Digital Production Buzz
September 26, 2013
[Transcripts provided by Take1.tv.]
[To listen to this show, click here.]
Hosts: Larry Jordan
Guests: Kevin Louden, Enterprise Sales Engineer, Telestream
Kevin Kent, Writer/Producer, ‘Life’s an Itch’
Sean Mullen, CEO & Lead Creative, Rampant Design Tools
Bruce Nazarian, CEO, Digital Media Consulting Group, Inc.
Voiceover: This Digital Production Buzz is brought to you by Blackmagic Design, creators of the world’s highest quality solutions for the feature film, post production and television broadcast industries.
Voiceover: Live from Ralph’s Maytag Museum at Podcast Studio in beautiful downtown Burbank, it’s the Digital Production Buzz.
Voiceover: Production, post production, distribution. What’s really happening now and in your digital future?
Voiceover: The Buzz is live now.
Larry Jordan: And welcome to the Digital Production Buzz, the leading internet podcast covering digital video production, post production and distribution around the world. My name is Larry Jordan; our ever-handsome co-host, Mr. Mike Horton, has the night off.
Larry Jordan: We’ve got a great collection of guests today and a wide variety of subjects to talk about. We’re going to start with Kevin Louden. He’s the Enterprise Sales Engineer for Telestream. He’s going to stop by to talk about the latest release of WireCast, which is a significant new upgrade to the software and a new initiative. Telestream began to make the H.265 codec open source and I want to talk about why the H.265 codec matters to any of us.
Larry Jordan: Then we’re going to talk with Kevin Kent. He’s an independent writer/producer. His film is Life’s An Itch and recently Kevin got distribution for this film. Now, he just needs to make some money on it and he wants to fund his next project. We spend a lot of time talking about production and post, but if you can’t make money on your projects, it’s hard to do the next one. We want to talk with Kevin about what his plans are.
Larry Jordan: Earlier this week, Sean Mullen – who’s the CEO and the entire team at Rampant Design Tools – moved into new studios and released a ton of new products. Sean joins us this week to describe his new facility and the process of creating stock effects for visual artists.
Larry Jordan: And then finally, and I don’t want to say this too loudly, we set Bruce Nazarian, The Digital Guy, on a mission to explore the secret corners at DV Expo and report back on the most interesting new products that no one’s ever heard of, and Bruce’ll be joining us this week to share his report. There’s some very interesting stuff tucked into the corners at DV Expo. I had a chance to go there yesterday and tour the hall and there’s some interesting stuff and I try to stay current in the industry and there’s still tons of things I don’t know about, so I’m looking forward to talking with Bruce and seeing what he discovered as well.
Larry Jordan: Thinking about discovering things, for the month of September, we decided to try an experiment. We’re offering text transcripts for each show, courtesy of Take1.tv. Now, because of these text transcripts, you can quickly scan or print the contents of each show, as well as listen to it. Transcripts are located on each show page underneath the big Take1.tv button and we want to thank the folks at Take 1 for their help in putting these transcripts together.
Larry Jordan: Remember, you want to visit us on Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com. We’ve got the latest news on the industry, breaking information on products that are just released and new software that’s being updated. We’re also available on Twitter, @dpbuzz, and you can subscribe to our weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com. We’re working hard, our webmaster and the rest of the web team, to put this newsletter into something which is informational, where you can actually learn more about what’s happening in the industry, what our popular news stories are and what the popular broadcasts are, as well as a behind the scenes look at what’s happening on The Buzz. All of this is available in our Friday newsletter – comes out the day after the show.
Larry Jordan: We’ve got all kinds of cool stuff coming up tonight, starting with Kevin Louden and we’re going to start with him in just a few seconds.
Larry Jordan: Blackmagic Design made two announcements earlier this month at IBC in Amsterdam. First, the ATEM1 ME, which stands for Mix Effects, production studio switcher added new features such as ten independent 6G-STI inputs, each with frame sync, plus a built-in DVE with zoom scale and rotate, four upstream chroma keyers, three independent auxiliary outputs and a larger media pool for still frames and motion video clips.
Larry Jordan: Then Blackmagic released the public beta of DaVinci Resolve 10. This major update includes improved project integration from multiple editing systems, upgraded on-set tools, support for open effects plug-ins and the ability to create DCP packages inside Resolve for projects destined for theatrical delivery; and DaVinci Resolve Lite now supports both ultra HD and additional GPUs and it’s still free. Visit blackmagicdesign.com to learn more. That’s blackmagicdesign.com.
Larry Jordan: Well, let’s see if I can just get to the next page of my script here. We’ll be able to introduce Kevin Louden. He’s an Enterprise Sales Engineer for Telestream. He has over 17 years’ experience in video production, working on projects ranging from national television series to live multi-camera events. But what I like the best is that he’s an expert on compression and, because Mike isn’t here, we can actually talk about this sort of stuff. Welcome, Kevin.
Kevin Louden: Hi Larry, thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: It’s my pleasure. Thanks for joining us today. The first question I’ve got looks at the new release of WireCast. I mean, Telestream updated it recently. What did you guys put in the latest release?
Kevin Louden: WireCast version five, you know, it’s got a lot of really big features that people have been asking for and some things they probably didn’t know that they want.
Larry Jordan: Ok, you’re going to have to back up that statement. What specifically did you put in it?
Kevin Louden: Well, for example, you know, we’ve been big fans of X264 for some time, we’ve got it in Episode, we’ve got it in Vantage, we’ve been working a lot with the X264 developers and we now…
Larry Jordan: Now, wait, wait, wait.
Kevin Louden: Yes?
Larry Jordan: There’s H.264…
Kevin Louden: Yes.
Larry Jordan: …and there’s X.264?
Kevin Louden: Yes, so X264 is actually an open source developed implementation of H264.
Larry Jordan: Ok. What does open source mean? Does it mean it isn’t as good?
Kevin Louden: No, in this case it’s the best. So it was created by the open source community, so anybody who wanted to contribute contributed and through that collaboration, X264 is widely regarded as the highest quality or best implementation of the H264 codec. It’s been tested against commercial implementations time and time again and it always comes up on top.
Larry Jordan: But you’ve got multiple people, it’s like multiple cooks in the kitchen. If you’ve got multiple people whaling away on it, how do you keep it consistent and make sure that it works?
