website at doddlenews.com is looking great and in the next segment we’ll be talking with Heath McKnight, the editor in chief of doddleNEWS about your redesign, so for people that want more information about where they can go on the web, where do they go?

James DeRuvo:  All these stories and more can be found at doddlenews.com.

Larry Jordan:  James DeRuvo is the senior writer for doddleNEWS and joins us every week.  James, you take care, we’ll talk to you next week.

James DeRuvo:   See you next week Larry.

Larry Jordan:  Bye bye.

Larry Jordan:  Heath McKnight is the editor in chief of doddlenews.com.  Heath has a long history as an independent filmmaker, producer, editor and teacher.  He’s produced or directed over 100 feature and short films and is also the president of the Palm Beach Film Society.  Hello Heath, welcome.

Heath McKnight:  Hi Larry, thank you for having me.

Larry Jordan:  Heath, we just heard James deliver our weekly doddleNEWS update, in fact he’s been with us every week for the last year and a half.  But we never have had time to learn more about what doddleNEWS is.  So how would you describe the website?

Heath McKnight:  We cover filmmaking news so if there’s a new camera, a new software, new hardware, we will cover it.  Recently James flew up to San Francisco and covered the GoPro Hero 6 announcement, and we are giving up to the minute updates for all our readers.  We also do product reviews. We do tutorials.  These are all written by the way.  They cover everything from Premiere Pro to Motion Five, to even Media 100 which is now a free app, and we just launched a how to tutorial series by Andrew Devis which covers DaVinci Resolve.

Larry Jordan:  What was it that got Doddle interested in news in the first place?

Heath McKnight: We have a filmmaking and production directory and app, and the news was kind of created as just a way to continue delivering the best in the industry, so these producers and filmmakers don’t need to go all over the place, they can get it all there.  We even cover a little bit of movie news, meaning if you want to know about the latest Avengers movie, we’ll cover that as well.

Larry Jordan:  So why did you decide to redo the website?

Heath McKnight:  I came on board in April 2012 and the site had been launched I believe towards the end of 2011.  I started changing the focus a little, getting away from general tech and moving into the more educational aspect in addition to the news portion of it.  The site had started to get a little bit slower because we have a lot of images, a lot of articles.  I mean, up to 20,000 articles and I don’t even know how many images.  The overall look was pretty good, for the first few years and it was just time to do it, so we had some discussions, looked at some designs, and we hired a development team and while I was doing all my normal duties with doddleNEWS, I was in the background doing tests with the new site because it’s not just a new coat of paint, it’s also on a new server, it’s lightning fast.

Heath McKnight:   We categorized everything a lot better so now you can easily find the filmmaking news, the movie news, but the most important thing is, you can go under tutorials and find really written out pretty clear if you want to learn Premiere Pro it’s there, if you want to learn Motion 5, DaVinci Resolve, it’s all in there, easy to find and you can see all the tutorials we’ve written.  In addition we have links to Digital Production Buzz, larryjordan.com, Thalo Arts and more and we’ve also decided to cross post the Buzz podcasts on our site whilst still sending people back over to digitalproductionbuzz.com.  We feel that it’s a great way to cross promote all of our sister sites, and obviously too with the tutorials, we definitely encourage them to go to larryjordan.com to learn even more.  And it’s just great synergy between all of our sites.

Larry Jordan:  So what are your plans for the future?

Heath McKnight:  We want to keep evolving the new site.  I’m sure we’re going to add even more terrific tutorials.  I could see us in the next couple of years bringing in more experts to join Kevin P. McAuliffe and Andrew Devis to write even more tutorials about all kinds of different things.  I could just see us continuing to grow, and just providing the best experience for our readers and even our fans on social media who really do love what we’re doing and we appreciate them coming and reading and commenting.  It’s a great relationship that we have with our readers.

Larry Jordan:  For people who want that latest experience, where can they go on the web?

Heath McKnight:  They can visit doddlenews.com.

Larry Jordan:  That’s doddlenews.com and Heath McKnight is the editor in chief of doddleNEWS, and Heath, thanks for joining us today.

Heath McKnight:  Thank you Larry.

Larry Jordan:  When you can’t find your media, you need a media asset management solution.  KeyFlow Pro.  This is a simple but powerful software is designed specifically to help you organize, track, and find your media.  Whether you work alone, or part of a group, its intuitive user interface helps you easily store, sort, search, play, annotate and share your media using team based shared libraries over a network.  Its wide range of features are all at a very affordable price and with the new 1.8.3 update, rescanning is up to ten times faster.    Plus KeyFlow Pro is integrated with macOS notifications, enabling you to collaborate faster and smarter all in real time.  KeyFlow Pro is available for purchase at the Mac app store or get a 30 day free trial at keyflowpro.com.  KeyFlow Pro.  Simple, elegant, and surprisingly affordable.

Larry Jordan:  Simon Browne heads up the product management team of intercom products that Clear-Com makes for television, broadcast, theater, live shows, corporate AV, anywhere where teams of users want to connect in real time.  Hello Simon, welcome.

Simon Browne:  Hello.

Larry Jordan:  How would you describe Clear-Com?

Simon Browne:  Well Clear-Com has been in the business of providing intercom or communication between people working on the same project for about 50 years now.  Starting in the Avalon Ballroom in the Bay area in the US, and trying to find a solution so that they can communicate between the stage and the audio people and so the house engineer at the time, Charlie Button, who is still with us, devised a system whereby a simple belt pack and headset over the same cables could communicate.  From there we’ve grown into all sorts of different areas as you mentioned.

Larry Jordan:  You head up product management for Clear-Com.  What sparked your interest in communication?

Simon Browne:  Well I started when I left university in the BBC so I have a long history of broadcasting.  I learned then very quickly that the hardest part of it all was really trying to get people to communicate and have the coordination to help make TV programs or radio programs.  That was the bit I found was intriguing.  I think we all fundamentally understand how video and audio gets to tape, or gets out to the transmitters, but how the background boys communicate and make sure everything happens on time was quite interesting to me, and I went on to work for that part of the business and here I am 28 years later still in the service of intercom.

Larry Jordan:  So it’s more than two tin cans and a piece of string?

Simon Browne:  Just a bit.

Larry Jordan:  So what products are you responsible for?  It says in your bio intercom products, but what does that mean?

Simon Browne:  Well for us at Clear-Com that’s pretty much all our products.  I head up the team that cover all products, so we are talking about simple party line belt pack systems, to belt packs, to headsets, one cable and a power supply, all the way up to digital party line where we digitize those channel communications, to matrix based intercom where we do some of the larger production intercoms for broadcast centers and then there’s all the IP connectivity beyond that, and now moving into smartphones, so the whole gamut really of the way people want to communicate in a duplex manner.  That’s to say they can talk and listen to each other in real time without having to break, and it’s a non-blocking operation so when you’re talking you’re not blocking somebody else calling you.  So it’s the whole gamut and whole range of products within intercom.

Larry Jordan:  Listening to you reminds me of when I was directing live television which is probably before you were born, and the fun that I had at sitting at the communications console and being able to talk to everybody on the team, regardless of where they were, is just one of the highlights of directing.  It’s just so cool, so yay you for your help in putting that together.  Is there a difference in how live productions communicate say between broadcast television and theater and a corporate event?  Or is it just people that need to talk?  Is there any kind of differentiation in the products?

Simon Browne:  Well there is.  There are so many different workflows.  There’s two fundamental workflows in the business.  One is what we would call a party line or a conference based workflow, and that predominates generally in US smaller broadcast and in theatres and perhaps corporate AV and events.  Then there’s one workflow called matrix based workflow and that tends to be for the larger TV networks, larger events like Olympics for example where you have a lot of people communicating with a lot of people and you need to be able to configure that so they have the right names and descriptive in front of the keys in front of them, so it’s a lot more comprehensive in that sense.  But it tends to be a one to many in the party line, whereas matrix is point to point and groups.

Larry Jordan:  So matrix would be where the lighting team is able to talk, but the audio team wouldn’t hear them, would that be the case?

Simon Browne:  That is correct.  So the limitation of a party line is that everybody on the same channel and in an analog party line that can mean anybody on the same cable, will talk to everybody else regardless of whether that person wants to hear them or not.  In a matrix based system, you can direct your communication more precisely.

Larry Jordan:  Give me some examples of where your gear is used.  Drop names.

