Digital Production Buzz
March 6, 2014
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
to listen to this show.]
John Putch, Director/Writer/Producer, Putch Films
John Tkaczewski, Co-Founder/President, FileCatalyst
Michael Cioni, CEO, Light Iron
Joseph Atash, Actor/Writer, Made in America
Aria Emory, Actor/Writer/Producer, Made in America
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 world’s longest running podcast covering creative content producers and tech news from media production, post production, marketing and distribution around the world. My name is Larry Jordan. Our co-host, Mike Horton, has the night off.
Larry Jordan: We’re going to start with a great group of guests. Well, we’re going to end with a great… actually, we’ve got great guests throughout the entire show, but our starting guest is John Putch. The director, writer, producer and independent film mentor is here with his very strong opinions about what an independent film producer needs to know to survive in Hollywood.
Larry Jordan: Then John Tkaczewski is the co-founder and President of FileCatalyst. I talked with him last week at the BVE 2014 trade show in London about his company and how it can enable us to move large media files over the internet.
Larry Jordan: Michael Cioni, the CEO of Light Iron, joins us with an update on the new Mac Pro and editing 4K media, a subject we’ve been covering in depth for the last year. Then in our continuing quest to learn more about the craft of writing, we invited Joseph Atash and Aria Emory, co-writers and stars of the long running play Made in America, to come on the show and tell us more.
Larry Jordan: By the way, just a reminder that we’re offering text transcripts for each show, courtesy of Take 1 Transcriptions. Now you can quickly scan or print the contents of each show as well as listen to it. Transcripts are located on each show page. You can learn more at take1.tv and thanks, Take 1, for making these transcripts possible.
Larry Jordan: The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of traveling for me. We first went to work with The Alaska Society for Technology and Education and on to London to speak at BVE 2014, which is a really large industry trade show based in London at the ExCeL Trade Show Center. Then from there we had two days at Ravensbourne College training students and professionals there on both Adobe Premier and Final Cut Pro X and then we wrapped up with the Guild of Television Cameramen in an all day training session looking at the new Final Cut X.
Larry Jordan: It was a fun time and one of the things I most enjoyed was taking The Buzz microphones around BVE, which you heard in last week’s show. We had a number of interviews that we aired, but we had one left over which I wanted to present to you tonight, which is a look at FileCatalyst.
Larry Jordan: I also want to give a shout out to all The Buzz fans that I met at BVE. All of us here at the show truly appreciate your comments and your support and it was nice to finally associate faces with the names.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of associating names and people and getting comments, you can keep track of us on Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com and we’re also on Twitter, @dpbuzz. We encourage you to join in the conversation about the show at either location – Facebook or Twitter – and when you get a chance, subscribe to our weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Not only do we give you all the latest industry news on both our show and the industry, but we give you a weekly newsletter which takes you behind the scenes of some of the stuff that’s going on and highlights key individual interviews that I think can be beneficial to you.
Larry Jordan: Anyway, all the news is at digitalproductionbuzz.com and, by the way, we’re getting closer to our massive coverage at NAB coming up in just a few weeks. We’ll have more on that for you shortly.
Larry Jordan: We’re going to be back with John Putch in just a few seconds, right after this.
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Larry Jordan: John Putch is often referred to as an independent film maverick. The son of late actress Jean Stapleton and late producer/director William Putch, one of his first indie efforts, Valerie Flake, landed him at the 99th Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for an Independent Spirit award. John’s other notable films include the cult indie favorites Bachelor Man, Mojave Phone Booth and the Route 30 trilogy films.
Larry Jordan: His TV directing spans shows like Family Tools and The Goodwin Games to Scrubs, Cougar Town, My Name Is Earl and many more. Welcome, John, good to have you with us.
John Putch: Larry Jordan, great to be with you.
Larry Jordan: Well, you know, I was looking in our database in which we can track everything and I realized the last time you were on The Buzz was September of 2012, when we were talking about your Route 30 trilogy.
John Putch: Yes.
Larry Jordan: What have you been doing since then?
John Putch: Well, aside from having fun directing the TV shows which you’ve already named, I won’t name, I’ve been working on part three of the trilogy. It’s called Route 30 III.
Larry Jordan: You just refuse to give up, don’t you?
John Putch: Yes, I do. I had to get it out as quickly as I could because I want to move on to something else without numbers on the end of them.
Larry Jordan: Well, just because I want to be impressed with how famous you are, what TV shows have you directed recently?
John Putch: This season, I was doing three shows – Cougar Town, which is my home base; The Middle on ABC; and a new show called Surviving Jack, which is on Fox, it debuts this month.
Larry Jordan: Well, see, the reason I ask is that here you are, a successful Hollywood insider, a producer and a director, major directing credits on very popular shows, and yet you’re offering a seminar titled Making The Anti-Hollywood Movie. Why?
John Putch: Well, no one will let me make things the way I want to in Hollywood, Larry, so in order to cleanse my soul and my mind, I need to go off into the woods and make movies and the way I do it is the anti-Hollywood way. If it feels like work, then I proclaim we’re doing it wrong. We sort of just want to get away with feeling like we did when we had Super 8 cameras, where we laughed a lot and didn’t really worry or stress about the end result, and I’ve got to say it sounds really stupid, but they come out just great, you know? No harm comes to anybody and the movies end up turning out really, really good.
