Digital Production Buzz
June 19, 2014
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
Kim Furst, Producer/Director, Kilo Foxtrot Films
Philip Storey, Co-founder & CEO, XenData, Inc.
Philip Bloom, DOP, Editor, Director
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 TOLIS Group, 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; our co-host, Mike Horton, has the night off.
Larry Jordan: We’ve got three incredible guests tonight. We’re going to start with Kim Furst. She’s an award winning documentary film director and editor. Flying the Feathered Edge is Kim’s fifth aviation documentary. You may know some of her earlier work. She was the editor on the award winning One Six Right, which is a learning to fly documentary. She joins us tonight to talk about what we need to know to successfully market and sell our projects.
Larry Jordan: Dr Phil Storey is the Co-founder and CEO of XenData, which provides archiving solutions for digital media. Recently, XenData announced a new, highly scalable digital video archive system that will be of interest to many post facilities. Phil explains what their new system is all about.
Larry Jordan: Last week, during my speaking tour in England, I had a chance to sit and chat with Philip Bloom, the highly respected director, director of photography and filmmaker about what he’s learned shooting and editing 4K video. Tonight, I present the first part of a two part interview looking at the challenges and opportunities of shooting 4K.
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 the transcripts possible.
Larry Jordan: The big news this week was yesterday’s announcement from Adobe, updating all their Creative Cloud applications, releasing two new hardware devices and a much tighter integration of the Creative Cloud storage with the Creative Cloud applications. I was especially impressed with the number and quality of new features introduced with this version of Adobe Premiere and will be covering more about the latest product updates from Adobe in upcoming shows.
Larry Jordan: Last week, I had the pleasure of being on tour in England. I spoke in London, Manchester and Birmingham, taking a look at some of the challenges we have with video compression, how to make our files look as good as possible and keep them as small as possible. The tour was sponsored by TV Bay, which is a monthly magazine based out of London, and I want to thank Matt and Simon for making my visit possible. It was fun to visit with all the editors from around the country and hopefully look forward to going back a little later this year.
Larry Jordan: Thinking about staying in touch, remember to visit us on Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. We’re also on Twitter, @dpbuzz, and you can subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com, which gives you an inside look at both our show and the industry. Our weekly Buzz newsletter, which publishes every Friday, helps you make sense of what’s been happening in the world of media during the last week and it gives you a chance to hear the interviews that you may have missed whenever you have the time to listen to them.
Larry Jordan: If you have not yet gone to The Buzz website, there are two places you can visit that are especially interesting. One is the show archives button. This allows you to listen to shows that go all the way back to 2009; and the other is the interview archives. This gives you a chance to search for and listen to interviews from people that we’ve interviewed also from 2009 onward. If there’s a particular person or point of view, an editor or a piece of technology, you can find it covered inside the interview archives on digitalproductionbuzz.com.
Larry Jordan: I’ll be back with Kim Furst right after this.
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Larry Jordan: Kim Furst is an award winning documentary film producer, director and editor and Flying the Feathered Edge is her fifth aviation documentary. Hello, Kim, how are you?
Kim Furst: Hi Larry. Great, how are you today? It’s so great to meet you over the phone.
Larry Jordan: Oh, I am so delighted. I had a chance to go on your website and was reading about all the things you’ve been doing in your career and you’ve got documentary credits that include Discovery Channel’s Rocket Challenge in 2003, my favorite movie on aviation, which has to be One Six Right, Wings over the Rockies and The Horseman Cometh. I mean, you have been one busy person.
Kim Furst: Well, thank you. You know, I have to credit you because I can’t tell you how many late nights I might have been trying to figure out something as far as my background is as a film editor. That’s where I started, in film and actually in news and that’s how I got into documentaries, but once I ended up on Final Cut Pro, which I was on for about 15 years, I used your advice many times to get me out of scrapes on this program, so thanks a ton.
Larry Jordan: Oh, you are very kind, thanks for the kind words. What was it all those years ago that first got you started in filmmaking?
Kim Furst: Well, I always loved telling stories from when I was a kid and I think it was all about that. It was about wanting to give someone a story that you thought up and find a way to make people go, “Wow!” It was just that kind of feeling, whether it was a puppet show or whatever you did as a kid – I think in high school we had some talent shows and stuff and writing skits about teachers arresting kids using Cliff notes – and it was always this desire to tell a story.
Larry Jordan: Well, I was looking at your resume and way back – and we won’t mention when – you got started as a production assistant and camera op. How did you make the leap into editing and directing?
Kim Furst: Well, that was a great thing. I went to a wonderful university in Harrisonburg, Virginia called James Madison University and it was very far from Hollywood. I think it was my junior year, I realized I wanted to be a film director and I didn’t know how to get there from here. We didn’t have a film school. I had been a theater major and it actually ended up that my minor was theater and my major was creative writing, but my major was poetry.