Kevin Louden: Well, there’s a core group of people who sort of manage the project and they’re sort of the core leaders in there. I hate to say gatekeepers, but kind of the gatekeepers, they do a lot of review and coordination to sort of make sure that things stay on track.
Larry Jordan: Don’t break?
Kevin Louden: So in this case, it worked out fantastic because the community came up with an absolutely fantastic implementation of H264 and just recently they started doing commercial licensing of it and we jumped right on the bandwagon. We’ve been waiting for that forever. We’ve sort of been looking at it over there in the open source community and wanting to use it, but we couldn’t. But now it’s available for commercial licensing and we love it. We’ve gotten involved with it, we’ve actually been contributing code back into the open source project, so it’s now sort of a commercial open source collaboration.
Larry Jordan: Ok, hang on because we’ve got too many letters floating around and I got confused. You said that H.264 became available for commercial license. Is that what you meant to say?
Kevin Louden: Ah yes, ok. So X264.
Larry Jordan: Ok.
Kevin Louden: Right? So there’s H.264, which is sort of the specification of a compression technique.
Larry Jordan: Ok.
Kevin Louden: X264 is an open source project…
Larry Jordan: Ok.
Kevin Louden: …that built an implementation of the H264 compression specification.
Larry Jordan: Can we use them interchangeably? In other words, if I compress with X.264, can it be played back with just regular software?
Kevin Louden: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Do I have to install something special?
Kevin Louden: No, absolutely. It is H264, so main concept is a company, now Rovi, that makes an H264 implementation; Apple has made their own. There’s a company called Dekus that we used to use in Episode years ago, so these are all people that have gone and taken the specification and made sort of an implementation of it.
Larry Jordan: Their own version, as it were.
Kevin Louden: Right, so it’s like these are the rules and these are the ways to do things, and then you can go and make your own. So X264 is just an implementation of it.
Larry Jordan: Ok, so we got off track. WireCast now runs with, or uses, X.264 and you’re thrilled with it, but there’s got to be more to the upgrade than just that.
Kevin Louden: Absolutely. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. So that’s going to give you better looking streams at a lower bit rate. That’s all we have to say about that. Another thing that’s really great about WireCast, you know, it’s software, so a lot of people use it in conjunction with software tools. So we’ve made a lot of improvements into the screen capture, so the quality is better, higher frames per second, there’s a lot of improvements specific for gaming capture, which is very popular with WireCast, so we’ve got that. We’ve made some improvements to really being able to bring in webstreams, so you can bring in live webstreams as a source. Again, you know, because it’s software, it’s on a computer, a lot of people use it in conjunction with Skype feeds and other live feeds and for capturing their screens.
Larry Jordan: Ok, hold on, hold on. What’s a webstream?
Kevin Louden: Ah, well it’s just a live stream, something you’d see on Ustream or something coming from a webcam. You know, it’s something that you’d be watching.
Larry Jordan: Ok, so like a YouTube video?
Kevin Louden: Well, not like a YouTube video, but like a Ustream live stream.
Larry Jordan: Ok. So can we pull in video from a Skype feed?
Kevin Louden: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Ok, so I’ve got video coming in from other sources, but instead of having it come into a TV set, it’s coming into my computer from a variety of places and I can then integrate them in WireCast?
Kevin Louden: Right. So just like with WireCast, you’d sort of traditionally be thinking of live camera feeds so you can plug in as a, think of it as a camera but it would be a Skype stream or some other live webstream.
Larry Jordan: Ok, like a webcam located somewhere other than right where I am.
Kevin Louden: Absolutely.
Larry Jordan: Ok. So what else we got?
Kevin Louden: So we’ve got that. Now also on the, let’s call it the traditional video side, we’ve done some integration with Blackmagic where we can now take the program feed or the switched feed of WireCast and play that out HDSDI.
Larry Jordan: Ooh!
Kevin Louden: Right, so you can use that to feed into other sort of traditional production equipment, you can feed projectors and other screens or traditional video recorders, things like that, so it’s something that a lot of people have been asking for for a long time, so that’s a really, really big improvement.
Larry Jordan: Who do you envision is the target market for WireCast?
Kevin Louden: You know, it’s really such a broad spectrum because it really goes from, you know, sort of a person with a laptop with one, you know, maybe one camera that’s recording a lecture or an interview or something like that, all the way up to, you know, a fully blown multi-input, you know, rock concert.
Larry Jordan: Well, would Newtek then be a competitor with the Tricaster?
Kevin Louden: Yes, I would say yes, I would say it’s a competitor. Well, here’s a good example of the output program feed. That’s one thing that the Tricaster did very, very well; it had that ability to take a program out, so if you were doing a live event and you wanted to project or, you know, play out your switch to an image magnification system in a venue, you could do that and then you could also stream to the web. That was something you could do very, very well in a Tricaster and it wasn’t that easy to do with WireCast.
Kevin Louden: Now, with the output program feed, it’s very, very easy to do that; you just take your same switched feed, it’s going out to multiple streams and you can also put your program out to projectors or streams that are local.
Larry Jordan: Well, thinking purely from a self-interested point of view, can audio only podcasts, like The Buzz, use WireCast?
Kevin Louden: Oh, absolutely, sure. Yeah, yeah, because you could bring in and mix your audio. There’s some pretty advanced audio mixing tools, everything that you would need to mix audio for a live production.
Larry Jordan: And, let’s see, Bruce on our live chat is asking what are your plans for availability? I assume the new version’s not yet shipping?
Kevin Louden: You know what? That’s a good question, Larry, and I think it was announced it’s not yet shipping and I don’t have a release date, but it’s very soon.
Larry Jordan: Ok, Bruce, it’s coming really soon now. Just so you know. Well, let’s go back to WireCast. WireCast has about, I think it’s $495 retail, am I correct?
Kevin Louden: That’s correct, yes.
Larry Jordan: Well, QuickTime Broadcaster’s free. Why would somebody use WireCast?
Kevin Louden: Well, see, with WireCast, I mean, you basically have a full multi-cam switching production studio in the software, so it’s got full mix effects, you know, switching through multiple sources. It’s got layering, it’s got real time graphics overlay, real time titling, chroma key.
Larry Jordan: So it’s actually doing production; it’s not just simply doing the streaming portion, it’s doing production and streaming.