Larry Jordan: Well, I’m going to hold your feet to the fire on that for just a minute, because I think there’s a certain level where you have to care. I mean, you’ve got to make sure the cameras are in focus and your talent shows up, so at what point does the caring stop and the playfulness come in?
John Putch: I think what you just said, that goes without saying. We do do that. I mean, everybody involved on my little movies are professionals, so you’re going to get a polished result because we’ve been doing it for so long. But what I mean is I don’t make decisions and thereby I don’t want anyone else to make decisions, based on a ticket sale or a model that you’ve heard you’re supposed to stick to or the stuff you’re normally taught – you can’t have that person in your movie or you can’t do this in a film or you can’t do that in a film – and that’s what I mean by that.
John Putch: We aren’t guided by an end result like, what will the audience think? Or people won’t buy tickets if we do this or that.
Larry Jordan: Ok. I think I can accept, at least for the moment, the not being guided by ticket sales. But I think any storyteller, when they’re telling a story, is keeping their audience in the back of their mind, aren’t they?
John Putch: Yes. I just like to feel like I’m getting away with something that no one will let me do when I’m hired.
Larry Jordan: Well, give me an example. I mean, goodness knows, it seems like virtually anything goes on cable and almost everything goes on broadcast. What can you not do?
John Putch: Well, I guess from the director’s chair and the writer’s chair you have to basically put someone else’s vision on screen, because there’s always somebody above you that, air quotes, knows better and there’s always somebody who is your boss and, you know, you’re work for hire. You make these on your own, you actually are joyful in the fact that all decisions are made by the one person and I guess that’s the greatest thing. You enjoy being a person who likes to make decisions, like I do.
Larry Jordan: You know, I heard once that theater is the writers’ medium and film is the directors’ medium and television is the producers’ medium. They tend to be the people in charge in those three areas.
John Putch: Producer/writer, I would say, TV.
Larry Jordan: Sorry, producer/writer?
John Putch: Yes, yes. Usually they’re the same person.
Larry Jordan: So the producer/writer for TV and really it’s only in feature films where the director has some sort of creative control.
John Putch: That’s what we’ve been told, Larry, and I’ve done a couple of features, not for studios but for larger budget independent outfits, and you would think that and, to a degree, yes. But there comes a point where you’ll be standing on the sidewalk outside of a sound mix and some executive producer who has one film under their belt will pull rank on you and pull a music cue or add one that’s absolutely horrible to your film. So that still happens but, yes, I would say the director is looked at differently in the film world.
Larry Jordan: Let’s get back to your seminar. What’s the purpose of the seminar, then?
John Putch: The seminar really is to give people like the person who wants to make a micro budget movie but is definitely afraid of doing so and lacks the courage to just do it or thinks it’s insurmountable and what I try to teach in this fun little seminar is that all you really need is good logic and a story and a few people to help you and you can do it. We all did that when we were kids as film makers with video cameras and Super 8 cameras and we never stopped and said, “We can’t do this.” We just found a way to do it.
Larry Jordan: Ah, ah, I had an insight here. The insight is don’t be intimidated by the fact that you don’t have any money. If you’ve got a story and you can get your hands on a camera, you don’t have to have a lot of money to produce a film.
John Putch: Exactly, and the less you have, the more clever you become and I think the best stuff comes forward; and the seminar will cover how to write the script, you know, designing a little script with this in mind, the micro budget mindset, and I give some low budget production tricks. I’ll also talk about the film festival circuit and what to expect there, and distribution truths and strategies where it applies to independent film makers, because they get ripped off the most.
Larry Jordan: So how would you define the independent film? Not in terms of genre but, or however, I guess, but we always talk about the independent film. Is it size of budget? Is it not being affiliated with a studio? What would you call it?
John Putch: To me, it’s not affiliated with a studio because the studios all have their Indiewood type films that they hide behind and win Oscars with. Those are all studios movies, in my opinion. No, the independent film is what it was originally. It’s what John Cassavetes did, it’s what Woody Allen did when he started and is still doing and it’s what people do in their home town with their $12,000 or their $50,000 or whatever it is they’re spending to make a film and without the help of a conglomerate.
Larry Jordan: I once read – this is what the long pregnant pause was as I was scrambling to find a question – remember you were saying you become more creative the less money you’ve got?
John Putch: Yes, I believe that.
Larry Jordan: In the original Star Trek, the reason they invented the transporter is they couldn’t afford the graphics to show the spaceships landing on a planet, so the transporter solved that problem.
John Putch: I know, and that’s incredible. I’d be jumping for joy if that idea ever came to me and I’d be loving it. That’s the best part of making films, is getting away with stuff that you wouldn’t normally get away with. I love that.
Larry Jordan: So you want to make a successful indie film, where do you spend your time? We’ve got no money, so forget that. You trade off money for time, so where do you spend your time in trying to make a successful indie film?
John Putch: Well, that’s a really large ranging question, but I think the thing that separates independent films, good ones from the bad, is the script and the acting and you’ve got to have good sound. People will forgive a bad picture, believe it or not, but they will not forgive bad sound.
Larry Jordan: Oh, I’ve been preaching that for a long time. So glad you’re on the side of the angels on that.
John Putch: Oh no, oh no, I totally am, but you’ve got to have good actors and if you don’t have an eye for talent and don’t know how to cast your movie and have good actors and direct them and handle them right, you don’t stand a chance and I don’t know how you teach that. It’s one of those things that you either have it or you don’t or you learn with each film.