Kim Furst: I was completely unqualified, really, from a film school background but what we did have, and what I did do, was we had one production company in town and they did local commercials, it had a local interest magazine called Shenandoah Magazine, and they were just great guys and I had hooked up with them at one point and I became their Girl Friday and they taught me at that time, you know, “Hey, let us show you what we’re doing,” they were editing and everything was three-quarter inch and so I started making a little spending cash, not a lot, but I’d go out with them and run B camera for a wedding or do different things and then that experience enabled me, when I graduated, to get my first job out of college at the local television station.
Kim Furst: I got one of these coveted PA positions at the local news channel, which was WHSV-TV3 and because it was such a small channel at that time – I don’t know, I’m sure it’s grown since then – what was wonderful about it was, as a PA, you really got a lot of hands-on experience doing a lot of different things. You were basically a pack mule, you were young and healthy so you had these three-quarter inch decks and a big camera and a tripod and you would go out with a reporter and they taught you how to do a basic set-up with a news reporter and take focus and do all those things and then shoot B roll and when you got back to the station, the same people that were doing the news articles during the day, the pieces, the segments, one or two of them were actually the anchors, so they had a lot to do and it was very easy to take on more responsibility if you wanted it.
Kim Furst: One of the female reporters, I remember one day – I was there for about eight months – she said to me, “Hey, let me teach you how to edit my news packages,” and I leapt at the opportunity and so I did that for a little while and that, boy, it was linear editing and you had to figure your story out ahead of time and you had to have some certainty about where you were going and you had to lay down VO and you made a mistake, you had to punch in. The glory of non-linear editing now is that you can really work it out as you go, but you really had to know what you wanted to say when you started.
Kim Furst: So it taught me some very valuable lessons and it certainly got me interested in editing and continuing on and finding other ways of telling a story with film.
Larry Jordan: Telling stories with film reminds me that anybody who’s been using Final Cut for a long period of time is familiar with some of the footage from the movie One Six Right, which you were the editor for. Tell me about that film.
Kim Furst: I was the picture editor on that and Brian Terwilliger, who was the director, he’s a brilliant guy, a passionate aviator, loves aviation and he had a real vision for that film. One of my first professional jobs as a film editor was Rocket Challenge, which was a three part series for Discovery Channel, and I was lucky enough to be bumped up from assistant editor to editor on that program.
Kim Furst: I had a very supportive producer who saw that I knew what I was doing and an opportunity opened up and he gave me the shot at being one of the three main editors on that. Once you do one thing in a certain area, well, hey, I had done one thing on aerospace and Brian was looking for someone.
Kim Furst: Originally he was going to do a three part series for Discovery Channel, so I think that was a lot of the reason why initially Brian and I clicked and then we just got on like a house on fire. Not only is he a very good filmmaker, but he’s a very good marketing mind. That film was beautiful, but it also was incredibly well marketed and I think there’s been a lot written about it, but he did a lot of things right on that film.
Larry Jordan: Well, he had Apple distributing segments from the film to everybody who was studying Final Cut. You couldn’t not see the film because Apple was pushing it out to millions of people. That was a masterstroke.
Kim Furst: That’s right. Actually, when I found out about that in a very funny way – someone was at NAB and they said, “Kim, I’m at NAB and I see your timeline everywhere” – I had no idea, but he really did and one of the great things about that too was I had the opportunity to meet with Apple, I guess this is something that they would do, they would pick someone from different areas that had been an editor in documentary or narrative and these different segments, and interview them on how they used the technology so that they could develop what their products were, and so I spent about three hours chatting with them about what I did and I hope it didn’t lead us down the wrong path, that’s all I can say.
Larry Jordan: Let’s flash forward. You’ve been doing aviation movies, you just finished a project called Flying the Feathered Edge. What’s that?
Kim Furst: Flying the Feathered Edge is a feature length documentary about a gentleman named Robert A Bob Hoover, who is in aviation circles an absolute legend. He’s considered to be our greatest living aviator today and he was a World War II Air Force pilot and everything was stacked against him. He was too tall for the cockpit, he didn’t have good vision – you had to have 20/20 vision at the time – and he had terrible airsickness and he found a way to get over all these obstacles and really became someone who kind of defined modern air to air combat in some ways.
Kim Furst: It’s not a movie about combat, it’s really a little bit like the outliers, the 10,000 hours and being extraordinary at something, and Bob Hoover is absolutely revered by those in aviation for having an unbelievable touch and for being probably one of the finest fliers that’s ever lived, so that’s what the movie’s about. It’s about his journey.
Kim Furst: It’s interesting, because his life touched the trajectory of aviation during the entire last century, because where he began, he was flying in the ‘20s when he was young, he was flying cloth covered aircraft all the way to the first jets and he was a participant in breaking the speed of sound and North American Aviation that he worked at as a test pilot for many, many years, they developed the space shuttle and the Apollo program. It’s just an amazing history, it’s jaw-dropping and really probably that kind of individual with aviation, I mean, now the technology blows your mind.
Larry Jordan: Ok, but hold it a minute.
Kim Furst: Yes. Sorry, I’m a bit passionate about the area.
