Digital Production Buzz
July 24, 2014
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
Zack Arnold, Editor/Director
Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor Reporter, TroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter
Marty Lafferty, CEO, DCIA (Distributed Computing Industry Association)
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, Mr. Mike Horton, has the evening off.
Larry Jordan: Editor, director and producer Zach Arnold joins us to talk about editing. He’s edited episodes of Burn Notice, Glee, The Bannen Way and many others. He’s also becoming increasingly interested in how all of us sedentary folks stay in shape. He’s started a new website entitled Fitness in Post.
Larry Jordan: Entertainment technology attorney and Buzz regular Jonathan Handel stops by to explain the significance of the recent SAG-AFTRA contract, which went into effect today; and Marty Lafferty is the CEO of the DCIA, that’s the Distributed Computing Industry Association. I’ve wanted to have a conversation with him for a long time about where the cloud makes sense for producers creating and distributing programs and where it doesn’t
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot of marketing buzz about how important the cloud is and I suddenly had an insight as I was getting ready to have our conversation with Marty that there are actually three different levels to production. There are four, actually. There’s planning, production, editing and distribution and whenever I think about the cloud, I always view it through the lens of editing, which is probably where the cloud is least suited, and I realize that the cloud probably makes a whole lot more sense if we take a step back and look at the entire production process in general.
Larry Jordan: Well, Marty’s got a lot of experience with the cloud, remote servers and everything related to the internet and I thought this would be a perfect time to have a longer conversation with him in terms of where we should go and what we should consider, what we need to pay attention to and where some of the pitfalls are.
Larry Jordan: Just a reminder that 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 these transcripts possible.
Larry Jordan: By the way, Blackmagic had a mini trade show today in Las Vegas. No, how about Los Angeles? I had a chance to attend and chat with a lot of the people that were there, including Adobe, and took a look at the new DaVinci Resolve 11, which is still under beta, and I realized there’s a whole lot of stuff I can write about. So I’ve got some thoughts to share with you at the end of this show on some upcoming articles that I’m going to be releasing in my weekly newsletter. I want to share those with you as well.
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Larry Jordan: I should talk about this newsletter for a second. The Digital Production Buzz newsletter comes out mid-morning on Fridays, Los Angeles time. Tori is our editor and she spends a lot of time making sure that we’ve got a lot of interesting stuff in the newsletter. If you haven’t signed up for it, it’s free. Not only do we have summaries of the show and the ability to listen to individual interviews as part of the show, but we also provide what we call inside insight. These are industry articles written by others that are relevant to folks like us that are working in the media community and the newsletter’s available free, comes out every Friday. Just go to digitalproductionbuzz.com and sign up.
Larry Jordan: I’m going to be back with Zack Arnold and we are going to talk editing right after this.
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Larry Jordan: Zack Arnold has been a professional editor for 15 years. Most recently on the TV series Burn Notice, his background includes editing feature films, scripted dramatic television, documentaries, theatrical trailers and DVD bonus content. He is also just finishing his directorial debut of the documentary GO FAR: The Christopher Rush Story. Hello, Zack, welcome.
Zack Arnold: Hello. Thank you so much for having me here, Larry, I’m excited to be back.
Larry Jordan: We are delighted to have you and, as I was prepping for our interview earlier today, I was getting more and more excited because I want to talk about editing.
Zack Arnold: Great. Well, I love to talk about editing…
Larry Jordan: Let’s see. Zack, I had a chance to spend some time on your website and I’m going to tell people now what it is, which is zackarnold.com, and you seem to be editing all the programs I’m watching these days, so first congratulations on getting some great gigs.
Zack Arnold: Oh, well, thank you. I’ve certainly worked very hard to hone my craft and part of the craft is needing to meet the right people as well and I’m just a big believer that luck is when hard work meets opportunity and both of those things have happened for me.
Larry Jordan: Well, congratulations. What got you started as an editor?
Zack Arnold: I actually started as an editor, quote unquote, when I was about eight or nine years old. It’s something that I discovered when my brother and I ran around with a video camera and he was shooting all this footage – he’s about 13 years older than me – so he was already in his late teens, early 20s, bought a VHS camcorder, we shot all this footage, it was a miserable experience, I hated all of it, couldn’t believe it took so long to make this little video. Then he showed it to me and I was like, “Really? We’ve been running around for 12 hours and this is all you have to show me? This sucks.”
Zack Arnold: But then, two weeks later, he came to me with the exact same video, didn’t touch it – remember, this is all VHS to VHS, there’s no non-linear editors here – but he took the score to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and he put it under this silent video and I swear to God, it was like seeing porn for the first time. I looked at it and I said, “That’s amazing and I want to know how you did that,” so he showed me how he plugged in the cables and hit play and record and I’m like, “I want to do more of that,” so I started shooting my own home movies with my friends, but what I did was I told them, “We have to shoot everything out of order. I want to shoot it all in a different order so then that way I have to find a way to put it back together.”
