Digital Production Buzz
September 19, 2013
[Transcripts provided by Take1.tv.]
[To listen to this show, click here.]
Sébastien Francoeur, Senior CG Artist, Rodeo Visual Effects Company
Jessica Sitomer, President of The Greenlight Coach
Jeremy Pollard, Product Manager, Cospective
Philip Hodgetts, President, Intelligence Assistance
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 and 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 and joining us as our co-host is the ever handsome, ever cosmopolitan, Mr. Mike Horton.
Mike Horton: Cosmopolitan? I got off the plane yesterday and you got off the plane the day before and we’re both seeing double and we can still speak English.
Larry Jordan: And, well, you know, you have just made a trip of the tour of the capitals of Europe, you know.
Mike Horton: I did.
Larry Jordan: Yes you did.
Mike Horton: And you didn’t.
Larry Jordan: Well, no, you didn’t give me time.
Mike Horton: You basically took the flight; no, you didn’t take the time. You could have taken the time, Larry, and you should have, because Amsterdam is a beautiful city, and we’re going to talk a little bit more about that at the end of the show.
Larry Jordan: It is a beautiful city.
Mike Horton: About the SuperMeet and Larry, of course, was brilliant.
Larry Jordan: Well, thank you.
Mike Horton: And you all missed a wonderful presentation. However, we’ll be talking about that presentation later.
Larry Jordan: We’ve got an announcement about that, in fact.
Mike Horton: We do.
Larry Jordan: But thinking about special people, we’ve got a great group of guests today. We’re going to start with Sébastien Francoeur, the senior CG artist with Rodeo Visual Effects Company based in Montreal, Canada. He gives us an inside look at how they created effects for Pacific Rim and Now You See Me.
Mike Horton: And a lot of other good movies coming up: Hunger Games and boy, this guy’s doing some really good stuff.
Larry Jordan: He also worked on The Amazing Spiderman, if I remember right.
Mike Horton: Yes, well, he’s doing some really cool stuff and he’s Canadian too, so maybe he has an accent.
Larry Jordan: Then Jessica Sitomer, the President of The Greenlight Coach joins us with some suggestions on how to nail your pitch meeting, both personally and professionally. Then we move from Canada to Australia – Jeremy Pollard is the Product Manager for Australia-based Cospective. He manages a relatively new product called Frankie, which allows remote multi-user interactive video review and this week we get a chance to learn more about it; and Philip Hodgetts, President of Intelligence Assistance, just returned from IBC in Amsterdam…
Mike Horton: Yes, right.
Larry Jordan: …got off the plane about two nanoseconds ago and he shares his thoughts on what he saw that the rest of us need to pay attention to. Oh, Mike, by the way, have you noticed that we are now offering complete text transcripts for each show?
Mike Horton: I did know that.
Larry Jordan: That’s courtesy of Take1.tv. You can now quickly scan or print the contents of each show, as well as listen to it. Transcripts are located on each show page and we are incredibly grateful to Take1.tv for all their hard work in putting these transcripts together. The show gets posted Thursday night, the transcripts are posted…
Mike Horton: Can they actually transcribe my voice and my speech and my inability to enunciate?
Larry Jordan: We do what’s called a smooth transcription. We take your speech and turn it into English. It’s really cool. You can visit their website at take1.tv. So how was SuperMeet?
Mike Horton: It was awesome. It was great.
Larry Jordan: Did you have anybody show up?
Mike Horton: Yes, Larry Jordan showed up.
Larry Jordan: Well, I know that.
Mike Horton: Thank God. If you didn’t, there would have been big trouble.
Larry Jordan: You had a big crowd.
Mike Horton: We did and weren’t they the nicest people in the world?
Larry Jordan: Yes, it’s always a fun city.
Mike Horton: Oh, it’s just the best. I just love Amsterdam.
Larry Jordan: Just a thought – you can visit us on Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com; we’re on Twitter, @dpbuzz, and be sure to subscribe to our weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com for all the latest news on both our show and the industry; and Mike is just aquiver with excitement. He’s got some special announcements about the SuperMeet that we’re going to be talking about at the end of the show.
Larry Jordan: We’ll be brack [sic] with…
Mike Horton: Brack?
Larry Jordan: Whatever it is, we’re going to be back with Sébastien Francoeur…
Mike Horton: Speech translation!
Larry Jordan: …with a phone call to Montreal, right after this.
Larry Jordan: Blackmagic Design made two big announcements earlier this week at IBC in Amsterdam. First, the ATEM 1 production studio switcher added new features such as ten independent 6G STI inputs, each with frame sync, 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 OpenFX plug-ins and the ability to create DCP packages inside Resolve for projects destined for theatrical delivery. And now DaVinci Resolve Lite supports both ultra HD and additional GPUs and it’s still free. Visit blackmagicdesign.com to learn more.
Larry Jordan: Sébastien Francoeur is a Senior CG Artist with Rodeo Visual Effects Company, which is based in Montreal, Canada. Some of his recent work includes Now You See Me and Pacific Rim. Welcome, Sébastien.
Sébastien Francoeur: Hey, hi, how are you?
Larry Jordan: We are doing great, thanks very much for joining us this evening.
Sébastien Francoeur: Yes, same to you.
Larry Jordan: So what got you started in visual effects in the first place?
Sébastien Francoeur: My first place was [Buzz Manager] in Montreal, here.
Larry Jordan: Doing what?
Sébastien Francoeur: I was an all-rounder. I was working basically on commercial for Quebec and sometimes we were doing some huge campaign in Canada and that was basically my work at that time.
Larry Jordan: So some of your recent projects include Now You See Me and Pacific Rim. Tell me about the work you did on Now You See Me. What effects were you working on?
Sébastien Francoeur: On Now You See Me, the challenge for that show was everything was using different assets, so we needed to build some specific assets, a lot of assets on a few shots.
Larry Jordan: Well, for instance, what was an example of an effect that you created?
Sébastien Francoeur: For something, we created bubbles. We did also some CG cars. We worked on the CG front.