Larry Jordan: I want to flip the question around, because we’ve got Bob in front of the camera, but we’ve got you behind the camera and you wear multiple hats – you’re the director, I suspect you’re the editor, but you also put the script together, because it’s a documentary, which means the producer is the writer.
Kim Furst: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Which do you find the most challenging?
Kim Furst: Hmm, yes. I don’t mean to be flippant. I think the thing that is the most challenging for me is probably the thing that I have the least amount of interest in. I find that the most challenging thing really always is finding the story. Bob obviously is a great story, his bio is a great story, and he just in and of himself, you could probably sit him on a stage and he’s a great story.
Kim Furst: But to find the right expression of that in a full length feature that doesn’t just walk you in a roaming the garden kind of way, like, “Oh, here we are, here’s Bob, this is when he was a child, this is this,” to find a creative way to tell his story and to bring meaning to his life in a way that is bigger than the individual, because it is for him and it is for many of the films that I love about these great individuals.
Larry Jordan: Ok, but let’s focus on this for a second. As the producer, you’re responsible for putting the whole package together, then the director implements the producer’s vision and turns it into something that’s a product, and then the producer inherits it after the director walks away and now the producer’s got to market it. What I’m trying to figure out here is a lot of folks are interested in creating documentaries and virtually everybody is going to lose their shirt because there’s no money to be made.
Kim Furst: Right, that’s absolutely true.
Larry Jordan: Where do you start thinking about marketing and where do you start thinking about the audience? Is it at the story creation phase? Is it a test during shooting? Is it afterward? How do you figure out, “I want to shoot this but I also want to pay the rent”?
Kim Furst: There are different theories. If you’re smart and you want to pay the rent, you think of it right from the get go because you don’t want to create something that people aren’t going to be interested in, that’s for sure. I think that a great story well told is going to be of interest to the audience, so I think that, for me, my answer would be that I tend to be more interested in making sure that I find a great story, then you have to create it so it will be successful and you need to create something that people are going to want to see. If you create a great story, I really do believe that people will be interested in that.
Larry Jordan: Well that, I think, gets me to a really key question. When you’re working on a new film, are you thinking about what the film means to you or are you thinking about what the film means to the audience?
Kim Furst: This is a great question, Larry, because I think the luxury of the low cost of the tools of filmmaking these days, I believe it’s much easier as an independent, as I am, to focus on exactly what I want to create, and not in an airy fairy way where I’m trying to just create something really esoteric I think nobody’s going to see.
Kim Furst: Obviously, I picked a great subject and it will be successful just even based on the fact that he’s an incredible individual who has a pretty big following, so we’ve chosen someone who’s a worthy subject. He’s a wonderful subject for a documentary. But I don’t have to be as focused on the bottom line because our entire film budget was under $300,000, so I can independently raise that money, which was not easy but you can, and you can tell the story you want to tell without the incredible pressure of a studio or the need and the absolute reality of having to have that pay off financially.
Kim Furst: So I could choose a passion project like the Bob Hoover project, which really was a passion project, it was something I really wanted to tell, but I have no promise that it’s going to be financially successfully. But I was able to do that because I can wear all the hats essentially – not all the hats. I have to say that, as a smart producer, one of the best things that we were able to do is we have incredibly talented people who worked for very generous rates because they bought into the concept and they bought into the idea of what we were trying to do or they loved aviation or they liked Bob’s story or they were a friend who had worked with me for a long time.
Larry Jordan: Let’s get back to the story. At what point do you take audience reaction into account? Or do you just say, “This works for me, therefore it will work for the audience”?
Kim Furst: No. That’s a great question too. I absolutely survey the film and I make sure that I pull together people who are going to tell me what they really think and feel as opposed to just friends who are going to say, “Hey, this is great, really works, good job Kim.” I follow my own gut on what the story is, and that’s a tough thing.
Kim Furst: As a film editor, I’ve had a number of situations where I’ve come in and I have a film where maybe they’ve shot 80 to 100 hours of footage and they don’t quite know what their story’s about yet so, as a film editor, having that as a background is a really valuable thing because documentary is a bit like you’ve got a whole bucket of car parts and you don’t know whether you have a Vega in there or a Porsche.
Larry Jordan: Or just a bunch of parts.
Kim Furst: Yes, exactly. Maybe sometimes it’s a bunch of parts, you just have all carburetors.
Larry Jordan: And you’ve now got a film and you need to market it. How important is the trailer? And what are you thinking about when you put the trailer together?
Kim Furst: I think that things that can travel quickly online and that are short are very important, because it’ll breed awareness for the film. We’re in a position right now where we’re doing the full festival circuit, there is the possibility of being picked up and, in that case, someone else will probably do a trailer for us.
Kim Furst: But I think initially, certainly as a producer, when you’re drumming up support, whether it’s crew or investors or network support or international distribution, you need to show people what you’re up to and so a trailer’s incredibly important for getting people on board and for showing people what your intentions are, because if they see it in the trailer and it looks like something that they might buy into and be interested in, then you’re a long way further along than trying to just describe it to them verbally.
