Julian Slater, Sound Designer/Supervising Sound Editor, Sony Pictures
Christian Cooke and Brad Zoern, Post Production Sound Mixer, Deluxe, Toronto
Jeff Berryman, Senior Scientist, Bosch Communication Systems
Christopher Johnson, President and Founder, Mediaworkstations.net
Robert Kiraz, Co-Founder and CEO, StudioBinder
James DeRuvo, Editor-in-Chief, DoddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight on the Buzz, we look at audio mixing, hardware and production planning. We start with Oscar nominated sound designer Julian Slater. He has more than 75 features to his credit. Tonight, we talk about how he creates the soundscape for a film, including his recent sound design and mixing on Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
Larry Jordan: Next, we move to an Oscar winning film, The Shape of Water and talk with its two re-recording mixers, Christian Cooke and Brad Zoern. They’ve worked as an audio team for more than ten years, and tonight they talk about how they created the final audio mix for this Oscar winning film.
Larry Jordan: Jeff Berryman claims that the amount of information a media professional needs to know about how to use networks is more than they should need to know. Jeff is a senior scientist for Bosch Communications and chair of several AES standards committees. Tonight he explains what we need to know to become intelligent users of network equipment.
Larry Jordan: Next we turn from audio to hardware. Mediaworkstations.net is a company that customizes computer hardware to meet the specific high performance needs of media professionals. Tonight we talk with president and founder, Christopher Johnson about how they create tailor made hardware for media pros.
Larry Jordan: Production planning can be a headache filled with ever present deadlines, mountains of paperwork and thousands of details to track. Tonight we talk with Robert Kiraz, co founder and CEO of StudioBinder, a cloud based solution to help put everything in one place and reduce your stress.
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. Tonight we have a variety of things to talk about but we’re going to start with audio which seems appropriate for an audio podcast. Our first two interviews revolve around Oscar nominated films and audio mixers. As you listen to the interviews with Justin Slater, Christian Cooke and Brad Zoern, listen to the size and diversity of the teams they work with to bring the sound of our movies to life. Many times as I sit in a dark editing room working on a project, I wonder what it would be like to be part of a bigger team working on a larger project. Tonight’s interviews provide an interesting perspective on what’s possible and how it works.
Larry Jordan: Then we turn our attention to improving our network skills, creating custom high performance hardware for visual effects, and improving our production planning. We have some fascinating guests tonight and I’m looking forward to our conversation.
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 morning.
Larry Jordan: Now it’s time for our doddleNEWS update with James DeRuvo. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Happy Thursday Larry.
Larry Jordan: A very happy Thursday to you, and I will let you know that it’s less than four weeks to NAB.
James DeRuvo: Less than a month.
Larry Jordan: So what have we got for news today?
James DeRuvo: Well you remember that story that we talked about last week, it was actually more of a rumor that Canon might be shifting focus to mirrorless camera technology?
Larry Jordan: Yes.
James DeRuvo: Granted, they’ve been making mirrorless cameras for a while but it’s always been as an also ran, but now we’re starting to hear that they’re going to start focusing on mirrorless, and it kind of makes sense because if you look at the rental numbers for 2017, Sony mirrorless cameras and the Panasonic GH5 were at the top of the list. They’re very popular with runners and gunners who want to rent a camera for the weekend and shoot. We’ve got a couple of interviews this week, one from Canon’s CEO Fujio Mitarai, and from Sony Camera manager, Kenji Tanaka, that seemed to add weight to this notion that Canon is actually shifting towards mirrorless and Nikon may be coming along with them. It comes from Tanaka saying at Camera Plus this week that he expects both Canon and Nikon to have full frame mirrorless cameras for sale within a year. Canon’s CEO Mitarai basically said that Canon plans to go on the offensive in the mirrorless camera realm, and so this is going to make that category very interesting if Canon takes mirrorless and runs with it seriously.
Larry Jordan: Looks like there’s more mirrorless cameras in our future. What’s our second story?
James DeRuvo: It’s Canon camera day here at the Buzz. The Canon 5D Mark IV has developed a minor high frame rate issue. It’s not a deal breaker if you don’t use the Canon mobile app. If you use the Canon mobile app on the android side, there’s no confirmation of it for iOS yet, but when Canon’s Android remote app triggers high frame rate in the 5D Mark IV, it could cause the camera to hang up and crash and the only way to clear it is to remove the battery, count to ten seconds, and then pop it back in.
Larry Jordan: So what’s the specific issue?
James DeRuvo: There’s a bit of code that is causing the handshake between the Android app and the camera itself to hang up, and that’s causing the camera to crash. More often than not this is bad code that’s in the app, not in the camera itself. Canon is aware of the problem. They responded immediately to users who have complained about the issue, and they should have a firmware fix out within the next four to six weeks. But it’s a salient reminder that our cameras are more computers than imaging devices these days, and sometimes they can simply crash when they get a command they don’t understand.
Larry Jordan: We’ve heard about Nikon, and Sony and Canon. Do you have any stories that don’t involve cameras this week?
James DeRuvo: I have a software story. Adobe announced this week that for the first time in five years they’re raising the price of Creative Cloud. Starting April 16th, there’s going to be a modest six percent price increase for Creative Cloud, in both piecemeal and all-you-can-eat subscriptions. But it’s not that big a deal. The increase amounts to between $1-2 a month and if you’re a student user, or you are using the Adobe photography plan, those plans are going to remain as is, unaffected, and you’ll be paying the same amount.