Larry Jordan: We’ve got a couple of actors coming on later in the show, so put your director hat back on. How do you handle actors?
John Putch: I love actors. I used to be one. I know how to talk their talk. I think all actors want is to be looked after and made sure they are not embarrassed or do not look stupid; and they want logic and they want intelligence from their director and they want to know where to start and where to end the scene. The rest, if they’re professionals, is up to them. I give my actors free reign of that middle stuff because I expect them to know their characters when they come on set.
Larry Jordan: So you want to basically treat them as people, don’t embarrass them in public and tell them where to start and where to stop.
John Putch: Yes, and give them praise when they’re doing a good job and help them when they’re stuck. When I was an actor and I had trouble with things, I was so grateful to the director who would come over and say, “I see you’re having trouble with this. Let me help you get to the right spot so this line comes out right,” and I much preferred that than having someone go, “We better do that again. Putch, what are you doing in there?” which happened.
Larry Jordan: Or, “Do it again, just do it different.”
John Putch: Yes. “Can you do it louder, please?”
Larry Jordan: That strikes me as a director that’s insecure to begin with.
John Putch: Yes, well, you know, they give out directing jobs willy-nilly out here, you know that, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Well, almost willy-nilly. I wasn’t able to get one on the West Coast, only the East Coast, so obviously Willy was not paying attention at the particular time that occurred. Oh, I’ve got another question for you. Ok, so put your producer hat back on again.
John Putch: Ok.
Larry Jordan: Which do you like better – pre-production, production or post?
John Putch: Oh, man, I like them all, especially when I’m doing them alone.
Larry Jordan: Can’t be doing them alone. Remember, you’ve got friends around you.
John Putch: Are you talking about my little films or are you talking about when I get hired?
Larry Jordan: No, I’ll talk about your little films.
John Putch: Oh, the whole thing is a joy to me because I get to do a lot of it alone. I prep these things months in advance and I collect props and I put them in a bin in my office and I make artwork. I do everything by hand on my computer here and I have months to prepare and I have my schedule done and I love that part. Then shooting becomes a whole different party, because now logistic boy goes into full speed and I’ve got my friends and actors there who I love seeing what they do with the material; and then post is awesome because I sit here and edit and do effects and mess with the sound and I just love it. I love it, and this time I’m color correcting. I learned that, I told you that.
Larry Jordan: You’re just a one man talent show.
John Putch: Well, listen, if I were a guy that liked to make coffee tables and varnish them in my garage, I’d be loving that too. But I happen to be the film junkie who makes movies.
Larry Jordan: Can you really make money doing an independent film?
John Putch: Oh! Hold on while I laugh heartedly, Larry. No. You cannot. What are you… come on, there’s not a chance and most independent movies, in my opinion, are art films and I think they should be art films and I don’t think they can compete with commerce. I don’t believe the two can co-exist, so I put them as parallel worlds and once I gave up trying to make money from independent movies, including that Valerie Flake film you mentioned earlier, once I gave up being ripped off by all the sales agents and not earning money, I realized, “Oh, ok, it’s not about that. Now I can concentrate and make a really good movie,” and, hey, maybe I’ll get to 10,000 people instead of a million people but it doesn’t feel wrong to me.
John Putch: And because you can make movies so cheaply these days, the risk factor is now going away and I love that because I have made so many more movies because of the cheapness factor over the years and the technology since Valerie Flake in ’99 than I could have if we didn’t have that at our fingertips, so everybody should be doing it. I mean, they are, actually…
Larry Jordan: They should do it more.
John Putch: Yes, yes.
Larry Jordan: John, for people who want to keep track of all the films you’re creating, what website can they go to?
John Putch: Well, I think, if you don’t mind, I’d love to say that the seminar is March 22nd in Arlington, Virginia. You can find all the information about that at putchfilms.com and then the route30trilogy.com.
Larry Jordan: And John Putch is the director, writer and producer of all of these at putchfilms.com. John, thanks for joining us today.
John Putch: Larry, always a pleasure. Go get ‘em.
Larry Jordan: Take care. Bye bye.
John Putch: Bye bye.
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Larry Jordan: One of the biggest frustrations that I have is transferring large files from point A to point B and doing it before I die and there’s a company called FileCatalyst that has an answer for file transfers. John Tkaczewski is the President and the co-founder of FileCatalyst. John, welcome.
John Tkaczewski: Thank you for having me here.
Larry Jordan: What does FileCatalyst do and how does it do it so well?
John Tkaczewski: FileCatalyst is a file transfer solution for accelerating and securing movement of media files over the internet. If I have a large media file and I want to move it using the internet from, let’s say, Europe to LA, I can do it much faster and in a much more secure fashion than I would normally do using FTP or any other protocols.
Larry Jordan: So this is better than FTP?
John Tkaczewski: Yes, it’s better than FTP in two ways. First of all, it’s more secure because we’re actually using our own protocol to move the data; and second thing, it’s also much faster than FTP. We optimize your bandwidth, so if you want to send files at the maximum available speed to you, we will be able to do this with our protocol.
Larry Jordan: Now, this sounds a lot like compression. You’re just compressing the file and sending it, but our media files are already compressed.
John Tkaczewski: Yes. Media files are compressed, and that’s a very good question. We don’t actually do compression. What we do, we use the network very efficiently. Let me just tell you how the FTP and the FTP world already existing tools today, how they transfer data.
