Digital Production Buzz
June 12, 2014
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
Michael Cioni, CEO, Light Iron
Jessica Sitomer, Founder, The Greenlight Coach
Oliver Peters, Editor, Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Voiceover: The digital production Buzz is brought to you by Black Magic Design; creators of the world’s highest quality solutions for the feature film, post-production and television broadcast industries; and by TOLIS Group, the BRU guys, pioneering the development and support of ultra-reliable data back-up, 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? The Buzz is live now.
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. I’m in London this week, so we pre-taped this show, which is why our co-host Mike Horton, has the night off.
Larry Jordan: Tonight we’re focused on remote collaboration; looking at products, services and the human side of working remotely. We start with Michael Cioni, the CEO of Light Iron, our post-production facility based in New York and Los Angeles. They have a new program called Live Play 3 that provides real-time logging and review of onset dailies.
Larry Jordan: Next is Jessica Sitomer, the CEO of the Greenlight Coach; looking at the human side of working remotely, building teams and staying grounded.
Larry Jordan: And then finally, Oliver Peters, the President of Oliver Peters Post-Production Services, joins us to talk about Avid’s newest strategic direction, Avid Everywhere.
Larry Jordan: Just to remind you that we’re 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 every show page; learn more at Take1.tv and thanks Take 1 for making our transcripts possible.
Larry Jordan: This week I’m travelling with the folks at the TV Bay show as they tour three cities throughout England; which means we recorded the Buzz just before I left; so I look forward to telling you about my trip on next week’s show. Remember to visit us on Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com; we’re also on Twitter @DPBuZZ; and subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com, which gives you an inside look, every week, at both our show and the industry.
Larry Jordan: I’ll be back with Michael Cioni of Light Iron right after this.
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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’.
Larry Jordan: As an industry leader for onset post production, Light Iron’s outpost mobile post systems are used on more than 100 major motion pictures, television shows and commercials every year; and now they’ve released something new. Welcome back Michael, good to have you with us.
Michael Cioni: Thank you Larry, great to be here.
Larry Jordan: Give us a quick capsule description of what Light Iron is doing today?
Michael Cioni: Well today we are really experiencing so much of the mobility that people want. Democratization and technological development wants to move, it wants to be flexible, it wants to be wherever the production is; and focusing on that through mobile carts is great. But even mobile carts aren’t as flexible as people can be; and so the latest thing that we’ve been working on for about a year is called Live Play 3, which we are so excited to finally be deploying to the market.
Larry Jordan: Okay, but let’s back up a step, because you did not get the business to be a software developer, you got in the business to be a post house.
Michael Cioni: That’s right. It’s a great point because, what I found is, being a post house isn’t easy; it’s extremely difficult to be a post house because it is so rapidly changing; and even small companies and medium companies, it can be very difficult to respond to the changes in the market which happen so quick. So software development has been something we started years ago and it’s just grown and grown and grown and I think it’s probably one of our favorite services that we provide.
Michael Cioni: I think we have, somewhere in the neighborhood of maybe 30 applications we build; most of them are just for internal use. But when we get to the drawing board with some of the ones we release to the public, that’s really where it becomes exciting.
Larry Jordan: Why so?
Michael Cioni: For me it’s all about creative control. I feel like creative control is like a race, it’s this big challenge, it’s like Mount Everest; and the idea is, if you can climb high enough, you know, you get all these accolades, you get all these rewards and things like that. Creative control is something that people are always after, especially cinematographers and especially producers and directors. They want to be able to control the content no matter where they are.
Michael Cioni: The funny thing is, is when we did everything in an analogue world – mainly film based, creative control actually was pretty strong because this work that was being done was sort of locked up in this negative and it was kind of like, you put it in a box and you locked it up and only the people physically touching it were able to manipulate it. That’s actually very powerful for creative people because it is total control.
Michael Cioni: You’re not going to, you know, develop film in your bathtub Larry, you’re not going to like probably have 35 million film projectors at home to, you know, stream up dailies and sync sound; it just didn’t happen. So creative control was good.
Michael Cioni: But as digital democratization came along, that control started to get away from people and even when you think about really good quality monitors on set, everybody’s got an opinion, everybody can see it, everybody can say something; and these cameras do such a great job. They almost make the job look easy and that’s not good either, because it’s not easy, but it makes it look simple.
Michael Cioni: So the software development that has really excited us is to be able to return creative control by leveraging the technology out there and give it to the people that matter; and if we can put the brakes or the jet engine onto tools and applications, we can then help throttle what creative control can be given to each individual on a show.
Larry Jordan: So tell me what Live Play is.
Michael Cioni: Live Play is a cloud based collaboration database and sort of media center. But it’s bigger than a lot of the other ones that just provide a metadata center because it is the only tool that’s designed to work on the set equally as off the set.
