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Transcript: Digital Production Buzz – February 22, 2018

HOST

Larry Jordan

GUESTS
Aaron Semmel, Executive Producer/CEO, BoomBoomBooya, LLC

Andrew David James, Actor/Fight Choreographer, andrewdavidjames.com

Cirina Catania, Founder and Lead Creative, The Catania Group

James DeRuvo, Editor-in-Chief, DoddleNEWS

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

Larry Jordan: Tonight on the Buzz, we are talking about budgets because creating a realistic budget is at the heart of any creative process.  We start with executive producer, Aaron Semmel.  He’s the founder of BoomBoomBooya, and producer of both feature films and syndicated television programs.  Tonight he explains the budgeting process, the difference between film and TV budgets, and how different members of the financial team work together to create a movie.

Larry Jordan:  Andrew David James is an actor, director and producer.  While he’s done a number of film projects, his first love is theater.  Tonight he talks about the differences in budgeting between theater and film as well as the challenges in working for lower budget non profits to find the money to produce a play.

Larry Jordan:  Successful filmmaker Cirina Catania has spent her career creating projects for major studios and TV networks.  Tonight she talks about the unique challenge of planning and revising a budget for a major studio project.  

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 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.  Most of the time we talk about technology or filmmaking here on the Buzz.  Tonight though, we decided to talk about budgets because without money, filmmaking tends to grind to a halt.  While it’s true, you can make a movie for virtually nothing, most of the time I think all of us would prefer to get paid for our hard work.  And that means looking at the story we want to tell, and figuring out what it will cost to tell it.

Larry Jordan:  On tonight’s show we look at this from three different perspectives, executive producer Aaron Semmel sets the scene by examining the budgeting process and the team responsible for creating a budget for a feature film.  Then, Andrew David James has spent most of his life in the theater.  He compares budgeting and fund raising for theater to movie making and, as you’ll discover, there are significant differences in their approach and not just in the dollar amounts.

Larry Jordan:  Finally, filmmaker Cirina Catania talks about creating budgets with an emphasis on network and cable channel programming.  She’s been doing this for a long time, and I’m looking forward to her comments.  As we were planning this program, we reached out to several software companies who create tools to help filmmakers budget their projects.  While they were not able to participate in this show, we’re hoping to bring them on to talk about their products in the future.

Larry Jordan: Before we start though, 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, every issue is free, and comes out on Saturday.

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

James DeRuvo:   Hello Larry.  Do you realize it’s only six weeks to NAB?

Larry Jordan:  I actually do realize it’s only six weeks to NAB.  We are doing some major planning right now for the Buzz to go to NAB and do our regular live coverage.  We’re going to be doing almost 100 interviews at the show, and that takes a fair amount of planning, and you’re going to be joining us too.

James DeRuvo:  Indeed.  I’ll be there every day.  As Mickey Mouse says, “Big doings.”

Larry Jordan:  Well let’s take a look at the big doings for right now.  What’s the news this week?

James DeRuvo:  Well, there’s a lot of big doings going on for Panasonic this week, including they have announced the development of an 8K image sensor with a global shutter, and they’ve got a firmware update for the EVA1 cinema camera.  The 8K image sensor has a global shutter and is capable of shooting 36 megapixels at 60 frames per second with high dynamic range.  This global shutter images the entire image all at once, rather than every other line in a frame like traditional CMOS sensors, and so the promise is that you’re going to get no rolling shutter issues, no image distortion and they’re able to do this without sacrificing high dynamic range because they’ve developed a new split circuitry that devotes all the light imaging information to one side of the circuit and all the color depth to another side of the circuit.  It’s very exciting.

James DeRuvo:  The EVA1’s firmware update finally after promising last summer, they are going to give us external raw recording and All-I support with long GOP and time lapse as well a whole bunch of other new features that nobody expected.

Larry Jordan:  Well that All-I frame recording means we’re going to get a much higher quality on each individual image.  But what is a global shutter, and why is it important?

James DeRuvo:  A shutter in a video camera can only do a certain section of the image at a time, usually if it’s interlaced it’s every other line, or it’s just part of the image.  Whereas the global shutter blasts all the information on a particular frame all at once, so you get everything.

Larry Jordan:  So a global shutter’s much more like a piece of film, where the entire film frame is exposed at the same instant?

James DeRuvo:  Right, and the benefit is if you’ve ever seen a video of like someone sticks their video camera out the window of an airplane and you see how the propellers have gotten bent and they’re kind of weird, and they’re not even attached to the engine?  That’s due to rolling shutter.  A global shutter eliminates that.  You get this more natural look of like what you see coming into your eye, and that’s going to be a huge benefit for shooting mostly motion and action scenes.

Larry Jordan:  Cool, well that’s Panasonic.  What else do we have for news this week?

James DeRuvo:  Samsung is shipping a massive 30 terabyte SSD.  It’s 30.72 terabyte.  The 1643 SSD is the latest in Samsung’s ongoing efforts to push the SSD technology.  It’s got 16 stacked layers of 512 gigabyte V-NAND chips, and it can fit nearly two years of nonstop playing video on a single 30 terabyte drive.  It’s got read write speeds of 2100 megabytes per second for read speeds.  1700 megabytes per second for write speeds.  That’s nearly 1,000 times faster than a typical spinning hard drive.

Larry Jordan:  Just to share with you, I was checking with Samsung, they have not announced pricing for this unit.  But the 15 terabyte version is $12,000, so we’re probably not going to be buying more than one of these in our budget for this week.  Who do you think they’re designed for?

James DeRuvo:  Well, they’re not only massive, but they’re incredibly fast.  The usual design for enterprise storage solutions where you have access to major databases and you need to handle a lot of data, all at once, and with some speed.  So it doesn’t take a computer scientist to see that with a read write speed of 2100 megabytes per second, and 1700 megabytes per second, that this is the kind of ideal solution that post production work houses could use for ingesting and accessing of ultra high definition video, and the heavy lifting of visual effects.  It’s tailor made for the 8K waters we’re currently starting to dip our collective toes in.

Larry Jordan:  I’m looking forward to it.  I hope what it starts to do is to significantly drive down SSD prices.  So what’s our third story this week?

James DeRuvo:  Well our third story has to do with Bitcoin.  It seems you can’t do a news story anywhere unless you get a Bitcoin story in there.  For the film industry, Bitcoin’s biggest contribution may be the underlying blockchain technology that was designed to verify the transaction history of who owns that crypto currency.  The underlying blockchain to Bitcoin could be used to streamline accounting where you could automatically trigger payments to cast and crew, provide proof of ownership of intellectual property, and even manage content distribution in the video and on demand platforms.

Larry Jordan:  Well it seems to me that there’s still a lot of buyer beware associated with this crypto currency.  What’s your opinion?

James DeRuvo:  Well I’m not a fan of crypto because it’s just too volatile, and it’s not backed by the FDIC.  But regardless to the actual Bitcoin itself, the underlying technology of the blockchain, that’s another story.  I know dozens of friends who have had to deal with unscrupulous producers who promise a payment that never really materialized, and we all know about the infamous net profit participation clause in a contract.  With the blockchain, these painful rites of passage for filmmakers could be turned into actual payment for services due.  And it’s going to revolutionize the way Hollywood does its accounting, if they employ it.

Larry Jordan:  Look forward to seeing that.  What other stories are you following this week?

James DeRuvo:  Other stories that we’re following include a group of former Lexar executives team up to launch a media company to fill the void left by Micron killing the Lexar brand.  We review Transcriptive, for transcribing your audio and post production, and there’s more tutorials for Adobe Premiere Pro.

Larry Jordan:  Where can people go on the web to get all of this information?

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

Larry Jordan:   James DeRuvo is the Editor in Chief of doddleNEWS and joins us every week and James, as always, thanks much, we’ll talk to you next Thursday.

James DeRuvo:  See you next Thursday.

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Larry Jordan:  Aaron Semmel is a television and feature film producer with more than 20 years experience in producing all forms of television, from unscripted reality shows to scripted episodic, to long form miniseries.  Hello Aaron, welcome.

Aaron Semmel:  Hello Larry, thank you for having me, I’m excited.

Larry Jordan:  I’m looking forward to our chat because for the first time, we’re really focusing on budgeting which is something we haven’t talked about a lot.  But before we get to that, your title is Executive Producer.  How would you describe what an executive producer does?

Aaron Semmel: I often talk about my friends that I grew up with back in Chicago.  I’m from Chicago, I live in Los Angeles now.  People often ask me what exactly I do.   In their heads they really imagine me working an hour a day and then hanging out with movie stars the rest of the time.  It’s not exactly like that.  I try to tell them the easiest and best way to describe what a producer does, I often say, is anything and everything to get the project done is what a producer does.  What an executive producer does and a mantra I live by is dodge bullets and make miracles, that what we do.  My job really entails creating or acquiring, for lack of a better term, intellectual property.  Whether that be a concept for a television show, a script for a scripted show, an outline for a miniseries, I really create or develop these concepts and then I work with my relationships with buyers such as networks or distributions to partner to finance these dreams and concepts, and then we go out and produce them.  I often oversee a lot of the actual production.  I work very closely on the creative with the directors and the writers, and the actors usually, if there are some.  On the unscripted side I work very closely with what we call the talent, and then hand it off to the distributor or buyer for said release.  In those ways, as an executive producer we do try to oversee and have our hands in as much of that as we can, but more often than not, that’s more of a process that’s handled by the distributor or network, and we are just lucky to be told what’s going on.

Larry Jordan:  Would you think of yourself more working with the content, or the money side?

Aaron Semmel:  Oh that’s why I love what I do.  What I do is I believe the perfect blend of both.  I get the privilege to be part of that concept creative, overall vision of the project, but then a lot of what I have to do is go find that money and deal with the money.  I particularly enjoy the creative side more, but the deal side of the financial stuff is very fun for me.  I have a lot of fun with that, because you can get creative with it.  When it comes down to actual numbers, often there’s an accountant involved and a line producer.  Those are people I work with to inform me hopefully that everything’s going good.

Larry Jordan:  Well it sounds like the executive producer makes the deals, and once the deals are done, the line producer figures out how to allocate the money?

Aaron Semmel:  Yes.  There’s often other producers between the executive producer and the line producer, but yes.  And a lot of times line producers are given credits like producer, because the line producer watches the budget, and makes sure that everything’s being adhered to as far as the numbers in the budget.  The producers are the guys that are making that happen, they’re taking that money and actually making that happen.  So we all work very closely together.  Again, it’s what attracted me to this business.  The group, the team.  I grew up in a very communal environment and the team, the aspect of having people you could count on and work with, who help you succeed, is very important to me.

Larry Jordan:  Well tonight we’re talking about budgeting.  How would you describe the role of the executive producer in the budgeting process, compared to say a line producer?

Aaron Semmel:  Ah, that’s an interesting question.  Because again, there’s so many different types of producers, people often get confused.  More often than not a line producer is a work horse, a guy an executive producer would hire to oversee the budget.  The budget is created by that line producer working with the director, often a production accountant, a supervising producer, the executive producer, all these people weigh in in these early stages of the budget as the line producer and the production accountant put it together.  Then the executive producer often steps away where they fine tune that.  Usually to the specifications of the executive producer.  

Aaron Semmel:  We have a term that we say back into a number.  We say we’re going to have to back into this number.  So if, let’s say, we’re working on a project and just to make up numbers, a $10 million movie is what I, as the executive producer was able to raise and acquire and what we’re moving forward with to make this, then I would tell the line producers and director and production accountant, we’re going to back into this $10 million budget.  Then they go and create the budget for us.

Larry Jordan:  When you’re creating a budget, do you come up with the basic number, and they have to figure out how to get to it, or do you get down into the minutiae of what you want to do?

Aaron Semmel:  There’s two parts of a budget.  There’s what’s called the above the line and the below the line.  These two parts of the budget basically break down the creative from the actual production of the project.  The creative being the directors, producers, actors, writers.  They’re in what’s called the above the line and the below the line is the production elements and the actual crew people.  So the above the line is often the area that the executive producers play in more often than not, because that involves the actors and the money and the producers and it’s more often than not a big ticket part of the budget.   The line producer oversees much more of the below the line budget.  They’re like the boss, the controller, the foreman of the budget on set to make sure everything’s going right on set.

Larry Jordan:   Clearly the story that you want to tell affects the budget.  But how do you decide where to spend money, for example, two characters talking about a moving bus does not cost the same as two characters talking on a moving bus?

Aaron Semmel:   That is true.  Yes, that’s another part of this business that I do love.  The film business is an art form unlike any other art form, I truly believe this.  It takes hundreds if not thousands of people to create our art.  Most other forms of art form are somewhat singular.  A singular artist has a vision and makes something happen.  In our form it’s such a collaborative, massive endeavor that incorporates so many people.  It’s so important for us to work hard on these budgets and maintaining these budgets and creating these things, and then the creative element is the dream aspect of it, and of course in the creative side we want to give as much rein and freedom to creativity as we can, but at the end of the day there’s only so many dollar bills in daddy’s wallet.  So we have to make sure that that creativity can get honed in to a level.  

Aaron Semmel:   There’s a lot of times where scripts, projects, even films after being shot, are completely changed just to deal with financial situations.  Like you just said, the bus is a good example, but even on a production basis, sometimes you take a scene indoor from outdoor.  You have an interaction in a garage as opposed to an interaction outside the court room, because then you’ve got more extras to deal with and more hassles.  So it’s a fun game of picking and choosing and walking that line of keeping the integrity of the creative but at the same time doing it for a price.

Larry Jordan:  How do you know what something costs, when you haven’t created it yet?

Aaron Semmel:  Well we try to guess the best we can.  A lot of times in Hollywood, we’re not exactly correct.  I mean, there’s a lot of times that people go way over budget.  You know, the superstars are the ones that come in under budget, under schedule, so it’s hard.  We really just do our best and again, it’s a collaborative effort so what I do as an executive producer really is try to surround myself with the people who I can trust to help me through this.  The director on set truly becomes the captain of the boat, I believe that, but the executive producer has that job over the entire project.  So it’s very important to fill your crew with the people you trust so executive producers often work with the directors to pick and choose our crew because again, the director we want to creatively give them everything we can, but at the same time we have people we trust that we’ve worked with in the past who have delivered for us.  So it’s a bit of give and take there you know?

Larry Jordan:  What’s the difference between building a budget for film and building a budget for TV?

Aaron Semmel:  Two major differences I feel.  First of all for a television series, you’re already working in tandem with a distribution partner, the network so to say.  It’s very rare that people go and make independent television series, that’s a very rare thing in our business in TV.  So more often than not, when you’re moving forward with a project, you already have that distribution partnership and nowadays, the networks like to own everything so they’ll buy the show straight out at a per episode price so to say, and producers in production companies nowadays are more often paid fees, almost like a commission, for making the show for the network.  And those fees are what we negotiate for and what we push up in the success of the show.

Aaron Semmel:   While you’re making a film, you’re constantly chasing money in the film world.  You’re constantly trying to find your next dollar.  Even when you’re in a situation that you have a financing partner or a distribution partner in place, you’re still constantly chasing dollars, and creating situations to save yourself money, whether it’s tax incentives, with a partnership with a film friendly state, or it’s through deals you’re making creatively with your talent or whether it’s brand integration that you’re working in, through marketing partnerships.  In the feature film world, you’re always chasing that dollar.  In the TV world, you are told what your dollar amount will be at the beginning, and you back into that, and your show works off of that number.  So that’s a major difference in it.

Aaron Semmel:  The second big difference is both budgets flux, but more often than not, because of the first reason in the difference of the budgets, television budgets are much more fixed, and you have to adhere to them much more.  Film budgets are very determined on how much money can you get?  You look at a script.  People might want to make that for $20 million, but if you can only raise $5 million, is that what you go and make this movie for?  In the TV world you don’t really go at it and say “I’m going to make a TV show for $500,000 an episode.  Oh you know what?  I think I can make it for $100,000.”  It doesn’t really work like that.  It’s a much closer margin on the TV side.

Larry Jordan:  Does it ever make sense to come in under budget?

Aaron Semmel:  Always.  On both sides, that’s the dream.  That’s a dream come true.  Larry, if you could do that, I’d hire you in a moment.  You can leave all this podcast behind.

Larry Jordan:  Tempting.  I’ll have my resume on your desk in the morning.

Aaron Semmel:  That’s the dream.

Larry Jordan:  You’ve mentioned that there are different budgets for different parts of production.  What do you do if something starts running over budget, besides screaming and yelling?

Aaron Semmel:  Well again that’s where the producers from the supervising and line producers, all the way up to the executive producers, have to get creative with what we call dodging bullets and making miracles.  We have to figure out ways to make things happen.  I was a co producer on Hatfields & McCoys, the miniseries that aired on History Channel several years ago that involved Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton.  Let me just use one example in that to show you some of the trials and tribulations that arise while you’re making movies.  This was a television budget, which are much more fixed, more rigid, very hard to flux and deal with.  Well,  we’re shooting Hatfields & McCoys in Romania of all places, which was very interesting, we were shooting a battle sequence, and that sequence was a two day shoot. That two day shoot started on a Monday, we shot all day, we stopped, it was a beautiful 60 degrees sunny blue sky, white puffy cloud day, and somehow that night winter came.  This is what happens in eastern Europe.  Winter comes, that’s why they say in Game of Thrones, “Winter is coming.”  It was like that, it was overnight snow storm.  So the next day we woke up and this whole battlefield we were going to film on is completely covered with snow.  

Aaron Semmel:   So one way a lot of people in our business solve problems is basically they throw money at it, they really do.  They pull a dump truck up and dump it, and say “Fix it.”  That’s a very expensive way to fix it and again if you come in under budget, you’re the hero, so you try to fix it as inexpensively as you can which means working quick on your feet.  What we ended up doing is a very quick reschedule, filming other scenes that we could use to show time transition that were never planned to have snow in it.  We never once planned to have snow in that ever really.  So at the end of the day we felt like we got lucky we did, and we were able to use it to our advantage.  Now we did have to work very hard for those time transitions that we got.  We literally were out there in that field while they were filming other little scenes in the woods of people moving through the snow, we were in that field with rakes and brooms raking and brushing the snow trying to help it melt so that the next day we could definitely film there because again, that would start to get expensive.  Everyone was, I’m not making this up.  Leslie Greif, the executive producer of that miniseries was himself out there with a rake raking down the snow patches trying to get them in the sun to melt it down.  So again, anything and everything to get the project done.

Larry Jordan:  What advice would you give to a relatively new producer who’s facing their first significant budget?  What advice would you give them?

Aaron Semmel:  Facing your first budget, wow.  I remember the first days as an assistant, working for producers, just coming to understand how budgets and this whole process works.  And it’s mind boggling.  Everybody thinks that these are just such big dollar amounts that people must be getting rich.  It’s just not true.  These are big dollar amounts because what we do costs a lot of money.  It really does.  Like I said before, such a collaborative force.  We create an army to go forge a battle against reality and what we win in that battle is a trophy through a lens, and that’s it.  We get to create our own reality and that army costs a lot of money.  So the best advice I could give is, be creative and pull in every favor you can.  The more you can come in under that budget number the better and that is the truth.  But my last bit of advice would be whatever money you could get, come in just one dollar under that, you’ll be a hero and you spent all the money you could, which is great.

Larry Jordan:  Aaron for people that want to get a hold of you to hire you or throw money in your direction, how can they get a hold of you on the web?

Aaron Semmel:  Oh if they want to do that they can find me anywhere.  But the best way to find me honestly is just email me.  Write to a producer, cut right to the chase, get direct, that’s my best advice.  You can find me at my name @gmail.  It’s aaronsemmel@gmail.com.  Email me, and let’s talk.

Larry Jordan:  And Aaron Semmel is the executive producer and founder of BoomBoomBooyah which is his production company, and Aaron, this has been a fun visit.  Thank you so much for your time.

Aaron Semmel:  Thank you Larry, this has been great.  I’m happy to do it.

Larry Jordan:  An actor, entertainer and fight choreographer, Andrew David James has toured throughout America and Europe, working in theater and film but he’s also a writer of children’s books, a playwright, and a producer.  Hello Andrew, welcome back.