Larry Jordan: Kim, I would love to come back to you in about three to four months and hear how the film is doing. For people who want to see more about the film now, where can they go on the web?
Kim Furst: They can go to thebobhooverproject.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s thebobhooverproject.com. Kim Furst is the producer and director of the Bob Hoover film, called Flying the Feathered Edge. Kim, thanks for joining us today.
Kim Furst: Thank you so much, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Kim Furst: You too. Bye bye.
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Larry Jordan: XenData was founded in 2001 by Dr Philip Story and Mark Broadbent, both of whom had a strong optical disk background. Today, XenData has created a long track record of providing software for tape-based archiving solutions for media creators. Hello, Phil, welcome back.
Philip Storey: Hi there. Thank you, thanks for inviting me.
Larry Jordan: You’re always fun to talk to, whether it’s at NAB or some time between shows. It’s always a delight hearing what’s going on with you guys.
Philip Storey: I always enjoy talking with you.
Larry Jordan: Give us a quick description of what XenData does.
Philip Storey: We focus on delivering archive solutions for the media and entertainment industry. The bulk of what we provide is LTO based, but recently we added support for Sony’s new optical disk archive, ODA, and we’re currently working on integrating all of this with a cloud as well, so that’s basically what we do. We supply customers, typically it’s not individuals, its organizations ranging from huge multi pedabyte archives down to smaller archives, and that’s something I’d like to talk about.
Larry Jordan: Absolutely. Mini pedabytes, as it were. Well, that gets me to the announcement that you made just a week or two ago. What were you talking about?
Philip Storey: Oh yes, there we were talking about a really cost effective LTO solution. It really goes from 150 terabytes to three-quarters of a pedabyte and extremely cost effective, very expandable and, in that particular sector of the market, it’s a really attractive offering. But the other trend that we’re seeing is that more and more customers are coming in at more of an entry level. Not the individual working and needing to archive material, but work groups, basically.
Larry Jordan: So what are the options? I know that the enterprise level solution that you offered had a multi-tens of thousands of dollar price, but would store an almost unlimited amount of data, which is wonderful if you’re a studio.
Philip Storey: Exactly, exactly.
Larry Jordan: What happens if you’re smaller? What are our options?
Philip Storey: Right, so from a XenData perspective, this is really a fast growing part of our business and it is perhaps a small production company, an educational establishment, perhaps it’s the marketing department within a smaller organization. We’re seeing that companies are buying a small appliance plus either a small LTO library or perhaps only one LTO drive attached to our appliance and they’re using that over the network to be able to archive their material. Another way to look at is actually anyone that has moved to shared disk based storage – Avid Isis or Versilis or…
Larry Jordan: Or an XM?
Philip Storey: Yes, so as soon as they move to that shared disk storage and they start using it, then they start consuming the capacity and they have got a decision to make – what do we do? Do we expand the disk based capacity on that shared storage or do we bring in an archive, such that we can move projects off the main spinning disk shared storage and move it to archive, where it will live for many decades and we can restore it very easily back to the shared storage.
Philip Storey: More and more people are realizing that that’s a really good way to go, because most people are in a situation. We have a few professional baseball clubs that are customers, and in that case you really only need to access a few seasons back and older seasons you can just move across onto the archive; or if you’re a marketing department in an organization, there are often projects that you don’t want to throw the material away, you want to keep it, but you don’t really need to have day to day access to it. We’re finding that more and more. It’s educational establishments, small companies and they need somewhere to move projects and material off of their shared storage.
Larry Jordan: XenData’s archiving system is built on a Windows server. Does this mean that Macintosh clients are out of luck?
Philip Storey: No, not at all. Actually, you can access all of our products from Mac clients, but actually in this more entry level shared storage scenario, really the best way to do it – because shared storage is designed for multiple simultaneous access and archives can do that but they’re generally not designed for that type of usage – so in practice, in this entry level shared storage environment, let’s say you’re a sports team, you move your old seasons material over to the archive and then if you want to restore anything, you just restore it back to the shared storage, which is accessed via Macs, Windows, whatever. So yes, you can certainly use it if you’re Mac based.
Larry Jordan: One of the things that concerns me is that LTO tape, the tape itself, has a life span of about 25 years before the glue and the oxide separate.
Philip Storey: Well, I wouldn’t say that, actually.
Larry Jordan: Really?
Philip Storey: All of the LTO cartridge manufacturers spec a minimum of 30 years and the technologies that are used today with modern day to day LTO is entirely different to the kind of technologies that we used a couple of decades ago, and so I think it’s likely that these tapes will last for not 30 years but a heck of a lot longer.
Larry Jordan: But the LTO format itself is updated about every 18 months. In other words, LTO 5 is replaced by 6 is replaced by 7, so what do producers need to consider when they’re deciding to archive their asset on LTO tape, because the machinery won’t last as long as the tape does?