Larry Jordan: Well, you said that the challenge was working with so many different assets. What made that challenging?
Sébastien Francoeur: Basically, in visual effects these days, it’s always a matter of time. We get less and less time. Yes, so we needed to find a way to make it believable and to get the realism we need, but like I said, we don’t have the time to build a solid asset or stuff like that, so we need to be careful in the way we are using our time.
Larry Jordan: Well, it seems to me that being careful in how you use your time is always essential because you could spend an unlimited amount of time on just about any effect, couldn’t you?
Sébastien Francoeur: Yes, yes, exactly, so we needed to find the right target, what we needed for that shot – do we need complex rig, complex animation? Can we do it quite basically? For example, for the bubbles, it was hand-[drawn] animation with basic deformation and some slight simulation on top. Getting to a rig with, yes, getting into a rig to animate those bubbles, we can spend a lot of time and being not … yes.
Mike Horton: How does the process work? Do the producers and the directors come to you and specifically ask for a particular piece of visual effect? Or do they say, “Well, we kind of want this to look like this and you guys figure it out and send it to us and we’ll say if it’s right or not”?
Sébastien Francoeur: It depends always on the type of project, yes? So sometimes, yes, we needed to develop and conceptualize what’s going to happen and sometimes it’s kind of a transparent effect, so it’s not subjective. It’s fully objective, what we need to do, so yes.
Mike Horton: I’m sorry, Larry, because I get excited about this stuff. Judging by your show reel and the movies that you’ve done and that you have on your website and the movies that are coming out that you have done, I mean, obviously you guys are very, very talented, but why do they go to you? Why did they go to your company and not another company to ask for specific tasks for their movie?
Sébastien Francoeur: Well, I think our producers are doing a great job. Our President, the VFX Supervisor, Sébastien Moreau, he has worked in LA, he has his own contacts there and he is able to show us how to deliver this quality also here in Montreal. So he brings [us] the contract and, with his mind and his thinking, we’re getting the results expected.
Mike Horton: Well, your results are really extraordinary, at least what you have on your website.
Sébastien Francoeur: Very well, thank you.
Larry Jordan: One of the effects you created, I think it was you that created this, in Now You See Me, was you took Madison Square Garden, or no, you took a theater in Las Vegas, anyway some big space and you filled it with people, you created a crowd shot and the crowd shot needed to look believable, like there were 8,000 people there. How do you go about the process of creating that effect? Walk me through how you do that.
Sébastien Francoeur: Well, basically at the beginning we weren’t supposed to build some CG crowd like that. We were supposed to receive some plates from the production but the Cable Cam didn’t work, so it was really, really fun. So we were looking at the plates and Rodeo was doing a lot of CG people. It wasn’t our first time, but each time we were working on CG people, it was far, far away but that time, when we see how we needed to cover or fill up the crowd in Now You See Me, we knew that we needed some motion capture, some high quality animation. But, yes, we needed to have some good quality animation so we went through software, iPi Soft, and…
Mike Horton: Say that again, iPi Soft?
Sébastien Francoeur: Yes, iPi software.
Mike Horton: Ok.
Sébastien Francoeur: So we were using that solution; with that software, we can build a small Mocap studio really easily. I think we spent only 2,000 on this set-up, yet we buy four PlayStation cameras and we, yes, we definitely built our own Mocap studios with a really cheap price.
Larry Jordan: So you would motion capture several different actors doing typical crowd movements and then you would take that motion capture information and do what with it?
Sébastien Francoeur: With that motion capture, we just built our skeleton in our software and build the tool, a crowd tool, and we bring that region underground, where we wanted that specific action or something like that, so it was really user friendly. And we were able to spot this guy’s height, his motion, so we just painted the region on the ground when he was doing another action. So yes, and using iPi Soft, it has a huge library – a fast way to get a really great animation.
Mike Horton: Is most of the software that you use off the shelf? Or do you use proprietary software that you develop or techniques that you develop on your own?
Sébastien Francoeur: Sorry, can you repeat?
Mike Horton: The software that you use to create all those wonderful visual effects that you do, is that just pretty much off the shelf that anybody can go and buy and use?
Sébastien Francoeur: Yes, sure, sure. We are using Softimage and Maya, we’re using both, but we’re using also a stand-alone renderer, [Arnold], which gives us a high quality rendering, but there’s also our [custom software], so at the end we need integration. So it’s not always a matter of software. We also need the team to be able to build something like that.
Mike Horton: Yeah. Well, sure.
Larry Jordan: Take a look at the work you did on Pacific Rim, which is another movie you worked on. What did you do there?
Sébastien Francoeur: Me personally, I basically lit some scenes. I was really busy. I was the CG Supervisor on Now You See Me so I was quite busy, but I lit some scenes of the… we call it [spelt]. It was the mechanism inside the head of the robots. So the majority of Rodeo shots was inside the monster, not the monster but the robot. We also did a few mappings things and environment.
Larry Jordan: What steps do you take as an effects creator to make sure that the effects don’t overwhelm the movie itself? How do you try to find the balance so that the effect doesn’t take the audience out of the story?
Sébastien Francoeur: Well, honestly, it’s not really a responsibility for us. This process needs to be done before us. We mostly answer to a demand so that’s pretty much it. It’s something that the director can ask, he has some demands, but yes, we need to follow his instructions.
Larry Jordan: So basically the director says the direction he wants you to head and your job is just to move in that direction?
Sébastien Francoeur: Well, yes. But we need to satisfy him in between but, yes, that’s basically it.
Larry Jordan: Yes, you don’t continually get work the way you get work if you don’t put in your expertise.
Sébastien Francoeur: Oh yes, yes. You’re right, but we are pushing always forward. That’s why we are doing a lot of R&D. We try to be the most cost and time effective and, yes, getting the quality by just looking at some papers, looking at the news, looking at the new technology, what’s available for us, and that’s how we move forward.
Larry Jordan: Visual effects houses all around the world right now are having a difficult time in this industry. How are you guys doing?