Kevin Louden: Absolutely, Larry, yes. This is a full software based switcher that you run on your computer, you launch it up and it’s a full switcher.
Larry Jordan: One of the big problems that we run into here, because we are located in an internet backwater, we need to be able to constrain bandwidth. Can we constrain bandwidth so we can determine how much upload or download speed we can use with WireCast?
Kevin Louden: You can, yes. Well, first of all it can do multiple streams out, so you can actually be sending multiple discrete streams to even different providers, to different CDNs, and as part of that definition you can define what the bit rate of the stream is or, if it’s multiples, you define each one.
Larry Jordan: All right. Well, we’re going to ask you where to go for WireCast in a minute, but before I run completely out of time, I want to come back to this new H.265 codec, which was expected in January. What does this new open source project mean?
Kevin Louden: Yes, so now what we were talking about at the beginning of the conversation might make a little bit more sense. So the developers who made X264, like I said, we love them and we love what they did, so we went to them and we said, “Let’s do something for HAVC or H265,” so now we’ve started the X265 open source project. So this is again, together with the open source community that developed X264, they’re all working in conjunction with us and any other, you know, professional or commercial operations that want to join in, in doing the same thing with HAVC or H265 that was done with H264.
Larry Jordan: But open source means free. What’s in it for Telestream to do this?
Kevin Louden: We get the best implementation of the codec available. So what we get out of it is we get access and we get involvement in the highest quality codec out there, because that’s what we’re all about. We’re all about doing compression and doing it in the best way possible. So they were able to do the best AVC or H264 implementation and the goal with this new X265 project is to do the same thing with H265 or HAVC.
Larry Jordan: Do consumers benefit from this? Or is this codec really just targeted at reducing bandwidth for cell phone service providers?
Kevin Louden: No. No, no. Everybody’s going to benefit from it, just like we all benefited and are benefiting now from H264. We get to see better looking pictures on whatever we’re viewing on – on a phone, on a tablet, on a laptop or a workstation or in our living rooms on our Rokus and our Apple TVs – we’re seeing the benefits of the H264 compression and now, with H265, the pictures are going to look better, the bandwidth is going to be reduced and eventually, when the screens get bigger, the new HAVC codec will be able to accommodate those larger pixel sizes.
Larry Jordan: I need a short answer in that H.264 is notorious for not being multi-threaded, which means only one processor can work with it at a time. Does this change with H.265?
Kevin Louden: Well, I would actually tend to disagree that it’s not multi-threaded. You may be thinking of VP6, which was only single threaded.
Larry Jordan: Ok.
Kevin Louden: So there are implementations of H264 which can very much take advantage of multi-threading, both on the encode and decode side, but there are a lot of things that are in the HAVC specification for parallelism and multi-threading. There are a lot of optimizations on both sides.
Larry Jordan: And, Kevin, where can people go on the web to learn more about WireCast and Telestream?
Larry Jordan: That’s telestream.net and Kevin Louden is the Enterprise Sales Engineer for Telestream. Kevin, thanks for joining us today.
Kevin Louden: And Larry, let me plug one more thing.
Larry Jordan: Quickly.
Kevin Louden: For information on the X265 project, it’s x265.org.
Larry Jordan: X265.org.
Kevin Louden: Correct.
Larry Jordan: Thanks so much.
Kevin Louden: Thank you, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye. One of the things I like about this show is the variety of people we get to talk to, and the next is Kevin Kent. He’s a writer/producer whose latest film is called Life’s An Itch. The good news is that he finished it. The bad news is now he needs to make money on it. So we want to find out about his plans for making money on his film. Welcome, Kevin.
Kevin Kent: Thank you very much. I’ve got kind of a Barry White voice going on tonight because I’ve had kind of a cough, but I hope you guys can hear me and understand me clear enough.
Larry Jordan: You are doing flawlessly and we’ve got enough volume control on you that if you whispered it would shatter eardrums a block away. So tell me, what is Life’s An Itch?
Kevin Kent: Life’s An Itch is a feel good, laugh out loud romantic comedy that’s based on that age-old premise that men aren’t really quite sure what to do when your wife’s hot yoga teacher comes to spend a week at your house.
Larry Jordan: I saw the trailer and the trailer’s hysterical. What is it that made you decide to create the film?
Kevin Kent: You know, I love comedy and I love situational comedy and I’ve written a lot of stuff that hasn’t gotten made, a lot of really big, you know, kind of big pictures and I thought, you know, I’m going to write something that’s self-contained and can be shot pretty much in one location – a great location, by the way there.
Larry Jordan: A spectacular location.
Kevin Kent: Yes, people say, “Where the hell is that?” It’s like a corner lot above Newport coast looking down on Laguna Beach. It really couldn’t be much better. There’s the pool, the jacuzzi, the bar. I mean, it was just an amazing location.
Larry Jordan: And you actually got filming done?
Kevin Kent: Yes, we got a lot of filming done. And, in fact, one of the things about the show that I’m most pleased about is that we shot the whole thing in 13 days.
Larry Jordan: Wow.
Kevin Kent: And it was really a lot of fun and for that I have to shout out immensely to the wonderful cast and crew that we had. I mean, it was really just an amazing experience, especially Morgan Schmidt, the DP, was just… when I told everybody the very first day, I said, “You know, as actors, if you’re going to wait for that second, third or fourth take to really get that emotional moment, that probably won’t be in the movie.” They all looked and me and they said, “What?” I said, “We’ve got to nail this, people, or we’re not going to make it through.”
Larry Jordan: Has the film screened anywhere yet?
Kevin Kent: No. You know, I was told all along by some pretty smart people not do the whole circuit and all that stuff, because it’s just as easy for, you know, some 14 year old blogger to write a bad comedy as it is for anybody else, so at the advice of some sage people, I kind of kept it out of that.
Kevin Kent: Now that we’ve got distribution through Monarch, which is an Ingram company, it’s the largest DVD distribution company in the country, now we’ll probably go backwards and go back and do some screenings, because even in fact Andrea Bogart, one of the leads, she played the wife in the movie, she called me the other day, she goes, “When do I get to see the movie?” So now I’m kind of free, in fact I just – it’s funny doing this tonight – because I just shipped out all of the materials on Monday to the distributor.
Larry Jordan: Well, how did you find the distributor? Or did they find you?
