Digital Production Buzz
June 26, 2014
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
Jonathan Handel, of Counsel, Troy Gould
Jim Jachetta, CEO, VidOvation
Sean Mullen, CEO & Lead Creative, Rampant Design Tools
Philip Hodgetts, President, Intelligent Assistance
Voiceover: The 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; and by TOLISGroup, the BRU guys, pioneering the development and support of ultra-reliable data backup, archival and restore solutions for nearly 30 years.
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.
Voiceover: What’s really happening now and in your digital future?
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Larry Jordan: And welcome to The Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for creative content producers covering media production, post production, marketing and distribution around the world. My name is Larry Jordan and joining us is our co-host, finally, the ever handsome Mr. Mike Horton. Welcome, Mike, it’s good to have you back.
Mike Horton: Well, it’s good to be back, but it’s been a long time since you’ve been back.
Larry Jordan: Yes, I tell you, between the two of us, we’ve sort of been apart for a while.
Mike Horton: You’ve just got back from Seattle.
Larry Jordan: I got back from Seattle, I was doing some stuff for CreativeLive and last week was London and you were in New York.
Mike Horton: I was in New York and you were in London.
Larry Jordan: You didn’t send me a postcard.
Mike Horton: Then you went to Seattle and, by the way, I saw some of that on the first day at CreativeLive, which by the way, for those of you who haven’t checked out CreativeLive, it’s really good. It’s three day classes and you taught one on Final Cut Pro 10, I saw the Monday class. You are a good teacher, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Listen, coming from you, that is a high compliment.
Mike Horton: No, it was actually really good. I saw several hours of it. Well, I was working and I’d come back to you and… I had the two screens set up, so it was working out really well.
Larry Jordan: That’s very cool.
Mike Horton: Yes, good job.
Larry Jordan: And how was New York?
Mike Horton: It was so much fun. It’s been so many years since I’ve been there. It’s been, what, about five, eight years, something like that. It’s completely changed. It’s now clean and very expensive. It’s very expensive.
Larry Jordan: Well, welcome back. We are glad to have you with us.
Mike Horton: It’s great to be back.
Larry Jordan: We’ve got some great guests tonight. We’re going to start. The Supreme Court issued a decision in the Aereo case. We first covered this in April of this year as the arguments were presented in court and tonight Jonathan Handel joins us to explain this week’s Supreme Court ruling.
Larry Jordan: Jim Jachetta is the Founder and CEO of VidOvation. They specialize in moving video from Point A to Point B. Recently, they developed a wireless monitoring solution that’s currently being used by the NHL and tonight, not only does he explain what this NHL magic is, but why it’s so difficult to move video around the world.
Larry Jordan: Sean Mullen is the CEO of Rampant Design Tools. Sean is both a creative designer and the President of his own business. This week, we talk with him about how he balances the competing demands of the two.
Larry Jordan: And earlier this week, Philip Hodgetts, who’s the President of Intelligent Assistance, moderated a panel at the Creative Storage conference in Burbank. Increasingly, storage is the most critical component of any editing system and this conference looks at the future of storage. Tonight, we talk with Philip about what was presented and what we can look forward to.
Larry Jordan: Just a reminder, we are offering text transcripts for each show, courtesy of Take 1 Transcription. 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 this possible.
Larry Jordan: Mike, I understand that a happy anniversary is appropriate.
Mike Horton: That is correct.
Larry Jordan: Well, happy anniversary.
Mike Horton: Last night was our 14th anniversary.
Larry Jordan: Of?
Mike Horton: Of LAFCPUG, or as it’s now called, LACPUG, or LAC-PUG or however you want to pronounce it, it’s the Los Angeles Creative Pro User Group now.
Larry Jordan: 14 years you’ve been doing this.
Mike Horton: 14 years. I know, I was sort of waxing eloquent about it last night and got a little teary eyed and started to wonder, “14 years? What the hell have I been doing for 14 years?”
Larry Jordan: You’ve got to get a life, guy.
Mike Horton: But it’s still going, it’s still hanging in there. We’ve been around for 14 years and I think we’ve done some good.
Larry Jordan: Congratulations. I know you’ve done some good, it’s been a meaningful part of the community for a long time.
Larry Jordan: Remember to visit us with on Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com; Twitter, @dpbuzz, and I’m going to be right back with Jonathan Handel and the latest news from the Supreme Court, right after this.
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Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is of counsel at Troy Gould. He’s also the entertainment labor reporter for the Hollywood Reporter and now he is our man on the beat with the latest information on a significant Supreme Court ruling this week. Hello, Jonathan, welcome back.
Jonathan Handel: Well, hi Larry, how are you?
Larry Jordan: Well, we are talking to you and I am curious – what is the Supreme Court doing this week?
Jonathan Handel: Well, they’ve had a busy week. It’s the last week of their term and you see opinions tumbling out like bread from a bread box.
Mike Horton: Yes.
Jonathan Handel: In this instance, what we’re talking about is the Aereo case. Aereo, of course, is the service that allows you, or up until now has allowed you if you lived in certain parts of the country, to receive live broadcast television on your mobile device or other internet connected device. The Supreme Court is not happy with the way Aereo set up its business model, though, and we won’t see Aereo around for much longer, it looks like.
Larry Jordan: Well, what they were doing is they were doing small independent antennae, one antenna for each viewer, and they thought that this would be a way of getting around the copyright. This is not a technical issue, it’s a copyright issue, isn’t it?
Jonathan Handel: Well, it’s a technical issue very tightly intertwined with a copyright issue. As you say, the way Aereo works is that they have antennae farms, tens of thousands of dime sized antennae mounted directly on circuit boards, not like the antenna you’d go out and buy if you were to buy an antenna for your HD TV, the size of a fingernail, and when a user decides, “I want to watch a show live,” let’s say, because there’s also a DVR function that wasn’t at issue here, what happens is an antenna gets assigned to that user, the signal flows from that antenna to a specific portion of the hard drive for that user, then flows from the hard drive to that user. That technical distinction was one that Aereo thought made a difference.