Sébastien Francoeur: Us here in Montreal, it’s pretty good. It’s pretty good. We have some government taxes back and, yes, a lot of production is moving here in Montreal, a lot of companies opening their doors. There is MPC right now here in Montreal; there’s also French… and a couple or so other French companies that’s opening a small bureau to work here in Montreal. So that’s cool for now, but let’s see how this will end, because, yes, you never know.
Larry Jordan: Let’s hope everybody continues making a living in this industry.
Sébastien Francoeur: Yes, because I know in LA it’s pretty hard right now.
Mike Horton: It’s hard in Montreal, it’s hard in Vancouver, it’s hard in Toronto. You’re all competing against each other, with the tax subsidies and everything else.
Sébastien Francoeur: Yes, and that’s the point. Maybe in five years, it’s going to be India, I don’t know.
Mike Horton: Yes, well, it’s there too.
Larry Jordan: Sébastien, Thomas in our live chat asks how much do you get to contribute creatively? Or are you just following the sketches of an art director and implementing their ideas?
Sébastien Francoeur: Honestly, it’s hard to say. Yes, the key word, I think, is communication so you need to understand what you need to do and, yes, so I don’t know honestly how to say, yes, there’s a creative process but I have a lot of difficulty putting it in words.
Larry Jordan: Ah, I understand. What website can people go to learn more about your company?
Sébastien Francoeur: Well, they can go on www.rodeofx.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word. Rodeofx.com and Sébastien Francoeur is the Senior CG Artist with Rodeo Visual Effects Company. Sébastien, thanks for joining us today.
Sébastien Francoeur: Thanks to you.
Mike Horton: Thank you very much.
Larry Jordan: Take care. Bye bye.
Sébastien Francoeur: Bye.
Larry Jordan: Jessica Sitomer is a job coach and helps people find work. She’s also a regular on The Buzz and she’s the President of The Greenlight Coach. But what we like best about Jessica is that she’s really good at providing really helpful job hunting advice. Hello Jessica.
Mike Horton: Hi Jessica.
Jessica Sitomer: Hello guys.
Larry Jordan: We are delighted to hear your cheerful voice at the other end of our headsets.
Mike Horton: Yes we are. I’m always delighted to hear Jessica, because I learn so much from her.
Larry Jordan: Well, that’s true. That’s because she’s very smart.
Mike Horton: Yes, she is. Much smarter than you.
Jessica Sitomer: What have I stepped into?
Larry Jordan: Jessica, we’ve been featuring Westdoc over the last few shows, which made me think about the art of pitching a show. How would you describe a pitch meeting?
Jessica Sitomer: Well, being that I do come from the world of development and I’ve worked for many producers and sat in on many pitch sessions, I would say it is your one chance to shine. Your pitch meeting is the opportunity to get people interested in your project and open up more doors for you until you are at the point where you are pitching to the decision maker and then it’s either a yes or a no or a maybe for something else, and that’s the thing that people forget about pitch meetings. You’re not just pitching this one project. You are pitching yourself so that, if you’re not right for this project, that maybe they’ll think of you to write for another project or bring you in for something else. That happens a lot.
Larry Jordan: Well, what’s being pitched at a pitch meeting? What’s the content?
Jessica Sitomer: Well, you were talking about the art of pitching a show, so if you are pitching a show, then you are literally pitching your storylines, you’re pitching your characters, you know, you put a bible together so that you know what’s happening when they start asking you questions. What networks it’s going to be right for? How many years ahead can you see this show going? And they want to know what kind of arcs you have for each season. So, you know, you really have to think about everything, it’s not just, “Well, I have a great idea for a show and here’s what it is.” There needs to be a lot more thought processes that goes into it.
Jessica Sitomer: Find out, like, from a studio exec or something, you know, when I was first starting to pitch my shows, I got basically an outline for what they talk about in pitch meetings and I would fill it all out and it would be like my mini bible and I’d go in with that, but I would already know, everything else fleshed out and I had a much larger version of that bible for my show.
Larry Jordan: Well, what suggestions do you have specifically to get ready for a pitch meeting? And I think both on a personal level and on the presentation level.
Jessica Sitomer: Well, you want to do your prep work, like I talked about, so that you really are clear on the show that you are pitching or, you know, a film or whatever it is, you are very, very clear. You’ve done your prep work, you understand your characters, you understand your stories, you understand where it’s going. Do your research on who you’re pitching to. One of the biggest mistakes that would happen when I was working for Debra Hill, who had done Halloween, was everyone kept pitching her horror and she hadn’t done horror in years. So make sure that you know about the people who you’re meeting with, the projects that they’ve done, where their company is going in the future so, you know, if you have an agent that’s submitting you don’t know that, but if you don’t and, depending on how you’re getting this pitch meeting, you do want to find out what types of things are already on their list. Like what they’re doing.
Jessica Sitomer: Be crystal clear on your pitch, because if you’re not, they won’t be; and then, like you were saying, what can you do for yourself? I would say practice it on friends, or even a few friends, like, have a couple of people sit around because sometimes there’s three or four people in a pitch meeting and you walk in and you’re expecting to meet one person and you’re like, “Whoa,” so you want to be prepared for all types of situations. So practice it beforehand because sometimes what it sounds like in your head is not the same thing when the words are coming out of your mouth.
Mike Horton: When you talk about clear, though, are you talking about limited to a certain amount of minutes, so you can be clear, otherwise you’re rambling if you go on for more than five minutes? Is there a limit to the amount of minutes you want to make it clear?
Jessica Sitomer: Well, I wouldn’t necessarily, I mean your log line is very brief and that has to be clear. And I even find that challenging sometimes with my romantic comedies, because there’s so much in them that’s so interesting and exciting and I want to bring it all in when it really just needs that one line at first to be really clear. And that has been an obstacle in my past that I’ve always worked on with people beforehand. I’ve always had people coach me on, you know – even though it’s easy for me to do it for other people since I’ve worked in development, when it’s your own, it’s a little closer to home and sometimes you don’t sound as clear when you’re explaining it because you go on tangents because, “Oh, and then this happens. Oh, but wait, I didn’t tell you about this.”