Larry Jordan: Is this Adobe’s first price increase?
James DeRuvo: Very first price increase and when you consider how dramatically they’ve expanded the entire Creative Cloud catalog, they’ve added applications like Adobe Character Animator, Adobe Spark, Adobe Stock and others, no increase in five years, that’s really impressive. The increase doesn’t even amount to the cost of a latte at Starbucks, so I don’t even think it’s a big deal. But the good news is, if you just signed up or renewed your subscription, that increase won’t appear until your renewal date. So that could be up to a year.
Larry Jordan: News from Adobe. What other stories are you following this week?
James DeRuvo: Well other stories we’re following include Rycote has a great microphone blimp kit that can be modified to be even smaller. I reviewed the Robo R2 3D printer and boy, that was an odyssey. My question to you this week Larry, is are cinema cameras getting too complicated?
Larry Jordan: The answer is yes and no. If it has the controls that you need, no, and if it has more controls than you need, yes. Where can we go on the web to read 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 James, as always, thanks for joining us and we’ll talk to you next week.
James DeRuvo: See you next week.
Female voice: Starting Monday April 9, join the Digital Production Buzz at the 2018 NAB show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Larry Jordan and the Buzz team are taking their microphones on the road to cover the latest news and announcements from the largest media show in the world. Every hour of every day, the Buzz is live on the trade show floor. More than 100 interviews creating 27 new shows in four days. The Buzz has webcast directly from NAB for ten years and our coverage is legendary, heard in more than 195 countries around the world. If you’re attending the show, visit us at booth SL10 527 and say “Hello.” If you can’t attend, visit NABshowbuzz.com for a schedule of shows and guests. That’s NABshowbuzz.com and join the Buzz at NAB.
Larry Jordan: Julian Slater has created sound for more than 75 feature films and television shows over a 25 year career. These include most recently Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Baby Driver. He was nominated this year for two Academy Awards for best sound mixing, and best sound editing, and is a two time Emmy award nominee. Hello Julian, welcome.
Julian Slater: Thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: 75 features is a ton of work. What first got you interested in sound mixing?
Julian Slater: That’s the first time anyone has ever relayed that kind of information to me, and I’m slightly shocked at hearing that. I guess it’s been quite a lot of work over the course of the last 25 years.
Larry Jordan: What got you started? What is it that hooked your interest in audio?
Julian Slater: A number of things, and looking back on them now I can probably identify them. I know it was the cassette Walkman whereby I spent a ton of my time listening to music and getting interested in any kind of music, and I do remember when I was about nine or ten, seeing a documentary with Ben Burtt, the sound designer of Star Wars, and how he came up with the sounds of the laser blasters and Chewbacca and the TIE fighters. Even though I didn’t know it at the time, I think that had a big effect, like a lightbulb moment. Then latterly, when I was about 12, I do remember seeing the music video for the Police, Every Little Thing She Does is Magic. They’re on this big mixing desk and they’re just pushing these faders up and down, and I distinctly remember thinking, “Wow. That looks really cool. I want to do that.” Fast forward 25 years, that’s kind of what I’m doing.
Larry Jordan: You’ve worked in a variety of different audio roles. Which do you enjoy the most?
Julian Slater: It can depend on the production. I wear three hats. I’m a sound designer which means I can sit there for weeks and weeks coming up with some weird and wonderful noises that may or may not get used. I’m a supervising sound editor which means I run a team of other sound editors, and with that I have two roles. One is I have a duty to the producer to bring the project in on budget. And at the very least it’s to give the director what he or she is thinking for their sound for their movie, and hopefully it’s to go further than that, and to help them get stuff they probably didn’t even think could be possible.
Larry Jordan: When have you had a producer say, “Don’t worry about the budget, spend whatever you need?” And when have you ever had a director say, “I don’t care about my creative vision, I want to save money?”
Julian Slater: Exactly. I do remember on Shaun of the Dead, which was the first time I’d worked and I had my own post facility at that time, we put in a budget quote and it’s the only time I’ve ever been told I was too cheap because I was an unknown entity, I hadn’t really done big features at that point. Universal were worried it was so cheap that it meant that I didn’t really know what I was doing, which wasn’t the case at all. But that’s the only time subsequent in my career that I’ve been told that the quote is too low. It is a tricky high wire act sometimes to accomplish those two roles successfully.
Julian Slater: Then there’s the third role I was going to say which is the re-recording mixer, which is the person who sits there on the desk and then blends all those hundreds and hundreds of elements together to make it work as one whole, hopefully harmonious sounding soundtrack.
Larry Jordan: Let’s shift gears to the specific. Recently you worked on Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. What did you do?
Julian Slater: All three of those. So that was me involved for eight months as the sound designer coming up with the sound of the hippos for example, and the charging rhinos in the helicopter sequence. As the co-supervisor, there was me and another guy who we shared the duties on running a team of six or seven editors, and that was over the course of six months. Then, mixing it was quite a big thing on this project. I think we mixed for something like maybe even eight weeks in total.
Larry Jordan: What took so long?