Philip Storey: Yes, yes, that’s right. Basically, the 30 years cartridge life, if we think about it and we go back 30 years ago, wow, that was 1984 and what sort of technologies were we using back then? So you hit the nail on the head. That the issue is, well, how do I maintain access when I’m going to be using a completely different operating system to the one I used 30 years ago and my hardware’s completely different to what I had 30 years ago? And the answer there is that after, say, five to eight years, to think about, “Well, how do I migrate this?”
Philip Storey: For our customers, even the ones who have just got a small LTO library, they can put in a new library or they can swap out the drive within the library, and we give them within the software within our systems, the ability to pretty easily migrate across to the latest technology. Because as you say that’s a fundamental issue and it’s all about how quickly technology becomes outdated, the hardware becomes outdated.
Larry Jordan: So basically what we need to do is that LTO gives us the ability to archive a lot of data, but we need to build in time or resources that every few years we’re going to have to migrate the hardware and update by copying from one tape to another, copy the tape from the old format to the new?
Philip Storey: Yes. I think that’s the only way, and we have lots of customers that do that. Today, LTO 6 is 2.5 terabytes per cartridge, which represents, at compressed HD, 50 megabits a second. That’s over 100 hours of material, so there’s a lot of material on a cartridge, and we’ve got a lot of customers who started with us with LTO 4 and they have swapped out the drives in their library, put in LTO 6 drives and they’re just using, as I say, the software built into the XenData system to do that migration.
Larry Jordan: Phil, for people who want more information about the products that XenData offers, where can they go on the web?
Philip Storey: At our website, www.xendata.com.
Larry Jordan: And the CEO and Co-founder of XenData is Dr Phil Storey and, Phil, thanks for joining us today. I look forward to talking to you again soon.
Philip Storey: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: Take care. Bye bye.
Philip Bloom: Bye.
Larry Jordan: Someone that needs no introduction is Philip Bloom. He’s a director, a director of photography, a filmmaker, runs his own production company called Some Like It Shot Productions and, Philip, it’s a delight to talk with you today.
Philip Bloom: It’s nice to see you again. It’s been a few years.
Larry Jordan: It has, September of what was it? You looked it up.
Philip Bloom: 2008.
Larry Jordan: And we met on the River Thames, I remember that very clearly.
Philip Bloom: In Teddington, yes. Very close to me, actually, yes.
Larry Jordan: It was a fun conversation. You walked in and said, “Who is this person and what’s going on here?” It was a wonderful conversation.
Philip Bloom: I think I said it before I walked in, actually. After the initial email, I Googled you and then I, you know…
Larry Jordan: Philip, you and I have been wandering the cities of the United Kingdom this week for a tour that’s been sponsored by TV Bay and I’ve been fascinated with your presentation on looking at 4K from a practical point of view. There’s a lot of buzz that 4K is where the world of HD is moving and I wanted to get your initial take on something that you said in your presentation, whether we need 4K or whether we want 4K. What’s your perspective?
Philip Bloom: Yes, need and want are obviously two different words and it doesn’t just mean 4K, it can apply to everything. It can apply to cars, it can apply to food. I mean, it’s like we need to eat but do we need to have caviar? What you want and what you need are two different things. We don’t actually need many things, to be honest with you, we want stuff.
Philip Storey: When it comes to 4K, we see that 4K is the best acquisition, the best image coming out of cameras, and we’ll want it. We want it. We see it, we want it. We’ll see it at demonstrations, we’ll see it at shows like this and we want it. Then you need to ask yourself, “Do you need it?” because it is going to impact your work, it’s going to impact the amount of money you have, your time and everything in a good way and a bad way, for sure.
Philip Storey: To be honest with you, when I’m doing my talk, at times I feel like I’ve done too much negative and I have to bring it back, because I’m not paid to sell 4K and is somebody asked me, “Do you want to sell 4K?” I would say no. I have to be honest about it. It isn’t for most of the people who are in that talk.
Larry Jordan: There are several sides to 4K. There’s the increased resolution, but the resolution by itself isn’t sufficient unless you consider the codec, the format you’re recording in. How do you make a decision as to whether 4K is right for you and how do you select the right format to record in?
Philip Bloom: 4K sensors aren’t all alike. There are some good ones and there are some bad ones. There are some which are incredibly good and some which are really not good at all. Just because it has the number 4K, it doesn’t mean it’s four times better than your current camera and absolutely, when it comes to what it records in, you’ve got to look at the actual codec. How compressed is it? Is it only RAW? How much space does it take up? What does it record onto?
Philip Storey: All of these things make a huge difference. When a camera can only do, say, 4K RAW and it won’t do a compressed codec, it doesn’t actually need to be like that. It just happens to be a limitation of the system. Most people don’t need to be shooting RAW. A really good, nice codec, something like XAVC that the F55 has is one of the best implementations of a compressed codec that I’ve seen and that’s what I shoot my 4K in most of the time, even though I have the ability on that camera at the same time to switch it to RAW, but I choose not to because I don’t need it.
Larry Jordan: When should you consider shooting RAW versus a compressed format?