Zack Arnold: I’m 12 years old doing this with two VHS tapes. I had no idea what I was doing, didn’t know that this was actually a profession. When you’re 12 years old, you go on TV and you go to the movie theaters and the stuff just exists and that’s what shows up on screen, there’s nobody actually making it. I just continued doing this all throughout high school, making videos for my high school football team, highlight tapes and video, taping people’s weddings and, you know, it was the all low budget freebie stuff that people do when they’re getting started except rather than doing that when I was in my early 20s, I was doing it when I was 13 and 14 years old. Then, when I went to college, my entire focus was on filmmaking and learning the craft of editing and my education was mostly in the theory side of it, watching a lot of old movies… in five different classes…
Larry Jordan: Ok, hold it, hold it, hold it. We’re going to flash forward to now, because otherwise we’re going to get through your entire college career and I’m going to run out of time. I went on your website, which is just a way cool website, but I want to read a portion of the first paragraph that you wrote describing yourself. You said, “I believe that my job as an editor is to account for every single frame and make sure it serves its purpose. It’s my job to know what my audience feels at any given moment and, more importantly, how to make them feel that way, because that’s why we watch films and television, to feel something.” Why is emotion so important to you?
Zack Arnold: It’s not important to me, it’s important to everybody and what I’ve learned as an editor, and I really learned this when I was working on trailers a lot, is that when people watch something, whether it’s an entire show or whether it’s a two minute trailer or whether it’s a commercial, nobody remembers anything that they watch. We are so barraged with information and stimuli and shows – I just watched a couple of shows the night before, I don’t remember most of the details but what I remember and what I’ll remember for years is how whatever I was watching made me feel, so I associate that emotion to what I’m watching.
Zack Arnold: So my job as an editor is not to entertain people, it’s not to flash all the silver things and say, “Oh, look at all the shiny stuff.” It’s what is my audience feeling at this exact moment? And if they’re not feeling it and I need them to be, what tools do I have as an editor to get them there? Because the only thing people remember is how something made them feel, so my job is to make sure they’re doing that and, if they’re not, I haven’t done my job as an editor.
Larry Jordan: You’ve edited a wide range of genres – drama, action, comedy – but I want to focus exactly on the craft of editing by looking at two specific examples that you’ve got on your website. First, in the drama Black Box, you posted a video on a hostage situation, very emotional, very powerful. How do you approach a scene like this as an editor?
Zack Arnold: Really I approach every scene basically the same way, which is you just sit down and you watch all the raw footage and you say, “What is it that I have in front of me?” Because if I were interpret the script, there’s a lot that happens between it going on that piece of paper and actually being shot in front of that camera and coming to me, so I’ll read the script of course, and people always give me a hard time because they think I don’t read the scripts when I say stuff like this but I do actually read the script, but when I watch the footage, that’s the king.
Zack Arnold: The footage is what exists and what I can make something out of and I say, “What’s the core of this? What’s the moment that I need to hit?” It’s not about making sure all the lines are in the right order or whatever. It’s like, “Oh, there’s a moment right there. There’s a look in his face or a look in the wife’s eyes, that’s what I need to build the whole scene around,” and then I start to construct it from that emotional core and say, “All right, well, I need to be here, so then where do I need to start? How do I get people there?” and then it’s just about analyzing the specific angles and the covers that you have and saying, “If this is going to be the emotional direction of the scene, what coverage gets me there? What’s the most economical way to get to this emotion and make sure that my audience is not confused?”
Zack Arnold: For an action scene, one of the biggest things is just making sure your audience knows what’s going on. You can have the coolest fight sequence in the world with the best choreography, but if it’s cut poorly nobody has any idea what’s happening.
Larry Jordan: Take a breath. Norman Hollin, who also teaches, like you do, at USC School of Cinematic Arts says that every scene that goes into anything is about change, something that changes from the beginning to the end of the scene. For you, it sounds like it’s the emotional change more than anything else. Is that a true statement?
Zack Arnold: Yes, absolutely. I’ve learned a lot from Norman, having taught under him and with him at USC, so there’s a lot of my understanding of editing that comes from his philosophies that I love and I really feel that all I’m trying to look at is the moment of change that has to do with emotion. For example, you look at the hostage scene, it’s very chaotic in the beginning and if you just watch the clip, you’re not going to be invested in those characters, you’re just going to see a random hostage scene.
Zack Arnold: But if you’re watching the show, you already have an investment in that character, so the change is all of a sudden you’re bringing in tension and fear; and then all of a sudden you’re trying to bring in this heart felt stuff, oh well, his wife is trying to bring him back and get him out of this mindset, because basically they think he’s bipolar but they actually find out that he has inflamed blood vessels in the brain and in that sense it’s kind of like House, where they’re trying to investigate intricate pieces…
Zack Arnold: But my job is just to use those moments of change to emphasize my emotion. If I’m not doing anything different, that’s just the method I’m using, is that I’m highlighting these moments of change and making people feel them and making sure that that feeling is conveying the emotion that I want.
Larry Jordan: This is a show called Black Box. How is that shot – one camera, multiple cameras?
Zack Arnold: No, it’s all multiple cameras. It’s shot with the ARRI Alexa. Pretty much everything was shot with two cameras. There was some with three cameras. For example, that scene was probably 13 or 14 set-ups with two cameras running on most and three on a couple, so you add it up and I had about 25 or 26 different angles and probably four or five takes per performance, so for one three or four minute piece I probably had an hour and a half to two hours of dailies.
Larry Jordan: How do you keep it all straight in your head?