Michael Cioni: So, that’s where the creative collaboration starts to break down with other systems; it’s because, they don’t necessary have a presence on the actual production side, they wait till the dailies start to get created.
Michael Cioni: For us, Live Play actually is tied to each camera; so it actually is broadcasting its signal, so that you can see the cameras even if you’re not on the set. So a Visual Effects Supervisor offset or a DP at a second unit, they can actually see what’s happening to other cameras, even though they’re not there; so it’s real-time camera control. But it also then allows for video assist in playback because it’s constantly recording everything you do when the camera actually rolls; so it’s a video assist support tool.
Michael Cioni: But then, it’s taking those records and it’s putting them on the cloud; and you can take those records and put them on the cloud or you can replace those records with colored synced polished files and then you can see it when you’re off set.
Michael Cioni: So you have this video assist live broadcast deal and this take home dailies all wrapped into one system that enables people to start looking at footage and sort that footage and start actually editing that footage before they even go to bed that night. That’s the type of creative control I think people are really hungry for; they want speed; there’s a huge change in the market with people shooting offsite and they’re shooting in any state and city and county in the world and we want to bring that back to give them control.
Larry Jordan: Let’s take about five steps back here. I can understand why you’re excited about your product, but playing devil’s advocate here, most cameras now are Wi-Fi equipped; why do we need Live Play? And how are you dealing with security on the cloud, to reassure me that all of my visual images are not going to end up in a torrent stream somewhere. And how hard is this to run? I mean, it sounds to me that the devil is in the details.
Michael Cioni: Yes, the devil absolutely is in the details, you’re absolutely right about that. The truth is, when it comes to total control, you want to make sure that you have security; that is obviously the biggest thing about that. We actually use 256 bit TLS encryption; this stuff is, for lack of a better term in the world, bulletproof and that’s really critical for us to make sure that all productions are secure in that sense.
Michael Cioni: But you said like Wi-Fi equipped cameras. The truth is, when you’re dealing with cameras that are pushing any type of file up to the cloud, those are not actually matched back to the camera original negative; it’s a proxy file that is disassociated with the actual camera negative. For example, if you were to send in many situations, a picture from a camera up to the cloud, it doesn’t have the same timecode, it doesn’t have the same filename, it doesn’t know what magazine it belonged to. It doesn’t know what frame rate it was actually recorded in, if it was over-cranked. It doesn’t know things like color temperature and ISO and lens information.
Michael Cioni: Those are the types of things that separate a metadata rich file from just sort of a blatant proxy file. These aren’t low res proxy versions, these are actually timecoded files that can replace your negative when it’s on the cloud. So it’s like having real negative wherever you go. That’s something that the other Wi-Fi equipped cameras can’t provide and that’s a huge advantage for people that want to be making frame based notes.
Michael Cioni: That’s one thing that’s really special about Live Play, it’s actually frame based, not take based and not second based, it’s literally frame based. You make a note on a frame, that frame information can be transmitted to Avid or Final Cut or Premiere and the editors can know exactly what someone mentioned about that particular frame.
Larry Jordan: How are you getting that signal? Are you tapping into the side of the camera itself or how are you getting all that metadata and adding it to the video stream?
Michael Cioni: Great question. Well there’s so many different ways to do it, because we don’t want to do it one way, because not everybody works the same way; so if you typically use a video village approach, video village is going to have a video signal sent to it from the cameras. That’s one way; we actually tap out of video village and we put that into a computer which runs Light Iron Server, which is basically the brains of the operation. That is capturing all the metadata through the bit stream and that’s one way to get a lot of that information.
Michael Cioni: Because camera companies are putting a lot of that metadata inside their SDI streams, for people like us to hook it and grab it and implement it. But other people don’t use VTR, they don’t have a robust video village. So the way Light Iron Server works is, if you take camera downloads and you download those magazines and you process them in Resolve or Colorfront or something like that, you often get an XML or an ALE out of those renders you create on your little render kit.
Michael Cioni: Light Iron Server can read those XMLs and ALEs and it will populate its database using those; so you can have the clips online and you can actually throw up the database later and it will instantly populate all the clips with the metadata that came from the original negative. It can happen instantly when you shoot or it can happen later after you process it.
Larry Jordan: I was just reflecting, as I was doing some research prior to this interview, that there’s a lot of video and media review applications. There’s Switch from Telestream; Sorenson 360 from Sorenson; Pro Player from Digital Heaven and a bunch of players that have tried to enter the market and have just failed. Why is this space so interesting and yet so difficult to satisfy?
Michael Cioni: Number one reason is control of the source. When you are a cloud based review tool, you don’t have the ability to control or really even influence how the media is actually created. You’re just waiting for that media to come into existence and then you take it and you push it around. With Live Play 3, we actually have very, very specific tools that allow people to optimize the footage they create. So we’re helping instruct them how to create the footage and Live Play can actually make a lot of that footage on its own. So it’s able to start communicating deeper with the original cameras.