Philip Bloom: I think the only time I would potentially consider shooting RAW is if I was doing some effects heavy work, which I don’t really do because most of my work is documentary. But occasionally I’ll be in a situation where the light contrast is so strong and I can’t do anything with it, most likely because I am shooting documentary, that I am not able to do any additional lighting, I’m going with what’s there, and I just want to have a little bit more control in post to just bring it down.
Philip Storey: But I spent 22 years of never, ever shooting RAW and then suddenly had a camera that shot RAW and it was fascinating to have that. Prior to that, I had a really strong contrast situation and I just dealt with it. I just pointed the camera the other way, I put ND on the window, I put more light up. There was always a solution. Or you just have the window blow out, for example, there’s nothing wrong with a nice blown out window. In fact, it’s actually quite nice at times.
Larry Jordan: One of the points you made in the talk that I want to come back to was the number of clients that have hired you over the last few years to actually shoot 4K. What’s that number?
Philip Bloom: Roughly, I think, since I started shooting 4K, which would have been on the RED Epic, which would have been three or so years back. In that time around 20 jobs have been specifically hired to acquire in 4K, acquisition in 4K. I’ve shot loads more than that myself in 4K and I’ve used 4K cameras loads more than that too, but these are, “Actually, we want you to use this camera,” specifying the camera and specifying 4K.
Philip Storey: Out of those 20 odd projects, none of them have ever been mastered in 4K. Most of them have been HD and most of them have gone to the web, some have gone to broadcast and I think maybe three or four even went to standard definition broadcast.
Larry Jordan: So why shoot 4K in the first place?
Philip Bloom: These are clients who want to be seen using it. These aren’t broadcast clients generally; they’re more commercial agency types who want to be seen. It’s a competitive industry. They want to be seen as, “We are using Epic, we are using Alexa,” whatever the big thing is at the time and the rest of it is irrelevant to them, and it happens a lot.
Philip Storey: If that’s what they want to do, it’s fine, it’s not my money. It’s the client’s money and the agency is getting it from the client and I will do my best to explain, if I’m hired as a DP, it is my job to explain why I don’t think we should, and if they choose to ignore that advice that’s fine. If it makes my job a lot harder, then I’ll tell them why. Very rarely will it make my job harder, because I’m not the one dealing with it in post, because that’s where the actual pain of 4K will come in – not the actual shooting of it.
Larry Jordan: I want to talk about post in a minute, but if you’re shooting 4K, do you change your production or change your lighting or change your camerawork at all?
Philip Bloom: If it was involving sets and makeup, for sure it needs to be of a higher quality, definitely. But for documentaries, there is no difference whatsoever. If you’re skilled, you’re skilled and if you get things focused, you should get it in focus whether you’re standard definition, HD or 4K. It’s just your mistakes will be a lot more obvious when it comes to a higher resolution. But I think mostly it’s actually things like makeup and your lighting is going to be key as well because you need to make things look more flattering if possible, because 4K can be quite unflattering at times.
Larry Jordan: Actors and actresses are known for wearing makeup and would prefer to have the image be softer, especially when you go in for a close-up, and 4K does everything to remove the effects of the makeup and the softness of the image. How do you balance the higher resolution against the need of the actor not to look too detailed?
Philip Bloom: Well, you can easily put on a filter when you’re shooing 4K with actors that can soften it down, but these days this is all pretty much mostly going to be done in post. The downside of that is that you won’t see it straight away. There are monitors everywhere these days on sets and you just have to explain at times, “Yes, it does look quite strong and quite harsh right now,” and you just have to explain.
Philip Storey: I have a filter which I use in my 4K camera and it makes it so much nicer. It’s actually an internal filter, it goes between the lens and the sensor and it softens it down not so it’s soft, it just makes it look a little bit more organic, more filmic. But if I’m shooting some really detailed nature-type stuff, I take it out. It just depends what I’m shooting, really.
Larry Jordan: There are three stages, I think, of 4K production. There’s acquisition, there’s editing and there’s distribution. Distribution, I think, is still problematic for 4K because broadcast is not yet ready to move to it and the web most of the time doesn’t have bandwidth, so the real crux of where the rubber meets the road is in editing. Acquisition’s fairly straightforward; there are a number of cameras that support it. What’s your feeling on editing 4K?
Philip Bloom: You’re definitely right. Some way of actually showing 4K is the biggest problem right now, by far. I have a 4K TV and the only way I can watch anything in 4K is to plug in my latest MacBook Pro into it and I can watch 4K, otherwise there’s no way I can do it. It’s a Smart TV, it’s a very expensive Smart TV, but even the apps, even the YouTube app doesn’t play 4K. They make a Smartphone, the same company, that has 4K recording in it but you can’t play it on the TV. So actually playing 4K on your 4K TV is one of the biggest, most painful things. It’s astonishing. I got the TV, I was like, “I now need to find out how I can actually see something that I’ve got,” and it literally was a case of plugging in my laptop. There’s no other way of doing it and that’s ridiculous.
