Digital Production Buzz
August 28, 2014
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
Jane Jensen, Designer & Founder, Pinkerton Road Studio
Jessica Sitomer, President, The Greenlight Coach
Ali Ahmadi, Senior Product Manager, LED Lighting, Vitec Videocom
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.
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. Hi, my name is Larry Jordan. Joining us is our co-host, the effervescent and cheerful Mr. Mike Horton.
Mike Horton: Hello, Larry
Larry Jordan: It’s good to see you, Michael.
Mike Horton: And cheerful. I had my meeting last night.
Larry Jordan: You did, and how did it go?
Mike Horton: It went very well.
Larry Jordan: Anybody show up in the middle of the summer?
Mike Horton: Well, no, but it was still really good. It was a lot of fun. Michael Cioni showed off Liveplay last night, this digital dailies collaboration app, which is just scary. It’s just unbelievable.
Larry Jordan: We’ve had Michael on the show a number of times and he qualifies as exceedingly bright.
Mike Horton: Oh boy, this is something else.
Larry Jordan: What does it do?
Mike Horton: It does everything. I mean, it really does. You can be in post production in New York while they’re shooting in Los Angeles, could be watching the shooting; as the shooting is going on, the proxy dailies are being delivered to you with a two second delay and so you can immediately start on it. It’s mind boggling what you can do. Oh Lord.
Larry Jordan: Well, thinking of things that can alter your perception of reality, we’ve got an incredible show today, starting with Jane Jenson. She’s the Founder of Pinkerton Road Studio and the designer of Gabriel Knight, one of the most popular adventure games of all time. She joins us today to talk about game design.
Larry Jordan: Then Jessica Sitomer, the President of The Greenlight Coach, stops by to talk about how to market yourself online without losing control of all your free time.
Larry Jordan: Ali Ahmadi is the Senior Manager for LED Lighting for Vitec Videocom. He travels the world designing lighting systems, and tonight we’re going to talk with him about how lighting technology and techniques vary by geography. Because the way we light in the US is not the same way they light in Europe and Ali’s going to share some of that with us.
Mike Horton: Hmm, never heard of that.
Larry Jordan: I hadn’t either. I’m looking forward to it.
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. Learn more at take1.tv and thanks, Take 1, for making it possible.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of exciting things coming up, IBC starts in a couple of weeks in Amsterdam. Our producer, Cirina Catania, is going to IBC
Mike Horton: Yes, I just found that out. Isn’t that fun?
Larry Jordan: We are going to have reports on The Buzz for two weeks in the middle of September. She’s talking to some of the key European leaders in our industry and sharing their perspective on what’s happening, and I’m really excited to hear what she finds, because there’s a lot of interesting things happening in Europe that we don’t yet know about over here.
Mike Horton: So am I, because I’m too busy working so I could just listen to her and find out what’s going on.
Larry Jordan: And you’re not going to be doing anything in September anyway.
Mike Horton: No, I’m just going to be doing the Supermeet.
Larry Jordan: And how’s that going?
Mike Horton: Nice segue, Larry, thank you. It’s going very well and it’s on September 14th and tickets are flying out the window, Larry, they’re just flying out the window.
Larry Jordan: The thing I’ve learned, Michael, is that August is the perfect month to sell tickets for the Supermeet.
Mike Horton: Yes it is, especially in Europe. No, but it will sell out, it always sells out, so get your tickets. Oh, by the way, we’ve got a discount code for Digital Production Buzz listeners.
Larry Jordan: What is it?
Mike Horton: DPBVIP.
Larry Jordan: Do that again.
Mike Horton: DPBVIP. That’ll save you five Euros off the general admission ticket price.
Larry Jordan: So the price is normally ten Euros and it goes to five?
Mike Horton: No, it’s normally 15 and you can get it for ten, so you can take those five Euros and buy raffle tickets and maybe win a Larry Jordan mouse pad.
Larry Jordan: Or?
Mike Horton: Or a Larry Jordan T-shirt.
Larry Jordan: There you go, what more could you possibly want? Clothing for your mouse and for you. I think it’s a perfect opportunity. Remember to visit us on Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com. We’re also on Twitter, @DPBuZZ, and subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.
Larry Jordan: We are talking game design, right after this.
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Larry Jordan: Jane Jenson is a game designer and a writer. She’s also the Founder of Pinkerton Road Studios and she is best known for her work on the award winning ‘Gabriel Knight’ adventure games and hidden object games such as ‘Dying for Daylight’. Hello, Jane, welcome.
Jane Jensen: Hi, how are you?
Larry Jordan: Well, aside from the fact that I can’t speak English today, we are doing just great.
Mike Horton: It’s just one of those days.
Larry Jordan: I was looking forward, and I continue to look forward to our conversation because I’ve always wanted to find out the answer to this first question – what does a game designer do?
Jane Jensen: It’s kind of like being a scriptwriter for a movie.
Larry Jordan: Really?
Jane Jensen: You come up with a concept, the characters, the storyline and then in addition, when you’re a game designer, you also do the interactivity design and the… design, which is sort of like the blueprint for the game.
Larry Jordan: So what’s the difference between a game designer and a programmer?
Jane Jensen: The programmer actually writes the code that makes the little guy walk across a screen and the game designer writes the script.
