Digital Production Buzz
December 12, 2013
[Transcripts provided by Take1.tv]
Thom Calabro, Director, Marketing & Product Development, Fujifilm Optical Division
Lan Bui, Cinematographer, The Bui Brothers
Brian Drewes, Co-Founder, ZEROvfx
Beverley Horne, Head of TV Post, LipSync Post
Voiceover: This Digital Production Buzz is brought to you by Blackmagic Design, creators of the world’s highest quality solutions for the feature film, post production and television broadcast industries.
Voiceover: Live from Ralph’s Maytag Museum at Podcast Studio in beautiful downtown Burbank, it’s the Digital Production Buzz.
Voiceover: Production, post production, distribution. What’s really happening now and in your digital future?
Voiceover: The Buzz is live now.
Larry Jordan: And welcome to The Digital Production Buzz, the leading internet podcast covering digital video production, post production and distribution around the world. My name is Larry Jordan and joining us across the studio table, Mr. Mike Horton.
Mike Horton: Hello, Larry.
Larry Jordan: It’s good to see you today.
Mike Horton: It’s good to see you.
Larry Jordan: Do you realize Thanksgiving was only a week ago?
Mike Horton: No, it was two weeks ago.
Larry Jordan: Was it two weeks ago?
Mike Horton: Yes, it was two weeks ago.
Larry Jordan: That long ago?
Mike Horton: Do you realize that Christmas is only…
Larry Jordan: Two weeks away?
Mike Horton: …two weeks away?
Larry Jordan: Yes.
Mike Horton: Have you gotten me anything?
Larry Jordan: No, are you kidding? I’m the guy that made shopping on Christmas Eve famous. If it’s not in the store on Christmas Eve afternoon, it’s not worth buying.
Mike Horton: I’ll see you in Best Buy on the 24th.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of best, we’ve got some good guests today. We’re going to start with Thom Calabro. He’s the Director of Marketing and Product Development for Fujifilm Optical Division. He stops by to talk about new camera lenses they’ve just released.
Larry Jordan: Then, oh, about three months ago, Mike, we interviewed cinematographer Lan Bui about his latest film, but now he and his business partner, Aaron Dieppa, have invented a new web-based solution to finding the right cast and crew for independent projects and tonight he explains how this new website works.
Larry Jordan: Brian Drewes is the Co-Founder and Head of Production for Boston-based ZEROvfx and since I can’t think of a more challenging job – with the possible exception of wing walking without a safety net – we invited Brian to chat with us about the current status of the effects industry in Boston.
Larry Jordan: And Beverley Horne is the new Head of TV Post at LipSync Post, which is based on Soho, London. She’s got years of experience shepherding dramatic television shows through editing to final release. She joins us tonight to explain what a post supervisor does and what directors can do to make the job of editing run a whole lot smoother.
Mike Horton: I think she begs for everybody to do their job well and get it done.
Larry Jordan: Well, you know, I think there’s a phrase, herding cats, which is relevant. Earlier today, by the way, Adobe released new versions of Premier Pro CC. Did you see the announcement?
Mike Horton: I did, because it pops up on my screen.
Larry Jordan: And now they upgraded…
Mike Horton: And, yes, I actually read all the fixes and the improvements and everything else. It’s amazing. They’re coming out, like, every month with stuff.
Larry Jordan: Two months. They did one in June, one in July, one in October and one in December.
Mike Horton: Oh, every two months then.
Larry Jordan: Yes, and they upgraded SpeedGrade and Prelude and Adobe Media and…
Mike Horton: And After Effects and…
Larry Jordan: Well, After Effects hasn’t released yet. It’s coming out just…
Mike Horton: Well, I got an update today. I think it was just bug fixes, but that’s what it said.
Larry Jordan: After Effects came out too?
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: You have an honest face.
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: I’m going to have to believe you.
Mike Horton: It did. I know more than you do.
Larry Jordan: Which is not that hard.
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: By the way, now that we’ve recovered from one holiday and are getting braced for another, we’re back to our live tweeting. Join in the conversation, @buzzlive on Twitter. The ever-handsome and dashingly debonair Patrick is doing all of our tweeting. Also, you can join us on a live chat at digitalproductionbuzz.com.
Mike Horton: And you really should do that, folks. Get in the live chat. Just listen to the live show. Click on that thing. It’s up there at the top.
Larry Jordan: It is fun and Eric is in and Grant is in and the Buzz babe is in. There’s a whole bunch, and Madeline – hello Madeline, good to have you with us. Anyway, we got all kinds of people on the live chat. Also, we are offering text transcripts for each show, courtesy of Take1.tv. Transcripts are located on each show page and thanks to Take1 for making it possible.
Larry Jordan: We are going to be talking about all kinds of cool stuff about lenses, coming up right after this.
Larry Jordan: The latest version of Da Vinci Resolve 10 is now shipping from Blackmagic Design. This new version includes innovative tools to speed on-set color grading, support for open effects plug-ins and simplified integration of Final Cut Pro, Avid and Premier Pro projects. This allows timelines to be easily moved in and out. You can even tweak your edits inside Resolve without wasting time switching back to your editing software just to make a simple change.
Larry Jordan: New editing features include full multi-track editing with 16 channels of audio per clip and unlimited video and audio tracks in the timeline. Da Vinci Resolve 10 can finish online from the original camera files for dramatically better quality and the latest version of Resolve 10 is a free upgrade to all Resolve users. Plus, if you’re looking for ways to make your pictures look great, download the free version of Da Vinci Resolve 10 from blackmagicdesign.com. That’s blackmagicdesign.com.
Larry Jordan: Thom Calabro holds the Director of Marketing and Product Development title at Fujifilm’s Optical Devices Division. They’re the makers of Fujinon lens products. He’s based at company headquarters in Wayne, New Jersey, and hello Thom.
Thom Calabro: Hello, good evening.