Zack Arnold: The first thing I do is I just watch it. I know that a lot of TV editors say there’s not enough time and they kind of go and pick what they think works. That’s just not the way my brain is wired. I have to see everything because I can’t be confident knowing that I have cut the best version of the scene unless I’ve watched it all. I use Walter Murch’s old method called making a cam roll, just like the old cam film editing system, where I have my assistant take every single frame and string all the dailies out on a timeline and I sit on the couch and I hit the play button and I watch it all.
Zack Arnold: When I’m done, I’m like, “All right, what do I do?” and then I cut the scene really quickly because I don’t need to go look for stuff. It’s what I call mental digitizing. I’m mentally digitizing the scene into my brain and then I cut it knowing, “Oh, there’s one moment, this is really good in this take and this is good in that take,” and, “Oh, I want to build the scene around this one look that the wife has,” so that’s how I construct.
Larry Jordan: What are you looking for in coverage?
Zack Arnold: That’s a very subjective question based on the specific type of scene and the emotion. If we’re going to take the hostage scene, for example, I was looking for anything that was frenetic. If the camera was sitting on a tripod and it was panning back and forth into a splat, that’s not going to convey the type of physiological response and emotion that I want for a scene like that. So I would gravitate towards the coverage that’s very handheld, maybe a canted angle.
Zack Arnold: Some people say, “Oh, the cameraman kind of stumbles there and the Steadicam bumps,” and I’m like, “Yes, but that’s a great moment,” because emotionally that conveys a sense of chaos and that works for this scene. But if you have two people looking longingly into each other’s eyes in a love scene with camera bump, you’re going to take your audience out of it. So coverage is very subjective based on the emotion that you need in a specific scene.
Larry Jordan: How are you determining your pacing?
Zack Arnold: Pacing is a hard one because that’s really subjective and based on my own taste. What people don’t realize is that a lot of editors are just injecting their own taste and what they want in a show because they’re the first viewer. I will just basically do a first pass where the pacing might not be perfect.
Zack Arnold: It’s kind of like regurgitating all the information that I digitized in my head, saying, “I just need to get all these pieces down on paper, cut it together, do a rough test and then watch it,” and be like, “Ok, well this is obviously way too fast right here and it’s slow over here,” and it’s kind of a gut instinct saying, “Am I giving the audience enough time to process the information on screen before I make the next cut?” and most of the time I want to make sure the answer is yes.
Zack Arnold: Sometimes I want the answer to be no, because not getting that information might give them a physiological response of being a little anxious or agitated and maybe that’s what I want in a given situation.
Larry Jordan: What do you do to heighten the drama? Do you go in tighter for a close-up? What is it that tightens the screws?
Zack Arnold: I think that that goes back to what Norman said, which is really creating a moment of change, that lean forward moment. A lot of times, if I know, for example, not so much for the hostage scene, but if I take a very simple scene where I have two people sitting across a desk from each other, and the season’s finale is literally airing as we speak right now and there’s a scene where the head of the hospital and the main character are at odds, having a stare down and the “Are you going to fire me or not going to fire me?” kind of thing. I said, “There’s an amazing extreme close-up in this scene and I’m fading it until these two looks at the very end of the scene,” and if anybody’s watching with me at the same time, I’ve just spoiled… I think it’ll be all right.
Zack Arnold: But I said to myself, “This is the best moment of the scene. They’re just looking at each other, there are these gorgeous extreme close-ups. I’m not going to touch those until I get to the end.” So I’m making those kinds of choices very, very early on and in building towards them and that’s going to heighten the drama because I’m saving the best coverage for last, as opposed to if I use that extreme close-up ten times, it has no impact where I want it. To get that moment of emotional change and heightening the drama, I’m saying, “I’m not going to cut to the extreme close-up until the very end and then bam.” That’s my explanation.
Larry Jordan: How important is sound, thinking back to your original VHS with the music theme added, and how involved are you in the creation of the sound of the show?
Zack Arnold: I cannot stress enough how important sound is. I think that if you’re going to make a decision to put all of your effort into sound or picture, you absolutely want to put it into sound, if you’re talking about the finishing process, not the creative editing. For example, on my documentary, I put all my money into sound and did as little as possible to the picture just to make it look good enough, because people experience sound more viscerally than picture and on any show that I’ve worked on. I have a really, really deep hand in shaping all of the environments, especially in cutting music.
Zack Arnold: I will actually make some music editors angry because I don’t let them cut music until we get to the stage, because a lot of editors – not so much any more – especially editors that were working back when you only had four tracks of audio, they would just kind of slap a piece of music in, hand it to a music editor and they would cut the emotional beats and shape it to the scene. To me, I feel like that’s my responsibility from the very first pass. So when I hand in an editor’s cut, I’ve already built in all the environmental backgrounds, meaning city sounds or chirping birds or whatever it is; I’ve cut all the music into a show, and when I say cut I mean frame by frame I have a beat of music hitting exactly on the cut I want it to; and all of the hard sound effects are in.
Zack Arnold: I’m adding foley and door shutting and anything that I need in there that’s going to make the viewer, meaning my director or my producer or my show runner, feel like they’re watching it on TV. The only reason I can get all that done is because I have amazing assistants and they usually will take down a lot of that with my direction, because I just focus on cutting the picture and the music and then they do all the background sound for me.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of music, let’s shift gears to music and dance and another show that you’ve done editing for is Glee. On your website, you’ve got a sequence called Some Nights. Now, I am a huge fan of musical numbers and a huge fan of Glee. How do you approach a musical scene and do you have a different perspective of music than drama?