Michael Cioni: It really goes back to that issue Larry, it’s to get away from the proxy file. It has to be a proxy just to stream through the internet. We understand that, but that’s the only component of the word proxy I want to borrow; everything else I want it to behave like original negative. 4K, 5K, 6K, those types of things; that’s really the biggest difference between Live Play and everything else.
Michael Cioni: The other component to this is the fact that it is not just dailies review, it’s also video assist, it’s also an asset manager, it also makes reports, it also catalogues camera reports and script notes; and it’s all about the hooks. Like pitching a big tent; if you want to pitch a big tent you’ve got to put a lot of stakes in the ground and anchor it down. Live Play has so many anchors into so many other great tools and cameras out there, that it makes it easier for people to integrate into their workflow.
Larry Jordan: You’ve mentioned the fact that, one of the brains behind this is Light Iron Server. Does that mean that, in order to use Live Play, people need to hire Light Iron to put this together?
Michael Cioni: Great question and the answer is absolutely not. Light Iron Server is actually the service that you’re paying for, similar to Netflix. It’s like Netflix is, you’re paying for the Netflix service and that’s how Light Iron Server works and anybody can have access to that.
Michael Cioni: The actual application or HTML version of the tool is something that is free; everybody can have access to that. Just like you can be anywhere in the world and log into your Netflix account and you can either play the movies you want to see. Live Play is the same way. You are paying for the web as a service and the actual applications that you interface with are free.
Michael Cioni: We make it available to everybody worldwide. We know that we can’t actually provide post-production services on every project, but thankfully we know that every project needs some sort of post-production service and therefore, we’re able to implement a tool that is lacking for a lot of people in the market.
Michael Cioni: You know, another thing Larry is that there’s probably a lot of people listening that have never really used a central database for their projects; it’s still very new to a lot of people.
Michael Cioni: The idea is, we want to give them the best introductory solution for true collaboration. Some people will come up with like ways to use like Dropbox or even iTunes like podcasting and those are great alternatives; but those aren’t collaborative, they’re just a way to like use the webmail to move pictures around the world. But the truth is, we want people to really truly collaborate and that’s why Light Iron Server, as a service, is something that everyone can have.
Larry Jordan: We’ve got the server, we’ve got Live Play Version 3, what kind of technical overhead is necessary to get this set up and running? What I’m trying to figure out is, who’s the customer for this?
Michael Cioni: Yes. Most customers are going to be people that are not shooting and then going home on their shoots; they’re probably on the road, they might be out of town, or they just want access to things quickly. They want faster turnarounds. They don’t want to wait a day or two for things to come to them and that’s becoming more and more common.
Michael Cioni: But the other things you need to run Light Iron Server is just a Mac computer. Light Iron Server is an OS10 application and what’s great is, if you like to go directly from the camera, Light Iron Server is a great tool for that. If you want to render files, you can use Scratch, you can use Colorfront Express, you can use Resolve, you can even use Premiere and Episode and things like that. However people prefer to make files, we want to integrate that information, those tools into ours. So we’re not controlling the way people have to work.
Michael Cioni: We’ve made Light Iron Live Play flexible enough that it can integrate with a system they’ve already used. It’s like a Swiss Army Knife Larry, it is so deep. Very few people will get to every single tool that is embedded in this application; so that’s why people can find what they’re comfortable with and integrate it into their workflow slowly.
Larry Jordan: Is this best used in a scripted environment or reality? In other words, if I’m a producer sitting back trying to figure out, is this for me? What questions do they need to get answered to decide if Live Play can help them?
Michael Cioni: Great question. Think of like iPhoto or Lightroom or something like that. Are those best for wedding videographers, wedding photographers or are they best for someone who just likes to catalogue their family photos, or are they best for students? When an application is designed as good as it can be and they’re designed well, all of a sudden it crosses those lines and people don’t have to be limited by the type of work that they do.
Michael Cioni: Live Play as a data asset manager and dailies review tool, it doesn’t really care how you arrange things; it’s all arranged by the way you prefer to work, so if you’re episodic, you like to work in episodes, if you’re feature you like to work by shoot days and scenes. If you’re reality you often work by location and because this tool is designed to have tagging just like on Facebook. You’re seeing all the tagging become very, very common on Facebook and it’s able to almost recognize people’s faces and you have these quick little touches where you can, this is me, this is my Mom and this is my friend.
Michael Cioni: That’s how Live Play works; so that you can create rapid tagging which makes it easy for everyone to view, because of course in Facebook, once you tag that person, anyone who sees that photo automatically gets the benefit of the searching of those tags. Live Play is the same way. Once I tag something happened at night in the barn with such and such person, everyone who’s on that same project can use those tags to automatically filter for them. So it’s truly collaborative.
Larry Jordan: When do you plan to have the software available?