Andrew David James:  Hi Larry, thanks for having me.

Larry Jordan: Tonight we’re talking about budgeting and since your experience is in theater, we’ll start there.  What kind of budgets have you been involved with?

Andrew David James:  Well, for theater it’s all guerilla financing so we work on a lot of different levels.  Everything from short plays to extended runs to touring productions.

Larry Jordan:  What do you mean by guerilla financing?

Andrew David James:  Generally speaking you’re working under a 501C3 which is a non profit, so you have a season budget but you’re generally always searching for funding via season ticket sales, also angel donors, and all that sort of thing as well.

Larry Jordan:  How does a theater budget differ from a film budget, aside perhaps for the number of zeroes involved?

Andrew David James:  Which is very often the case.  Although there are productions these days particularly with production values for theatrical productions that run as expensive as films. It’s interesting though, one of the differences that you have is generally you’re working within a season for a theater, whereas a film is a completely independent production.  You’ll very often have to pull from one theater production in a season that may be more expensive, for instance a musical, where you’re hiring choreographers and bigger sets and bigger production values to support smaller shows that may not be making as much money.  For instance, an avant garde play that appeals to a certain audience, you may need to put a ton of money into marketing, that you wouldn’t so much for an Oklahoma or a big time musical.

Andrew David James:  I don’t know if you’re hitting this with any of your other people, but one of the things that I found interesting is I just recently was a B unit director on a fight scene, and I found it very interesting to realize that a theater budget, you have so much flexibility and so many options and it’s decided way ahead of time for film.  For theater, you’re making it up as you go, you’re trying to re-adjust and that sort of thing, but for film, you’re really locked in and the people who made those decisions aren’t on set.  So you don’t have a lot of flexibility and I found that to be an interesting thing as well.

Larry Jordan:  Well you’ve mentioned twice now that you budget for a theater series, not an individual production.  Why is that so important?

Andrew David James:  You can certainly work both ways, but generally speaking, if you have a small theater, either a regional theater or a theater touring house, you look at your entire season and you budget your plays based on what shows you know people will come to see and what shows you put out there to reach new audiences.  Hamilton of course is a great example of this in that it’s bringing new people into the theater all across the country, who may not have any legacy of going to theater shows.  So you may put a Hamilton in your season to bring people in there, to get people in there, and you have to pay a lot of money to book that show.  But you know it’ll sell tickets.  Then you may bring something in that’s an unknown show, an original work or maybe a non-musical piece that you want to put out there because you want to appeal to other people who may not have seen Hamilton or who that may not be there cup of tea to diversify your audience a little bit.

Larry Jordan:  It sounds like there’s a significant element of marketing in the production budgets you put together?

Andrew David James:  Without any doubt, marketing has to be your first consideration when you’re building a season or financing a play.

Larry Jordan:  What are some of the other more important light items that you need to put into a budget?

Andrew David James:  It’s interesting with theater in reference to film and how you compare the two.  Generally speaking, casting is going to be very difficult for a theater production because very often you only have a couple of equity contracts, so your level of paying your performers is set by a union, but you only have two, maybe three, sometimes five or seven of those contracts for a large show.  So the rest you kind of have to understand how many performers you can pay, how many performers you’re going to beg to come in and donate their time, and then very often you’ll look at a director, a choreographer, very often a musical director, a set designer, a costume designer, and decide where you want to put your staff pay after marketing.  Now the next thing you need to do is decide if you’re going to need to look at space rental, theater rental is generally speaking one of the most difficult.  If you have a home theater, you don’t have to worry about monthly rent, but if you’re going to be touring a show, then your expenses are one of the top things you need to look at.  What your weekend cost is going to be at a theater.  If you need to do two shows on a Saturday or Sunday to cover your rental, and that sort of thing.  Generally your first three big expenses.

Larry Jordan:  Do you find yourself enjoying the budgeting process? Or is it just too painful for words, but has to be done?

Andrew David James:  Well I would obviously make the joke that I know just enough about financing to never want to do it again.  But the truth of the matter is that it’s a creative endeavor, particularly with theater.  Maybe not quite so much with film or television, but with theater, you’re out there, you’re shaking hands and you’re trying to get people to fall in love with the art you’re going to create.  For someone who maybe doesn’t have the time or the ability to go out there and keep acting all the time, it’s a really nice creative way to go out and support the arts, and if you’re good at it, you can work forever as a financier in theater.

Larry Jordan:  Well that gets to the bigger question.  Where does the money come from?

Andrew David James:  Well that depends on how attached you are to prayer, and what you can get in from divine sources.  Generally speaking, there’s a large pool of people who believe that live performance and live theater is something that we should be putting our money into, particularly with it being cut in schools so much, you’ll find a lot of people, generally of the older generation who had great experiences in the theater, who want to give their money to local and regional theaters.  But they are few and far between when it comes to finding them in numbers.  You’ll have one or two people, usually in a community, who support a local theater.  They’re the big donors, sometimes 50,000 a year, sometimes more, given what the community might be.  And the rest of it is generally speaking season ticket holders who have agreed to renew their subscriptions year after year, or private donors who have a specific attachment to a season or to a play or to a theater group.

Larry Jordan: If you were to give advice to a producer who’s starting out and creating their first budget, what advice would you give them?

Andrew David James:  Generally speaking when you speak with other producers who are developing their own way of financing shows, you want to talk about pitfalls that they might hit.  Each theater is going to have its own path, but one of my favorite things to tell young people is, when you start financing a show, you want to have an emergency budget because there’s no way to fully plan for everything.  So you’re going to have a lot of things that you don’t expect.  Generally speaking, my marketing budget is my biggest, and then my theater rental space and then my staff pay.  I then put in a significant amount, usually about a quarter of the marketing budget, as an emergency fund, for things that pop up for instance, having to hire an understudy when a cast member gets sick or having to hire someone for a vocal coach when you realize that that’s needed for a production.  And the emergency budget is generally speaking your catch all.  That’ll save a young producer a lot of headaches if he’s not bumping up right against his maximum budget all the time.

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

Andrew David James:  The easiest way to find me is andrewdavidjames.com.  You can also find me on all the social media.

Larry Jordan:  That’s all one word, andrewdavidjames.com and Andrew David James himself is the voice you’ve been listening to.  Andrew, thanks for joining us today.

Andrew David James:  Thank you Larry, I appreciate it.

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:  Cirina Catania is a successful writer, director,  journalist, tech evangelist, and filmmaker.  She’s also a former senior marketing executive at MGM UA, and United Artists, and is one of the original co-founders of the Sundance Film Festival.  Hello Cirina, welcome back.

Cirina Catania:  Well hi Larry.

Larry Jordan:  Tonight we’re talking about budgeting and Cirina, you were just speaking at the Hollywood Press Association Conference about budgeting.  What did you discuss?

Cirina Catania:  We were talking about the best and how to make sure that you get what you need from the studio and the network and how to communicate with everyone.

Larry Jordan:  I’ve heard that a lot from all of our people, that communication is critical.  As a filmmaker who creates programming for network clients, how do you go about putting a budget together?

Cirina Catania:  Well, that’s interesting.  When I was at the studio I used to do three different budgets.  I would do one budget when we greenlit a film.  And then we would do another budget when we started production because by that time, you knew what kind of cameras you were going to use, how many crew you were going to have, and the post work flow would be established.  Then we would do a third budget right before we went into distribution because by that time you knew how many theaters you were going to have, and what your chances of success would be for the film.  So it’s a matter of communicating with all of the keys in every department, and hopefully having an amazing line producer.

Larry Jordan:  Well does your budget evolve?  Does the number change, or just simply the allocation of what line gets what amount?

Cirina Catania:  Sometimes the numbers change.  In the beginning you have to really establish a contingency and then sometimes you use that contingency as you get further along, but the object of the exercise is never to go over budget.

Larry Jordan:  Yes, Aaron made that really clear.  He said if you go under budget you’re a hero, and if you go over budget they take you out back and flog you.

Cirina Catania:  That’s right.

Larry Jordan:  When you are pitching an idea, are you pitching a budget to go with it?

Cirina Catania:  Very rarely.  No.  Well it depends on what it is.  If you’re dealing with a major studio or a TV network, it’s the story first.  First it’s the story, then it’s who’s going to be involved with this, and then once you get to talk money, you’ve pretty much got the deal, so you’re working out the details at that point.

Larry Jordan:  So you leave the budget behind, once you’ve got them convinced the story is a good one, then you’ll figure out how to pay for it?

Cirina Catania:  Yes.

Larry Jordan:  Does the network give you a dollar amount and you need to figure out how to fit the show into it, what Aaron calls backing into it?  Or is there more give and take?

Cirina Catania:  Yes, a lot of times especially for network television, you don’t have a budget anywhere from 350 to 500,000 an hour to three million an hour depending on what it is.  If it’s a reality show, it’s a lot less money than an episodic TV series would be.  It just depends, but yes there are acceptable budget levels for every kind of show and you have to fit within that.  

Larry Jordan:  Earlier tonight, Aaron Semmel said that film budgets are much more flexible while TV budgets tend to get locked down early.  Would you agree with that?

Cirina Catania:  I would totally agree with that.  I think there’s a lot of play in scripted films that you don’t have in the television network because they’re committing to a series for example.  It’s more common to have a certain number like anywhere from ten to 20 episodes, and the television network knows what they’re allowed to spend on that, and they know how much they’re going to make on advertising and what the profit’s going to be.  Whereas on a film, sometimes you’ll back into a distribution deal, so it’s a matter of budgeting the script.  Breaking down the script and figuring out what you need for every element in the script and figuring out about what you think you need to make that movie at certain levels, and the above the line is always the last to be figured out.

Larry Jordan:   Well I’ll ask you the same question I asked Aaron.  How can you figure out what something costs when you haven’t invented it yet?

Cirina Catania:   Because you’re dealing from a script.  There’s really no way most of the time that you’re going to get a commitment to have something produced based on a one liner or a short synopsis.  The first thing they’re … is the script.  So once you have the script, then you know what it’s going to cost.  I have a script that I wrote a couple of years ago, we had the budget breakdown done, and we know the way that it’s been written and where we want to shoot it, and the elements in the script, we’re not going to be able to do that particular film for less than $3 million…

Larry Jordan:  If people throw…

Cirina Catania:   But not less.

Larry Jordan:   What kind of financial feedback does the studio expect from you, and how often do they expect to get an update on how the money’s being spent?

Cirina Catania:   Well you’ve got the line producer who gets the budget approved by the studio and the executive producers and then you have a production manager and a crew underneath them, usually on the set with you.  They’re managing the inflow and outflow on a daily basis, so most of the time they’re filing those reports weekly and sometimes daily.

Larry Jordan:  As you’re getting ready to commit what seems to be large amounts of money, how do you know if you’ve done your budgeting correctly?  How do you reassure yourself that you haven’t forgotten something?

Cirina Catania:  Well that’s always the question, but that just comes with experience.  And it comes with working with a really great line producer who understands how to break down a script and what the various unions are going to charge and what your residuals are going to be, and all of that.  It really does take experience to do that right.

Larry Jordan:  In his interview, Aaron said that the holy grail of budgets is to come in under budget, even if you’re only under by a dollar.  Would you agree?

Cirina Catania:  Yes, absolutely.  And I think it’s one of the reasons why we were able to keep our team at the studio for so long, because we never once in all the eight years we worked at that studio, we never once came in over budget.

Larry Jordan:  So let’s say that you’re doing a presentation to a bunch of producers.  Say at a trade show like HPA to pick a name out of a hat.  What advice would you give a producer who was planning their first studio budget?  What pitfalls do they need to avoid?

Cirina Catania:  They need to make sure that all of their key department heads are experienced and understand what it’s going to take to shoot those scenes.  If they’re trying to save money by hiring their friends or people who are not experienced, that’s very scary because you can take one scene and shoot it ten different ways.  So you have to have a creative meeting of the minds, and you have to have people on that crew that are experienced enough to know, “We can get this done because this particular stunt person works at this rate, and can give us X amount of stunts.”  It’s just every element of the script takes expertise.

Larry Jordan:  So, aside from hiring people that have done this before, what other traps have you run into that you’ve learned from?

Cirina Catania:  Well there are things like in the middle of working on Flipper we had a hurricane come through the islands.  How do you predict that?  Or other aspects for example on Rain Man, and I’m using old examples for a reason so that nobody gets in trouble, we had planned all along on doing a whole bunch of publicity with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, and as we got further into the production, they made the decision that no, they weren’t going to do that.  So in the marketing and distribution aspects of it following production, we had to completely alter where we were spending our money.  So things like that do happen.  Life is messy Larry, and life on set can be messy, and you can’t always predict everything that’s going to happen.  Somebody gets hurt, somebody gets sick, all of a sudden there’ll be weather problems or equipment breakdowns.  We wanted to shoot a scene of Tombstone outdoors, and it was raining like crazy that day.  The weather came in, so we had to real quick figure out what scenes we could shoot that wouldn’t throw our schedule off.

Larry Jordan:  I’ve just spent the last few seconds recollecting, I can’t think of a single time that I’ve been in production where something didn’t go wrong.  I mean, that’s just normal.  In your stuff, when you’re working with a studio, do you have to worry about a marketing budget and how big a contingency budget do you put together?

Cirina Catania:   Usually ten to 15 percent, and you have to at least build in publicity and promotion during production.  If you’re at the studio, then you’re budgeting further down the pipeline.  You’re budgeting all the way through to the first days of distribution, and then when the numbers start coming in, then you alter your distribution budget based on are you successful in certain markets?  Do you want to maintain your co-op there, or do you want to pull from one area to boost it in another area where the film’s doing better?

Larry Jordan:  Cirina, for people that want to hire you to produce their next project, where can they find you on the web?

Cirina Catania:  They can go to Catania.us or find me on Instagram, Facebook.

Larry Jordan:  Or all the popular social media sites.  Cirina Catania is a writer, director, producer and the lead creative for the Catania Group and Cirina, as always, it’s a delight talking to you.  Best wishes on your next project.

Cirina Catania:  Thank you Larry, you too.  Take care.

Larry Jordan:  Bye bye.

Larry Jordan:  You know, I was just thinking.  The process of budgeting like filmmaking, is an arcane science.  As I asked Aaron, how do you know how much something will cost, when it’s never been created before?  Yet, without a solid budget, films would never get financed, and plays would never get produced.  And that’s because the people that have the money understand numbers better than they understand scripts.  It’s a very unusual person who understands both the world of finance, and the creative world of filmmaking.  Generally the left and right sides of the brain don’t meet.  Budgets are where they intersect.  Whether you’re budgeting with a team of people, as Aaron described, or budgeting as a single individual, as are Andrew and Cirina, it’s essential that we reduce our creative ideas into numbers in order to get them funded.  

Larry Jordan:  There are two things I dislike about production.  One is creating a budget, and the other is assembling a production schedule.  And the reason is the same.  Budgets and schedules force us to confront the tradeoffs necessary to create anything.  In our mind, everything is possible, but then, the real world intervenes.  Budgets are how we connect our dreams to the real world, so we can bring them to life.  Just something I’m thinking about.

Larry Jordan:  I want to thank our guests for this week, filmmaker Aaron Semmel, actor and producer Andrew David James, filmmaker Cirina Catania 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 all 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 2018 by Thalo LLC.

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Digital Production Buzz – February 22, 2018

This week on The BuZZ we look at creating budgets. Budgets are essential to production, but that doesn’t mean we like to build them. Tonight, we talk with producers from TV, film and theater about how they build a better budget and how their budgets allow them to “bring their creativity to life.”

Join host Larry Jordan as he talks with Aaron Semmel, Andrew David James, Cirina Catania and James DeRuvo.

  • An Executive Producer’s View of Budgets
  • Budgeting for Theater
  • Budgeting for Studio Projects
  • The Weekly DoddleNEWS Update

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Listen to the Full Episode

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Buzz on iTunes

Guests this Week


An Executive Producer’s View of Budgets

Aaron Semmel
Aaron Semmel, Executive Producer/CEO, BoomBoomBooya, LLC
It’s the same money, but you spend it differently when you are working in film or TV. Tonight, Executive Producer Aaron Semmel, describes the differences and how he approaches a budget.


Budgeting for Theater

Andrew David James
Andrew David James, Actor/Fight Choreographer
Budgeting for theater has challenges which are different from film or television. Tonight we talk with Andrew David James, a director who has worked in both arenas, about what makes theater budgets different.


Budgeting for Studio Projects

Cirina Catania
Cirina Catania, Founder and Lead Creative, The Catania Group
Filmmaker Cirina Catania has worked with major studios and TV networks for a long time. Tonight she talks about the unique challenge of planning and revising a budget for a major studio project.


The Weekly DoddleNEWS Update

James DeRuvo
James DeRuvo, Editor-in-Chief, DoddleNEWS.
James DeRuvo Editor-in-Chief at DoddleNEWS.com, has a multi-faceted career spanning radio, film and publishing. With experience covering technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James joins us every week to present the latest industry news.

Transcript: Digital Production Buzz – February 15, 2018

HOST

Larry Jordan

GUESTS

Brendan Carr, Commissioner, FCC

Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor Reporter, TroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter

Philip Hodgetts, President, Lumberjack System

James DeRuvo, Editor-in-Chief, DoddleNEWS

==

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: Tonight on the Buzz, we are talking net neutrality.  We start by going directly to the source.  FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr joins us for an extended interview, explaining why the FCC felt it was necessary to change the current rules, what they hope to accomplish, and the process they went through in making this decision.

Larry Jordan: Next, Jonathan Handel, Entertainment and Labor Attorney of Counsel at TroyGould in Los Angeles. He shares his thoughts on the legal ramifications of this pending policy change.

Larry Jordan: Finally, Philip Hodgetts, the CEO of Lumberjack System contributes his perspective on what this new policy means for developers and media creators.  All this, plus James DeRuvo with the 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: We began planning this show a couple of months ago. At that time, we realized that there was a lot of shouting about net neutrality, but it was hard to see where the smoke ended and the fire started, so we decided to go right to the source.  We start tonight’s show with an extended interview with FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr.

Larry Jordan: Commissioner Carr is a new Commissioner, before that he served the agency in a variety of legal staff positions for six years.  Prior to that, as an Attorney, he represented clients in both trial and appellate court proceedings; including complex litigation involving the First Amendment and the Communications Act.

Larry Jordan: After Commissioner Carr’s interview, we look at the results of this ruling change from two perspectives, legal and media.  We invited Jonathan Handel and Philip Hodgetts to share their perspectives on what this ruling means in more practical terms.  My goal for all the interviews in tonight’s show to provide a balanced understanding of what’s going on.  All of us have opinions, but sometimes those opinions are not supported by the facts.  Tonight, I want to help us understand the facts, so we can develop more informed opinions.

Larry Jordan: Two other notes.  For those listening live, I recorded the interview with Commissioner Carr yesterday, our other guests are live.  Second, this morning, the New York Times reported that the FCC Inspector General is looking into charges that the Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai and his staff had improper communications with Sinclair Broadcasting prior to changing the rules governing media ownership.  This is an important issue and we’ll discuss it during our segment with Jonathan Handel.  The news broke too late for me to discuss it with Commissioner Carr.

Larry Jordan: I also want to say a special thanks to our Producer, Debbie Price, for all her work to arrange the interview with Commissioner Carr.  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.

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

James DeRuvo: Hello Larry.

Larry Jordan: What have we got for news this week?

James DeRuvo: Well, incredibly good news coming out of the camera sales industry.  Camera sales were up in 2017. For the last ten years, smart phones have been steadily leaching camera market share and users preferring more mobile options because of convenience.  But with great new cameras, including the Nikon D850, the Panasonic GH5 and others, camera sales actually increased by nearly ten percent in 2017.

Larry Jordan: You know, standalone camera sales increasing is not something I would expect. What’s driving the change?

James DeRuvo: Well, I think it’s due to the fact that those who have discovered photography and videography through the convenience of a smart phone are yearning for more.  Ansel Adams may have said that the best camera’s the one that you have with you, but it’s clearly not the camera that you want after a while.  I really think that, now that cameras have Wi-Fi and near field communications, photographers are starting to see that they can have the best of both worlds.