Simon Browne:  Well we sell to all sorts of teams, so aerospace for example, we do a lot of work with the people putting those spaceships into orbit.  I can’t name names, but you can guess, particularly those companies looking to do space tourism, we work with them.  We work with a lot of sports teams, again we’re not really allowed to mention them, but we do a lot of work with people that are doing video replay and they want to assess the goal or the football systems and so forth, and they’ll go back over our systems for that.  We sell into a theater like Broadway and West End, we sell into large churches, particularly here in the United States and in Africa where it tends to be a little like a television broadcast in its own right.  We do a lot of touring groups, things like Lion King, or Blue Man Group, those kinds of people.  Fiddler on the Roof.  We sell into universities, particularly ones doing media.  Schools like the Queen’s University in Australia for example and we do theme parks, so we sell to a lot of the larger theme parks, names you’ll know around the world where they have to communicate parades, they have to do the theater work and they have to communicate between the systems for security and so forth.  There’s a whole gamut, a whole range of people we deal with.

Larry Jordan:  These are some very high stress, high productive, high visibility outfits.  You can’t go down.  What happens if there’s a power failure?

Simon Browne: Well, yes indeed.  Some of it is battery based in that case.  But our tagline, our brand is named about connecting people together when it matters, and the matters part of it is important.  For example in our matrix based systems, there’s a lot of redundancy.  There is power supply redundancy, there is AC redundancy, so if one fuse goes on one power supply then the other one continues going, and the system continues to work.  And it can be centrally powered so that the pals in the user stations, in the studios, still continue even if the central switch has gone out for example.  So there’s a lot of redundancy and capability, particularly in party line for example, you can have multiple power supplies on the system so you can cope with that.  Particularly at music events, you never know if somebody’s going to throw the wrong switch somewhere, and disconnect some part of it.  So you can loop things around on rings and so forth.  Our systems are available to do that I mean people just configure it that way.

Larry Jordan:  I want to shift gears for just a minute.  A lot of the people that listen to this program are independent filmmakers.  They’re in the field, they need to do communication but they’re not in a studio base where they’ve got to have something which is much more portable and much more rugged. Do you provide that facility as well?

Simon Browne:  Yes we do smaller wireless systems that can have 24 volt battery operation.  That is often something we do in the remotes.  The other thing we do and we’ve done recently is something called Agent-IC which is a smartphone app.  So people in the field in a vox-pop or when they’re doing news items or taking … for example, use their own smartphone, load up the Clear-Com app called Agent-IC and connect back to their production intercom over IP.  So this is now the modern way of communication if you like.

Larry Jordan:  That’s a very cool idea.  For filmmakers that wanted to get started with Clear-Com, for doing remote production in the field, I know there’s like 800 million options, but are they investing hundreds of thousands of dollars?  Or is there an affordable price to get started?

Simon Browne:  Yes, we cover quite a range of pricing, so something simple for example would be something like an LQ IP box which is a little IP server, and you can connect to that over your Wi-Fi operation if you like to your smartphone as I was telling you about.  So for the small license fee you can license up the application and connect to this box.  You can be up and running with about eight people for [less than $10,000 US].  So that’s probably a simple solution for remotes.

Larry Jordan:  When we’re making a decision to buy a communication system for the first time, what questions should we ask?  What do we need to be sure of before we spend the money?

Simon Browne:  Well I think the biggest decisions are whether you can have somebody who can be wired, and therefore not necessarily moving around, somebody who’s fixed to say an audio console or a lighting desk, or whether you need to have somebody who is mobile, so that they have to go between the lighting desk and the audio console, particularly in houses of worship where you have volunteers who are running around being cameraman for a moment and then doing some audio bit.  So they tend to be more mobile and therefore need to have wireless systems.  The other question of course is how many people need to communicate with each other and who needs to have the most facilities, you can have a master station?  So these are fundamental questions generally speaking after you’ve considered the budget.

Larry Jordan:  For people that want more information about the products that you and your company offer, where can they go on the web?

Simon Browne:  Yes, we have a very comprehensive website.  It’s www.clearcom.com, and clearcom is one word.

Larry Jordan:  Clearcom with one word, that’s clearcom.com and Simon Browne is the head of product management for Clear-Com, and Simon thanks for joining us today.

Simon Browne:  You’re welcome, thank you.

Larry Jordan:  Take care, bye bye.

Larry Jordan:  Rob Read has over 20 years experience in media.  He’s currently the business development manager for Roland’s professional AV division and in the past, he’s owned his own production company and has produced and streamed numerous live events working with Facebook Live, and Ustream, TeleStream, ChurchStreaming.tv, BoxCast, Brandlive, the Cube, you name it, he’s worked for them.  Hello Rob, welcome.

Rob Read:  Thanks Larry for having me, appreciate it.

Larry Jordan:  How would you describe Roland?

Rob Read:  Roland is an electronic music company but really we’re a media company selling and producing and manufacturing electronics.  So I actually work in the pro audio and video division of Roland.

Larry Jordan:  I had a chance to visit the pro AV site within Roland.  How would you describe what the company makes?  Is it principally video or audio focused at the pro level?

Rob Read:  It’s a combination of both.  I mean, from the pro audio level, we do digital consoles, high end 28 channel consoles, digital snake technologies, and then on the video side, we make live production tools.  Not only for producing a live event in a room, but also for web streaming or recording any live event.  So, I think having the combination of both of those strengths that having strong audio as well as strong video really makes us a unique company in the market space.

Larry Jordan:  So what’s your role within the company?

Rob Read:  My title is business development but really that encompasses a lot of things.  I would say it’s a combination of product management, marketing as well as sales, so helping our sales channel to grow and develop and push these products into the market.

Larry Jordan:  One of the things we’re looking at in this week’s show is the whole idea of audio and one of the things that Roland talks about is its role within live performance and your background is live streaming.  Do you see a difference between live performance and live broadcast and live streaming?

Rob Read:  If we’re talking in the audio world, mixing audio for a live room is different than mixing audio for a web stream, so having the tools to be able to do both is really key these days because more and more entities are wanting to expand their reach, so not only are they producing their event for the room but they’re maybe recording it or live streaming it at the same time to expand their audience.

Larry Jordan:  Well how is it different?  I was surprised to hear you say that.  What’s different for mixing for the room than mixing for a feed?

Rob Read:  I think for a room you want to be able to add some effects to your mix to sweeten your mix, to enhance what’s happening in the room.  For example you might be using some different types of reverb effects, but maybe on your web stream you don’t want to have that. Maybe you want to take an ambient microphone to give the room feel effect for your live stream.

Larry Jordan:  What would you recommend for companies that want to do more streaming, smaller companies that have smaller budgets?  What would you recommend for gear they consider to put a streaming system together?

Rob Read: Finding a solution that is not only an audio solution but also a video solution combination.  Because it really streamlines your workflow.  For example, we make an all in one solution where it’s an audio mixer, it’s a video mixer and it’s got the USB out for web streaming or recording. So instead of plugging in all of his gear and setting up in a room, it comes this all in one box and you put it down and plug in your audio and video sources but you’re not having to patch all of those together to make it work for the web stream.

Larry Jordan:  Why Roland and not Tricaster?

Rob Read:  The powerful thing about Roland is our audio.  Because our roots are in audio, we have some pretty powerful audio features.  For example, let me talk about a couple of unique technologies, one of them that we have that’s just implemented into a couple of our switchers is called auto-mixing.  So what auto-mixing allows you to do is it allows you to set waiting per audio channel, so for example if I’m doing a panel discussion, I might have my moderator and then maybe two or three participants.  I can set my moderator audio level to be at 100 percent waiting, and then my participants maybe at 85 percent waiting.  So when I have auto-mixing selected on, or turned on for those channels, it’ll auto adjust the audio levels based on the waiting that I set, so the moderator audio level might be slightly higher than the participants.  Some of those types of features, simple operation.  Not everybody is a high level broadcast person that wants the CNN type video effects or audio effects that maybe some of these higher end systems that you mentioned are looking for.  They want a simple solution that maybe the marketing manager could operate.  The simple workflow of Roland really lends itself to a lot of entities out there including churches and schools and corporate AV professionals.

Larry Jordan:  What kind of costs are we looking at?

Rob Read:  Our simple four channel HDMI switcher starts at $1,000.  All the way up to our 2ME switcher which is $15,000.  So everything and a wide range in between.  Our all in one solutions that I was talking about that has auto-mixing and web streaming and a built in preview monitor, and an 18 channel audio mixer and four channel video mixer is $2795 so $2800.  So simply a lot more affordable for a lot of these entities that I talked about.

Larry Jordan:  It’s great that Roland makes this gear, but one of the challenges of mixing is that there’s both an art as well as a hardware component to it.  How can you help us understand how to use the gear and do better mixes?

Rob Read:  We have a remote control software that’s available for most all of our mixers and switchers that you can download for free for Mac or Windows.  You can then connect that to the switcher and say for example I’m wanting to sweeten the mix for my audio in VR4HD, I download the remote control software, and I can tap on the button that says Effects, and it graphically brings up a representation of what those effects look like, and simply you can start playing around with it and you can see and hear the affect that you have by using the different effects in the system.  So it’s pretty intuitive for the user to see how they can sweeten their mix in the audio side of things of using our equipment.