Jessica Sitomer: So you want to make sure you practice your pitch so that it’s very, very clear. And that, if they ask you a question, that you don’t stay stuck to it, you can go and answer their questions. Listen to what’s being asked of you and answer those questions.
Larry Jordan: What if you don’t have a track record and this is your first pitch meeting?
Jessica Sitomer: Ok, that’s a great question because so many people I deal with have that issue and it becomes a huge block for them and they can’t get past it. And my recommendation is always find somebody else who hasn’t had a track record and compare yourself to them. Like, back in ’97, before people were producing TV independently, I had a full union crew produce a pilot for me and I had a Fox exec tell me it couldn’t be done, but what my producing partner and I would say is that we were the Ben and Matt of TV, because Good Will Hunting had just come out and Swingers had just come out and all of a sudden it’s like these actors who went on to produce movies, well, now we were going to be the actors who went on to do TV and that got people interested, that got people wanting to hear from us.
Jessica Sitomer: So compare yourself to successful people who started out with no track record and then took off from there.
Larry Jordan: Well, how do you appear confident when you’re quaking in your boots? How do you avoid making a fool of yourself? Because this is a one time only event.
Jessica Sitomer: Right, well, as we talked about, you want to practice and you want to be really passionate about what it is you’re pitching. So what happens is, when you’re quaking in your boots, you’re focused on your boots. So what I want you to do is I want you to focus on your pitch and any time your mind starts going, “Oh gosh, am I babbling? Am I talking?” boom, Jessica says get back on my pitch and get back to your pitch.
Jessica Sitomer: Because if you feel your leg shaking and you start focusing on that leg shaking, that’s what’s going to throw you, so always have something that you can anchor back to. And it might be something like, you know, you imagine the audience or a group of people watching your TV show and you keep that picture in your mind so any time you go off track, you can grab that picture and that reminds you, “That’s why I’m doing this. I’m doing this for them. I have a bigger purpose and that’s why I’m doing it,” and that gets you right back, so it’s like an anchor, it’s a visual anchor for you to go to.
Jessica Sitomer: Or, you know, pinch yourself or something and that reminds you to go, and that’s a physical anchor that reminds you to go back to your pitch. It all comes down to that, because when you are going back and forth with somebody and talking and when you’re, you know, engulfed in that pitch and talking, you’re not going to be concentrating on your boots shaking.
Larry Jordan: Quickly, is there a way that’s a better way to end a pitch meeting than another?
Jessica Sitomer: Make sure you’re confirming your follow up and any follow up materials that need to be sent, you know, so “When will you be making your decision?” if you haven’t talked about that, because this way you’re not sitting around wondering what you should do next, and it’s very professional to do that.
Larry Jordan: So, given all of these points, there’s got to be some place on the web, Jessica, that we can get more tips and pointers. What website would you recommend?
Jessica Sitomer: I would recommend thegreenlightcoach.com.
Mike Horton: Mmm, me too.
Larry Jordan: I would just be surprised if you didn’t. That’s all one word – thegreenlightcoach.com. Jessica Sitomer’s the President of The Greenlight Coach. Jessica, as always, it’s a delight. Take care.
Jessica Sitomer: Thank you. Bye bye.
Mike Horton: Thanks Jessica.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Jeremy Pollard is a Product Manager of Australia-based Cospective. From Montreal, we whip down to Florida and then we move over to Australia. It’s an award-winning company behind Frankie 2.0. This is browser based software that allows content creators in multiple locations to interactively review, annotate and discuss video. Welcome, Jeremy.
Jeremy Pollard: Thanks, Larry. Thanks for having me on the show.
Larry Jordan: It is our pleasure, we’re delighted to have you with us, and start by giving us a description of who Cospective is.
Jeremy Pollard: So Cospective is a company that was founded around 1999 as a spin-off from a visual effects company here in Australia called Rising Sun Pictures. So we were born under the moniker Rising Sun Research and a couple of years ago changed to the name Cospective, just to position ourselves as being a little bit separate and also the fact that we’re moving to markets that are outside of just feature film visual effects.
Larry Jordan: So what products are you responsible for with the company?
Jeremy Pollard: So now I’m responsible for the Frankie product line. Over the years, we’ve had a couple of different products; we were actually born with a product called cineSpace, which was a color management suite which was widely used throughout the industry and that was eventually acquired by THX; and then along the way we developed a product called cineSync. That came out around 2005 and that’s also very widely adopted throughout the feature film industry to the point where it was actually awarded a Technology Achievement Award at the Academy Awards in 2011.
Larry Jordan: Wow.
Jeremy Pollard: And then we introduced Frankie. That officially came out in October last year, but was in development for about a year and a half prior to that.
Larry Jordan: So tell me what Frankie is.
Jeremy Pollard: So Frankie is basically a browser based video review tool. It’s used to collaborate with your colleagues or your clients, wherever they are, whether they’re across town or on a different continent; and the essence of it is it allows you to have an experience like you’re sitting side by side with somebody in the same room, pointing at the screen, hitting play, discussing the media and having that experience of collaborating on the video without feeling like there’s distance between you.
Mike Horton: I’m familiar with cineSync, but not familiar with what we’re talking about. What’s the difference between cineSync and this?
Jeremy Pollard: Sure. So probably the main difference is cineSync is around application software, so you need to install something and each party then needs to get a copy of the media and then cineSync will take care of the synchronization. It’ll also handle all the drawing and notes and so on.
Jeremy Pollard: The difference with Frankie is we wanted to build something that didn’t need anything to be installed: no software, no plug-ins, no configuration, just nothing to worry about. So all your guest needs to do now is just click a link that you send them to invite them to the review and they’re straight away loaded into the Frankie session. It loads up in their browser; they haven’t even had to think about what they’re doing. It’s just like watching a video on YouTube.