Larry Jordan: Well this is good news, camera sales are up.  What’s next?

James DeRuvo: AMD is announcing a brand new CPU processor that also has a graphics processor on the same chip. It’s called the AMD Ryzen 5 2400 and it provides a four core computer processing and graphics processor in one chip, that operates at up to eight threads.  AMD says that it’s 150 percent faster than an Intel i5-8400.  This enables low budget computer builders now to bypass installing a dedicated discreet video graphics card and save a lot of money.

Larry Jordan: What do you see the benefit of putting both the CPU and the GPU in the same chip?

James DeRuvo: I think this is going to be ideal for the entry level video editor, who is looking to edit 1080p video for like say the YouTube market and though you won’t be doing any severe visual effects on such a rig, those who are looking to learn basic editing functions, at the beginning of their career, this makes the Ryzen 5 2400 processor combo something that’s going to give them plenty of bang for their buck, when they’re building their computer.

Larry Jordan: From my perspective, the better that AMD does, the better for all of us. Competition is good, as we saw on the recent Intel security issues.

James DeRuvo: You know, the best thing about AMD existing is that they keep Intel honest.  When there’s competition, that means they’re going to push innovation and there’s going to be greater attention to things like data security.  Competition is a good thing.

Larry Jordan: Okay, that’s AMD. What’s our third story?

James DeRuvo: Sigma’s going wide with the new 14-24 F2.8 art lens.  The art lens line is an impressive and ultra-sharp zoom lens line that Sigma has come up with for higher end video shooting and it’s designed for 15 megapixel plus cameras that are looking for a good wide angle image, but with sharp detail and nearly zero distortion.  It’s built with three FLD and three SLD lens elements and three aspherical lens elements, plus a huge hypersonic autofocus motor that keeps everything quiet, so it’s going to have a little heft at about two and a half pounds.

Larry Jordan: Why your interest in Sigma?

James DeRuvo: I used to sell cameras and lenses when I was working my way through college and Sigma was the brand that you looked at when you wanted to get more bang for your buck.  But in the past few years, they’ve shown that they can grow beyond that third party level of lens design and are putting out glass that can rival, or even surpass quality nameplate brands, like Canon and Nikon and I expect this 14-24 F2.8 art lens to be no different.

Larry Jordan: Our lead stories are, camera sales are up and AMD’s got a new chip and Sigma’s got a new lens. What other stories are you following this week?

James DeRuvo: Other stories we’re following this week include CNN becomes the highest profile network to announce layoffs to their Digital Streaming Division.  This is really interesting, because, with YouTube’s Adpocalypse, it signals that there’s a shakeup in the profitability of online media.  iPhone manufacturer, Foxconn wants to make RED cinema cameras for the masses that are $20,000 cheaper than the current RED line and Viacom buys VidCon, the largest YouTube creator convention, with plans to take it global.

Larry Jordan: Where can people go to see all of these stories?

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

Larry Jordan: The Editor-in-Chief of doddleNEWS is James DeRuvo and, James, thanks for joining us this week. We’ll talk to you next Thursday.

James DeRuvo: Okay Larry, take care.

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Larry Jordan: 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 at a Mac App store, or get a 30 day free trial at keyflowpro.com.  KeyFlow Pro. Simple, elegant and surprisingly affordable.

Larry Jordan: Brendan Carr was nominated to serve as one of five Commissioners of the FCC by President Donald Trump.  He was confirmed, unanimously, by the United States Senate on August 3 and sworn into office on August 11 of 2017.  Prior to his appointment, Commissioner Carr served as the General Counsel of the FCC.  In that role, he served as the Chief Legal Advisor to the Commission and the FCC staff on all matters within the agency’s jurisdiction.  Welcome Commissioner Carr, it’s an honor to talk to you.

Brendan Carr: Well, thank you so much for having me on, I appreciate it.

Larry Jordan: To get us started, before we get into the specifics of net neutrality, how would you describe the role of the FCC?

Brendan Carr: You know, we have a really important role.  When you look at tech and telecom in general, really to me it represents a tremendous amount of opportunity, particularly on the broadband side.  You know, when consumers and businesses get connected to the internet, there’s a tremendous amount of economic opportunity, opportunity for jobs and, so, I think we need to do everything we can to lower barriers to entry and make sure that consumers get access to high speed broadband, no matter where they live.

Larry Jordan: The FCC covers more than just broadband. What are some of the other projects the Commission is currently focusing on?

Brendan Carr: That’s exactly right, we do a whole bunch of other stuff as well.  On the media side, for instance, we’re in the process of trying to modernize and update our regulations that govern TV broadcasters, to radio broadcasters.  We’re also really active in the public safety space.  A lot of people heard there was that false alert about a ballistic missile that went out in Hawaii and we have some role to play in terms of overseeing that alert system as well.

Larry Jordan: Tonight, we’re looking specifically at net neutrality.  How does the FCC define net neutrality?

Brendan Carr: It’s a good question.  At the FCC, there’s really two pieces to this.  One are the rules that we put in place, in the second piece, is the legal authority that we use to adopt those rules.  On the rules side, there’s actually not a lot of disagreement, I would say, as to what the rules of the road should be.  

Brendan Carr: You know, no-one wants to see blocking, throttling and discrimination by internet service providers or ISPs on the internet.  The question is, what’s the best legal approach that recognizes those common rights, while at the same time, not imposing negative consequences in terms of decreases in investment and broadband deployment.  We all want to see better, faster, cheaper broadband, the question is, how do we do that?

Brendan Carr: With these specific rules that the FCC put in place two years ago, with the specific legal authority we used, which is known as Title II, that ended up being a pretty heavy-handed approach to internet regulation and we saw a lot of negative consequences, in terms of broadband providers pulling back on investment.  The approach we have right now is one that allows the Federal Trade Commission to take legal action if ISPs engage in anti-competitive conduct.

Larry Jordan: You’ve made the statement before about heavy-handed and limiting investment, but we’ve seen a lot of investment, especially in the broadband and wireless space over the last two years prior to this ruling.  Why did the FCC feel it was necessary to change the current policy?

Brendan Carr: Up until the 2015 decision that opposed the Title II style net neutrality rules, we saw a tremendous amount of innovation and investment in the space, about $1.5 trillion in the years leading up to that 2015 decision.  In the two years since that decision, we saw a sharp decline in investment by broadband providers, both large and small.  That was the first time we saw a decline in investment outside of a recession, so, that was one of the pieces that were troublesome to us, when we were looking at whether to keep this Title II framework in place or not.

Larry Jordan: Well net neutrality has been actively discussed for probably, I guess, four or five years now and this particular rule making has been under discussion at least for the last seven or eight months.  But it is not yet, as I understand it, official FCC policy.  Could you describe the process, a ruling or proposed ruling goes through from first being discussed until it becomes in force?

Brendan Carr: The FCC adopted this Title II approach in 2015. That decision was actually upheld by the DC Circuit.  In April of last year, 2017, the commission initiated a new rule making to examine that 2015 approach and then, in December, the end of last year, we adopted the order that reversed the Title II approach and went back to the same approach we had prior to 2015.  Even though we adopted that order, there’s some additional procedural steps that have to be taken, in terms of Paperwork Review Act and those types of determinations before that December 2017 decision goes into effect.  We’re still a matter of weeks away before that December 2017 order is in effect.  Right now we still have the Title II regime that the Commission adopted in 2015.

Larry Jordan: What is the official flag, when it becomes the ruling?

Brendan Carr: Publication in the Federal Register and that should happen in the next couple of weeks.

Larry Jordan: You’ve been with the FCC for a long time, has any part of this rule making for net neutrality surprised you?

Brendan Carr: You know, I’ll say that this has just been an issue that the general public has a tremendous amount of interest in and I get that.  We had 22 million submissions filed in our docket, which is, by an order of magnitude, larger than anything we ever had.  That doesn’t surprise me, per se, I mean you’re talking about the intersection of, you know, the government and the internet and consumers absolutely cherish the free and open internet.  They don’t want to see anything bad happen to it and neither do I.  I think you get some headlines describing the FCC’s action as, you know, killing the internet or destroying net neutrality.  

Brendan Carr: The issue, as we’re talking about it now, is much more nuanced than that and I think there is a wide room here for reasonable minds to disagree about what the FCC should do, but it’s a technical debate to some extent.  Is the internet a Title II service under the Communications Act?  Is it a Title I service?  Is the Federal Trade Commission suited to handle this type of conduct, or is the FCC the only agency that can do this?  But it is difficult to translate those types of debates to the headlines that a lot of people are seeing.

Larry Jordan: Let’s take a step back, away from the rule for just a moment.  As a Commissioner and you’re one of five Commissioners on the FCC, what is your role in establishing policy?  For example, does every Commissioner have a voice and a vote, or does everyone simply follow the lead of the Chairman, or, how do you feel you fit in as part of the team?

Brendan Carr: In many ways, the FCC operates like a mini Congress in that sense, which is that all five of us have our own votes and whatever three, four, or five Commissioners can agree on is what we end up passing.  I think all of us work hard to try to find common ground wherever we can, but, you know, no-one is shy to express their view when they can.  I’ve had occasions where I’ve dissented from the Chairman, the net neutrality decision that we did was a three/two and ended up being a party line vote.  But 90 percent of what we do on the Commission ends up being unanimous and bipartisan.

Larry Jordan: What is the process of deliberating a change in policy?  Do you sit in a room, or does everything have to be available to the public?  Again, for people that haven’t ever watched an FCC deliberation, what’s the process like?

Brendan Carr: It’s interesting.  There’s a law right now that prohibits any three of us from getting together and deliberating behind closed doors, sort of like part of an open government concept.  But what happens, typically, is the Chairman will have an order, that’s his proposed approach to any issue. He’ll then circulate it to all of the Commissioners’ Offices.  We’ll review the item, outside parties will come in and meet with each of the Commissioners individually and express their views.  

Brendan Carr: We take the feedback we get from these meetings from outside stakeholders, review the record that we have in terms of comments that were filed, we review what the Chairman has proposed to do and if we agree 100 percent we sign off, if we have a tweak, we do that, if we completely disagree, then we’ll circulate among the Commissioners’ proposed revision and, if that proposed revision gets sufficient support, then that goes in the item that way.

Larry Jordan: Is it even legal for two of you to have a cup of coffee and talk an issue through?

Brendan Carr: Two of us we can, yes and, in fact, more than two of us can meet together, we just can’t discuss issues or agency business together.

Larry Jordan: You can talk about golf, but you can’t talk about policy?

Brendan Carr: That’s right.  There are efforts underway in Congress that will potentially change that law; that would allow us to meet directly and deliberate and see where we can find common ground.  But right now we have staff that principally negotiate and interact with the other offices.

Larry Jordan: Oh that’s right, you’ve got a team behind you, so you could have your staff people talk without you getting involved.

Brendan Carr: Yes, that’s principally how it happens.  All five offices will have staff members meet together in a group and that’s a lot of time how this stuff is discussed and debated.

Larry Jordan: I keep forgetting that you have people.

Brendan Carr: Good people, yes.

Larry Jordan: You mentioned that you’ve got 22 million public comments.  Now the Pew Research did some analysis on this and there’s some significant debate as to whether some of those comments are legitimate or not.  But let us pretend, just for the sake of discussion, that some percentage of those comments are legitimate, from people who are concerned about both sides of the issue.  What role do public comments play in developing your policy?

Brendan Carr: It plays a big part, at the end of the day.  The public’s views on these issues are ones that deserve and need to be heard.  At the same time, you know, we have to look at what the law requires and if I think, as I do in this case, that broadband legally is classified as a Title I service and not as a Title II service, my hands are tied by the law in that respect.  We need to be aware of what the public’s views are, we need to take those into account and we need to respond to them in our document, so it’s an important piece of it.

Larry Jordan: You mentioned earlier that net neutrality is a very hot topic today, because it touches just about all of us.  As I was doing my research for our interview, I’ve lost count of the number of politicians, lobbying organizations, activist groups and Attorneys General that want to go to court to sue over this.  What’s it like on the inside, watching all this develop, knowing that chaos is going to ensue as soon as you publish in the Federal Register?

Brendan Carr: It’s a good question.  The decision that we’ve made, there’s some people that are really big fans of it, there’s others that really are not big fans of it.  I have heard from all of them, my Twitter account has been pretty active and I’ve learned some new turns of phrases through that approach.  At the end of the day, we make the best judgement call that we can, based on the record in the law before us and we sort of let the chips fall where they may.  At that point, there’s no doubt that this decision is going to be appealed, there’s efforts underway in Congress to overturn the decision and I think it’s great that everyone has a view on this and is passionate about this issue.  I welcome all of those efforts to participate in these proceedings.

Larry Jordan: I appreciate that you’re saying that it’s great, but is it really great, or does it give you an ulcer at night?

Brendan Carr: No, not to me.  I think some of the vitriol that’s been directed, for instance, at our agency’s Chairman, Ajit Pai, in my mind has gone way behind the line.  I mean, the level of racist attacks, the death threats that he’s getting, he had to cancel some appearances on the advice of Federal Protective Service.  That type of stuff certainly goes well beyond.  I have not had that type of stuff directed, at that level, towards me.  You know, look, there’s plenty of room for reasonable debate here, some of it has crossed the line, like I said, but there’s no doubt that people are passionate about this issue and I think that’s a great thing to see.

Larry Jordan: How would you answer the young student saying that you’re messing with my internet?

Brendan Carr: What I would say is, think back two years ago, to 2015.  That was prior to the FCC’s heavy-handed Title II approach.  Consumers were protected. The internet thrived. Businesses of all sizes were benefiting from a free and open internet.  Title II, the decision we imposed in 2015, is not the thin line between where we are today and some Mad Max version of the internet and we’re not experimenting with some radical new approach to regulation, we’re going back to an approach we had in 2015 and that was in place on a bipartisan basis for 20 years before that.

Brendan Carr:  I would be pretty fired up myself if what we were doing was giving ISPs a complete blank check to dictate consumers’ experience on the internet.  That’s not what we’re doing.  When we made that 2015 decision, it stripped the Federal Trade Commission, which is our nation’s premiere Consumer Protection Agency, of 100 percent of its authority to take action against ISPs.  This authority has now been restored, so that’s Section One of the Sherman Act.  

Brendan Carr: Section Two of the Sherman Act is, if an ISP engages in anti-competitive conduct, enters an anti-competitive agreement that would result in acting in a non-neutral way by blocking, or throttling, or discriminating, that would be a per se violation of the Federal Trade Commission laws.  Similarly, if a vertically integrated ISP has an affiliation with a content provider and starts discriminating against an unaffiliated content provider, that would be an action under Section Two of the Sherman Act.

Brendan Carr: I think this high level headline that people read about, that the FCC are killing the internet, or completely stripping away a free and open internet is not true.  We have restored the authority of the Federal Trade Commission that can take action against this type of anti-competitive conduct.

Larry Jordan: Let us assume, just for the sake of this question, that the policy proves to be counterproductive, that, for whatever reason it doesn’t work and I don’t care what the reason is.  Is there a process whereby the FCC could revisit or modify this ruling, or, is the only way to change it through court action?

Brendan Carr: Well obviously I’m very confident of the steps that we’ve taken, but I will take the bait on your hypothetical.  Yes there is.  There is an appeal process that people can take advantage of, that would have a Court of Appeals reverse the FCC’s action.  But the other thing to keep in mind is that Congress is also, obviously, fully empowered to pass laws in this space and should Congress decide to step in, in an act specific net neutrality legislation, I would fully support that effort.  I have no problem with that.

Larry Jordan: You’ve been with the FCC for a long time, not just as a Commissioner, which is relatively short, but as legal counsel, which has been fairly extensive.  As you look at the duration that you’ve been with the Commission, how has it changed, or is it pretty much the same over the years?

Brendan Carr: It’s a good question.  I think, by and large, a lot of what we do is the same, we have an extremely talented professional staff, you know, we work below the headlines 90 plus percent of the time and do some really good but weedy work.  Net neutrality, it’s like our Olympics, every two to four years we have a really high profile obviously divisive issue that comes through here and a lot of people view the FCC through that lens.  That’s the only time they hear of us.  But we do a lot of sort of weedy stuff behind the scenes where we find a lot of common ground.  

Brendan Carr:  One of those is on infrastructure deployment, which is a hot topic these days.  There’s a lot of Federal State local rules that govern the deployment of broadband infrastructure, so the fiber, the coax, the antennas.  We’re taking a really close look at how we can cut some of the regulatory red tape there.  At the end of the day, that’s really what consumers care about, getting better, faster, and cheaper broadband.  By stripping away some of the red tape that’s there with the permitting processes, we can drive down the cost of deployment, which means we’re going to get deployment to more and more consumers.

Brendan Carr: Those are the types of things that, below the headlines, we’re really working hard on.

Larry Jordan: Before I wrap up, Commissioner, is there anything you want to add to the conversation about net neutrality, that we have not yet talked about?

Brendan Carr: No, I think we’ve covered it.  I think there’s actually a tremendous amount of common ground here, no-one wants to see blocking, throttling, discriminating.  It’s a question of legal authority and whether the FCC or the Federal Trade Commission is best suited as the authority to do it.  I think, at the end of the day, consumers are not going to notice a difference.  They’re going to continue to be protected, continue to have a free and open internet.  I think the difference we are going to see is that there’s going to be even more investment in this space, which again is going to enure to the benefit of consumers.

Larry Jordan: For people that want to keep track of this issue and learn more about what the FCC is doing on a daily basis, where can they go on the web?

Brendan Carr: Well to start, if they’re on Twitter, they can follow me there, Brendan Carr FCC and then also the FCC’s website is fcc.gov.

Larry Jordan: That website is fcc.gov and Brendan Carr is one of the five Commissioners of the FCC and, Commissioner Carr, thank you so very much for joining us today.

Brendan Carr: Thanks for having me on, I appreciate it.

Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is an Entertainment and Technology Attorney of Counsel at TroyGould in Los Angeles. He’s also the Contributing Editor on Entertainment Labor Issues for the Hollywood Reporter.  Hello Jonathan, welcome back.

Jonathan Handel: Larry, it’s a pleasure.

Larry Jordan: Put your legal hat on today, rather than your labor hat.  You’ve heard how Commissioner Carr defines net neutrality, how would you define it?

Jonathan Handel: Well, let’s be really specific about it.  It’s a principle that ISPs should enable access to all content, all applications on the internet, regardless of where they come from and without, in any way, favoring, disfavoring, or blocking particular products or websites.  It means that the internet connection should be a dumb tube, a dumb pipe, a dumb wire, whatever you want to think of it, that connects you to everything online, whatever it is that you want.  

Jonathan Handel: There is an example of a nation that does not have net neutrality, that shows what things could turn into and that is in Portugal.  You can get your internet connection for a certain price and then, if you pay €5 extra a month, you get a package that speeds up access to music, another five or six Euros for popular video sites and so on and so forth.  That’s the risk here.  

Jonathan Handel: We’ve heard the Commissioner say that no-one wants blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization, but the reality is that there is someone that wants those things and that is many of the ISPs.  The ISPs are also largely the same companies that deliver your cable television subscription, so Comcast, Spectrum.  Most people have no choice other than their local cable company when it comes to also getting internet service.  Those companies make a lot of money off a product that people increasingly don’t want, which is cable TV subscription, what people want is Netflix and Amazon and Hulu and so forth.  

Jonathan Handel: The trouble is, Netflix is useless if it doesn’t come over your internet connection at a decent speed and that’s where you get the rub.  A company that is also delivering cable TV has an incentive to make its products and applications faster, easier, more bundled, a cheaper price if you buy this and that together.  We already see bundling of cable TV and internet service as it is and that’s anti-competitive.  The idea that the Federal Trade Commission would step in is really I think something of a fantasy for several reasons.

Larry Jordan: Commissioner Carr said that one of the reasons for the change in policy was to move this from a Title II to a Title I authority.  Could you describe what this means in English?