Julian Slater: VFX kept coming in late, the schedule got pushed because various reasons. With a movie like that, you’ve got a lot of visual effects that are continually coming in and you kind of settle on the sounds at one point for say the helicopter, which is moving in one way at one particular point in the sequence, and then the new turnover comes through and it’s doing something different. If you’ve already done a mix on that, you need to rework all the elements and then remix it, so that’s what we were doing. For Jumanji I was on that for nine months, so that’s quite a long stint.
Larry Jordan: Put your sound designer hat on, and let’s talk about the jungle sounds in Jumanji. Where do you start, and how do you create them? Do you record something naturally or start with something artificially generated? Walk me through your process.
Julian Slater: It’s a bit of both of those actually. The great thing about Jumanji is it’s a computer game. You don’t really have to be beholden to any reality. Jumanji is a place that doesn’t exist, and therefore we can have fun with the sounds. So we wanted the sounds of Jumanji to change as the guys were walking through the jungle. I’ve a vast library of sound effects from various commercial sound effects libraries, from previous movies that I’ve worked on. But then you also go out and you record some stuff. Because I wasn’t beholden to, this is a jungle that is based in Borneo or in the rain forest in Brazil, you can do what you want. As long as it sounds right, and as long as everyone agrees that it sounds right, you can kind of do anything you want. So along with regular jungle noises, I took things like wolves crying and howling and slowing them down, and making weird noises that hopefully prick up your ears a bit and make you a bit on edge when there’s tension about to happen.
Julian Slater: There’s no hard and fast rules to it, and as long as it’s something that hopefully excites the audience, and helps tell a story, then go for it and have fun and do something that’s hopefully unique.
Larry Jordan: How do you and the director communicate when you’re trying to describe something that doesn’t yet exist?
Julian Slater: That’s a good question. The thing that I find about my job for want of a better phrase, the challenge about it, and also the fun thing about it, is no two directors hear sounds the same. I literally came off a plane on a Friday night from Baby Driver where I spent seven months in the UK working with Edgar Wright, who thinks about sound in one very particular way, and then I had the weekend off and then I came into work on a Monday and started Jumanji with Jake who thinks about sound in a completely different way, and I’d never worked with Jake before so my role is to try and tap into how that director feels about sound and what it is they’re after, and try and get into their brain as quickly as possible to start servicing their needs.
Julian Slater: It’s not necessarily a case of going through the movie and literally watching it through and them saying, “This is what I want here, this is what I want there.” That doesn’t really happen so much, what’s called spotting sessions where you literally sit through the whole movie. You just have a conversation and you talk emotion and some tableaux of sound and then I’ll go away and start creating stuff and the director will come in, play the first sequence, and hopefully they’ll say “Oh that’s great, that’s exactly the kind of the thing I’m looking for,” or “That’s not quite right, and this is the thing that isn’t quite gelling for me.” It’s a to and fro process the whole time. You know, there’s no point talking about sounds, we may as well start playing with sounds and seeing how those sounds work within the environment, against the music, or against the dialog and do a trial of it, and then adjust to taste and progress on that. You’re constantly throwing up ideas and hopefully the majority of them work. Sometimes they don’t, more often they do, and it’s about being flexible and not having a specific idea.
Julian Slater: I used to say from day one I know exactly how this is going to sound, but I don’t believe that any more at all. I really do think it’s experimentation and how you feel something should feel on day one of the process is not necessarily how you feel it should sound on day 30 or month two or month four. It changes as the movie changes.
Larry Jordan: What characteristics or skill sets does someone need from your perspective, to be successful in sound design and sound mixing?
Julian Slater: Let me tell you my attitude. I deeply believe you’ve got to be a team player. If you’re someone like me who’s a team leader, I lead the sound crew, you’ve got to lead by example. There are people who do what I do who don’t even do the work, they just come into a room and tell other people what to do and I don’t believe in that. I do the work and I try and teach the work that I do, to try and pass on the knowledge to people around me if they’re fresher in the industry. I believe a good strength that you should have is to try and think outside the box. Just to reflect what is on screen is the easy thing. I think anyone can do that and mirror the images with a sound. It’s trying to come from it from a different angle, and trying to think what can be done to make it sound unique. What can be done to enhance tension or dramatic moments, and emotional moments? That’s not necessarily reflecting what’s on screen at all.
Julian Slater: Also, as a sound designer and as a mixer, sometimes those two roles are almost the same thing. Taking away sounds can be just as important as adding sounds and as a sound designer, if you’ve spent three weeks working on a very cool sound, it’s very easy to get offended or upset if it even makes through to the mix, and the director says, “I don’t like this, let’s try something else.” Try not to be wedded. If you feel it’s right and you feel that it warrants it, you’ve got to go bat for your sounds, and you’ve got to state your reason why but you should never really be too wedded because a mix on a movie has got hundreds of elements and just changing a piece of music for another piece of music can completely change the tone of a scene, and therefore all the other sounds that are working with it.
Julian Slater: So I would say, good people person, try and think outside the box.
Larry Jordan: Give me an example of what outside the box means to you.