Michael Cioni: We’re starting our first beta now and you can go to lightiron.com/liveplay and you can actually sign up for the beta and we get information about your project and then we can start providing the beta for you. But the full release will probably be early August, where everyone will be able to start taking advantage of this tool.
Larry Jordan: And have you figured out pricing yet?
Michael Cioni: Pricing is sort of like a cell phone company, it’s based on how many gigs you actually need. So we don’t want to penalize people that have very few gigs versus people that will need a lot. The pricing structure can be as little as $250 a week for 25 people to be using it; or you can go up to 500 people using it. So it just depends on the size of your production and how many gigs of dailies you’re going to be able to use.
Michael Cioni: But if you’re a small independent production and you’ve got five to ten people, 250 bucks a week gives you enough for almost a week’s worth of dailies to be reviewed by all your people; and that’s a really, really great entry level way to get involved.
Larry Jordan: And where can people go on the web to learn more?
Michael Cioni: Lightiron.com/liveplay.
Larry Jordan: And Michael Ciona is the CEO of Light Iron. Michael, it’s always a pleasure talking with you. Thanks for sharing your time.
Michael Cioni: Thank you Larry.
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Larry Jordan: Jessica Sitomer is a Job Coach and helps people find work; she’s also, and we’re very grateful for this fact, a regular on the Buzz and she’s the CEO of the Greenlight Coach. But, what we really like best about Jessica is that she is really, really good at providing really helpful job-hunting advice. Jessica, welcome back.
Jessica Sitomer: It’s great to be here, as always.
Larry Jordan: We are always delighted to have you return. We find that a vote of confidence that is just wonderful. We were just talking with Michael Cioni, who was saying that productions today want to be mobile and next segment we’re going to talk to Oliver Peters about Avid’s new initiative called Avid Everywhere.
Larry Jordan: It seems like the idea of staying in one location is a thing of the past. So what are the challenges in remote collaboration?
Jessica Sitomer: Well the challenges are that you’re not all working together in one place; so there’s a little bit lacking on the accountability side and there’s also a lack of creating relationships there which, you know, some people see as a real benefit to working together. However, you can have both while working remotely, it’s just a matter of having the skills and knowing how to do it.
Larry Jordan: Well that’s exactly what I wanted to spend a little bit of time talking with you about because increasingly, productions are scattered across the globe, with different people creating different elements. So we find ourselves working remotely and often times with people that we don’t know and having met. How do we get them to care about our production?
Jessica Sitomer: Well the first thing I would do is look them up. You can Google them, you can IMDb them and really do a little research on who it is that you’re going to be working with. Once you can find a few things that you can talk to them on a personal level about, I would advise having a Skype session with them; just so you can see each other face to face. It benefits both parties.
Jessica Sitomer: Now in some cases it’s going to be a producer who is working with crew, in some cases it will be crew working with other crew. So either way it’s making sure that you don’t put anybody on a pedestal. Treat everybody with respect, but make sure you feel comfortable that you can talk to anybody. Because, when you get on Skype you’re seeing them face to face and it’s like being with them personally; because you can see their physiology, you can hear their tonality and, you know, if you’re a crew person talking to a producer, they’re going to take a lot more personal interest in you, which is a good thing. Because then, the next time they have another production that’s remote, they’re going to have the confidence in you.
Jessica Sitomer: That would be the first thing to do. Do your research on them, get to know a little bit about them that can start a good phone conversation and then once they like you on that phone conversation, just ask for a quick Skype session. Say, “I like to see the people who I’m working for or working with and I’d like to get to, you know, have a little face to face time since we are remote”. You know, Skype is free and it’s everywhere; it’s great.
Larry Jordan: One of the things I find interesting about the Buzz is that we really cover a worldwide industry. We talk with people across the world every week. This reflects, I think, what our lives are like right now; it seems like we’re increasingly everywhere and yet nowhere. There’s a lack of an anchor in our life about where we’re supposed to be. How do we get ourselves grounded?
Jessica Sitomer: You know, it’s interesting that you ask me that, considering that I’ve been a gypsy for the last three years. You know, I was talking about my travelling schedule and literally I can be in three different states in one month.
Jessica Sitomer: The way I stay grounded is, literally I have a picture of my dog on my laptop, so that every time I open it I see that; it feels grounded as home. But, you know, I think that our industry has always been very travel oriented depending on what classification you’re in; so it’s just a matter of having that feeling of, I am so grateful that this is my life and that I get to be anywhere in the world and can do what I love. That wherever you are, that’s where home is.
Jessica Sitomer: Now if you’re being taken away from family, that’s a different story; you have other tools for that, which we’ve discussed on past episodes, so get the archives. But we’re talking about people who are in remote locations and working for all different places and how do they feel grounded that that’s home. Especially if they’re being uprooted to another place to work remotely.