Larry Jordan: We’ve got some severe break-up going on your line. I heard the answer, so we’re going to move on, but do you have a slightly different position you can move to? We could try and move a cell tower closer to you.
Jane Jensen: You could also try to phone a different line.
Mike Horton: As you’re moving, it sounds really great, so maybe just keep walking.
Jane Jensen: I’ll just pace.
Larry Jordan: There you go. If I heard correctly, the game designer designs the overall strategy – you’ve described it as a scriptwriter – and the programmer’s the one that’s writing the code that implements all the ideas the game designer comes up with.
Jane Jensen: Yes, that’s correct.
Larry Jordan: Ok, good, and that actually sounds good so…
Mike Horton: It sounds more like a producer, you come up with a concept then you’re in charge of all the people to make your realization real.
Jane Jensen: But the producer usually also does the budget and scheduling and all of that, whereas a game designer is more of the writer.
Larry Jordan: Ok.
Mike Horton: Oh yes, the game designer’s smarter.
Jane Jensen: Well, it’s certainly a more creative job, that’s true.
Larry Jordan: What got you interested in game design in the first place?
Jane Jensen: I majored in computer science and I was doing mainframe programming for Hewlett Packard, actually, and I kind of went into that because I figured it would be a solid career. But I really wanted to be a novelist in my heart of hearts, and I was trying to write a novel on the side in the evenings and that’s about when I found my first… adventure game, which was ‘King’s Quest IV’, and I just fell in love with it. It seemed like the perfect blend of storytelling and technology. So I applied to the company and begged them to take me on and that’s sort of how I got started in it.
Larry Jordan: Wherever you are, don’t move, the connection is perfect, so continue standing on one foot.
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Tell us about what ‘Gabriel Knight’ is, for people like me who are not game savvy.
Jane Jensen: Well, the first game came out in 1993, which was 21 years ago, believe it or not, and it was one of the first dark paranormal computer games. Now it’s like every single game is like that, but at the time the computer games that were coming out were more like ‘King’s Quest’, which was sort of Disney fantasy or humor.
Jane Jensen: In the ‘Gabriel Knight’ series, he is basically a shadow hunter, a hunter of evil. So it’s kind of like the ‘X Files’ or ‘Supernatural now’, and he tracks down these evil supernatural beings, and usually there’s a heavy mystery plot involved, figuring out who’s doing what and how to get the bad guy.
Larry Jordan: I remember back when I was a child, about 500 years ago. We had games which were all text and no pictures and we’ve got first person shooters, which are essentially all pictures and no text. Where does this game fit within that range?
Jane Jensen: It’s more like an interactive movie in that there are graphics, it’s all visual on the screen, but there’s a real story there and you move your character around and you talk to other characters and uncover clues. So it’s kind of like if you picture a murder mystery movie, like something the BBC would produce, but it’s interactive and that’s sort of what it’s like.
Larry Jordan: Ok, so we’ve got the game coming out in 1993. It’s now 20 years later and you’re involved in the 20th anniversary edition of a game that already exists. What’s left to design?
Jane Jensen: The original game, in 1993, it was very low resolution. So it was 630 pixels by 300 and something pixels. The little characters were a couple of blobs running across the screen. The new game is basically a remake of the original classic game. It’s all super high resolution. We’re doing retina resolution for iPad 3, so it’s 2048 pixels by 1900 something pixels, and you can see everything and it’s just super high definition, the music’s all redone.
Jane Jensen: The original music was midi, so it was like plink-plink-plink-plink-plink-plink, and now it’s all orchestrated. The game is set in New Orleans and it involves voodoo. So one of the really fun things about the remake is we were able to get a lot more of that New Orleans spooky, misty, drippy flavor to the game than we were ever able to accomplish in the original.
Larry Jordan: Now, how do you design the game? Walk me through the process.
Jane Jensen: The first thing I do is write the story and usually that’s about 120 pages. So that basically sets the universe, the characters, what are the character’s doing, what’s their back story, what is the actual plot in the game, the Act I and II crises and resolution and all that; and then, once the story…
Larry Jordan: Is it like a novel? Or is it more like a dictionary?
Jane Jensen: It’s more like a novel. I actually write books as well and that first process of outlining the story is similar between either a game or a book; and then, if you’re doing a game, you take the story and you have to basically do another pass to write what we call a game design bible, and that’s more like a full script. It’s the actual blueprint of the game and working into that story, all the interactivity that the player will actually do; what they click on, what their response is, where they find the clues. If they talk to a character what they can ask that character and what the characters would be. So it’s a much more detailed, blown out, full interactive script.
Mike Horton: Is this part of the design, still text? Or is it now previews with all graphics and one giant board and room filled with Post-It Notes and things?
Jane Jensen: No, the game design bible is a document.
Mike Horton: It is a document? Wow.
Jane Jensen: Sometimes there will be some logic diagrams in it and things like that, but it’s a script basically; and then from there, there’s a team – there might be one or two designers and then there could be 20 people in a team, maybe five or six artists, programmers – they take that document and they start breaking it down into things like storyboards, and character sketches, and sketches of locations and things like that.
Mike Horton: This sounds like it takes forever.
Jane Jensen: It does. One big difference between writing a book and writing a game is that it may be two to four years before I see my product actually hit the market and be available to players. Whereas with a book, I can turn around that and have it to readers in a year.