John Tkaczewski: What they do, they use a protocol called TCP as the main protocol to move the data and TCP is a very chatty protocol. If I want to move a little bit of data with TCP, I’m going to send you a small packet of data and then I’m going to ask you, “Did you get it?” You have to tell me that you got it before I send you the next little bit of data and it’s a very serial process and a very chatty process, so what’s going to happen is that we’re going to be doing a lot of talking and not a lot of sending.
Larry Jordan: So the advantage to TCP is that, if there’s a break in the action, then it says, “I’m not getting that response. I’ve got to either send it again or the network went down.”
John Tkaczewski: Exactly.
Larry Jordan: So that means that if I’ve got a network break with your stuff, I lost the file.
John Tkaczewski: No. What we do is we actually send our data using UDP and UDP is much lighter weight and it’s faster and we’ve built into our protocol checksums, so you know as a receiver of the data what data did not make it to you. With our protocol, we’re going to be sending data continuously, we’re not going to be asking you if you received it, and you’re just going to raise your hand and tell us that you’re missing, let’s say, packet number seven.
John Tkaczewski: Once you tell this to the sender, the sender’s going to go back to packet number seven and just re-transmit that one packet that got lost on the way.
Larry Jordan: Now, are you sending longer packets as well? Or is it still a really short packet?
John Tkaczewski: We send something called a block, which is roughly about a four meg chunk of data, so it’s not just a packet, it’s a little bit bigger than that. But ultimately that’s how it works.
Larry Jordan: Four megabytes is a lot bigger than a packet, because packets are 42 bytes, so by sending a longer block of text and by being less chatty, what you’re doing is you’re not speeding me up, my internet speed is the same, and you’re not compressing, but because you’re not doing all this chatting back and forth I can send more data in less time.
John Tkaczewski: Exactly. That’s exactly the whole concept, is that I’m going to be sending bigger chunks of data and I’m not going to wait for you to acknowledge that you got this data, I’m going to move onto the next block of data and send it over and you’ll just raise your hand if you have a problem.
Larry Jordan: Well, this also means that I’ve got to have FileCatalyst at both ends of the transfer, doesn’t it?
John Tkaczewski: Yes. It is a client server type of application where the server receives all the connectivity and is connected to your storage where all your media resides, and then the client application becomes sort of like a FileZilla in an FTP world or it becomes like Fetch on Mac, so you connect to the server and you retrieve the data or upload the data to the server.
Larry Jordan: But the server’s on my property, I’m not loading the file to you. You’re simply providing a protocol to go back and forth, my data is secure.
John Tkaczewski: Exactly. We provide you the software to run the server application on your end, attach it to your own storage so all the data goes directly to your location, so it’s point to point.
Larry Jordan: And what do I need for a server?
John Tkaczewski: Unless you’re going to be going really fast, you want to, let’s say, go faster than a gigabit, then you might need something more robust. But normal, like a dual core four gigs of RAM type of a server will suffice for anything a gigabit or under.
Larry Jordan: Mac, Windows, Linux, which?
John Tkaczewski: Mac, Windows, Linux, we support all the major platforms.
Larry Jordan: How actually do we transfer the file? Do we do this from a web browser or do we run an FTP software or what?
John Tkaczewski: We have different client applications that can connect to the server. We have a desktop application, sort of like a FileZilla; we have a hot folder or, like, an automated watch folder where you can schedule a transfer – basically designate a folder where, if any new content arrives to it, the contents of that folder will be automatically uploaded to the server; and the final option would be like a web browser.
John Tkaczewski: If your clients don’t want to install any software, you just point them to a URL, to a link, and our software is going to load directly from the web page where they can send files directly from their web browser to the FileCatalyst server.
Larry Jordan: Can I use this for sending files to YouTube, if I’m doing a lot of YouTube videos? Or can I use it to send it to a web server for posting to a website?
John Tkaczewski: Well, you need ultimately to send it to a FileCatalyst server. YouTube does not have a FileCatalyst server running right now, so you will probably have to use the traditional FTP way. But if you want to send data to any location that has a FileCatalyst server running, then you will get the acceleration and better performance and security.
Larry Jordan: And what does it cost?
John Tkaczewski: The cost depends on the bandwidth you wish to optimize. Of course, if you only have a ten megabit connection, it’s going to be a lot less expensive than if you want to optimize a ten gigabit connection, because also the cost of lines are different. The basic pricing starts at around $3,000 and an average faster server can be between five and seven thousand dollars for a perpetual license, so you buy the software and you own it for the rest of your life.
Larry Jordan: So this is an ideal situation for people who are sending large files to essentially the same spot time after time. It would not be a good idea when people are sending large files to a different location, because you’d have to have the software installed on multiple locations.
John Tkaczewski: Well, see, our server cost is only based on a server, so we don’t charge for the client applications. Once you’ve deployed the server in your broadcast facility, you can then give the client application to all your clients and all your partners who need to send you data and you can get that client application at no charge to them so they can connect back to the FileCatalyst server and send you data.
Larry Jordan: And where can people go to learn more about what FileCatalyst can do?
John Tkaczewski: Well, the best place is to go to filecatalyst.com and we can also provide you a free trial.
Larry Jordan: That’s filecatalyst.com and John Tkaczewski is the President and co-founder of FileCatalyst. John, thanks for joining us today.
John Tkaczewski: Thank you for having me, Larry.