Larry Jordan: You know, now that we are talking to an acknowledged star of stage and screen, having seen all of your training videos, Mike and I are in awe of your performance ability.
Mike Horton: Absolutely.
Thom Calabro: Thank you. Well, I try, I try.
Larry Jordan: We’ll talk more about that in just a minute. You know, I thought Fujifilm just made film. What does your division do?
Thom Calabro: Oh, well, as you said, I work for the Optical Devices Division and we make Fujinon lenses. Until quite recently, the company was known as Fujinon and now we’ve been taken under the wing of the big Fujifilm and so we make lenses for everything from cell phones and copiers all the way up to the lenses for the top blockbuster theatrical releases.
Larry Jordan: Well, we’re going to talk a lot about lenses with you over the next few minutes, but your title describes what you do as optical products. Is that just a fancy word for lenses, or is there more involved than just the lens itself?
Thom Calabro: No, for me it is really just for the lenses, it is lenses. Like I say, we do many different optical devices for cell phones, for copiers, for CCTV, for security. We do binoculars, a wide variety, but my specialty is into the broadcast, the cine business.
Larry Jordan: All right, well I think let’s define a few terms here, because is there a difference between a regular camera lens and a cinema lens? We’re going to talk about different types of lenses, but let’s start with defining where you fit into the spectrum of things.
Thom Calabro: Well, there is a difference between a broadcast and a cine lens and it’s just a matter of degrees. The construction is quite similar but, while the broadcast lens, we would really say, is made for the small screen, although today’s screens in the home are rather large, the cinema lens is made for the very large screen. Instead of 50 inches, we’re talking about 50 feet, and so the lenses for theatrical releases have to be much, much more critical as far as resolution, as far as lack of chromatic aberration, uniformity from edge to edge, as far as the light transmission and as far as resolution, for that matter.
Thom Calabro: It’s very important because you can see so much more on the large screen than you can on the small screen.
Larry Jordan: Thom, I’m holding one of your Fujinon lenses in my hand at this very moment. I’m looking through the lens itself and all I see inside is glass. What’s this resolution that you speak of? It’s glass. Where does resolution fit in to going through a piece of glass?
Thom Calabro: Oh, well the lens is a very complex device. Besides the mechanics, there are many different optical elements that are put there in combination to give you the proper image at the exit pupil, which then hits either film or CCD or CMOS device.
Thom Calabro: There are coatings involved, a lot of different processes and technologies that go into this, but resolution basically is a combination of contrast and defining, seeing the difference between a light and dark area and the fine detail and making sure that, when the light passes through those many different optical elements, they pass through in such a manner that the red, green and blue – all the different colors, actually, of the spectrum – fall at the right point in time when it hits the sensor or the piece of film, whatever it may be.
Thom Calabro: So it is very complex, it is an extremely high technology device.
Mike Horton: Have you ever had a chance to actually see them make one of these lenses? It’s a very complex process, but they do have on the internet videos of how they make these lenses and it is incredibly technical and complex and it goes on forever and it’s still hand done.
Thom Calabro: It is very good, very good, and that’s where a lot of the cost comes in.
Mike Horton: Right.
Thom Calabro: These lenses actually have become more expensive as the electronics, the cameras, have become less expensive. You know, when I started out in the business with Ikigami in the days of HL79s and those cameras were 40 and 50 thousand dollars. Today, you can get a 4K F55 for, I think, around $20,000 so a huge, huge difference in quality there between those two products.
Larry Jordan: Eric in our live chat says that it’s all about coatings. Why are coatings so important and what are they coating?
Thom Calabro: Well, they are coating the elements and you coat to improve the light transmittance. I don’t have the exact numbers but an uncoated lens will give you somewhere around, I think it was 94 percent of the light will pass through the lens, maybe 95 percent. You coat the lens and you could get that upwards of closer to 97, 98 percent transmittance. So right there, you’re getting more light through the piece of glass.
Thom Calabro: The other thing that is very important – it will make or break the contrast of the glass, you know, give you those really rich, deep blacks. It will help prevent layers and other bad looking light things coming through the lens and appearing on your finished product. Yes, coatings are extremely important and actually that’s where our real expertise is, in coatings.
Thom Calabro: It started, of course, with film. Film is – what is it? A piece of plastic that has a lot of coating material on it, multi-layers laid down. We’ve taken that technology and moved it from film, we’ve put it onto our lenses, of our electron beam coating. Now we’ve got a high transmittance electron beam coating which gives more light and better blue transmittance through the lens and it even goes a lot further than that.
Thom Calabro: Just as an aside, most of the flat screen TVs you see probably have some of our film on the front of them to improve the transmittance, improve the contrast and improve actually the angle of view that you can see the screen or the elements in the screen on; and even going further than that, we actually have a process where we coat the bottom of container ships so they improve the performance through the water so they get better fuel economy.
Larry Jordan: That’s very cool. Well, let’s define a couple more terms. What’s the difference between a T stop and an F stop and do we need to lose sleep if we don’t understand it?
Thom Calabro: No you don’t. Basically, there is a major difference. F stop just tells you how big the opening is in the lens. It’s, you know, F14, F2, F56. That tells you how big the port is in the lens. What it doesn’t tell you is how much light is going through the lens. The T stop actually gives you that figure.
Thom Calabro: So they’re pretty close, but it’s a very important difference because you could have two exact lenses focal length wise, even made by the same company but probably not these days because things are rather even, but let’s say two lenses, same focal length, different companies, they both have the exact same F stop, but the T stop is different and that is mainly due to the construction, the combination of lenses and, probably most importantly, the coating of those elements within the lens.
Larry Jordan: Ok, another question definition. What’s breathing?
Thom Calabro: Breathing is also known as focus pumping, so that when you actually will adjust the focus of the lens – and quite often you see this in dramatic scenes, where you have an actor in the foreground, an actor in the background and you will adjust the focus from the foreground to the background, quite common. What you don’t want to see is the image size change. If you do see that change, that is called breathing or focus pumping.
