Digital Production Buzz
September 12, 2013
[Transcripts provided by Take1.tv.]
[To listen to this show, click here.]
Hosts: Larry Jordan
Guests: Michael Kammes, Director of Technology & Marketing, Key Code Media
Marc Hamaker, Senior Manager of Product Marketing, Autodesk Inc.
Michael Jorgensen, Writer, Producer & Director of ‘Unclaimed’, Myth Merchant Films
Nick Howell, Producer of ‘Studio City’
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Voiceover: Production, post production, distribution. What’s really happening now and in your digital future?
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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 co-host, Mike Horton, has the week off. He’s in Amsterdam producing the SuperMeet.
Larry Jordan: Most of the time, Michael Kammes is the Director of Technology and Marketing at Key Code Media. However, recently he’s become the toast of the internet, known as the Geek Groom. We’ll chat with him about what he did and why in just a few minutes.
Larry Jordan: Marc Hamaker is the Senior Manager of Product Marketing for Autodesk. Earlier this week, Autodesk announced they were now offering pay-as-you-go rental pricing for some of their products. Tonight, we talk with Mark about what’s involved and why Autodesk is doing this.
Larry Jordan: Michael Jorgensen is an Emmy award winning filmmaker with a controversial new film called Unclaimed, which opens the Westdoc’s conference next week. His film is creating a lot of heated reactions and we want to discuss with Michael why this is the case and how that factors into his decisions on making a film.
Larry Jordan: Finally, Nick Howell is sharpening his comedy chops, producing Studio City. We talk with him about what it’s like being a young filmmaker and what he’s learned about shooting comedy.
Larry Jordan: By the way, if you haven’t noticed, one of the things that we started doing last week and we announced it in the Buzz newsletter is that we’re now providing full text written transcripts of every show. You can get the transcripts simply by going to the show page and clicking on the ‘Written Transcript’ button. We partnered with Take1.tv, because what we’ve found is a lot of people want to be able to skim through the highlights of the show and drill down to exactly what’s going on so that you can find exactly the information you need, plus it makes our shows a whole lot more searchable on Google.
Larry Jordan: If you get a chance, take a look at our new written transcript. Again, go to the show page and click on ‘Text Transcripts’. The transcripts are generally done about 12 to 15 hours after the show, so the show airs Thursday night in Los Angeles; by Friday at noon, the transcripts are posted and we’re really excited to be working with Take1.tv because the quality of the transcripts is high and we’re looking forward to seeing if we can’t do more of this in the future.
Larry Jordan: Also, thinking about the SuperMeet, I’m traveling to Amsterdam this weekend specifically to attend the IBC trade show and speak at the SuperMeet Sunday night. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you. Make a point to say hello. There are still seats available – you can learn more by visiting www.supermeet.com. I’m going to talk more about this in our last segment today, because there’s some cool stuff I’m going to be presenting and I’m looking forward to getting your opinions on it.
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Larry Jordan: One of the things that we’re trying to do is we’re continuing to tweak our weekly show newsletter. Not only do we list all of the most popular news articles that we post throughout the week, but we’re also highlighting industry inside insight, interesting blogs that we see both from our regular contributors and from blogs around the web. We’re highlighting the new text transcripts – you’re able to see more of what we’re talking about on the show and keep in touch with what the latest is in our industry – as well as highlights on the show itself, so you can find out who’s on and what they’re talking about. There’s lots of very cool stuff. The newsletter’s totally free. You can sign up digitalproductionbuzz.com.
Larry Jordan: We’ll be back with the ever-handsome and now famous Michael Kammes right after this.
Larry Jordan: As we count down to IBC later this week, I want to remind you that Blackmagic Design has lowered the price of their landmark cinema camera for both the EF and MFT mounts. The new price is only $1,995. The Black Magic Design cinema camera still has its legendary 13 stops of dynamic range, a 2.5k image sensor and a monitor and menu system that’s easy to set up by mere mortals with normal eyesight and large thumbs. Plus it still includes Da Vinci resolve, which makes all of your images look great; and the Pocket Cinema is now shipping. In fact, Blackmagic Design released a new software update that allows you to focus the lens by pushing the focus button, which makes accurate focusing a lot easier. You can double touch the focus button to turn on auto-peeking and double touch the ok button to display a new focus zoom feature. Learn more at blackmagicdesign.com.
Larry Jordan: In his current role as the Director of Technology and Marketing at Key Code Media – sounds like the beginning to a Superman movie – anyway, Michael Kammes consults on the latest in technology and best practices into the digital media communications space. But he’s become quite famous in the last couple of weeks as the Geek Groom and this is worth learning about. Hello Michael.
Michael Kammes: Hello Larry, good to talk to you again.
Larry Jordan: Well, it’s wonderful to hear your voice. I have missed you, though, these many weeks. I hope you’ve been staying mostly busy.
Michael Kammes: Mostly busy, you could say that. You know, getting married does take a lot out of you.
Larry Jordan: Yes, and congratulations on your wedding. When and where was it?
Michael Kammes: We got married August 24th, so a few weeks ago, in a suburb of Philadelphia called West Chester. That’s where my wife’s family is from.
Larry Jordan: All right, so tell us about this hoo-ha that I’m seeing on YouTube about your wedding. What exactly did you do?
Michael Kammes: Well, in short, I was able to film the highlights of the reception and ceremony from my point of view. I actually had a camera, a tiny POV camera attached to my glasses.
Larry Jordan: Wait, wait, wait. You had a camera attached to your glasses for the ceremony and for the reception?
Michael Kammes: You are completely correct.
Larry Jordan: Why?
Michael Kammes: About six months ago, some of you out there may know that I actually proposed to my now wife in 3D, which is just another whole conversation altogether, and…
Larry Jordan: Which we had about six months ago, I might add.