Mike Horton: But like cineSync, we’re watching it all at the same time, we can review at the same time, it’s all synced, right?
Jeremy Pollard: That’s exactly right. So it’s frame accurate. I can play the video, you can watch it and I can pause it on, say, frame 81 – you’re going to see exactly the same one – and then if I want to point out a particular detail, I can do that using the drawing tool and you’re going to see that right away. So it eliminates any chance of ambiguity.
Mike Horton: Oh, that’s sweet.
Larry Jordan: Well, I can think of several other video review applications. Why did you decide it was necessary to create Frankie? What’s the unique solution you provide?
Jeremy Pollard: A lot of it revolves around the synchronization capability. cineSync has been so popular and we had demand in the form media production world for a tool like cineSync, but something that ran in the browser. So that’s one side of it; and a synchronization, obviously we have a long history in that domain, so we have the experience in making it work first time every time, it’s very reliable.
Jeremy Pollard: The other side of it is that we really wanted to focus on the user experience. We’ve seen a lot of tools around there and they kind of do video review, but it can be overly complicated and in the short form world, where a lot of our clients are using it to create television and commercial, we’re talking about creative professional who place a really high importance on the look and feel of something. They’re also very busy individuals, they don’t have time to learn a new tool and fuss about with technology they don’t quite understand, so we wanted to make it as simple as possible for somebody to get in. And then give them a really good experience when they’re there. We wanted to make it something beautiful that they enjoy using and have fun collaborating with.
Larry Jordan: Jeremy, take a minute and describe a typical use of how this would be used in a real life scenario.
Jeremy Pollard: I can give you a really interesting story. One of our customers in Sydney, Mirage VFX, they do high end visual effect work, both locally in Australia, but also regionally and they work with a lot of Indonesian companies. So they were asked to create an animated battery commercial for a company in Indonesia, with the production and the post production being handled out of Malaysia and Indonesia, and they also wanted to subcontract parts of that work to an animation facility in Barcelona, of all places.
Jeremy Pollard: So suddenly you have multiple continents, multiple time zones, multiple languages involved, not to mention high end character animation of a fully animated creature or character made up of batteries. So it’s the sort of thing, it’s really hard to describe in email or over the phone, particularly when there are potential language barriers involved.
Jeremy Pollard: So Mirage chose Frankie as a way to collaborate on that project so they could then create a pre-visualization, discuss that using Frankie, work through the details and then, when they’re actually doing the bulk of the work, collaborate regularly with the animation house in Barcelona to make sure that they’re directly on track. And it worked really, really well, to the point where they said afterwards that they wished they’d even jumped on using Frankie much earlier in the piece, even before creating the pre-visualization.
Larry Jordan: Recently, you guys updated Frankie. What are some of the new features?
Jeremy Pollard: So the biggest change here is to give our users more flexibility. As I’ve kind of touched on throughout this, Frankie’s been more about the real time conversation, because we recognize that, if possible, it really is the most effective way to gather feedback, to discuss work, when you’re on the phone to somebody and actually looking at it at the same time.
Jeremy Pollard: But because of different time zones and because of different people’s schedules, it’s not always possible to do that real time, so we wanted to offer the option of doing that when the host of the review is not online. So now you can send out an invite link to your guests, they can jump in any time they like – you might be sleeping – and they can leave their feedback and notes just as they would in a normal real time session. You can wake up the next morning, open it up, see all their feedback.
Jeremy Pollard: And you can also switch between those two modes of working, so if you want to get a bit of feedback from somebody, they can spend an hour doing that. You can then jump on the phone, have a look at their notes, call them back into the review and then start a synchronized discussion, so you can work through anything that wasn’t quite clear.
Jeremy Pollard: So that makes it very easy now to work with people in different time zones and you can almost use it to your advantage by having a review at the end of your day, leaving them to do the work overnight, coming in in the morning and magically you have new reviews.
Larry Jordan: Now, one of the things I remember reading on your website is that Frankie gathers up all the notes and delivers it as a .pdf, including screenshots, so you’re able to have a written document that you can print, should you need to, documenting what the conversations were about.
Jeremy Pollard: Exactly. It’s actually one of the most popular features and I’ve seen countless faces agog when I mention that they get this .pdf. They have a look at it and say, “Hang on, I waste half an hour to an hour every single day producing these kinds of summaries after meetings like this and you’re producing something automatically that looks even more professional.”
Jeremy Pollard: So everything is always saved and you get a summary that can then be distributed to team members or kept as an internal work document and, being a .pdf, it becomes a record of that conversation, so if you need to go back and have a look at what was concluded and what the client did approve, then you’ve always got that and you’re not going to be stuck trying to scrabble through email notes or phone notes to find out what the client decided they actually wanted.
Larry Jordan: Where is the video stored? And how do you assure security?
Jeremy Pollard: So we use a cloud server and the security is based on the host’s log-in, so the host has control over this review. We chose to use a simple link to introduce clients into the review, to make it as simple as possible, and as soon as that review is finished and the host doesn’t want anybody to have access, then they can simply turn it into a private review and no longer can anybody access that media using the link.
Larry Jordan: And what does Frankie cost and what are we buying when we purchase the software?
Jeremy Pollard: So Frankie is sold on a subscription basis. We wanted to structure the pricing of it to recognize that, in this industry, a lot of it is project based, so you can sign up for a month and you don’t have to pay any longer if there’s no work coming in after that. You can turn the subscription on and off at any time. It’s very, very easy to do through the Frankie interface.
Jeremy Pollard: The pricing is $249 a month and that gives you unlimited reviews each month. You can even share it across multiple projects and producers within your company, so you can actually get a lot of work through one single Frankie account.
Larry Jordan: Now, the $249 a month supports up to five concurrent projects. What’s the difference between a project and a video?
Jeremy Pollard: So a project is like a folder, if you like. You might allocate that folder to a particular client or a particular producer within your company and they can use that to store each of the videos and the reviews associated with that job. Now, a review can consist of multiple movies, so you might have lots of different media files, but a review may contain dozens of those. We do have clients that will drop in 20 or more at a time and just go through those each day, and they all exist within that one folder.