Larry Jordan: As the CEO of Light Iron, Michael Cioni has supervised digital intermediates and workflow on hundreds of feature films, including Ender’s Game, The Muppets Most Wanted and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; and, as an industry leader for on-set post production, Light Iron’s outpost mobile post systems have been used on more than 100 major motion pictures, television shows and commercials every year. Hello, Michael, welcome back.
Michael Cioni: How are you guys? Good to hear you.
Larry Jordan: Well, it’s good to have you and Mr. Horton has taken the night off, just in case you’re wondering why he’s being so quiet.
Michael Cioni: He is quieter than usual, you’re right.
Larry Jordan: Yes, he’s not telling any of his jokes. Actually, it’s better for all of us, I think.
Michael Cioni: Aww! No, it’s good to hear you, Larry. What’s the scoop with you guys these days?
Larry Jordan: Well, we’ve got all kinds of scoops, but I want to talk about you first because you are more important. What’s Light Iron been up to recently?
Michael Cioni: Well, we’re making such a huge push in response to a lot of development centered around UHD and the CES show this previous winter as we lead into NAB in another month is really going to be the biggest springboard, kind of like a really significant commitment by a large number of companies, dozens and dozens, that are really preparing all the ingredients necessary to finally make 4K a reality, I think, in our society, which is really significant because we’ve been talking 4K for quite a few years, a good six or seven years have been 4K-centric, but it’s required that much time in order for all the ingredients to come together to make it really possible, not only for viewers to experience it at the home level, but also the users, the artists, the creative people that have to assemble 4K so that it’s economic.
Larry Jordan: Well, now, wait, wait, wait, wait a minute. You can color me as a 4K skeptic, so let’s just take this in stages. I think that there are three elements here. There’s using 4K for image acquisition at the camera end; then we’ve got 4K in editing, which is post; and we’ve got 4K for distribution.
Michael Cioni: Yes.
Larry Jordan: You can talk me into, a year ago you couldn’t, but this year you can absolutely talk me into using 4K for acquisition, because we’re shooting four, five, even 6K right now, and it’s a great way either for acquiring images which you down res or images for projecting at 4K. I want to talk about post, but I am not yet convinced that 4K is ready for distribution, aside from theatrical where you’re projecting to a large screen.
Michael Cioni: Right.
Larry Jordan: So talk to me first about distribution. Convince me that anybody aside from a camera guy needs to care about 4K.
Michael Cioni: Great question and the truth is, if you really want to get 4K content into your environment, the theaters are actually the worst set. They’re actually the places that are going to be the slowest in order to develop 4K as a normality and instead we’re going to see 4K charges led by the broadband group. The Amazons, Hulus, Netflix, Google, Microsoft, Apples – those are the groups that have the incentive and the exhibition platform with which to create a 4K exhibition type line that is far more reachable and superior to that which is required in the theatrical realm.
Michael Cioni: So you’re not going to see it in broadcast and you’re not going to see it in theaters anywhere the numbers that you’re going to see it over the web.
Larry Jordan: So what you’re looking at is an… around traditional distribution into new forms of distribution for 4K to become viable.
Michael Cioni: Yes, and it sort of makes sense in a way because HD took a decade to really implement and, if you remember, it took a government regulation in order to even make it possible in this country. That is not something that we’re going to repeat and it’s actually logical that it’s new exhibition groups with new exhibition plans that are going to be the ones that are going to shepherd and be the architects of being able to create a 4K infrastructure and it’s because they can do it without legacy infrastructures or even legacy ideology.
Michael Cioni: They’re coming in with fresh eyes, fresh minds, fresh opportunities and fresh technology and that’s exactly why it makes the most sense for them to do it.
Larry Jordan: So what you’re saying is the independent producer needs to start developing relationships with these new distributors to get their content distributed at higher resolutions.
Michael Cioni: That’s definitely a necessity. Getting to know your local broadband group is a great idea, but another concept that I think is really powerful for everybody to consider is the fact that we’re on the precipice of H265 compression. That’s one of the big ingredients that’s going to make this possible and if you think about an analogy, I did a movie years ago called Who Killed The Electric Car? and one of the most poignant lines in the movie is if you don’t build charging stations, it doesn’t matter how many electric cars are on the road, right?
Michael Cioni: Well, similarly in terms of the 4K exhibition, if all the exhibitors come together with all the right technology and the creative people aren’t creating 4K content, it doesn’t matter how many outputs are out there, so we have to build charging stations before we have cars and we have to build 4K content before we actually have the justification to exhibit it. I think one of the biggest things is H265 compression, which gives people the ability to deliver twice the quality for half the bit rate, that’s one way to look at it, or using that in conjunction with accelerated hardware, and that’s the other component that just came to market.
Michael Cioni: H265 is a 2014 solution that you’ll start seeing over the next few months.
Larry Jordan: Yes, tell the Telestream has already announced support for it.
Michael Cioni: And a lot of people are. I think the licensing process is en route right now, so you’re going to see everyone pulling out their licenses and adding in the plug-ins. But there needs to be accelerated hardware and that’s where the new Mac Pro is so exciting when it’s hitting the market at exactly the right time.
Larry Jordan: Ok, now back that statement up. What makes the new Mac Pro so exciting?
Michael Cioni: Well, the number one thing is Apple’s ability to leverage the GPUs inside this computer. Where a lot of people thought Apple was dumbing down the computer, they actually were amping it up and even though it looks like a little jet engine – I call it a cylinder – this is actually like a little nuclear reactor as opposed to a combustion engine.