Larry Jordan:  For people that want to learn more about the equipment that Roland has available, where can they go on the web?

Rob Read:  They can go to proav.roland.com.

Larry Jordan:  That’s proav.roland.com and Rob Read is the business development manager for Roland’s professional AV division.  Rob, thanks for joining us tonight.

Rob Read:  Thanks for having me Larry, appreciate it.

Larry Jordan:  Ali Ahmadi is the director of products and marketing for K-Tek. They’re makers of audio centric gear including Klassic and Avalon, graphite and aluminum boom poles, shock mounts, shark antenna mounts, wind screens, as well as a variety of kit bags and harnesses.  Hello Ali, welcome.

Ali Ahmadi:  Hi.

Larry Jordan:  How would you describe K-Tek?

Ali Ahmadi:  K-Tek is a small family business.  We’re a little over 20 years old now.  Our founder, Manfred Klemme, was one of the key players in professional audio and literally wrote the book on using time code in cinema cameras.  We’ve been manufacturing for over 20 years to make sure that the audio professionals out in the field can either work safer or easier or faster or all of the above.

Larry Jordan:  You got started doing boom poles.  What’s the technology in a boom pole?  I mean, isn’t it just a long stick?

Ali Ahmadi:  That’s what it looks like, but anybody who has tried to use a painter stick and then graduated onto a professional boom pole will tell you that there is a night and day difference.  There’s actually a lot of secret sauce in our graphite boom poles, from the pattern at which the graphite fibers are woven to the fact that we use graphite fibers and not just regular carbon fibers, resin mixes, surface treatments, how to build the collar, sleeves, collards and so on.  So you can open them quickly, close them securely and while you’re sliding the sections in and out.  All that has to be done smoothly and quietly.  Once you look into it, it’s a lot more than just a stick, but we’ve been doing that for a long time, we’ve had the pleasure of creating different families like you mentioned earlier, for different budget points and feature sets in the world out there of people wanting to use boom poles.  So you really don’t need to use a painter’s pole anymore because we have a professional boom pole for nearly every budget.

Larry Jordan:  Well another category that you’ve got are audio bags and seems likes there’s a lot of different kit bags that are out there.  Why should we consider K-Tek?

Ali Ahmadi:  That’s a great question.  I always say, you can literally go into a grocery store and pick up a bag and that will allow you to carry whatever you want to carry around, and that’s what a bag is.  What we’ve tried to do from day one, thanks to our audio background and thanks to the fact that we managed to recruit a very talented and experienced bag designer, who’s also worked in the industry for a long time, we’ve always managed to create portable work stations rather than quote unquote just a bag.  And with that in mind, we hit a lot of the pain points for working mixers.  We’re in this environment where they have to carry this large payload in front of their bodies, and they have to be able to set their work stations up and change them quickly and troubleshoot.  We’ve managed to hit all of their concerns with our Stingray bag line.

Ali Ahmadi:   When we relaunched them in 2015 under what’s now known as the Orange Stingray line, we really doubled down on it.  Before then we had two bags, for the most common mixers and it was almost like an experiment.  Can we make this work?  We knew we could make a good bag slash work station.  Since then we’ve created dozens of bags, pouches, harness, waist belt.  All these other great carriers.  Some of them that I would consider at this season in the year, stocking stuffers.  Items that are $20, $25 and $35 and they all have one thing in common.  They all do one or many things really well and they’re well made and in the end that’s why we’ve been so successful coming almost out of nowhere in this world of bags, carriers, work stations, and been able to literally beat manufacturers who’ve been doing that for

decades.  It simply comes down to they make bags, they are bag manufacturers, and we’re an audio company who started focusing on portable work stations and bag and pouch solutions.

Larry Jordan:  Well that gets to a bigger question.  How long does your gear last?  What’s a typical warranty and how long should we expect it to hold together?

Ali Ahmadi:  We have a fairly generous service of warranty policy, so in general we warranty everything for a year against manufacturer defects and so on.  But the reality is, you know, we’re not a big corporation, so the same people that build the products on the line are the same people that service them. We have in actuality, a very generous service policy, or maybe generous lack of service policy and so we always make sure that our customers are taken care of, that they’re treated well, that they’re made whole.  But at the same time, we try and be fair, both to our customers as well as to us.  When somebody drives over their mixer bag with a truck, there’s not much we can do, but we sure do help them get whole again.

Ali Ahmadi:  At the same time, we offer replacement parts for the bags, a lot of time people lose the clear shield.  We offer those and so on and when it comes to the more mechanical products like our boom poles, we have a great section on our web site, under support repairs, where you can conveniently fill everything out, send in your boom pole, we have a very painless service process and we make sure that everybody’s taken care of, and we’re known for that.  We’re known in the industry for having one of the best services on the audio side.

Larry Jordan:  For people who want to learn more about K-Tek’s products, where can they go on the web?

Ali Ahmadi:  Our website is www.ktekpro.com.

Larry Jordan:  That website is ktekpro.com and Ali Ahmadi is the director of products and marketing for K-Tek, and Ali thanks for joining us today.

Ali Ahmadi:  Thanks for having me.

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, film makers and story tellers.  From photography to film making, 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:  In his current role as director of technology at Key Code Media, Michael Kammes consults on the latest in technology and best practices into the digital media communications space.  He also has this wonderful love of workflows and codecs and process and all the rest of the stuff that makes our eyes glaze over.  Hello Michael, welcome.

Michael Kammes:  Hi Larry, happy holidays.

Larry Jordan:  A happy holiday to you as well.  Tonight we’re talking about audio gear and I wanted to chat with you about the debate between monitor speakers and headphones.  Most people think they should use monitor speakers, but some people think they should use headphones, so let’s start with the bigger picture.  When should you use monitor speakers, and when should you use headphones?

Michael Kammes:  I think you should be using speakers every waking minute, and I’ll put an asterisk next to that.  I think you’re going to get more of a real world approximation especially if your desired end point is TV or a theater or somewhere where other people aren’t going to be listening on headphones.  You want to recreate the end user listing experience as much as humanly possible, so that’s why I’m a big fan of speakers.

Larry Jordan:  Alright, well then does that mean we should never use headphones at all?

Michael Kammes:  No I think you should be using headphones to check your mix. I think speakers are the way to check how it sounds in a real world environment, and then use good headphones to check how the mix will sound to those people who are watching on the go.

Larry Jordan:  I want to talk more about how to pick the right headphones, but this brings up a question, when I edit on headphones, sometimes I’m hearing every possible mistake, and so here I am editing out pops and clicks that are easily visible on headphones that never show up on the speaker.  Am I getting too obsessive here?

Michael Kammes:  I don’t think you’re getting too obsessive, but I think again we need to determine who your prospective audience is.  For example your tutorials Larry.  Are people going to be watching those on a mobile device, or are they going to be watching those on their desktop while they’re editing, so they can follow along?  I think that versus someone who does a podcast which is designed for people on the go, in that case, yes you should be using headphones to emulate the end user experience.

Larry Jordan:  In other words, you’re suggesting headphones not necessarily for their accuracy, but so that our ears are hearing our mix the way the consumer’s going to consume it?

Michael Kammes:  Completely.  And that’s what they do on let’s say feature film dub stages.  They will mix on speakers that you commonly will find in a theater, that they traditionally have a pair of crappy speakers, more commonly they’re Auratones, that the mixers can switch to to then hear what it sounds like on old TVs or TVs who have built in tinny speakers, so they can see how their mix translates.

Larry Jordan:  What should we look for when we’re picking either speakers for mixing, or a headset for mixing?

Michael Kammes:  When you’re choosing speakers for mixing, it should have a flat EQ response, so not favor the low lows or the high highs.  It should also emulate the speakers that the end users are listening on, which goes back to our previous discussion which was if you are doing something like a podcast where people are listening on their headphones, then use headphones that have a flat response.  We also want to make sure that they don’t have noise cancellation, or anything else that may color the sound.

Larry Jordan:  By flat response, you mean that it’s not boosting the bass or not boosting the treble?

Michael Kammes:  That’s correct.  You want something that will more faithfully recreate what the director and what the sound engineers had in mind when they crafted the project.

Larry Jordan: Is there a difference between the headsets that we use for mixing our audio, versus consuming our audio?

Michael Kammes:  Completely.  When you’re mixing audio, if you do opt to use headphones, you want something that is flat. So you’re EQing and mixing on an even playing field so to speak.  Whereas the end consumer can certainly decide to get something that colors their sound, but traditionally that’s frowned upon via mixers because they want you to hear their vision of how things should have been done.