Zack Arnold: The overall perspective is never the same because it’s all about how do I want to make somebody feel at a specific moment. As an editor, from a technical perspective, it’s a very, very different work flow, just being able to figure out how am I going to approach this because there’s so much more material and it’s much more exacting because everything is in sync. So there’s a lot as far as sitting in front of your Avid timeline and figuring out how to approach it. But at the core theoretical level, I’m trying to do exactly the same thing, which is make sure that my audience is always looking at the right place at the right time, I haven’t lost them, and are they going to feel something at this turn of music?
Zack Arnold: And if I want them to feel a lean forward moment… or if I just want them to have an emotion, even if it’s just like a little quick jolt of adrenaline, it’s my job to make sure I’m using the right coverage and cutting at the right time to get them to feel that way. So in that sense, no different approach.
Larry Jordan: With music, you’ve got the music, you’ve got the sense of the music, but you’ve also got the storyline and the emotion. How do you balance the emotion of a tight shot with the rhythm and movement of the wide shot which has got all the dance in it? This strikes me as a really hard decision.
Zack Arnold: It is. It’s kind of like taking a regular scene with two people that are across from a table and turning it into a Rubik’s cube, where it’s the same general principle but now you have nine principal characters and you have 15 performances of a song that has three or four cameras running at once, but you also have to be very conscious of whose story it is during a specific lyric, so when you get the music, you’re just listening to the rough stereo mix. They’ll polish it a little bit, but you’re pretty much listening to the production track that is going into the final show and you just listen to it and say, “All right, well, who’s singing at this moment?” Well, nail on the head, let’s make sure that if this boy is singing this lyric, let’s make sure that he’s on camera and we’re highlighting him.
Zack Arnold: But then, on the more subtle level, there’s a lot of interaction where it might be the chorus singing, but you have two characters that are crossing and during the episode they were at odds with each other. So if I can find a good moment where one of them is rolling their eyes at the other one out of those 40 angles, I have to find the one shot that’s on her at that moment and make sure I see her eyes rolling. It’s really about building the relationship between characters and at the same time making sure the audience actually knows what they’re doing. I’m thinking to myself, “If I were standing on the stage and watching this, I’m going to see the choreography the whole time and geographically I know what’s going on,” but on TV, if I cut all cool close wides or close-ups and get all fancy, you’re going to watch it and be like, “I have no idea where anybody’s standing, I have no sense of geography,” so you also have to be conscious of that. It’s a giant Rubik’s cube.
Larry Jordan: I’m totally sympathetic because that’s an enormously complex thing to shoot. One last question, because I still have to get to your documentary, are you working with final audio when you do the edit? Or are they changing the mix based upon who’s on close-up after you get a cut?
Zack Arnold: For the most part, I’m getting final audio. I’m sure that they need to do some processing and whatever the cool things that audio guys do. We’re getting close to the final version, but I don’t believe they’re changing their mix based on the cut. I’m essentially making my cuts based on their mix, because if they’re pushing somebody doing a solo, then that tells me I need to make sure I see that person singing. From what I can remember, when I watched the aired version versus my version, there was really no discernible difference other than probably just audio processing and better technical qualities.
Larry Jordan: We’ve got about three minutes left. Do you want to talk about GO FAR or do you want to talk about Fitness First?
Zack Arnold: Your show, you tell me what you want to hear about more.
Larry Jordan: Give us a quick summary of GO FAR and why you did it.
Zack Arnold: GO FAR is a documentary film that I’ve been working on for the last seven years in my, quote unquote, spare time. It’s about one of the former national poster children for the Muscular Dystrophy Association – and for those who don’t know, that’s the charity that Jerry Lewis used to be associated with for 40 years, so he was one of Jerry’s kids. He was literally the national poster child, traveled all over the country, ended up becoming the first quadriplegic in the country who became a licensed scuba diver. He graduated from the University of Michigan with Honors and graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in law.
Larry Jordan: Why did you create the film?
Zack Arnold: I created the film because I met Chris and became friends with him in college and I really didn’t know much about his past. He was just a really cool guy, very inspiring, was a lot of fun to be around. But when he passed away, and that’s not a spoiler, I make it very clear that this is an after the fact biography. I find out that he had developed this motivational program that he called So Far, which is an acronym for Goals, Obstacles, Focus, Act and Review, and I said to myself, “That is a film. If there’s anybody that has a purpose in this life that didn’t get to fulfill it, this is it. So I’m now going to take it upon myself to tell his story and share his program and his message with people so it can get out there,” and that’s been the last seven years of my life, just trying to do that.
Larry Jordan: Can people learn more about it on your website?
Zack Arnold: They can. They can go to zackarnold.com and there are a couple of clips, but they can go to gofarmovie.com and they can learn everything about the project, what state it’s in right now – I just completed it, I’m in the distribution phase – so, yes, you can get all the information at the website.
Larry Jordan: In a short summary, why Fitness in Post?