Jessica Sitomer: So, you want to bring personal things from home, you want to recognize that this is most likely temporary, if you’ve been taken out of your actual home and it all comes down to your attitude. It’s all how you perceive it. You can perceive this as, “Oh this is so inconvenient” this is, you know, “Turning my life upside down” or you can say, “How exciting I get to be some place else and I get to call this home for a while and, you know, everybody on Facebook is going to be envious that I’m here” you know.
Jessica Sitomer: You know, it’s really attitude when it comes down to where is home. You know, home is where the heart is. It’s true, it’s like wherever you are, that’s where home is and there’s plenty of ways to communicate with the people you love and to stay in touch and, like I said, Skype can be used for that as well.
Larry Jordan: For people that have been in production for a long time, this is an easy question to answer, but for people that are getting started it’s hard. When you’re working with people you haven’t worked with before, on a remote location, both cast and crew. How do you build a sense of team spirit and how do you fit yourself in?
Jessica Sitomer: Well part of that is the responsibility of the leaders; the producers, the department heads. You know, what’s interesting is you can model like an MLM, which is Multi Level Marketing company and basically you have groups of people, we’ll use as an analogy, who all work remotely, all work from home. However, they have team leaders and under those teams they have other levels of leadership and that’s how you can look at it.
Jessica Sitomer: So you might have a producer who, once a week you all get on the team call, you all talk about where you are within your projects and, you know, do something positive to make everybody feel good. You know, go around, give everyone a compliment for something that they did. If you need to do a feedback sandwich, do that, where you say something positive and then something that they need to work on and then end with a positive; if you need something that needs to be worked on; and then you can take it down a level.
Jessica Sitomer: Once the producer does that, then each department can have, whoever the department head is, they can have a team meeting; and that’s what you call it, you call it a team meeting so people feel like they’re part of a team. That’s part of it.
Jessica Sitomer: Emails, you can send emails to everyone. You know, inspirational, motivational, everybody send a picture out this week of where you are, a picture of your desk. Little things like that make people feel part of something. It’s what I do with my, you know, Greenlight intensives in the past and my mentor program now. You know, we’re all over the country the people in my mentor program, so I have them post things. You know, post a story about yourself this week that nobody knows.
Jessica Sitomer: Even though there’s a group in LA or a group in Vancouver, you know, the few people in New York or the few people in Atlanta or Nashville or New Orleans, like, they kind of feel alone but then they feel like part of a group. So it’s creating that team group mentality and doing leadership exercises with them, so that they do feel a part of it.
Jessica Sitomer: I just wanted to also comment on what you said earlier about how for the new people getting into the industry it’s harder which is actually a mindset because, you don’t know what you don’t know. You know, in my opinion we’re challenging for people who have not worked remotely all these years and all of a sudden are having to do something out of their comfort zone; where the people who are coming into it and are new, this is all they’re going to know, so this is going to feel very comfortable to them.
Jessica Sitomer: It’s the people who have been in it for a while, who’ve never had to work remotely, who are going to have to adjust and have a really positive attitude about it, that they can continue working.
Larry Jordan: One of the axioms that I’ve heard, and I tend to believe in, is that we hire the people we know. But what if you’re in a remote location and don’t know anyone?
Jessica Sitomer: Well that’s why I always suggest getting mentors in the main production cities where you could work because people can get to know you through mentorship. Business advice and guidance mentorships where you are having conversations with them to move your career forward, for them to give you business advice on what you can be doing from where you are to, you know, help you and they’ll tell you like what they’ve done.
Jessica Sitomer: Through that, you go out and do the things they tell you to do. The first conversation they get to know you, second conversation they get to trust you, because now you’ve done the things that they’ve suggested that you do. So, oh this person listens, even though he’s so far remote, he still did the three things I told him to do. Now I know I can trust him.
Jessica Sitomer: Now I’ll give him some more things that maybe I wouldn’t have been willing to tell him in the first conversation. Maybe I’ll introduce him to somebody, maybe, you know, I can give him a day to work remotely, you know, on one of my shows or somebody’s show I know. By the third conversation they care about you; and then once they care about you, then they’re really thinking about you, especially because you’ve asked them to be your mentor.
Jessica Sitomer: Now they’re going to be looking for things to do to help you get ahead, you’re on top of mind and that’s what you want to do. The problem is, when you don’t know people and you’re just sending blind, you know, resumes and cover letters, it’s a complete stranger; so they have no reason to. You have to create these relationships, either on social media or through mentorships and through referrals to people, so that this way you can know the people before the productions start happening. You want to start targeting the people who are always busy, in the closest production city to you, or in the major production cities, who you know are always busy in the types of things that you want to be working on.
Larry Jordan: Jessica, I could sit and talk with you for hours. You have such wonderful suggestions. For people that want to learn more about what you’re writing and what you’re doing, where can they go on the web?