Larry Jordan: Ok. Now, we’ve got T stops and F stops and we’ve got 800 layers of coating, we’ve got breathing. I want to buy a lens. What specs should I pay attention to the most?
Thom Calabro: Oh, hmm. That is kind of difficult. First, I think you’d have to take your application. What camera are you going to use this on? What is your application for the lens? It is important in the cinema world to know the T stop. It’s very important to know in a zoom lens is the T stop continuous from end to end within the zoom range, because some lenses – not all – but some lenses have what’s called ramping, so you start out at one end on the wide side at the best T stop. As you zoom further and further in the range, that will fall off on some lenses. So that’s very important to know.
Thom Calabro: There are quite a few other parameters and I don’t know if I could answer it in just one or two words.
Larry Jordan: All right, we’ll give you another take at it. There are excellent lenses on the market from Canon and Cooke and Zeiss. Why would somebody consider Fujinon or Fujifilm?
Thom Calabro: Well, for a number of reasons. First of all, again, one of our hallmarks is the contrast in our lenses. It gives you those very deep and rich blacks and the resolution, the construction is very, very high quality.
Thom Calabro: On the other side is service from Fujinon. We have service facilities around the country, which is all very important because sooner or later, whether the lens is going to fail because of wear or you drop it and it has to be serviced, you need something quickly, you need a quick turnaround. So there’s a whole other layer of consideration as to why you would pick a Fujinon lens over somebody else’s, not just the quality of the glass and the construction of the lens, but is it going to be backed up by a good service type of company?
Larry Jordan: We’ve got about two minutes left, so just sort of keep that in the back of your head. If somebody could only afford to buy one lens and they’ve decided on your brand of lenses, what would be a good starter lens for somebody to get?
Thom Calabro: For what type of application? Are you talking about cinema?
Larry Jordan: Independent film making.
Thom Calabro: Film making, yes. Well, certainly our Cabrio line, which was introduced two NABs ago, is very, very versatile. We introduced the 19 to 90, it’s a lightweight zoom, a T29 end to end. We followed that up with the next NAB with an 85 to 300 and then we just introduced the 14 to 35, so you have from 14 millimeters all the way up to 300 millimeters.
Thom Calabro: But what really makes this lens so unique and so versatile is, because we call it the Cabrio, I came up with that name because of a convertible, it has a servo on it just like you would in a typical ENG lens and it can be used in a run and gun situation or, if you want to use wireless controllers, plug them right into our servos. Or if you want to take the servo off and run it as a standard PL cinematic type lens with rods and follow focus and everything else, you can certainly do that and about half of our customers run it that way.
Larry Jordan: And, Thom, where can people go on the web to learn more about your products?
Thom Calabro: Well, at fujinon.com, certainly, is our main menu.
Larry Jordan: That’s fujinon.com and Thom Calabro is the Director of Marketing and Product Development at Fujinon. Thom, thanks for joining us today.
Thom Calabro: Well, thank you. It’s been a pleasure.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Mike Horton: Thanks a lot.
Thom Calabro: Take care.
Larry Jordan: Lan Bui is a cinematographer and one of his recent projects is Redemption: The Darkness Descending, which needs a drum beat, actually.
Mike Horton: It needs an echo.
Larry Jordan: Yes, and a bigger voice…
Mike Horton: A reverb.
Larry Jordan: …than mine. However, this week, we’re talking with him about something new he’s created – a better way to find cast and crew. Welcome, Lan.
Lan Bui: Hi. How are you guys doing?
Mike Horton: Great.
Larry Jordan: We are talking to you, we’re doing great.
Lan Bui: Well, thanks for that intro and, yes, Cast and Crew Call, something really exciting that Aaron Dieppa, a partner of mine, and I created to help people find more work and people that are looking to hire people for anything to do with film to go on in a visual directory and find people.
Larry Jordan: Lan, why?
Lan Bui: Well, it kind of started when, on The Darkness Descending, we had one person that we really wanted to replace and being a pretty small staffed film, we didn’t have the manpower or the time to actually find this new person and that, of course, happens all the time where there’s a shoot that comes up and it’s kind of a thing where your normal sound guy or your normal makeup artist just isn’t available and you need to find someone fast and, instead of texting your sound guy for a referral and two days later you finally get a text back and then you go through the whole process of trying to interview this person when all you really want to do is see a couple of pieces of their work and email them, and that’s what we built.
Lan Bui: It’s a visual directory you can go through, complete a search sentence and it lists out all the people that basically you need to hire and you see all their work, you can watch a video. You never leave the search page. That’s kind of a key thing that we wanted to do, was streamline the process of going through and vetting people and getting to be able to contact them. So, you know, there’s a lot of websites where it kind of looks like Craigslist, you don’t see their work, it takes so long to get to a button where you can actually find their phone number or email them and we put it all right on the front page.
Mike Horton: That’s for sure. Good for you, because there are a lot of websites out there that do a sort of similar thing but it is difficult to navigate and it’s difficult to find that right crew that you want, so congratulations for taking a look at all of them and trying to do something better.
Lan Bui: Yes, well, that’s kind of what we needed, was we needed a solution that would help, you know, selfishly, me find cast and crew. I have a shortlist of people, and this in no way replaces that shortlist. This is one for when your shortlist is exhausted, you can’t find somebody. That’s where we’re going to come in. Our ultimate goal is to be used any time anyone makes an independent film, makes a YouTube or Vimeo video. We want you to go to us to find your cast and crew.
Mike Horton: I’m actually surprised you did this, because I figured everybody knows you and everybody wants to work with you, so all you have to do is just say, “Hey, I’m doing a new movie. Call me up.” But good for you. I mean, good for you, this is a really good thing.
Larry Jordan: Lan, do you screen people at all? I mean, is there any, I don’t want to say…
Mike Horton: I hope you do.