Jonathan Handel: What it means is less regulation and less assurance that companies will behave in a way that is favorable to consumers.  Title II, in its unadulterated form, is the way telephone companies are regulated, common carriers they’re called.  Title I is for information services, where the company is providing the content.  What the FCC had in its 2015 regulations was not unadulterated Title II, in other words, ISPs were not being as heavily regulated as telephone companies were.  There were hundreds and hundreds of the regulations that go with Title II that were lifted off the backs of the companies for that regulation.

Jonathan Handel: The fact also is that, prior to 2015, we had a 2010 net neutrality order from the FCC and so it’s simply not the case and that that, in turn, followed in the spirit of a 2005 proclamation from the FCC.  It’s not the case that, prior to 2015, it was this sort of unregulated nirvana and now we’re just going back to that, this is a very different regulatory regime that the FCC has put in place.

Larry Jordan: The Commissioner describes this as a technical debate between Title II and Title I.  Would you agree with that description?

Jonathan Handel: Only in the same sense that it’s a technical debate as to whether providing abortion clinics, they have to be within 500 miles, 200 miles.  You know, the devil is in the details in everything.  I can tell you that you have the right to social security in your retirement, but we only have one social security office open per state and the line is five miles long.  That’s a technical detail.

Jonathan Handel: This is a very common legalistic and lawyer kind of move, when things get highly regulated, is to characterize the debate as technical, talk about subsections and so forth and bring people to believe that there’s no real difference, we’re just sort of re-juggling the paragraph numbering as it were.  That’s simply not the case here.

Larry Jordan: This morning, the New York Times reported that the Independent Inspector General of the FCC is investigating the Chairman of the FCC.  What’s this story about?

Jonathan Handel: Well, that story is with regard to a separate rule making, it was a set of rule changes that the FCC enacted, that make it easier for a single broadcaster to own more and more stations across the country.  As soon as that change went into effect, Sinclair Broadcasting announced purchases that they were making that would give them reach into seven out of ten American households.  Who is Sinclair Broadcasting?  David Smith, the Head of Sinclair, is a very close friend of Donald Trump’s and Sinclair is more conservative than Fox is.

Jonathan Handel: We’re not going to get too political on this show, I know, but it is important to recognize that the discussion of regulatory burden and heavy-handed regulation and so forth is a standard Republican discussion.  If you agree with it, you may choose to vote in one direction, if you don’t agree with it, you may choose to vote in the Democratic direction and there are obviously a lot of other reasons people vote for different parties.

Larry Jordan: Now this investigation that the Inspector General is conducting, does this have any impact on the pending finalization of net neutrality?

Jonathan Handel: No, it won’t have a direct impact on net neutrality, unless the Inspector General also finds that there was some kind of improper contact with corporate lobbyists or whomever in the net neutrality context.  It does simply serve to underscore that, as technical and in the weeds as these discussions get, that these are discussions that are very important to, you know, the very wealthy corporate interest.

Larry Jordan: From what I understand, lawsuits over this ruling can’t start until the ruling is officially published in a federal register.  Is that a true statement?

Jonathan Handel: That’s not quite right, it turns out. There’s some ambiguity and, in order to stay on the safe side of that ambiguity, more than 21 States have actually filed lawsuits against these regulations already in mid-January.  They filed them actually in the Court of Appeals, rather than in the District Court, in other words, there isn’t a whole new trial or fact finding, the Court of Appeals has to decide, among other things, whether the action by the FCC was arbitrary and capricious.  In other words, just two years earlier, the FCC enacted certain regulations and two years later what had changed?  Nothing except the Presidential Election and the composition of the FCC.

Jonathan Handel: The Federal Trade Commission, meanwhile, has one Democrat, one Republican on it and three vacancies, so, we don’t know how they would rule, if they get cases from these new rulings.  Another important point is, the FTC rules after the fact, in other words a potential violation occurs, it taints the marketplace and then you have to persuade the Federal Trade Commission stocked with Trump appointees, ultimately, to take action, as opposed to having rules in advance that set clear guidelines.  

Jonathan Handel: The issue of investment in this area is an important one, but what you didn’t hear the Commissioner say was, give us any proof of causality, no proof that a change in regulations is what made people disinvest.

Larry Jordan: In the little bit of time we’ve got left, what advice do you have for us?  Do we wait and see what’s happening, or, what should we be doing as media people?

Jonathan Handel: Educating oneself and conveying to Congress and to the President what your feelings are on this issue, one way or the other.  There’s nothing else, that I see, that one can do.  The regulations are there, they’re going to be challenged in court. You know, elections have consequences, that’s where the process is.

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

Jonathan Handel: Great place for this discussion is THR Esquire, the legal section of the Hollywood Reporter website, which is hollywoodreporter.com.

Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is an Entertainment and Technology Attorney and the Contributing Editor on Entertainment Labor Issues for the Hollywood Reporter.  Jonathan, thanks for joining us.

Jonathan Handel: Thanks very much Larry.

Larry Jordan: Bye-bye.

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Larry Jordan: Philip Hodgetts is a Technologist and the CEO of both Intelligent Assistance and Lumberjack System.  Tonight, we want his opinion on the impact of this potential ruling on media and tech.  Hello Philip, welcome back.

Philip Hodgetts: Hi Larry.

Larry Jordan: I know you’ve listened to both Commissioner Carr and Jonathan Handel.  From a developer’s point of view, how would you describe net neutrality?

Philip Hodgetts: As a developer, I rely on the internet for two things, one is getting the word out about our products to people, wherever they may have that need, and the other thing is running web applications that people need to be able to access from anywhere.  My concern is that, without rules in place that force these things to be treated neutrally, that it may be that I cannot get my word out to certain people, because they don’t subscribe to the right level of connection from their ISP.  I worry that they’ll be blocked from web applications like Lumberjack, because they didn’t pay the right unlock code to their ISP.

Philip Hodgetts: You know, if ISPs behave well, we’ll have nothing to worry about.

Larry Jordan: The FCC says that they want to allow a free and open internet, so why should we be concerned at all?

Philip Hodgetts: Well, if you are of the persuasion that large corporations who claim to be only beholden to their shareholders are always going to act in the interests of their customers, then you have absolutely nothing to worry about.  If you don’t hold that opinion, and I don’t hold that opinion, then I think we need to be concerned; because these multifaceted media companies that generally control the last mile to our home, don’t always behave well and that does concern me.

Larry Jordan: Who do you think the rules are likely to impact the most, media creators or people that distribute media?

Philip Hodgetts: I honestly believe it will probably hit distribution far harder, because, as Jonathan said, many of the companies that are controlling the service provider for your internet connection are also large media companies that have large libraries and have services, like cable television, that they would rather sell you themselves.  It happened that an ISP in France required Google to pay them to cover the YouTube traffic on their network, because YouTube was making up 50 percent of their network.  If Google hadn’t have paid the ISP to carry YouTube, then those customers in France would be without YouTube.

Larry Jordan: Is it a question of paying more to get the same service?  I mean, what is it that makes these different speed levels bad?

Philip Hodgetts: It’s a differential access, I think, is the problem.  If an ISP has a television service of their own and they want to throttle, let’s say, Netflix, as has happened in the past, then that would mean that access to Netflix was degraded, that people would think the Netflix service was not as good as the service provided by the cable provider and they would be able to protect their existing business, rather than being disrupted by a new service provider who offers a different type of experience, like Netflix or YouTube, or any number of other providers that we’re going to see pop up in the future.

Larry Jordan: We’ve been talking a lot about the point of view of media and media distribution, but there’s a second component which is developers and development.  Increasingly, companies such as yourself are building web access into their products invisibly, using what are called APIs, or Application Program Interfaces.  What’s the impact of this ruling on products that rely on connected access to the web?

Philip Hodgetts: For example, we have had a web service in one of our apps for quite a while, that takes the text from a transcript and it generates automatic keywords.  We are at liberty to choose whichever service we want in a number of competing services.  Similarly, given another app that we’re working on, which is going to be calling on speech to text APIs from a particular provider.  Now, if your company’s ISP actually is associated with, let’s say, for example, IBM Watson, it will favor calls to IBM Watson over calls to a UK based Speechmatics.  

Philip Hodgetts: My customer will never know the difference, but it will perceive that our application has slowed down.  Or, if they haven’t subscribed to the right level of access Lumberjack simply will not work for them, because they don’t have access to that particular part of the web.

Larry Jordan: Well, as a developer, whose business is focused on the web, are you changing how your business works, because of these pending new rules and, if so, or if not, why?

Philip Hodgetts: It’s very hard to predict what is going to happen.  I mean, on one hand you have the Commissioner and the other members of the Commission who voted in favor of this change saying that things are going to go on the same as they always have, and then you have other people that are much more concerned that the ISPs will return to behaving badly, as they did before these regulations were brought in, in 2015.  

Philip Hodgetts: I don’t think it’s time to start panicking just yet, we need to see what’s really going to happen.  I mean, if there was a problem, I would rather the FCC issue a ruling that affected every ISP in the country than, you know, little old Lumberjack System having to fight Spectrum, because they’re blocking my API.  You know, we do not have the legal firepower, the money to back that fight, so we would be forced into using a second rate API because it was what the ISP preferred.  

Philip Hodgetts: Until we see what’s going to fall down, you know, maybe it will be dealt with at the stake level, maybe it will be perfect as the Commission suggests.  I’m a little more pessimistic, but, until we get something in place, now is not the time to panic.

Larry Jordan: What I’m hearing is, there’s a lot of potential for downside and, at best, everything is going to stay the same.  There’s a lot of potential for cost increase and speed to decrease, but, until it’s actually an official ruling and we see what happens, all we can do is guess.  Am I hearing that correctly?

Philip Hodgetts: That is correct.  At the moment, everybody that is projecting the future is just simply projecting their version of what the future may contain.  I, by nature, am a fairly optimistic person.  What worries me is that these changes will start to happen without it being obvious to everyone, in the same way that Comcast throttled BitTorrent, a protocol used for transferring large files and used by a lot of distributions of Linux among other legitimate uses.

Philip Hodgetts: Yes, it has some not legitimate uses as well, but Comcast throttled it and made that protocol not work on their network without telling anyone and without making it properly until the FCC stopped in and made them stop.

Larry Jordan: It’s like Jonathan said, the FCC explained what it was doing, but hasn’t explained the cause that was driving the change.

Philip Hodgetts: Well I think it’s fairly obvious that the FCC, like a lot of political appointments, are doing the bidding of the masters that paid for them to get to where they are and that’s the political reality of our system.  I mean, whatever side of politics you it on, that’s going to have that same reality.  You know, we get political appointments and, as Jonathan said, elections have consequences.

Larry Jordan: For people that want to read what you’re thinking about this and get more information, where can they go on the web?

Philip Hodgetts: If they want to learn more about what I’m thinking about this, I think they should look at the Take 1 transcript tomorrow, but, if they want to learn more about what I say generally, philiphodgetts.com is a great place to go.

Larry Jordan: Philiphodgetts.com is an excellent place to go and Philip Hodgetts is a Technologist and the CEO of both Intelligent Assistance and Lumberjack System, and, besides, you need to write a blog on this anyway Philip, you’ve got nothing else to do.

Philip Hodgetts: I probably should, I’ve got it all researched now anyway, so probably should do that.

Larry Jordan: Philip, thanks for joining us, we’ll talk to you soon.

Philip Hodgetts: Thank you Larry.

Larry Jordan: Bye-bye.

Larry Jordan: I’ve been thinking a lot about this show over the last few weeks. Open access to the internet is one of the most critical elements in today’s society.  Any changes that appear to threaten that should and do cause an immediate outcry.  But, in these highly political times, it’s easy for any important issue to become reduced to headlines and soundbites.  We live in an era of instant polarization.

Larry Jordan: As we listened to Commissioner Carr, he told us that everyone at the FCC believes in a free and open internet, and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  An open internet is a good thing.  But that isn’t the issue, the issue is how is this freedom to be supported and enforced?  We are all agreed on the ultimate goal, but there is a great deal of disagreement on how those goals are going to be achieved.

Larry Jordan: Tonight, I decided to help all of us better understand what is actually going on. This means, taking the time to look at the legal foundation the FCC is using, to determine who is responsible for enforcing what and why, and that can’t be done in a soundbite.  This ruling will ultimately be decided in the courts, or the Congress.  In the case of the courts, the decision will be made on the current law, in the case of Congress, the decision will be based on new laws that Congress creates.  In both cases, the policy will be defined in a mountain of minutia.

Larry Jordan: We can and do describe an entire movie in one sentence. We can and do decide whether to watch a movie based on just a few words.  But whether that movie is worth watching can only be determined as we spend the time to watch the whole thing.  With movies and policy, it’s the details that make all the difference.  Just something I’m thinking about.

Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests for this week, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, Jonathan Handel of Counsel at TroyGould, Philip Hodgetts, the CEO of Lumberjack System, and James DeRuvo, the Editor-in-Chief of doddleNEWS.  

Larry Jordan: There’s a lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website, at digitalproductionbuzz.com.  Here you’ll find thousands of interviews all online and all available to you today.  Remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter that comes out every Saturday.  

Larry Jordan: 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 2018, 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 – February 15, 2018

This week, The BuZZ discusses an important and politically-charged subject: net neutrality. Since many of us distribute our projects via the web, and all of us access the web, it makes sense to understand the changes that are coming. We start with an extended interview with FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr who presents what net neutrality is, what the new policy will be, and why they made the change. Then Jonathan and Philip look at the likely impact of the ruling.

Join host Larry Jordan as he talks with Commissioner Carr, Jonathan Handel, Philip Hodgetts and James DeRuvo.

  • FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr: Net Neutrality
  • Legal Perspectives on Net Neutrality
  • A Developer’s Perspective on Net Neutrality
  • The Weekly DoddleNEWS Update

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Listen to the Full Episode

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Buzz on iTunes

Guests this Week


FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr: Net Neutrality

Brendan Carr
Brendan Carr, Commissioner, FCC
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates communications in the USA. Tonight we are honored to be joined by Commissioner Brendan Carr who describes what the FCC does, why they felt it was important to change their policy on net neutrality, and how they are responding to the controversy these changes evoked.


Legal Perspectives on Net Neutrality

Jonathan Handel
Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor Reporter, TroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter
Jonathan Handel is Of Counsel at Troy/Gould in Los Angeles. He is an entertainment and technology attorney, as well as a regular contributor to The Buzz. We talk with Jonathan about the impact this new policy is likely to have, along with a look at the groups that are queuing to take this policy change to court.


A Developer’s Perspective on Net Neutrality

Philip Hodgetts
Philip Hodgetts, President, Lumberjack System
In addition to the legal aspect of net neutrality, there will also be an impact on developers and content creators. Tonight, Philip Hodgetts, CEO of Lumberjack System, joins us to share his perspective on the impact of these new regulations.


The Weekly DoddleNEWS Update

James DeRuvo
James DeRuvo, Editor-in-Chief, DoddleNEWS.
James DeRuvo Editor-in-Chief at DoddleNEWS.com, has a multi-faceted career spanning radio, film and publishing. With experience covering technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James joins us every week to present the latest industry news.

Transcript: Digital Production Buzz – February 8, 2018

HOST

Larry Jordan

GUESTS

Larry O’Connor, Founder and CEO, Other World Computing

John Tkaczewski, Co-Founder and President, FileCatalyst

Mathew Gilliat-Smith, CEO, Fortium Technologies

Pierson Clair, Senior Director, Cyber Security & Investigations, Kroll

Michael Kammes, Director of Technology, Key Code Media

James DeRuvo, Editor-in-Chief, DoddleNEWS

==

Male Voiceover: The Digital Production Buzz is brought to you by KeyPro Flow, 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 data security.  As more of our business and media assets move online, what can we do to protect them?  Tonight, we talk with the experts to learn more.

Larry Jordan:  We start with Larry O’Connor, the founder and CEO of OWC.  Larry has strong opinions on the cloud and how to keep our files secure.  You’ll definitely want to hear his opinion, especially about encryption.

Larry Jordan:  John Tkaczewski is the co-founder and CEO of FileCatalyst. They specialize in keeping files secure when they are in transit, moving from one server to the next.  He shares his thoughts on making sure your files transfer quickly and safely.

Larry Jordan:  Michael Gilliat-Smith is the CEO of Fortium Technology.  They make Media Seal, which protects files during production and post, using high speed encryption.  Tonight, he explains what their technology does and how it is used.

Larry Jordan:  Pierson Clair is the senior director for cyber security and investigations for Kroll.  Pierson investigates enterprise level data breaches and tonight shares his ideas on what we can do to keep our computers and media secure.

Larry Jordan:  Michael Kammes, director of technology for Key Code Media looks at real world techniques we can use to improve our security.  Sometimes common sense is more important than high tech.  

Larry Jordan:  All this, plus James DeRuvo with this week’s of DoddleNEWS update.  The Buzz starts now.

Announcer: Since the dawn of digital filmmaking, Authoritative: One show serves 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.  Last night my wife sent me a text, a co-worker clicked on an email supposedly from DELL informing her that her computer had a problem.  The problem wasn’t her computer, but that the email wasn’t from DELL, it was from a hacker who stole her credentials and then stole all her data.  These data theft stories are becoming all too common, and for those of us in the media industry, when you combine the need to keep unreleased media secret, while moving more of our business online, all without any kind of dedicated IT staff to help us navigate the minefield of network security, well this creates a perfect storm, resulting in data theft and loss.

Larry Jordan:  When it comes to digital media, security looks at files two ways.  Files at rest and in motion.  Files at rest are stored on a server, or hard disk.  Files in motion are in transit from one server to another.  The security needs of each of these is different and we’ll talk about both of these tonight.  There is hope however as you’ll discover on tonight’s show.  Most hacks are not caused by ultra sophisticated tech bad guys, but stupid thinking on our part.  Sometimes it’s complacence, sometimes a lack of knowledge, and sometimes just not verifying the link we’re about to click.  Tonight, you’ll learn a variety of techniques that you can use to keep your data secure.

Larry Jordan:  By the way, before we start, I want to update one of our interviews.  I talked with John Tkaczewski two days ago.  This morning, FileCatalyst announced that NBC Olympics, a division of the NBC Sports Group, selected FileCatalyst to transfer event footage at accelerated speeds as well as facilitate remote production workflows for their production of the 23rd Olympic Winter Games in South Korea.  This is very exciting news, and I congratulate John on their selection.  

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

James DeRuvo:  Happy Thursday Larry.

Larry Jordan:  And a wonderful Thursday to you, it is good to hear your voice again.

James DeRuvo:  And likewise.

Larry Jordan:  What have you got for us?

James DeRuvo:  It seems that we can’t go a week without a new camera announcement.  Everybody has to put out a camera, and Arri has announced yet another addition to their Alexa line, the Alexa LF.  It comes with a full 4.6K sensor that fits somewhere in between the Alexa 65 and the Alexa XXTW.  It’s got a native resolution of 4.6K at 2.39:1, or 4K at 16:9 shooting ARRIRAW in Open Gate mode. 14 stops of dynamic range, and it also comes with eight neutral density filters that you can manually insert and it’ll give you frame rates of up to 150 frames per second.

Larry Jordan:  Well what do you see as Arri’s strategy with this camera?

James DeRuvo:  I just think they’re rounding out the Alexa line, adding a beefier sensor to a smaller camera with a lighter footprint.  If I had to guess, I’d say that this is designed for those shooting documentaries out in the field that’ll give them a lighter camera that’ll enable them to shoot better images, so they’ll get more bang for their buck.

Larry Jordan:  Alright, that’s the newest camera from Arri.  What’s next?

James DeRuvo:  Blackmagic updated their hardware and software twice this week.

Larry Jordan:  Twice?

James DeRuvo:  They’ve got firmware updates with bug fixes and support for the new URSA broadcast camera, plus RAW import from Sony’s CineAlta line and the Panasonic VariCam cameras get better metadata translation.  DaVinci Resolve also got improved support for Dolby this week.  Multi camera viewer performance has been improved, and there’s faster ProRes encoding, and they have streamline support for their new Fairlight audio application.  It’s a huge amount of updates in these two firmware improvements.

Larry Jordan:  Well James, two updates in one week is a pretty fast response.

James DeRuvo:  Indeed.  And they were planned updates as well.  Many of the new features were the result of user feedback.  Blackmagic is that kind of company that just loves to listen to their core clientele to make their products better.  Hardware or software, it just doesn’t matter.  They want a good idea wherever they find it.