Philip Storey: Editing, it depends on the format. The most editable format is going to be a compressed codec, as in something out of the camera that you can edit straight away, like we want to. When I switched to Premiere, suddenly transcoding was a dirty word. It’s very rare that I needed to edit something straight away. Those are the old days of news. I don’t edit as soon as I get back from the shoot, so transcoding was never a massive problem. I would generally just start it when I got home and then by morning it’s all done. It was never a real chore.
Philip Storey: But there are times when I’ve shot something really nice and I want to do something with it straight away and very few cameras will let me do that, and very few computers, certainly when it comes to Apples, will let you do that. My MacBook Pro, which is the top specs one with everything ticked when you go in the Apple Store and you see the pounds or the dollars go up and you go, “Oh my God,” that lets me edit 4K, lets me edit the GH4s, MP4s, which are an H264 codec, and it’s fine until you start putting effects on and then it goes [MAKES NOISE].
Philip Storey: Other than that, everything else has to be proxy. I also have a MacPro, which is generally for my edit suite at home, but because it’s relatively portable, if I know I’m going away and I’m going to be doing a lot of editing, I will bring it with me because it’s not too bad. Obviously, I can’t bring my nice monitors, can’t bring my 4K monitor, I can’t bring my Thunderbolt screens. I have a little portable monitor and it’s ok and I hope that the TV in the hotel room has an HDMI in and it’s not a God-awful TV.
Philip Storey: It’s not easy, which is ridiculous because when I first started shooting HD, it was really quite in the early days, my G4 Powerbook edited it straight away in Final Cut 7, no problems whatsoever. It was never even a consideration of having to convert it into some sort of standard definition proxy. The fact is, the jump we’ve had from HD to 4K is a massive jump, it’s leapfrogged the post technology and that’s the problem.
Larry Jordan: When you transcode your 4K, what are you transcoding it into?
Philip Bloom: Different cameras obviously record in different formats, some even record in ProRes, like the Blackmagic 4K will do ProRes HQ, which to be honest with you is too high. It’s too big a file. It’s 880 odd megabits a second or so and that’s too big. You don’t need it, certainly not for what I’m doing.
Philip Storey: Something like ProRes 422 would be more than enough and so it really depends on what it is that I’m actually working with. If I’m working with the Sony F55 in its XAVC codec, I won’t transcode. I will edit in the native format and it’s actually really good and the MacPro eats it up, even with effects on it. It’s pretty damn good and I’m absolutely fine with that. If I have to convert something that’s RAW, for example, it will go into ProRes 422. I’ll go through Resolve and I’ll convert it to ProRes 422 and that’s what I’ll edit with. If I have to edit on the laptop for whatever reason, then I may end up doing an HD proxy.
Larry Jordan: Then if you’re doing a final color grade, do you go back to the original source file and color grade that? Or do you color grade the transcoded file?
Philip Bloom: Well, whether I do it the right way or not, my way is always a bit of a, it’s like when I learnt to edit Final Cut 7, I taught myself and then somebody who’d been on a course was watching me edit and said, “Have you tried pressing that button? It does the same thing as those 17 things you just did.” I went, “Oh.” I don’t read instructions.
Philip Storey: If I tell you how I do things, I’m sure you’ll tell me I’m doing it completely the wrong way, but I simply keep my filenames exactly the same and I edit on an HD timeline and I do everything with all my color and effects on there and then I unlink the media and then I will re-link the media to the 4K version and put it on a new 4K timeline and everything should theoretically just snap in, and then I just need to render it out. Theoretically.
Philip Storey: Doesn’t always work, especially with Premiere which has got, annoyingly, really good at finding your files that you’ve actually unlinked, whereas before you literally had to say this is it here, each one, here, here, here. Now, you unlink it, you may put it into the most hidden folder possible on your hard drive and then – bang! – it pops up, “Hey,” it says, “Guess what? I’ve found it!” It’s like Lassie. It’s wagging its tail at you really excitedly that, “You won’t believe how good I am. Look what I’ve done, master. I’ve found your hidden files.” I’m like, “No, I want to re-link them to files I haven’t told you about yet.” Painful.
Larry Jordan: Well, the software really wants to be helpful. It’s trying to make your life easier.
Philip Bloom: It doesn’t know what I want. It can’t read my mind.
Larry Jordan: Well, there’s nothing wrong with the approach that you’re using – unlinking the low res and re-linking to the high res. We’ve been doing that in Final Cut 7 for years, it works the same in Premiere and I’ve seen the quality of your work and it’s outstanding, so clearly you’re doing something right as the color grade. What do you see as the downsides of 4K?
Philip Bloom: The downsides of 4K are time and money. Time is money as well. Let’s not even get into the actual costs of the recording media, which vary drastically per camera and also the actual amount of data that is created by the various different formats. Because I travel so much, one thing I always carry as hand luggage are my hard drives, my rushes. That’s more valuable than my camera. My camera is insured, it’s replaceable. My shoot is not, so I always carry stuff and I always use bus powered drives because I can carry them round with me.