Michael Kammes: Yes, exactly. So I wanted to one up that and so I thought what could I do that would, you know, keep my geekness going but would make my now wife not want to kill me? And I had an idea of having a hidden camera, so to speak, and I looked around the web and I couldn’t find anyone who had done that. Some of your listeners may have seen someone who put a GoPro in their wife’s bouquet and someone who wore video camera sunglasses for part of their ceremony, but I didn’t see anyone that had done all the big moments of the night through their point of view.
Larry Jordan: Michael, you know, I hate to break the news to you, but the wedding is not about the groom.
Michael Kammes: Well, that’s…
Larry Jordan: How did you have the courage to think about even upstaging your soon-to-be wife?
Michael Kammes: Well, there really wasn’t a lot of upstaging. I knew that as soon as it was rolling, there wasn’t anything I could do to work with it during the ceremony or the reception. It was put it on and it should run. The only real stipulations I had from my wife was that I couldn’t mess up the pictures, so I couldn’t wear it the entire night, so during pictures I had to take it off, and that obviously I couldn’t become preoccupied with it during the night, and that’s basically how it ran; I put it on and that was it. Didn’t touch it, just hoped it ran and I lucked out and it did.
Larry Jordan: Well, I was chatting about this with one of the folks in our office who’s about to get married and we’re all keeping track – it’s 23½ days until her ceremony – so I asked her what she would think if her fiancé did this and her response was that it was an interesting idea, but she thought the technology you were wearing would distract you from the ceremony itself. Did you find that to be the case?
Michael Kammes: That’s a really good point, and no it wasn’t. What you can’t hear in the video, because I put some music behind it on YouTube, what you can’t hear is that you hear me snorting and holding back tears. There was no loss of being in the moment and experiencing it. When the camera was put on, it was attached to my glasses – as you know, I wear glasses – it was attached to them, I hit record, stuck the recorder, which was wedged in my shoulder, in my jacket and that was it. There was no other thought about it. I knew if it was going to run, it was going to run. If not, so be it.
Larry Jordan: So what specific equipment did you use?
Michael Kammes: Interesting, before I get to the exact specifics, I did a massive amount of R&D, believe it or not, R&D for my own wedding. I worked with medical…
Larry Jordan: Michael, Michael…
Michael Kammes: Yes?
Larry Jordan: This is just such a disconnect. Holy Christmas. R&D for your wedding. Please continue. I just had to just recover from the shock of that statement.
Michael Kammes: Well, I suppose if my bride gets to work on the flowers and the color scheme, this can be what I get to do. So I worked with medical endoscopes. Unfortunately, they are SD or they don’t record, so that didn’t work too well. I went on a Tweet campaign to try and get a pair of Google Glass. That did not work. I tried various pre-made spy glasses from China. Got several of those. That didn’t work. So I even tried looking at getting just parts for GoPros and fabricating my own and that didn’t work.
Michael Kammes: What I settled on is something called a keychain camera. Some of you with, you know, cars with automatic starters or, you know, the little things that hang on your keychain that unlock your car – they’re called fobs – there’s a camera out there called the 808 series, which actually looked like a key fob. The latest version, which came out, you know, three months ago, shoots 1080p. I was able to get one of these relatively inexpensive, I think 70 or 80 dollars, and in China you can get a 15 inch lens extension cable, so you open up the 808, you put this 15 inch extension cable on there, put the top back on and that gave me a lens that was, you know, the size of a pinhead, essentially, and that’s 15 inches away from the body.
Michael Kammes: I was able to then accept my glasses and the recorder, because it has that kind of 15 inch tether, I could hide behind my ear, because it’s past my glasses, my longer hair hides the cable and the recorder sat between my shirt and my tux jacket.
Larry Jordan: Ok, so we’ve got the lens at the very leading edge of your glasses, the camera tucked behind your ear and the recorder was all part of that 880[sic] camera?
Michael Kammes: It was all part of the 808 camera, yes.
Larry Jordan: And who makes the 808?
Michael Kammes: Actually, you have to kind of search on eBay for it or find resellers. There’s not a one company that sells it. The one company that sells it, I can’t pronounce their name and they’re based out of China. There are a lot of knock-offs out there, so it does take some due diligence to find a good one, but this was a – for those out there who are taking notes – it was an 808 number 26. There have been almost 26 iterations of this unit, so there are a lot of other knock-offs out there.
Larry Jordan: I want to get into the editing and how you pulled the video off it, but there’s a side question here, because as camera become smaller and more portable, there develops a fine line between recording an event and invasion of privacy. How do we decide where we call on that line? Because it’s really easy for people to wear microscopically small devices and take them where they may not belong.
Michael Kammes: You’re completely correct and I wrestled with that quite a bit prior to the event and why I thought I could do it and it was ok was for numerous reasons. First off, I had a full videography crew there, people with professional cameras, professional lights documenting the event, so for someone to expect to be there and not end up on camera at some point, that just wasn’t a possibility.
Michael Kammes: There also was a fair amount of people there that knew that I had the camera. Now, not everyone but, you know, everyone in the bridal party, the majority of the families, a lot of my geek attendees were there and they knew about it, so it wasn’t a secret. It was easy to forget about it, because it was so small, but it certainly wasn’t a secret.
Larry Jordan: Talk about how you pulled the video off the camera. You said it recorded 1080p. What codec did it use? How much does it store and how did you get it for editing?
Michael Kammes: The 808 has a micro SD slot on there, so I had a 32 gig micro SD card, which I think ran me about $40, if memory serves, and the 808 camera can be configured to record in five minute increments, which I liked quite a bit because if a file got corrupted, it wouldn’t disrupt the entire piece, it was just that one five minute chunk. So it will record in five minutes, five minutes, five minutes and it wouldn’t drop a frame in between. These files were H.264 in a QuickTime MOV wrapper. It was a little bit of a proprietary .mld file, so when I edited it on a Mac, I had to use our old Swiss Army knife, Perian, for QuickTime to actually understand the file.