Larry Jordan:  OK Blackmagic Designs got two new updates, both hardware and software.  That brings us to our third story, which is?

James DeRuvo:  Break out your mobile phone because Moment Lenses is having a short film competition.  It’s called the Moment Invitational Film Festival and they’ve invited ten high profile YouTube creatives to showcase a lot of their work but they’re holding a competition to find the 11th filmmaker to be featured in this first annual invitational film festival.   Those interested need to submit a three minute short film, shot on your mobile phone, with the theme of suspense, and the winner will get a share of over $75,000 in gear, cash, and prizes and an all expense paid trip to New York to be featured at the film festival.

Larry Jordan:  Well James, what do you see as the significance of a film festival that’s geared toward mobile phone users?

James DeRuvo:  Mobile filmmaking is really hitting the mainstream with filmmakers these days.  Even Steven Soderbergh just wrapped his latest feature that he shot on the iPhone 7, and even Oscars are taking notice.  So with a filmmaking contest like this, it’s pretty clear that nobody has any excuses any more to going out and making something. As Ansel Adams once said, the best camera is the one you have with you.

Larry Jordan:  Ah, those are very true words.  Alright, that’s Arri, Blackmagic Design and Moment Lenses.  What other stories are you following this week?

James DeRuvo:  Other stories we’re following include DJI’s next Mavic drone may have a huge one inch sensor.  Facebook sees an opportunity to poach several content creators during YouTube’s Adpocalypse, and the Disney Fox deal may be in a little trouble with the Feds.  

Larry Jordan:  Where can we go on the web to read these and all the rest of your stories?

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

Larry Jordan:   James DeRuvo is the Editor in Chief of Doddlenews.com and joins us every week with a DoddleNEWS update.  Thanks James, talk to you next Thursday.

James DeRuvo:  See you next week.

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Larry Jordan:  Larry O’Connor founded Other World Computing which is also called OWC in 1988.  Their website which you may know better, is Macsales.com.  OWC is both a reseller and a developer supporting all things Mac for gosh, a long time.  Hello Larry, welcome back.

Larry O’Connor:  Hey, thanks for having me back Larry.

Larry Jordan:   So Larry, tonight we’re talking about security for our media files, both locally and on the web.  It seems like every day brings news of yet another data breach or a hack.  What are your thoughts about keeping our media secure?

Larry O’Connor:  You know, you have encryption of course on your Mac, there are options there and we’re doing a lot on our own side to bring software … little bit later this year to take advantage of Apple’s latest 10.13 encryption of APFS.  But in general, quite honestly, I really believe in keeping things near and dear and close.  Encryption and anything you do … data that restricts access to it is great for security until years go by and a different scenario emerges where … the person created the … encryption set the password, had a harbor key is no longer to be found, and that media potentially is locked out for all future purposes.  

Larry O’Connor:  Keeping important things, there are things that be put on the cloud and things that quite frankly I think should really stay on drives for transport.

Larry Jordan:  Well one of the conversations we’re going to have a little bit later in the show is with Michael Gilliat-Smith who works for a company called Fortium Technology, and they’ve developed an encryption technology which can be taken off as well as applied, so we’ll hear more about that in just a minute.  But I want to come back to your concept of keep things local.  Increasingly we’re seeing both in Avid and in Premiere the idea of collaborative editing where a team of people are working on a project.  How can we support team editing if we don’t put our media out for the team to be able to access it?  

Larry O’Connor:  Not so much putting it out for the team to access it, you certainly have local collaborative editing.  Now if you’re talking about people being able to edit around the world, now you’re talking about cloud services, certainly you don’t have the local resources around typically to support that kind of distance.  But then going back to the basics, or back to base really, it’s going to come down to how important is that source material?  What is the value of that source material?  When it’s on the cloud, you just run into all sorts of different risks that you don’t have when it’s locally controlled data.  Really going back to the basics, it’s been extremely rare in all the years that media’s been created where you’ve heard of a stolen hard drive or worse, a lost drive that somebody’s recovered and suddenly there’s a new bit of content that wasn’t released yet being circulated online.  With data that’s available or stored on the cloud, it’s a little bit different story.

Larry Jordan:  Well let’s go into that just a little bit.  Do you think we can safely store media in the cloud?  Or should we avoid the cloud for media altogether?

Larry O’Connor:  Again it depends on what the purpose is.  Would I put actual unedited source of anything on the cloud, probably not.  Would I put something up that’s for a production release that’s not yet been published, that’s being ready for master?  I think sitting on a hard drive is a better way to go.  Would I send data over the internet on a secure network to a media house?  Oh absolutely positively.  But trusting the cloud as a distribution point I think has already proven to be risky, with a couple of high profile thefts just in the last year or so.

Larry Jordan:  Well then, if our goal is to have collaborative editing, let’s just pretend that’s the case, and if we’re ruling out the cloud, then how do we share media amongst the team?

Larry O’Connor:  Well if you’re talking about collaborative editing, I guess I’ll take a step back.  Certainly, I can understand large groups and people spread around the world, you’ve got a different scenario, but how many folks turn to collaborative editing that truly have teams that are not localized?  

Larry Jordan:  In other words, most editing teams are going to be working out of the same physical space?

Larry O’Connor:  Seem to see a lot of that.  Not to say that they’re an exception, but the majority of the customers we talk to, those teams are pretty tightly based.  Now you may have somebody doing a VR special effects, different kind of post production work that’s honestly not really the other cut side, but how many teams are truly separated by business where they’re not working together in a facility where they can control that data first hand?

Larry Jordan:  What are your thoughts on transferring data?  Let’s say that the production team is on site somewhere outside the studio, and the editors are back in the home office doing editing.  How do we get the files from where they originate to where they’re being edited?

Larry O’Connor:  Well once again bandwidth I would argue is still a pretty big factor there, and there are solutions to buy multiple 4G when 5G comes along, multiple 5G together.  Now it’s going to come down to expense.  How fast and how important is it to transmit that data?  I have no problem with transmitting data over the internet from one point to another point.  I think that can be done very securely.  Putting it in the cloud for download though is a different matter altogether.  Of course, going back to it’s always worked historically putting data onto a fast drive that can be shipped, is another pretty well nearly foolproof solution.

Larry Jordan:  That’s a very true point.  You can move ten terabytes over FedEx a whole lot faster than you can transfer it on the web.

Larry O’Connor:    Absolutely and not to plug our new ThunderBlade but the new ThunderBlade which is our … Viper it’s up to eight terabytes, you can transfer roughly one terabyte per ten minutes to this product so eight terabytes in a little bit over an hour.  You can duplicate drive to drive and it’s very easy to ship that to a destination for exceptionally fast transfer off, or even use it if the destination is editing it or keeping a backup on site.  Or have another one transferred.

Larry Jordan:  Well that’s a good point.  Before we run out of time, tell me about some of your newest storage products, especially for high speed.  What have you got?

Larry O’Connor:   Certainly.  The ThunderBlade which came out of the Viper project, that’s a highly portable flash array.  This has seen data rates of up to 2000 megabytes a second, in realistic sustained write speeds, 24 to 2500 megabytes a second.  When you take a look at today’s data needs, we’re talking to people who generate anywhere from 500 gigabytes to a terabyte of data per hour, shooting in 4K or 8K 120 has become apparently a very popular format on demand, Netflix for one.  That kind of data generation and a product like the ThunderBlade allows one very quick onsite duplication and then the ability, even on the same day to turn those video shoots around, get them out of the door and to their destination.  I can’t imagine how long that would take if you’re depending on uploads.  In perfect conditions wherever you are, that’s a heck of a long upload time, transfer time to get that from point A to B.

Larry Jordan:  Now this new device is called the ThunderBlade?

Larry O’Connor:  Yes sir.

Larry Jordan:  It’s got how much capacity to it?

Larry O’Connor:  Up to eight terabytes.

Larry Jordan:  And it’s shipping now?

Larry O’Connor:  It is shipping.  The … version just began shipping.  The eight terabyte model begins shipping mid next week.

Larry Jordan:  Oh, and have you announced a price?  Well you have, because it’s shipping.  What’s it cost?

Larry O’Connor:  The eight terabyte is $4,999 which is honestly an incredible price for that much high speed flash.  The … model is $2,999.

Larry Jordan:  $2,999 and for people that want more information about these and other OWC products, where can they go on the web?

Larry O’Connor:  They can certainly visit OWCdigital.com or check out these products on www.macsales.com.

Larry Jordan:  Two websites, macsales.com or OWCdigital.com.  Larry O’Connor is the founder and CEO of OWC.  Larry, thanks for joining us today.

Larry O’Connor:  Always a pleasure Larry.

Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.

Larry Jordan:  FileCatalyst was founded in 2000 to create ways to improve and secure file transfers.  John Tkaczewski is the co-founder and the president, hello John, welcome back.

John Tkaczewski:  It’s nice to be back.  Hi Larry.

Larry Jordan:  Give me a quick description of what FileCatalyst does.

John Tkaczewski:  FileCatalyst is a software application that optimizes, simplifies and secures large file delivery over the internet.

Larry Jordan:  There’s two types of security, there’s security for files that are being stored, called files at rest, and files that are being transferred from one location to another called files in motion.  Where does FileCatalyst fit?

John Tkaczewski:  We’re definitely on the files in motion part.  Our goal is to make sure that the files that are being delivered are secure as the data is moving from one storage disk to another storage disk over the internet.

Larry Jordan:   How do your products help us with security as our files are in motion?

John Tkaczewski:  We have built several different ways of securing the delivery.  So I think one of the more important ones would be the presence of a reverse proxy.

Larry Jordan:  I think of a proxy as being a small version of a large file, it doesn’t have the same resolution, it doesn’t have the same data.  But it is a visual representation of what that file looks like.  Is that what you’re meaning by a proxy here?

John Tkaczewski:  No, it’s not exactly the same thing.  Here we’re talking about proxy in terms of internet security and network security.  So a proxy in terms of network and internet security means a server in the middle, or in between, the actual servers that contain all the data and the client application that runs on the internet.

Larry Jordan:  What value does this proxy server have in securing our files?

John Tkaczewski:  First the biggest value here is that you’re not exposing the servers or the server application that contains all your media directly to the internet.  Everything goes through a secondary smaller connection that even if someone hacks into that secondary smaller server, they are not really getting anywhere with that because it’s just a proxy server they’re getting into.  There’s no real media residing there.

Larry Jordan:  Can I think of a proxy server as like a card catalog in a library?  Is it the proxy server’s got little pointers in it, but there’s no actual data, the books on the shelf are separate from the card catalog?

John Tkaczewski:  Exactly.  So if you think of that, and then you lock up your card catalog and if someone let’s say figures how to get into the card catalog, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will have access to the books.

Larry Jordan:  To get right to the core of it, what can we do to ensure that our systems are more secure?

John Tkaczewski:  I don’t have a statistic here to quote, but I think most of the breaches that happened in the recent years, were all instigated by human error.  That means that somebody clicked on a link they shouldn’t have clicked in an email, or maybe they lost a laptop at the airport and there was some sensitive information on it.  Once potential hackers get what I call the beach head into someone’s network, then they will try to hack deeper and get into those really sensitive materials that you have.  So I think the biggest way to secure someone’s network, is the human factor.  It’s the training, it’s the continually talking about cyber security with your staff and your suppliers and making sure that the human error is minimized.  This leaves those hackers a lot less room to start hacking, because a hacker without any kind of information ahead of game, they will probably not attempt to get into your network.  They must have something already to get them going and get them started.

Larry Jordan:  John, I listen to you talk and I start to wonder, are there any standards that we can follow for maintaining security?

John Tkaczewski:  That’s something that I think media industries are behind on other sectors.  You know, there are some standard, for example in the UK there is the DPP standard that came out, but it’s only predominantly used in the UK.  There’s nothing really centralized or a globalized body that dictates security standards for media.  I can think of another industry, for example, the health sector where you have the HIPAA standards where if you want to exchange any kind of data, you have to adhere to these standards, that there’s a body that presides and keeps everything secure.  But nothing like this exists in media and I can’t stress enough the lack of that in the media sector.

Larry Jordan:  Who should take the lead on that?  Who do you think should be responsible?

John Tkaczewski:  I think it has to be the biggest players in the sector, so anybody who generates a lot of content, thinking here of the large media companies probably should be the ones spearheading something like this, because this is ultimately in everyone’s best interests but they will benefit the most.

Larry Jordan:  And for people that want more information about the security and other services that FileCatalyst can provide, where can they go on the web?

John Tkaczewski:  They can go to our website at filecatalyst.com.

Larry Jordan:  That’s all one word, filecatalyst.com and John Tkaczewski is the co-founder and president of FileCatalyst, and John, thanks for joining us today.

John Tkaczewski:  Thank you for having me.

Larry Jordan:  Mathew Gilliat-Smith is the co-founder and CEO of Fortium Technologies which he started in 1999.  Fortium provides digital content protection solutions for the film, entertainment and broadcast industries.  Hello Mathew, welcome back.

Mathew Gilliat-Smith:  Hello.  Good to speak to you.

Larry Jordan:  Providing digital content protection solutions sounds really impressive.  What does Fortium actually do?

Mathew Gilliat-Smith:  We have specialized over the years in providing digital security to the film and TV companies.  One product we have is for optical disk security, where we protect Academy Awards and BAFTA screeners and the other side is digital media file protection for encryption at rest on post production workflows before they’ve hit the cinema and after they’ve cut the film.

Larry Jordan:  The optical disk protection we’ve talked about in the past so I’m glad that you are still supporting that for those of us that are releasing optical disks.  But today I want to focus on protecting our files at rest, which means they’re being stored somewhere as opposed to being transferred.  How would you categorize the security threats that we’re facing today?

Mathew Gilliat-Smith:  There’s three areas in content security at the moment.  One is 30 percent of the most serious breaches are caused by human error still.  So people accidentally making content available through a link and not realizing they’ve typed in the wrong name.  The second area is the cyber threat which is where someone’s clicked on some email and some malware gets into the system, even if you’re behind a firewall.  And what happens is, they get held to ransom, because they’ve got the content and we heard about that last year on a number of occasions.  The third area is pure theft where someone from the outside pays someone on the inside to steal content and the person on the inside has got access to that content by nature of the fact that they work together.  Whereas with things like MediaSeal, access controlled by individual user and file, it prevents exactly that sort of thing happening.

Larry Jordan:  What security do you provide here?

Mathew Gilliat-Smith:  It’s called MediaSeal, and it’s an encryption at rest product.  One of the big challenges in the industry is you have lots of different systems, you have your Avids, your Final Cuts, Adobe software in terms of programs, and then you’ve got multiple different file formats from Quicktime right up to ProRes and MXF etcetera and the challenge is how do you mix encryption and security with all these different workflows and different file formats?  We were able to build a file system filter driver which does a very neat handoff between a file which is encrypted, and a program which is viewing back the file.  That’s on the one hand, and on the other hand, it means that the encryption can stay with the file while it’s being worked on in all these multiple workflows.

Larry Jordan:  Mathew, you know as well as I do that as soon as we encrypt a file, the speed of everything slows to a crawl which prevents me from getting any editing done.  How do you fix that problem?

Mathew Gilliat-Smith:  Very good point, and we’re very sensitive to that issue.  That’s why we built an encryption wrapper.  So we don’t have to transcode the file, we simply apply the wrapper to the file. It’s a very light wrapper, it adds no extra size to the file.  It is important to note of course that you have to go through that process, but it’s very little overhead, barely noticeable.  Security is a balance. The most important thing is not to interfere with the workflow but we’ve seen in the last year some very serious security threats and that is what is worrying people.  I think on the one hand you want to have fast efficient workflows, but on the other hand if you have suffered from a leak or a cyber attack, then that’s a whole different ballgame and loss of reputation, loss of content, loss of funds, that’s something that people are really beginning to sit up and listen to.

Larry Jordan:  Help me understand.  The file is stored encrypted on the hard disk and on the fly it’s decrypted when it comes into a Final Cut or a Premiere for editing, and then as it comes back out again, it’s encrypted again?

Mathew Gilliat-Smith:  Actually the encryption stays with it.  All we’re doing is access control, so for example I’m receiving a file, maybe I’m at a localization house and I’m doing a French translation of a TV title or a movie.  I would receive an encrypted file, I would click on it in the normal way, access it with my credentials, so I put in my password and an iLok key which is identifying me as the user, and it’s pinging the server just checking that I’ve still got the rights to open that file.  I’m not going to see any overhead, any latency.  I really won’t notice the difference at all.  We’ve been able to perfect this over the months and years because we found that editors are very unforgiving.  If there’s any delay at all, they are not interested.  If you were to ask people who use our content security thing, they would say “Look we would only use it if it didn’t interfere with those workflows.”

Larry Jordan:  So what’s involved in installing your software?

Mathew Gilliat-Smith:  It’s pretty straightforward actually.  If you can imagine you’ve got the people doing the encryption and the people receiving or reading the files, what happens is, when a project starts, generally on behalf of the content owner we are asked to contact their studio or their localization house and we send them an email saying, if you haven’t already used MediaSeal then you just need to click on this link and register yourself, one time, and then click, click, click, one time restart of your system, and you’re good to go forever more.  And I think people feel comfortable that they’ve got some layer of security which is protecting them.

Larry Jordan:  OK, well help me walk through the workflow.  I’ve shot footage, I’ve got my dailies, they’re now sitting on a single hard drive.  Let’s say it’s a terabyte or four terabytes, pick any arbitrarily strangely large number.  Now I apply MediaSeal.  It’s now got to go through and apply this wrapper to all of my files before I can start to edit them.  How long does that process take?

Mathew Gilliat-Smith:  As I say, it’s really a minimal time.  It’s like the time that it takes to copy some content of a file from one folder to the next I guess.  It’s like that.  So if it’s a small file, it’s ping.  If it’s a much larger file, you’ll just see a very small quick progress file going across.  It really isn’t like transcoding or anything like that.

Larry Jordan:  When the project is complete, let’s say hypothetically we don’t need to have the storage continue, can we take the wrapper off so that we have unwrapped footage that could be archived?

Mathew Gilliat-Smith:  Correct.  We provide all those features.  We designed this in conjunction with one of the major film studios so if you like it was designed by a studio for studios.  We’re a technology company and I don’t think we’d ever have been able to know how to get all the GUIs and all the user experience without having that input.

Larry Jordan:   Mathew, for people that want to learn more about MediaSeal, where can they go on the web?

Mathew Gilliat-Smith:  They go to Mediaseal.com.  The bigger company is fortiumtech.com.

Larry Jordan:  There’s two websites, the main company is fortiumtech.com and mediaseal.com.  Mathew Gilliat-Smith is the co-founder and CEO of Fortium Technologies, and Mathew, thanks for joining us today.

Mathew Gilliat-Smith:  Thank you very much.

Larry Jordan:   Pierson Clair has spent the last decade conducting digital forensic investigations in support of companies who have suffered a breach or other loss of data.  His investigative specialties lie in the realm of Mac and mobile devices, and he’s currently the senior director for cyber security and investigations at Kroll.  Pierson, welcome back.

Pierson Clair:  Good afternoon Larry, how’s it going?

Larry Jordan:  I’m talking to you, and we’re talking security, how much more fun could it possibly be?

Pierson Clair:  It is a great life to be in.

Larry Jordan:  Before we talk security, give me a description.  What’s Kroll?

Pierson Clair:  Kroll is a giant global investigations company.  We’ve been around for 40 years, we have 2000 dedicated examiners, investigators who work in all facets of investigations, everything from identity theft to due diligence.  I’m proud to be on our cyber security and investigations team.

Larry Jordan:  In this show today we’re talking security and so far this has been just really depressing.  I mean, can we put stuff on the web and have it be secure?  Or shall we just give it up?

Pierson Clair:  Well when we talk about security, it’s all about risk management and risk mitigation.  If something’s on the web, it’s out there.  In January alone, or December and January together, every Intel processor made since 1995 with a major vulnerability, is there such a thing as security?  That’s tough to say.  Being online your data’s out there.  