Philip Storey: I will most likely have a g-ray or something like that in my luggage with another copy, but I still have a copy on me and it’s on one of these two terabytes USB3 drives. There’ll be a number of them in there, quite often I have 20 of them in my carrier, and that’s fine, and there’ll be so many different projects on that and that’s great, but now it’s to the point where one of those two terabytes won’t get me very far at all. If I’m using a camera and a recording format that’s going to give me half a terabyte for 24 minutes, it’s a huge…
Larry Jordan: Half a terabyte for 24 minutes?
Philip Bloom: Yes, that’s uncompressed 4K CinemaDNG RAW, which is pointless. You don’t need it. We’re in a world where compression has gotten very, very, very good. Who puts completely uncompressed versions of music on their iPhone? Nobody does that apart from the most anal audiophile and compression’s got so good now and things are called lossless compressed for a reason. Even lossy compressed stuff is so good you can barely tell.
Philip Storey: It depends on what you’re doing. If you’re not doing any heavy effects work, as long as it’s not crazily lossy compressed, it’s fine, it’s absolutely fine. The C300 is one of the biggest, most successful broadcast large format… cameras out there and it’s 50 megabits a second. So that’s fairly heavily compressed but it’s broadcast accepted as HD and it’s great and you can get loads on your hard drives, it’s very easy to work with on just about every computer, even a MacBook Air can eat it up.
Philip Storey: That sort of stuff’s wonderful and yet suddenly we’re faced with terrifyingly high data rates and terrifyingly high render times and just watching that render bar slowly move, if it’s even going to play. 4K has made all of my Macs crash more than they’ve ever done before. Macs are always famous, oh, they never crash. Well, they do crash and they crash even more now that I work with 4K. I think Premiere in particular is a massive, massive resources hog. You can just see it. I have a measure on the computer seeing what resources are being used and I just see it suddenly taking everything. I have to keep quitting it and restarting it, just because I can see it’s draining too much.
Philip Storey: So yes, it is a problem, it’s a huge problem and the fact that I have to go round with a workstation – it is a workstation, it may be a small workstation but it’s still a workstation – carrying around a workstation on jobs with me, look, I’m not a DIT. I’m not somebody where you expect to have these things. Every other time it’s been laptops and suddenly a laptop isn’t good enough. I don’t have enough time. If I’m out abroad doing a job, shooting and editing, I like to get some sleep as well and it gives me a little bit more sleep than if I didn’t have that.
Larry Jordan: A business question and then a production question. Can you charge more for your 4K work? Or are they not willing to pay more money for 4K?
Philip Bloom: You have to charge more for your 4K work. If you’re not going to get paid any more for your 4K work for clients, you don’t do it because it’s costing you more money on the hard drives and everything else. If you can’t pass the cost onto your client, you should not be doing it. It’s absolutely crazy to do that.
Larry Jordan: Are you doubling your rate? What percentage?
Philip Bloom: It depends on what the project is. Obviously, I will charge more for the hard drives and editing time, yes, it does go up. I did a job recently that was 4K uncompressed RAW. It had to be, because that was the camera that they wanted to shoot on, and so that was factored into my editing time. It was an extra day, I think, just for transcoding, so that is passed on, yes.
Larry Jordan: Philip, there’s so much that we can talk about and I’m starting to run out of time. Can we invite you back to talk specifically about which cameras you would recommend?
Philip Bloom: Yes, absolutely. I mean, that’s a conversation that can go on for hours.
Larry Jordan: Philip, for people who want to keep track of the work you’re doing and that which you’re writing, what website can they go to?
Philip Bloom: Yes, my website is my name, which is philipbloom.net. I couldn’t get the .com. I almost got the .com. I think that an eye surgeon in London had it. He wanted £50,000 for it and I said, “No, you’re all right.” And you know what annoys me? This was about three years ago and you type in philipbloom.com and there’s still nothing there. He’s never used it. It’s just a waste of my time.
Larry Jordan: That’s philipbloom.net for Philip Bloom himself, director, director of photography, filmmaker and the Founder of Some Like It Shot. Philip Bloom, thanks for joining us today.
Philip Bloom: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: Next week, we’ll have part two of this interview that we recorded when I was in London last week with Philip Bloom, talking about what the best 4K cameras are for different projects. We’ll also be taking a look at the specific challenges of how to record 4K and, more importantly, how to edit 4K and the challenges that provides. Philip’s got some really insightful comments and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you next week.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests this week on the show, starting with Kim Furst, the producer, director and editor. It was wonderful listening to her and her background of how she became what she is and the role that story plays in the projects that she creates; Dr Phil Storey, the CEO of XenData and looking at some new archiving opportunities for small workgroups; and Philip Bloom, the director, DP and filmmaker.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot happening at The Buzz between shows and it’s all posted to our website, digitalproductionbuzz.com. You can talk with us on Twitter, @dpbuzz, and chat with us on Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com.
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Larry Jordan: Our producer is Cirina Catania, our engineer Adrian Price. My name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to The Buzz.
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