Jessica Sitomer: They can go to thegreenlightcoach.com and sign up for my newsletters and find out everything about me; or greatonlinecoverletters.com, to learn how to do great cover letters, so you really stand out. There’s a free webinar there for you to watch; the five things you never want to put in a cover letter.
Larry Jordan: See, you tell me this stuff at the end of the interview and now I want to do another 25 minutes about what we should not put in a cover letter. We’re going to have to invite you back.
Jessica Sitomer: Well that’s why I do it that way.
Larry Jordan: Jessica Sitomer is the CEO of the Greenlight Coach. Her website is thegreenlightcoach.com and greatonlinecoverletters.com. Jessica, as always, thanks for joining us.
Jessica Sitomer: Thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: Oliver Peters is based in Central Florida and has been in the post-production business for over 35 years. He’s an award-winning editor and colorist; runs Oliver Peters Post-Production Services. He’s also a Contributing Editor to videography, DV and TV technology magazines and it’s always a delight having a chance to visit. Welcome back Oliver, good to have you with us.
Oliver Peters: Thank you, glad to be here.
Larry Jordan: Oliver, this week we’ve been looking at the challenges in remote collaboration. We talked first with Michael Cioni about their new Live Play 3 for remote viewing and logging of digital dailies. Then we talked with Jessica Sitomer about the personal challenges of working on location. One of the hot things that was announced at NAB this year is something from Avid called Avid Everywhere, which is what I want to chat with you about. What is it?
Oliver Peters: Well Avid Everywhere is sort of a coalescing of all of their existing products and new products to come around a concept that they call Everywhere. So Avid has historically had ranks in shared storage and collaborative workflows, both in news and feature films and so on, and this concept kind of makes that more a whole rather than a bunch of individual little parts.
Larry Jordan: Well is this a series of products, a business plan or a strategic vision?
Oliver Peters: All of the above.
Larry Jordan: Really?
Oliver Peters: On a real basic product level you’ve had storage which historically has gone under the names of ISIS and Unity and so on. You’ve had asset management called Interplay and then you’ve had the various products; Media Composer and Pro Tools, being what most people tend to use in the Avid world.
Oliver Peters: Those all interact and what this does is kind of makes that more around the concept of, here’s a platform and the platform can have this tool; a video editing tool or a music creation tool that plugs into the platform.
Oliver Peters: In the Pro Tools world that would mean something like two composers collaborating across the world with each other; part of it over the web, part of it in some sort of facility based shared storage. Same thing for editors.
Larry Jordan: I was looking at the products that Avid announced at NAB which reflected this new strategy. There was Media Composer 7, there was Pro Tools 11; then there’s Motion Graphics 2.5 and Fast Track Solo and Duo; Interplay Production and Pulse and Airspeed 5000. It seems to me that this strategy really is targeted at the very high end of the market. Should filmmakers even be paying attention?
Oliver Peters: Well sure, absolutely. Obviously if you are, you know, NBC Universal and in your television operation you’ve got hundreds of systems, that’s one kind of infrastructure, right? And that takes a lot of hand holding and systems integration, as well as in-house engineering efforts.
Oliver Peters: On the other hand, if you’re a feature film where you may have one editor and a few assistants and you’ve got shared storage, that’s a much smaller footprint and can generally be configured either by one savvy consultant or possibly a reseller or a rental operation. So there are variations to that.
Oliver Peters: Obviously there’s market pressure; so there’s certainly pressure to have smaller, lighter versions of all of this that require less IT knowledge and, you know, Avid certainly acknowledges they’ve been, you know, asked to deliver that; whether or not we see that, that’s something else.
Larry Jordan: What do you view as the goal of Avid Everywhere?
Oliver Peters: Well Avid Everywhere, I think, is partially to kind of decouple a particular tool from a particular location. For example, part of this concept is a marketplace concept, which up till now has lived in the products primarily as a web portal to buy plug-ins and so on. But they also view this as a way, for instance, where a composer could post music and set his own licensing fees and so on and so forth.
Oliver Peters: You know, you kind of have a community environment where maybe another Pro Tools user across the world can search this marketplace and say, “Ah I like that music” and Avid’s tools essentially provide the mechanism by which that thing can be posted; that an approval version can be downloaded and then paid for and so on.
Oliver Peters: There definitely is a vision going forward, not all of those products currently exist in that form but, you know, part of what was rolled out at NAB tends to be sort of under the hood hooks that make all of the rest of it possible.
Larry Jordan: One of the things I was talking about recently with a composer is that, the traditional image that we have of the whole band gathering together in a studio and laying down a multi track version of the song all at one time has pretty much disappeared, except for the very, very high end, most famous of all the groups. Most of the time what happens is, a producer will record a track and they will just send that track to somebody somewhere else in the country who then plays their part against the track. Rather than the collaboration at the end of the music, it’s the collaboration during the creation of the music, which is what I think Pro Tools 11 was built to support. Are you getting the same feeling from Avid?