Michael Kammes: I then pulled those into, actually I used both Premier and Final Cut X to work with them. Because I did some of this on my honeymoon, which I know I’m going to get a chuckle out of you for, I didn’t have any monitors to do any color grading, so I used the Final Cut X auto color and then tweaked from there; and Premier I used just for the assembly.
Larry Jordan: I’m amazed your wife is still talking to you, actually, after editing video on your honeymoon. You are just living on the edge here, guy.
Michael Kammes: Yes. Luckily, she likes to sleep in, so if I get up before her, I’ve got time.
Larry Jordan: Ok, we’ve got the video finished, you cut it in Premier and Final Cut X, you posted it to YouTube. What happened?
Michael Kammes: A couple of different things. You know, I know people like to say that video becoming viral is an accident, but there are certain things you can do to help, right? You post it early in the week, you post it early in the morning. You don’t do it on a holiday. You email some people who may be more apt to spread it. You know, you send personalized emails to, you know, theCHIVE or you have a friend post it on Reddit, use kind of social blogs and social sites that people will share easy; and once I did that to a few people, it just exploded and within, I think, three days we had about 200,000 hits.
Larry Jordan: Yes, all right, so what happened next? I know what the answer is, you might as well just go through the whole litany. You now became famous and were interviewed by?
Michael Kammes: Well, a couple of different people contacted me. Inside Edition was the first one; however, that interview has not aired yet. KODC, who is the ABC affiliate here in Los Angeles, interviewed me and, as most affiliates do, they upload their media to a centralized sharing location, so all the affiliates around the country then picked it up if they had, you know, two and a half minutes of dead space in their run-down, then played it.
Michael Kammes: I also found out a couple of days ago that the ABC affiliate in Australia actually played it.
Larry Jordan: So now we have to kneel as you walk in the room, is that basically the rule? I mean, how is your wife taking all of this?
Michael Kammes: Kate knew everything that was going on; I told her ahead of time, “This is what I’d like to do,” but I gave her complete editorial control, so she could certainly say, “You know what? I don’t want this,” and there were a couple of scenes she hemmed and hawed about, you know, at the end I have the garter scene which you don’t see anything. It’s more of a joke, a tease if anything; and there was, you know, “Do I want people to see this? Do I want people to see that, you know, my dress is, you know, kind of low cut? Do I want people to see me crying? Do I want that?” And, you know, she agreed that it would great, so it was all with her blessing.
Larry Jordan: How did you handle sound?
Michael Kammes: Sound, that’s a very interesting question. Those of you who are looking for music on YouTube, you have to find royalty-free music otherwise there can be copyright issues, and so I went with the really well-known name of Kevin MacLeod, incompetech.com. He’s written hundreds of pieces which are available online under Creative Commons. As long as you credit him in the credits of the video, the music’s free. You can certainly donate, I encourage everyone to donate, I donated to him, but what that brings up is the fact that for those of you who are trying to monetize on YouTube, I used Kevin’s music and I uploaded it and YouTube said that the music matched third party content. I figured, well, of course, it was Kevin’s.
Michael Kammes: In fact, it was a company that was squatting on the music and claiming rights to it, which means I couldn’t monetize it. While YouTube worked out those issues, I lost out on, I’m guestimating, several hundred dollars of revenue because of me not being able to monetize the video because of that music. So it’s something to be aware of when you’re uploading content to YouTube – a) make sure you have rights to it; and b) make sure that no-one else is claiming rights to it.
Larry Jordan: And, because we’re essentially out of time, Michael, where can people go on the web to keep track of your latest exploits?
Michael Kammes: Well, see what I do for the first anniversary. You can go to michaelkammers.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s michaelkammes.com and Michael himself is the voice you’re listening to and, Michael, thanks for joining us today.
Michael Kammes: Always a pleasure, Larry, thank you.
Larry Jordan: Take care. Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Marc Hamaker is the Senior Product Marketing Manager for Autodesk Creative Finishing Products. That includes Flame Premium, Flame Flayer and Smoke for Mac. Marc, welcome back.
Marc Hamaker: Hello, nice to be here.
Larry Jordan: Listen, Autodesk has been making news. First they had announcement of Flame, which we’re going to save for another time, came out this morning, somebody’s been doing some work in the back rooms; but earlier this week, you guys announced a rental program. What did you guys announce?
Marc Hamaker: Well, we announced the availability of the option to rent Autodesk software. Basically, you can pay for and use our software really only for the time that you need it, it’s essentially a pay-as-you-go model, so if a customer only needs software for a few months, they could purchase a rental plan for that period and we’re offering a monthly or quarterly and an annual rental plan. And it’s not for every piece of software that Autodesk makes right now; what we’re offering or what we’ve announced is that we’ll be offering rental plans for our design and creation suites and, specific to the media entertainment space, that’s our entertainment creative suite, the Standard, the Premium and the Ultimate editions, as well as 3ds Max, Maya and Maya LT.
Larry Jordan: Marc, you probably don’t pay any attention to the competition, but about, oh, three months ago, Adobe drew a huge amount of flak when they switched to subscription-only pricing. How does yours differ from what Adobe was doing and did you learn anything from all the controversy?
Marc Hamaker: Well, the reaction to what we’ve announced has been very positive because our approach to this is to make rental plans an addition, another choice, right? So we’re trying to give our customers more flexibility in how they license and access their software. So our perpetual licenses are not going away and that option is still there, you still can buy a perpetual license. If you buy Autodesk subscription, you’ll still get access to the newest versions of that software. If you purchase a rental plan, you’ll still get access to the new versions of that software, so it’s really just a different way to access the software.
