Digital Production Buzz
October 16, 2014
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
Danny Manus, CEO/Script Consultant, No Bull Script Consulting
Dan Montgomery, CEO, Imagine Products, Inc
Rob Bessette, Colorist, Finish Boston
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 shutterstock.com, a global marketplace for royalty free images and videos. With over two million royalty free HD and 4K video clips, Shutterstock helps you take your creative projects to the next level; and by Other World Computing, providing quality hardware solutions and extensive technical support to the worldwide computer industry since 1988.
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?
Voiceover: The Buzz is live now.
Larry Jordan: And welcome to The Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for creative content producers covering digital media production, post production, marketing and distribution around the world. Hi, my name is Larry Jordan and joining us, finally back from the wilds of the Pacific North West, Nanuk of the north, Mr. Mike Horton.
Mike Horton: Thank you, Larry. I went up to Mount Rainier.
Larry Jordan: We missed you last week.
Mike Horton: Well, I didn’t.
Larry Jordan: You could find you easily.
Mike Horton: I went up to Mount Rainier. It was so much fun. It was so awesome, oh my gosh.
Larry Jordan: Was it raining?
Mike Horton: No, it was absolutely gorgeous.
Larry Jordan: What’s the sense of going to Seattle and not see rain?
Mike Horton: You know what?
Larry Jordan: It’s like a wasted trip.
Mike Horton: I didn’t see rain the entire time.
Larry Jordan: Oh, that’s just a wasted trip.
Mike Horton: I know. I would have gone out and just put my head in it.
Larry Jordan: You know, some of us could use showers too, I can see why.
Mike Horton: Yes, it’s been three years with no rain here.
Larry Jordan: Welcome back.
Mike Horton: Well, it is good to be back and good to see your face.
Larry Jordan: It is always fun.
Mike Horton: Even though I can’t see it because the microphone’s in front of my mouth. There you are!
Larry Jordan: Just peer around it. It’s like a Volkswagen, it’s the same size. We’ve got some great guests today. We’re going to start with Danny Manus. He’s the CEO and a Script Consultant with No Bulls Script Consulting, which I have to read very carefully.
Mike Horton: I love that name.
Larry Jordan: He’s going to talk about ways we can improve our scripts before they’re shot or even before they’re sold. Then Dan Montgomery, the CEO of Imagine Products, has got some new ways we can archive and protect our projects and it doesn’t involve storing them on a hard disk and putting it on a shelf.
Larry Jordan: And then Rob Bessette is a colorist with Finish Boston, that’s a high end post house, with an inside look at improving the color of our projects and how improving the color can improve the projects.
Larry Jordan: Just as a reminder, we’re offering text transcripts for each show, courtesy of Take 1 Transcription. Now you can quickly scan or print the contents of each show, as well as listen to it. Transcripts are located on each show page. You can learn more at take1.tv and thanks, Take 1, for making it possible.
Larry Jordan: Mike.
Mike Horton: Mhmm?
Larry Jordan: Did you notice this morning, just before you woke up…
Mike Horton: Ooh, I know, I was there.
Larry Jordan: …Apple announced a flock of new products. What caught your eye?
Mike Horton: The iMac. I know it didn’t catch your eye so much, but it caught my eye.
Larry Jordan: Why was that?
Mike Horton: Because I love the word 5K.
Larry Jordan: It’s the Retina iMac, 27 inch monitor, 5,000 pixels horizontal and about 3,000 pixels vertical. What did you say the fully loaded price of that was?
Mike Horton: I actually went to the store and configured what I would want, which is the I7 processor and the high end graphics card and a little bit bigger this and that. Anyway, it was about $3900. That’s not with tax.
Larry Jordan: That’s not bad.
Mike Horton: It starts at $2500 with nothing, which is the I5 processor. I mean that’s, what, two years ago?
Larry Jordan: Yes.
Mike Horton: So the I7 four gigahertz processor would cost you $250 more and then something else is, 32 gigs of RAM, $250 more.
Larry Jordan: You can buy me one, because they’re cheap.
Mike Horton: But it would be great to watch movies on. But I kind of agree with you, if I’m editing on it, what kind of difference would it make, other than going full screen every time you want to look at your…
Larry Jordan: We’re going to be expanding The Buzz. I’m off to do some shopping for iMacs and we’re going to…
Mike Horton: Oh, cool. And I want a gold iPad. Gold iPad.