Jonathan Handel: There’s a time delay, there’s a seven second time delay as things are played back off the hard drive and Aereo said, “We really, in the way we’re implemented, are a lot like a remote storage DVR,” which the lower courts have found legal. The Supreme Court said, though, “Look, that technical detail is really under the hood. It doesn’t matter to the end user and it doesn’t matter to the broadcasters who aren’t getting paid license fees. What this really looks like is a cable system. We are going to take a look and say, look, this basically walks and quacks like a duck. We think it is a duck.”
Larry Jordan: So what has Aereo said since the opinion was issued?
Jonathan Handel: Well, they’ve said ouch. They said prior to the opinion that if the court found against them, then that would be the end of Aereo. That was what Barry Diller in particular said just the day before, he’s a major investor. There are somewhere between 50 and 100 million dollars invested in this company, by the way, in total. What Aereo’s President, Chet Kanojia, said the next day was, “We are going to continue to fight. This is a bad decision. It’s going to harm consumers. We’re going to continue to fight for consumers’ rights,” but how they’re going to do that in the face of a decision that basically shuts them down is really quite unclear.
Mike Horton: Yes, from the opening arguments, though, it sounded like Aereo was dead anyway. What’s surprising about this decision is that there was any dissenting opinion. I would have thought nine to zero would have been it.
Jonathan Handel: What I found surprising was that Breyer wrote this decision, because he is a copyright minimalist in general and very pro-technology, but it was a dissent by three Conservatives, written by Scalia, not a typical alignment here, and what Scalia said is, “Look, the court is ignoring the text of the copyright law. The copyright law may create what amounts to a loophole for this kind of thing, but it’s not the court’s job,” says Scalia, “to plug loopholes in statutes.
Jonathan Handel: Remember, this is not a constitutional case, this is a statutory case. Copyright law, that’s up to Congress. We’re not sitting as a Super Congress to rewrite the copyright law,” and what the court did, in his view, was simply step away from the statue and made the decision that it wanted to reach without having a firm basis for doing so, so it’s a decision that came under pretty heavy fire in that dissent.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, I think there’s some bigger implications here, not just for technology but for low cost consumer access to broadcast television. What we’d like to do is invite you back and see if we can’t talk about this further. Would that be possible in the next week or two, for you to spare us some time?
Jonathan Handel: I think I could find some time. I would love to do that.
Mike Horton: That’d be great. There are a lot of questions.
Larry Jordan: Thanks so much for your time, thanks for the update and we are going to continue looking at this case, both in the short and the long term. Jonathan Handel is of Counsel at Troy Gould. You can read his website at jhandel.com and, Jonathan, thanks so much for your time.
Jonathan Handel: Thank you both very much.
Larry Jordan: Take care. Bye bye.
Jonathan Handel: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Jim Jachetta is the Founder and President of VidOvation. For over 20 years, Jim’s been designing, integrating and delivering video, fiber optic and data communications systems and recently they’ve expanded into wireless video with some new technology being used by the NHL. Hello, Jim, welcome.
Jim Jachetta: Hi, thanks for having me. Pleasure to be here.
Larry Jordan: We are delighted to have you with us and let’s start with a really easy question. First, tell us about what VidOvation is.
Jim Jachetta: VidOvation is a video communications company. We manufacture solutions for wireless, solutions for fiber optic transmission, for webcasting, we make encoders to stream video over your corporate network or through the internet, but in a nutshell we help our clients move video from Point A to Point B and our tagline is ‘Moving video forward’, so we’re staying up to date with the latest technologies such as what we did for the National Hockey League, using 60 gigahertz transmission for uncompressed wireless video.
Larry Jordan: Let’s just take a second. We understand that you guys are in the business of moving video, but you’re one of the founders of the company. Why did you decide to start the company? What made that so intriguing to you?
Jim Jachetta: Well, I guess I have my dad to blame for that. My dad had an entrepreneurial spirit. My dad was an engineer at ABC, CBS and his longest and final stint was at NBC, so he worked at 30 Rock for about 12 years before starting a company called MultiDine and, as kids, my brother and I, we always worked for our dad so junior high we helped stuff circuit boards and build a lot of his audio visual equipment, so it’s in our DNA and my dad was a great problem solver and my brother and I have inherited that work ethic of doing the never been done before and solving our clients’ problems or helping with their business workflow.
Larry Jordan: I don’t want to sound too naive here, but what are the challenges in moving video? You’ve got a cable that plugs into the back of a camera, it plugs into the back of a switcher or a distribution outlet. What makes moving video such a challenge?
Jim Jachetta: It’s interesting that you ask that. One of the first hurdles that a lot of people struggle with is copyright protection, so when you want to move video from Point A to Point B, that content is owned by a television network, whether it’s an HBO, an NBC or a Warner Bros, and it’s all under the premise of preventing piracy and having the content bootlegged or distributed illegally.
Jim Jachetta: What that does is make the transmission difficult of some of these video signals, so we have to come up with ways of transmission that comply with the digital rights management or the copyright of that particular content to keep the studios happy and yet give ease of distribution to our customers, so moving video from Point A to Point B. In the case of the National Hockey League, it wasn’t so much about a copyright or a rights issue.
Jim Jachetta: It really was how do I get video out of a hostile environment inside of a hockey goal, where I can’t run a cable, I don’t have power, I can’t run electricity under ice because there’s water involved, we don’t want to electrocute a goalie. Every application is different and that’s where we thrive. The harder the project, the more fun we have.
Larry Jordan: What got you involved in wireless in the first place?
Jim Jachetta: At our old company, we specialized in fiber optics, at least prior to my departure from MultiDine, so I always felt that wireless, video over IP, compression and streaming were parts of video communications that we didn’t address at the old company. The old company’s doing very well in the fiber space, so I wanted to see what else was out there and wireless was one of our first areas and our most successful area to date.