Marc Hamaker: And what we wanted to do is, you know, as I said, give people more flexibility, because when we look at, you know, from our existing customers to smaller shops and start-ups or freelancers, you know, a lot of people will tell us, with what’s going on in the industry, they need a different way to pay for that software. You know, maybe it’s the cost of entry for a small shop or a large facility that needs to scale up or ramp down for a large project that comes in the door. So we really see this as something that will fit really nicely to the offerings that we already have.
Larry Jordan: One of the things I was struck by as I went onto your website is that if you were to purchase a perpetual license, which is what we would traditionally think of when buying software, you don’t get support with that. That strikes me as unusual. How come that decision is the way it is?
Marc Hamaker: Well, a few years back, what we did is we added something that we call subscription, and subscription is not our rental plan. What we do with subscription is if you purchase a perpetual license and you want to keep it up to date and get support offerings with it, you can pay a yearly fee, and it’s a much smaller fee than buying a new version of the software, and you have access to the latest versions when they come out. So that’s kind of the model that we’ve been using for years and what we’re doing with rental is kind of taking that same model but changing it. You don’t pay the perpetual license fee up front; you pay, you know, over the course of how long you use the software.
Marc Hamaker: Of course, with a perpetual license you pay that, you know, first fee up front, then the subscription is a smaller charge you pay every year. With the rental plans, you’re going to pay on an ongoing basis so, you know, eventually you could actually wind up paying more than you would have paid if you’d just purchased a perpetual license and kept it up to date with subscription.
Larry Jordan: Well, that raises the question what does the rental cost?
Marc Hamaker: So the cost of the plan will vary by product and by the term and, as I said, we have three different offerings – the monthly, the quarterly and the annual – but basically the way it works and the way to think about it is the longer the commitment you make on the rental plan, the more you’re going to save if you look at it on a month by month basis, and I’ll give you an example, and we have all the prices on our website so you can go find those.
Marc Hamaker: But just let’s use 3ds Max, for example. A monthly rental charge for 3ds Max is $195. If you decide you want to commit for a year, your yearly commitment that you pay is $1,840 but if you do the math on that, it’s about $153 a month, so you’re getting a break for committing to that one year period.
Larry Jordan: And what would be the perpetual license, if they were to buy it outright?
Marc Hamaker: I think it’s, in US pricing only, and our pricing varies all over the world, but it’s about $3500, somewhere in that neighborhood.
Larry Jordan: So, roughly, renting it for two years is going to equal the price of a perpetual license but the difference is, because you’re renting, you get upgrades at no additional cost and you get support at no additional cost.
Marc Hamaker: Yes, but the same thing, you know? Here’s the way to look at it: if you’re going to be using the software on an ongoing basis, right, you’re not ramping up for a small project or you have a pretty predictable pipeline of things that you know are going to keep you and your staff, your production staff, busy on an ongoing basis, you’re better off to buy a perpetual license and just keep it up to date with subscription, because – as you said – after about two to two and a half years, the rental plans are going to start costing you more money; and we’ve been very clear about that and, again, that’s why we really wanted to put this out there as a choice, not force people one way or the other but, you know, really give people more options.
Marc Hamaker: You know, I’ll give you an example. We’ve been working on this rollout for a while and we finally got it out this week and it’s fun to see the comments and see what the reaction has been from people and I’ve seen, you know, a freelancer who said, “This is great. I wish this had been around the last time I got booked on a six month job,” you know, because he obviously didn’t want to pay for a full perpetual license if he didn’t need it after he finished, or maybe he used different software and this job required Maya or something like that.
Marc Hamaker: Or students, you know, Autodesk has a program where we make our software available to students for free, we have free student licenses but, you know, when a student gets out of school, it’s going to be very expensive for them to start buying all the software that they may have learned, so this is an interesting way that they could even access that software as well.
Larry Jordan: What happens to your data once you stop paying the fee of a monthly rental?
Marc Hamaker: So this is a desktop software, right? So the real change is how you license the software. So you would save your files to your local computer, all of that. They’re fully compatible with either the perpetual license software or the rental plan license software, so you have all your data, you don’t lose your data, it’s not stored up on the cloud or anything like that.
Larry Jordan: You know, I was just reflecting. I can see the benefits to a software developer for rental, because trying to project income when you’re just doing upgrades becomes an exercise in just tearing your hair out and having a consistent rental income makes it a lot easier for developers to project development and look at staffing levels. I’m working on just figuring out what the benefits are to the end user. Just help me walk through that again.
Marc Hamaker: Well, what I would say is kind of turn that around and if you think about, you know, what people going into business have to do or people that have a business have to do, you know, the projects, the industry, there are all kinds of ups and downs, right? So in a lot of ways, the ability, you know, for a larger shop that already exists, as I said, they could scale up or ramp down based on the needs of a project.
Marc Hamaker: You know, if you need 50 seats of our software for six months or a year, you’re working on a film, you may not necessarily want to buy all those as perpetual licenses; or if you’re a start-up, you know, maybe the cost of buying the five or ten licenses you need to get started starts to become a barrier, you know? So you want that lower cost of entry with a rental plan license.
Marc Hamaker: So, I think that that’s really what the benefit is for our customers and, again, you know, we expect most of our existing customers to continue to use perpetual licenses and to work the way they have worked before. But again, for those customers that want more flexibility or people that have told us that they’re interested in this way of working because it lets them get in the door for a lower cost, you know, this is a great option.
Larry Jordan: I like options and especially I like the fact that you can select a subscription or you could select the perpetual license, but you’re not forced to choose one or the other.
Marc Hamaker: Yes, absolutely, and that was very important and we’ve made it very clear that we don’t have any plans to stop offering all those choices.
Larry Jordan: And Marc, where can people go on the web to learn more about what Autodesk is doing?
Marc Hamaker: So the best place to go is area.autodesk.com/rental-plans for all the information, FAQ, all of that.
Larry Jordan: That’s area.autodesk.com/rental-plans. Marc Hamaker is the Senior Manager for Product Marketing at Autodesk and, Marc, thanks for joining us today.