Larry Jordan:  Yes, but as I learned long ago in producing shows for TV, how the consumer adjusts their TV set, I’ve got no control over.  I just want to make sure it leaves here looking good.

Michael Kammes:  That’s a good point, and that’s one reason why a lot of mixers will also have old tinny speakers sitting up on their console, so when they finish a mix, they can toggle to those speakers, commonly they’re Auratones, to see how the dialog sounds to make sure that the most important portions of the mix still cut through.

Larry Jordan:  So when we’re picking a headset for mixing, what should we look for?  What key specs?

Michael Kammes:  The slang is usually 20 to 20.  20 hertz to 20 kilohertz.  You seriously want to avoid noise cancelling headphones because that tends to color a sound feel that you’re getting.  You want to stay away from ear buds because ear buds go further in your ear.  They’re usually louder and they don’t recreate what the mixers intended.  Those are probably the three main things you want to focus on.

Larry Jordan:  Would you choose a different headset for a different project, or would you use the same headset against all projects?

Michael Kammes:  I’d use them across all projects, because any experienced mixer will get accustomed to mixing on different speakers or different headphones and how the sound may be colored.  So the more you stay with one set, the more you can get trained on that set, to how things are recreated.

Larry Jordan:  Are there brands of headsets that you like, or models?

Michael Kammes:  Yes, there’s two that are great.  The Sony MDR 7506s, are my go to headphones.  Those are about 80 bucks, so they won’t break the bank.  Another popular one among mixers are the Sennheiser HD25s.  Those are a little bit more expensive, about 130 bucks, but they have a stylish carrying case which makes travelling over the holidays great.  The one set I would avoid though, are the very popular Beats by Dre.  While they look stylish and they’ll certainly cost a good amount, they color the sound something fierce and I can’t recommend mixing on them.

Larry Jordan:  Michael, before we leave, why don’t you give the traditional warning about keeping our volumes under control?

Michael Kammes: You know, this is something that I always thought was, you know, if you’re too loud, you’re too old.  But as I get older, I’ve realized that if I use headphones too loud for too long, I will get a ringing in my ear and luckily it goes away, but it’s something that studies have shown that 25 to 30 percent of the listening audience is losing their hearing compared to the 80s and 90s.  So it’s very crucial that if you are mixing and you are using headphones, keep it under 85db which is kind of a subway train volume.  Don’t go any higher than that for long periods of time or you may risk tinnitus.

Larry Jordan:  How do you measure the volume of the headset?

Michael Kammes: That’s a really good question.  I have a trusty Radio Shack decibel meter that I traditionally measure my speakers with, and also measure my headphones with before I start any session.  So I can ensure I’m at a standard level.

Larry Jordan:  One last question. For someone who’s getting ready to start building a mixing studio, do they invest in speakers, or do they invest in a headset?

Michael Kammes:   Coming from a TV and film background, I’d always recommend speakers because that’s where most people will listen to.  But if you’re starting your career off and you’re primarily doing podcasts, then it probably makes more sense to get a decent pair of headphones.

Larry Jordan:  Michael, for people who want to keep track of what you’re doing and thinking, where can they go on the web?

Michael Kammes: Two places.  michaelkammes.com or 5thingsseries.com.

Larry Jordan:  That is a long phrase, the number 5thingsseries.com and Michael Kammes is the host of 5things. Michael, thanks for joining us today.

Michael Kammes:  Have a great holiday Larry, thank you.

Larry Jordan:  You know, I was just thinking.  Audio doesn’t get enough respect in video production, yet it is the surest way to trigger emotions in our audience.  All too often we think that the way to capture the imagination is spectacular visual effects, and those can be fun to watch, but what I’ve learned over the years is that while images show us what’s happening, audio tells us what to feel.  Sound effects are the soul of giving an image a sense of place.  The sound of someone breathing in the dialog establishes their emotions better than a shot of their face.  And music, well if it wasn’t for music, most of us wouldn’t be able to figure out the tenor of a scene.  In all three cases, audio is driving our emotions and determining our reaction to what we’re seeing.

Larry Jordan:  So the next time you’re planning a production, take a little money from the effects budget, and use it to improve the quality of your audio.  Everyone in your audience will say your pictures have never looked better.   Just something I’m thinking about.

Larry Jordan:  I want to thank our guests for this week, Simon Browne of Clear-Com, Rob Read of Roland, Ali Ahmadi of K-Tek, Michael Kammes of Key Code Media, Heath McKnight and James DeRuvo both of doddlenews.com.

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 available to you today.  Remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter that comes out every Saturday.

Larry Jordan:  Talk with us on Twitter @DPBuzz and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com.

Larry Jordan:   Our theme music is composed by Nathan Dugi-Turner with additional music provided by Smartsound.com.  Text transcripts are provided by Take1 Transcription.  Visit take1.tv to learn how they can help you.

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.

Announcer:  The Digital Production Buzz was brought to you by KeyFlow Pro.  A simple, but powerful media asset manager for collaboration over a network.  Download a free 30 day trial at Keyflowpro.com.

Digital Production Buzz – December 7, 2017

Tonight’s show looks at the gear and techniques you can use to improve your sound. From live broadcasts to better communication to mixing, tips from tonight’s guests can improve the quality of your audio immediately.

Plus, we take a behind-the-scenes look at the new DoddleNEWS website with their editor-in-chief.

Join host Larry Jordan as he talks with Heath McKnight, Simon Browne, Rob Read, Ali Ahmadi, Michael Kammes, and James DeRuvo.

  • DoddleNEWS Rolls Out New Website
  • Stay In-Touch with Clear-Com
  • Better Audio for Live Broadcasts
  • Get Your Audio Act Together
  • Pick the Right Headphones for Mixing
  • The Weekly DoddleNEWS Update

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Listen to the Full Episode

(To download the show, right-click Download and click “Save Link As…”)

Buzz on iTunes

Guests this Week

DoddleNEWS Rolls Out New Website

Heath McKnight

Heath McKnight, Editor-in-Chief, Doddle

DoddleNEWS is expanding their website and news coverage. Tonight, Editor-in-Chief Heath McKnight stops in to talk about their new website and plans for the future.

Stay In-Touch with Clear-Com

Simon Browne

Simon Browne, VP Product Management, Clear-Com

Whether your team is small or large, communication is key. Tonight, Simon Browne, VP of Product Management at Clear-Com, talks about what we should consider when setting up a communication system and where Clear-Com products fit in.

Better Audio for Live Broadcasts

Rob Read

Rob Read, Business Development Manager, Roland

Roland is more than music and keyboards. When you are creating live broadcasts, you need the best audio equipment you can get. Tonight, we talk with Rob Read, Business Development Manager for Roland, about the gear we need for live broadcasts.

Get Your Audio Act Together

Ali Ahmadi

Ali Ahmadi, Director of Products and Marketing, K-Tek

K-tek makes tools that make audio better: boom poles, microphone cases, and bags of all kinds. Tonight, Ali Ahmadi, Director of Products and Marketing for K-Tek, joins us to talk about the kit you need to get your audio act together.

Pick the Right Headphones for Mixing

Michael Kammes

Michael Kammes, Director of Technology, Key Code Media

Nothing brings you closer to your audio than headphones. But which are the best for creating media? Tonight, Michael Kammes, Director of Technology for KeyCode Media, examines what’s out there and provides suggestions on how to pick the best headphones for you.

The Weekly DoddleNEWS Update

James DeRuvo

James DeRuvo, Senior Writer, DoddleNEWS

James DeRuvo, Senior Writer at DoddleNEWS, has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. With experience covering technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James presents our weekly DoddleNEWS Update.

Transcript: Digital Production Buzz – November 30, 2017

HOST
Larry Jordan

GUESTS
Larry O’Connor, President & Founder, Other World Computing
Gary Watson, Co-founder and Chief Technical Officer, Nexsan
David Schleifer, Chief Operations Officer, Primestream
Peter Agelasto IV, Founder, Digital ReLab
Greg Crosby, Director of Product Line Management, G-Technology (A Western Digital Brand)

==

Announcer:  The Digital Production Buzz is brought to you by KeyFlow Pro, media asset management software, designed to meet the needs of work groups at an affordable price.

Larry Jordan:  Tonight on the Buzz we are looking at storage and media asset management, both at the center of media today.  We start with Larry O’Connor, the founder and president of Other World Computing.  OWC is a well known developer of storage products, so tonight we talk with Larry about what he sees as coming trends in storage technology.

Larry Jordan:   Gary Watson is the chief technical officer for Nexsan.  They’ve designed shared storage systems for media creators. Tonight Gary talks about the challenges of designing shared storage for media editing.

Larry Jordan:   David Schleifer is the chief operations officer of Primestream.  They specialize in creating highly flexible enterprise level media asset management systems and tonight David explains the tools and pricing behind theirs.