Jeremy Pollard: If you go to another project, you’re not going to see all of those media files, so it gives you a way of keeping it really, really organized.
Larry Jordan: What happens…
Jeremy Pollard: And when you’re finished with a… I’m sorry, Larry, yes.
Larry Jordan: Go ahead. No, go ahead.
Jeremy Pollard: When you’re finished with a project, because it’s a review environment and you’re not really storing original files on there, you do have the option of being able to just delete that content and utilize that project for the next job that comes through, so you’re talking about five concurrent projects, not necessarily a hard limit on how many jobs you can ever store.
Larry Jordan: What happens to the media when we stop paying the fee?
Jeremy Pollard: So that’s stored on our servers for a period of time afterwards. We handle that a little bit informally right now, because it’s a professional industry, what we want to make sure is that all of that is available for a period of time afterwards. So if a client comes back on later down the track, that’s still going to be available for a while.
Jeremy Pollard: We will be introducing at some point a more formal option that will enable you to keep your account active, well, not necessarily active, I should say: it will be on the server but in an inactive state until you need to recover that.
Larry Jordan: Can more than…
Jeremy Pollard: But in terms of the…
Larry Jordan: Go ahead.
Jeremy Pollard: Well, the videos that sit within a project, that’s up to the user to manage, so we don’t want to delete things that people want to keep available for later reviews.
Larry Jordan: So basically it’ll hang around until you and the client figure out what to do with it.
Jeremy Pollard: Yes, yes, we’re handling it informally at that stage. At the moment, we’re erring on the side of being conservative, basically. We do have a lot of long term clients who will use it for a couple of months at a time, then pause for a month or so and then come back on board.
Larry Jordan: And, Jeremy, where can people go on the web to learn more about Frankie?
Jeremy Pollard: They should visit frankiereview.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one: frankiereview.com. And Jeremy Pollard is the Product Manager at Cospective, responsible for Frankie and, Jeremy, thanks for joining us today.
Jeremy Pollard: It’s a pleasure, Larry. Thanks for having me on the show.
Mike Horton: Thanks a lot, Jeremy.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Time for another Australian accent. Philip Hodgetts is the CEO of Intelligent Assistance and involved in the technology of virtually every area of digital video. He’s a regular contributor to The Buzz and he’s suffering from jetlag because his jet just landed from IBC, Amsterdam. Philip, thanks for joining us today.
Philip Hodgetts: It’s my pleasure. I … show tonight.
Mike Horton: Oh, your phone is…
Philip Hodgetts: The accents.
Mike Horton: …suffering from jetlag too, I think.
Larry Jordan: So Philip, what were the highlights of IBC for you?
Philip Hodgetts: Oh, Amsterdam for sure, but that’s actually got nothing to do with IBC, has it? It just happens to be there. The most beautiful city…
Larry Jordan: Michael keeps bragging about Amsterdam. One of these days, I’m going to have to actually wander the streets in the daytime because…
Mike Horton: Yes you should, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Anyway, go ahead.
Philip Hodgetts: Yes, well, of course there was the inevitable push towards 4K and I’ve been trying to ignore that, but what I did really like was the Alexa Amira, if I’m saying that correctly, which is a new ENG focus camera but the thing I love about it most is that it’s built on the same infrastructure that the Arri Alexa already is, which means that, sorry, it’s Arri Amira, not Alexa. I’m getting confused there. I’ll blame the jetlag.
Philip Hodgetts: But it’s the same workflow. We don’t have to reinvent the workflow again because this camera has a proven workflow from its brother, the Alexa.
Larry Jordan: So you mentioned that IBC was pitching the idea of 4K. Are you sensing that it’s more marketing hype than real?
Philip Hodgetts: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I think the most telling statistic was that even Panasonic, who are one of the proponents of 4K and definitely had a push towards that at the show, are showing that consumer penetration is going to be something in the vicinity of 3.5 percent by 2017. Now, production wise, maybe there is…
Mike Horton: Wait, wait, 2017? Really?
Philip Hodgetts: Yes.
Mike Horton: Wow.
Larry Jordan: But 4K is not necessarily for consumers. It is used in production all the time.
Mike Horton: Well, Sony just came out with that camera with its 4K, that consumer camera. It was at IBC. I didn’t see it. Did you see it, Philip?
Philip Hodgetts: No, no. Sony had their own space and I tried to keep clear of it. I always get lost on the Sony booth. I can never find the things that are…
Mike Horton: I know, it’s as big as a small city.
Philip Hodgetts: It is, it is. Their investment in these trade shows must be incredible.
Larry Jordan: You know, one of the things that is a saying in our industry is that products are announced at NAB in the spring and shipped at IBC in the fall. Was there anything new that was announced at IBC besides the Arri camera that we should pay attention to?
Mike Horton: Announced? Oh.
Philip Hodgetts: Yes, if there is, it slipped by me. No, I had a great time at the Maxon press conference. They were showing the major features of release 15 and I do sometimes wish that I had more time to become a 3D guru, but I loved the press conference because I won a little iPad Mini from them.
Mike Horton: Oh, and also Isotope announced the RX3, which is the…
Philip Hodgetts: Oh yes, yes.
Mike Horton: …yes, which is the version above RX2 and, honest to God, if you actually see this, we showed it at the SuperMeet, it fixes all of your bad audio problems. It’s amazing.
Philip Hodgetts: You see, the problem I fear is that we’re just enabling. You see, with 4K we’re enabling… can’t be bothered to frame properly in the first place, they just want to reframe their HD in post and we’re enabling people to have bad audio. I wonder if the technology’s simply enabling bad behaviors.
Mike Horton: Yes, there’s probably a new composition plug-in coming from Panavision or something. It’s just a…
Larry Jordan: Yes, but if you’ve got…
Philip Hodgetts: Well, I mean, imagine 4K with a Lytro camera and now we don’t have to frame or focus until getting to post production.