Kevin Kent: Well, I was fortunate to meet a man named Michael Jackson – not Michael Jackson, David Jackson. I met Michael Jackson too, but that was a different story. Met David Jackson through his company, which is SC Global, and he kind of just stuck with me and, you know, we had some problems with the foreign market where they weren’t sure if it was a comedy or, you know, a romantic comedy and they particularly sell romantic comedies and they’d come back and say, “The French don’t understand it, he doesn’t get the girl,” which I guess I shouldn’t say, but it was kind of a mess overseas, but he just didn’t give up and he’s come back to me now with this new deal and I’m very pleased with it because it’ll allow anybody and everybody to get it through all the popular means.
Larry Jordan: Now, when you closed distribution, did any money change hands? Or was it just an agreement to work together?
Kevin Kent: Just an agreement, yes. No, I wish money changed hands.
Larry Jordan: Yes, well I was just asking so that people have an expectation. So what’s the distribution actually getting you?
Kevin Kent: A wide reach. I mean, you know, they sell to everybody from, you know, Wal-Mart to Red Box. I mean, this distributor, I guess they’ve been a lot bigger in the past and, you know, I’m a first out director and, you know, movie and, like you saw in the trailer, you certainly wouldn’t think so because the movie is really, really well done. But nevertheless, you know, it’s an uphill battle.
Larry Jordan: So what are you expecting the distributor to do for you?
Kevin Kent: I’m expecting to see it in Wal-Mart, I’m expecting to see it in all of the popular, you know, locations and popular places people buy DVDs, as well as all the online communities. And that was another funny thing, like, to be told, you know, and it all worked out the way I guess it should have, you know, to say don’t go putting it out there digitally yet, you’ll kill the DVD market if you do that and, you know, I listened and so we’ll see. I’m between the praying and hopeful director right now, but I think it’s a good plan.
Larry Jordan: So basically what the distributor is for you is a sales agent, except that they’ve got the contacts already in their Rolodex.
Kevin Kent: Well, kind of. SC Global’s really kind of the sales agent in that they got the deal for me and Monarch are pressing up the DVDs, they’re shipping them out to all their locations and all the people that they sell to and it is an Ingram company so… in fact, it was funny, when I went to send the FedEx disc off, I said, “You know, I don’t have the phone number for them.” They go, “Oh no, don’t worry, they come up in our system. Didn’t you notice it was Ingram Avenue?”
Kevin Kent: So they’re a big player and, you know, I’m a small fish and I’m happy to be swimming in those waters and, more importantly, as I go forward with my next movies, you know, it’s very critical to, you know, assure investors that my last movie got distributed.
Larry Jordan: Yes, true. So you do have a project coming up. What is it and how are you funding it?
Kevin Kent: The next one’s pretty funny. I should say I was sitting at my mother’s retirement home one night and she said to me, she goes, “You know, I was really worried about you as a kid because you had that imaginary friend thing going on,” and I kind of said, “What are you talking about?” And so in any case, in due course I wrote a new script called Buster and Sarah and it’s about a guy who’s 35 years old whose imaginary friend comes back at 75.
Larry Jordan: Oh, an imaginary friend from childhood?
Kevin Kent: From childhood, and she’s still six or seven, and I’ve been, you know, auditioning people and talking to big stars about being in it and my premise of it was, I mean, you know…
Larry Jordan: Go ahead, make it short.
Kevin Kent: All right. The premise of it was can I go get five or six Academy Award winning senior actors to be in a single movie?
Larry Jordan: Yes. And I wish you luck in doing it. How are you funding it?
Kevin Kent: Through private, you know, investors, the same way I did the last one.
Larry Jordan: But my notes say that you’re also using IndieGoGo. Is that true?
Kevin Kent: I’m not.
Larry Jordan: Oh, ok, well then I’ll take that note out. So you’re just funding it privately?
Kevin Kent: Funding it privately and this time I’m shooting in New Orleans, to take advantage of the tax thing, but I’m not going to apply the tax to the production of the movie, I’m going to apply the tax to the T&A money, because that’s one place where I fell short on this movie. I just kind of ran out of steam.
Larry Jordan: So where can people go to learn about Life’s An Itch and your new project?
Kevin Kent: Well, Life’s An Itch is up on www.lifesanitch.com and there’s the trailer there and a lot of information about the movie, which will be added to significantly here now that I’m in the driver’s seat.
Larry Jordan: Short answer here, guy. Life’s An Itch, and how about the new project?
Kevin Kent: I think I have Busterandsarahthemovie.com. I don’t remember. I probably did it when I was doing all the copyright stuff, but yes, Buster and Sarah.
Larry Jordan: The website is Lifesanitch. The producer/director is Kevin Kent and, Kevin, thanks for joining us today.
Kevin Kent: Thank you very much. I admire so much what you do.
Larry Jordan: Oh, thank you so much. Take care, bye bye.
Kevin Kent: Thanks Larry, bye.
Larry Jordan: Let’s see where we’re going next and turn that switch back here. There we go. Sean Mullen is the Head of Rampant Design Tools. He’s an Emmy Award-winning visual effects artist with over 60 feature film and television credits, including Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ally McBeal, ER, Nip Tuck and many others. He started a company recently called Rampant Design Tools and they specialize in creating original drag and drop visual elements for editors and VFX artists. Plus – and this is the cool part – they just recently moved into new studios. Welcome, Sean.
Sean Mullen: Thanks Larry. Thanks, Mike. It’s always great to be on your show. Oh, he’s not here today.
Larry Jordan: Well, Mike is not with us today. He is taking the night off so you’re just stuck with me.
Sean Mullen: Oh, with Larry, that’s great. Well, you know, you’re one of my favorite people on the planet, so that just means I get to talk to you more. How about that?
Larry Jordan: You know, you just suddenly increased your worth by at least 50 percent. So tell us, congratulations by the way on your move into a new studio. Where are you and what’s it like?
Sean Mullen: We’re in Orlando right now and it’s great. It’s a big empty space basically, it’s like an empty canvas. We get to create 24/7 and we’re usually either shooting all day and posting all night or vice versa. So it’s a lot of fun to be able to have our own space and be able to work in it 24 hours a day.
Larry Jordan: Now, wait a minute. You create effects for visual effects artists. You’re just working inside after effects. What’s this shooting business?