Larry Jordan:  Peter Agelasto is the founder of Digital ReLab.  They make a media asset management system designed for creatives who think visually.  Tonight he describes what their system is and the thinking that went behind it.

Larry Jordan:  Greg Crosby is the director of product line management for G-Technology.  G-Tech is legendary in the media industry so tonight we chat with Greg about the differences between spinning media and flash, and how to pick the right storage for your next project.

Larry Jordan:  The Buzz starts now.

Announcer:  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.

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.  This show began when I wrote a blog talking about the importance of storage to our video editing systems.  As we move into larger frame sizes, faster frame rates, HDR, even VR, our file sizes balloon.  Our computers for the most part can keep up with this easily, but our storage, well that’s a different problem.

Larry Jordan:  Yesterday’s technology won’t work with tomorrow’s media.  Then with the average video project shooting multiple terabytes of data, finding the right shot is increasingly difficult.  That’s where media asset management systems come in.  But oh, what a range of options we have.  Tonight, we talk with two companies at just about opposite ends of the spectrum about their system and how it works with media.

Larry Jordan:  By the way, I want to invite you to subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com.  Every issue, every week provides quick links to all the different segments on the show, plus articles of interest to filmmakers.  And best of all, it’s free and comes out every Saturday.

Larry Jordan:  I’ll be back with Larry O’Connor and a discussion of storage technology right after this.

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Larry Jordan:  Larry O’Connor is the founder of OWC, which stands for Other World Computing, and a long time guest on the Buzz.  Hello Larry, welcome back.

Larry O’Connor:  Hey, glad to be here Larry, thanks for having me back.

Larry Jordan:   I want to set the scene a bit here.  How long has OWC been developing storage products?

Larry O’Connor:  Our first forays into storage go back to 1990, so we’ve been doing storage products for 27 years.  In fact, it was about 1992 that we had the very first bus powered storage which at that time, bus powered off your floppy port.  Don’t see many floppies around anymore.

Larry Jordan:  Well you must have been six when you started that.  What was it that got you interested in storage in the first place?

Larry O’Connor:  It was computer technology in general.  What systems came with was never enough and the opportunities to expand externally, plus at that time with scuzzy hard drives which were light speed now compared to the floppy drives and everything else that was available at the time, it was a total win win.  Mass storage, convenience and incredible speed.

Larry Jordan:  Which gets me to my next question.  Folks have been predicting the death of spinning media for the last several years.  How come it hasn’t died yet?

Larry O’Connor:  I don’t think that those folks have their own money in the budgets that they spend because solid state is really expensive in terms of mass storage.  And the other aspect is spinning drives continue to substantially grow in capacity and in performance.  Nothing beats Flash but for things that you’re not editing, even when you are doing edit on a big project, once you’ve got the work in, it’s on the media that need it to be on, Flash offers advantages, but from a peer performance versus cost standpoint, spinning media’s not half bad and complete major projects are still done on spinning media because they’re in real time.  As long as the throughput with today’s Raids and Thunderbolt 2 and Thunderbolt 3, give you the performance that you need, you’re not gaining anything by having Flash.  There’s lots of things Flash is great for, but there’s plenty of things that spinning media is far from obsolete in terms of its application.

Larry Jordan:  As our file sizes are continuing to grow geometrically, because VR is four times bigger than HD, and HDR is four times bigger, and 4K is four times bigger, suddenly we’re 16, 20 times bigger than the file sizes that we’ve ever worked with before.  Is capacity the only thing we need to think about when we’re buying new storage?

Larry O’Connor:  You know the nice thing about capacity, as long as you’re not buying archive drives, the performance drives as their density goes up, so does their performance because that is packed closer, or there’s more heads.  You have more platters that are being read from.  Performance is very important, but to be quite honest, as these capacities go up, performance is going up with them which certainly kind of helps to keep pace with those demands and putting these latest CK12 terabytes together, you’re pushing in a Raid now, well over 1,000 megs, closer to 1200 megs a second, sustained when you’re using the outer tracks on the drive.

Larry Jordan:  How do we determine what kind of storage bandwidth we need?

Larry O’Connor:  The AJA has a very nice utility that will tell you what you can do with a drive.  Quite frankly, you can do just about everything if you’re sustaining more than 1000 megabytes a second, there’s a capture and edit for transactional things.  Obviously for copy, for other ingest, your limitations are the slowest point in your chain, whatever you’re transferring to or from.  It’s really going to come down to your application of what it can do, and the computer you have.  We look at Thunderbolt 3 and storage in general, a bigger limitation, the bottleneck that you more often run into does not have to be your storage, it’s more going to be the computer or something else that’s in the middle.

Larry Jordan:  When we’re thinking about storage, storage still is not cheap.  It’s becoming less expensive than it used to, but not cheap, so we’re interested in getting value for the money.  How long should drives last?  In other words, how soon do we need to replace our gear from a planning point of view?

Larry O’Connor:    Truly drives will still last for a long time, but in terms of a production environment where you want to be able to count on that to not need a replacement mid stream, every two to three years is probably reasonable in terms of rotating active drives into archive, and even then, utilities like softRAID are really fantastic because they’ll tell you what the health of the drive is, how that drive’s performing, so you know that even if you’re putting it into an archive use, you never want to put a drive that’s failing into any continued dependency.

Larry O’Connor:  You say drives aren’t cheap.  500 megabytes back in 1995, a deal was under $300, we were the first to hit that point with a pretty cool deal between Digital Equipment Corp and these bus power solutions we had.  Today, you’re talking about 5 terabytes for not much more than $100, so a third the cost, and a thousand times the capacity.  I think storage is pretty cheap, but our demands have gone up because these files keep getting bigger, so a different way to look at is, storage is not really cheap in terms of how fast files have gotten larger, so if you need 1,000 files to be stored, 1,000 photos to be stored on your drive, you need a much bigger drive today to do that than you did a few years ago.  You cannot forget and take advantage of how fast stuff is today.  100 megabytes a second was fast three, four, five, six years ago for sure.  Today we’re pushing five or 600 is OK.  800, 900 is pretty fast.  Over 1000 now you’re starting to get there.  2000 megs a second?  Now you’re really fast.

Larry Jordan:  Well, as we will discover in an interview a little later in the show, to do 4K HDR video is almost two gigs a second.  Two gigs a second.  That’s a ton of data that’s moving across the pipe.

Larry O’Connor:  And you can do it with copper which is amazing.

Larry Jordan:  Here’s my hard question.  Are you sitting down?

Larry O’Connor:  I’m standing up because I kind of like to stay on my feet.  But if you think I should sit down, I’ll sit down.

Larry Jordan:  Make yourself comfortable, whatever’s important.  I wanted to buy some network attached storage because I needed some server type gear, and I obviously went to the OWC site first and didn’t see any.  How come you guys don’t have any network attached storage?

Larry O’Connor:  We have a line up that’s been under development for a couple of years.  We have Jupiter which is really high end and that’s something we’re going to bring to the mid stream.  There’s all sorts of NAS stuff that’s OK out there.  When we introduce NAS into the single user, the home, small business type capacity, we want something that’s a little different than every other NAS out there.  We have the ability to bring really high performance into that space and we just want to do it right.  We do sell some other brand NAS products but when our name’s on a NAS product, it’s going to be more than a NAS product, but certainly the value will be there and the performance and everything else that we like to deliver.  Right now, we don’t just want to put our name on somebody else’s box, or have a box that’s just like everyone else’s.  So give us a bit of time, we’ve got some pretty cool things in that space and higher up from that, are Jupiter products.  Those are for multiple stations and collaboration.  Really fast, expandable up to a petabyte, and truly gets amazing things done and we’re looking forward to giving a big part of that performance down to something that everybody can bring home.

Larry Jordan:  I’ve got my calendar out, I will time you.  One last question, one of the new things in High Sierra is a new file system from Apple called APFS.  Do you have opinions on it?

Larry O’Connor:  There’s a lot of benefits to APFS but if you’re on a hard drive or a hard drive array, there’s a lot of significant disadvantages.  We’ve actually got some blogs up at Rocket Yard which is blog.maxsales.com, recent ones give some nice visuals in terms of how APFS works, but Apple demonstrated at their keynote how fast it duplicates files.  You press a button, and blink and it’s already finished the duplication process.  It’s all metadata, and by the way in terms of stability of the file system and all the improvements people have been looking for for years over HFS Plus, APFS delivers a ton of that.  But when it comes to how it handles files, when you duplicate a file, you’re effectively creating two sets of tracks would be one way to look at it, but every time you make a modification to the duplicate, its creating additional fragments that align with the original file data, but they’re stored someplace else.  And while on a Flash drive it doesn’t matter because there’s no physical location, to read that data on a hard drive when data’s not together and contiguous, it substantially reduces performance and if you have file duplication like that on a hard drive with APFS, a whole lot of times you edit and work on a file you end up with fragments that can be far away from the original file and there’s nothing yet to really optimize that.  Worse, with Time Machine, it’s just a big old mess because it’s really intelligent in terms of its … and such but the actual practicality of loading those different versions of the same file because you have the original file, all of that data, and that’s always maintained, but then all of the edits, everything that happens after that, all the new duplications, they’re all little fragments that get stored in different places and performance on a hard drive with APFS is substantially lower than what you get with HFS plus.