Mike Horton: Or focus, yes, composition, focus, all that stuff will be handled.
Larry Jordan: All right, all right, all right.
Mike Horton: With software. It’ll be awesome.
Larry Jordan: We are not going to go down that path. We’ll be grumbling the entire evening. Philip, I don’t know how to ask this question, so I’m just going to plunge boldly forward. One of the highlights of the SuperMeet on Sunday night was the demo of two of your latest products, which is Change List X and the Producer’s Best Friend. Now, granted, I was the one doing the demo, but nonetheless these are really neat products. Could you tell us about them?
Philip Hodgetts: Yes, thank you very much for those demos, by the way, they were very well handled. I felt you did us proud, as we would say in Australia.
Larry Jordan: Thank you. High praise.
Philip Hodgetts: Change List X is a very specialized tool, it’s used mostly in the high end, as you pointed out. People who have a film that gets to final or a TV show in some cases that get to final, of course, the directors can’t be stopped from fiddling with their finals so we get a final final. But in the meantime final went off to the audio guys and the visual effects guys and they started work and they really don’t appreciate getting a new cut where they’d have to start work over again. Trust me. They do not appreciate that.
Mike Horton No.
Philip Hodgetts: So the tradition in the industry and, of course, Cinema Tools did this for us in the old days of Final Cut Studio, is to generate a change list, which is really a set of instructions of how you convert the old edit into the new edit, you know, trim so much here, add a new shot here, take this shot out, and Change List X does that for projects or compound clips for Final Cut Pro X users.
Larry Jordan: Ok, and how about Producer’s Best Friend?
Philip Hodgetts: Well, if you have ever been the producer or worked for a producer who has to generate all sorts of reports at the end of or during production, such as you’ve got a final lock or a final issue lock on pictures, and so now all the stock footage that you have put into the show needs to be going out and bought in full resolution, so you need a stock footage report. Or you need a music report to file your music return; or you need to report to Disney or one of those companies and they want a listing of every clip that you’ve got.
Philip Hodgetts: Now, this would be painful copying and pasting and copying and pasting because, you know, unless you want to spend a $100 on EDLX, you’ve got not even an .edl to start with, which at least you could in the old days. So we automated that process, so instead of it taking days, it takes mere minutes to generate any possible report – clips, transitions, markers, notes.
Larry Jordan: But… how does Producer’s Best Friend know that something is a stock clip or know the source of a piece of music?
Philip Hodgetts: Well, that’s the magic of Final Cut Pro X’s rolls and sub-rolls, so that you can tag each stock, you can tag, for example, a roll of stock footage but then you can sub-roll each of the stock houses so you can generate a report for each stock house. And likewise for music. And you can use rolls in any way that you like and you can get a roll by roll report.
Larry Jordan: So you identify the clip as you’re editing it by assigning a roll to it and, because the roll travels with the clip as you move its location or change its duration, the roll still applies. And then how do we get it out of Final Cut into Producer’s Best Friend?
Philip Hodgetts: Simply export a Final Cut Pro X .xml of either a project, a compound clip or even an event, because one of the things that Producer’s Best Friend does is it reports on all the clips in your event, something that Final Cut Pro X by itself will not do. It doesn’t even have a batch list function like Final Cut Pro VII does, so we added that into Producer’s Best Friend, so simply export the .xml and then open that .xml into Producer’s Best Friend and run your report, which is an excel spreadsheet, which is completely compatible with Numbers, by the way.
Larry Jordan: One of the other products you released a little bit ago but I want you to mention is Sync-N-Link. What’s that?
Philip Hodgetts: Sync-N-Link is again one of those, if you need it you know, but if you don’t need it you don’t worry about it, you know, and you’re not missing anything important. For those people who work with jam synced timecoding, in other words they have timecode generators on the set and they feed that into each of the cameras and each of the audio recorders – and this is very common in film and high end TV production – what Sync-N-Link will do will use those matching timecodes to synchronize the double system, synchronize your high quality audio recording with your video and edit back, so you can do that in one batch instead of having four interns working overnight doing it manually one clip at a time.
Larry Jordan: So basically you would put all of your audio and video elements into an event, export that as an .xml and then Sync-N-Link processes them all automatically?
Philip Hodgetts: Exactly. See, that’s why you did the demo at the SuperMeet and I didn’t.
Larry Jordan: Philip, for people who want more information about your products, where can they go to learn more?
Philip Hodgetts: Just head on over to intelligentassistance.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, intelligentassistance.com. Philip Hodgetts is the President of Intelligent Assistance. Get yourself some rest and thanks so much for joining us today.
Philip Hodgetts: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Mike Horton: Thanks.
Larry Jordan: So, Michael, what is this SuperMeet thing we’ve been hearing about today?
Mike Horton: Ah! That thing that I’ve been hyping for the last three months or something like that? Anyway, we just finished up just, what, last Sunday. We had this wonderful event. For those of you who do not know what SuperMeets are, they are these events that myself and Dan Berube, we produce around the world and this last one was in Amsterdam as part of IBC and Larry Jordan was the keynote speaker.
Larry Jordan: It was great fun. It was great fun.
Mike Horton: And because, you know, one of the reasons we had you is because we launched Final Cut Pro X in June of, what, 2011…
Larry Jordan: London. SuperMeet London.
Mike Horton: …at London and you were there to launch it and since that time, we had not spoken of it at a SuperMeet. I think, well, Michael Wall did at Amsterdam, talked a little bit about it, but we haven’t talked about it for two years. So we brought you back on to give us a closer look and it was all about, is Final Cut Pro X ready for professional use?
Larry Jordan: And one of the things – I thought a lot about this – because one of the things I do really well is I love doing demos of software and I wanted to, and we did in fact, do a demo. We demo’d seven different utilities, some from Philip and some from XMIL…
Mike Horton: The more professional users.
Larry Jordan: The high end, the stuff that the guys that are…
Mike Horton: That the big boys use.