Julian Slater: Trying to make a sound that you wouldn’t necessarily expect it to be. As an example, Steve who was one of the picture editors on Jumanji, he’s on his next job, this was a few weeks ago, and he emailed me in a panic. He said, “I’ve been trying to make a sound of on this thing of a blood explosion, and I have nothing in my library for it.” I said, “Well try finding a mud splat, try finding an explosion, try to find a canon boom, and then find something completely random to put over the top of it.” He said, “Why so?” and I said, “Well in Jumanji they’re on these motorbikes and they’ve got these big canons and whenever they fire the canon, there’s a screaming sound which is actually a gibbon screaming,” which is something you would not necessarily put on the sound of a canon blast but it gives it its own unique tone, unique sound to it. I like to think that if you close your eyes, as you get towards the end of the movie and you hear that sound again, you’ll know what it is, because it’s been lodged in your brain. Steve was like, “Oh wow, that’s great, that’s amazing.” I said, “Well that’s what I did for the canons in Jumanji, I just picked something random.” There’s not necessarily a methodology to it, there’s the phrase of throwing paint at the wall and seeing what sticks. So that’s the kind of thing, it’s trying to think not just “OK, what does a canon sound like?” It’s trying to explore your peripheral vision a bit.
Larry Jordan: You’ve been doing this for a long time. What is it that still gets you excited about getting up in the morning?
Julian Slater: I literally feel like I have just started my career. I mean, the whole thing with Baby Driver and the two Oscar noms and I’m still very young. A lot of my fellow nominees this year were 20 years in advance of me. I really feel like I’ve yet to set out what I started to do. I came to LA to do a movie that never happened, and I had a year’s worth of work disappear and realized when this year’s worth of work disappeared that all my directors, all my picture editors and producers I’d left in the UK and I didn’t know anyone and I had to start from scratch. I’m very proud that after just four and a half years, I’ve kind of got to this point where I’ve done two double Oscar nomination in the BAFTA noms, but I still feel there’s further to go, so that’s what drives me in the morning.
Larry Jordan: Julian, for people that want to hire you for their next gig, where can they find you on the web?
Julian Slater: You could go to Imdb or Imdb Pro, and just search my name, Julian Slater, and my contact details are in there.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, julianslater, and the Julian Slater himself is the voice you’re listening to. Julian this has been fun, thank you so much for your time.
Julian Slater: Thank you so much.
Larry Jordan: Christian Cooke and Brad Zoern are re-recording sound mixers at Deluxe in Toronto. Both were nominated for an Oscar this year for their work audio mixing The Shape of Water. Hello Christian, and welcome Brad.
Christian Cooke: Hi.
Brad Zoern: Thank you very much.
Larry Jordan: Christian, I want to start first, you guys work often as a team. When did you first start working together?
Christian Cooke: Only about ten years ago.
Larry Jordan: What brought you together?
Christian Cooke: We were on a TV series called Lost Girl for Jay Firestone.
Larry Jordan: Were you mixing at that time or were you doing other audio work?
Christian Cooke: Mixing. We were both mixers.
Larry Jordan: Brad, what got you interested in sound mixing back many years ago?
Brad Zoern: My first full time job was at a post production studio so I originally wanted to do music as most of the people that come into this business, were musicians beforehand, and I really enjoyed the post aspect of the job and found it a much more secure future and not going deaf at the age of 30 from doing music.
Larry Jordan: Christian, how did you get the gig mixing The Shape of Water?
Christian Cooke: … the post supervisor if I was the available.
Larry Jordan: It shouldn’t be that easy to get a project that good.
Christian Cooke: I said “I think I’m available, let me check my schedule.”
Brad Zoern: Also you had done Strain with Guillermo.
Christian Cooke: I did the Strain, I did the pilot with Guillermo.
Larry Jordan: Christian, tell me about the process you followed in mixing the file. Did both you guys do the exact same work, or did you separate the job? Go into some detail on this.
Christian Cooke: Well I did the dialog and the music and Brad handled all the good stuff. Well, the music was amazing, the dialog was pretty good too, it was all great.
Larry Jordan: There wasn’t a whole lot of dialog. Your lead character didn’t speak. This is striking me as opting for not a lot of work.
Christian Cooke: You’d be surprised. There was a lot of extra breaths. Nelson Ferreira did a full breath pass with Sally for the whole movie, the entire film. Like every time she moved or breathed, so there was a lot of breaths to add into the already existing production track.
Larry Jordan: Why was the breathing so important?
Christian Cooke: Guillermo wanted to bring her, not more to life, I’m not sure how to describe it, but he just wanted her presence on the screen.
Larry Jordan: Brad, if Christian is doing the dialog and the music, what’s left to you?
Brad Zoern: All the background, ambiance, I mixed those as well as the sound effects and all of the creature sounds and all that as well as foley.
Larry Jordan: How much of that was artificially created, and how much of it was just a recording of the natural world?
Brad Zoern: The only thing naturally recorded on the set in that would have probably been 70 percent of the lead dialog. That’s about it. Everything else has been edited by our amazing sound editing team, and the supervising sound editor, sound designer Nathan Robitaille who did all the creature voice and everything like that as well as our foley guys who basically brought the creature to life by doing skin movements, feet, all that sort of thing to put it on the screen and give it some life, because basically everything I had was recreated in a sound edit beforehand. Not a lot from the original location recordings other than some dialog was what was original in that movie.
Larry Jordan: How big a team were you working with, from an audio point of view?
Brad Zoern: Our editorial team on the effects was headed up by Nathan Robitaille who was the sound designer, and probably about four sound effects editors, a couple of guys that did the background, ambient editing and then our foley team which is our foley artists, foley editor and our foley mixer. So between all those guys, they made up for the editorial team on the sound design, sound effects and foley side of things, and the dialog side would have been three or four, Nelson Ferreira and Jill Purdey.