Larry Jordan: Oh yes, those new iPads. iPad Mini, a new Mac Mini, iMac.
Mike Horton: Gold, gold. Don’t put a case on it.
Larry Jordan: If it glitters, Mike, you’re interested. Thinking of very interesting things, we’re going to be back with Danny Manus right after this.
Larry Jordan: Blackmagic Design is now shipping its production camera 4K, a super high resolution 4K digital production camera for Ultra HD television production. Featuring a large super 35 sensor with a professional global shutter, it also offers EF and ZE compatible lens mounts and records to a super fast SSD drive. Capturing high quality ProRes files, the Blackmagic production camera 4K gives customers a complete solution to shoot amazing high resolution music videos, episodic television productions, television commercials, sports, documentaries and much more.
Larry Jordan: The Blackmagic production camera 4K also features an incredibly tempting price of $2995. Learn more about the Blackmagic production camera 4K that is definitely priced to move, visit blackmagicdesign.com today.
Larry Jordan: Danny Manus is the CEO of No Bulls Script Consulting. He’s also a very in demand script consultant and the author of the book No BS for Screenwriters: Advice from the Executive Perspective. He recently announced a partnership with Simply Scripts which provides a very interesting service to writers, which we’ll learn more about in just a minute. Hello, Danny, welcome.
Danny Manus: Hi, thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: It is an honor. I’ve had a chance to go to your website and take a look and we are delighted to talk with somebody who’s got as much experience in the industry as you do, so thanks for spending some time with us tonight.
Danny Manus: Absolutely. I really appreciate you having me on.
Larry Jordan: What got you interested in writing scripts in the first place?
Danny Manus: I guess it’s the age old story. I started writing as a tiny child and at the age of nine I wrote the great American novel, which was all of 21 pages, I believe. I just always liked writing and started out in journalism, went to school for journalism, and quickly realized that I loved it but it just wasn’t creative enough. My friend worked at the TV station at my college – I went to Ithaca College in New York – and he was a producer of some of the student TV shows at the TV station and said, “Why don’t you come and write for one of my shows?” and it happened to be a show on movies and movie trailers and I just loved it so much I never looked back and changed my major to television and screenwriting. I’ve just loved it ever since. I interned for a semester here in Los Angeles and loved it. Interned at a couple of studios in development, and in casting, and loved it and loved being here. And so moved back after graduation and got my first job as an assistant in a production company office and worked my way up the development track.
Larry Jordan: Hold it, hold it, hold it, hold it. I won’t have time for the entire biography, so I’m going to cut to the end. Explain to me, you’ve been an executive for development at a number of studios. What does that mean?
Danny Manus: Yes, I’ve worked as a development executive at a number of different production companies which all had deals with studios and basically that means I’m the gatekeeper, as they like to say, the frontline to find projects, find new writers, try to package those projects, get people interested and try to develop them to a point where they can be sold and hopefully made by the people with money.
Larry Jordan: Ok. Help me, then, understand the difference. What’s the difference between writing and developing?
Danny Manus: Writing, you’re starting from the blank page and it’s all on you. You’re sitting in your office or your bedroom and it’s just you and the blank page and it’s an epic battle every day to get stuff done. With development, you’re finding stuff that’s already written or you’re developing stuff from the idea stage. You might be coming up with an idea and then finding a writer to write that, or you’re fixing and kind of giving notes to improve the projects that are already being written by somebody else. It is very creative, but you don’t have to write from the blank page to completion yourself in order to pay the bills.
Larry Jordan: So now you’ve got yourself a really posh gig as the Head of Development of several production studios and you decide to jump off a small cliff and start your own company? Why?
Danny Manus: It is not as posh as it sounds. I was a Director of Development for a few independent production companies, which did make a bunch of movies over that time period, but we didn’t make ‘The Avengers’ or anything, we didn’t make the billion dollar movie. We made a lot of movies, with Screen Gems, my first company, and then with Warners and a few other studios, but development execs at independent production companies don’t get paid quite what people think they get paid. It is a lovely job and it’s wonderful and it does come with a nice expense account, which I miss every day, but it’s not quite that posh, believe me. It’s a lot of networking and banging your head against the wall when the project that you’ve been working on for two years developing and packaging suddenly just dies for no real reason, and so it became very frustrating and I was already very good at notes, because that’s what you do all day long as a development exec, is list the notes and meetings.