Larry Jordan: Now, what gives it the power? There’s a point I want to get to in a second, but I want to have you answer a free form question. What do you think gives it the power?
Michael Cioni: Well, we have the multiple 20 gigabit connections on it. Technically, in a way, there are seven 4K viewing outputs on this machine. But, with the GPU acceleration, just as one example, we are taking one of the heaviest formats in cinema today is ARRIRAW. People are familiar with the Alexa and Alexa’s top end recording option is ARRIRAW. What we’re able to do with the Mac Pro which we’re not able to do on any other computer, is on this little 11 pound cylinder we’re able to produce up to 135 frames per second render from ARRIRAW, which is uncompressed 3K media.
Michael Cioni: When you think about things at that speed, you’re talking about rendering an hour’s worth of content in less than 20 minutes and, when you think about the implications of that, that’s part of the horsepower that is required to make 3K, 4K, 5K, 6K, those elements, viable for the user because if it was linear, based on the last generation, for example, of Mac Pros, we’d be doing four times the resolution at one quarter the performance.
Michael Cioni: But Apple’s redevelopment of GPUs has enabled it to really just blow through the water and produce 4K renders far faster than real time, about 2.8 times faster than real time per output, meaning we’ve been able to get our Mac Pros to render two different outputs simultaneously and those multiple outputs are running at almost three times faster than real time. This is a massive improvement.
Larry Jordan: What software are you using to set those render frames up?
Michael Cioni: Great question. The software that we use is made by the Hungarian company Colorfront. These guys are the foremost experts, in my opinion, on GPU acceleration and when they migrated their software over to run on the Open CL performance of the new Mac Pro, we’re seeing frame rates that we would only see in the past on super computers and this little jet engine here is now a super computer.
Larry Jordan: Now, what does their software do so we can fit it into the post process?
Michael Cioni: Well, their software, the one we use is called Express, is actually a transcoding tool, so when people want to take camera negatives and add color and add window burns and watermarks and add sound and they want to output multiple flavors for different editorial machines and even iPads and tablets, this is the equivalent of your old fashioned telephony. But telephony was a three or four times longer than real time process, an hour’s footage taking three or four hours. Now, with what I call betaphony, we’re able to do it three or four times faster than real time, which is going to make this little Mac Pro pretty much a staple in every data cine application.
Larry Jordan: So the software would take the place of Adobe Media Encoder or Apple Compressor? You would use it at that part of the workflow?
Michael Cioni: Yes, and it would also bed things that those tools don’t do, like color and window burns and watermarks and geometry adjustments and things in sound, synching sound, and that’s really what betaphony’s going to enable a lot of people to do so that they don’t have to rely on their editor to do all the mundane stuff. Editing rooms really need to go back a little bit to the basics where, when it comes to the editor, they just edit. But a lot of times, cutting rooms with the… cameras have also become little mini post houses and, while that works, it puts additional pressure on cutting rooms, which can affect schedules.
Michael Cioni: But with the new Mac Pro and a program like Express from Colorfront, you’re able to expedite that process so, by the time it gets to editorial, it can already be 4K, synched, colored and even named and it can be happening before it comes to the cutting room. We didn’t really have the horsepower to move at these speeds, especially with really heavy formats like ARRIRAW or even Dragon files. As you probably are familiar with in the past, RED cameras required the use of additional accelerators called rockets. But now, with the Apple solution and Open CL, RED has literally just about two weeks ago released essentially a Mac Pro solution that does not require a rocket and we’re seeing real time… without a rocket just using the computer.
Michael Cioni: Just to give you an example, that would probably be four times slower had we had to do this on the previous generation of a power PC Mac or Intel Mac.
Larry Jordan: For a producer who’s on a budget, what should they spend their money on for a Mac Pro? They can’t get everything. What should they optimize?
Michael Cioni: Well, the middle of the road is often the best and safest place, so the D500 is going to run you a little more than $6,000 but that is the one that we’ve found the performances are within a few percentages of the highest quality Mac Pro, which would cost you more like $10,000. As with a lot of products that people buy, sometimes buying the high end and the low end is not efficient. The middle one is the best, and that’s the case with this new Mac Pro, based on most of the uses that we see fit for.
Michael Cioni: But the other use I want to put in here, Larry, is the fact that people are going to be able to monitor 4K with a single cable. Just three years ago, for me to be able to play back 4K required eight lines of HDSDI. The highest quality 4K was eight SDI. We called it oclink SDI. Today, just a few years later, it’s a single HDMI cable and when you see all the groups, Sharp being one of the strong leaders, Sony, these are groups that are putting HDMI connections that are 4K ready.
Michael Cioni: Even Microsoft and Sony in the X-Box and the Playstation, the latest… are also 4K compatible. They have the same 4K ports, they’re ready for 4K, so it’s streaming, it’s home entertainment, it’s Netflix downloads and viewing. It’s going to be iTunes soon. I’m not going to be surprised if the Apple roll items over in the next 18 months to a 4K distribution world and I can’t wait to see it and I know they now have the hardware to back up the way to do it.
Larry Jordan: Michael, I could probably talk to you for the next, oh, hour or two at least, but for people who want to keep track of what you’re up to, what website can they go to?
Michael Cioni: Lightiron.com is where we have all this information and we also have a huge investment in personal education and click on education, where you can sign up for free classes and training based on how a lot of this stuff is possible.