Sean Mullen: Well, I typically have always mixed organic or practical elements with my digital stuff. I think it always works better. There’s a nice hybrid of the two that work really well together and there are just some things that you just can’t recreate, in my humble opinion, digitally, unless you’ve got…
Larry Jordan: For instance?
Sean Mullen: …ILM at your back, you know, the average artist or editor is not going to be able to properly synthesize light or whatnot, as far as I’m concerned.
Larry Jordan: For instance, what’s hard to do on the computer?
Sean Mullen: I prefer optical light effects over generated ones any time. There’s a time and a place for everything, but if you can throw on an honest to God actual lens flare on a shot, it just absolutely looks stunning and I’ll take that over a digital light effect of any kind.
Larry Jordan: Ok, so light effects. Sorry, lens flares are something that you’d rather shoot the real thing. Anything else come to mind?
Sean Mullen: Fire, smoke, film flashes, any kind of overlays or gradients. I typically try to start with it optically first and try to see if Mother Nature will render it for me before I have to start digging into it.
Larry Jordan: Now, when you say start optically, what does that mean?
Sean Mullen: We usually start off in the studio, literally in a blank stage, typically shooting over black so we’ve got a lot of black walls and black muslin hanging everywhere and we just try to experiment using different light techniques; and we have an idea of what we want to get, but then we experiment on how to actually obtain that with the gear that we have.
Larry Jordan: And what gear are you using?
Sean Mullen: Right now, I’m really in love with the Blackmagic camera.
Larry Jordan: Really?
Sean Mullen: I absolutely adore that camera. I’m used to a RED Workflow and the Blackmagic Workflow is awesome. The latitude is just unbelievable. I can’t say enough great things about the final image I get out of the Blackmagic.
Larry Jordan: So when you say the latitude, what does that mean?
Sean Mullen: Well, you know, when you shoot on a DSLR or another kind of camera, when you load it up either in Resolve or just even in After Effects or in your favorite NLE, you’ll see a wave form. A lot of times when you shoot on a DSLR or something that’s not as beefy, you’ll see the wave form is actually segmented, whereas if you shoot on something like the Blackmagic or a RED camera, you’ll notice that the wave form is healthy, it’s complete. So I have tons of latitude to, you know, clamp down or boost up or do whatever I want.
Sean Mullen: I have complete and utter control in post and I love that. You know, a lot of shots that you shoot on, for example, a DSLR, when you crunch it too far, you know, or you tweak the colors too far, it’s going to start breaking up and you’re going to start seeing artefacting or compressing or something that’s not desirable.
Larry Jordan: Well, I was just thinking, your studio is essentially a black box. Why did you have to expand if all you needed is a room filled with black?
Sean Mullen: Well, a lot of the things that we do require, you know, ten, 15 feet of height, quite a bit of width. One of our light projects that we just finished, we were doing some light whips across probably 60 feet. But we like to do it big, so if you’re going to have a space, you might as well use it, you know?
Larry Jordan: You know, if you can’t have toys, what’s the sense of growing up?
Sean Mullen: Exactly.
Larry Jordan: I was just thinking, with so many companies keeping their heads down and minimizing expenses, is it really commercially smart to expand?
Sean Mullen: In most cases, probably not. For us, my wife, who is a Vice President of the company, and our accountant like to tell me no a lot, so I don’t get to do whatever I want to do, but within reason. We sat down and have gotten such great response from your audience and people at NAB, we just thought, ”Well, this is the next logical thing,” and it grows tiresome when a client calls or a big customer calls and says, “Hey, you know, I want you to shoot a custom element for me,” and now I have to go around, either booking a spot or cashing in favors or whatnot. It takes a lot of time to do that, so having our own spot when a big entertainment company calls and says, “Hey, I want you to shoot something for us by the end of the week,” I can absolutely facilitate that without starting to scramble.
Larry Jordan: Are you still doing custom work? Or is everything is packaged?
Sean Mullen: Oh, absolutely. We do custom work all the time. I’m contractually not allowed to say the name of this particular company, but I can tell you it’s one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world and they call us on the regular and we’ve just finished facilitating an order for them, actually, yesterday.
Larry Jordan: Which means that not only are you doing custom work, but you can take that and apply that to your products, then, can’t you? Not in terms of…
Sean Mullen: As long as it’s not stipulated in the contract. If they say, “Hey, you know, we want this to be ours,” we’ll work something out, but if they allow me to shoot other things in the same vein, then yes, absolutely. Our customers benefit from that.
Larry Jordan: I asked the question the wrong way. What I’m saying is that because you do this on a daily basis for commercial clients, that expertise gets put into your packages.
Sean Mullen: Oh, absolutely, yes, absolutely. I get to experiment on somebody else’s dime so the customers win all the way round.
Larry Jordan: Which gets me to you’ve released a bunch of new titles. What are the new toys? Sorry, what are the serious new products that you’ve created?
Sean Mullen: Oh no, they’re toys, they’re toys. I mean, you’ll drop them in your timeline and just have nothing but fun. You might get in trouble for using too many of them, but we have four new volumes out right now. There’s Gradient Overlays, which is a very colorful and vibrant blasts of color that were shot practically and it gives you this really amazing gradient, but instead of just putting a traditional ramp on your footage, this is kind of an organic living thing, so it has natural movement to it. So you drop it on a shot or even a moving shot, it looks gorgeous.
Sean Mullen: And then we’ve also got Speed Lights, which are digital whips and blasts, things you see on sports networks and more aggressive type programming. We’ve also got Light Impacts, which are super hard hitting lights. You’ll see that on, like, the Fuel Network and whatnot, just really heavy hitting light. And then we have something that’s very different than what’s out there right now, it’s called Stage Light Transitions, where you’ll see actually stage lights wipe the frame in all different kinds and colors and you can use it as a transition or as a beauty element and they look great because they’re real.
Larry Jordan: Now, your packaging and your website calls these drag and drop, so how do they work? How would you integrate them into a project?
Sean Mullen: Well, you literally drag it from your timeline and, excuse me, you drag it from your bin right into your timeline and then you use a blending mode of your choice and you’ll be able to literally blend the light right into your footage.
Larry Jordan: So in other words, you would shoot a shot – let’s say a lens flare or a music video. Not a lens flare, but you’d shoot something that’s got a light in the background and then you would apply a separate clip as a blend mode to say ‘add the lens flare here’?