Larry Jordan: One of the challenges of wireless is bandwidth. Video is just a massive bandwidth hog. How do you manage to get high quality video out of a wireless signal?
Jim Jachetta: Absolutely, that’s a great question. Bandwidth is a big part of it, but also congestion or, in layman’s terms, high usage. We have different frequencies or different bands, radio waves that we can use. In laymen’s terms, with your FM dial, you have different radio stations. Certain radio bands are restricted, other radio bands are open to everyone, some are licensed, some are unlicensed and by licensed I mean the FCC wants a fee to use them, unlicensed meaning anybody can use them for free.
Jim Jachetta: The wifi bands in the 2.4 gig and the 5 gig bands – I hope I’m not getting too technical – your wireless in your home, in your office, in your cell phone uses these 2.4 and 5 gigahertz bands. They’re great and we offer commercial and broadcast products that use these bands. The negative is that everyone’s using these bands and if you want to stream from a hockey goal camera or if you’re on the sidelines with a wireless camera system, you’re fighting for bandwidth and congestion usage with the spectators.
Jim Jachetta: There are 20,000, 50,000, 100,000 fans at a football game – how are you going to transmit your video out when you’re competing with all those cell phones in the venue?
Mike Horton: Maybe I don’t understand, but are you actually sharing the bandwidth with all those 100,000 people with the cell phones? Don’t you have your own network?
Jim Jachetta: Yes you are. Well, yes, you can have different networks in the same space, but then the networks will interfere with each other, so it’s like the traffic jams here in LA. We’ve got too many cars for the amount of road. You could think about it as we might each have our own lane, but if the highway’s jammed, the highway’s jammed. The spectators might have one lane, the broadcaster’s got another lane, another provider’s got a third lane, but if all the lanes are jammed, nobody’s going anywhere.
Mike Horton: Nothing is as simple as we think it is, is it?
Jim Jachetta: Right, right.
Larry Jordan: Let’s see. What you’re doing with the NHL is you’ve got a wireless camera which can be remote controlled with power that’s supplied with a battery at the camera, simply to make sure that the goals are, well, you can review them for replays. Do I have that correct?
Jim Jachetta: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Mike Horton: Oh, and it’s absolutely awesome too. We live in Los Angeles, as you know, so we watch the Kings/Rangers final and that was a big, big part of it, was those replays of the goals, so good job.
Jim Jachetta: Gary Bettman and the NHL did a tremendous job this year. They got a little bit of a black eye with the lockout last season and they came back with a vengeance. They did the Winter Classic at the Big House in Michigan with the Red Wings and the Leafs; they won an award for that. Bettman won an award for Sports Executive of the Year; and the six outdoor stadium games, the game in LA, the Dodgers and Kings wasn’t that crazy?
Mike Horton: Yes, the Dodgers’ stadium. It was awesome. It was wonderful.
Jim Jachetta: Dan Craig is like the VP of ice. I joke that he invented ice and he said, “Jimmy, I don’t know how I’m going to make ice in 60 degree weather. I don’t know how we’re going to do this. It’ll be night time,” but there was a hot spell during the week before the game. But back to why we chose 60 gigahertz. The NHL knew that the 5 gig band wasn’t desirable because of competition from spectators and other operators, so we chose 60 gig because no-one was using it, but it’s the best of both worlds.
Jim Jachetta: It’s unlicensed but, because of its directionality, it’s not susceptible to interference, nor does it cause interference, so it was like the best of both worlds. There were no licensing fees involved; due to its directionality it didn’t cause any interference, not susceptible to it, so the NHL was able to have a reliable bird’s eye view of that goal line. Did you see the plays, I think it was game four, where the puck got stuck on the ice, right onto Lundqvist there, did you see that?
Mike Horton: Oh, absolutely. That was from the goalie camera, right?
Jim Jachetta: Absolutely, absolutely. There’s a camera in the goal that moves. That’s rented or provisioned by NBC or CBC. Our shot was a still shot. We just watched that line. There’s a copy of it on our blog or it’s on the NHL YouTube channel and that’s what it’s all about, it’s that trickle. I mean, our camera will cost the fast shot but the fast shots are easy. If it bounces off a post in the back of the net, those are easy to detect. It’s the ones where it sneaks under the goalie and the goalie’s partially obstructing it, so that shot that was caught in game four was the sweet spot. That’s what our camera’s all about.
Mike Horton: Yeah, it just falls short about an inch. There were some great shots and there was a lot of heartbreak for the Rangers.
Larry Jordan: One of the things that you guys do is you work with a variety of clients. Your list is like a Who’s Who of broadcast networks. One of the things that I’m most interested in is you also specialize in webcasting and video streaming. There’s an interest there in both large companies and small trying to get their message out to the web. Where can you become helpful in that case?
Jim Jachetta: What we do is we make a system that will not only stream one camera, it’ll stream multiple cameras. Clients are being more sophisticated where they just don’t want a talking head on a webcam or even just a simple webcam and you want to switch between your Powerpoint presentation and your speaker or your moderator, or if you have a panel of people you might have a wide shot on the panel and then a tight shot on the person on the podium. We have systems that will do multi-camera shoots.
Jim Jachetta: We’ve also integrated some technology where we can do bonded cellular, so if you don’t have a LAN connection or a good wifi connection, you can stream over multiple cellular modems. If you’re traveling, doing seminars, trade shows, or guys like yourself, maybe you want to do your show on the road in remote locations, then the internet may be unpredictable in hotels and conference centers, so you could use a combination of wifi with some cellular and, by bonding small bandwidths together, make an aggregated bigger pipe to get your video or audio feed to the web.
Larry Jordan: Ok, but now I’m confused, because if I look at the switching technology that new tech provides, why would I consider VidOvation?
Jim Jachetta: Everybody loves Kiki Stockhammer, she doesn’t age. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her. 1989 was my first NAB and I think the toaster was their first product and Kiki was there. They make a nice product, I’m not going to say anything negative about that. We have solutions that fit below that, so if you don’t have the budget for a 20 or 30 thousand dollar TriCaster, we have systems that start at 3500 bucks, 4,000 bucks to do one or two cameras, so nothing against their products. We integrate some of the live view bonded cellular into our products, so that’s a little bit more of a value add for us.