Larry Jordan: That’s lightiron.com and Michael Cioni is the CEO of Light Iron and, Michael, thanks for taking the time to join us and, you know, I’m going to have to check into getting more broadband into the house because I want to be able to watch this too.
Michael Cioni: Rev it up if you can, Larry. Do it while you can.
Larry Jordan: Take care. Bye bye.
Michael Cioni: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Actor/writer Joseph Atash is currently starring in Made in America, Playhouse West in Los Angeles. In addition to acting in the play, Joseph also co-wrote it with his writing partner, Aria Emory. Aria, in fact, accidentally walked past Playhouse West and decided to audit a class just a year ago. He was drawn to the school and joined the following day. So the goal for both Joseph and Aria is to turn Made in America into a film, which sounds cool and I want to learn more about this whole writing process. Joseph, welcome.
Joseph Atash: Oh, thank you, Larry.
Larry Jordan: And Aria, welcome as well.
Aria Emory: Hey, how are you?
Larry Jordan: Joseph, I want to start with you. Tell us about what Made in America is.
Joseph Atash: Well, it’s a play that Aria and I wrote about two brothers. I myself, I play a returning war veteran and Navy SEAL who had been in Desert Storm and wrote an autobiography about my experience in Desert Storm and basically, my brother and I’s relationship and his resentment towards me in my absence.
Larry Jordan: And, Aria, where is it playing?
Aria Emory: It’s playing at Playhouse West in North Hollywood, which is located at 4250 Lankershim Boulevard.
Larry Jordan: All righty. Aria, who came up with the idea? Was it you or Joseph?
Aria Emory: It was mutual, actually. We came up with it together and…
Larry Jordan: What, you just ran into each other at the supermarket and looked at each other, said, “We’ve got the same idea”?
Aria Emory: No, no, no. We decided to collaborate with one another on a project and so, after numerous ideas that we had, this one was the one we went with because of how we both connected to it.
Larry Jordan: Connected in what way?
Aria Emory: Well, we both come from Middle Eastern backgrounds and the play centers around the 9/11 attacks which happened and so the conflict is the idea of this family struggling with an identity crisis during 9/11.
Larry Jordan: Mmm. Joseph, have you written scripts with a partner before or was this a first time?
Joseph Atash: No, before this I was writing by myself, so this was the first time I actually got to collaborate with another writer, which was very interesting.
Larry Jordan: Now, keep in mind that Aria’s on the line. What was it like to work with a partner?
Joseph Atash: Oh, it was terrible. It was great. It’s interesting, when you have two minds, because like a painter painting on a canvas, you know, you’ve got your own vision and so when you mix someone else’s vision in with it, it can either come out really good or really bad and this time it turned out to be a good thing.
Larry Jordan: Well, what happens if there’s a disagreement? I mean, not about a word particularly, but the direction a plot’s going to go. How do you resolve that?
Joseph Atash: Mmm, that’s a good question. We had to talk and communicate but no, I mean, we had a very similar vision of the way we wanted it to go, so there was really no obstacles like that to overcome this time.
Larry Jordan: Aria, did you know when you were writing it that you were going to be acting in it? Did you write it with your person in mind?
Aria Emory: Yes, yes. We both wrote it for an opportunity for us both to act, because we just didn’t want to wait any longer for an opportunity to act by going to audition after audition, so we decided that we’d write our own opportunity and that’s what this play is, essentially.
Larry Jordan: Did you find that writing with yourself in mind enabled or hurt the script?
Aria Emory: Although we did want to play these characters, we made sure that we wrote it so that the play worked on its own. We didn’t want to have to put ourselves in that position necessarily to block us from understanding what these characters were going through. We wanted them to evolve on their own and so, as we wrote it, we let them evolve naturally and then we just took on the roles.
Larry Jordan: Joseph, when you’re acting, do you find yourself second guessing the writing?
Joseph Atash: Yes. Actually, it’s funny because during this process, the script evolved so much just during the rehearsal process; and a lot of times, I mean, we found things that we had written originally that didn’t quite work when we were rehearsing it and we just kind of tweaked some things but, no, for the most part it was very interesting to act out something that was written by you.
Larry Jordan: Again, Joseph, do you find it easier as an actor to deliver dialog that you’ve written? Or do you find it harder because you’re so invested in the words?
Joseph Atash: Mmm, it’s harder, I think because when you write something, you write it with an idea in mind as opposed to approaching another writer’s material, where you approach it with an open mind; and in my mind, I’m like, “No, I wrote it like this, so I have to act it like this,” and that can hinder your performances, so I really had to wipe the slate clean after it was written and I approached it merely as an actor.
Larry Jordan: Well, Aria, you co-wrote the script and you’re co-acting in the script. Why do you even bother to have a director?
Aria Emory: The reason for that mainly is because we needed someone to make sure that we were heading in the right direction because we can get too involved in it in a sense that, because we wrote it and we’re acting in it, we need to make sure that there’s a third eye, an outside vision, that’s trying to push this play in a certain direction. We didn’t want to hinder our performances or the writing by having an idea, as Joseph has already mentioned, about how this was going to go, so we needed a director, who was Kathleen Randazzo, who did an amazing job to help us find a clear vision into putting this play up and making sure it all came out smoothly.
Larry Jordan: We had a conversation with John Putch earlier in the show, who’s now a producer/director/writer, but has been an actor. From an actor’s point of view, what kind of advice can the director who is, by the way, Kathleen Randazzo, what advice did she give you that enables you to get deeper into the material that you already wrote?