Oliver Peters: Yes, definitely getting that. I mean they use exactly those same sorts of examples in some of their smaller presentations; so that’s definitely the case.
Oliver Peters: It’s a little harder to do with video yet, just because video tends to hog more bandwidth; but that’s where Avid’s now called Media Composer Cloud, what was previously called Interplay Sphere, adds that dynamic on the video side. It’s a little bit different because, Media Composer Cloud is the full Media Composer software, but it gives you the added ability to essentially phone home to your home based facility and pull shots in.
Oliver Peters: You know, let’s say you’re cutting a news story somewhere in the middle of the country and you need to get a particular source clip back from the main network in New York, that’s what Interplay Sphere does, which is now Media Composer Cloud. So it allows you to essentially connect to the shared storage back halfway across the country and bring those clips in.
Larry Jordan: I want to talk more about the cloud in a second, but I was just thinking that, I think Adobe has got a better handle on this than Avid does, as I understand from your description because Adobe is basically doing a streaming version of whatever your file happens to be, without needing to download it. Whereas Avid is simply going up to an existing server and pulling down the clip; which strikes me as slower and more cumbersome.
Oliver Peters: Well it depends on the objectives. I’d say the Avid approach is a hybrid approach; so it’s meant to edit locally but then be able to connect across a longer distance. Whereas the Adobe version means, everything goes back to the home base and then all editors, or it could be the director reviewing the cut or whatever, is pulling back from that central location. It’s a little bit different objective and certainly a different workflow.
Larry Jordan: How would you compare the two and do you think Adobe has got it right, or do you think Avid’s got it right, or do you think it’s not a question of right or wrong?
Oliver Peters: I don’t know that it’s a question of right or wrong. One of the limitations, I think, is how much internet bandwidth you have, right? So if you are only pulling material back from some central location, then the streaming concept works pretty well because they’re basically only sending you proxy media to your desktop; in the case of Adobe. But any final mastering would happen with the high res material back at the home base.
Oliver Peters: But, if you have new original content at your remote site, that you need to get back into the server, you have to upload it and that’s going to depend on the pipes you have available to you and wherever you are in the world, right? So, if you’re in a place that has good internet connectivity, then it tends to be a pretty good two-way street. If you’re in the middle of somewhere that doesn’t have good internet connectivity, then it tends to be more of a one-way street. Potentially with FedEx still involved in the process there.
Larry Jordan: Yes, there’s a point where shipping hard disks is faster than trying to email or FTP stuff.
Oliver Peters: Yes, I mean the method of collaboration most people have tended to have, even in the Avid world, you know, has tended to be mirroring sets of drives with media and then simply shuttling project files across, right? If I’ve got two editors across the country from each other and they both have an identical copy of the media, then the actual edit decision information is very small and that can be emailed FTP, Dropbox; any number of ways to get it back and forth.
Oliver Peters: You know, that tends to be sort of the poor man’s approach that everybody’s been doing for a while and I think, these companies are trying to go beyond that. The Adobe argument seems pretty compelling but it’s not particularly cheap because the servers and the shared storage, you know, all tend to add up.
Oliver Peters: Likewise with Avid, to be really effective with it, you need the shared storage and the other rest of the infrastructure; and there’s also Quantel who has a very similar system as well in their YouTube product and it’s primarily targeted for news operations.
Larry Jordan: One of the things, in addition to bandwidth, that makes me really skeptical about the cloud is security. Every day it seems we read about the latest hacker breaking into yet another secure cloud storage facility. How is Avid resolving this concern?
Oliver Peters: I’m not 100% sure of the technical details of this, but I believe they’re using VPN as a method of getting into, you know, the system. Typically, if you’re in a regular Avid shop that’s got Unity and Interplay, ISIS, whatever; those machines tend to be off of the internet connection right? You know, most of the chief engineers are pretty nervous about internet connectivity and so those machines tend to be restricted in the first place. It really doesn’t start to become an issue until we start going outside and trying to connect.
Oliver Peters: You know, definitely in the Hollywood community you’ve got some structures like PICS, which is used a lot to move dailies around; and obviously they are promoting the security aspects because they’re dealing with major studios and there’s a lot of concern with piracy in addition to hacking.
Oliver Peters: In terms of the Adobe approach, I believe it’s also using a VPN structure. So it’s a little bit different than just connecting to a public Wi-Fi and going in; although that can be done too, I believe.
Larry Jordan: I want to take a step back and wear your business owner hat for just a second. Avid’s been in the press a lot, especially lately with all the financial turmoil and restatement of financial results and money losing quarters that they’ve had. Is Avid Everywhere going to get lost in the shuffle? I mean Avid’s fighting a lot of different alligators and a lot of different swamps.