Larry Jordan: Only if you write fast. I was just reflecting, those kind of games, the adventure games, have an element of spontaneity with them in terms of something unusual happening, but how do you plan for something unexpected to occur?
Jane Jensen: You have to try to work in those moments, just like in a film script. You might have the character walk round a corner and there’s sort of a boo moment there of something jumping out at him. I can give you an example. With ‘Gabriel Knight 2’, we did it with full motion video. That is we had live actors on a blue screen. So it was very much like a film and the actual script for that was about a thousand pages.
Jane Jensen: Your normal Hollywood movie is about 120 pages. So the difference in those two are that you have to prepare for anything the player might do. If I ask you about the red shoes, there might be six different versions of that conversation based on what I already know – have I met the bartender? Have I picked up the gold coin? Is this chapter three or chapter five? And so forth. So there are a lot of variables to it and it’s like programming with words in that there’s a very intense logic element to it, as well as the creative part.
Mike Horton: Just curious in the motion capture part of this with the actors, you talk about a thousand pages. How long does it take before the actors are dismissed, can you go home?
Jane Jensen: When we shot that, I think we were filming for about four months, but it was an intense schedule – we’ve got to shoot 20 pages a day. It was really intense.
Mike Horton: Wow.
Jane Jensen: But a lot of that is Gabriel walks over to the table and picks up the pen. Ok, now he walks over to the bar and he puts the pen down. It’s not necessarily intensive acting, but certainly these games have a lot of story. So there are those story moments which are pretty intense.
Larry Jordan: Now, another game you designed was ‘Dying for Daylight’. What’s the difference between that and ‘Gabriel Knight?’
Jane Jensen: ‘Dying for Daylight’ is based on a Charlaine Harris character. Charlaine Harris wrote the ‘True Blood’ series of books, so this was a vampire character that was not in the ‘True Blood’ series but in a different sort of series that she had, and it was a hidden object/light adventure game. So you played the vampire female character, and walked around town, and played these hidden objects scenes where you’d pick up items, and then there were a few people you could talk to and some inventory based puzzles. So it was a little bit more like a puzzle game with some light story to it.
Larry Jordan: Is the design process the same? You still start with a script? How do you diverge as you move from a game like Gabriel or a game like Dying?
Jane Jensen: I do usually start with a story but it’s not as big a story. It would probably be comparable to a short story versus a novel.
Mike Horton: I’m looking at the gallery on the website and there are some. This is very cinematic, at least the Gabriel that I’m looking at. The lighting is exceptional.
Jane Jensen: The new ‘Gabriel Knight’, yes, it’s beautiful looking.
Mike Horton: Oh, it’s just gorgeous. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Are there many women in this industry in positions that you are in? Because I don’t see them.
Jane Jensen: It’s interesting. When I first started with Sierra Online in the early ‘90s, most of their big designers were women.
Mike Horton: Really?
Jane Jensen: Roberta Williams was Co-founder of Sierra Online and she had the ‘King’s Quest’ series, which is very popular; Christie Marks did ‘Conquest of Camelot’; there was Laurie Cole. So it really was a company where it was established that it was ok to be a female designer, and I think in adventure games in particular you find more female designers, because they are more story oriented and they’re more exploratory. They’re not the shooters, the fast arcades. Those tend to be more appealing to male gamers and therefore there are more men who are designing them.
Mike Horton: Does the ‘Gabriel Knight’ game appeal to females?
Jane Jensen: It really does. In fact, even in the ‘90s when I first published it, I’d get a lot of letters saying, “My girlfriend or my wife always hates me playing computer games and then I bought ‘Gabriel Knight’ and now I can’t get her off the computer,” or, “It was the first game that I played with my wife that she really got into it,” or, “My girlfriend took my copy and I can’t get it back.”
Mike Horton: Good.
Jane Jensen: Yes, it is. Gabriel is sort of a rogue character. It really has that sort of romance trope of he’s the gorgeous bad boy that…
Mike Horton: Yes, but he’s a womanizer, isn’t he?
Jane Jensen: Yes, but he’s a rogue and he’s the bad boy that we hate to love that we find him so charming.
Larry Jordan: Recently, you started your own company called Pinkerton Road Studios. Why did you decide to found it?
Jane Jensen: I’ve been doing games for a lot of years, and my husband and I moved to a farm in Pennsylvania, and I was doing some contracting work for some big companies and just getting frustrated with the fact of explaining to every new team, “Can you tell a story with a game? How do you tell it? Do people even want a story with a game?” and we just decided that we were old enough that we just wanted to focus on doing the games that we love – adventure games – and working from here on the farm, and forming our own little company and so that’s what we did.
Mike Horton: Isn’t it cool? Nowadays all you need is wifi.
Jane Jensen: Oh, man. All of our team is virtual. In fact, the team is all completely virtual. Our cinematic guy is in Iceland, we have an artist who lives in Italy and we work together every day using Skype and different cloud tools.
Mike Horton: Exactly, virtual collaboration is the new collaboration. Everybody’s doing it. It’s the cool thing to do, Larry.
Larry Jordan: I will make a note of this. Jane, in the time we’ve got left, what makes a good game? Or what makes a game not good? Whichever is the easier of the two to answer.