Larry Jordan: …guarantee, but is there any assurance that the person that says they’re an audio op actually knows what a microphone looks like?
Lan Bui: Well, right now we actually designed the site to be, we have a free option and anyone can join there and it’s up to you to really vet the people right now. We have planned in the future, in future releases, once we build the community, once we get feedback from our community, some sort of a vetting or a vouching system. So instead of just being a popularity contest, that’s something we’re very passionate about not being because I know plenty of guys that work, get tons of work and keep getting hired even though they’re terrible people because they’re just popular, and we want to avoid that. Right now, you’re going to get hired if you make a profile in Cast and Crew Call because the work that you’re showing is the best.
Lan Bui: Now, if you’re a liar and you put up a can of lies, of course there’s always going to be that chance but, you know, it’s up to you to vet the person, make sure that who you’re talking to knows what they’re talking about. Now, once you get past the free members, if someone’s paying us, we have three options to upgrade your account. The free option is free, you can still get hired off of it, but the paid account gets you some more features that we’ve tried to make really attractive to people and if you’re paying for a further service, chances are you’re a little more serious.
Lan Bui: We didn’t price it so dirt cheap where everyone is just going to get a premium account. We priced it at $30 a month or $200 annually or if you’re just like, “Hey, I am in this for good,” $300 for a lifetime membership. If you’re seeing an account that’s paid, chances are that person right now has been vetted. We do have a verified system where you can submit three letters of recommendation and get your account verified and that puts a little badge on your account saying ‘Hey, this person has been verified.’
Lan Bui: So that’s what we do right now, but in the future we actually have a whole plan. We have a few different versions of a vouching system planned out, but the key to the thing that we’re working on is making sure it works for our members, so we’re not going to build out something and force it on them. We’re going to get people in how the website’s working now and let them kind of guide us in what they need and what they want.
Mike Horton: I know you haven’t been doing this for that long, but how is it going so far?
Lan Bui: Amazing. We’ve been pretty busy since launch. We just, actually two days ago, put an update out to the website and now we’re coming back with a ton of, well, like interviews with you guys – thank you so much for that – a couple of other guys, they really gave us some really good feedback and so we’re going to do just a little bit more talking about it now. We needed to just get it started, get people on there. We have a few hundred users on there already from around the world. For some reason, in Australia there is just this community of people that really like us, so there’s a bunch of Australians on there now too.
Larry Jordan: I want to go back just for a second. Who’s paying the money? Is the person looking to hire paying the money or is the person who’s listing paying the money?
Lan Bui: The person who’s listing is paying.
Larry Jordan: So for a producer, does it cost them money to be able to use your service to find people?
Lan Bui: No, you don’t need an account. You can just go on there and start looking, start hiring people. We wanted it to be a free resource for anyone that just needs to hire people, because that’s where a lot of people are. They’re just in the position of, “Hey, we need to go do this production, we need to hire people,” so for that person, it’s just an open resource that’s just a listing of great people to work with. Now, it’s kind of like you’re buying an ad, to get a listing on the website.
Larry Jordan: Can producers isolate their search to a particular, say, geographic territory – we want somebody just in Australia or New England or something of that sort?
Lan Bui: Oh yes. That’s part of the search sentence, which is the easiest way that we thought that you could do a search. Instead of having it being complicated like we saw out there, you complete this sentence: ‘I’m looking for a…’ and it’s cast or crew member, that’s a drop down, you select what type of cast or crew member you want, ‘in’, and then you can say any location nor you can scroll down and say Australia, anywhere pretty much in the world right now there’s somebody, and then, you know, what do you want to pay them – is this project just a free project? Are you looking for people that could possibly be paid or free? Or are you looking for people that are only going to be paid only? So that kind of narrows it down too. If you’re hiring someone that says, “Hey, I’m a paid only person,” they probably are a little more professional.
Larry Jordan: When did the site launch?
Lan Bui: Oh, I should know the date right off the top of my head.
Larry Jordan: How about the year?
Lan Bui: This year
Mike Horton: It was this year? Great.
Larry Jordan: That’s all. Well, this year’s close enough. That’s fine. Lan, where can people go to learn more?
Mike Horton: Larry asks the best questions.
Larry Jordan: Where can people go to learn more?
Lan Bui: Castandcrewcall.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, castandcrewcall.com and Lan Bui is the Co-Founder. Lan, wish you great success.
Lan Bui: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Mike Horton: Thanks, Lan.
Larry Jordan: Brian Drewes is the Co-Founder and Head of Production at the Boston-based company called ZEROvfx. Since this may not be the best time to be running a VFX business, we invited Brian to join us to explain how he attracts new clients to keep the doors open. Welcome, Brian.
Brian Drewes: Hey, how’s it going?
Mike Horton: Yay, Brian, he’s here. He’s here!
Larry Jordan: Hey, it’s good to talk to you.
Brian Drewes: Yes, hello, hello. Sorry about last week.
Larry Jordan: Ah, if it happens again, we take you out back and beat you.
Mike Horton: Exactly, we only give you two shots.
Brian Drewes: Ok. I only need one.
Larry Jordan: So tell us about your background. What do you guys do at ZEROvfx and who are some of your clients?
Brian Drewes: Well, coming up on January 4th here, we’ll have been open for four years.
Larry Jordan: Wow.
Brian Drewes: If you do the math backwards, you’ll realize that that was pretty much the worst time to open a visual effects company and, really, for the greater economy.
Larry Jordan: And I think the fact that you are continuing to run in today’s economy proves that you have zero business planning skills at all, so nice job.
Brian Drewes: Well, thank you very much. That’s being called nimble, I believe.
Mike Horton: I think so, yes.
Brian Drewes: So, you know, I think that because of the time that we started the company and where we are, which is in Boston – not necessarily considered the epicenter of the industry – we’ve really taken some interesting ways at looking at building the business and really examining the fundamentals of what we need to do in order to operate effectively in today’s creative economy and one of those is really looking at not just feature films, but also commercials and really any other image making sort of spectrum to deliver the creative stuff that we do. So we have sourced a lot of commercial clients, a lot of feature clients and some web stuff as well and print, so we work across all of those disciplines.