Larry O’Connor:  If you ask me, I’d wait as long as possible before going to 10.13.  That’s my personal opinion.  Lots of pluses.  There’s a lot of cool things but there are those that have hard drives, and again I can’t reiterate enough, for your hard drives, leave them HFS plus.  Do not at this point do APFS.  We’re working on some pretty cool solutions that will make APFS better on a hard drive, but for the typical user, you’re going to want to avoid APFS I think on drives just the way that file system works.

Larry Jordan:  I could talk with you for another four or five hours but I think I’ve got to let you go.  For people who want more information about the products and services OWC offers, where do they go on the web?

Larry O’Connor:  A great place where you can see everything is macsales.com.

Larry Jordan:  Those are two websites, the first is macsales.com.  And OWCdigital.com.  Larry O’Connor is the founder of OWC and Larry, thanks for joining us today.

Larry O’Connor:  Always a pleasure Larry.  Thank you again for having me.

Larry Jordan:  Gary Watson is the chief technical officer of Nexsan which is a storage company.  Hello Gary, welcome back.

Gary Watson:  Hello Larry, thanks for having me.

Larry Jordan:  In tonight’s show we’re talking about storage and media asset management.  Where does Nexsan fit in?

Gary Watson:  Nexsan manufactures storage.  We’ve been making storage for about 18 years.  We sell to all the major film studios, television cable networks, post houses, feature animation studios, in house corporate organizations, the church broadcasting networks, all kinds of people like that.

Larry Jordan:  But it sounds like you’re talking to larger groups?  People with bigger budgets, is that true?

Gary Watson:  We have an interesting attribute of our storage products in that you can directly connect editing base directly to them.  So we have a lot of small organizations that simply buy one storage shelf and connect up to six video editors right to it.  We have everything from little 18 drive deployments up to thousands of drives.

Larry Jordan:  So rather than have to go through a switch, the editing workstation will plug directly into your unit?

Gary Watson:  Yes.  Via either ten gig Ethernet or eight or 16 gig fiber channel typically.

Larry Jordan:  Which gives you performance that should handle just about any workflow?

Gary Watson:  Yes.  We had an interesting test result come back from one of our partners, Bright Technologies that they were testing how many streams they could do.  I just got this today.  They said they did on 4K UHD, which is about as high as people go routinely today, 1895 megabytes a second per stream, they were able to sustain two read streams and one write stream, at that bandwidth on one of our storage boxes, which is a great number.  So, with smaller streams of course, your typical red dragon things, they were testing up to 55 streams out of one box.

Larry Jordan:  Well with so many storage options, what questions should we ask to make sure that we’re getting the storage system that’s best for us?

Gary Watson:  I think one of the key decisions people have to make today is whether they want to go spinning disc or flash.  Flash is always better if you can afford it.  But it’s typically something like ten times more expensive per terabyte.  As media people we’re interested in dollars per terabyte typically.  Spinning discs are just as fast as Flash for sequential workloads, so most video applications are in fact sequential.  An exception might be transcoding.  But most of the stuff we do day to day with film and television is sequential, and so it plays into the strengths of the hard drives.  And hard drives are definitely inexpensive and there was an argument there that for a while we thought that prices would converge, that Flash and spinning disc would be roughly equivalent.  But the spinning disc people have announced a new technology where they heat up the media using microwaves called MAMR is the technology, which is going to make the disc drives five to ten times bigger than they are today.  And we’re already shipping 12 terabyte hard drives today.

Larry Jordan:  This gets me to the core question which is that media files are exploding in size and quantity.  What challenges does that create for you as a company?

Gary Watson:  It doesn’t create a lot of challenges for us because our capacities are growing along with the pace of the advances in video technology.  We’re pleased to see that they’re increasing, because obviously that’s good for us.  But it doesn’t create a problem for us because we’ve designed products that are designed to work with giant file sizes and giant disc sizes really without limit.  So when somebody wants to store a petabyte of data, we can definitely do that, that’s not a problem at all.  In fact we have customers who have nearly 100 petabytes on the floor.  So the high capacity thing’s not a problem for us and also as you go to these high capacity hard drives, you’re finding that the smaller boxes we make, such as 18 drives that you can load only half full if you want to, that may be enough for an entry level, two or three editor type environment.

Larry Jordan: That gets to a bigger question for me.  I mean, there’s only two or three disc manufacturers in the world, so what special sauce does Nexsan bring, because I can buy a Western Digital disc from just about anybody?

Gary Watson:  Yes, we use the same hard drives, from HDST or Seagate or whatever.  Depending on the product.  We manufacture the enclosure they go in, so we manage them and provide the fault tolerance for the discs.  We make sure that if a disc fails or a media error occurs on the disc, which they do occur, that we recover from that, usually without any interruption to the user.  And if you have hundreds of terabytes of data, you don’t want to pull up a clip one day and get a media error that renders your project dead because you can’t get past that.  So we handle the fault tolerance technologies that permit you to withstand the failure of an entire disc or multiple discs and continue running like it never happened and replace it while it’s still running.  So that’s the piece of technology we add to the puzzle.

Larry Jordan:  How do we budget for storage costs?

Gary Watson:  We sell through resellers, so our resellers charge how much they want, but I would say the typical Nexsan box goes out less than $200 a terabyte, and just to put that in perspective, a Cloud Storage solution, typically like Amazon S3 for example, charges you $20 a month per terabyte.  So that works out to like six months worth of cloud payments I think.  There are some situations where cloud makes more sense for some people, as maybe a DR site, but our on premise storage prices are so low these days that the cost of the hardware is almost nothing, and the warranties are cheap as well.

Larry Jordan:  Which gets me to my last question.  Where can people go on the web to learn more about your products?

Gary Watson:  We have a website.  It’s www.nexsan.com.  The typical media customer should be looking at our E series product, but we also have collaborative technologies called Unity which is another possible option.

Larry Jordan:  That website is all one word, nexsan.com and Gary Watson is the chief technical officer for Nexsan, and Gary, thanks for joining us today.

Gary Watson:   Thank you.

Larry Jordan:  A 25 year veteran of the technology industry, David Schleifer previously held key executive positions at Avid Technology where he built and managed the business strategy for the media and entertainment market.  Now he’s the chief operating officer for Primestream, a company specializing in media management.  Hello David, welcome.

David Schleifer:   Hello Larry, glad to be here with you.

Larry Jordan:   How would you describe Primestream?

David Schleifer:   Primestream’s an interesting company.  It’s focused on asset management but also on the dynamic part of it, so dynamic media management, which for us means that it’s not just asset management, it’s all of the rules based engine underneath it that makes it do what you really need it to do when you need it to do it.

Larry Jordan:   What does that mean?  The dynamic asset management?  I mean, it’s a database that says, “Here’s your assets” right?

David Schleifer:   That’s a big part of it, but having your assets in the right place, when you want them, in the right format when you need them, perhaps managing the life cycle of the assets so that it gets archived at the appropriate time with the appropriate metadata.  Those are all functions of the dynamic part.

Larry Jordan:   Well how does your system work?

David Schleifer:   The first thing I’d say is we need to listen and we need to understand what your requirements are.  Of course you could just use it, but to really make it sing and to make it tune to your requirements, we have to understand them.  Do you want the formats converted?  Are you a standalone facility or are you a multi site facility?  Do you need that media to be moved, transcoded?  All of those things are rules based actions that we can take place.  As media comes in, basically you’re going to go through the process of capturing it, managing it, producing with it, and distributing it and we help every step along the way.

Larry Jordan:   It sounds like you’ve got a much bigger view of media asset management than simply helping an editor find a particular shot?  You’re really taking media from the moment its created until post distribution, is that true?

David Schleifer:   We can.  We can also just sit in one small part of the workflow, but I think it all works best even if you’re not using us, if you’re thinking through the whole process.  When you come to extract value from an asset, either because you’re in the middle of using it or because you used it several months ago and want to get back at it, that all depends on the whole workflow that you’ve put in place around it, what metadata you’ve gathered around it, your ability to reach where you’ve put it.  All of those are important components of designing the workflow.