Larry Jordan: But one of the challenges we’ve got with the web, in addition to getting sufficient upload speed, is there’s so much native latency inside the web. What can we do as video producers to get our program to look good when it hits the end user?
Jim Jachetta: It takes training. If you look at the guys on CNN and they’re like, “Ok, we’re here in Afghanistan,” and their anchors are trained to say, “Hello Bob, how’s it going in Afghanistan?” and they go, “Three, two, one,” because of the three or four second satellite delay. Now, a lot of our clients, when they’re going to go to somebody in the field and if they’re talking over bonded cellular and they’ve got an eight second count, they’ll start a ten count and they’ll give the reporter the cue at eight to start talking and they’re talking to them over a lower latency cellular line or IFB line, so there are ways to compensate for that, so by the time the anchor gets around to saying, “So, Barbara, how’s it going down in LA today?” you time it and you look at the latency a few minutes or 30 seconds before you’re going to go to the piece.
Jim Jachetta: There are ways around it. Net neutrality is a big issue with the cellular providers because they’re tied in to the consumer internet. Telecom companies for years have sold high speed networks to corporations a cut above the consumer grade connections, but the phone companies have been restricted in that it’s a violation of net neutrality to sell a broadcaster or a higher end client a fast lane, as it were, for the internet or to cellular.
Jim Jachetta: Cellular connectivity kind of gets bundled in with internet and it’s really different. It leads to the internet but it’s that first mile from the camera to the cell site that we need to have a fast lane for, or maybe the Verizons and AT&Ts need to build a different network for higher end use for broadcasters, a dedicated network for that.
Larry Jordan: In terms of your own company, what markets are you looking at for the next six to 12 months that look interesting to you?
Jim Jachetta: We’re doing a lot in sports and sports we look at as a sub-set of the broadcast industry. Broadcast includes TV stations, sports leagues, your NHLs. Sports is always a good segment. Independent TV networks are up and down. It seems like the people pulling the strings right now in television are the content owners, your Disneys, your major studios.
Jim Jachetta: Every other month there’s a channel that’s threatened to be blacked out on your local cable or satellite company because the content owners are putting the screws on the distributors or the distribution arm, so the industry is probably going to change but sports is always a good segment. People might lose their job, but they’re not going to get rid of their NFL package or their MLB package or their hockey. Sports is always a good segment.
Larry Jordan: Jim, for people who want more information about your company, where can they go on the web to learn more?
Jim Jachetta: They can go to vidovation.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s vidovation.com. Jim Jachetta is the CEO and Founder of VidOvation and, Jim, thanks for joining us today.
Jim Jachetta: Thank you for having me.
Mike Horton: Thanks, Jim, and go Kings.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
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Larry Jordan: It’s always worth watching Mike dance on the table during that short piece of music.
Mike Horton: I love that music.
Larry Jordan: Sean Mullen is the CEO of Rampant Design Tools. He’s also an Emmy award winning visual effects artist with over 60 feature film and television credits, including Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ally McBeal, ER, Nip, Tuck and many others. His company, Rampant Design Tools, specializes in creating original drag and drop visual elements for editors and VFX artists, which is part of what we want to talk about today. Hello, Sean.
Sean Mullen: Larry and Mike.
Mike Horton: Hey, Sean.
Larry Jordan: There you are.
Sean Mullen: How are you guys doing?
Mike Horton: Good.
Larry Jordan: We are talking to you, we are doing great. It’s good to have you back.
Sean Mullen: It’s always great to be here.
Larry Jordan: For folks in the audience who may not have heard of Rampant Design Tools or were napping just a few minutes ago…
Mike Horton: Then they’re not paying attention.
Larry Jordan: …how would you describe your company?
Sean Mullen: I would just say that we create, like you said before, drag and drop elements for editors. We create motion graphics and visual effects elements that are useful for everybody, whether you’re an editor, a compositor or motion graphics artist, but the great thing is that we’re platform and NLE agnostic, so it works in anything that can read a QuickTime movie.
Larry Jordan: You began your career as a designer and now you’re running a business. How do you balance the creative needs of a designer against the practical needs of meeting the payroll?
Sean Mullen: It’s hard because, like you said, I started out as an artist and so there’s always part of me that wants to create more and offer more and at some point you have to think of the business and go, “Well, it’s great that you want to give the end user 10,000 clips, but maybe 500 is ok,” or whatever it happens to be.
Larry Jordan: I want to concentrate a little bit on this whole concept of running a creative business with you for a few minutes, because the quality work you turn out is just amazing. Some of those tools and the visual elements are staggering, but there’s also the business of the business. How do you balance the need of running the business with creative? How much time do you spend on each? When do you work on each? Are you really focused that you get up at six in the morning and you create, or you sleep in until noon? How does that work?
Mike Horton: I know how it works – you hire your wife and just listen to whatever she wants.
Sean Mullen: A significant percentage of that is true. You have to be really liquid. Rampant is just myself and my wife, so there is no…
Mike Horton: See? Told you.
Sean Mullen: She’s a huge part of the company. I can’t do Rampant without her. There isn’t a set wake-up time or a set start time for creativity. I can’t stand being forced to be creative from ten ‘til noon, it’s not possible for me. When an idea hits, it hits. I don’t sleep very much, so that helps, but I find myself focused on the business first and the creative second because the creative will hit me when it hits me and oftentimes it hits me when I’m not thinking about the creative, if that makes any sense.
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Mhmm, yes.
Sean Mullen: So you spend the majority of the time working on SEO, tracking traffic, looking at behavior patterns, getting feedback from friends, family and customers, dealing with the website, advertising, all that stuff, and that happens every single day, the social networking. You do that every single day and you’ll find that, whether you’re at the gym or you’re taking a walk or your working on QuickBooks, all of a sudden that thing will hit you and you’re, like, “I’ve got to go,” and then I run to the studio and I hammer out an idea.