Larry Jordan: Christian, I know you took the lead on the project. What happened when you and Brad would disagree on how something’s supposed to be mixed?
Christian Cooke: Guillermo would let us know. We don’t often disagree, we have a very similar mindset as to how to approach a film or a TV show, so.
Brad Zoern: That’s why we’ve lasted ten years together.
Christian Cooke: We’re like an old married couple.
Brad Zoern: Chris is what my wife calls my work wife.
Christian Cooke: Work wife.
Larry Jordan: Brad, what were your biggest challenges putting the soundtrack together?
Brad Zoern: It would have been the creature. We created the sound of him from the bottom up. There was absolutely nothing there beforehand, so just making that sound real and putting it into the space and having it work with the production dialog that was recorded on location, it was probably the biggest challenge for me, so it sounded natural. If it didn’t sound natural, it’s going to take you out of the moment of the film and the magic of the film. That was my biggest challenge, just making it sound like I didn’t do any work.
Larry Jordan: Christian, now that you’re looking at the film, what are you proudest of?
Christian Cooke: I’m proudest of this movie. What an incredible experience to be involved with all the people that we had the pleasure of working with, and I don’t know, it just opened your eyes I guess as to what’s possible.
Larry Jordan: Christian, for people who want to keep track of the work that you’re doing, where do you work and where can we go on the web to learn more?
Larry Jordan: And Brad, same question. I know you’re freelance, how can people keep track of you?
Larry Jordan: Christian Cooke and Brad Zoern are re-recording sound mixers working out of Deluxe in Toronto. Gentlemen, thank you so very much for joining me today.
Brad Zoern: Thank you very much.
Christian Cooke: It was a pleasure.
Brad Zoern: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: Jeff Berryman is a senior scientist for Bosch Communications and chair of several AES standards committees. He also has strong opinions about what we need to know about networking. Hello Jeff, welcome.
Jeff Berryman: Hi Larry, thank you very much.
Larry Jordan: Jeff, how would you describe what you do, when you are not working with AES?
Jeff Berryman: My job title is Senior Scientist, and what that really means is they didn’t know what to call me, but I work a lot on future technology planning, early stage product architectures and some technology evaluations that we do for incoming technologies and also I do a little programming just to keep my hand in.
Larry Jordan: Enough to keep you out of trouble. Alright, how would you describe what you do as part of AES?
Jeff Berryman: Well as part of AES I chair a couple of committees that are working on developing standards for media networking, for the networking that we need in professional audio broadcasting. The two committees in particular I work with, one of them is a committee that is responsible for an AES standard called AES 70 which is a way of remote controlling devices over a network. The other committee is working a little bit more futuristically trying to figure out what is going to be needed in the future for what are called network directories, like a phone book for networks that lets you find things. When we get up to networks with thousands of devices, it’s a … problem. So we’ll eventually be having standards in that area too. That area’s a little developmental.
Larry Jordan: Well you’re working about three to five years ahead of the rest of us, but is part of the area you’re working with this new idea of audio over IP?
Jeff Berryman: Yes, very much so. The audio over IP area is certainly full upon us. The AES has a very well known standard in that area called AES 67 which is a standard that defines how you send sound over an IP network, and the work I do has something to do with that, but it also is a companion piece to AES 67 which is a standard to test how you control devices that receive that sound. You know, the quick one liner we have is, “You can send sound over a network, but what are you going to do with it when it gets there?” So that’s the question that I spend most of my time on and other AES colleagues are spending time on how to send sound in the first place.
Larry Jordan: I remember years before you were born working in broadcast television and we thought the ability to punch a button, and have a remote video tape machine start playback was about the best it was going to get. This sounds like the next evolution of that?
Jeff Berryman: Yes, it is the next evolution of that. We really think that in order to have a complete networking solution in your production facility, or other audio applications and video applications, you’re going to need to be able to not only send the program material around from place to place, but you’re also going to have to have a lot of remote control over the devices. I’m aware of one radio installation that’s being developed in Europe right now, where they have a cluster of studios in something like this 70 mile diameter circle and they all share common signal processing capabilities in a server room someplace. So with applications like that, you need not only good ways to send the sound around, but good ways to control what’s happening to it.
Larry Jordan: You’ve said that there’s a problem with how we use our network equipment. What’s the problem with it?
Jeff Berryman: Well it isn’t so much a problem with how we use it, as the problem with how we talk about it. I mean, if you look at the dialogs that are going around the broadcast community right now that there’s a bunch of people that are interested in business and operations and management, and they’re very concerned with planning studio workflows, optimizing resources, booking equipment, managing inventories, managing repairs and maintenance, and generally speaking with all of those highly financially leveraged activities that make you maximize use of your capital plant. That’s one bunch.
Jeff Berryman: The other bunch is talking about more like the remote button on the tape machine, is how once you have a studio there, how do you make everything, all the equipment all play nicely together, make the cues pop when they’re supposed to pop? So that’s the device control problem. Those two crowds are both wanting network solutions but often they don’t realize they’re talking different things. So sometimes you get in these conversations and people are talking at cross purposes. You have the high level business people, studio management people wanting stuff, the low level device control people wanting stuff. There are some commonalities but basically the problems need to be addressed separately. That’s what I see right now in the industry is going on.
Larry Jordan: Well how does AES get involved with this?