Jane Jensen: I think it’s similar to when I read a good book, or you see a really great film or TV show – I just have been watching ‘True Detective’ and I love that – it’s something that just touches something inside of you in a really genuine way, and makes you feel that moment of, “Oh my God, I love this,” you know? It’s heart and passion, I think, on the part of the people who made it.
Mike Horton: Like what Eric says in the chat, when’s the movie coming out?
Larry Jordan: And that’s only a 120 page script. You should be able to do that for breakfast.
Mike Horton: Exactly. You can crack that sucker out in 30 minutes.
Larry Jordan: Do you have a specific person in mind when you design a game?
Jane Jensen: Well, I’m female and I’m 51 and I think that I tend to write things for myself, for people like me. But also the adventure games have at least 50 percent of a male audience. So I try to keep it fairly gender neutral. But I definitely do probably slant it a little bit more towards the female sensibility.
Mike Horton: Well, you have your own voice. Be true to it.
Larry Jordan: I was thinking, I haven’t written a thousand page script and I never want to. But having written a couple of books, I know that I sort of have this generalized vision of somebody that’s reading the book that I’m speaking to as I write, and I was just curious if you had a particular person or if you’re just looking at a gender group? In other words, how do you focus your thoughts so that you feel like you’re communicating to the individual playing the game?
Jane Jensen: My head really isn’t there when I’m writing a story. My head is in the universe of the story. It’s in the character himself or herself and I just go there. I really don’t think about the audience so much at that point.
Larry Jordan: You’re really just focusing on the story.
Jane Jensen: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Jane, for people who want to learn more about this, where can they go on the web?
Jane Jensen: The site for ‘Gabriel Knight’ is gabrielknight20th.com.
Larry Jordan: And does Pinkerton have a website that we should…
Jane Jensen: Pinkertonroad.com, yes, and there is a link to ‘Gabriel Knight’ on our first page.
Mike Horton: This is great. My son is a game designer, so I’m going to have him listen to this.
Jane Jensen: Great.
Larry Jordan: So it’s pinkertonroad.com, that’s Jane’s company, and gabrielknight20th.com. Jane Jenson’s a designer and Founder of Pinkerton Road Studio. Jane, thanks for joining us.
Mike Horton: That was great, Jane, thanks.
Larry Jordan: Wonderful having you on.
Jane Jensen: Thank you. I’m sorry about the phone problem earlier.
Larry Jordan: It is cleaned up perfectly. Thanks so much.
Jane Jensen: Ok, thanks.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Jane Jensen: Bye.
Larry Jordan: We just had a wonderful interview talking about game design, which makes me think of vacations, and vacations makes me think of our next guest. Jessica Sitomer is a job coach and helps people find work. She’s also a regular on The Buzz and she’s the President of The Greenlight Coach. But what we like best about Jessica is that she’s really good at providing really helpful job hunting advice, even when she’s on vacation. Hello, Jessica.
Jessica Sitomer: Hello, guys. Great to be here.
Larry Jordan: Where in the world are you now?
Jessica Sitomer: I am on Lake Lanier in Georgia, in a lake house. It’s incredible.
Mike Horton: Wow.
Jessica Sitomer: Kayak, yoga every day.
Mike Horton: Wow. I actually saw one of the pictures you posted on your Facebook page of the view from your porch. It’s ridiculous. It was just so pretty.
Jessica Sitomer: That’s a nice mobile office, I tell you.
Mike Horton: Ah yes, no fooling.
Larry Jordan: Mike and I took a vote and we are not talking to you any more because you didn’t invite us on your vacation.
Mike Horton: I’m still looking at the…
Jessica Sitomer: Oh great, then I’ll take over the show. All right, ladies and gentlemen, today we’re going to be talking about marketing.
Mike Horton: Marketing, yay!
Larry Jordan: You know, Jessica, let’s talk about marketing for just a moment because marketing continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Where does the new world of online marketing fit in with the tradition of resumes, demo reels and business cards?
Jessica Sitomer: I would say that the three main places that it resides is on a personal website. Having your own website, which yes you do need; social media, which I’ve made you all aware of in the past; and also the reviews and testimonials for others that show your successes. Just to be clear what that is, on my website I showcase people who have had success coaching with me.
Jessica Sitomer: However, what we’re really talking about is the success that they’ve had in the industry, so it showcases them and it comes up in SEO – search engine optimization – because I have such high SEO on my website. You can also get really good marketing by writing reviews and doing testimonials for other people or on products that have to do with something in your industry. There you go.
Larry Jordan: But if you don’t own your own company and you’re not selling your own products, do you really need a website?
Jessica Sitomer: Absolutely, because you do own your own company, and you do sell a product, and that product is you, and that company that you are the CEO of is you, and that is what people struggle with wrapping their brain around in our industry. They think that they are a work for hire, but what they actually are is the CEO of their own company. You might not have a name like Rejuvenation Spa and you sell massages, but you do have your name and your talent skills, and that is what you are marketing online.
Jessica Sitomer: What makes you different is what makes you different from everybody else. And the only way people are going to learn what makes you different, is by how you’re marketing yourself, and showing up on your website, on social media and, like I said, in reviews and testimonial.
Larry Jordan: How do you define the difference? Maybe it’s just in my imagination, which is confused enough. But what’s the difference between selling yourself and marketing yourself?