Mike Horton: Forgive me, but isn’t Boston also pretty much a big time gaming center and there’s a lot of talent there in games?
Brian Drewes: There is, there is, absolutely, and so we end up, you know, really a lot of our staff comes in the door knowing a lot of the basic things about the software that we’re using – Mia and NUKE – but really we fine tune that, especially for the feature film pipeline which is very specialized and one of the things to run very efficiently, so again back to making sure that the lights are on and also making sure that the creative output is something that we’re proud of.
Larry Jordan: Well, you mentioned a very, very good point. Boston is a lovely city but it’s not known as a hotbed for the visual effects industry. Why did you decide to start the company there, besides being too lazy to move somewhere else?
Brian Drewes: Well, you know, I started my career in San Francisco and my business partner, Sean Devereaux, who’s also the Visual Effects Supervisor, spent a ton of time in LA at the large facilities and at some point you make those lifestyle decisions and you say, “This is important for me as a person to live here and let’s make a go of it.” You know, I’ve been here now for ten plus years, really operating in the commercial markets, and Sean came in with a large feature background and so really with that and, of course, the tax incentives that are here in Massachusetts, that certainly draws in and gives us some competitive advantages with the features that are coming into town and also other features that are not incentivized.
Brian Drewes: But, you know, we’re growing the pipeline and we’re very fortunate to have grown the staff and have the personalities that we have here and the capabilities that we have here, with some really talented crew members.
Larry Jordan: Let’s go back to the dim reaches of your past. What got you started in visual effects in the first place?
Brian Drewes: Well, I went to school at a little school called Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, that had…
Mike Horton: Oh my God, I know that place.
Brian Drewes: Oh really?
Mike Horton: Yes, I mean, that was like a hippie college when I was growing up in Seattle.
Brian Drewes: I think it still is. A little time capsule there. But their film equipment was also from the time capsule. I started really getting the bug working on an Oxberry optical printer.
Larry Jordan: Oh yes, I remember those.
Brian Drewes: And, you know, just this huge cast iron beam with all these projectors and all the bipack and the magazine, so, like, straight up film compositing on film and that was not that long ago – ’94, I guess, ’95. So I learned the fundamentals there and really just loved the process overall, so as I got out I decided, you know, this is really an industry that sort of speaks to me as a person and I just have followed that ever since.
Larry Jordan: Well, the visual effects industry even today is still in a world of hurt, with companies closing their doors or moving overseas. From your point of view running your own company, what does it take to be successful in the industry?
Brian Drewes: Well, there are a few things. One, we don’t carry any debt and that’s a very important thing to us, from a very basic business standpoint. When you start having that debt, you end up having to make some decisions that cut down your ability to really respond to what’s going on on the ground. We’ve made some technology decisions – we render all of our images on a cloud, we wrote software called Zinc that allows us to really be able to scale up to hundreds of processors when we need them and none when we don’t, again allowing us to really keep our operational expenses tied to cash flow.
Brian Drewes: And I think overall, you’re seeing the facilities that are 200 to 500 people, really, they’re sort of stuck. They have a really hard time. They have a ton on infrastructure costs and they have to keep that pipeline fed, but I think that studios our size – we have a core of 25 people and we fluctuate up to 40 at our maximum so far, maybe growing past that this year – but I think that is actually growing. I wouldn’t be surprised. I haven’t seen any industry metrics on that, but I do think there’s a really good place for facilities our size to be executing work at a really high level and bringing a lot of creativity and a lot of personal attention to things. There are a lot of difficulties with outsourcing stuff and…
Mike Horton: Yes, but can facilities your size bid on those big budget movies?
Brian Drewes: No. I mean, I think that…
Mike Horton: Or you just don’t bid on them?
Brian Drewes: Well, I mean, I think we bid on pieces of them and I think that you end up seeing a lot of these films get bisected amongst many different shops. There are certain features that obviously only go to very large shops, Island, etc, but there are a ton of films and a lot of work that is able to be achieved by smaller, more nimble facilities at a good price point. But again, this also comes into our other part of our business plan – let’s not just look at the features market, but also at other areas such as commercials and the other things that I’ve mentioned – so really having a very diverse client base only makes sense, you know?
Mike Horton: So even if you do a commercial, you’re not necessarily bidding against the Torontos and the Vancouvers and the Londons?
Brian Drewes: No, no. I mean, we do a lot of national work, but that’s a much different sort of sell cycle and a much different network of people that we have to help sell that piece of our business.
Larry Jordan: Well, let’s take a look at that. Who are some of your clients and what have been some of your recent projects?
Brian Drewes: Well, we started off doing a lot of feature stuff with Here Comes The Boom, we did almost 20 minutes of that film. That was a couple of years ago; and then more recently, we completed a lot of effects for American Hustle, which is coming out in LA and New York tomorrow and wide release next week, so we’re very excited to see that on the big screen. And then we’re on Equalizer right now, which is Denzel Washington, and then we’ve got a couple of other films that we’ve supervised which we haven’t started production with yet. Those will continue into 2014.
Brian Drewes: And then our commercial side do a lot of things for Ocean Spray, Subway and we’re also really fortunate to be in a position where we add key management staff. Sarah Spitz just joined us – she was a Vice President and an EP at Arnold Worldwide, which is quite a large agency, and she’s been there, she’s a well awarded and recognized agency producer, so we’re really excited for 2014 where she’s going to help us get into these other markets as well and continue our growth pattern to really give us that stable base that allows us to continue on both of these trajectories.
Larry Jordan: Eric, who’s listening in on our live chat, asks what hardware and software tools are essential for your work?