Larry Jordan:   I was looking at your website and Primestream has a who’s who of major media companies as clients.  However, vast amounts of media are being required by smaller companies and independent producers.  Can they even afford your products?

David Schleifer:   Absolutely.  It’s all scalable and we’re working to put solutions in the Cloud which would be much more you spaced.  It’s not the type of system that is all Cadillac, and again, because of the nature of how we build it, you only buy the licenses you need and you buy the services you need to accomplish your workflow.  So there’s no need to be frightened off and to think that if you’re not buying a whole fleet of vehicles, that you can’t touch the system.

Larry Jordan:  How would you describe a starter system?  Where is it priced?

David Schleifer:  That’s a good question and it’s hard to give out price points, but let’s say in the under $100,000 range you could manage multiple users, 240 terabytes of storage included.  I’m including all the peripheral cost for the systems, not just our software.  Assuming you’re starting from scratch.  Everything you would need to be able to bring in files or a couple of channels of ingest, and we could scale down from that as well.  If all you need is an instance where you’re just going to manage a couple of assets, coming in hourly or daily, that would be a much smaller system and certainly something that could shrink down to run on a single machine.

Larry Jordan:  David, one of the things that fascinates me is the range in pricing of media asset management software.  It starts with entry level packages of a few hundred dollars, up through systems like yourself which cost 100,000.  Why do prices range so much?  What is the driving factor in cost?

David Schleifer:  That’s a great question and ultimately it comes down to the interfaces that that application has.  It’s scalability.  Often the packages that you get that are very powerful and small will be limited to function across certain other peripherals or only up to a certain size.  If you’re looking for something that can scale from a handful of users up to thousands of users, that’s where you get into requirements that require scalability and performance and interconnectivity with a variety of systems.  The folks who are spending $100,000 or more on a package want to make sure that whatever they throw at it you can handle.  So all of that’s built in.  Now, if you pay a little more when you scale down, you get the benefits of what a larger customer has asked out of this system, so you do get those benefits, but if your requirements are always going to be two users working together, collaborating, or perhaps three or four and you don’t mind running on consumer hardware and things like that, you can go with one of the more affordable packages.

Larry Jordan:  So your perspective, the way that you view the market is, you’re viewing it from the enterprise, the major studio level as opposed to the small work group independent producer level?

David Schleifer:  We scale from medium work groups I would say, on up.  You find us in enterprise, in broadcast, across sports production and in some odd places.

Larry Jordan:  For people that want more information about Primestream’s products, where can they go on the web?

David Schleifer:  Go straight to Primestream.com with or without the w’s at the beginning, you’ll find us.

Larry Jordan:  David Schleifer is the COO, chief operating officer of Primestream, and David thanks for joining us today.

David Schleifer: Thank you Larry.

Larry Jordan:  Peter Agelasto has spent over 20 years in the music business and works nearly every day with recording and internet media technologies.  Originally though, he was a Mayan archaeologist, then turned his focus to digital culture as the internet grew in prominence.  He recently developed a media platform called Starchive which counts Bob Dylan as its first client.  Hello Peter, welcome.

Peter Agelasto IV:  Hi Larry, how are you today?

Larry Jordan:  A Mayan archaeologist?

Peter Agelasto IV:  Why not?  We all had lives before the internet, or most of us did.  With archaeology I was fascinated with people, I was fascinated with material culture and artifacts, and little did I know that fast forward 20 years, once I left the axial trenches in Honduras, that I’d find myself still doing archaeology but only really in a digital way.

Larry Jordan:  So let’s shift gears, forward about five or six technological lifetimes.  How would you describe Starchive?  What is it?

Peter Agelasto IV:  Starchive is a software product.  It is a product that unifies and centralizes all types of files.  Starchive was designed originally to solve some of my own problems that I encountered in a recording studio that I run to this day, and the problems that we were working to solve which were digital asset management systems are just too expensive.  Going to look for things was the bane of our existence, and we were also creatives so we were more focused on creating things than we were really organizing them, believe it or not.

Larry Jordan:  Well who do you see as the target audience for Starchive?

Peter Agelasto IV:  The target audience is really anyone who’s sick and tired of today’s digital asset management systems.  We have a cultural bent towards creatives because we really came from publishing and video production and audio production, and that special slant is because we’re very visual people.  So for example, if I’m searching through videos, I kind of know what I’m looking for when I see it.  So Starchive is a very visual platform.  You can search and play back across multiple storage environments, but today we’ve got folks as diverse as Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, the New York Philharmonic and also a very exciting group out of Amman, Jordan, going back to my archaeology roots, they used Starchives to archive all of their material from a very special site called Petra.  Your listeners might remember Petra as being in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  It is that marble Greek looking city at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Larry Jordan:  Where does it fit in the production process?  Are you in the creative process, or in distribution or where?

Peter Agelasto IV:  Awesome question.  So I like to answer that by saying, the entire digital world has everything to learn from musicians and artists.  The one I think, the power of creativity is a super force in the universe, but really from a production standpoint and working with digital material and web publishing, it was really musicians who took this upon themselves to learn TML back in the early days of the web.

Larry Jordan:  So with all the different media management products that are out there, why should a producer pick yours? Or more importantly, what questions should they ask to pick the best media management package for them?

Peter Agelasto IV:  Great question.  Digital ReLab loves what we’re doing.  We’ve got small teams, we bring a lot of enthusiasm and passion and we’re also solutions driven.  But I think there’s a lot of great choices out there and Digital ReLab might not be the best choice for everybody.  What I would say is answering the following questions is really helpful in picking out what kind of system you really need.  First of all, what are you doing?  If you’re just a photographer, and you don’t have the need to store huge production files locally, a Cloud option is great.  Our system has combined Cloud and local storage options into it, so for the production companies, the video producers who are shooting all day long at pro res 422 or greater, just those file sizes are huge to put into the Cloud.  Therefore, a lot of the trends in asset management in storing to Cloud offerings, is just leaving behind a lot of these producers, saying “Gosh, got all these things I need to edit but they’re too big to upload, they’re too big to download, what do we do?”  But I think you really need to ask yourself, what’s the end goal?  A lot of systems sell you on a bunch of functions and features and tout that “All of these great things are going to help you get organized.  They’re going to give you all of this workflow so that you can do all this work to get organized.”  Well, where we see opportunity is that sometimes things are actually quite well organized but not very accessible.  Focusing on “What are you doing,” helps unlock the questions of, “Where should I store this?  How much time should I really spend around organization, rather than building upon the organizational scheme that we already have?”  I think also, really asking them, “OK, if everything was organized and you had a search field in front of you, and you started looking for things, how would you search for things?”  Because it’s in that kind of working backwards from the end goals that you can get really quick and easy wins with automating ingest and metadata tagging etcetera.

Larry Jordan:  From a pricing point of view, how are you priced?

Peter Agelasto IV:  First is we do not charge for storage.  We really felt like giving users and customers the ability to pay for and bring their own storage was worthwhile.  So back to pricing.  Today Starchives starts at $500 a month, and in the Cloud we have a pricing model of just a small installation fee of $2500, onetime fee.  You could have a million users using your application, with only those two support sheets at $500 a month.

Larry Jordan:  And for people that want more information about your product, where can they go on the web?

Peter Agelasto IV:  They can visit us at digitalrelab.com.

Larry Jordan:  That’s all one word, digitalrelab.com and Peter Agelasto is the founder of Digital ReLab and Peter, thanks for joining us today.

Peter Agelasto IV:  Larry, it’s been a pleasure.  Have a wonderful day.

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, film makers and story tellers.  From photography to film making, 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:  Greg Crosby is the director of product line management at G-Technology which is a company owned by Western Digital.  This title means that he both loves storage and gets to figure out what cool new hardware we’ll be using next.  Hello Greg, welcome.

Greg Crosby:  Hello Larry, thanks for having me.

Larry Jordan:  Greg, this week we’re talking about storage.  File sizes are exploding, media projects regularly create multiple terabytes of data spread across thousands of files.  What are storage vendors like G-Tech doing to help us keep up?

Greg Crosby:   Well we’re definitely bringing a variety of different storage products that are meeting those needs and requirements, with higher data rates, higher frame rates are increasing the amount of storage that’s needed, and also the performance that’s needed to be able to move that data is also another key component to that.  So we’re embracing new interface technology like Thunderbolt 3.  We’re offering higher capacity storage solutions.  Now we have 12 terabyte capacity drives that are available in our products, so we can easily offer a variety of different solutions that are meeting the needs of our creative customers.

Larry Jordan:  It may just be that I have this conservative bent, but when I hear a single hard drive stores 12 terabytes of data, does that thing actually work, and is it reliable?  It just makes me feel like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff.