Larry Jordan: You said it’s you and your wife and, like I said, the quality of your work is amazing, and for people who haven’t seen it, Rampant Design Tools is worth looking at, but there’s a trade off that you’ve made here, which is that you want to keep the company small as opposed to growing and making the company bigger. How come?
Sean Mullen: To stay competitive and to stay inside the country right now, I’ve got to be lean and mean. The idea is to grow eventually and hire people on board, but right now what we do is we do profit sharing. If one of my friends or someone I know has a specific skill that I can pass a certain project onto, instead of paying them a flat rate, they actually get a percentage of all the sales and it’s a high percentage. I’m not going to discuss that particular percentage, but it’s insanely high, high enough to make my wife want to slap me sometimes. But I like to take care of the people who take care of us.
Sean Mullen: Staying lean is important. There’s a lot of craziness going on, people are fleeing Hollywood and, in a lot of cases, production’s fleeing the country altogether. In order to combat all that, we’re way away from Hollywood, unfortunately, we’re in Orlando, where space is plentiful and cheap and we just have to make business conscious decisions on, yes, I can’t scrimp on the camera, I have an Epic, that is not a cheap camera, but I can maybe scrimp on not necessarily building out a state of the art studio versus getting a really nice studio instead, because it’s just me. It doesn’t need to look pretty for me, I don’t need to impress myself. That’s what we’re constantly doing.
Sean Mullen: My wife is a great checks and balances kind of person. I’ll say, “I want to do this,” and she’s, like, “Ok, calm down, tiger, let’s see if we can dial that back just a little bit.”
Larry Jordan: When you first started your business, you were a creative and then you moved into the business because you found something that worked. What did you find the most difficult part of switching from the creative hat to the business hat?
Sean Mullen: Wow, that’s a tough question. The most difficult part of starting a business in this particular industry was having people pay attention to you. You’ve had to reach out and grab everybody that you can. At one point, I even wrote you a letter, just like, “Hey, hey, we’re over here.” It’s just really hard with all of the, I hate to say it, all the noise that’s out there and that’s not really a great word but there are so many companies jockeying for everybody’s attention that a little company like ours is very easy to fall through the cracks, so you just have to constantly keep moving forward. The marketing and how we present ourselves has always been the toughest role for the company.
Larry Jordan: Yes, is also hard trying to figure out what the key thing is that you’ve got to market, because it may be important to you but it may not be important to the audience.
Mike Horton: Well, I’ll tell you, their drag and drop was what appealed to me. First of all, it’s great stuff – you just drag and drop it – and I’m a genius because it’s really good stuff.
Larry Jordan: Sean, there’s no doubt Mike is a genius. Please go along with me on that.
Mike Horton: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: Just make my life a lot easier.
Mike Horton: I am a genius because of Sean.
Sean Mullen: You’re very kind.
Larry Jordan: As you made the transition into running your own business, what surprised you the most from moving from a freelance position or staffed position into being the one in charge?
Sean Mullen: What surprised me the most is how much more effort it takes. I’ve always worked long hours, I’ve always worked 15 or 20 hours a day as an artist because the schedule demands it, but I find that I don’t get days off now. This business runs seven days a week and, as long as I’m asleep, it’s all-consuming, so I think that’s the difference.
Sean Mullen: When I worked for somebody or when I worked freelance, once the project is delivered, I’m not worried about it any more, it’s somebody else’s problem. Now, all the problems are my problems, whether it’s payroll or billing or marketing or whatever it happens to be, it’s always on our shoulders, so it’s a completely different mindset really.
Mike Horton: Yes, the unromantic side of entrepreneurship.
Sean Mullen: Yes, absolutely.
Larry Jordan: Yes, it’s business 24/7. Whether you’re awake or asleep, you’re always thinking about it.
Mike Horton: That’s the one thing we all have in common, don’t you think, Larry, is none of us sleep?
Larry Jordan: No, I think sleep is an option. Bruce Nazarian said, “We sleep when we’re dead,” and I think there’s a truth to that.
Sean Mullen: Very true.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of being creative and trying not to go to sleep, what are the new toys that you’ve got? Any new products you’ve shipped recently?
Sean Mullen: We just released what we’re calling Studio Flares, which are 2K, 4K and 5K anamorphic flares and these are not computer generated. These are legitimate, real flares shot with only using light and glass and if you’re a fan of the Star Treks or anything else out there that’s very flare heavy, it’s very similar to that.
Larry Jordan: Are they any good?
Mike Horton: Yes! You haven’t seen them?
Larry Jordan: I haven’t seen this title, no.
Mike Horton: Oh, they’re really cool.
Larry Jordan: That’s really cool. How did you price them?
Sean Mullen: They’re everywhere between 69 and 399, depending on what you’re buying. Our 5K stuff comes on drives and you get over 500 flares, so it’s still less than a dollar a clip.
Larry Jordan: And how did you shoot them?
Sean Mullen: Well, I experimented over about six months finding various kinds of anamorphic lenses from all over the world and it turns out the older the glass, the better. I’ve got over 100 different light sources. I literally walked out of Lowes one day, they must have thought I was preparing for the apocalypse because if it illuminated, I bought it.
Sean Mullen: That’s basically how it was. It was just tons and tons of experimenting and just really trying to figure out what I want to see and what I like and, I’ve got to be honest with you, I shot over 20 terabytes of raw footage, so the majority of the shoot didn’t make it to the final cut.
Larry Jordan: But you had a lot of fun picking the right clips though, didn’t you?
Sean Mullen: Oh, you can’t beat this job. I get to play with light and glass. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Larry Jordan: Sean, for people who want to see what Rampant has got, what website can they go to?
Sean Mullen: Rampantdesigntools.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s rampantdesigntools.com. Sean Mullen is the Co-founder and CEO. Sean, thanks for joining us today.
Sean Mullen: Thank you Larry and Mike.