Jessica Sitomer: This question I love because people always say to me, “But Jessica, I hate selling myself, I hate selling myself,” and then they go around and they call everyone they know and just say, “I’m available, I’m available, I’m available.” Well, that’s selling. Selling yourself is saying I’m available or putting a poster on Facebook and saying, “I haven’t worked for three months, I’m available. Need work, please hire me.” That’s selling. When you are actually putting people on the spot to give you work, that’s when you’re selling.
Jessica Sitomer: Marketing is creating a relationship with people, so as they get to know you themselves, they’re going to decide whether they want to hire you without you even having to ask. They’re going to know you’re a fit, they’re going to know what you do, they’re going to know that you’re an expert and great at what you do by the way you’re marketing. So marketing is really painting a picture of who you are, what you do, how you do it, how you do it differently and building relationships with people so that they come to you. Or, even if you do have to at some point sell yourself, they already know you. So you don’t have to sell yourself to a stranger, or sell yourself online with a resume that nobody knows you.
Jessica Sitomer: With social media, it’s becoming so much easier. I meet people in person now and we say to each other, “Oh my gosh, I feel like you’re my friend friend, I feel like we’ve been friends forever,” because we have a relationship on social media but it’s actually the first time we’re ever meeting in person, or maybe the first time we’ve ever spoken on the phone, if they’re a client.
Larry Jordan: What works and what doesn’t work when you’re marketing yourself online? You’ve already made clear that online marketing is more than just social media.
Jessica Sitomer: Right. Let’s talk about what doesn’t work first. What doesn’t work is inconsistency. If you have a website and you blog and then you stop blogging, people are going to lose interest. They’re going to think that you are not consistent and that how you do one thing is how you do all things. I post a question a day and I do that without fail. That shows consistency for the last, I think it’s five years now I’ve been posting a question a day with an answer for people.
Jessica Sitomer: Negativity does not work when you are marketing yourself. You want to be aware that sometimes you don’t recognize that you’re coming off as negative. So you want to get feedback from people if you know that you’re a glass half empty kind of person. Negativity does not do well. Be very aware if you’re having a bad day. You know how you’re not supposed to drink and drive? Well, don’t social media while in a bad mood. It’s not a good idea because people remember and they’ll say, “Oh boy, they’re negative, we don’t want them on our set. We don’t want them in the edit bay,” because they just don’t want that.
Jessica Sitomer: Being ordinary doesn’t work. You’ve got to stand out in some way, shape or form. Being inauthentic or flat out lying does not work.
Jessica Sitomer: Let’s talk about what does work. Being entertaining. That could mean being funny, that could mean providing some form of something interesting, but entertaining, so that it draws attention to you, that works. Having a theme or a through line. For me, my through line is always that I’m an expert in coaching and speaking for the entertainment industry. I also bring personal stuff into it so that people know I love romantic comedies. Everyone who knows me know I’m a romantic comedy girl. I love football, I love my dog. Those are things that people can pretty much find throughout.
Jessica Sitomer: Being relatable is very important online and that’s something that I’ve really come to discover through getting more personal about myself online. Because otherwise if people think you’re too much of an expert or just too out there, they won’t even think that they can reach out to you. So that’s something that I really have been working on for the last year and a half, is becoming more relatable. So people don’t look at me like, “Oh, that’s Jessica, The Greenlight Coach. Oh, hi, hi.” Instead, they’ll be like, “Hey! Jessica, Greenlight Coach, how’s your dating life going?”
Larry Jordan: Hold it right there, take a breath. Let’s talk about this relatability bit, because I think there’s a line – and maybe not – but there’s a line between being professional, and being relatable, and being too overly personal. Is that just in my imagination again?
Jessica Sitomer: No, it’s not. I just brought up dating, but I also said that my through line is romantic comedy. I write romantic comedy, so to be talking about my dating life is not too much information. However, if you are known as an expert in editing for period pieces and all of a sudden you start showing yourself partying in Vegas, that’s getting a little bit too… you know you have to remember that everything you do on the internet stays on the internet.
Jessica Sitomer: I bashed my toe, and I put a picture of it up there because my mom wanted me to go to the emergency room and I didn’t want it to ruin my trip to Vegas. So I put up this picture of a bashed up toe and said, “What should I do for this?” and I can’t tell you the amount of negative feedback, with people saying, “I can’t believe you would post that. I was eating my breakfast.” So I immediately took the picture down, only to find out I just took it out of my timeline, I didn’t actually take it off of my Facebook page. So people were still commenting on this horrific looking bloody toe. So just think before you post. Is it in line with your brand? That was not in line with mine.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of messaging, do we need different messages or different approaches when we’re using social media such as Facebook different from Twitter, different from Instagram, different from YouTube?
Jessica Sitomer: You shouldn’t. You shouldn’t. That’s why I’m saying if it’s too unprofessional for LinkedIn, then you need to rethink what you’re putting out there. LinkedIn is probably one of the more professional ones and you actually didn’t mention that. But all of the other ones, they’re all very much in sync as far as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, they’re all very entertaining based and very visual. So as long as you feel comfortable putting it on one, it can go on all the others. LinkedIn, you might have to be a little bit more careful with.
Mike Horton: I’ve never understood LinkedIn. I know you’ve explained it to us before, I still don’t understand it.
Jessica Sitomer: It’s the business suit, that’s why.
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: That’s why Michael’s having a problem with it. In the short period of time we’ve got left. How do you balance how much time to spend online and how much time to have a life?