Oliver Peters: Yes, to some extent they tend to fall into the too big to fail kind of category; particularly for large broadcast operations. It’s hard to say. I certainly wouldn’t say that their financial position looks rosy; they appear to still be burning through cash. But, at least at this point there are still some cash reserves. So that’s better than it could be.
Oliver Peters: However, you know, at some point you’ve got to turn the ship around and, you know, I don’t see that happening fast; so it’s really just a matter of, you know, how this all gets resolved.
Oliver Peters: You know, ultimately, the analysis and SEC paperwork and all of that takes time and, you know, for all we know it could come out significantly in their favor. But even if it does, the damage has been done right? Because, you know, publicity is negative no matter what and if at the end of the line the publicity turns out to be not so bad, well people never remember that.
Oliver Peters: I don’t know. I think that’s one of those things you can speculate forever and in the meantime the tools work, they get expanded upon; maybe not as quickly as we’d like but, you know, they get the job done and that’s where a lot of the editors kind of view it. If worst came to worse and the company were no longer there, the software that you have would continue to work, at least for a while, as long as some OS change didn’t completely break it.
Larry Jordan: So it sounds like, of all the things that’s keeping you awake in the middle of the night, this is not one of them.
Oliver Peters: No it’s not one of them and that’s largely, in my case, because I have a mix of customers that tend to want different editing tools; so I do projects still on Final Cut 7, I do projects on X, I do some on Premiere and some on Media Composer. So, you know, it’s not somewhere where I’ve got all my eggs in one basket. Now with Resolve 11 around the corner, who knows where that’s going to go.
Larry Jordan: Once again, Black Magic is muddying the waters.
Oliver Peters: Yes, but they are adding a collaborative element which is kind of interesting and we’ll see how that really plays out because clearly that’s complex, likewise Final Cut X, people keep hoping there’s some sort of collaboration coming around the corner and I don’t know. Now that you’ve got iDrive or whatever it’s called, will give us back what we had with iDisk. Maybe Final Cut X has a collaborative over the web factor that we don’t know about yet.
Larry Jordan: Well let’s put your editor hat on. We’ve got you changing hats left, right and sideways here. A client comes to you with a project and the project could be edited on Avid or Adobe or Apple. What would make you choose Avid?
Oliver Peters: Right now Avid is still, I feel, the most robust of the tools out there. I’ve done Premiere and X and Final Cut 7 projects; I’d say Final Cut 7 was pretty robust; but, you know, feeling its age with the 32 bit structure and all the new media that’s coming from cameras and so on. So with that, I still find that, if you’re going to put a ton of media into a project and you want the software to re-link to it and not lose it, you know, be there day in, day out, Media Composer still feels the strongest to me out of all of that and it seems the most consistent in terms of a data format that the project files are in.
Oliver Peters: Because Final Cut X and Premiere tend to keep evolving their project, it’s very difficult to have any sort of backwards compatibility. With Avid it’s a little bit better. You know, I can tender still open projects that I had from ten years ago and usually I can kind of go back a couple of versions, which is better than some and not as good as others.
Oliver Peters: Where I’m doing quick turnaround stuff, I’d probably go Final Cut X. If I were doing a large project, definitely feature films, something like that, these days I’d probably go Media Composer.
Larry Jordan: What would you use for color grading?
Oliver Peters: I’d tend to use Color a lot still, but I also use Resolve and SpeedGrade, to some extent. I also do a lot of color correcting just inside the NLE, with the tools that are there. It sort of depends on, you know, what does the job call for? If it’s a legitimate color grading job, like doing a show or a film or something like that, then I’m going to use a dedicated tool; so Color or Resolve. But if it’s just, okay, everything looks pretty good, you just need to kind of even out the cameras a bit, I think the tools inside the NLEs are all pretty solid.
Larry Jordan: I love chatting with you, you’ve got such good opinions and good advice. For people that want to hire you to color grade their next project, where can they go on the web to learn more?
Oliver Peters: Just contact me at the website which is olivierpeters.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s oliverpeters.com and the Oliver Peters himself, the Founder and Owner of Oliver Peters Post Production Services; Oliver, thanks for joining us today.
Oliver Peters: Thank you very much; been a pleasure.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests this week, Michael Cioni, the CEO of Light Iron; Jessica Sitomer, the CEO of the Greenlight Coach; and Oliver Peters, the CEO of Oliver Peters Post-Production Services.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot happening at the Buzz between shows and it’s all posted to our website, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Visit with us on Twitter @DPBuZZ and Facebook, digitalproductionbuzz.com. Music on the Buzz is provided by SmartSound. The Buzz is streamed by wehostmax.com. Text transcripts are provided by Take 1 Transcription. You can email us at email@example.com.
Larry Jordan: Our Producer is Serena Katanya, our Engineer Adrian Price. On behalf of our co-Host Mike Horton, my name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to The Digital Production Buzz.
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