Marc Hamaker: Thank you, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Marc Hamaker: Bye.
Larry Jordan: Michael Jorgensen is a Canadian filmmaker with a passion for character-driven storytelling. He won an Emmy in 2003 for Best Long Form News and Current Affairs Documentary. Since then, he’s worked exclusively on prime time specials for broadcasters around the world, including Lost Nuke, Mars Rising, Secrets of the Dinosaur Mummy, Hunt for the Mad Trapper and Hitler’s Stealth Fighter. Michael, thanks for joining us today.
Michael Jorgensen: Oh, it’s my pleasure, thank you.
Larry Jordan: Well, you have generated no end of controversy with your latest film, which is called Unclaimed, and we’re going to talk about both production and the controversy, but first tell us what Unclaimed is about.
Michael Jorgensen: Well, Unclaimed is a story about a war-torn Vietnam veteran who, in 2008, is in South East Asia doing humanitarian work when he hears the story about a man claiming to be an American Special Forces soldier who has been missing since 1968 and Tom Faunce, our main character who found this individual, who claims to be a Special Forces operative named John Robertson, Tom sets out on a quest which has really taken him from 2008 until just recently to try to reconnect and reunite this man claiming to be John Robertson with his family back in the United States.
Larry Jordan: Well, there’s a lot of controversy about John Robertson – we’ll talk about that in a second – but who’s Tom Faunce and why did he decide to start this quest in the first place?
Michael Jorgensen: Well, like many Vietnam veterans, Tom Faunce came back – he did two tours in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970 in the US Army – and came back to the world and shortly after coming back decided that he wanted to really spend the rest of his life elevating other people’s lives and making their lives better, so he’s really been all around the world over the past four decades in war-torn areas, trying, you know, on his own dime for the most part, just helping, putting in water wells in villages and helping people in need and that’s when he was in South East Asia and first heard the story about John Robertson and just knew, being a Vietnam veteran, that he had to go meet this man and see for himself.
Larry Jordan: When we announced you were coming on the show, we got some emails coming back which comes to the controversial part of the film. I’m just going to read one of them, because I want to have you respond to it. It’s from a Jack Tobin, who’s the President of the Special Forces Association. He says: ‘The Special Forces Association Board of Officers has considered all the information provided by the agencies charged with all matters involving Vietnam era POW and MIAs, has consulted with members who know SFC John Hartley Robertson and can only conclude that this movie and its producers are aware that the individual now claiming to be John Robertson is phony and that their production is a hoax’. How would you respond to that?
Michael Jorgensen: Well, the film and the filmmakers have never claimed definitively this is John Hartley Robertson. Now, the US government has known about this individual as far back as 1991, and to date still claim, you know, that they have done their own, that somehow they got the family’s DNA, a sister and brother’s DNA, and did a test against this guy, without the family’s knowledge and claim that this is not John Robertson.
Michael Jorgensen: Well, that’s really where the controversy comes in, because the government is claiming, as Mr. Tobin has stated, that this is not Sergeant John Robertson, yet his sister and her family to a person, who have spent, you know, several days with this man, are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is their loved one.
Michael Jorgensen: So to me, the controversy really is that disconnect between a family who’s convinced that this is their loved one and a government who claims that it’s not and, you know, it’s interesting Mr. Tobin doesn’t cite a recent, you know, Associated Press report that was written by Robert Burns shortly after our film first was screened internationally here in Canada, that the Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel was prompted to have an emergency Senate hearing over a suppressed government report the Pentagon tried to suppress for, it seems like, the past year that calls, you know, this is the US government calling its own MIA accounting agencies acutely dysfunctional, inept and potentially fraudulent, calling into question more than 83,000 MIA cases over the last seven years, so that’s stretching back from, you know, all the way to World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Larry Jordan: I want to look at it from a slightly different point of view, putting your filmmaker hat back on, because we could probably talk about the controversy ‘til we run out of time on next week’s show, but as a filmmaker, how do you balance, especially when you’re dealing with a controversial subject, how do you balance between controversy creating a compelling story and controversy creating sensationalism?
Michael Jorgensen: Well, this is not a story that is about whether this is John Hartley Robertson or not. This is a film about Tom Faunce and it’s a film really about humanity and how far you would go to help somebody that you don’t even know, and that’s what Tom Faunce has done. So we really follow Tom Faunce’s story, we follow Tom on his quest to find John Hartley Robertson’s family and reunite them; and then Tom, like he does in most of his work, leaves and goes onto his next mission in life.
Michael Jorgensen: So, you know, this is not an investigative documentary into whether this is John Hartley Robertson. This is a story about one human being trying to help another human being and I think, unfortunately, you know, people like Mr. Tobin focus on the controversy and have never even seen the film.
Larry Jordan: What was it about this story that compelled you to make a documentary? Because that’s a long term process that, as you know even better than most, goes on for years.
Michael Jorgensen: It certainly is a big commitment, Larry, and it’s a big emotional commitment and, you know, when I first spoke to Tom and he told me about this story, of course I was very skeptical and very dubious. But really what convinced me to make the film wasn’t whether this was John Hartley Robertson or not. This to me was Tom’s story is just so compelling about the trials and tragedies and the hardships that he had growing up as a youngster in Detroit, Michigan and going off to Vietnam when he was 17 and surviving 27 months in country there and then coming back to the world and putting his life together and committing his life to helping other people.
Michael Jorgensen: So to me, that was a great human story that really needed to be told and that’s really the story of Unclaimed, it’s really the story of, you know, how far one human will go to help somebody that they don’t even know.
Larry Jordan: How long did the film take you to make from start to finish?
Michael Jorgensen: Well, it probably in pre-production and research was about 18 months; and then once we started shooting the film, it didn’t take very long at all. You know, we had no idea how it would end or whether, at the time, Tom hadn’t found John Robertson’s siblings, so that was still a big question, about whether he was going to be able to find some family members who wanted to help him confirm one way or the other whether this was their loved one.