Zack Arnold: Because we need it, that’s why. Because everybody in this industry is tired of feeling like garbage and I decided that, since I cracked the code myself, it was time to share it with everybody else and I’m like, “You know what? I’m just going to try to build a community where we can all come together, start a revolution and say, “We don’t need to feel like this any more.”” That’s the elevator pitch, that’s the short version of why it exists.
Larry Jordan: It’s a wonderful elevator pitch. Zack, I need to bring you back for about three more weeks of conversation. This has been phenomenal. Your website is?
Zack Arnold: Zackarnold.com, gofarmovie.com and fitnessinpost.com.
Larry Jordan: And the person behind all of it is Zack Arnold, editor, producer and director. Zack, thanks for joining us today.
Zack Arnold: Absolutely, thank you for having me, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
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Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is an entertainment and technology attorney of Counsel at TroyGould in Los Angeles. He’s also the contributing editor on entertainment labor issues for The Hollywood Reporter, a go to guy on the guilds and a blog at jhandel.com. He’s also a regular on The Buzz, for which I am very grateful. Hello, Jonathan, welcome back.
Jonathan Handel: Hey, Larry, how are you? And back is partially the right word, but I’m actually away.
Larry Jordan: Oh dear. Am I talking to a mirror image here? Who am I talking to?
Jonathan Handel: You are talking to a distant friend, let’s put it that way. I’m up in San Francisco taking meetings and also getting a little bit of restorative time of my own.
Larry Jordan: Well, try to stay sober for the entire interview, would you, please? That would be useful.
Jonathan Handel: Well, I’ve had some mint iced tea, so it may be too late.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, the big news this week is that SAG-AFTRA has a new contract. What are the details?
Jonathan Handel: They are sort of what we anticipated, which is in the areas that are common across the unions, things like residuals and basic wage rate increases and so forth, they’ve got the same deal that the DGA and Writers’ Guild got, and the broad outline was three percent increases per year over the next three years – these are three year deals. The first year increase is actually 2.5 percent with a half percent as well that goes to the pension and health fund, but we can call it three, three, three; and new forms of residuals. As you know, I did a residuals chart and it was crazy and complex and highly colorful. It is now crazier and more complex and equally colorful because they added residuals formula was for high budget streaming video on demand programs, the sort of stuff that you see on Netflix or Amazon Prime, for example House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black and so forth.
Jonathan Handel: So there’s a whole additional layer of complexity, a whole additional system of residuals and of minimums and so forth which depend on the budget level and on the number of subscribers on the platform. So they differentiate between, for example, Netflix versus Amazon Prime. Those are areas that the DGA got and the Writers’ Guild then achieved as well. The DGA deal was done about six or seven months ago, eight months ago, and the Writers’ Guild a few months ago and SAG-AFTRA received the benefit of those increases as well. Now, the big agenda item unique to the actors and that SAG-AFTRA had on their agenda was, in fact, that hyphen between SAG and AFTRA. Even though the unions merged two years ago, they were operating with legacy contracts in television, separate SAG and AFTRA television deals.
Jonathan Handel: They now have a unified television contract and they also have incorporated basic cable into their master contract now. It used to be a separate standalone agreement, whereas with the other two unions, the directors and writers, their master contracts included basic cable. That meant for SAG and AFTRA that there had been competition between the two unions in basic cable prior to the merger and the AFTRA contracts essentially didn’t pay residuals, or paid much lower residuals if they did pay, versus what the SAG contract paid and versus what the writers and directors get paid. The unified agreement now on basic cable matches what the writers and directors got paid. So the common theme there is that the SAG contract was used and is the one that matches the writers and directors.
Larry Jordan: How big a deal is new media in this contract?
Jonathan Handel: It’s quite significant because of two things. One is streaming video on demand. As I said, these are significant new provisions and this is obviously a very big growth area. You’re looking at not just Netflix and Amazon, but you’re looking at Yahoo talking about doing programming and various other suppliers. And there’s a lot of feeling that one of the growth areas in television, a significant area, is these internet delivered services that are competing with the HBOs and Showtimes of the world. So that’s one thing, and then the other new media provisions that date back to the writers’ strike, to the 2008 DGA and Writers’ Guild contracts, there were improvements in those areas as well, so new media is significant. But there is a separate down side that I can address, if you’d like.
Larry Jordan: Go for it.
Jonathan Handel: Ok. As I said, they used the SAG contract for basic cable, but they also, in unifying the two TV agreements, used the SAG wage rates. Now, that’s significant because when you had the separate SAG and AFTRA contracts, the AFTRA rates were three and a half percent higher. This goes back to history, basically the writers’ strike and the aftermath. AFTRA did a deal, so the writers’ strike was on, the DGA did a deal, the writers then did a deal in that same model – this is early 2008. AFTRA then did two deals in that model, but SAG then refused. They said, “This deal that’s good enough for the rest of the industry isn’t good enough for us, but we also don’t have the vote count, the 75 percent that we need, to call a strike,“ so the leadership at the time just stalemated and they stalemated for close to a year before there was new leadership installed and a deal was finally done on the same model that they would have gotten a year earlier. With the passage of time, they lost one year’s worth of wage increases.
Larry Jordan: Aha!