Jessica Sitomer: Being online, first of all, you want to think of it as strategic. This is a business strategy. So you should have a plan which includes, where online you plan to spend your time, how long you plan to spend, and then evaluate if the work you’re doing online is effective and recalibrate if it’s not. I would say schedule your personal time first, schedule the office time second and then schedule your social media after that and your online stuff, because this way you can say, “All right, I only have one hour. How can I be most effective with this one hour today?”
Jessica Sitomer: Really, if you continue to market yourself online and you use tools like Hootsuite, you could spend one day a month working on your marketing plan and then maybe 15 minutes a day at the most.
Larry Jordan: Cool. Jessica, where can people go on the web to keep track of every question you’re posting?
Jessica Sitomer: For that, they have to go to The Greenlight Coach page on Facebook, because my blog spot name is too long for that, so just like my page on Facebook. You can get to that through thegreenlightcoach.com.
Mike Horton: I follow that and I get the question and answer of the day, every single day.
Jessica Sitomer: Awesome!
Larry Jordan: Will you hush up, both of you?
Mike Horton: It’s cool.
Larry Jordan: Be quiet.
Mike Horton: There’s a lot of really good questions and answers.
Larry Jordan: I’m trying to get the website out. Thegreenlightcoach.com.
Mike Horton: Like it now, Larry. Do it right now.
Larry Jordan: Jessica Sitomer’s the President. Jessica, I’ll shut him up later, you take good care of yourself. Have a great vacation.
Jessica Sitomer: Thank you, guys.
Mike Horton: Bye.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Jessica Sitomer: Bye.
Larry Jordan: Ali Ahmadi started his career as a lighting technician and designer. And is now the Senior Product Manager for LED lighting for Litepanels at Vitec Videocom. He travels the world designing lighting systems and helping the rest of us to see what’s going on around us. Hello, Ali, welcome.
Ali Ahmadi: Hi.
Larry Jordan: It is good to have you with us.
Ali Ahmadi: Thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: It’s our pleasure. What part of the world are you in right now?
Ali Ahmadi: I’m right now in California, and I’m packing my bags and I’m about to fly to Europe in just 20 minutes.
Larry Jordan: Tell us what got you interested in lighting when you were first starting out.
Ali Ahmadi: I guess the real roots were when I was in kindergarten and elementary school. I was the class clown, and that kind of led into the world of theater over the years and light entertainment. When I started at college, I started with the goal of becoming an engineer and designing moving light fixtures that you would see in concerts or live events, and I very quickly realized that I didn’t want to just do the engineering. I wanted to get my hands dirty. I wanted to use the lights too. So I switched majors and I went into lighting design and then from there it just turned out that was the path I ended up going somehow and I ended up working in the US. I got very lucky to work with some big names here in the US, and then I moved to Europe and I got to work on some cool projects. Everything just kind of took shape from there.
Larry Jordan: Is the work that you’re doing music focused? Concerts? Live events? Film? Television? What kind of lighting do you like to do?
Ali Ahmadi: Everything. Originally I came out of the light entertainment and the theatrical side. But going to school at the California Institute of the Arts which is just on the edge of LA, and with the connections that we had through the alumni and so on, I quickly ended up working more and more in television and movies. Once I ended up working in Europe, I got more and more focused into the lighting for image capture of things and back then… had a video lighting solutions department that designed and manufactured. There’s a system integrator who make television studios all over the world. This is actually a little detail that most people in the US don’t know, and it wasn’t very strong in the United States and Canada. But in Latin America and the rest of the world they had a very strong presence in that field.
Larry Jordan: That gets to a question I was wondering about as I was thinking about this session. Do lighting techniques vary in different parts of the world? Is there a different look to the way lights are designed and lit on set when you’re in Europe versus the US?
Ali Ahmadi: Absolutely. It’s very interesting you bring that up. After I graduated and I was working in Southern California for a while and, in fact, Europe, I kind of had a culture shock. They had a very different style of lighting. Then, when I started with the Vitec Group and I got to work on studio projects around the world, I started realizing that there are variants on this.
Ali Ahmadi: It looks to me like there are two major schools of lighting that everything else kind of grew out of. Of course, in France or in Germany they have their own style or their own variant of it. But overall I like to think of the American style to be slightly more theatrical, and more dramatic and the UK or European style to be a little more utilitarian. You can kind of see that when you look at the TV studios. In the US a lot of the lighting rigs there, they’re customized specifically for that particular show. The sound stages are empty. You load in a whole rig with the light for that particular show and after the show wraps, all of it loads out.
Ali Ahmadi: A lot of the TV studios in Europe have what we in the US like to call a… It’s more like general plot that then can be added to or subtracted from, or refocused for the particular show. So they spend less time hanging lights and taking lights down, but they invest a lot more money in the initial set up. They use… and so on. The other interesting thing is that a lot of the new studios in Europe have a much higher ceiling. So they require higher wattage fixtures than, for example, in America, where they have lower ceilings and then they use a different kind of wattage of fixture – density output, and that goes full circle around to, let’s say, some shooting and so on.
Ali Ahmadi: It’s very fascinating how similar and yet different it is. This is just a very gross average that I’m making here. There is, of course, special servicing and… So I hope I’m not offending any lighting professionals out there by making very generalized statements.