Sean Mullen: Yes, and so if I shot a flare and I wanted to add that to a scene, I would just drag it to my timeline over my initial video track and use ‘add a screen’ or ‘overlay’ or whatever it is that you think works best for your particular shot.
Larry Jordan: See? I knew you could take when I said and explain it in English. Do you have particular blend modes that you tend to favor more than others?
Sean Mullen: My favorite overlay, it’s one of those ones that end up giving you some really unusual and beautiful effects, but the go-to one would have to be either ‘screen’ or ‘add’. If I’m doing non-broadcast work, I’ll use ‘add’. If I’m doing broadcast work I’ll use ‘screen’ because ‘add’ tends to bloat things out just a little too far. But if I can get away with it, I love to go super hot white for certain kinds of effects.
Larry Jordan: Yes, but I need to caution people who are not professionals that the ‘add’ blend mode guarantees knocking your white levels over 100 percent and that will get you yelled at.
Sean Mullen: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
Larry Jordan: It’s just one of those things you’ve got to be…
Sean Mullen: …broadcast work, you’ve got to stick to screen, make sure you’re always within your limits.
Larry Jordan: What format do you deliver these in? Do you have to work with a specific NLE or, like, just it’s only After Effects to be able to use these?
Sean Mullen: Oh no, you can use any NLE. As a matter of fact, we had the wonderful Kevin… do a basically quick and dirty tutorial for every single NLE we could think of on how to use our content and so if you use Vegas or Premiere or Final Cut X or, you know, you name it, you can absolutely use our stuff in your software and it’s very easy.
Larry Jordan: Well, I was just thinking, a lot of these, a gradient, for instance, or a lens flare, you could create that in your own software. Why should somebody consider buying it from you?
Sean Mullen: Well, I like to try to give you both quality and quantity. No matter how much or how little you make in an hour, if you equate your time to money, there’s no way for what we’re charging you could re-create our library and be able to do it for less than we’re charging, so that’s one thing. But another thing is, again, we’re really all about the organic element, so you could sit and you could create something digitally and it may work for you and your client might be happy and that’s great, but we’re giving you something completely different that’s really more animated by nature and it gives you that unique, organic feel that, I promise you, once you use it once, you’ll be addicted.
Larry Jordan: Cramped in our live chat is not a fan of lens flares. He said, “If there’s one thing I don’t want to see again, it’s another lens flare.” What could you do to add some life and energy to an exterior shot, for instance, that doesn’t involve adding a lens flare?
Sean Mullen: Well, I don’t blame him. You know, the flares are just one small thing that we add, but yes, there’s a lot of content out there that’s flare heavy. But we do a lot of things other than just flares. The gradients I stand behind 100 percent and a lot of our bokeh elements and whatnot. We do a lot of really great light reflections that aren’t flares, they’re reflecting elements into the camera and they’re just beautiful, but they’re not your traditional giant blue streaks across the frame where it looks like, you know, there’s a holocaust about to happen. It’s very subtle and very beautiful, things you’d end up seeing in a traditional car commercial.
Larry Jordan: Now, you used a term that I don’t know, bokeh, B-O-K-E-H. What is it?
Sean Mullen: Well, some people call it bokeh. I guess it might be wherever you’re from, but it’s basically when you shoot an object out of focus and you get these various shapes that happen depending upon the glass that you’re using and you get some really wonderful and beautiful and natural effects that way, and there are people who are doing it digitally as well, but I can honestly tell you that natural bokeh is amazing.
Larry Jordan: In other words, it’s an artifact of taking an image out of focus and within that out of focus element caused by the shape of the lens, you get this artifact.
Sean Mullen: Correct. Wow, you said that beautifully. You see that example in, like, the Saturday Night Live open. They do it really quite well. But yes, that’s exactly it.
Larry Jordan: So what do your titles cost and can they be afforded by mere mortals?
Sean Mullen: Everything we make is under $100 and we’re always having a deal. Like, right now you can get everything for 50 percent off, or we have bundles where you can get up to 80 percent off, so you’re able to get, you know, between three and five products for the price of one at this point.
Larry Jordan: For people that would like to have you do custom work, how do you price your custom work?
Sean Mullen: It depends on what they’re asking for. I mean, it’s a sliding scale. If they want us to go blow up a building, that’s going to cost a little bit more than, you know, doing custom gradients for them or something. But we’ll absolutely do whatever you ask us to do; we’ll just research it, find out the camera gear that’s required and how many man hours it will take, and we typically work with the customer. If they allow us to repurpose the same footage or similar footage for our fans and our customers, we’re able to give them a significant discount.
Larry Jordan: Thinking about the effects and titles you just came up with, what effects are you looking at for the future? What’s caught your attention creatively?
Sean Mullen: Mmm, well, I’m about to release a product called Monster Effects, which is very different than anything we’ve done and I’m literally playing with it right now and we are so close. We’re uploading it to our servers now for our beta team to check out and put through the ringers, but we’ve got everything from really high end visual companies in LA looking at this thing to everyday artists who are all beta testing it right now, so I can’t wait to release this thing. It’s been two years in the making and it’s very, very cool. It’s basically drag and drop prosthetics and it’s very cool.
Larry Jordan: Drag and drop prosthetics? What do you mean?
Sean Mullen: Yes, if you want to create an undead character and you don’t have practical makeup or you want to enhance your practical makeup or you want to do an effect where some kind of an evil creature is revealed, you know, or in a morph of some kind or whatever, this is the perfect product for you. It’s dozens and dozens and dozens of different kinds of wounds and eyeballs and scars and bloody bits and just all kinds of grossness that will definitely make your content look like something right out of The Walking Dead.
Larry Jordan: Well, Walking Dead is not a movie that I personally want to watch, but I can see that a lot of people would be interested in it. What website can they go to to learn more?
Sean Mullen: They can go to rampantdesigntools.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s rampantdesgintools.com. Sean Mullen is the CEO and Lead Creative at Rampant Design Tools and, Sean, thanks for joining us today.
Sean Mullen: Thanks so much Larry, I appreciate it.
Larry Jordan: Take care and best of luck on your new headquarters.