Brian Drewes: Well, we run mostly on NUKE, Mia and then we have a couple of Autodesk systems – Smoke on Mac – for the finishing aspect of that, you know, conforms, color corrections and managing the client sessions when clients are coming in and want to look at the product and really tweak stuff a little bit. But really, the heavy comp work happens on NUKE CG Mia and we use V-Ray by and large.
Larry Jordan: Well, those are not tools that are in common play outside the effects industry. How hard is it to find the right effects artists in Boston?
Brian Drewes: Well, it’s certainly a challenge, but the angle we’ve taken on that is really to look to grow a lot of talent, so we’ll get people in and start them with roto packages such as Silhouette or Tracking and just get them into the production pipeline; and then, as they grow and mature, then they start working into NUKE and com pipelines. So really, there’s a lot of on the job training, for sure and…
Mike Horton: Really?
Brian Drewes: …you know, we’re in it for the long haul so…
Mike Horton: I would have thought that Boston would be easy to find these people, just because of its academic institutions. You’ve got MIT, you’ve got Emerson, you got all these wonderful departments there. Oh my God.
Brian Drewes: The generation that’s coming out of college now is amazingly talented and, you know, they’ve been using computers since they were children, so the things that you expect from people, it’s amazing what’s coming out and you really just have to make sure personality wise they’re able to work well in the team and work on a production pipeline where, for film shots, a lot of people, you can get it to 80 percent. But, you know, to get it to that 100 percent, our clients hire us not to get it to 80 percent but 100 percent. That takes a special kind of person and a special kind of training, so we make sure that the people we work with are ready for that challenge.
Larry Jordan: Brian, you mentioned that one of the strengths of your company is your versatility – you’ll do cameras, you’ll do features, you’ll do television. But the question I’ve got is does being versatile help in this industry or does it spread you so thin that clients don’t take you seriously?
Brian Drewes: I don’t think our clients don’t take us seriously. I mean, we’ve been awarded a lot of features and our network of commercials really like to see the fact that we have this experience in other places, and I think it’s just a matter of really balancing those and making sure, again, that the work products, it’s all about what you’re delivering and the experience you’re giving the people that are your clients and making sure that you have the right people interfacing with them and that, you know, the pipelines are extraordinarily different.
Brian Drewes: But there are ways to do it where you can combine those things and not dilute who you are as a company.
Mike Horton: Quickly, because we’ve only got a couple of minutes left and we want to go back to that state of the effects industry as it is today and you in Boston and bidding against other companies, let’s just take LA, for instance. The tax subsidies and the credits, do they give you a leg up on, say, LA bids?
Brian Drewes: You know, we think that for features that are shooting here, for the right kind of feature, it certainly is something that goes into their reckoning. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure all the metrics that studios evaluate the budgetary end of things, but when we worked on American Hustle, we were certainly not the only vendor, though they shot here. They did a lot of work in LA, so I think that there’s definitely change happening. That certainly is the case, but I do see people doing very good work in LA still, but it’s certainly not at the levels that it was, that’s for sure.
Larry Jordan: As you look at the next year, there are two sides to the equation – there’s the business side, which we’ve spent a lot of time talking about, but there’s also the creative side. What trends and effects are you seeing that you’re keeping an eye on for next year?
Brian Drewes: Well, because I’m the business aspect of the company, I really am focused on how people can be more efficient and share files between companies because, as I see a lot of companies participating together, a lot of times you’re seeing a decentralized workflow that is somewhat disorganized and I really see a lot of things like Shotgun and other softwares coming out to really help people manage this workflow in a logical way, to allow people to work more efficiently and be able to have the right facility on the right job.
Brian Drewes: Maybe that’s just because of where I’m coming from, but that is definitely what I see as the thing.
Larry Jordan: For people that have a checkbook in their pocket and they want to hire you to work on their project, where can they go on the web to learn more about you?
Brian Drewes: Www.zerovfx.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s zerovfx.com and Brian Drewes is the Co-Founder and Head of Production at ZEROvfx. Brian, thanks for joining us today.
Mike Horton: Thanks, Brian.
Brian Drewes: Thanks, guys.
Larry Jordan: Take care. Bye bye.
Brian Drewes: Goodnight.
Larry Jordan: Beverley Horne is the brand new Head of TV Post for LipSync Post, a London-based company. She may be new to LipSync, but she isn’t new to the industry, having been post supervisor at UK broadcaster ITV, where she worked on many dramas including Agatha Christie Poirot, four series of Inspector Lewis, The Prisoner and I’m already envious.
Larry Jordan: In her new role at LipSync Post, she will be responsible for overseeing all the post production work on television dramas. Welcome, Beverley.
Beverley Horne: Hi there.
Larry Jordan: I give up, what does a post supervisor do?
Beverley Horne: A post supervisor is the person that kind of coordinates everything and runs everything once the filming has finished on a drama program, so when the director shouts, “Cut!” and it goes into the post process through the editing and everything like that, it’s the post supervisor’s job to coordinate that, make sure everything comes together on time and on budget so that the finished film is ready to go at the date that it’s supposed to be ready to go.
Larry Jordan: Well, is this more of a management position? Or is it a creative position? How do you fit with the director and the editors and the sound mixers? How does that whole melange work?
Beverley Horne: You’re kind of the go-between between them all, really. You’re the sort of pinpoint that they all come to with their queries and questions and the post supervisor is the person that sort of holds it all together, makes sure that everybody knows what’s going on on any given day so that everything gets done in time and liaises with all the various departments to make sure that everyone’s happy and that everything is done to the best of everybody’s ability so that when you’re doing VFX work on it, you’re doing it on a graded picture so you need to make sure that that’s all been done before you start booking in VFX time, and it’s a juggling act but it’s one that I thoroughly enjoy.
Larry Jordan: It has a great similarity to herding cats, it seems to me.
Beverley Horne: It’s something like that, yes, yes.