Larry Jordan: Well, if they’re offended they have no sense of humor, so we’ll just keep going. Are people lighting to the same lighting levels? Or are you seeing greater contrast ratios in one area? For instance, I think the States tend to light dark and I’m just curious if that’s a true characterization or if I’m just not watching enough television.
Ali Ahmadi: It’s an interesting point you bring up. I feel like a lot of the shows that I see, first of all, it always goes in line with the caliber of the show. If you’re comparing a low budget show here to there, it’s all about budget, it’s all about time. So they’re going to have a very similar approach which is, how can we get this done in the cheapest way? But when you look at the high budget content that gets created, they then start becoming more and more similar. They’re more theatrical, more dramatic, more storytelling driven and less task driven.
Ali Ahmadi: That’s the magic thing about lighting overall, you have two very fundamental elements to it. One is I’ve got to see and the other is, what do you want to see, what do you want to tell, what do you want to convey with the lighting? Those are two very specific tasks that are fundamental and very different.
Larry Jordan: You’ve now shifted gears and you’re working as the Product Manager for LED lights for Litepanels. So you get to develop the lighting instruments that we all work with. There are so many different instruments out there, not just from Litepanels – which makes a wide variety – but from all the different lighting manufacturers that are out there. If you’re building a basic lighting kit, what gear should you have in it?
Ali Ahmadi: That’s a very good question. I think in general it heavily depends on what is it that you do most? I always like to use the example of a documentary film maker style who likes to go into people’s homes and shoot an interview, for example in your living room about you. If I come into your house and that’s the majority of my work, I’m going to have slightly different needs with my equipment than somebody who spends all of their time, let’s say, shooting football players from the sidelines, fighting the sun.
Ali Ahmadi: If I’m coming to your living room, I have certain safety and security features. I want to be able to come back to your house, so I probably not want to not burn down your house… with low circuit breakers and things like that. That’s, I think, why LED had this big push in our market, because they would run cool. They wouldn’t emit any UV or infrared. So if you were shooting inside a museum that was fine. You could work fast because it was battery powered, no cables to lay, no cables to take down, no cables to strike. It’s more like an in and out type of a situation. I think you always want to look at it from that angle.
Ali Ahmadi: To answer your question in particular, I think you’ll definitely need some sort of a lighting stands, you need some sort of grip equipment. You want to be able to have the fixtures that allow you to do a multitude of different things. The interesting thing about lighting is that the intensity always equals versatility, which is why we pushed so hard on the intensity dial for our new Astra 1×1. Because it is now four times brighter than the old original 1×1 and we firmly believe that that intensity automatically equals versatility, because now you can put a soft box in front of it and cut out a stopper too because you’ve got plenty of stop to spare, you know?
Ali Ahmadi: I think in general, in a lighting set, I would look at having at least one panel fixture as a fill. I would put some light that can really punch through and give me some intensity at my feet and one main fixture as a back light or a hair light, and then have two or three smaller fixtures that are kind of like your emergency go to, save me I’m in trouble, last minute type of fixtures. Maybe they’re battery powered. Maybe they’re smaller. You can put them somewhere or lay them on a bookshelf or something just to get a little more light into somewhere. So I would try to take that kind of an approach.
Larry Jordan: We have a live chat going during the show and I know from attending NAB the last couple of years, LEDs are all the rage. They draw less power, they generate less heat; and Eric is interested why all LEDs are not the same. Why does the quality vary from one LED to the next?
Ali Ahmadi: There is a very complicated and long technical answer. And then there’s the simple one that is, what you pay is what you get. LED technology’s moving very fast and, just like the processors inside of your iPhone, or your tablet, or even your laptop. They’re tied into… and what’s really been helping LED punch forward is this growing trend of getting more light out of less electricity, that simple approach.
Ali Ahmadi: There’s lots of development and there are companies out there that really push the edge. Both in LED development as well as in fixture development; and then there are others who just kind of go, “Ok, what they’re doing, we can do that too. This is an off the shelf component, this is an off the shelf component. We throw it together, it’s good enough.” I think in LED more so than many other technologies that are being used in our industry right now, what you pay is what you get is definitely, definitely true.
Mike Horton: Will there be a time when LED lights replace all lights until, of course, the next invention?
Ali Ahmadi: I absolutely think so. I’ve seen a lot of what other companies do and what we’re doing, of course I know what we’re working on behind the curtain of secrecy and so on in our lab…
Mike Horton: In your secret labs, yes.
Ali Ahmadi: In our secret labs, yes. Think of it like the chef from ‘The Muppet Show’, that’s basically… No, no, jokes aside, we have really smart engineers, they’re very talented. They work very, very hard and they put out really cool stuff. We actually had a group meeting today and there are great LED technology developments on the horizon. They’re not all going to come from us and there will be other people who develop other fixtures for other applications. But I am convinced that very soon we will see that LED replaces everything else and it’s simply a commercial perspective. You know, the longer lifetime, the lower heat generation, the more lumens output per watt and then especially if you consider cooling into the equation.
Ali Ahmadi: Cooling, lamp replacements, labor for lamp replacements, that’s all a very clear… We made a very deep felt… calculation about a year, year and a half ago and back then it was very clear that if you have a studio that’s operating eight hours a day for five days a week, and you have tungsten lights, and they’re working absolutely fine, no reason to repair anything and they’re fully paid off, it is cheaper for you to take those lights, throw them in the trash and replace them with all LEDs than to continue running that studio. For every day that you are delaying the transition into LED in those studios, you have to be losing money.