Aria Emory: I think what helped the most was the fact that we did write it hindered us a little bit because we had these preconceived notions of how we wanted it to go and Kathleen enabled us to free ourselves from those preconceived ideas and start from scratch, as if we didn’t even write it ourselves, as if we were just approaching this like any other script and being able to understand that these are two people’s lives that we’re trying to show everybody else and make sure that they can understand it when they’re watching it and hopefully connect with it.
Aria Emory: She allowed us to do that by just freeing us from the script through numerous exercises and helping us break down the script as if we didn’t even write it, as if it was something that we’d just picked up and read.
Larry Jordan: Joseph, same question – how did the director help you as an actor to approach the role?
Joseph Atash: It’s sort of the same experience, but for me I can’t see myself when I’m on stage or when I’m rehearsing and Kathleen noticed some little things about my character that I could have changed or just made better. Because I am a war veteran, a Navy SEAL, she did also help me with some of the movements being more relaxed in certain situations or whatever, so it was nice to have that outside point of view to really get me more deeply involved with my character.
Larry Jordan: Joseph, now that you’ve gone through the experience of writing by yourself and writing with a partner, what advice would you have for other aspiring writers or producer/writers to try to tackle their own script?
Joseph Atash: Oh, man, just do it. I mean, the biggest thing for me was, because this meant so much to me and it meant a lot to Aria as well, we had an idea, we had a message and to make that something real and go all the way with it is just something that I recommend to everybody who has a great idea or somebody who just has something or a story that they want to tell. You know, just go all the way with it, just do it.
Larry Jordan: Aria, same question. What advice would you give?
Aria Emory: A similar answer as well. I would say have no fear and just be courageous and write something that you’re really passionate about, because if you’re really passionate about it, it’ll come out naturally on its own and to be able to create something from scratch is one of the most amazing things, in my opinion, because it’s just a blank page until you write the first word on there and so, to be able to have no fear and no judgment of what people are going to think about it and just write what’s really passionate and what’s inside your heart, then it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks at the end of the day because you’re writing what you care about.
Larry Jordan: Joseph, give us the website for the theater for people who want to buy tickets.
Joseph Atash: Absolutely. Well, you can make your reservations at email@example.com.
Larry Jordan: At where?
Joseph Atash: Reservationsmia@gmail.com.
Larry Jordan: Ok, and for people who want to learn about the play, where can they go on the web?
Joseph Atash: You can look us up on Facebook, just Made in America play. But also, we are on the Playhouse West website, which is playhousewest.net, and they have us up there as well.
Larry Jordan: And Joseph Atash and Aria Emory are the two co-writers and co-actors of Made in America. Gentlemen, thanks so much for joining us today.
Joseph Atash: Thank you, Larry.
Aria Emory: Thank you for your time.
Larry Jordan: Take care. Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: One of the things I was struck with in Michael Cioni’s interview, talking about 4k, is the kind of fragmentation we’re seeing in the market, because we’re seeing that cameras like the Dragon cameras capturing 6K and the RED Epic is capturing 5K and, at the BVE trade show in London I saw any number of cameras starting with a GoPro Hero to the 4A camera, Panasonic’s now got the Lumix GH4 and every camera manufacturer is now starting to provide image acquisition at a much higher resolution, past 2K and 4K, and the idea of acquiring images in a higher resolution which then allows us to have multiple options when we bring it into editing is, I think, a very interesting concept.
Larry Jordan: I like what Michael had to say about the idea of getting access to high resolution through alternate broadband distribution, through Google and through Netflix and through Apple. I think that’s an interesting way, because we’re seeing already that cable and broadcast are just not able to invest in the physical plant necessary to get 4K to the audience very soon and theatrical distribution, most of the theaters in this country, except for the Sony theaters, are using 2K digital projectors.
Larry Jordan: So for me, it seems that the idea of acquiring images in 4K, even if you want to edit it at a smaller resolution like 2K or 10ADP, 4K allows us to reframe shots, allows us to adjust what we’re seeing. Oh, it also simplifies image stabilization, provides us a way to start to get our systems up and running to make sure we can support the higher resolution.
Larry Jordan: Michael was really excited about the Mac Pro, but one of the things you have to keep in mind for higher resolution video, whether it’s 2K or 4K, is that the speed of the computer is less important than the speed of your storage. Your storage size is going to increase about four to four and a half times as you work with 4K over a 10ADP image, so you need to have much higher bandwidth, which means USB3 and Thunderbolt and, more importantly, you need to have RAIDs that have at least five drives inside them. A single drive or a two drive RAID is just not going to be fast enough to be able to support really high resolution images.
Larry Jordan: I’m going to have a video on this whole idea posted to YouTube from my talks at BVE. We’ll have it on YouTube next week and I’ll let you know when it’s there.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests for this week: John Putch, the writer/director/producer of everything from broadcast television to the Route 30 trilogy; and John Tkaczewski, the co-founder and President of FileCatalyst; Michael Cioni, the CEO of Light Iron; Joseph Atash and Aria Emory, co-writers and stars of Made in America, currently performing at Playhouse West.
Larry Jordan: There is a lot happening at The Buzz between shows. Visit digitalproductionbuzz.com and click ‘Latest News’. We update this several times a day with the latest news from our industry. You can talk with us on Twitter, @dpbuzz, and Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com.
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