Larry Jordan: You know, Beverley, I was just reflecting, ITV I’ve heard about all my life but I’m new to LipSync. Describe the company and the kinds of projects you work on.
Beverley Horne: Well, obviously the company is a well known post production house in Soho in London. It’s a lot smaller than ITV. I mean, obviously, you know, ITV’s a broadcaster, so covers lots of genres and they’ve got a fantastic catalogue of work. Obviously, we’ve got Jamaica Inn that I’m going to be working on in the New Year, we’ve just finished Death Comes to Pemberley, which is a sequel to the Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice novel, so that transmits kind of over Christmas on the BBC here. And we’ve also just done something about the Great Train Robbery, which transmits next week on the BBC, so kind of big productions, you know, the things that I’m used to working on as a freelance post super, so yes, lots of big projects coming up that I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into.
Larry Jordan: Beverley, because ITV is so big, what made you give up the glamorous world of TV for an independent company like LipSync Post?
Beverley Horne: It was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down, really. I’d kind of had a lot of experience working for ITV as an in-house post supervisor, but I’d not really seen it from the other side, so it’s an opportunity for me to sort of get more involved, work with a lot of people that I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to being at ITV, and just kind of expanding my knowledge and depth of my knowledge of post production in the drama world, really.
Larry Jordan: What is the biggest challenge of being a post supervisor?
Beverley Horne: God, there are so many challenges of being a post supervisor. Just being able to juggle lots of things. You have to be very, very organized, sort of on the ball all the time because anything, you know, if one little thing goes wrong on a drama, it has a tendency to have that domino effect of knocking everything down, so you need to sort of be aware of everything that’s going on at any given time, really.
Larry Jordan: Ok, they’ve just handed you the reins of Head of TV Post for LipSync.
Beverley Horne: Yes.
Larry Jordan: What are you supposed to do now that you’re there?
Beverley Horne: Work very hard, I would think. No, obviously working on the various TV dramas that are already here, managing those from a post point of view, liaising with various independent post supervisors, you know, kind of the job that I used to do, and just sort of building up the business for the TV aspect of LipSync, really.
Larry Jordan: So what projects are you working on?
Beverley Horne: Well, the first one that I’m going to be thrown into kind of looking after is Jamaica Inn, which is an adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier novel, so that starts in the New Year, so I’m looking forward to kind of really getting my teeth into that and working on that. And then there are other things that are in the pipeline for next year which we can’t talk about but, you know, I’m kind of looking forward to sort of developing and bringing in some stuff for LipSync to work on next year.
Larry Jordan: Put yourself in the role of a post supervisor, which I know is a stretch for you, but we’ll just put you there.
Beverley Horne: Yes.
Larry Jordan: What can directors do to make your job miserable or, on the other side, what can directors do to make your job more useful? In other words, give us some guidance for people that are dealing with a post supervisor for the first time. What should we do or not do?
Beverley Horne: From a post supervisor’s point of view, the director should always keep them in the loop as to what’s going on. I’ve been in situations where directors have gone off and organized things and arranged things without letting me know and it’s very difficult to manage everybody else if you’re not aware of what’s going on. So as long as a director keeps you in the loop from day one and you talk to them almost on a daily basis to make sure that they’re happy with everything that’s going on but also that you’re happy with the way that they’re sort of handling everybody else, then hopefully that makes for a pleasant working environment.
Larry Jordan: So basically communication.
Beverley Horne: Communication is the key with post production. I think as long as everybody talks to everybody and everyone knows what’s going on, then hopefully it’s a fairly smooth process. But the moment that somebody doesn’t do that, then it can turn into a bit of a nightmare.
Mike Horton: I think you’re being polite.
Beverley Horne: Possibly.
Larry Jordan: Where can people go on the web to learn more about what LipSync Post does?
Beverley Horne: Ok, there is a website address. It’s www.lipsyncpost.co.uk.
Larry Jordan: That’s lipsyncpost.co.uk.
Beverley Horne: Yes, that’s it.
Larry Jordan: Because Beverley is London based at LipSync Post and, Beverley, thanks so much for joining us today. She is the Head of TV Post for LipSync Post.
Beverley Horne: Thank you very much.
Larry Jordan: Michael, this morning I was at a conference that was hosted by Axel Media and Adobe Systems…
Mike Horton: Oh, you went to that? I was going to go to that but my tree fell in the back yard and I had to chop wood.
Larry Jordan: It was a conference, but one of the things that I got a chance to see was a live demo of Adobe Anywhere, which reminds me – did you get the news from Adobe this morning?
Mike Horton: I got a pop-up and I clicked on it and it updated and I have no idea what it was, but I think it was bug fixes and other things.
Larry Jordan: Well, you want to put a noun in there? You got a pop-up about what?
Mike Horton: Well, to update my machine.
Larry Jordan: See? That’s what I was waiting for you to say. Adobe announced and released new updates today.
Mike Horton: I know, but it was right on my desktop. It was right on your desktop. I didn’t get a PR, just right on my desktop and it says if you want to know what it is, you click on a little more info and it tells you what it is.
Larry Jordan: You want to know what it is?
Mike Horton: Yes, because I didn’t read it. I just clicked it. I said, “Absolutely, update it.”
Larry Jordan: Adobe today updated Adobe Premier Pro CC, After Effects CC, SpeedGrade, Adobe Media Encoder and Adobe Anywhere. Adobe Premier added open CL performance enhancements, they improved media management, they enhanced editing for even greater workflow efficiency. I don’t know what that means, actually.
Mike Horton: It means efficiency.
Larry Jordan: They probably added a keyboard shortcut, and they delivered a more intuitive voiceover recorder…
Mike Horton: Command F.
Larry Jordan: …which is a good thing, because the old version could use some help. After Effects CC offered customizable output of file name and path templates, improved snapping behavior, enhanced scripting options and the ability to migrate user settings when updating to newer versions.
Mike Horton: Holy cow, I thought it was bug fixes.