Larry Jordan: One of the two problems that I have with LEDs is the fact that an LED does not have variable color temperature. It’s just the inherent nature of the LED. For instance, we’ve got daylight and tungsten. The second is it tends not to have the intensity of some of the brighter arc lights that we work with. How do we solve both those issues?
Ali Ahmadi: We’re pushing very hard, like I said, on bringing up new intensity levels and bringing out fixtures with high intensity levels. We pride ourselves on having done a lot of firsts in the industry. I think that is just a matter of time. We oftentimes hear… and we go, “All right, we’ve got to wait six months. The LED guys have got to catch up to us,” so that’s just a matter of time. Regarding the comment about, it was changing color temperature, right?
Larry Jordan: Mhmm.
Ali Ahmadi: Traditionally, you had daylight sources, and you had tungsten sources and you would modify the color temperature through traditional filters. You can still absolutely do that and we do have fixtures, like our BiColor 1×1, and even the new Astra 1×1 is a BiColor fixture. You can just dial the color temperature in. In that sense, that will give you versatility that, for the longest time in lighting history was unheard of – turn a knob and you change the color temperature. Of course, that is pretty neat, especially in today’s day and age of democratization of content. You need to be able to work fast and efficiently and there’s nothing like time – time is money.
Mike Horton: And all the electricity that you’ll save.
Ali Ahmadi: Yes, absolutely.
Larry Jordan: Are you showing anything new at IBC? Could we look at some new products at the booth?
Ali Ahmadi: Yes, we have a lot of new products that we pumped out through the first half of the year. We showed the Sola INCA 9. It’s a nine inch Fresnel, a traditional 1-2 tungsten equivalent in daylight and in tungsten – Sola is the daylight version, INCA is the tungsten version – and we also put out a very high intensity panel called Hilio D12 for daylight and another version that’s the T12 for tungsten and we launched those around NAB and then at Cine Gear we unveiled the Astra 1×1 and we’ve just begun shipping Astra 1x1s this week to customers. We will be showing these products at IBC. They haven’t really gotten their unveiling in front of the European market the way they deserve.
Mike Horton: Yes, well, I’ll be there and I’ll definitely stop by the booth and take a look at them.
Larry Jordan: Ali, where can people go on the web to learn more about these products?
Ali Ahmadi: It’s www.litepanels.com.
Larry Jordan: The Senior Product Manager for LED lighting at Litepanels is Ali Ahmadi and, Ali, thanks for joining us today.
Ali Ahmadi: Thanks for having me. It was a great talk, thank you.
Mike Horton: Great talking to you, Ali.
Larry Jordan: Take care. Have a safe trip to IBC.
Ali Ahmadi: See you there.
Mike Horton & Larry Horton: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Michael, one of the things that I was struck with, Jane Jenson’s comment, is how huge those scripts are that she puts together for a game design.
Mike Horton: One thousand pages.
Larry Jordan: A thousand pages.
Mike Horton: I think that was just for the mo-cap stuff, but still.
Larry Jordan: That’s a lot of writing.
Mike Horton: Holy cow, if I was an actor doing that mo-cap stuff and looked at this, oh my God, four months of this? Jeez.
Larry Jordan: Dressed in some strange motion tracking suit.
Mike Horton: How many hours a day? 12? Oh God. Oh my goodness.
Larry Jordan: Can you imagine doing that under the old lighting? Remember how hot those lights were back in the old days?
Mike Horton: Oh yes, yes. Well, still in studio situations, broadcast studios, they’re not using a lot of LEDs. They do, especially in location things because it’s so much easier, but there are a lot of Fresnels and fluorescents and a lot of electricity used. I agree with him, I think it’s going to take over the world, but I don’t know why it hasn’t by now.
Larry Jordan: Probably because it’s already been paid for.
Mike Horton: Yes, that’s true.
Larry Jordan: And there’s a strength to say…
Mike Horton: Those lights have got to go to the graveyard, I guess, and they should go to the graveyard because they just suck an enormous amount of electricity and they’re so hot. They’re just awful.
Larry Jordan: I appreciate all the notes that I was taking when Jessica was talking about marketing ourselves online. There were some good comments.
Mike Horton: Yes, there is a fine line between marketing, and being personal, and being relatable, and having your personality show through and it is something that not everybody can do and do well.
Larry Jordan: True enough.
Mike Horton: So heed her advice and be careful before you post.
Larry Jordan: Oh yes. I want to thank our guests this week – Jane Jenson, the Founder of Pinkerton Road Studio and the designer of ‘Gabriel Knight’ and many other games; Jessica Sitomer, the President of The Greenlight Coach; and Ali Ahmadi, the Senior Product Manager of LED lighting for Vitec Videocom.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot happening at The Buzz between shows and it’s all posted to our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Visit with us on Twitter, @DPBuZZ, and Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Music on The Buzz provided by SmartSound; The Buzz is streamed by wehostmacs.com. Our producer is Cirina Catania, our engineer the ever-affable Mr. Adrian Price. On behalf of Mike Horton, my name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to The Digital Production Buzz.
Mike Horton: Goodbye everybody.
Larry Jordan: Take care.
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