Sean Mullen: Thank you so much.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: By day, Bruce Nazarian masquerades as The Digital Guy. He’s a regular on The Buzz and he’s been working on this musical event we’ll talk about a little bit later. But recently we sent him on a secret mission to stalk the halls of DV Expo, peer into every corner and find out all those new products that you haven’t heard about, and I wanted to get his report. Bruce, welcome back.
Bruce Nazarian: Well, thank you, Larry. I appreciated the stealth task and, boy, is my brain full of stuff.
Larry Jordan: Well, you know, we sent you on this secret mission and so I want to know what caught your attention? What do we need to pay attention to?
Bruce Nazarian: Well, you know, first of all after having been a little bit away from digital media, I’m very pleased to report that the developments are still just as rampant and as incredible as they were the last time I checked in on things and I’m very, very thrilled to see that, because I know for our listeners who are shooters or editors or have need for storage or lighting or whatever, I just saw a bewilderingly wonderful array of stuff and some of it in particular really caught my eye, even though I don’t shoot and edit on a day to day basis.
Larry Jordan: All right, all right, get to the facts. I want to know what, where, I mean, start…
Bruce Nazarian: Ok, ok.
Larry Jordan: …spill the beans.
Bruce Nazarian: Ok, well, I mean, literally right as I walked in the hall, I got attracted to the International Supplies booth and had a chance to chat with Doug Pircher about some stuff and I got to looking at the Ready Rig, which I’d heard a lot about and what’s really interesting about it is it doesn’t appear to be as extraordinary as you might think it is until you strap it on and take it for a test drive, and all of a sudden you’ve got this very comfortable sort of body shaping rig that is counterbalanced and gives you full mobility and flexibility to not only move the camera wherever you like but also, apparently, to keep the viewfinder in your line of sight so you have all these incredible moves that you can do while you’re controlling the camera.
Bruce Nazarian: And the best part of all for me because, look, sometimes little things help, you can take your hands totally off the camera rig and the camera’ll stay in place where you left it.
Larry Jordan: Mmm, and this is called the Ready Rig?
Bruce Nazarian: It is called the Ready Rig.
Larry Jordan: Do we have a website?
Bruce Nazarian: We do. You can go to internationalsupplies.com and from there you can get information on it or you can bounce over to the albacamerasupport.com website. But go to International Supplies first, because they’ve got a lot of great stuff there, including some new lighting…
Larry Jordan: What you got?
Bruce Nazarian: …that are called Lumos lights, which are apparently now the most state of the art LED lighting system and, while I’m not a lighting geek, per se by day, I can certainly appreciate the fact that these things are incredibly bright and beautifully color free in the sense that there’s no coloration.
Larry Jordan: A better way to put it is color accurate. It has what’s called a CRI Index and it has a very, very high index so that the color that you get is accurate. I just thought I’d drop that in there, just in case you were wondering.
Bruce Nazarian: And I love chatting with you, because every time we chat, I learn some new tidbit of info.
Larry Jordan: And that’s my role in life, is tidbits of info. What else have you got? Was International Supplies the only place to go see?
Bruce Nazarian: Oh no, no, no. There was a whole bunch of stuff that was going on. I filtered by the G Technology booth, G Tech.
Larry Jordan: Ok, yes.
Bruce Nazarian: We’ve been knowing about their drives for a long time, we’ve loved their RAIDs and loved their external hard drives. Now they’ve got a new G-DOCK ev, it’s called, which is a Thunderbolt equipped external dock that gives you Thunderbolt connectivity and incredibly fast data transfer and yet it uses very interesting USB3 drives that just pop in in this little plug-in array.
Larry Jordan: Ok.
Bruce Nazarian: G-technology.com is where you can find information more on that on the web.
Larry Jordan: It’s called the G-DOCK ev.
Bruce Nazarian: Correct.
Larry Jordan: And it’s two USB portable drives feeding into a two drive docking station. The portables attach via USB3 and the docking station attaches via Thunderbolt, and I just wrote a review on it on my website and on my blog, so for people that want all the technical details, it’s definitely worth checking into.
Bruce Nazarian: Absolutely. It looked very cool and it’s a RAID solution as well, so you’ve got not only the initial speed of the drives, but also in the RAID configuration, it gives you all the benefits that RAID gives you.
Larry Jordan: Yes, and the G Tech PR people say we should talk about the RAID and I think it’s inappropriate for RAID use, because it’s way too easy to pop out one drive, break the RAID and suddenly you’ve lost all your data. So you’re right, it supports RAID 0 and RAID 1, but I strongly recommend using it as a docking station, not as a RAID station.
Bruce Nazarian: Ok.
Larry Jordan: So having said that, I think the G-DOCK ev is a cool thing and definitely worth looking at from an expandability point of view, but not from a RAID point of view, and I’m happy to go one on one with the folks at G Tech if they disagree.
Bruce Nazarian: Well, that’s fine. I can tell you from historical experience, I love the G Technology products and have definitely enjoyed using them in the past, so I always come to expect quality from them.
Larry Jordan: And I agree totally. If I have one G drive in the office, I’ve got ten of them, so I’m a big fan. So it’s just simply the RAID function that I don’t like. The expandability and portability is very cool.
Bruce Nazarian: Right. Now, well, you wouldn’t expect me, being the inveterate audio junkie that I am, to walk around that exhibit floor and not zone in on audio related stuff and, of course, that’s exactly where my eyes took me the next time and one thing, the first one that I actually ran across, was the Azden booth from azdencorp.com because, you know, I’m a microphone junkie, I’m a sound guy. What I loved about it, though, was the fact that they have a tremendous assortment of really good looking shot guns and an assortment of external mixers as well that fit into the DSLR configurations.
Bruce Nazarian: And what really caught my eye was when I meandered over to the other aisle and I scoped out the Beachtek folks, because they’ve got a cool adapter that goes now with the Blackmagic Design cinema camera. It’s called the DXABMD and it is a very cool adaptoid that plugs directly into the cinema camera which, as everybody is telling me, that this thing is just like Gangbusters and when I saw it a couple of months ago, I was pretty blown away by what the thing can do.
Larry Jordan: That’s Azden and Beachtek.
Bruce Nazarian: Correct.
Larry Jordan: And Azden, what about the shot guns caught your eye?