Michael Jorgensen: So we started filming in April, we did two trips to Vietnam of about four or five days each and spent some time shooting in Washington DC and then in Tom’s home town in Michigan, and then we finished with this man claiming to be John Robertson being reunited with his sister and her family and then they spent a week together; and there’s no question In the family’s mind that, you know, this is their loved one.
Larry Jordan: You mentioned something, that it took you 18 months, give or take a little bit, for pre-production and research. A lot of the people that listen to this program are new to creating films and documentaries. What’s your process of verifying facts? Because you’ve been doing documentaries now for ten years. How do you make sure that you’ve got it all straight?
Michael Jorgensen: Well, it’s really a question of getting different sources and those sources that you’re getting are giving you the same information independently of one another; and certainly going into this film there was a lot of question marks about the man claiming to be John Robertson, but we were able to get quite a bit of information about him. But, you know, from the time that he was shot down in May of 1968, his whole story, his whole file, was really a black hole and it was really difficult for Tom to find and, along with another veteran that helped Tom on this quest named Ed Mahoney, and Ed Mahoney and John Robertson had served together in the Army and Ed Mahoney met this man claiming to be John Robertson and also confirmed, you know, there’s no question in his mind that this is friend and former colleague John Robertson.
Michael Jorgensen: So, you know, the process really differs and a lot of times the story is right there in front of you and there’s not a lot of facts to research, other than the context and back story of the information of the quest and of the narrative, and since I was really focusing on Tom’s story, you know, the research was more trying to get as much information about the real man, you know, John Robertson, as we could before we set out with our camera to follow Tom back to Vietnam.
Larry Jordan: You’re opening the Westdoc conference next week. How did Westdoc find you?
Michael Jorgensen: Well, you know, fortunately for us, Chuck Braverman saw a rough cut of the film when it was submitted for consideration to the Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto and he saw it and immediately called me and he has, you know, been a big proponent of the film and very supportive and that’s really the reason why, is thanks to Chuck, you know, and he’s seen a lot of documentaries and obviously we have a huge amount of respect for his work, that he seems, you know, to think that Unclaimed was a film that needed to be seen at Westdoc this year.
Larry Jordan: And when and where is the film screening? And are there still tickets available?
Michael Jorgensen: I’m not sure if there are tickets still available. You can go on the Westdoc site and see and that screening will happen on this coming Monday.
Larry Jordan: This coming Monday. Are you going to be here? Are you going to be in the audience watching?
Michael Jorgensen: I will be there for the screening and will have a Q&A after, so yes, I hope to meet some of your listeners when I’m there.
Larry Jordan: That would be very cool. What are your plans after you get done with Westdoc for the film?
Michael Jorgensen: Well, it’s going to a couple of other festivals, so we’ll be doing a little bit more traveling with it and it’s just starting to be seen in a few more festivals, so Westdoc is really the launch for us. We’re really trying to get this film out across the planet and really, you know, I hope that it really prompts, you know, more discussion about the plight of POW and MIA families and, you know, recognizes the contributions of, you know, Vietnam vets like John Robertson and Tom Faunce.
Larry Jordan: Where can people go to see the trailer?
Michael Jorgensen: They can go to the website, which is movieunclaimed.com and you can see the trailer, you can read a lot more about behind the scenes of the film, a lot of stuff for you. When you go on the homepage, you’ll see you can go onto the documentary part of the site and learn more about the film and then there’s another part of the website that’s called Across the Fence, and you can go there and see more clips from some of the participants that are in the film and read some more about the war and get some more information about the whole POW/MIA issue.
Larry Jordan: That is movieunclaimed.com. Michael Jorgensen is the writer, producer, director for Unclaimed and, Michael, thanks for joining us today.
Michael Jorgensen: Thank you very much.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Well, from the drama of Unclaimed, we’re going to do a change of pace and switch to comedy. Nick Howell produced his first feature in 2007 entitled Chris O’Neill and he’s been focusing on new media content, such as the recently released comedy web series Studio City ever since. Nick, welcome.
Nick Howell: Larry, it’s great to talk to you.
Larry Jordan: It is our pleasure, really glad to have you here. Tell us first about what Studio City is.
Nick Howell: Oh, man. I would say it’s the mad ravings of a Yorkshireman, but let’s really get into it. It’s two regular guys that are surrounded by insanity, is basically how you round it up. You know, the fact that an alien comes out of their wardrobe closet is no more extreme to them than the fact that they got a parking ticket yesterday. So it’s almost as if they’re oblivious to all of these strange happenings that are going on around them and how it changes their lives.
Nick Howell: So if you took, you know, Family Guy and Monty Python and threw it in a blender, you’d get some elements of those kinds of things are parts of it as well.
Larry Jordan: That’s not necessarily a picture I want to keep in my head very long, but I hear what you’re saying. What got you interested in comedy in the first place?
Nick Howell: Well, we all love comedy and, you know, we’ve had certain inspirations over the years and it’s not the only thing that we’re looking at getting into, but what really fascinated us in getting to this was the guy that wrote this, Chris O’Neill, my best friend, came up with a concept for a pilot for a lot of the stuff that was going on, something new and unique in the sense that it pitched to the studios for a pilot.
Nick Howell: So the concept wasn’t received very well, it wasn’t mainstream, so with the success of House of Cards and all of these web series that are popping up on YouTube, we decided that, yes, we can do this. So we went along the path of putting everything in place to get it together, cast, lined up all the equipment, set dates and shot the whole thing in I think it was a little over a week, about eight days.
Larry Jordan: Wait a second, wait a second. Your background is not in filmmaking.
Nick Howell: It is not.
Larry Jordan: You were doing something different with your life, weren’t you, until recently?