Mike Horton: Thanks, Sean.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Sean Mullen: Thank you too, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: I was just reflecting, Michael, that probably the number one thing that people ignore is storage.
Mike Horton: Me? Oh.
Larry Jordan: They don’t ignore you. You are unignorable.
Mike Horton: I would have loved to have been at the Creative Storage conference.
Larry Jordan: Yes, thinking of that, Philip Hodgetts was. Philip is the CEO of Intelligent Assistance and involved in technology in virtually every area of digital video. He’s also a regular contributor to The Buzz and the person that has tried the hardest to explain what’s going to both Mike and myself, generally with limited success.
Mike Horton: I never understand a word Philip says.
Larry Jordan: Hello, Philip, good to have you back.
Philip Hodgetts: Thank you very much. Codec, codec, codec.
Mike Horton: Thank you. Creative storage, creative storage, creative storage.
Larry Jordan: Philip, earlier this week you moderated a panel at the Creative Storage conference and, before we talk about the panel, tell us about what the conference itself covered.
Philip Hodgetts: Well, of course, it’s really in the name of the conference. It’s storage of all the kinds of storage that we need in the production process from acquiring it in the field to distributing in the home, so along the way we need a lot of storage. It’s focused on storage but particularly through the media and entertainment industry and our need for storage.
Larry Jordan: I want to talk a lot in this session with you about what we need to look for in storage, so we’re going to sort of do a back story on that, but let’s talk first about your panel. What was the name of the panel and what did you guys present?
Philip Hodgetts: The name of the panel was Making The Cut: Storage Challenges and Opportunities in Post Production, and this was focused on the sorts of storage that we need in post production because it’s a little different from the regular IT. If your email gets a couple of a fractions of a millisecond late in delivery, well, that doesn’t matter; but if a frame in a video stream doesn’t get there on time, that matters. We like our frames to come in the right order, so we have some very specific needs within the media and entertainment industries for storage that meets these additional needs and, of course, everybody on the panel pointed out that, with the advent of larger frame sizes, higher frame rates, stereoscopy, our need for storage is increasing exponentially, not just linearly. We went through the whole range.
Philip Hodgetts: Jesse Adams from EditShare talked about their shared storage for local area networks, storage area network; Chris Shell from Front Porch Digital covered the whole collaboration and storage across a multitude of sites; Jeff Greenwald and Dr Shane Archiquette from Hitachi Data Systems were actually a very entertaining two act. You would not expect somebody from a corporation like Hitachi Data Systems to have an entertaining presentation, but they did. They focused more on benefits of the technologies that they shared rather than speeds and feeds and the need for everybody to have faster storage, but have the storage that they need when they need it.
Philip Hodgetts: Elaine Kwok from Promise Technology also talked about how their technology can be used in an Adobe Anywhere set-up for sharing your storage across a relatively local, as in city-wide, area without any great problems and I think the most intriguing presentation was from Bernard Massari, who’s from Excelus, which is a company I had not previously heard about because they largely service the data needs of the military who, I might point out, are not quite as fussy about security as I think the MPAA and the studios are.
Philip Hodgetts: It was nice to know that Excelus has expertise in this and they do have a fascinating wide area network they built for the military to bring data from drones back without delay, because the biggest problem when you start getting out on the internet on large hops from Europe or from the Middle East back to the United States is the latency and companies like Aspira and Excelus are working on ways of reducing that latency and therefore speeding up the transfer.
Philip Hodgetts: It was a very fascinating panel, a lot of technology presented and a lot of points of view. If I had to summarize it all, it’s that the storage will be going to the cloud and we’ll be paying for what we use.
Larry Jordan: All right. I want to talk more about that, but before I should mention that…
Mike Horton: Weren’t we already talking about that… going to the cloud? Are we talking physical storage?
Philip Hodgetts: Yes. They’re really talking about everything. In fact, not only will we be renting our software, but we’ll be renting the virtual storage. I’m still dubious about the bandwidth requirements and I did ask as to what the minimum bandwidth before using cloud for your storage would be viable, and the minimum was ten gigabits a second as a dedicated connection.
Mike Horton: Where are all these storage facilities? It sounds to me that it’s like 7-11 stores. There are just thousands of them all over the United States and all over the world. There are just gazillions of these places and I don’t know where these places are.
Philip Hodgetts: And nor do you need to know.
Mike Horton: Well, it’s just fun to know.
Philip Hodgetts: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Philip, before we talk further, I should mention that the Creative Storage conferences are put on by a company called Coughlin Associates and Tom Coughlin is the President, we’ve had him on the show in the past. He runs two storage conferences and it’s principally from an engineering point of view, where he’s got about three to five hundred people in the conference, all essentially developers and people who are designing the storage that we’re going to be using this year, next year and years in the future, so your panel was talking not to consumers, but to the people who are actually designing the gear.
Philip Hodgetts: Absolutely and, in fact, in the panel before one of the questions that was being asked was answered in a most entertaining manner. You’re working with glasses of water and stacking them up to… the difference between a bi-level system like binary to a multi-level system to a 3D multi-level system of storage and frankly I felt the illustration was exciting, but I don’t know what it was talking about at all. All I know is it was supposed to be bigger, better and faster.
Mike Horton: Now you know what it’s like to talk to Philip Hodgetts.
Larry Jordan: Philip, there’s an adage that says a hard disk is either empty or full. As you’re looking around the small trade show that’s at the show, talking to vendors and the presentation at the panel, is the only thing that we should be worrying about just the storage capacity of our drive?
Philip Hodgetts: Probably the storage capacity is the least important thing that you should be worrying about. The type of storage, we should probably talk a little bit about the different types of RAID, but the type of storage, the speed of the connectivity, whether it’s shared or whether it’s dedicated to one workstation, whether it’s local or it’s using something like Avid Everywhere or Adobe Anywhere, one of these technologies where the storage is remote or one of the services from any of these companies.