Larry Jordan: Stop a second, hold it, hold it. Define notes.
Danny Manus: Giving notes to the writers on how to improve their work, how to make that project more commercial and more castable or whatever it’s lacking, and that’s exactly what I do now.
Larry Jordan: Can we use the word critique? Is that synonymous with notes?
Mike Horton: Yes it is.
Mike Horton: That brings up the question of the people that you actually deal with, those creative people. How well do they take critique?
Danny Manus: It’s a case by case basis. Obviously with my company name, No Bull Scripts, and I have a reputation of being pretty blunt and pretty straightforward with my notes, because that’s kind of my personality, some people really love that and they come to me because of that. When you’re dealing with professional writers in development who have agents and managers, you have to be a little bit more careful and a little bit nicer because they have egos and they don’t want them bruised. It’s half and half. Some writers crave the criticism and the critique and the development and they love to get notes and improve, and some writers really resent it. As a development exec, that is your job and as a consultant, people are coming to me knowing that they’re going to get critiqued, they’re paying to get critiqued. I do every once in a while have a writer who reacts poorly to getting notes, but you knew what you were getting into. You saw the website, you called and asked for the service and you paid for the service, so what’s the problem?
Mike Horton: Yes, it’s so difficult because you’re dealing with people who are so married to their work and when somebody says, “You know, you should really change this situation. You maybe should change this character. Maybe you should change this,” and that’s really hard to articulate to someone who has just worked their butt off on this thing and it’s their baby.
Danny Manus: Yes, it is. A lot of writers see it that way and it’s a mindset thing when you’re re-writing and polishing, especially if you’re not a professional writer and you’re still trying to break in. You really have to be so open and collaborative. You have to be willing to throw everything out and start over sometimes and it’s hard, no doubt about it. Even when I do my own writing assignments or my own writing and somebody gives me a note on three words, it sends me into a tailspin, so I understand how painful it is. But you’ve got to separate work product from the ‘That’s my baby’ attitude. It doesn’t work.
Larry Jordan: See, Danny, one of the nice things about everything that I write is it’s perfect, so I never have to worry about critiques.
Danny Manus: Exactly, yes.
Larry Jordan: I want to follow up. There was a really good point you made on your website, which you called your American Idol analogy. Tell me what that means.
Danny Manus: I guess it’s a little dated now, since the judges have changed over the years, but when I…
Larry Jordan: It was good at the time.
Danny Manus: It was great at the time.
Mike Horton: Danny says Jennifer Lopez.
Danny Manus: Right, yes, I’ll just change the Paula Abdul to whatever. But yes, there are different types of consultants out there. There are so many consultants out there these days, too many, quite frankly, if you ask me. But there are different types. There’s the kind that hand holds you and tells you you’re wonderful and they will just support you, and some people like that; there are people who give you the company line and they’ll tell you what they told their other 200 clients and it’s just the stale monotonous crap that everybody gets to hear and it doesn’t really help you; and then there’s the Simons, who are a little bit more brash and a little bit more honest, maybe, but they’re the ones that you get the most out of and they’re the ones that help you learn because they’re going to be the honest ones that are unbiased and just give you the facts, or at least the unfettered opinions that you need.
Larry Jordan: Is honestly that hard to find?
Danny Manus: Yes, it is, because nobody wants to be the one in Hollywood that says no, nobody wants to be the one that hurts somebody’s feelings and then three years later that project is at the top of everybody’s list, and everybody loves it and you get screwed because five years prior you told the writer it was awful. In the professional Hollywood world, nobody wants to say no. But in the world of up and coming screenwriters trying to break into Hollywood, you hear ‘no’ every day and so you have to get used to the critiques and the honesty, as long as it’s done in a constructive, professional way. I would never write in my notes, “You suck. Stop writing.” I wouldn’t say that. It’s, of course, constructive and tells you how to improve. But every once in a while there’s a writer who isn’t going to improve, it’s just not their thing, and sometimes before you spend thousands of dollars on a hobby, you should know if you’re good at that hobby.