Bruce Nazarian: Well, I love the fact that there are shot guns there that are hot shoe, and so they’ll slip onto cameras that have a hot shoe accessory; and the nice part about that is it then becomes one with your line of sight, so you’re not fighting a secondary audio system or having to necessarily carry around a second audio person with a boom and the shot gun and go traditional double system. If you’re really doing run and gun, this is a very cool way to do it, because they’re camera mountable and they will then plug into an external mixer so you’re not stuck with having go to directly into internal camera audio, you can actually run it through some external audio mixing and have more control over the signal.
Larry Jordan: And what’s Azden’s website again?
Bruce Nazarian: That would be azdencorp.com.
Larry Jordan: And how about Beachtek?
Bruce Nazarian: Beachtek.com.
Larry Jordan: Beachtek has been around in the audio industry for a long time in terms of converters and some other stuff, so it’s this ability to take a Blackmagic camera or a DSLR camera and mount it with audio is what you’re saying the highlight for Beachtek was for you?
Bruce Nazarian: Well, what I liked on Beachtek was the form factor of the little mixers, because they are designed to basically insert into the camera stack on whatever device you’re mounting on, whether it’s tripod or universal carry-round pod or whatever, and they’re very small form factor. So they don’t take up a whole bunch of room and yet they’ve got all the connections that you would need to be able to get in and come out in a professional level, you know, plus 4XLR.
Larry Jordan: Yes, and Beachtek has been doing professional audio since before you were doing music, so they’ve been doing it for a while.
Bruce Nazarian: Really? They came up from cylinder?
Larry Jordan: They did, they did. They had Wax, it was amazing. You see anything else you want to mention before I throw you out? Sorry, before I say goodbye?
Bruce Nazarian: No, no, you’d better throw me out, because there’s too much else to really go through. All I can say is this – it was a very, very interesting display and very cool to see that the technology’s hot and hopping.
Larry Jordan: And thinking of hot and hopping, what are you working on that’s keeping you busy and where can we find out more about it?
Bruce Nazarian: Well, lemonadeweekend2.com is what I’ve been working on for the last five months, it’s been keeping me busy and we’d love for people to drop on by, become familiar with it and maybe come and check out some of the most fantastic music and musicians around. Going to be in the heart of Hollywood next March, 27th through 30th.
Larry Jordan: That’s lemonadeweekend2.com. Bruce Nazarian, The Digital Guy, is also heading up the Lemonade Weekend and, Bruce, thanks for joining us today.
Bruce Nazarian: Always a pleasure, Larry. Call any time and get me out there stealthy.
Larry Jordan: We’ll get you out there again. Take care, bye bye.
Bruce Nazarian: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Bruce made some interesting points I want to share with you. I had a chance to play with the G-DOCK ev for a bit of time and wrote a review on it. You can read more at larryjordan.biz/blog. Had a chance to put it through its paces, measure its speed, figure out what I thought it was good for and what I thought might be better served by other devices, but some very cool write-ups there.
Larry Jordan: Also, I had a chance to play with a Contour Designs Shuttle Pro V2, which is sort of like a substitute for the keyboard with programmed shortcut keys and a jog wheel and a spring-loaded shuttle ring. I had wrote up a review of that. You’ll find both of them at larryjordan.biz/blog.
Larry Jordan: Also working with a new Thunderbolt RAID from a company called Areca, and I’ve been promising to write that review for a while and I’m going to spend time Saturday getting it written, so you can find more by visiting my blog or just sign up for my newsletter. That’s larryjordan.biz/newsletter. Product reviews I cover on the larryjordan.biz website and show news I cover on The Digital Production Buzz website and makes sense to sign up for both. The newsletters have different information. The Buzz focuses on what’s in the show and what our correspondents share with us and interesting blogs around the industry; and larryjordan.biz focuses on training for non-linear editing systems, specifically Apple and Adobe.
Larry Jordan: One of the things you’ll notice is that recently we haven’t talked a little bit about Adobe recently and that’s because they’ve announced their new version of Creative Cloud software but haven’t shipped it yet, and so we’re just waiting for the new stuff to come out and then we’re going to have a lot of conversations, talking about the new features in Premiere and After Effects and all the other applications inside Adobe, but there’s no sense to talk about it now, because nobody can get their hands on it.
Larry Jordan: Also, I’ve been rooting around inside the knowledge base of Apple, trying to come up with some new troubleshooting techniques, and I’ve got a whole new article that’s going to be coming out this weekend in my newsletter, larryjordan.biz, talking about troubleshooting your Mac and troubleshooting Final Cut X and if that’s something that you’re interested in, be sure to sign up for the newsletter and read up on it, because there’s some stuff I discovered that, I’ve been working with Final Cut now for almost 12 years and there are things there that I didn’t know about.
Larry Jordan: So all kinds of interesting things, and thinking of interesting things, you remember I mentioned at the top of the show that we’re working with Take1.tv to create text transcripts for The Buzz? And we’ve got a really nice relationship going with them, but I would like to know from you – send me an email – on whether you find the text transcripts helpful, because there are always things that we’re looking to do to improve the show, we’re looking always at ideas for guests and companies to cover, but also interested in feedback on things we offer on the website, with transcripts and individual interviews and the show archives. Do you realize we’ve got show archives that go back almost five years? We’ve got almost a thousand interviews that are individually accessible on the website.
Larry Jordan: If you haven’t clicked on the individual interviews or interview archives, I guess we call it, if you haven’t clicked on that, click on it. You can search by name, you can search by company, all kinds of interesting stuff on the website, if you just give yourself a little bit of time to explore, which is just really cool. We’re having a good time putting all this stuff together.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of good times and wonderful people, I want to thank our guests for today – Kevin Louden, the Enterprise Sales Engineer for Telestream; Kevin Kent, independent writer, producer, director of the film Life’s An Itch; Sean Mullen, the CEO and Lead Creative for Rampant Design Tools; and the ever talented Bruce Nazarian, The Digital Guy. There’s a lot happening at The Buzz between shows. Make a point to visit digitalproductionbuzz.com. click on ‘Latest News’ because we update this several times a day with the latest in news from our industry.
Larry Jordan: Visit with us on Twitter, @dpbuzz, and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Music on The Buzz is provided by Smart Sound. The Buzz is streamed by wehostmacs.com. You can email us at email@example.com. Our producer, the ever beautiful Cirina Catania. On behalf of Mike Horton, my name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to The Digital Production Buzz.
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