Jeff Berryman: AES doesn’t get involved with the studio management problem or at least they haven’t done so far. What I call the high level problem, optimizing resources, that is not the province of AES. Other people are working on that, the EBU, the European Broadcast Union has done a lot of signature work. There’s another group called the Joint Task Force on Network Media that’s very interested in that. SMPTE, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, another professional organization, a parallel to the AES, is very interested in that question, as are other trade associations as well. The AES is really more interested in the smaller question of how you control devices and so on. The reason for that is that the AES has a constituency that extends not only to the broadcast community, but also the professional audio community, the airport paging systems and concert sound systems and installed theater systems etcetera, and a lot of those applications don’t have the resource management challenges that broadcast does. So in fact, it’s the broadcast oriented organizations, national associated broadcasters and so on, that are really focusing on the high level problem. AES is focusing on the low level problem.
Larry Jordan: But it seems to me, and let’s just wear an AES hat for a minute, it seems to me that one of the fall outs of this is, I could have a server farm based in a city, and because there’s no law sending audio over IP, I don’t need local stations any more. I don’t need local engineers, it could all be one remotely out of a single control room? If that’s true, are audio engineers concerned about that over the long term?
Jeff Berryman: I haven’t heard those concerns because it seems to me that as much as networking allows centralization, it also allows decentralization. So while you might have a lot of servers in the center, if I understand your question correctly, I can imagine a lot of servers in the center doing the leg work of mixing and image processing and sound processing and storing programs, storage and all that stuff. But those servers could be accessed remotely, so in fact you know you’re looking at a situation where you’re almost increasing the ability to do things locally. You can create a whole production from a location van if you want to because you can access these remote facilities very well. So I don’t see that the centralization is necessarily the only outcome, and I don’t see if things do get centralized it will necessarily put people out of work. I think it’ll give them more freedom.
Larry Jordan: Interesting. For people that want more information about what AES is doing, where can they go on the web?
Jeff Berryman: AES website is aes.org. That’s the easiest place to go. The companion society, the Society for Motion Picture and Television Engineers that I mentioned is at smpte.org.
Larry Jordan: That’s aes.org and Jeff Berryman is running one of the standards committees for AES, and Jeff, thanks for joining us today.
Jeff Berryman: Larry, it’s been a pleasure.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Christopher Johnson is the visionary behind the high performance hardware from Mediaworkstations.net. As founder and president of the company, he is responsible for company sales, marketing and research and development, as well as their strategic direction. Hello Christopher, welcome.
Christopher Johnson: Hi Larry.
Larry Jordan: How would you describe Mediaworkstations.net?
Christopher Johnson: Well, we’re a team of creative artists and technologists and computer hardware experts we like to think, that are focused on supporting the community of media production, content creation. We’re based in Los Angeles, we were founded in 2010, basically to serve studio teams, visual effects artists, designers, media professional, anyone who is doing content creation work worldwide.
Larry Jordan: There’s no shortage of computers out there. Why did you decide to start the company?
Christopher Johnson: My wife introduced me to a video game which I got addicted to. These people are constantly talking about computer hardware, specifically graphics cards most often. After building about seven of these machines, my wife asked me “So what are you going to do with these seven computers you’ve built?” I promptly sold them on Craigslist, and one of the people that showed up was a media professional, here in LA, and he wanted all these kinds of upgrades and I started to think about it being a business. I can’t think of a better place to be than Los Angeles and in short order, we got a couple of celebrity clients and we were off and running.
Christopher Johnson: If it comes to the real value of what we’re providing the media professional, if you call up Apple or Dell or HP and you say your core applications are Premiere Pro, After Effects, Cinema 4D and Octane Render, and what’s the best hardware for you? You’re going to get crickets. But we know what’s best for that workflow. We can walk through customers to show component by component what is going to best support the work that they’re doing. That’s what we provide.
Larry Jordan: What are your products? You’ve talked about the products, but what are your products?
Christopher Johnson: We’re actually providing custom built workstations, portables and servers and storage. So those are the four buckets. Workstations are variety, we have Dual Xeon workstations, we have Intel Core products, and we have AMD Threadripper in our workstations. Then on the server side, we have CPU oriented servers and GPU optimized servers. We have storage products and we have portables, which are not laptops. These are workstations which are more like basically a workstation where the keyboard and the monitors fold up onto the keyboard and they’re basically portable studios. They can have up to three graphics cards and up to 30 terabytes of storage. It’s a full on workstation. For DITs, and directors of photography etcetera, it’s ideal.
Larry Jordan: A big limitation as one of your reviewers wrote, is that your hardware is Windows only. How do you reassure Mac users that it’s safe to migrate to Windows?
Christopher Johnson: Well, that’s a really good question. We do build Linux workstations as well and a lot of the larger enterprise clients often have us just build and stability test the hardware. No OS installed. So there’s a variety of different operating systems needs, but for Mac people, I think the thing to say is it’s very stressful for them thinking about that they can have hardware that’s two, three, five, ten times more powerful than what they’re working with. So it’s constantly on their mind. One of the options that we’ve found that’s helpful to them, in making that move, is if they’ve got render needs, and this is a really common one, they’re working in Adobe CC and Cinema 4D, and their Macs cannot handle Cinema 4D renders. You can purchase a Dual Xeon workstation, or a GPU optimized workstation, just to handle those render jobs and you can connect that workstation via SMB to all the Macs. There’s no issue. So that’s one way you can start to integrate without making the leap cold turkey, I’m dropping Macs and I’m going over to PC. That’s one way we can help the Mac community with the work that they have to do.