Nick Howell: Yes. Well, still doing it. I’m in that weird spot where this is a little more than hobbyist but not quite full-time kind of thing.
Larry Jordan: Ah, in other words you’re still not quite making a living at it.
Nick Howell: Correct, yes.
Larry Jordan: You’re not alone. There’s a lot of filmmakers in the same boat.
Nick Howell: I like the way you don’t pull punches, Larry.
Larry Jordan: What have you learned about shooting comedy, doing this series? Because shooting comedy is not easy to do.
Nick Howell: It’s not. So Chris and I actually shot a feature film together back in 2007. It was mostly night-lit, it was kind of a crime thriller sort of thing, so the lighting and the mood and the dialogue and everything is completely different than a sitcom style comedy where everything is brightly lit, timing is everything. What did we learn is shoot it as many times as you can, do as many takes as you can until you know you’ve got it, because ultimately once you get into post, everybody’s gone home. In the indie world, you can’t really afford to do rewrites, everybody has gone off and doing their own thing. So light it really well is one of the best things I learned. Don’t change that lighting while you’re in the middle of shooting or, if you do change the lighting, go back and re-shoot everything before that; and audio, be sure to test your audio. I would say lighting and audio are the two biggest lessons learned.
Larry Jordan: Yes, the testing of audio is the one thing people forget until they get into post and then they’re kicking themselves around the suite.
Nick Howell: Yes.
Larry Jordan: How are you mic-ing this?
Nick Howell: So in order to keep the crew light, we decided to use a mic stand with a road Shotgun mic, so typically you put it in a hot shoe on top of a camera or something like that, but we ended up getting some extension cables and running it back down to the camera for the input and just had it on a mic stand and when we would change the set-up, just reorient the mic. That way, we didn’t have to have a boom guy, it eliminated the need for that.
Larry Jordan: So it was an NTG2? Or what mic did you use, do you remember?
Nick Howell: I’m not 100 percent sure, to be honest.
Larry Jordan: A long one or a short one?
Nick Howell: It was a long one.
Larry Jordan: Yes, the NTG2.
Nick Howell: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Ok, so we’ve got good audio on set; you’ve got it lit so you’re not changing the lighting. How about blocking and actors? What do you do to keep it funny?
Nick Howell: So the blocking part was interesting. If we talk about the camera part of it, we were going to try and shoot it on the Canon HXA1, which is the same camera that we used for our feature that we did before, but because of the tight confined spaces, we needed something that was a little more agile, I guess. So we had discovered a few years ago Canon had put out, it was a consumer… camera, but it was a tape 24P camera. We love shooting in 24P.
Nick Howell: So we ended up using a Canon HV40, which technically is considered a consumer grade camera, but we were inspired to get it, if you watch the Making Of for Crank 2, those guys that made that, some of the shots that they used of Statham running around, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor – make sure I get their names right – shot that with the Canon HV40 and it was one of the last tape consumer cameras that they made a few years ago. So we used that with a wide angle lens and the blocking was just, Chris was the director, he tried a bunch of different line-ups and a bunch of different set-ups with the camera and we had a ton of footage to through in post by the time we got to it.
Larry Jordan: And what did you use for post? What software?
Nick Howell: Oh, that’s a great story, Larry. Final Cut X.
Larry Jordan: What makes it a great story?
Nick Howell: Well, as I’m sure you’re well aware, there was a lot of vitriol that went around in the industry around Final Cut X when it was released and, at the time, we were still in the early days of pre-production of this and getting it all together. So at the post, there were a few dot dot revisions of Final Cut X around and we had worked with Final Cut 6 and 7 before on the feature and didn’t really love it, we weren’t in love with it, so I went, “You know, let’s give this Final Cut X a shot and let me go find some formal training that I can learn my way around Final Cut X, just so that I know what’s different,” and I Google searched Final Cut X training and can you guess who I ran across?
Larry Jordan: I can guess, but you might as well tell me.
Nick Howell: I ran across the Larry Jordan Final Cut X class and it’s almost surreal hearing your voice right now, it’s just it’s not coming out of my TV. But no, the training was very, very good; I’d encourage anybody, I’d definitely vouch for it. It taught me not so much about the advanced stuff that I kind of already knew, but the fundamentals that are so, so important to getting events and projects and organization and media management, all that stuff that you go into, the early stuff in the course, was what really changed the game for me. It made things so much easier as we went through post.
Larry Jordan: Well, I will confess that the reason we have a producer book the guests is because, frankly, I’ve just got too much other stuff going on. I didn’t know that you actually learned Final Cut from me until about, oh, yesterday. So just for people thinking, “Is this self serving?” the answer’s not as far as I’m concerned. I had no idea. This is a very cool story, thanks for sharing.
Nick Howell: I’m being very genuine.
Larry Jordan: What’s your next project? What are you planning? Are you going to continue flogging Studio City or have we got something else cooking?
Nick Howell: Well, both, actually. So it’s officially live and posted on YouTube and Funnierguy and we’re going to flog it around some of the festivals, two of them locally here in LA and then, I believe, Vancouver are the three that are tops on our radar right now. We’re looking for some other ones that we could potentially do.
Nick Howell: Top of mind right now after that is we’ve kind of got a horror concept that we want to put together. Chris and I both want to do a horror movie and Chris has been a long time screenwriter, so we’re basically sitting on a goldmine of scripts of potential concepts that we could do, but I think we’re going to do a horror feature next. We’re really intrigued by the… series stuff. We want to see how this goes and while it’s going through the festivals next year, we’re going to go off and do something else.
Larry Jordan: Well, one of the things that horror is good for is making money, because there’s a lot of people will buy tickets for it and it’s a good way to start a film career, is to generating something that’s going to pay for itself.