Larry Jordan:  If that’s a true statement, if we are moving to the cloud increasingly, business critical information’s being stored on the cloud, what can we do to protect ourselves?

Pierson Clair:  So there are so many different steps that we can take to protect ourselves.  I like to take the analogy of storing your data in the cloud, as similar to an apartment that you may rent.  If you lock the front door, but leave the back window open and your apartment’s broken into, is that the apartment complex’s fault, or is that your fault?  So frequently we see a misconfiguration of some type of online storage and you can read these stories in the news week in and week out.  And people are so fast to jump to that, “Well it’s Amazon’s fault.  It’s someone else’s fault.”  Well, the configuration left that back window open.  And by leaving that back window open, once somebody walked around the back of the apartment, they figured out they could break in.  So security is not just how it’s initially configured, it’s also that ongoing testing, that ongoing verification, that ongoing validation whereby you maintain the best level of security that is known about.

Larry Jordan:  For smaller companies, that don’t have a built in IT department, are there places they can go to get advice, or guidance in terms of how to set up security?  What kind of national organizations can we refer to?

Pierson Clair:  There are many different places that have great security advice.  Whether it’s taking a framework, for example, from an organization like NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technologies, or ISO, the International Standards Organization, or even a third party training group like SANDS, each of these has a wide range of frameworks that you can adopt that include best practices, that include implementation recommendations.  So many different things that can help large and small organizations have a better security posture.

Larry Jordan:  Well let’s define a couple of terms.  You’ve used security framework, security policy and I’ve heard security protocols.  How would you define the differences between them, or are they the same thing, just described in different words?

Pierson Clair:  Security framework would be something that would come down from NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology or ISO, the International Standards Organization.  And those lay out best practices for many different use cases.  You might not want your accounting computers being able to talk to your edit bays as an example.  Once you have a framework, then you can set policy.  Perhaps no social media on accounting computers.  Or no bit torrenting on your edit bays.  So, from there we map from policy, from a framework, and then we implement that with some technical controls.  That together create as secure of a posture as you’ve identified as necessary.

Larry Jordan:  One of the challenges that the companies that listen to the Buzz have, is that we all tend to be small, we tend not to have built in IT departments, and we have got plenty of deadlines to meet without having to worry about security.  How much time should we spend with security and does it require a dedicated IT staff and what kind of resources do we need to provide for it?  With even enterprises having trouble keeping their data secure, what can a small company do to mitigate their risk?

Pierson Clair:  Keeping your own computer up to date.  There’s a reason that updates are pushed onto computers.  They patch a vulnerability.  They’re like a Band Aid, they protect you against problems.  So let’s start local.  Let’s start with your own computer.  Keeping the software up to date.  Keeping everything fully patched, and that’s the operating system, and all of your applications.  Then let’s talk about those spam emails that you may get, those phishing emails you may get.  And phishing is such a prevalent way of getting into people’s data right now.  So phishing or social engineering is where you may receive an email that purports to be from maybe your internet service provider, your email provider, saying there was a problem with your email account.  It’s about to be locked out, or there’s suspicious activity on your email account, click this link. You click the link, it then takes you to a page that looks like the sign in page, from the sign in page you enter your credentials, but you’re not actually at your sign I page for your email provider.  You’re at some third party scam site which now has your email credentials.

Pierson Clair:  So frequently we see it’s a user who’s willingly giving away their credentials.  Well maybe not willingly, but they’ve clicked and they’ve provided the credentials, therefore all the attacker has to do is then go to their email, go to their Dropbox, go to their fill in the blank, and authenticate as the legitimate user.  How do we move to a more secure posture?  Be careful where you’re entering your credentials.  Turn on two factor authentication.  Two factor authentication or multi factor authentication is probably the single easiest way to protect yourself online.

Pierson Clair:  There are three different ways that you can authenticate somebody.  The first one is something you know, most commonly that’s a password, but Larry, if you were to give me your email password right now, how would your email server know the difference between you and me?  And it wouldn’t because I have your password, therefore I’m authenticating as you.  But next way you authenticate someone is something you have, and that something you have might be a cell phone that can receive a one time code, a text message.  So with so many online service providers now, whether it’s cloud storage, whether it’s email, whether it’s financial institutions, they offer two factor authentication whereby you type in a user name and password, and then it sends you a one time code.  That one time code says, “I know that the only person who can receive this is the person who has access to the cell phone, and therefore that authenticates them.”  

Pierson Clair:  The third way is then some type of biometric, we call it something you are.  And for most cases, that’s more used for maybe building authentication.  And once you’ve done those, then it comes down to the configuration.  If you’re using some type of online storage, and you’ve not locked it down and that’s to say, you’ve left the bucket or the account storage wide open, well anybody can walk in.  It’s like leaving the front door unlocked.  So the configuration of your online storage is vitally important.  It’s also important to note that these companies that you may be paying for the online storage, from time to time they change how their service operates, so going in every three, six, nine, 12 months and doing a security check, a security verification, making sure that everything looks the way it’s supposed to.  

Pierson Clair:  Going back to your original question of you may not have an IT department, and so many people don’t, it’s about being aware, it’s about slowing down and saying, “This looks strange.  Let me go run it down.”  So is that a certain number of hours per week?  Not necessarily.  Might it be more hours one week than next?  Certainly.  Deadlines are always looming, but security is kind of the underpinning now of the internet, something that is vitally important, so you do need to invest the time when you identify it’s necessary.

Larry Jordan:  Well let’s shift gears.  We’ve been talking about security in general, but Kroll is a company that specializes in security.  For smaller companies, does Kroll have anything that could help us maintain security with our own assets?  

Pierson Clair:  From a cyber perspective, we work in three different verticals if you will.  Before, during and after.  With before, it’s trying to help you avoid a breach, trying to help you set up the policy, set up the structures so that when there is a breach, it’s far easier to investigate.  The during is when you call us, and you say, “There’s something very bad has happened.  Help me figure out what happened.”  And then the after, is how do you recover from that?  How do you remediate from that?  So, we have a couple of really clever products.  One of them is what we call a cyber detector, and it’s a cyber detector powered by Red Canary.  It’s a very unique product.  It sits alongside conventional antivirus and is very low resource.  Certainly I know that in the production and media space, resources are everything.  You don’t want a memory hog, you don’t want a processor hog, and so this is a little agent that sits on your computer and it’s a next generation threat intelligence tool.  Typically this is something that you roll out for companies that might have 100 or more employees, because it gives the ability to allow us to be your outsourced sock, or your security operations center.  That way we can feed intelligence back into your organization for any type of malicious or otherwise anomalous activity that’s happening on your end points.

Pierson Clair:  Our traditional offering for cyber detector is for the 100 or more end point category, but that doesn’t mean that if there are smaller organizations that have a very high security profile and security need, that the offering may make sense.

Larry Jordan:  For people that want more information about the services that Kroll can provide, where can they go on the web to learn more?

Pierson Clair:  Kroll.com.

Larry Jordan:  Pierson Clair is the person you’ve been listening to.  He is a senior director for cyber security and investigations at Kroll.  And Pierson, as always, thanks for your time.

Pierson Clair:  Thank you so much Larry.

Larry Jordan:   Here’s another website I want to introduce you to.  Doddlenews.com. DoddleNEWS gives you a portal into the broadcast, video and film industries.  It’s a leading online resource, presenting news, reviews and products for the film and video industry.  DoddleNEWS also offers a resource guide and crew management platforms specifically designed for production.  These digital call sheets, along with their app, directory and premium listings, provide in depth organizational tools for busy production professionals.  DoddleNEWS is a part of the Thalo Arts Community, a worldwide community of artists, filmmakers and storytellers.  From photography to filmmaking, performing arts to fine arts, and everything in between, Thalo is filled with resources you need to succeed.  Whether you want the latest industry news, need to network with other creative professionals or require state of the art online tools to manage your next project, there’s only one place to go.  Doddlenews.com.

Larry Jordan:  In his current role as director of technology at Key Code Media, Michael Kammes consults on the latest in technology and best practices in digital media and communications.  Hello Michael.  Welcome back.

Michael Kammes:  Hello Larry, good to hear your voice and thank you.

Larry Jordan:  Michael, this evening we’ve learned about how to keep our files safe locally, the challenges of keeping our files safe in transit and how to improve security for files stored on the web.  You’ve been listening to the whole show, what’s your reaction so far?

Michael Kammes:  I’ve been listening to this show and in the chat room, talking about this on the Digital Production Buzz website and I think we’ve heard a lot of great concepts, but I think there’s kind of a missing link with those concepts as to how to apply those to the average lay person who isn’t transporting a ton of data and needs FileCatalyst or needs to operate on a server level.  I think there’s some missing glue there.

Larry Jordan:  OK, what’s some of the glue that we’re missing?

Michael Kammes:  Well some of the glue would be, especially for folks in the media and entertainment space, you’re working on a television show or a film and you want to get data from on set back to the mother ship, back to where you’re going to edit or back to where the production company is.  All the technologies and concepts your guests have talked about tonight,  that can all be incorporated into portable drives, which is a very common way of transporting data securely.

Larry Jordan:  Well that was the thought that Larry O’Connor mentioned, is it’s a whole lot easier to FedEx eight, ten, 15 terabytes of data than try to transfer it over the web.  Would you agree with his comment though that file transfers over the web are reasonably secure these days?

Michael Kammes:  Well I think your last guest hit it right on the nose which is, once you put it on the web, there’s no guarantee it’s going to be OK.  We just saw the boot code for the iPhone posted online, on GitHub.  If something like that can be hacked or delved into, then what’s to say what you’re paying 19.95 a month for can’t be hacked too.  So I’m a big fan of the let’s have that abstraction layer and let’s not transport it online.  Let’s do it the old fashioned way and carry it.

Larry Jordan:  Well that brings up a bigger point.  How can we tell, and we may need to go to another expert to come up with this answer, but how can we tell if we’ve been compromised?  Is it just when somebody else tells us that they’re seeing our files on the web?

Michael Kammes:  I think yes, that’s one way of doing it, and one way to thwart that, and this is what a lot of facilities do, I’m manipulating your question a little bit, is just watermarking.  People are scared of getting in trouble, and being blackballed and being ostracized.  So quite often facilities will put someone’s name on there, Bob Smith.  Well Bob’s not going to take any chances of leaking footage if his name is on that footage.  We can also go into forensic watermarking.  Phillips has technology that does that.  So you can’t see the watermark but it’s actually embedded in the video and those kind of scare tactics keep folks away from putting themselves in a situation where they may leak footage.  I’m sure as you also know, many facilities are on lockdown meaning the computers aren’t online, a lot of times they keep the machines in the machine room or centralized room.  So you can’t plug in a thumb drive, you can’t plug in a portable drive in order to get data out.

Larry Jordan:  John Tkaczewski says that there’s a lack of security standards regarding media.  Unlike where in medicine where HIPPA controls or financial data being transferred.  Do you agree with the fact that media needs to have more consistent standards for encryption and security?

Michael Kammes:  Well, there are standards.  There’s the Advanced Encryption Standards.  People who like acronyms have probably heard of AES encryption, 128 bit 256 bit, and that’s a standard for encryption, and just like codecs, we have the essence and then we have the wrapper around it.  Having this encryption wrapper around your media can adhere to the standards that have already been put out there.  And a lot of these hardware based security protocols we have, and a lot of the software based ones, adhere towards the AES 256 bit encryption which is very difficult to crack and NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology have said, “Yes, these are pretty much unbreakable.”

Larry Jordan:  Although we can’t necessarily use that for files which are coming into our editing systems because it would take too much time, generate too much latency if we had to decrypt as it was being played back for editing.  So this would be an encryption standard for storage and archiving correct?

 

Michael Kammes:  That’s correct.  It would be to have media locked on set, locked for transport and then stay locked until you plugged it in, booted up the computer and then entered in a password.  You’re completely correct, if you try and do this in real time there’s a lot of latency on the computer and no-one’s been able to, for lack of a better term, crack that nut just yet.

Larry Jordan:  Shifting back to the idea of applying our security standards in the real world, what habits do we need to break that are putting our files in jeopardy?

Michael Kammes:  It’s a great question.  First off is your editing machines, don’t put them online.  And I know that there’s a lot of independent editors who say, “Look, I need to share stuff via Dropbox and I need to collaborate.”  Don’t.  Unplug it until you need it, then plug it back in, then unplug again.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  In a lot of facilities, that can’t afford enterprise security, they have an abstraction layer which means they have a firewall between the switch that controls all the internal data on the network, and a switch that goes out to the real world to hit YouTube or whatever websites you want to hit.  Keeping a firewall between those is one more layer of security that prevents folks from getting out and getting in.  So that’s one way to do it.

Larry Jordan:  Seeing as you’re batting clean up here, we let you get all the important questions.  What would you say are the three most important elements that people should consider when they’re looking at setting up a security workflow?

Michael Kammes:  If you have anything that’s password protected, and that password is shared amongst multiple people, like Dropbox for example, multiple people can have the same password and same log in for a shared account.  Don’t do that because all it takes is for one person to slip up and things are compromised.  Keeping your machines off the internet, that certainly helps quite a bit.  And any kind of media that you have on a hard drive that’s being transferred from one location to another, look at something like Apricorn, it’s Capricorn without the C, and they have portable drives and thumb drives which are all encrypted and you can store your data on that.

Larry Jordan:  Well one of the things I enjoy is watching and listening to your five things podcast.  Tell us what’s coming up because I think what you have coming is relevant to our discussion on security and remote editing.

Michael Kammes:  Thank you for that, the upcoming episode which will probably be out later in February, will be on remote editing, and things to look forward to in remote editing and why it’s such a challenge to do it now in a cost effective way and still retain security.

Larry Jordan:  Do you view remote editing as the same as collaborative editing?

Michael Kammes:  I think the term collaborative gets thrown around quite a bit.  Some people would look at Dropbox as being collaborative, which it is in some respect.  But when I talk about editing and collaborative editing, I’m looking at shared projects, shared media, shared timelines.  So there’s a complete flow as opposed to more of a push pull methodology that you would work with with Dropbox.

Larry Jordan:  With the collaborative editing or with the remote editing, do we need to have assets stored locally, or are you accessing assets on the cloud?

Michael Kammes:  That really depends on what system you’re going with.  There are very few NLEs that support editing from a cloud based system, but they will support editing from your personal cloud in your own data center back at your office.  So it really depends on what NLE you’re trying to use and what technology, but more importantly, what kind of budget you have.

Larry Jordan:  And for people that just need to know where you are on the web and watch the next 5 things episode, where can they go on the web?

Michael Kammes:  Two places you can check out 5thingsseries.com, or my namesake, michaelkammes.com.

Larry Jordan:  That’s the number five, 5thingsseries.com and michaelkammes.com and Michael Kammes himself is the voice you’re listening to.  Director of technology at Key Code Media, and Michael as always, thanks for joining us today.

Michael Kammes:  Thanks so much Larry.

Larry Jordan:  Take care, bye bye.

Larry Jordan:  You know, I was just thinking.  In the old days, security was a lot easier.  We just needed to lock the office door when we left at night.  These days it seems much harder, and there are always tradeoffs.  As Pierson mentioned, security is a balance between the resources you have available and how likely our files are to be hacked.  Often, we get hacked because we aren’t paying attention and get caught with a phishing email.  Or we get hacked because a disgruntled employee shares private files with the world.  Or we get hacked because our cloud storage provider got hacked.

Larry Jordan:  Even high tech security can’t fully protect us against stupidity or unhappy employees.  But as we learn tonight, we can do more to keep our precious digital files safe.  Partly by thinking more about security on a daily basis, partly by encouraging our team members to think about security, and partly by harnessing technology to help us protect our files.  

Larry Jordan:  Just as we’ve learned overtime that we can’t archive files simply by storing them on a hard disk and parking it on a shelf, so also we can’t ignore security threats.  Security does not improve by ignoring it.  We need to take an active interest in keeping our systems up to date.  Avoid making stupid mistakes like sharing log in credentials with suspect websites.  And we need to harness the power of technology to help keep our files safe.  Just a quick personal example on this last point.  Recently I added a new server here at the office and it didn’t work properly.  After some research I tracked the problem to my network switch where I discovered the last time I updated its firmware was October of 2010.  Ha, looks like I need to pay more attention to my own systems.  

Larry Jordan:  Security is an ongoing process, not just an event.  Just something I’m thinking about.

Larry Jordan:  I want to thank our guess for this week, Larry O’Connor with OWC, John Tkaczewski with FileCatalyst, Michael Gilliat-Smith of Fortium Technologies, Pierson Clair with Kroll, Michael Kammes with Key Code Media, and James DeRuvo of DoddleNEWS.  

Larry Jordan:   There’s a lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Here you’ll find thousands of interviews, all online and all available to you today.  Remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter that comes out every 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 2018 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 – February 8, 2018

As more media and services migrate to The Cloud, what do we need to know to keep our assets secure? Is security even possible? Tonight, we talk with industry experts to learn best practices and techniques to keep our media, projects and company data secure.

Join host Larry Jordan as he talks with Larry O’Connor, John Tkaczewski, Mathew Gilliat-Smith, Pierson Clair, Michael Kammes and James DeRuvo.

  • The Basics of Keeping Your Media Secure
  • Secure Your Media “In Motion”
  • High-Speed Encryption During Editing
  • Minimize Your Online Security Risks
  • Real-World Tips for Media Security
  • The Weekly DoddleNEWS Update

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Guests this Week


The Basics of Keeping Your Media Secure

Larry O'Connor
Larry O’Connor, Founder and CEO, Other World Computing
Tonight, we are looking for ways to keep our data secure, especially on-line. We start with Larry O’Connor, Founder and CEO of OWC. He shares his thoughts on The Cloud, encryption, and the best ways to keep our media safe.


Secure Your Media “In Motion”

JohnTkaczewski
John Tkaczewski, Co-Founder and President, FileCatalyst
There are two places we need to worry about securing our online data: when it is “at rest,” stored somewhere in The Cloud; and when it is “in motion,” traveling from one server to another. Tonight, John Tkaczewski, co-founder and president of FileCatalyst explains why our data is vulnerable during transit.


High-Speed Encryption During Editing

Mathew Gilliat-Smith
Mathew Gilliat-Smith, CEO, Fortium Technologies
Once our data has arrived at its destination, a different form of security kicks in. Here, Fortium has a simple but effective method of security which isn’t going to break the bank. Tonight, Mathew Gilliat-Smith, CEO of Fortium Technologies, tells us about how to secure files shipped on optical media.


Minimize Your Online Security Risks

Pierson Clair
Pierson Clair, Senior Director, Cyber Security & Investigations, Kroll
Is our data at risk in The Cloud? Yes. It is necessarily the fault of The Cloud service? Most of the time, no. Tonight, Pierson Clair, Senior Director of Cyber Security and Investigations for Kroll Inc., explains what we need to know to minimize risk to our assets.


Real-World Tips for Media Security

Michael Kammes
Michael Kammes, Director of Technology, Key Code Media
We’ve learned a lot about security tonight, but what does it mean in the “real-world?” Michael Kammes, Director of Technology for KeyCode Media, shares his thoughts on what media creators – especially those in smaller companies – can do to protect their data.


The Weekly DoddleNEWS Update

James DeRuvo
James DeRuvo, Editor-in-Chief, DoddleNEWS.
James DeRuvo Editor-in-Chief at DoddleNEWS.com, has a multi-faceted career spanning radio, film and publishing. With experience covering technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James joins us every week to present the latest industry news.

Transcript: Digital Production Buzz – February 1, 2018

HOST

Larry Jordan

GUESTS
Tom Coughlin, President, Coughlin Associates, Inc.

Alex Grossman, CEO, Symply, Inc.

Adrian “AJ” Herrera, Vice President of Marketing, Caringo, Inc.

Erik Weaver, Luminary of the Future of M & E Storage, HGST, a Western Digital Brand

James DeRuvo, Editor-in-Chief, DoddleNEWS

==

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: Tonight on the Buzz, we are talking about object storage. We’ve been using it for years, but now, it’s migrating to the desktop.  Tonight, we’ll learn what it is, how it works and why media creators and distributors need to pay attention to it.  