Philip Hodgetts: These are the things that we really need to talk about, which is the speed and the type of storage that we have, rather than simply the capacity. Obviously, capacity’s important, we need to store a certain amount of data for a particular project, but that’s a fairly simple calculation by so many days’ shoot by so many hours per day or minute per day by the megabits per second and that’s a calculation anybody with a calculator can do. But the type of decisions about how you connect to the system, how you create redundancy so you don’t lose data, these are fairly important decisions that must be made.
Larry Jordan: The other thing that I’m trying to debate about is when should you do a single hard drive versus a RAID, and what’s this RAID business anyway?
Philip Hodgetts: RAID is ubiquitous in that it stands for the Redundant Array of Independent Drives and the idea here is to have some sort of redundancy. Now, the nice thing about redundancy is that we can lose some part of our storage and not lose data, and that’s the crucial thing, is that every hard drive, be it a spinning disk, be it SSD, every storage device that you use will fail.
Philip Hodgetts: The only thing we can’t really predict is if it’s going to fail tomorrow or in five years, but every device we have will fail and that’s the only guarantee that we have about these drives, so we need to make sure that our data is not dependent on any one piece of media because that piece of media can be lost. We need to have duplicates or redundancy. Now, the nice thing about RAID is we have lots of different levels of RAID and we can use them for redundancy or speed, or both.
Larry Jordan: Well, that gets me to something I read a lot about. I read about these RAID zeros or ones or tens or 50s. Do I need to pay attention to what the RAID level is? And is there a particular RAID level that’s best for media?
Philip Hodgetts: Yes and yes. Perhaps we should go into some detail, though. Starting with RAID zero, the RAID zero was my first exposure to RAIDs because that was the way back in the old days of relatively slow hard drives, it was the way we got speed.
Philip Hodgetts: We put multiple disks spinning around and we tied them together with some fancy electronics and software and it’s really like somebody shuffling out a table of, say, poker and the first card goes to the first drive, or the first player; the second card goes to the second drive; the third card goes to the third drive and all the time it’s taking to write to these relatively slow drives doesn’t matter because we’re not trying to write anything else to them until we’ve written to three or four other drives in sequence.
Mike Horton: Isn’t the cloud our RAID now?
Philip Hodgetts: Well, yes, but of course you do want to make sure you can get it back. I don’t think I would feel comfortable at this point in having my only copy of important media for a project in the cloud. I’m sure that any one of the people in the vendor area at the Creative Storage conference would disagree with me, that their cloud storage is completely safe, but I still feel that I like to have a local copy and I think it’s a reasonable thing to do, to have your original stored locally but your working media can be up in the cloud and shared around the world to people working wherever they’re comfortable with modern technologies.
Larry Jordan: We’ve now got two parallel themes going, so I want to close the one on RAIDs.
Philip Hodgetts: Yes, let’s go back to the RAIDs.
Mike Horton: I’m very sorry about that.
Larry Jordan: And then we’ll come back to the cloud, because otherwise we’re going to get totally off track. A RAID zero is fast, but does it provide the redundancy?
Philip Hodgetts: It’s not safe. It’s fast but it’s not safe because if any one of the drives fail, you lose everything. But it’s fast.
Larry Jordan: I don’t like the phrase ‘lose everything’, Philip. Do we have a Plan B?
Philip Hodgetts: Well, then we could go to just doing a copy of everything on another drive and that would be RAID one, where we have a drive and then a duplicate mirror of that drive is saving the exact same material as a redundant copy. With a little bit of smarts to know if one fails, the drive can be replaced or be re-duplicated over to the other drive. So you can lose one drive but you also lose half your storage.
Mike Horton: And speed suffers, correct?
Philip Hodgetts: Speed suffers badly, particularly write speed, which is a problem for our industry where we need to be able to write things consistently and faster and faster and faster as the file sizes get larger.
Larry Jordan: So if RAID zero is fast but no redundancy and RAID one is redundancy but not fast, are we stuck?
Philip Hodgetts: No, we can go up to a RAID five, a RAID six or, as you mentioned earlier, tens and 50s. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. There is a RAID three, but I’ve never, ever encountered it in the world, so we’re not even going to complicate the issue by talking about it. RAID five uses four, five or more drives and it sets them up in a particular way so that the data is written in multiple places so that you can lose any one drive and not lose any data. Now, the problem with this sort of set-up is that you have to replace that drive and rebuild it before another drive fails, or you will lose data and, again, if you lose data at that point, you’re losing everything not just one drive’s worth.
Philip Hodgetts: If a drive fails, well, the other drives in that box are probably from the same era, they’ve had the same amount of working life and then you’re going to replace a bad with a new drive and the whole thing is going to be working much, much harder for the next couple of days, so the chances of losing another drive on a RAID five during that most stressful period is a little higher than, well, a sane person would want it to be.
Philip Hodgetts: A gambler would take the risk, but I would think that we’d need to lose a little bit more of our storage space, trade off another 20 percent of storage space, but for extra redundancy, and that would be a RAID six.
Larry Jordan: But for the purposes of media, a RAID five or RAID six would give us greater storage, greater performance with redundancy than, say, a RAID one or RAID zero.
Philip Hodgetts: Correct.
Mike Horton: So the sweet spot is a five or a six.
Philip Hodgetts: Sweet spot is a five or a six. The safe and fast spot is probably a RAID 50 or a RAID ten. Simply, a RAID ten is two RAID zeros strapped as a RAID one as mirrors to each other; and a RAID 50 is two RAID fives strapped together as a RAID zero for speed.
Mike Horton: Ok, so we’d have a RAID five and six and the cloud, we’re safe. Everything is happy.
Philip Hodgetts: Everybody’s happy, yes.
Larry Jordan: Except the problem is that the cloud may be safe for archiving our media or storing it for the long term, but doesn’t have the bandwidth for editing, so we’d still need to move stuff locally to be able to edit it. Or am I misunderstanding?