Jonathan Handel: Which at that time were three and a half percent. This year’s deal, like I said, was a three percent deal, for example, so they lost a three and a half percent bump. That means that the AFTRA wage rates to this day, or until these new contracts, were three and a half percent higher than the SAG rates. So what the studios were faced with was are we going to, six years later, reward SAG for having stalemated and give them a six percent increase in the first year to equalize these rates at the higher level, six and a half percent increase, three plus three and a half percent? Or are we going to hold the line and say, “Look, you’re going to have to unify these based on the lower wage rate?” and the studios held the line and their argument would be, “Look, if we gave the union an outsized wage increase, we’d be rewarding this stalemating behavior from years ago and we’d be slapping the directors and writers in the face because the directors and writers each got three percent each year and here you’d be giving SAG-AFTRA an oversized increase in the first year,” so it wasn’t going to happen. It’s an example of how much strategic thinking and how much history really goes into these things. To explain what’s going on, you have to look back really six or seven years, the 2007/08 writers’ strike and the aftermath of that. So there is some opposition within the union to this new deal, but largely I think people are likely to look at it and say, “This is the deal that was achievable, this is the best deal there”, and the deal will pass. It was overwhelmingly but not unanimously recommended by the Board.
Larry Jordan: Is there anything in this new contract that producers need to be aware of in terms of hiring talent or anything significantly new?
Jonathan Handel: I would say what is significantly new is those new media provisions related to streaming video. If someone is producing in that realm, whether it’s for a Netflix or for what’s effectively a small service, like a Yahoo or someone else, you have to be aware of what the definition of high budget streaming video on demand is, and it’s programs that are 20 minutes or longer and that meet certain budget… and in that circumstance, what are the residuals terms? You have to refer to the, as I say, complex provision of the agreement to see those. I think people who are interested in digital production and distribution will be interested to know that there are also some additional residuals terms related to syndication on secondary digital channels. Those are TV channels like 4.2 and 4.3 that are digital sub-channels of, say, Channel 4. There are new provisions there as well. The other thing that producers will notice is that in television they no longer have a choice of the SAG versus the AFTRA contract. It’s a single unified contract. In terms of any showstoppers or game changes being on those, I think there’s a lot of continuity and there’s nothing disruptive about this deal.
Larry Jordan: Perfect. Jonathan, where can people go to keep track of your latest thoughts and writings?
Jonathan Handel: The best place would be jhandel.com, where I talk about my law practice and also include my latest articles; and, of course, The Hollywood Reporter website.
Larry Jordan: Thank you, Jonathan. Jonathan Handel of Counsel at TroyGould, entertainment labor reporter for The Hollywood Reporter, at jhandel.com. Jonathan, thanks for joining us today.
Jonathan Handel: Thanks very much, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Talk to you soon. Bye bye.
Jonathan Handel: Thank you. Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Marty Lafferty is the CEO of DCIA, the Distributed Computing Industry Association, and as such he has a better handle on the cloud than just about anyone. So tonight I want to talk with him about the benefits and changes in using the cloud for media and productions. Hello, Marty, welcome.
Marty Lafferty: Thanks, Larry, good to be here.
Larry Jordan: We are delighted to have you here because there’s a whole lot of stuff I don’t know that I’m looking forward to learning, but let’s start with, tell us about what DCIA is.
Marty Lafferty: We’re an 11 year old trade association focused on advancing cloud computing for a variety of industries, including media and entertainment, and we help the companies that are offering cloud services meet their customers and hopefully help the adoption of cloud computing progress at pace.
Larry Jordan: Now, you said it was a trade association. Who were some of the founding members?
Marty Lafferty: Some of the main members in the cloud include Amazon Web Services and some of the older members include internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast domestically; and then we have some software developers who have been members for a long time who were cool before the cloud came around and they were doing file sharing, companies like BitTorrent. So we have quite a group of cloud services, broadband network operators and software developers as our member companies.
Larry Jordan: About how many members?
Marty Lafferty: 150.
Larry Jordan: And for people who don’t understand what a trade association is, why would a trade association need to be formed?
Marty Lafferty: Usually, it’s when a new technology comes along and some of the early participants, early providers of that technology have problems they want to solve together and that could involve working with the government or helping convince the government to let them produce their technology without interference, could be solving some problems internally within the industries, standards setting. Usually it’s a way to accelerate growth where companies find common needs and can see the benefit of collaborating with each other in a way outside their normal business relationships.
Larry Jordan: Isn’t there a benefit to working within an association rather than two companies dealing directly with each other from a legal point of view?
Marty Lafferty: There certainly can be and that’s one of the driving forces for forming associations, is to have that benefit.
Larry Jordan: Ok, well, you know far more about the cloud than I will ever know and, because the cloud encompasses such a vast territory, it would be helpful, I think, to me if we could just focus tonight on its role in media and entertainment. Looking at it from a media and entertainment point of view, why is the cloud becoming increasingly important?
Marty Lafferty: I think the first thing people think about with the cloud is a way to store content that’s already been produced and deliver it in new ways that are perhaps more efficient and more cost effective in other ways. One of the great poster children for cloud use for content distribution is Netflix, which uses Amazon Web Services to help it deliver its content more efficiently. But there are other ways that the cloud can be used too, starting at the very beginning of collaboration before a camera’s pointed at anything, before a script is even written. We could trace cloud solutions through various stages of production, storage, delivery, analytics, in other words have people consumed or viewed the content once it’s created?