Larry Jordan: A lot of times, creative people have no clue what the hardware actually is, they just simply turn it on and start to use it. How do you help us create a customized system that meets our needs?
Christopher Johnson: The place we start with is what are your core applications? Typically the three most used applications are what drive the hardware, because what we’re ultimately providing is insight into how the software talks to the hardware. Is it efficient? And in what ways is it efficient? How is it using the hardware? So going through that with people it then becomes apparent to them what is going to be best and we explain why. For example in Premiere Pro, and After Effects and Photoshop, you’re never going to use more than six to eight cores on any CPU. So a Dual Xeon configuration doesn’t make sense for someone who’s doing that kind of work.
Christopher Johnson: If you use Cinema 4D, if you’re doing motion graphics, or modeling, it’s important to ask the customer “What are you doing with Cinema? Are you just doing modeling and motion graphics or do you use physical render or do you use a render engine like Octane or Redshift to support your rendering needs?” All of those things help determine what’s going to be best, not only what applications they’re using but how they’re using the application.
Larry Jordan: How would you describe the typical customer?
Christopher Johnson: Most of our customers are CG, visual effects artists, edit and color. It’s mostly Adobe CC, Avid, Cinema 4D, Autodesk products like 3DS Max and Maya, V-Ray, Arnold, Octane and Redshift, and DaVinci Resolve for color.
Larry Jordan: What would you most like our listeners to know about your products?
Christopher Johnson: We’re not selling you what we sell. We’re selling you on what’s best for you. One of the things I think your listeners will probably notice if they go to HP or Dell, or even Apple, your options are limited and a lot of times those options are not best for a content creation workflow. We also understand what’s required of creative excellence and the big monster in the background is time. If you’ve got poorly sourced or underpowered hardware, it has a huge impact. Projects go, your team capabilities and ultimately the thing you least wanted to impact, the creative process itself. We’re here to liberate and empower people’s creative capabilities.
Larry Jordan: For people that need more information, where can they go on the web to learn about you and your company?
Christopher Johnson: Mediaworkstations.net.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, mediaworkstations.net and Christopher Johnson is the founder and CEO, and Christopher, thanks for joining us today.
Christopher Johnson: 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 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: Robert Kiraz has a background as a serial entrepreneur with a specialization in film and entertainment technology. Currently Robert is the co-founder and CEO of StudioBinder, a project management solution for production companies and ProductionBeast, a job board and social network for video professionals. Hello Robert, welcome.
Robert Kiraz: Hey Larry, thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: How would you describe StudioBinder the company?
Robert Kiraz: StudioBinder solves a big problem in the entertainment industry. I often joke that throughout the entire history of cinema there’s probably never been an efficient production. Most productions get done but they’re very rarely efficient. We know there’s a lot of great post production software out there, but there really isn’t a great pre-production and production management solution in the Cloud. So that’s what we’re looking to solve. So StudioBinder is a proxy management solution made specifically for video creatives so they can use it to manage their talent and their crew details. They can create production calendars and share it with their colleagues, they can create tasks and shot lists and storyboards and shooting schedules and script breakdowns and even generate call sheets that are personalized to the recipient and send them out and track them all within the Cloud. On top of that, document storage in the Cloud as well. For us, the way we look at is, it doesn’t matter if you’re a videographer or an agency or a production company, or even a brand, if you’re creating video on a recurring basis, being efficient is really important, saving hours in planning time really adds up and that means that you’re saving on labor too. That’s what we’re looking to solve is to try to make production management a lot more efficient.
Larry Jordan: Well production management is not something a six year old looks up at the stars and says, “When I grow up I’m going to invent production management software.” What was it that first caught your attention with this?
Robert Kiraz: My background’s in filmmaking. I studied filmmaking at SC, so my background is very much rooted as a writer/director. But in 2008 I did a life pivot into technology and created my first company which was a live video streaming company and from there, I sold the company and wanted to get back into the entertainment field in some way, and I knew that this was a big problem. Right around 2012 I had shot a passion project of mine, and I funded it and it was a pretty big shoot, and I was shocked at how completely inefficient the experience is. That might have been because I was coming at it from a tech perspective … five or six years, I was just shocked. I was like, “You’re telling me call sheets are spreadsheets and you send them out hours before the shoot and you have no way of knowing if somebody even sees the call sheet?” Most of my cast and crew I had not seen for weeks the day before the shoot so the entire experience was just shocking to me and I talked to my producer and said, “Is this normal?” and he’s like, “Yes, this is how it’s done.” We had text messaging which was crazy. So StudioBinder came out of a personal pain point for me, that I experienced.
Larry Jordan: By the way, I went to your website and I watched the tour demo, and I thought it was brilliant. Just a really good demo of what StudioBinder can do and we’ll have the website for people that want to watch it, but do visit the website and do check out the tour, because it’s excellent produced. When you were working with StudioBinder, this is one of those applications that can always have new features added, because there’s so many different ways that we can describe what a production is. How do you balance adding key customer features with feature creep, that make the program more complex and harder to use?