Larry Jordan: We start with Tom Coughlin, the President of Tom Coughlin Associates. He presents a background on what object storage is, why it was designed and who it’s for.  Next, Alex Grossman, the President of Symply Inc, explains how object storage can enable media creators to do more with their storage and how object storage can be used on the desktop.  

Larry Jordan: Next, Caringo was one of the first companies creating object storage software. Tonight Adrian Herrera, VP of Marketing for Caringo, tells us about their company, their products and how they are used in media distribution.  Next, Erik Weaver is a luminary of the future, of media and entertainment for HGSD, who talks with us about why we need to start to change our storage solutions.  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.  Tonight, we’re talking about object storage. Let me start by saying that some of these discussions are highly technical and not always easy to understand.  Object storage is a new way of storing, tracking, accessing and sharing files that forms the foundation of all Cloud computing, and now it’s migrating to the desktop.

Larry Jordan: Object storage is a computer data storage architecture that manages data as objects, as opposed to other storage architectures like file systems, which manage data as a file hierarchy, folder and file, or block storage, which manages data as blocks within sectors and tracks on a hard disk.  The reason we want to cover this subject this week is that object storage is moving from the massive servers in the Cloud, to private Clouds used by the enterprise and now appearing in the smaller workgroups of media production and distribution.

Larry Jordan: Because media creates files that are both massive and numerous, it’s time for all of us to better understand this technology.  Even if you only have 50 to 100 terabytes of media in your storage pool, object storage may be worth considering.  And helping you better understand what’s going on is what tonight’s show is all about.

Larry Jordan: Before we start, however, 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.  Now it’s time for our weekly doddleNEWS update with James DeRuvo.  Hello James.

James DeRuvo: Hello Larry

Larry Jordan: So, what’s in the news this week?

James DeRuvo: Well, this week, RED is returning to the final frontier with a new low-light sensor.  These guys just can’t help but build stuff.  It’s a new low-light Super 35mm Sensor that fits somewhere in between the Helium Super 35 Sensor that they have and that Full Frame Vista Vision MONSTRO Sensor and it has an additional two stops of dynamic range over the Helium.  It was designed to practically image in complete darkness.  It was made for a very “special customer” for work in deep space.

Larry Jordan: Well, who do you think that is?

James DeRuvo: It could be NASA, but I think the conventional wisdom is, is that RED has built this new sensor for Elon Musk’s SpaceX Corporation and their upcoming launch of their new Falcon Heavy Mars Rocket.  It’s a great story.  They’re going to launch it in a couple of days and they need some ballast to get the payload right and so, Elon Musk is putting his Tesla convertible built into the rocket and it’s going to shoot it up into Outer Space and I think he wants to be able to capture it on camera.  They made this special low-light sensor for work in Outer Space.  

James DeRuvo: The downside is, they only were allowed to make five additional sensors that they can sell, so, anyone that does any extreme low-light video can get one of these, but it’s not going to be cheap.

Larry Jordan: RED is pushing the final frontier.  What else is happening this week?

James DeRuvo: Blackmagic, just today, updated their URSA Mini and is turning it into a broadcast beast.  They want to make an affordable 4K ultra high definition broadcast quality camera that has 12 stops of dynamic range, supports both analogue and newer digital B4 lenses, plus the option of adding the EF mount or the PL mount.  They’ve also announced a new 4K broadcast switcher and updated ATEM 4 M/E switcher and you can turn your old 2 M/E switcher into a 4 M/E switcher with a free software update.

Larry Jordan: What’s your take on the announcement?

James DeRuvo: The updated URSA Mini can now be used as a broadcast camera, capturing in 4K and full HD, but it can also work as a field camera, supporting B4 as well as cinematic lenses in EF and PL mounts, so it’s really two cameras in one.  That’ll give a shooter an additional revenue stream and it’s under 4,000 bucks.  It’s a bargain for … looking to boost their income.

Larry Jordan: Okay, that’s Blackmagic.  What’s our third story this week?

James DeRuvo: Facebook continues to go to the dark side.  They’re experimenting with vertical video.  The social giant has discovered that more users are watching video on their mobile devices; something like 97% of Facebook users will watch video on Facebook using a smartphone.  They’re more like to watch a vertical video, because it’s just easier to hold their phone that way.  They’ve commissioned 15 content creators from around the world to make vertical videos, in order to start pushing this new kind of genre and format.

Larry Jordan: I love your image of Facebook going to the dark side.  What’s your real opinion of this format?

James DeRuvo: You know, I understand the allure of vertical video, you know, because more and more people are ingesting their content with a mobile device.  But, in my opinion, that tall and skinny aspect ratio completely ruins a video presentation by making it with these thick black bars on either side.  I’m just not a fan of it and I don’t think that it’s going to have a future beyond mobile.  But if you want to get a kick, go to YouTube and do a search for vertical video syndrome. It’s an hysterical video that kind of points fun at the whole craze.

Larry Jordan: James, what other stories are you following this week?

James DeRuvo: Other stories we’re following this week include, Canon could lockdown future cameras and lenses with a fingerprint ID system.  Zoom has a great new mini field recorder and there’s a ton of new firmware updates.

Larry Jordan: Where can we find all these stories?

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

Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the Editor-in-Chief of doddleNEWS and joins us every week.  James, thank you so much, we’ll talk to you next Thursday.

James DeRuvo: Alright, see you then.

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 O.S. notifications, enabling you to collaborate faster and smarter, all in real time.

Larry Jordan: KeyFlow Pro is available at a Mac App store, or get a 30 day free trial at keyflowpro.com.  KeyFlow Pro, simple, elegant and surprisingly affordable.

Larry Jordan: Tom Coughlin is a Silicon Valley Consultant, a Storage Analyst, a senior member of the IEEE and the organizer of the annual Storage Visions and Creative Storage Conferences.  Hello Tom, welcome back.

Tom Coughlin: Hi there, it’s good to be back.

Larry Jordan: Tonight we’re taking a closer look at object storage.  How would you define what this is?

Tom Coughlin: I think in order to understand object storage, you need to have a little bit of background on some of the other more common storage architectures.  We’ll start with what’s called block storage and the data that’s actually stored on a storage device like a hard disk drive, or a solid state drive, for example, is stored in blocks and blocks are a certain range of data that’s in one physical location on the storage device.  

Tom Coughlin: Block storage is what most storage devices are basically built around, is storage in blocks.  A bunch of blocks can be put together to create a file.  Now a file could be a video, it could be some audio, it could be stuff like that.  What you do is, you break up the data that goes into a file into little pieces called blocks and those are individually stored on the storage device.

Larry Jordan: The way that most hard disks work is they divide the storage space on the hard disk into little blocks, little cubbyholes and they drop pieces of the file in those blocks.

Tom Coughlin: That’s correct.

Larry Jordan: Within these blocks, the files are stored in blocks, and then they’re organized by the file system.  Tell me what a hierarchical file system is.

Tom Coughlin: A hierarchical file system is basically a structure of different folders that contain files.  Those folders may be within folders.  Having something within something else is what they mean by a hierarchy.

Larry Jordan: The benefit to a hierarchical file system is it enables us to find the stuff that we stored on the hard disk?

Tom Coughlin: It’s one way of finding things that we store on the hard disk, that we store in a storage system, in this case, if we’re talking about a network attached storage device.

Larry Jordan: Okay.  I’ve got that.  That’s what we’re using now with our RAIDS and our hard disks?

Tom Coughlin: Most of them.  There also are systems that are built around organizing things at the block level and those are called storage area networks.  There’s file based storage, there’s block based storage and, if done properly, the block based storage can actually be faster because, if it has enough control of where things are stored on the individual storage devices that the system does, then it can organize them in ways that allows you, in the right circumstances, to get a very fast performance.  

Tom Coughlin: Some of the highest performance storage may actually be in a storage area network, which is block based.  But that has limited metadata and all of the information on putting the files together is in the application.

Larry Jordan: Okay, that’s block storage and file storage, so where does object storage fit in?

Tom Coughlin: What object storage is, instead of having this hierarchical structure of files within folders within folders, it increases and changes the kind of metadata that we use to find the content itself, to find the individual files.  The way it does that is, it does not have a hierarchical structure. A basic object storage system has a very flat structure, there’s no folders within folders.  As a consequence, it is capable of scaling to a much larger number of things that are accessible within the same storage architecture, which can span geographic areas, can go across multiple storage units in multiple places.  

Tom Coughlin: The big advantage of the object storage is, it allows you to be able to store a lot more things.  It does that by having an object.  Now an object contains the data and it also contains advanced metadata concepts, which can be much richer than is allowed by say network attached storage devices with their hierarchical structure.  Part of what gives object storage its value is the things you can do with that metadata, which can even include special purpose metadata, which a designer can put into that content, into an assistance use and finding it and using that content.

Tom Coughlin: Object storage was really taken and embraced by the hyper scale folks that build all the Cloud infrastructure, all the Cloud storage systems at big data centers.  The biggest application they had for the object storage was, they had huge amounts of content, say Facebook with all of their photographs and they needed to store this cost-effectively.  What they did is they created an object storage system with software, so it’s a software defined storage, on top of commodity hardware, i.e. the cheapest storage hardware that they could buy, that would still serve the purpose they had.

Tom Coughlin: A lot of the Cloud, basically, is object storage, the big amounts of content that are stored in the Cloud are stored as objects in object storage systems, because it’s the way they do it, it’s cost-effective.  Object storage then has been good for archival applications, or where you want to keep a lot of content.  It has a history of not having as high a performance as, for instance, a network attached storage system which is file based, or a storage area network which is block based.  Those can have higher performance than the object storage.

Tom Coughlin: Part of that is because of that focus on as low cost a storage as you can.  Object storage allows you to then scale to much larger amounts of things that can be accessed within a given storage name space, no matter where it’s stored at.  It could be stored in a geographically different area and it could still be part of this object storage system, so it can scale to billions of items.  It has this specialized metadata which also can be tied into applications, so there’s things that can be done within the storage system because of the specialized metadata capabilities.  

Tom Coughlin: Now, if you start building object storage with equipment that is specialized on the use of object storage that is focused on higher performance, it’s possible that object storage can also make in-roads into some of these higher performance applications.

Larry Jordan: That is a hard subject to figure out, the object storage.  I didn’t realize it was as technically complex as it is.

Tom Coughlin: Yes, it involves the basic architecture of how you’re storing information and what it is, it’s creating this really flat architecture.  Because the hierarchy can get in your way, it can slow you down and it makes it hard to store a lot of individual things, because it gets so complicated.  But this flat architecture allows you to directly access individual pieces without going through a hierarchy, so it scales more.

Larry Jordan: Can we be object storage without being Cloud based at all?

Tom Coughlin: You can be object storage without having any connection to the Internet; it can just be a local storage.

Larry Jordan: Within media and entertainment, who should pay attention to object storage?  Only people that are storing stuff to the Cloud, or does it have broader implications?

Tom Coughlin: I think it has broader implications.  First of all, there is all the public Cloud infrastructure which is being widely used for, for instance, content delivery.  Content libraries are often basically a Cloud storage system, CDNs and that sort of thing.  Also for archiving.  But especially in the media and entertainments industry, there are folks that are not so comfortable with putting their valuable content into a public Cloud, so, private Cloud sort of infrastructure is another place where this can occur, or even what’s called a hybrid Cloud which contains maybe some things in a public Cloud and some things in a private Cloud, could as well benefit from these object storage type systems.

Larry Jordan: Can object storage co-exist with our existing storage, or do we have to do all one, or all the other?

Tom Coughlin: It can co-exist.  In fact, an object storage system can even support a file based access.  Oftentimes it’s a software defined storage architecture and it can be implemented on top of existing hardware.

Larry Jordan: Again, within media and entertainment, who should pay attention to object storage the most?  In other words, who is it really targeted for?

Tom Coughlin: Well object storage was developed and is most of the storage that’s in the Cloud.  I mean, there’s a growing amount of people using public Cloud services and also people implementing their own private Cloud, or some type of hybrid Cloud, which can either be their private and a public Cloud, or a private and multiple public Clouds.  It’s basically becoming, I think, a universally available tool.  

Tom Coughlin: In fact, as a consumer, you’re using the Cloud all the time because that’s where the applications that you run, for instance on your mobile phone, are located.  It’s kind of become something that touches all of us in some way and will do so increasingly in the future, especially as people become more accountable and as it’s clear that there is security and encryption and protection of privacy leakage and that sort of thing, which is especially important for those valuable media assets in our industry.

Larry Jordan: One of the things I’ve learned, Tom, is that storage changes constantly and it is not necessarily easy to understand.  Tell me about your conferences, because those could be really helpful to folks.

Tom Coughlin: I think they really could be.  We do the Creative Storage Conference, which is going to be June 7th in Culver City, California, which focuses on applications and architectures of digital storage in media and entertainment.  We’re looking especially to recruit speakers who are media and entertainment professionals, who have some experience with digital storage, who would like to talk about that.  You know, things they like, things they’ve tried, problems they’ve had.  The website that gives more information on that or to participate is creativestorage.org.

Larry Jordan: Tom, for people that want to keep track of what you and your company are doing, where can they go on the web?

Tom Coughlin: They can go to tomcoughlin.com.

Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, tomcoughlin.com and the upcoming June conference is Creative Storage at creativestorage.org and the Fall conference is Storage Visons and that’s at storagevisions.com.  Tom, thanks for joining us today.

Tom Coughlin: Thank you very much for having me Larry.

Larry Jordan: Alex Grossman is the CEO of Symply. He’s a 25 year veteran of the storage industry and a former Senior Director at Apple; where he was responsible for driving the development of Apple’s server and storage products.  Hello Alex, welcome.

Alex Grossman: Hi Larry, how are you today?

Larry Jordan: I am really looking forward to our conversation, because, if anybody can really explain what object storage is, it’s you.  But before we do, give me a quick description of what Symply is.

Alex Grossman: Oh yes.  Well we’re a storage vendor.  That’s kind of crazy huh Larry?  We actually do media entertainment storage, but we do it in a slightly different way.  We actually build smaller workgroup storage based on common platforms, virtualized technology, storage defined.  We use the backbone of StorNext, which is the Quantum product; probably the largest file system out there today in media and entertainment and it’s 100% compatible with Accent; so we do scale out workgroup clustered storage.

Larry Jordan: Well you’ve been involved with object storage for a long time and what we’ve learned from Tom is that it’s principally used today for Cloud services such as Amazon, or Dropbox.  Why should we consider moving to object storage for the desktop or media production environments?

Alex Grossman: Oh, that’s a great question and, yes, I’ve had a lot of experience with it and it’s changed over the years.  Really, what Tom probably talked about was how object storage is ideal for larger and long-term storage, because, you know, the Cloud vendors will handle trillions, in fact, I think, as you recently said, they had over 100 trillion objects out there.  When you’re talking about large scale, there is definitely a lower cost for doing object storage and it’s also very highly protected.  It’s kind of self-protecting and it’s very safe and also, from the Cloud perspective, it’s really easy to get to.  

Alex Grossman: One of the challenges and part of the reason we should consider it on the desktop is, one of the challenges we have as content creators is that we have content management challenges.  We all need to protect the content we have and protect it well, because, our hope is that it’s going to be worth something over time.  You know, if we have the next Star Wars, or the next Gone with the Wind, think about how long we’ll have that content and how much it’s going to be worth.  The idea of taking large content and only putting it up to the Cloud, it’s a great idea but it can be cost prohibitive if we ever need to bring it back and it can also take a long time to get it there.

Alex Grossman: There is technology like Snowball from Amazon, that allows us to actually take a RAID array and connect it to our SAN or our NAS infrastructure within our facility and then copy it to that RAID array, put it on the FedEx truck and move it up to the Cloud.  Then Amazon will then load it up, it will go in the glacier and it will be there for a long time, which is a great thing.  The problem is, you’re doing that frequently and you’re having it still in one spot controlled by someone else.  

Alex Grossman: The question really is, what do you do if you want to have long-term retention of content and, in fact, before I even go there, one of the things that we see quite often is that it’s really not even about long-term retention, it’s about the ultimate goal of having a workflow where it’s seamless all the way from ingest to archive and then also it’s round-tripping, so you can come back into your work in process.  That means you really need it near line, you need to access it quickly and you need it in your facility.  If that’s the case, what technologies do you use to be able to do that?  What’s the ultimate goal?

Alex Grossman: For the longest time, if we wanted to talk about long-term retention, or even near-line retention we used tape.  I mean, as much as I might have been quoted in 1998 saying tape is dead, but, as much as we try to get rid of it, tape keeps coming back and it keeps getting cheaper.  The beauty of tape is, once you write the tape and you shut off the tape system, it’s cold, so, you know, you’re not wasting power, you’re not wasting any energy at all, or requiring to cool it.  The problem with tape is that, like anything else, it has to be rewritten periodically, it has to be kept very well and the access time can be kind of slow.  In fact, it can be really slow if you can’t find the tape.

Alex Grossman: There’s tools that are supposed to be used to fix that, you know, media asset managers and other tools, but, the bottom line is that, what we’re looking for is we’re looking for low cost, we’re looking for fast return on investment, we’re looking for guaranteed access and this is where object storage really wins.

Larry Jordan: What Tom told us is that object storage has been traditionally used on the Cloud, especially for archiving and distribution, but performance is not its strength.  How do we get around these performance issues, because performance is everything in media, especially in post and production?

Alex Grossman: Absolutely and that’s a great question Larry.  The key there is knowing where to use it and I almost like to think I was one of the early pioneers in doing this.  We always look at content as being online, near-line and far-line.  Online is the speed that we need, for the most part, that is our workspace for media.  

Alex Grossman: Most people still use SANs when they’re talking about 4K and, you know, 4K DPX and uncompressed and very high speed media, they still need SANs and fiber channel infrastructure to do that.  But more and more people are looking at NAS infrastructures where you can use ten gig and 40 gig and 100 gig Ethernet and achieve fairly good performance numbers.  That’s when you’re talking about ingest and work in process.  

Alex Grossman: Once you get past that finishing step, now we’re into three other stages, we’re into transcoding, which you also could say is delivery, delivery and then archive.  What object storage really can help us with and this is where Tom gets it as well, is that, we need to go from that work in process, that finishing step, to the delivery step, which isn’t latency dependent.  Object storage can be relatively fast, the problem is, it’s the latency that kills this in production.

Alex Grossman: I don’t think we’re going to get to the point, any time soon, using very safe things like erasure coding and object storage, to allow us to do production, but when it comes to near-line and delivery and transcoding, what I coined a long time ago, which is extended online, is these steps that we still consider in our production, but that we don’t need those latency dependent applications for.  But once the content is finished, we want to retain it and keep it safe and that’s what object storage really can help us with.

Larry Jordan: Let’s say that we have a workgroup that is in transcode and delivery and distribution, what’s involved in setting up the system?  Does it require professional help and is it affordable by non-enterprise sized groups?

Alex Grossman: Wow, that is really the cusp of the whole thing.  If you were to Google object storage and or low-cost object storage, you would see numbers starting at $50 million, starting at $5 million, starting at $100,000.  The affordability exactly is true, it’s all about the enterprise access to that.  When people read about object storage, they read probably the most important thing, which is, it’s easy access to the content and what I mean by that is that, it’s globally distributed, as Tom probably said.  The beauty of this is, you can access essentially a web browser, so http, this rest interface, these rest APIs and we’ve made the transition to go from a file based storage system to an object based storage system virtually seamless.  

Alex Grossman: That helps us to take object storage and to be able to put it on the desktop in ways that are really Cloud based, so if you use Google Drive, or iCloud, or AWS, or some people use things like Storage Made Easy, which is a gateway to go to all those clouds, or Dropbox, all these things are object storage based and they put it on the desktop.  

Alex Grossman: The question is, what if I wanted to build object storage in my facility and I’ve got a small facility, I don’t have an enterprise class facility?  You have to ask yourself three questions first.  Firstly, do you need a petascale architecture?  When you say petascale it means, really simply, how much content do I create every day, week, month, year, how many years of content do I want to keep and is that content in terabytes or is it in petabytes.  If the content is somewhere about 500 terabytes or approaching a petabyte then I say, today you can build yourself object storage rather than buying object storage and you can actually do that and be cost effective and have it work for you really easily.  That’s really the key, Larry, is really getting that cost down.