Larry Jordan: SpeedGrade added expanded camera format support in DirectLink mode, which means that it supports more of the formats that Premier supports; Adobe Media Encoder now encodes Sony XAVC format…
Mike Horton: Oh, thank God.
Larry Jordan: …which I know is a codec that you’ve been thinking about; and Adobe Anywhere introduced performance improvements and diagnostic tools for monitoring system status. Have you not lost sleep thinking about that?
Mike Horton: That’s great. I mean, I can go home a happy person. Thank you, Larry, for that.
Larry Jordan: Well, you know, the thing that impresses me is that Adobe has updated the Creative Cloud release four times since its released. They released in May, they updated in June, they updated in July, they updated in October and they updated in December. You’ve got to admit, these guys are putting in a lot of money and effort.
Mike Horton: And so where’s that Final Cut Pro 10.1 update?
Larry Jordan: You know, Apple says they’re going to be releasing in December.
Mike Horton: Yes, well, it’s December.
Larry Jordan: And they haven’t released, but they’ve got some month left, so we’ll just have to see what happens.
Mike Horton: Christmas Eve.
Larry Jordan: A Christmas present under our Christmas tree.
Mike Horton: There you go.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of Christmas trees, the question I’ve got is do we have a Pick Our Brains question?
Mike Horton: Yes we do, Larry. It’s now time for… Pick Our Brains.
Larry Jordan: Oh boy, what did you do to the reverb there?
Mike Horton: Well, it wasn’t that, it was the high frequency band pass filter.
Larry Jordan: I can do voices, you know that? I used to do that in my old…
Mike Horton: What voice? What voice?
Larry Jordan: …in my acting days.
Mike Horton: Pick one voice.
Larry Jordan: …
Mike Horton: I can do Larry Jordan if I have a lot of wine.
Larry Jordan: And no audience.
Mike Horton: And no audience, yes. I can do it in front of an audience as long as it’s not on stage, which we are right now.
Larry Jordan: We are indeed. So what have you got?
Mike Horton: This is an Adobe Premier Pro question, since we have been talking about Premier Pro, and this fellow says: “I’m shooting in HD on a DSLR camera and wanted to know what were the best export settings,” – export settings – “to get as close to highest quality as I can? Because when I’m exporting my work as .mpegs, I’m noticing a significant quality loss.” Now, he’s specifically asking about online viewing and archiving. Now, I even know this, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Ok, go ahead. What do you know?
Mike Horton: There is no one codec for online viewing and archiving. You have to go, like, a couple of codec, right?
Larry Jordan: You know, there is hope for you.
Mike Horton: Thank you. I learn from you.
Larry Jordan: I am so impressed.
Mike Horton: I actually read your book on codecs. There are 465 pages. It’s just a great read.
Larry Jordan: It took you seven and a half years to finish it…
Mike Horton: Oh my goodness.
Larry Jordan: …because it helps you get to sleep.
Mike Horton: Well, it cured my insomnia, that’s for sure.
Larry Jordan: Are you done?
Mike Horton: Yes. So what’s the answer?
Larry Jordan: Well, the first thing that you should do is you should always back up your camera native format, so he’s shooting DSLR which is an H.264 format.
Mike Horton: Probably.
Larry Jordan: You always want to keep that as a backup so you’ve always got a master to go back to. When you’re distributing for the web, what you want to do is you want to export out of Premier at the highest possible quality and then from that master file create whatever distribution viewing formats you need. Now, if you’re on a Mac, you want to export using ProRes 422 or ProRes 422HQ. I’d recommend ProRes 422. It’s a wonderful codec, it’s a good balance between great quality and small file size.
Mike Horton: This is for online viewing or for archiving?
Larry Jordan: This is for archiving.
Mike Horton: Ok.
Larry Jordan: So you’re going to…
Mike Horton: Is this going to be around, though, in 25 years, the ProRes codec, according to your 455 page book?
Larry Jordan: Is BetaSP still around?
Mike Horton: Is it?
Larry Jordan: Yes it is.
Mike Horton: Ok.
Larry Jordan: But it’s not in daily use. One of the things that I learned at the conference this morning is we’re in an environment which requires data to migrate, so you want to output at the highest quality. If you’re on a Windows system, two codecs I’d recommend, because ProRes doesn’t work in Windows. You’d want to work with either DNX HD, the high end, either the 100 or the 200 format from Avid; or from GoPro, get Cineform. Both of those are high end codecs that are excellent for archiving. They’re similar to ProRes in terms of quality but they work on both Mac and Windows.
Larry Jordan: For Mac people, ProRes; for Windows, I would recommend Cineform or DNX HD.
Mike Horton: When are we going to start talking about H265? Why don’t we do a Christmas special?
Larry Jordan: We should do a Christmas special. As soon as somebody starts…
Mike Horton: Christmas H.265 special. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Larry Jordan: Nobody’s shipping it yet.
Mike Horton: Oh.
Larry Jordan: As soon as they start shipping, I’ll start talking.
Mike Horton: But it would be fun.
Larry Jordan: But people who are shipping are the guests that we talked to today. I want to thank Thom Calabro, the Director of Product Marketing and Product Development at Fujifilm’s Optical Division; cinematographer Lan Bui with his new castandcrewcall.com website; Brian Drewes, the Co-Founder and…
Mike Horton: …H.265 Christmas.
Larry Jordan: Brian Drewes at ZEROvfx…
Mike Horton: We’ve got to do that. Get Cirina on this.
Larry Jordan: We will get her on it immediately; and Beverley Horne, the new Head of TV Post at LipSync Post in Soho, London. There’s a lot happening at The Buzz. Check us out at digitalproductionbuzz.com or Twitter, @dpbuzz, and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com.
Larry Jordan: Music on The Buzz provided by SmartSound. Our producer’s Cirina Catania, our engineer Adrian Price. On behalf of the ever-handsome Mike Horton, my name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening.
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.