Larry Jordan: That’s right, and a lot of people don’t even know those tools exist, but I realized in thinking about the speech that there’s a lot more than just doing a cool demo in the process of upgrading. That there’s a huge amount of fear right now because when you make a decision on what editing software to use, it’s a bet the ranch decision. It’s a ‘my company is going to make its living on whatever I decide’ and there’s a lot of scared people out there.
Mike Horton: And I think if people actually watch your speech and listen to it closely, which they probably will because it keeps you engaged throughout the entire speech, they’re going to not only learn a lot, they’re going to learn a lot.
Larry Jordan: I was wondering where you were going to go with that sentence. But Michael, how are they going to be able to see the videos?
Mike Horton: Yes, well, this was the big announcement. Tomorrow at fcp.co – let me repeat that again, fcp.co – we are going to put the official Larry Jordan keynote speech of the Amsterdam SuperMeet on that page. So go to fcp.co and you will wake up tomorrow morning and you will see it and this is the official, this is with the close-ups of Larry, this is with all the winkles in his skin, this is with all the smiles in his face…
Larry Jordan: Michael. Michael.
Mike Horton: …this is with all the modulations in his voice. This is Larry Jordan…
Larry Jordan: Michael.
Mike Horton: …at his best.
Larry Jordan: Michael, you can stop now.
Mike Horton: This is the official.
Larry Jordan: I really enjoyed the talk. I spent a lot of time thinking about it.
Mike Horton: I know, and you put a lot of work into this and I really appreciate it, but so did the audience. The audience was about 450 people there, standing room only, and they hung on every word and I think they appreciated every word you said. I know I did.
Larry Jordan: And for those of you that can’t wait until tomorrow to see the video, I wrote a blog that…
Mike Horton: Oh, you did?
Larry Jordan: I wrote a blog specifically about SuperMeet that summarizes the whole, I call it seeking perfection, where the perfect is the enemy of the good and how we keep getting in our own way, trying to figure out where we’re going to go next.
Mike Horton: How do you write a blog, having jetlag?
Larry Jordan: And it’s larryjordan.biz/blog and it’s the very first one there – larryjordan.biz/blog – and it goes through all the elements of trying to make a decision of there is no doubt Final Cut VII is dead, and there’s also no doubt at some point in the relatively near future, and I’m not saying next week, but some point in the very near future, Final Cut VII is going to stop working on current hardware and current operating systems.
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: At that point, you are going to be forced to make a decision on where do you go next.
Mike Horton: My son – here’s a good story – my son is going to Santa Monica City College, he’s taking an editing class as part of his game development class. He’s forced to use Final Cut VII. Where can he get it? I had to call up an old friend, said, “Are you still using it? Can I get the serial number? Can I get the disks?”
Larry Jordan: Yes. I mean, for people that have it installed, you’ve got time yet and, as long as you don’t upgrade your hardware and don’t upgrade your operating system, you’ve got time. But at some point it’s not going to work. We know that time is coming. Where are you going to go next? And that’s what my blog is about and that’s what the speech is about.
Mike Horton: I’ll be darned. Why am I not on your mailing list or something? Have I been taken off your mailing list?
Larry Jordan: No, Michael, you are the number one person on my mailing list.
Mike Horton: Well, I didn’t get this blog thing.
Larry Jordan: Well, it’s a wonderful blog. You’ll like it.
Mike Horton: Holy cow, that’s a lot of words there, Larry.
Larry Jordan: They’re all spelled correctly and are relatively small because I wrote it with you in mind.
Mike Horton: This is really tiny print. Next time, try Verdana.
Larry Jordan: I will make it larger for you. I’ll use the Mike size font.
Mike Horton: Anyway, again, for those of you who are listening, fcp.co. It’ll be on board tomorrow and it is really worth listening and watching.
Larry Jordan: Do check out the blog too, because you get a chance to issue comments back and I’d love to get your feedback on what you think about the thoughts that I’m…
Mike Horton: Oh my God, you actually read the comments? Oh, don’t ever do that. That’s…
Larry Jordan: Oh, not only do I read them, I answer them.
Mike Horton: Oh my God. I never read my comments.
Larry Jordan: Michael, this is the only way that…
Mike Horton: ‘Horton, your stomach’s too fat’ and…
Larry Jordan: I want to thank…
Mike Horton: Makes me feel awful.
Larry Jordan: No, no, you look wonderful, dashing and debonair, getting people to jump on their hands on the stage.
Mike Horton: Never read comments. Turn comments off.
Larry Jordan: Oh no, comments make it all worthwhile. I want to thank our guests this week – Sébastien Francoeur, the Senior CG Artist with Rodeo Visual Effects Company based up in Montreal, Canada; Jessica Sitomer, the President of The Greenlight Coach; Jeremy Pollard, the Product Manager for Australia-based Cospective; and Philip Hodgetts himself, the President of Intelligent Assistance.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot happening at The Buzz between shows. Visit digitalproductionbuzz.com, click the ‘Latest News’ – we update this several times a day with all the latest in product news from our industry. Talk with us on Twitter at dpbuzz and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com. By the way, Michael, our Twitter audience on The Buzz – almost doubled in the two weeks leading up to the SuperMeet. We were blown away by the amount of traffic we were getting.
Mike Horton: Why’s that? Anything I’ve done?
Larry Jordan: I think you did it.
Mike Horton: Does that mean I get paid for this now?
Larry Jordan: Twitter is dpbuzz – you’re not going to make a dime…
Mike Horton: Check in the mail?
Mike Horton: Checking my email now for a check.
Larry Jordan: We are not even going to start talking about money here, Michael, because…
Mike Horton: PayPal. I take PayPal.
Larry Jordan: …you have no place to stand.
Mike Horton: I do take PayPal.
Larry Jordan: Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You could pay me, you know. Our producer is Cirina Catania. On behalf of Mike Horton, my name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to The Digital Production Buzz.
Mike Horton: Bye everybody.
Voiceover: This Digital Production Buzz was brought to you by Blackmagic Design, creators of the world’s highest quality solutions for the feature film, post production and television broadcast industries.