Philip Hodgetts: Well, I think Adobe and Avid would probably suggest that there are alternatives that don’t require local storage and that can be shared over a long distance. They still require significant bandwidth, but we’re talking, say, for Adobe Anywhere, something around the one to two megabits per second download is considered to be about the minimum level that is workable, and that’s fairly achievable everywhere.
Philip Hodgetts: However, in answer to one of the questions that I asked, Dr Shane Archiquette from Hitachi Data Systems said that ten gigabits per second would the minimum you could consider to use cloud storage instead of purely local storage.
Larry Jordan: Well, that gets us back to the conference. What was the most interesting thing that you found at the conference as you were wandering around and listening to people?
Philip Hodgetts: You’ll be terribly, terribly surprised to note that the most important thing that everyone brought up was how the metadata about all this media is one of the most important thing and Kristin Petrovich Kennedy actually asked, “When are we going to enter all the metadata for all of the media assets that already exist and how are we going to keep getting that metadata entered as we create new assets?” and fortunately there is some hope from the technology side that increasingly the technology will recognize people, shapes, speech and so on and be able to create something indexable from that.
Philip Hodgetts: But these are not technologies we can use today and unfortunately a lot of the metadata about some of our more classic properties is becoming lost in the memories of people who are reaching the end of their productive life.
Larry Jordan: In the little bit of time we’ve got left, is there any future technology that you saw that we should pay attention to?
Philip Hodgetts: I believe there was a storage technology being mentioned as I walked into the conference and that was the one that was being demonstrated with these glass half full, multiple levels and then the 3D metric thing as a way of getting more and more data density into our flash storage, and certainly one of the themes here is that flash is going to be our predominant storage medium in the future.
Larry Jordan: We need to talk more about flash, but we’ll save that for another time. Philip, for people who want to keep track of the latest in your thinking on technology, where can they go on the web?
Philip Hodgetts: They can go to philiphodgetts.com and that’s pretty much where I write my thinking.
Larry Jordan: It’s where you write your thinking. It’s where you do your thinking. Philiphodgetts.com and Philip, as always, thanks for joining us and for explaining this so clearly.
Philip Hodgetts: And I thank you but I do have a shorter URL for my blog. If you just go to metadata.guru, you will get there and that’s much shorter.
Mike Horton: Are you kidding? Oh, cool.
Larry Jordan: Metadata.guru, very cool. Take care. Thanks, Philip.
Philip Hodgetts: All right, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: The metadata.guru, Michael.
Mike Horton: Is there a .guru now? I mean, you can do a .guru as a URL?
Larry Jordan: Yes, there’s a .guru URL. I don’t think I’ve got my own guru yet.
Mike Horton: Well, that’s right.
Larry Jordan: I have to get my guru.
Mike Horton: You can get guru domains. You can get .sexy, .useyourtips.
Larry Jordan: You should do .organization or you should do .usergroupguru or something like that.
Mike Horton: I don’t think they have user groups or something like that, but they do have .sexy.
Larry Jordan: Well, that would qualify.
Mike Horton: I might get that one.
Larry Jordan: That would be you. I can tell, looking at the stunning sartorial…
Mike Horton: Take off my T-shirt and put that as part of my logo.
Larry Jordan: It’s interesting, and especially thinking of the celebration of 14 years of the user group.
Mike Horton: 14 years, Larry. And how long have we been doing this Buzz?
Larry Jordan: We’ve been doing it for more than seven.
Mike Horton: 13 years or something?
Larry Jordan: Seven, eight. Well, you’ve been working with Philip. Philip was doing The Buzz before I took over.
Mike Horton: Oh, that’s right.
Larry Jordan: I think you’ve been doing The Buzz for 13 years, I think, yes.
Mike Horton: About that time, 13. It was back in the 1890s when we first started this thing.
Larry Jordan: Started by Ron Margolis…
Mike Horton: Using these giant microphones and…
Larry Jordan: …Steve Martin.
Mike Horton: …no, we used to use megaphones with string.
Larry Jordan: Anyway, we should probably have a birthday cake and celebrate 14 years.
Mike Horton: We did, we had a birthday cake last night, but you didn’t show up.
Larry Jordan: Well, nobody invited me.
Mike Horton: Our good friend Jeff Stansfield made a gluten free birthday cake and I had a taste of it. It was gluten free.
Larry Jordan: That would be cool.
Mike Horton: Didn’t taste like sawdust.
Larry Jordan: Guten flee… gluten free…
Mike Horton: Gluten free.
Larry Jordan: …I can’t even pronounce it.
Mike Horton: Guten flee.
Larry Jordan: Doesn’t even seem worth eating if you can’t have that.
Mike Horton: I know, but it was good.
Larry Jordan: And thinking of good, I want to thank our guests today: Jim Jachetta, the CEO of VidOvation; Sean Mullen, the CEO of Rampant Design Tools; Philip Hodgetts, the President and Founder of Lumberjack System and Intelligent Assistance; and Jonathan Handel of Counsel at Troy Gould and the entertainment labor reporter for the Hollywood Reporter.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot happening at The Buzz between shows. We keep track of it all on our website, at digitalproductionbuzz.com.
Mike Horton: Oh my God, you can get .singles too.
Larry Jordan: Will you just put a lid on it over there?
Mike Horton: No, there are all these really cool names. Have you seen this stuff?
Larry Jordan: You can visit with us at Twitter, @dpbuzz…
Mike Horton: You could probably get .larryjordan.
Larry Jordan: …and Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com.
Mike Horton: Bike.
Larry Jordan: Music on The Buzz provided by SmartSound. The Buzz is streamed by wehostmax.com.
Mike Horton: Oh, you can get .buzz.
Larry Jordan: And Mike Horton is the voice at the other end of the table, buying a new website.
Mike Horton: Learn something.
Larry Jordan: Adrian Price our engineer, Cirina Catania our producer. My name’s Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to The Buzz.
Voiceover: The 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; and by TOLISGroup, the BRU guys, pioneering the development and support of ultra reliable data backup, archival and restore solutions for nearly 30 years.