Greg Crosby: It definitely does work.  We’re very fortunate within the G-Technology brand to utilize some of the best hard drives on the planet.  We use the Ultrastar Enterprise Class hard drives in a lot of our three and a half inch base platforms.  12 terabytes is a lot of data to be on one single disc, but I’m very confident and I’ve used the drives myself obviously to store all that content.  And with other products that have the rate capability, it’s also providing that additional data redundancy and some additional levels of protection, so there’s different ways of being able to have a nice strategy to protect that data and to be able to store that amount of data.

Larry Jordan:  There’s multiple types of drives.  There’s NAS Drives, Eenterprise Drives, and Consumer Drives and who else knows what.  How do we decide which of these to get, and does it really make a difference to the individual media producer?

Greg Crosby:  I think it does actually make a difference.  There are a variety of different classifications for drives.  As I mentioned for G-Technology, we primarily use the Enterprise Class storage products, and those drives do go through additional levels of testing and validation to become that Enterprise Class qualified drive.  So I think it is important.  When you have your creative content, your creative baby as a lot of people like to say, on a storage product, you want to make sure that it’s being stored in the most reliable solution available on the market.  And that’s what G-Technology provides.

Larry Jordan:  Do they test each individual drive, or are they extensively testing a random sample that comes off the line?  Because with the number of drives you have to manufacture is there ever time to test a drive?

Greg Crosby:  They are, they go through a variety of different testing and qualification processes.  For us with the enterprise drives, we’re getting basically the cream of the crop to the drives that are being put into our products.  They do go through some other additional testing to validate that they do meet that requirement.  Then I think more importantly too is we have lots of different end users and customers that are using our products out there in the field.  G-Technology’s always been known for the reliability and I think just the use of our drives and products in the field are a good testament to that reliability and the quality of what we provide.

Larry Jordan:  I’m looking around my office and I see any number of silver G-Tech boxes but they’re all Firewire.  Can I buy an empty enclosure and move the drive?  Or do I need to replace everything?

Greg Crosby:  You actually do need to replace.  Some of the technology as you mentioned, the interface technology does change.  We also use different types of Raid chips and Raid controllers that also will impact your ability to use what you currently have.  Sounds like you’re a great opportunity for our team to reach out and make sure you’re on the latest and greatest and are migrating that content into the newest technology.

Larry Jordan:  Let’s just say that I’m drowning in terabytes.  I’ve given up keeping track, but it’s more than one.  G-Tech has offered both spinning media storage and SSD storage for a long while, and the benefits of SSD in terms of speed is significant.  Why is it that Apple is the only company that’s been able to blend the two into a Fusion Drive?  What makes that technology so unattainable for everybody else?

Greg Crosby:  I think a lot of it is having access to the metadata of the files themselves, with the operating systems being able to see what files are being accessed consistently.  That has that intelligence there.  It can be done, but I think it’s a little bit more difficult from more of the device side of things and we definitely see that as an opportunity, with the mixture of media that we have, to be able to provide that solution to our customer and we are looking at possibilities for the future to enable that.

Larry Jordan:  Something for us to look forward to, this’ll be very nice.  There’s lots of storage products out there both from G-Tech and the competition.  What criteria should we use to determine which storage product to buy?  Is it solely capacity?

Greg Crosby:  No, I think there’s other factors.  Obviously the media that’s being used, whether that be again Enterprise Class hard drives or high quality hard drives, what we put into the G-Tech portfolio, or even the Flash side of it.  One of the great exciting things about our new larger company, is that we have a lot of great innovative technology to put into our products, even down to really high performance, high endurance Flash drives.  So I think the media is definitely an important aspect.  I think also as you referred to us, the silver drives.  The look and the feel of the products is another important aspect.  Then I think the service and support and warranties also are another big factor.  We have now on a lot of our Thunderbolt enabled products a five year warranty across our portfolio of product, so we really stand behind our product, the quality, the reliability and the performance of which G-Technology has been known for.

Larry Jordan:  One of the things that’s fascinating a lot of us is this whole idea of machine learning or artificial intelligence.  Does that play a role at all in storage?

Greg Crosby:  I think so.  Definitely in a variety of different ways.  I think there’s some interesting things from a device side, but it becomes even more interesting on the software and application side. The intelligence that you can now apply to all of your storage media, to be able to go and have it  search for pictures of cars, or have it go and search for somebody skiing down a mountain.  I think there’s lots of possibilities to where you can basically provide more value to the media that you have, and over a longer life as well.  You know, as you mentioned, having lots of drives at some point in time it’d be great to aggregate and put that all into one spot, and then provide some intelligence that can go and say, “This is what’s on this drive and this is what’s back up and not backed up, and here is the actual content that you have available to you to be able to use.”

Larry Jordan:  What G-Tech  products should media creators consider when they’re deciding to supplement their storage?

Greg Crosby:  Obviously back up is a key component to have.  Multiple copies of your data is always a key factor, so utilizing things like multiple G drives or G Raids, I think are always a great way of being able to have multiple copies of your data.  I think the faster interfaces are really great especially on the creative side, because you’re removing any of the bottlenecks, or bottleneck potentials that may happen.  And I think with the newer technology, Apple based systems, there’s this new Thunderbolt 3 technology that’s there and how do you simplify that and make sure that it all interacts and works together to optimize the workflow?  So I would look at our Thunderbolt 3 solutions and even for those that need a higher capacity, collaborative storage, our G-Rack’s another great example of the types of products that G-Tech’s bringing to the market.

Larry Jordan:  Should we use different criteria in picking storage, depending upon where we are in the production process?  Does a DIT need something different than an editor, than a cinematographer?

Greg Crosby:  Yes, I definitely think that there’s the right tool for the job.  We have a lot of customers that are using G drives as an example, like a large USB drive for all intents and purposes.  They need to move four terabytes of data from one location to the next.  Our G drives are great solutions for that.  The G drive’s also a great solution for somebody that’s just looking to back up their system, or to be able to store a nice photo library or a project on.  On the opposite side of that, we have a lot of our customers that are shooting four to six terabytes a day and they utilize our eight drive, Thunderbolt 3 solution to store and aggregate and back up all that data while they’re on the road or on set.  I also think that G-Technology, in our position within the media and entertainment space, is definitely well positioned.  You know, we have another group within our company that focuses on seven petabyte storage solutions, and actually our G-Rack 12 has the ability to talk directly to that large seven petabyte active scale solution.  I think those are the things that we’re really looking to try to solve from G-Technology, those workflow solutions is really what we focus on.

Larry Jordan:  For people who want more information and to see exactly what products are available, where can they go on the web?

Greg Crosby:  You can visit us at G-technology.com.

Larry Jordan:  Greg Crosby is the director of product line management for G-Technology, and Greg, as always, thanks for joining us.

Greg Crosby: Thank you Larry.

Larry Jordan:  You know, I was just thinking.  Almost every day I get an email from someone trying to decide what computer they should buy.  And I have a number of articles on my website on how to configure a new computer for video editing.  But what surprises me, is how few questions I get asking about what storage to buy.  As Gary said during his interview, a 4K HDR video file requires 1.9 gigabytes per second of storage bandwidth.  That’s faster than Firewire, Thunderbolt 1, even Thunderbolt 2, yet far too many editors assume that the speed of their computer is all they need to consider when buying a system that will future proof their editing.  Your computer is safe, but probably not your storage.

Larry Jordan:   Things get even more complex as you start to share storage between multiple editors.  Suddenly issues such as switching, cabling, even connection protocols in addition to Ethernet speeds, become both relevant and limiting.  Our storage is critically important, and far too often, underestimated in the design of any video editing system.  Then, when you combine dozens of terabytes of storage with the shoot as much as you like for free aspect of digital media, we end up with projects that have thousands of shots, often with multiple shots contained within the same clip.

Larry Jordan:   How do we find what we need?  Greg Crosby of G-Tech told me a story after our interview that they hired a production team to shoot a video for G-Tech.  The team shot 27 terabytes of data, but the deadline was so short they didn’t have time to even review all the media that they shot.  After they delivered the project, they went back through the footage and discovered all kinds of great shots that they would have put in the video if only they could have found them during the edit process.

Larry Jordan:  As editors, we are really really good at organizing our media.  Now we need the ability to find all those great shots, when we need them.  Just something I’m thinking about.

Larry Jordan:  I want to thank our guests for this week, Larry O’Connor of OWC, Gary Watson of Nexsan, David Schleifer of Primestream, Peter Agelasto of Digital ReLab, Greg Crosby of G-Technology  and 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 available to you today.  Remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter that comes out every Saturday.

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Larry Jordan:   Our theme music is composed by Nathan Dugi-Turner with additional music provided by Smartsound.com.  Text transcripts are provided by Take1 Transcription.  Visit Take1.tv to learn how they can help you.

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.

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