Robert Kiraz: Yes, that’s a great question. Actually someone recently asked me, “So StudioBinder does a lot of things, but what’s the one thing that StudioBinder does? Like what is the defining feature?” My response is, “The one thing that StudioBinder does is everything.” Because the problem with production is that if you build a niche solution that does one thing, let’s say just shot listing, that data needs to go onto the call sheet, or if you have a screenplay, that needs to go and become potentially a breakdown or a shooting schedule. So at some point there’s a handoff of software and this is the inefficiency in the industry, it’s because there isn’t a solution that can take it A to Z.
Robert Kiraz: You’re oftentimes exporting data. There’s this whole CSV export import and data refactoring experience that is the production experience. People just give up and say “You know what? I’ll just make a spreadsheet for it.” Most scheduling software is just antiquated and you’d think it was still the 90s. So there really isn’t a modern solution that can take you through that entire production experience. It’s a huge feat to pull it off, and it’s something that we’re working on every day. But that ultimately is what is necessary and finding a way of course through the software to just enable or disable the features that make sense for your scale of production which can change, shoot to shoot. So making it very easy to use, and very modular, that’s an important part of it but going too niche with a production management solution is actually the cause of the problem. You actually have to do it all unfortunately for me, got to build it all. But we’re getting there.
Larry Jordan: Who do you think is the typical customer? Is it a large studio, a single videographer? I know you want to say everybody, but who’s your target?
Robert Kiraz: Here’s something very interesting, originally we started off as pure entertainment, thinking production companies, feature films, short films, indie writer directors. But something interesting happened where there’s a sort of split in our customer base. It’s growing all the time. There’s this new contingent which is short form branded content, so on one side we have of course traditional entertainment with feature films and shorts. On the other hand, or the other camp, you have creative agencies creating short form entertainment. You have brands where every brand now is essentially, I mean every company is effectively a publisher now. Everyone has a YouTube or Vimeo page and to be relevant in social media you’ve got to create content, especially video content which is very shareable. So brands are creating their own content, they have their in house video departments now, more than ever before, and they’re looking for efficiency tools. So what we’re seeing is it really is a 50-50 split right now between entertainment and branded content, short form entertainment and our customers really, we have Facebook and BuzzFeed on one hand, and on the other we have CBS. So it’s an eclectic mix which again goes back to we’ve got to build it all and allow people to approach it in a more modular fashion, make it personal to their needs.
Larry Jordan: How do you price your service? What’s it cost?
Robert Kiraz: It’s pretty straightforward. As a turnkey system, you can go to our pricing page studiobinder.com/pricing. We have plans that are as affordable as $19 a month up to $85. That’s per user. There are additional incentives and discounts for larger organizations, and if they have any questions they can email us firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get them all set up.
Larry Jordan: I understand you’ve got a discount for our listeners?
Robert Kiraz: We do. It’s a 20 percent discount for the first month. I believe it’s LarryJordan20 is the discount code. If you upgrade we can put that in and get the discount.
Larry Jordan: That sounds like a good code to me. What website Robert do people need to go to to learn more?
Robert Kiraz: Sure, it’s studiobinder.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, studiobinder.com and Robert Kiraz is the co-founder and CEO of StudioBinder, and Robert thanks for taking the time to join us tonight. This has been an interesting conversation.
Robert Kiraz: Thank you for having me.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: You know, I was just thinking. NAB, for those of you who aren’t keeping track, is still more than three weeks away. However, now is the time that companies start to send press releases bragging about their upcoming announcements at the show. They do this to make an impact before the noise of all the other announcements drowns them out. The rush really started on Monday and will continue to build force until we get to the show. Soon I’ll be drowning in literally hundreds of press releases. However, one this morning caught my eye that I want to share with you.
Larry Jordan: First though, a bit of background. Press releases are written for an audience of informed writers or editors to use in reporting about a new product or service. These releases need to describe the news, explain why it’s significant and do so in words that make sense to their audience, and sometimes a little marketing gets in there as well. A lot of time and energy goes into planning, writing and reviewing a press release.
Larry Jordan: But sometimes, especially in technology, the writer of the press release forgets these simple facts and gets carried away in a fit of geek hyper speak that well, here’s an example from a press release I received this morning from a company called Anevia. This is their first paragraph. “Anevia, a leading provider in OTT and IPTV software solutions, has launched the latest version of its NEA CDN product created to deliver low latency and broadcast quality content even during peak viewing times. The new version enables operators to go virtual with an HVM based AMI for seamless deployment in AWS ensuring they can combine all the benefits of NEA CDN with those of the Amazon Cloud. For example, greater flexibility, scalability and cost savings.”
Larry Jordan: Now I’ve been in media for more than 40 years, and covering the industry for almost 20 and I have no idea what they are talking about. This trap of getting so wrapped up in technology that we’re unable to make sense, is one that all of us who write or make films need to be wary of. We know too much, far more than our audience. This means that we always need to be careful that what we say and what we write can be understood by the people we’re trying to reach. This is clearly something the folks at Anevia forgot. Just something I’m thinking about.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank my guests this week, Julian Slater with Sony Pictures, Christian Cooke and Brad Zoern with Deluxe in Toronto, Jeff Berryman with AES, Christopher Johnson with Mediaworkstations.net, Robert Kiraz with StudioBinder and James DeRuvo with doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Here you’ll find thousands of interviews, all online and all available to you today. Remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter that comes out every Saturday.
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Larry Jordan: Our 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.