Marty Lafferty: Maybe the easiest way to think about it is renting versus buying of computing resources, whether they’re servers – in other words, storage computers – or access to software that may be required at various times to provide help in animation, help in editing, applying metadata which would help to store content just by the different ways to identify the individual scenes or individual pieces of content, virtually through the whole process from conception through consumption. Renting versus buying and having the flexibility to get access to the necessary resources just for the time you need them and then not have to pay for them the rest of the time or not have them go obsolete and have that investment in capital not really be fulfilled are some of the drivers. So it makes producing content and distributing it much more affordable without the large up front capital investment that have been the province of a lot of high budget, high value content production in the past.
Larry Jordan: I was reflecting as I was thinking about and planning for our interview tonight that I’ve actually been looking at the cloud from the perspective of an editor, which is probably the worst possible way to view the cloud because basically what the cloud is is a remote server. It just has a really cool marketing name associated with it. But actually, every program goes through four stages. There’s planning, there’s production, there’s editing and distribution, and whether it’s Netflix or whether it’s iTunes, being able to access something from any device, being able to access a remote server without having to dial into your home network makes life really easy. So from a distribution point of view, I think the cloud owns the world; but as we look at it in earlier parts, like in planning and in production, are there reasons to use the cloud as opposed to just using our own business network?
Marty Lafferty: Well, further tools make it easier. Your business network may be in the cloud already without you even thinking about it and some of the everyday services that we use are cloud based – Gmail, for example, if you use that for your email, is a cloud based service, most of the Google products are cloud based. Some of their tools for sharing documents are cloud based, which means if you have people that you’re collaborating with, other writers, other editors, people scouting locations, who can share documents, files, images, maybe even some dailies and so on. More instantly, more easily, as a group all at one time and keep track of it, keep track of changes. All those kinds of tools are actually made faster, easier to use and less expensive thanks to the cloud solution.
Larry Jordan: I was reflecting that the internet was developed back in the early to mid-1960s and really started to take off in the early to mid-‘90s, and yet even today we would describe the internet as almost the Wild West of high tech. So what’s being done to get the web under control, not from a technical standards point of view, because that’s pretty well nailed down, but in terms of content and distribution and ownership and security? What role does the DCIA play within that?
Marty Lafferty: We’ve had quite a few working groups focused on different aspects of security which has been an issue from when probably the music industry cut their teeth on the kind of issues that are of greatest concern, which have to do with copyright infringement, and once you move from analogue storage, from an LP to a CD, where the content is digitized and once that is copied into a file format and then can be shared instantly with not just one other person without losing any fidelity, but with ten million people, let’s say, at one keystroke, then you’ve opened up huge opportunities for distribution at no cost with very little friction.
Marty Lafferty: But at the same time it increases the potential for copyright infringement. For people to have access to content who haven’t met the requirements of the business model to pay for that content, for downloading it or streaming it or whatever they want. Encryption is important, securing the content at every stage, even during the actual production process before it’s a final product, is very important; and then having business models where your partners are also required to take great care of the content, those are important. There are certain things you can do if you only facilitate streaming as opposed to capturing and downloading, that’s a way although once content is being played so that our senses can see it and hear it, then it’s possible to point another camera at that screen and copy it again.
Marty Lafferty: It’s called the analogue hole, so there isn’t any perfect solution, any perfect prevention, so it’s a question of vigilance. Forensics play a part. On the other hand, because every single transaction is more or less recorded and there’s a record of that, you can’t really hide anywhere. So it’s possible for forensics to trace and track every instance of infringement if it’s that important. If the value is that important or if it’s a high volume one where there’s a lot of dollars at risk, then that’s exactly what happens.
Larry Jordan: Just thinking on a policy level for a second, does the DCIA have a position on the net neutrality regulations that are being considered by the FCC?
Marty Lafferty: It’s a challenge for us to find a common position, given our membership base, on that one. We did submit a commentary and we basically made four points. One, take a holistic view, so you’re not just looking at the last mile of broadband network operators, you’re looking at content, what they call peering arrangements, as it’s moving through various aspects of the overall internet, which is really a series of networks connected to each other, it’s not just your Comcast or your Verizon account that is at play when you receive content. It’s where did it come from and how many different networks did it go through to get to you, and that’s important that they look at that whole picture.
Marty Lafferty: Secondly, we said that wireless and wired lines should be treated equally. More and more people want their content anywhere on any device any time. Mobile is increasingly important, connected devices of all sizes, and people wanting to move an app from a Smartphone to a tablet to a PC to a Smart TV if they want to and people want to look at streaming video not just on a Smart TV but take it back the other direction onto all the different devices. So it’s important that the FCC not make things worse by having different rules for those different platforms, but help facilitate a move towards interoperability across many different platforms.
Marty Lafferty: The third point is that we really don’t want to see problems from content being owned by network operators being treated differently from third party content and that’s probably the biggest area of concern. If you had a streaming sports service that was owned by a broadband network operator, then one that was owned by a third party and it just so happened that the games of the third party streaming sports service always had buffering and latency problems and sputtered and stalled out and so on. Whereas the one owned by the network operator never did that, you can imagine what would happen to retention, and that’s a concern. It’s probably our biggest concern as we look at this space.