Nick Howell: Absolutely. Yes, it’s all about the makeup and it’s all about the post-production and the sound, in my opinion, when it comes to horror movies, and I think that’s what differentiates stuff. If you go back and watch something as old as Invasion of the Body Snatchers or anything as recent as Paranormal Activity or Insidious, it’s all about the sound and it’s all about the post-production stuff.
Larry Jordan: And for people that want to learn more about Studio City, where do they go?
Nick Howell: Well, right now everything is on YouTube, so go to youtube.com/studiocityseries. All six episodes are uploaded there. You can also find them on funnierguy/studiocity. We’d love to hear your feedback, let us know what you think. As I said, we’re getting ready to pitch it around the festival circuit and we’re taking any kind of feedback anybody would be willing to offer.
Larry Jordan: And the producer behind Studio City is Nick Howell. The website is on youtube.com/studiocityseries and, Nick, thanks for joining us today.
Nick Howell: Larry, great talking to you. Thanks for having me again.
Larry Jordan: My pleasure. Take care, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: I’m just sitting here thinking it’s been a great collection of guests today and one of the things that we wanted to do as we talk with the people we talk to each week is try to make their thoughts available to you on a much broader basis, which gets me back to the transcripts I mentioned at the beginning of the show. Take1 Transcripts is a London-based company, but they do transcripts for shows all over the world. We had their CEO a little bit ago and I’m blanking on his last name, but his first name is Dom and as he and I were talking both on the air but, more importantly, after we realized there’s a real opportunity for us to provide written transcripts that are searchable so you can find out what people are saying without necessarily investing the full hour to listen to the show; and there’s also a benefit because it’s easier for us to do extracts from a text transcript than from an audio file.
Larry Jordan: But we’re doing this as a test. We’re going to do this for the next month and see what you think and I’m very interested in getting your opinions on whether the transcripts are helpful or not. So if you’ve had a chance, take a look at the transcript and then send me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org – and let me know what you think. Tell me if the transcripts are useful, tell me if you would like to see something a little bit different. We’re always interested. We’re trying to put links in so you can read the transcript and jump to a person’s website without having to go through a lot of hoops.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of stuff that’s new in addition to our transcripts, Adobe’s been very busy this week, announcing major software upgrades. They have updated Prelude and a brand new program called Prelude Live Logger. They updated Premier Pro and After Effects, SpeedGrade, Media Encoder and Story Plus.
Larry Jordan: There are a ton of features. I wrote a blog about this, talking about some of the new features, but one thing intrigues me a lot, which is how Adobe is building on the collaboration between all these different applications and the way they’re implementing that. There’s a new piece of software called Adobe Anywhere. What Adobe Anywhere is, is it runs on a server stored at the production company, it’s not an Adobe server, it’s a client server that runs at the local production office and the server itself feeds video out, streams video from the server out to Prelude or out to Premier so that multiple people can be accessing the same files at the same time; and we’re not downloading the files – it’s actually being streamed directly from the server into Premier.
Larry Jordan: What this means is that there’s no local media stored anywhere. Your editors could be working with media which is based in, say, San Francisco, editing in Los Angeles, editing in New York, editing in London and yet the media is not stored on those remote locations, the media is stored locally on the server.
Larry Jordan: There are some very interesting new features that are going to be coming. They announced it last Sunday night, midnight going to Monday. They’re showing it this week at IBC in Amsterdam and they’re going to be releasing it some time in October – they have not yet announced a date.
Larry Jordan: The other thing that I’m really impressed with is the Prelude Live Logger. This is a new piece of software which allows you to, say, watch a sporting contest and you can be logging the sporting contest and it creates what’s called a growing file. A growing file is a file which is continuing to record while at the same time you’re able to log it and edit it, so you can do sports highlights, for instance, while the game is still going on. Now, high end production has been able to do this for a long period of time, but to be able to move this down into something like a Premier is a first and the Live Logger allows us to add all the necessary tags and metadata to be able to say this is where a particular play was or a particular score occurred is something that I think is really cool and I’m looking forward to being able to play with it when the Live Logger software ships in October.
Larry Jordan: They’ve added all kinds of, SpeedGrade now supports all the audio formats that are inside Premier, much tighter integration between Premier and SpeedGrade, tighter integration between After Effects. We’ve got full support for Pro Res inside Prelude. The list of features goes on and on. If you haven’t had a chance, take a look at the blog, which is larryjordan.biz/blog and go down and you’ll see it’s the second entry, goes into detail on what is involved with all of those pieces of software.
Larry Jordan: One more thing that’s coming up I’m looking forward to, I’m leaving on a plane tomorrow, flying over to Amsterdam. I’m going to be keynoting the SuperMeet, the IBC SuperMeet, but I’ve got all day Saturday to do nothing except rest up and visit IBC, so I’m looking forward to going to IBC. I’ll be taking our audio recorders with me and doing some interviews both on Saturday and Sunday, but the topic that we’re talking about at the SuperMeet is one that’s been a high topic for a long period of time and that is: Is Final Cut X ready for professional use?
Larry Jordan: And, as I’ve been doing research and talking with editors about this, I’m discovering that the whole term professional is changing and what professionals demand of their software is changing and what new tools they can use is changing and I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned with you. I’m looking forward to being at the SuperMeet and the presentation will be Sunday evening. Go to supermeet.com to learn more.
Larry Jordan: And I want to thank this week’s guests – Michael Kammes, the Director of Technology and Marketing at Key Code Media and the Geek Groom; Marc Hamaker, the Senior Manager of Product Marketing for Autodesk; Michael Jorgensen, the producer, director and writer of a controversial new film called Unclaimed; and Nick Howell, the producer of Studio City.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot happening at The Buzz between shows. Visit digitalproductionbuzz.com, click ‘Latest News’ – we update it several times a day with what the latest news is. Visit with us on Twitter at dpbuzz and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Music is provided by Smart Sound. Our producer is Cirina Catania. My name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to The Buzz.