Alex Grossman: The third thing is, you have to look at, well what am I going to do about managing it?  The beauty of object storage and why it’s so popular in the Cloud is, not only can it scale to trillions of objects, but also it abstracts the normal storage management away from you.  You don’t have to worry about individual RAID drives and storage pools and RAID sets, all that stuff goes away and all you’re essentially doing is building one main space that just grows as you need it.  Just keep plugging drives in.  

Alex Grossman: The big benefit or reason why you can do it yourself is that, you eliminate data migration.  One of the problems that we have in a production facility, no matter if it’s small or large, is we’re always buying hard drives.  If I’m just one or two people working in a facility, I’m buying a lot of external hard drives and I’ve got cabinets full of them.  The problem is, the power supplies are going to go, the drives are going to fail and I’m constantly worrying about that and migrating data off, or making two or three copies and it’s just not worth it.  

Alex Grossman: If I’ve got a slightly bigger facility, I might have a RAID system connected to an SAN or NAS and, for the most part, we’re seeing people going back to SAN infrastructures, where they’re doing 4K and DPX and other uncompressed workflows, but at that point, you’ve got to say to yourself, well those drives and that whole infrastructure is good for three to five years.   

Alex Grossman: Take something like Star Wars, that I was saying before, that came out in 1977.  If I do the math, let’s say that’s 41 years ago.  If I’m migrating every five years, I’ve basically moved that content out eight times.  When you’ve got a terabyte to move it’s not so bad, but when you’ve got 500 terabytes or a petabyte, those eight times of moves could take three months, or six months to move, because you’ve got other things going on.  You can’t migrate that data real easily.

Alex Grossman: The beauty of object storage is that, I can put it out there and because the interface is always the same, my access is the same way and, theoretically, 40 years from now I will still have http REST interface to be able to access it.  I grow and migrate in place.  It’s very, very cheap.  But, how do you build it, that’s the question?  Well, there’s a number of open source projects that people use and there’s a number of companies that have taken these open source projects, embedded those into standard off the shelf servers.  They get the same resiliency out of just a few off the shelf servers and a few very inexpensive SAS arrays that you would get if you spent $1 million on a RAID system.  It’s using technologies like … or Swift and you can usually find companies that are building these things, or that will help you build them.  For the most part, if you’re looking at half a petabyte to a petabyte, that’s the most cost-effective way.

Larry Jordan: Where can people go to learn more about the products and the serves that your company provides?

Alex Grossman: At symply.com.

Larry Jordan: Is that gosymply or just symply?

Alex Grossman: You can use gosymply.com.

Larry Jordan: That’s gosymply.com and Alex Grossman is the CEO of Symply.  Alex, thanks for joining us today.

Larry Jordan: Adrian Herrera is the VP of Marketing for Caringo.  Caringo provides an object based storage platform for production, distribution and collaboration in media and entertainment industries, to solve issues associated with storing and protecting rapidly growing digital assets, while keeping them online and accessible.  Hello AJ, welcome.

Adrian Herrera: Hi Larry, how are you?

Larry Jordan: Good.  You know, after reading that introduction, could you describe what it is that Caringo does in English?

Adrian Herrera: Sure.  We are software vendors and developers and we’ve been doing it for 12 years.  We’ve always focused on object storage.  You install our software on any x86 servers and create a massive saleable pool of storage.  At our core, that’s what we do.  I know you’re doing the series on object storage and it’s great that you’re doing it, but it’s almost a misnomer to just classify object storage as storage.  We do focus a lot on content delivery, data management and search, so it’s a very rich software platform, it’s just not about storage.

Larry Jordan: Well, is object storage a thing, or is it a process?  How would you describe it?

Adrian Herrera: Object storage is more of an architecture, it’s a way to approach how you store data.  The analogy that a lot of us vendors like to use in the space is, it’s very similar to a valet. You know, you take your car to a valet you give them your car, they give you a ticket, you don’t really care where they park your car, you just want it to be safe and not scratched and get it back when you give them your ticket back.  This is, at its simplest form, object storage.  You give this storage your content and the storage gives you a key and off you go.

Larry Jordan: Help me understand because I get confused here.  I take a file, I drop it on top of my RAID and my RAID stores it.  I don’t care what sector it’s in, or what RAID disk it’s stored in, I just simply gave it to the RAID and it parked it.  Why is this different from object storage?

Adrian Herrera: That’s because you know where the file is. You know the directory, you know the file name and what’s actually going on behind the scenes is, that file that you store is being shredded, broken into thousands of different segments, inodes and it’s being stored across the RAID sectors.  That’s great when you’re in a single location, or if you know the application. But, let’s say you don’t know the application, let’s say you don’t know the end user, or if you have to deliver that piece of content over the Internet and a lot of organizations are struggling.  

Adrian Herrera: When you’re dealing with file systems, you have to put a lot of layers of infrastructure to deliver.  You need to know the exact location, which may be great, when you’re dealing with thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of files, but, how about a million? How about a billion?  These are scales that organizations of all size are getting to.  Especially in the M&E world, we’re seeing some very unique issues that object storage solves.

Larry Jordan: Give me an example of what object storage can do that other storage systems can’t.

Adrian Herrera: You can deliver the content, the media directly from the storage layer.  The native interface for most object storage solutions is TCP/IP, so you deliver it straight over the web.  You can compare that to file systems, like NFS, or SMB and you have to put some layer of translation in front of it.  With object storage, you can also protect content continuously.  

Adrian Herrera: You mentioned RAID, which is a great example.  You know, RAID was developed to protect a disk and you protect a disk by adding certain amounts of additional disk and, if something goes wrong, you have to recover not only that specific piece of content, but the entire RAID sector, or the entire disk and, you know, recovery takes a long time.  

Adrian Herrera: When you think about storing data not as a sector across a file system and RAID set, but storing it as a complete object on a disk, or SSD, you can then do some very creative things from an automation perspective, very useful things.  You can automatically protect it, you can move it across the entire system, so that you’re continuously optimizing the system, you can store metadata with it and we’re seeing that more often these days.  It’s very easy to store, protect and access very, very large scale datasets and we’re talking hundreds of terabytes to hundreds of petabytes and millions to billions of files.  It’s an efficient way to store data, or to identify that information.

Larry Jordan: That gets me directly to Caringo.  How does Caringo implement object storage?  What am I getting from you and what does it do?

Adrian Herrera: As I mentioned we’re software vendors, so you get our software and you can either go out, or we’ll help you size the appropriate hardware.  We also have a number of partners in our own hardware plants that we can bring.  You either install our software on an x86 server hardware and you can mix and match.  That’s where a lot of the value comes in, you’re buying commodity servers and you are making them enterprise grade by installing our software.

Adrian Herrera: We also offer a number of interfaces and a lot of object storage vendors offer a lot of interfaces.  Historically, object storage has been around for a very long time, it’s been around as long as we’ve been around, we were one of the first in the space, if not the first in the space, so it’s been around over a decade.  The main interface, 12 years ago, was an API and, 12 years ago, APIs weren’t all that popular.  You know, applications wanted standards, they wanted SMB, they wanted SIS, they wanted NFS and that was one of the reasons why, you know, object storage took so long to really become mainstream and it’s mainstream now.  

Adrian Herrera: A lot of it has to do with the work that Amazon’s put in.  Amazon’s done a tremendous job of pushing web services, AWS and particularly S3 and they’ve basically got the entire industry comfortable with developing to APIs and RESTful interfaces and that’s one of the reasons why, you know, object storage is now taking off. That in conjunction with M&E organizations needing this technology.

Adrian Herrera: We hear, over and over again, the struggles of trying to provide nearly free storage in instant access.  You know, the production houses tell us that their customers, the studios, you know, when they work on projects for them, they want the production houses to store those projects indefinitely.  When they come knocking on the door again, for a new project, that uses some of the same content, they need them to provide those projects and that content instantly.  They don’t want to wait a day to go and grab it off the tape archives.  This is a very challenging issue for production houses.

Larry Jordan: Looking at the smaller end, for people that want to start with this, what would you describe as an organization size that should consider object storage and what’s an entry price?

Adrian Herrera: Any size organization.  We offer a free ten terabyte version of our software, fully functional, so, if organizations want to try it out, they can go ahead and come to our site and download it.  The reason why is, certain types of object storage aren’t just good at storing a lot of data, from a capacity perspective.  Some of them, like Caringo, are good at storing a lot of different files, small files, and that’s where file systems have trouble.  Object storage systems, by storing the content in a more complete way, are more efficient at storing very small files, for very long periods of time.  

Adrian Herrera: You know, traditionally you protect content via RAID, there’s a parity disk that you set in place. What object storage does is, it’s very similar to RAID, but it’s at the content level.  At its core, that’s what object storage does, it focuses the storage on content.  Traditional storage is really focused on the file system and the application’s needs.  Object storage is about the content, it’s about protecting the content, providing access to the content, managing it, providing metadata around that content, so it’s easy to search against, it just simplifies the process of preservation and content delivery.

Larry Jordan: If I’m a single user, just one or two people, that need to keep the files internally, I’m thinking video editing is the closest example, object storage is not going to help me a whole lot.  But if I have a wide-ranging organization, where I need to send files around to different offices, or different people, object storage would be a better use case there?

Adrian Herrera: Well it depends.  If you’re a small production shop and you have hundreds of terabytes of data and, you know, you’re struggling with protecting that.  You know, production studios now, they have to provide that project immediately.  There is a notion of scale here.  You know, we find that, if you have ten terabytes, you may be able to handle this with a NAS that you buy at price, but, once you start getting to the hundreds of terabytes level, that’s when your storage infrastructure takes a lot more care in feeding.  You know, you’re not going to plug in ten NASs and, you know, keep them going all the time.  You may, but that’s not going to scale effectively, so that’s when object storage really comes into play.

Adrian Herrera: But we have organizations that are really small, that are using us, we have a lot of organizations using us for, you know, tens of terabytes.

Larry Jordan: For people that want more information about Caringo, where can they go on the web?

Adrian Herrera: They can go to caringo.com.  For M&E customers, we do suggest going to our M&E section, we have a lot of great information on use cases and we produce a number of education webinars, so they can go to the resource sections and check those out.

Larry Jordan: Adrian Herrera is the VP of Marketing for Caringo and, AJ, thanks for joining us today, this has been fascinating.

Adrian Herrera: Thank you Larry.

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 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.  From 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: Erik Weaver is a specialist, focused on the intersection of the Cloud and the media and entertainment industry.  He’s currently creating strategy for HGST, this is a Western Digital Brand, and prior to HGST he worked with the USC Film School, to develop next generation Cloud standards to support global studios, as well as executive producing a number of award-winning films.  Hello Erik, welcome.

Erik Weaver: Thank you. Glad to be here.

Larry Jordan: Well we are glad you are here; because, in listening to the other interviews today, our brains have exploded and your job is to help us put it all back together into a nice neat package.  Because, tonight we’re looking at object storage. How would you define this from your perspective?

Erik Weaver: I would define object storage as the solution to the next generation of problems.  I would say that, without getting too deep into things like erasure coding and the other aspects of object storage, it’s to fundamentally overcome the limitations of RAID.  I’m not sure if you’re aware, but RAID basically hits a wall at about six terabytes. That means that, at six terabytes, your time to rebuild the system gets to a point in which you might have failure while rebuilding, so you may go into a permanent failure of rebuilding a drive.  Anybody who’s dealt with this understands this kind of pain.  Object storage is a way to scale up and out that steps over those limitations.

Larry Jordan: Is object storage hardware, am I buying an object storage box?  Or is it software?  Or is it a file system?  What is it?

Erik Weaver: Typically, object storage is software, it’s laying over fundamentally the same drives as other things, but you can buy it either way.

Larry Jordan: Does object storage enable me to find stuff better, or does it enable me to be more efficient with my storage capacity, or what?

Erik Weaver: It doesn’t actually provide a taxonomy or ontology to your metadata, or to your data itself, to help you find it better, but it allows you to grow that data bigger.  For example, right now, the new drives are going to be 40 terabytes by 2025, based on the microwave assisted technologies.  Understanding how to place all that data on these disks, it allows you to find it, but it doesn’t allow you to identify it or create those tags to it.  But, being able to structure that across multiple drives is absolutely critical.

Larry Jordan: This sounds like a really wonderful problem for somebody that’s well versed in IT, but why should us media people care?  Because, I mean, we can barely spell hard disk.

Erik Weaver: You’ve got to care because of kind of the two things that I talked about just a second ago.  The drive sizes are getting bigger and that’s what’s going to be out there.  The second thing is basically the content’s getting bigger.  There’s kind of a culmination of a problem.  If you start off with the new cameras, for example, the Arri ALEXA is a new one that just came out that shoots at 2.6 terabytes an hour.  That’s a lot of content, that stacks up very, very quickly.  

Erik Weaver: At the same time, the television sets on the opposite side are now coming out in UHD 10 or the new standards around ultra-high definition.  Between those two things, the middle is going to get squished to be producing that content.  You’re either going to have a huge amount of data coming straight from set, or you’re going to have somebody upstream pulling you, saying I need this content in this higher resolution.  The middle does really get squeezed and, whether we like it or not, we’re going to have to deal with it.

Larry Jordan: What do we need to do to implement object storage?  Do I need to throw out everything I’ve got and buy all new hardware, or can I retro-fit it and how much pain am I about to go through?

Erik Weaver: That is a fairly complex question.  I would reach out to an expert on that.  Most object storages can be based on some standardized protocol. For us, we use S3 or the same protocol that Amazon speaks.  A lot of people are already moving towards Clouds themselves, so this is basically your own on set private Cloud and, basically, that’s exactly why Google and Amazon go to it, because you can scale up and scale out for that data.  

Erik Weaver: But you would really need to sit down and look at the tools that you’re using and understand if they’re S3 compatible, or what you need to do in that workflow.  We also work with several different companies who create kind of that bridge, or that data mover between those different devices.

Larry Jordan: Well now I’m confused.  Does that mean that all of my media is not going to be stored locally, it’s going to be stored up to the Cloud? Because, if that’s the case, my bandwidth connection to the Cloud isn’t fast enough to be able to upload this.

Erik Weaver: I wouldn’t say that.  A lot of the object storage systems out nowadays are private object storage, so, it depends on how large you are.  You could either have your own private object storage, which would vary in size.  A lot of them start somewhat large, you know, upwards of 500 terabytes.  That’s pretty big.  But, once you get beyond that, it’s going to be a mixed evolution.  Sometimes you’ll have things on your site or, if you’re a slightly larger production company, you might have a mixture or a co-location facility that’s called an IOA, or an exchange based format, so you would basically place those racks in a co-location facility and then cross connect directly to an Amazon or Google.  It just depends on your size, or the size of the company.

Larry Jordan: I guess a bigger question is, who should even consider this?  I mean, clearly enterprises and companies that are in the hundreds of thousands of terabytes, but should a small documentary workgroup consider it?  If so, is there a border upon which we should say, ah I should move to object storage, or I should be okay with traditional storage?

Erik Weaver: I think it’s anybody who gets to the point of 200 terabytes and beyond.  That, or if you have a long-term strategy to go towards the Cloud.  Either one of those is about the point where you begin to really need to start thinking about this.

Larry Jordan: What does HGST have that helps us to get into this transition?

Erik Weaver: HGST actually has several different systems.  We’re typically a little bit more towards the enterprise class, we have systems that start around 500 terabytes and go up to 52 petabytes.  It’s not your everyday system, there’s a couple of other tools out there that we recommend for bridging the gap.  The one I like the best is a company called Avalanche.io, they’re a wonderful tool for filmmakers.  Basically, they give you a virtual desktop that shows you everything, making it look like it’s all right in front of you and it bridges between things like RP100, a G-rack, because we also own Gtech, and Amazon.  

Erik Weaver: It looks at all of your storage and it’s based on something called C4, or SMPTE standard 2114 and what that is, is that’s a hashing algorithm that’s standardized.  Internally, a lot of different solutions will look at things like MD5, or other different types of checksum, this is basically a standardized checksum.

Erik Weaver: This checksum is now beginning to be implemented all over the place, things like PIC systems to onset photo cam cards, or onset technicolor cards, or possibly even Colorfront.  A lot of the main tools are now beginning to implement this across the board, so that you know, absolutely, that you have the same file and how many copies of that file and how do you relate metadata to that file.  It’s a bit of a topic, but it’s a very important evolution in standardization for the community.

Larry Jordan: Well it sounds like, if I can summarize what you’ve been saying, if we’re one person working on a locally attached device, we don’t really need to worry about object storage immediately, but as our number of people in our workgroup expands, as our storage capacity expands, and as we need to send files outside a local workgroup, object storage is something we need to consider.  Have I summarized that correctly?

Erik Weaver: Absolutely. That’s a great summary.  This is not something for everybody, it’s a little bit more for large enterprise systems.  You do need to understand the fundamental characteristics that touch Cloud and why that’s important.  It’s all S3 typically driven, because that’s the protocol between the two and most object storage systems, and that there are tools out there, so you do need to understand what the tools are to move between different layers of storage.  

Erik Weaver: In the future, we’ve kind of gone from your standardized breakdowns of say an NAS/SAN object, then it goes to software defined, right?   But software defined basically has a heavy onus of integration that’s very challenging to keep up with.  But the third phase, kind of coming around the corner, is really that phase in which there’s a light coupling and easy way to connect with different software applications and protocols, which is via things like C4.  It helps create a structure to understand exactly where all your data is, at any particular time, and then create a Rosetta zone for the different resources.

Larry Jordan: For people who want more information about what HGST offers for object storage, where can they go on the web?

Erik Weaver: HGST.com/media.

Larry Jordan: That’s HGST.com/media and Erik Weaver is a specialist focusing on the intersection of the Cloud and the media entertainment industry. A luminary for the media and entertainment industry at HGST.  Erik, thanks for joining us today.

Erik Weaver: Thank you so much for having me.

Larry Jordan: I’ve been thinking a lot about storage recently.  Here at my office, I have about 200 terabytes of storage capacity, tracking just a bit more than 550,000 files and, even though I, or someone in my team created most of them, I’m still having a hard time finding the right file at the right time.  Every week, between my training and the Buzz, I create another 50 to 100 files that I need to store and track.  Adding to the challenge, I’m still accessing files that I created ten, even 15 years ago and I know, from all my emails, that I’m not unique.  

Larry Jordan: That was one of the driving reasons I had in wanting to do a show on object storage, I wanted to learn whether I could use it.  Object storage was first described in 1995, with active development starting around 2000.  It is at the heart of virtually every file stored on the web, from music on Spotify, to files on Dropbox and everything on Amazon.  It seeks to solve the inherent limitations of traditional hierarchical file systems, such as Windows or HFS Plus, which limit the number of files that we can store in a folder, or on a hard disk, or in a RAID.

Larry Jordan: Additionally, while RAIDs protect us from a hard disk crash, object storage can protect us from a file crash, where a media file becomes corrupt and can’t be played.  Objects contain additional descriptive properties, which can be used for better indexing, or file management, as well, we don’t need to spend time setting up RAIDs or managing hard disks.  Object storage also allows the addressing and identification of individual objects by more than just file name and file path, we no longer have to worry about two files erasing each other, because they have the same name.

Larry Jordan: The problem is, that currently, object storage systems are expensive and difficult to implement.  That’s what companies like Symply and HGST are trying to change.  By now, we know that media production, editing and distribution are only going to make the file management problem worse.  Object storage is not for everyone, at least not yet, but our current system is rapidly running out of room to expand.  As Erik Weaver said, at some point, we will need to change how we store our files.

Larry Jordan: Learning more about object storage gives us a better understanding of our current problems and helps us plan the transition to whatever we’ll be using in the future.  Just something I’m thinking about.

Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests for this week, Tom Coughlin of Coughlin and Associates, Alex Grossman of Symply Inc, AJ Herrera of Caringo, Erik Weaver of HGST, and James DeRuvo with doddleNEWS.  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. And remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter that comes out every Saturday.

Larry Jordan: Talk with us on Twitter 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 2018 by Thalo LLC.

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