Marty Lafferty: It’s probably too late to impose cross ownership restrictions on the various players in the media and entertainment space. It’s way past that point, but when it’s not just vertical integration of a motion picture studio and a television network and several cable programming services, but it’s also the internet access provider that’s owning some of those other properties, then it’s an area for concern and an area for a great deal of vigilance so that the internet can remain an environment where it’s truly neutral for all parties to have their content treated the same.
Larry Jordan: One of the real challenges we also have is that different websites treat ownership of media and, well, the terms and conditions vary wildly from one website to another. Is anything being done to standardize so if we’re working with stuff that’s stored up to the cloud, we can expect the same treatment?
Marty Lafferty: Well, there are movements to standardize end user license agreements and certain aspects of the way content is treated, certain protocols for the way different packets are treated, not to get too technical, but it continues to evolve and continues to improve. You don’t want to freeze advancement at a certain point and not allow for further innovation. So it’s kind of a delicate balance in terms of what should be codified and standardized and what should continue to develop.
Larry Jordan: For producers, the idea of being able to put something up to the web and have it accessed from anywhere on any device is very, very seductive and for a lot of us it works perfectly. But from your point of view, what should we be aware of as we’re starting to use the cloud more and more in our pre-production and production planning? What are some of the pitfalls to be cautious about?
Marty Lafferty: I think it’s important to make sure that your service level agreement with the provider, there is some excellent guidance out there, DCIA have some and you can come to our website and find it pretty easily there. Just a checklist to make sure things like the care of your data and the services and the software you’re going to be accessing through the cloud are taken care of and with back-up, redundancy, with various considerations in terms of how valuable that content is, how important it is, how few outages you can tolerate in terms of accessing it, those kinds of things are important. But most of them are probably less complicated. They’re not deeply technical, it’s more common sense in terms of making sure that all the Ts are crossed and Is are dotted in terms of how the content is going to be treated, how their data is treated and make sure it’s secure enough that you’re community with those relationships.
Marty Lafferty: Our view is that it’s actually more secure in the cloud because the major cloud service providers have a lot more expertise, a lot more resources, a lot more at stake to make sure that that content is safe, not just yours. But there are several hundred other customers, and they’re less vulnerable to hack. They’re more advanced, they’re more astute about how to keep the content safe and continually evolving and making the storage more efficient, making access to it faster and using the most advanced technology to just have it be truly state of the art than if you buy something that you’re trying to look after yourself while you do the rest of your business, which should be your main focus rather than worrying about that kind of thing.
Larry Jordan: The DCIA has got an event coming up in October. What is it and who should attend?
Marty Lafferty: It’s called the Cloud Developers’ Summit and Expo. It’s the first of its kind that we’re doing. We plan to take these around to different regions of the country. It’s in Austin, Texas on October 1st and 2nd and we’re focusing on three verticals there – the media and entertainment sector, healthcare and life sciences and also government and military – and those are three of the industry verticals where we see the most advancement, the most adoption of cloud and the most interest in it and needs for workshops, seminars and how-to interactive sessions for those who are interested in using the cloud for various things. We’ll have all those over the course of the two days. There’s quite a lot to choose from.
Larry Jordan: Who would you like to have attend?
Marty Lafferty: Folks that should go are IT professionals in those three different verticals that I mentioned, developers certainly but also people who are responsible in their business for how their information technology should evolve, for how they store their data and how they want to advance in terms of looking at cloud and possibly using the cloud for some of their functions.
Larry Jordan: Where can people go on the web to learn more about it?
Marty Lafferty: They can visit our website, www.dcia.info, and also the Cloud Computing Association website, which is cloudcomputingassn.com.
Larry Jordan: Marty Lafferty is the CEO of the DCIA, that’s the Distributed Computing Industry Association. Marty, thanks for joining us today.
Marty Lafferty: Larry, thank you. Appreciate it.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Marty Lafferty: Goodnight.
Larry Jordan: In the few seconds we’ve got left, there are two newsletters that The Buzz publishes. Well, The Buzz publishes one, that’s every Friday at noon, but I also publish a personal newsletter which comes out every Monday at five o’clock in the morning. Anyway, this week I’ve got some really interesting articles that I want to just flag to your attention. I had a really good conversation with Adobe today, taking a look at what makes Premiere Pro unique and I’ll be writing that article up. We also have an interesting discussion on whether to configure your RAIDs as a RAID zero or RAID five and why you should care. We’ve got a review of G-Technology’s brand new G Speed Studio RAID and some inside tips that I’ve discovered on Apple’s website on how to make Compressor work better. Some really cool articles to consider. That’s a free newsletter. Sign up for The Buzz and my newsletter all at the same time, at digitalproductionbuzz.com or larryjordan.biz.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests for today – editor, director, producer Zack Arnold; entertainment technology attorney and Buzz regular Jonathan Handel; Marty Lafferty, the CEO of the DCIA.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot happening at The Buzz between shows. Check us out at digitalproductionbuzz.com. The music on The Buzz is provided by SmartSound, text transcripts by Take 1 Transcription. The Buzz is streamed by wehostmax.com, produced by Cirina Catania, engineer Adrian Price. My name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to The Buzz.
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