Mike Horton: So do you actually tell them that in the first session? Is there a criteria where you accept a client who has sent you a script? Do you read the script before you accept them, which is terrible business?
Danny Manus: No, I take all clients. I wish. No, they usually send me the script or some will email me first and we’ll have a chat before they become a client, but most of the time they’ve seen me speak or they’ve read my articles or it’s word of mouth, or however they’ve heard of me, and they just send me the script and they pay for the service and it is what it is, and whatever the script is is what I’m working on. I don’t really get a say too often. The only times where I have any issues or criteria is if it’s literally not in English. Then I don’t know, I can’t really work on it.
Mike Horton: There must have been a time when you were just going, “I’m sorry, you have no chance. This is awful.”
Danny Manus: There have been, yes. There have been a handful. The company has been going about five and a half years now and I would say there’s probably been a handful over that period of time where, yes, I had a conversation with the writer and said, “Look, writing’s not for everybody,” and it’s one thing if you’re 20 years old and you’re just starting out and you’ve got 20 years to learn the craft and improve, but I get a lot of people – and I love them and they’re very passionate about it – it’s second career after they’ve retired and they’re in their 60s and they want to learn screenwriting and it’s a wonderful, creative hobby and I highly suggest it, but there’s a big difference between wanting to do it as a hobby and wanting to do it as a career and you’ve got to know how to do both and what the requirements are and if that is what is meant for you and if it’s worth the time, energy and money that it’s going to take to get you to that level. If it’s possible, I would very much love to help you do it, but if not I’m going to give you the truth.
Larry Jordan: Danny, I am sitting here holding in my hand this script that I’ve spent a lifetime putting together. I’m sending it to you, I’ve paid your fee. What should I expect back from you?
Danny Manus: You’re going to get very comprehensive, constructive notes that go through all the major elements of your script and, wherever it’s lacking, how to improve it, and alternatives and options for where the story could go, or how to improve a character, or how to make it more commercial and general tips on how you’re going to improve your writing and make it seem more professional to get to the level where you could submit it to some place like Simply Scripts or other places which you mentioned that I’m working with now, and get noticed.
Larry Jordan: Do you get involved with a script before it’s sold or before it’s shot?
Danny Manus: Way before it’s shot and sold, although really at any point. I have clients who come to me with nothing more than a log line, which is like a one line idea of their project, and they want to brainstorm it and flush it out and see if it could be something. I just worked on a project that actually needed help, it was being shot and needed help with the script as it was being shot. Honestly, it really runs the gamut from start to finish.
Mike Horton: This is such a subjective art. A lot of your notes are because of what you like and not what somebody else might like. It’s really difficult to do what you do.
Danny Manus: You try to take the bias out of it. Sure, there’s stuff that I might like that other people won’t or vice versa, but you really try and look at the mechanics of stories, and writing, and voice and how to bring those out. Not just so that I would buy a ticket, but so that more people than just me – I’m not the ultimate arbiter of taste by any means, so it’s really just knowing the market, it’s knowing what executives, and agents, and people are looking for in a script and in a writer and bringing those elements out. Whether it’s something I would pay to see or not really has nothing to do with it.
Larry Jordan: I am very impressed when I go to your website that you have published all of your prices, and just to short circuit this, the cost for your services is between $100 and $300. It’s extremely affordable for anybody who’s not totally broke. What are your most popular services?
Danny Manus: The basic notes service is always the most popular, the basic and the extensive notes services. They range from 300 to 400 or so. But I do a lot of brainstorming services, I do query letters and first draft services for people who just want to get a feel for it and gauge where their projects are, and they’re much less expensive. Your script should not cost as much as your car. There are people out there charging thousands of dollars to give a few pages of notes. I don’t know, I have a conscience or something.
Larry Jordan: You recently announced a new service for writers in conjunction with Simply Scripts. What’s that?
Danny Manus: It’s very exciting. We’ve just started it. Simply Scripts is a great internet resource for writers where writers can download scripts and read them for free, TV scripts, movie scripts. They’ve got message boards, and tips and all that kind of great stuff for writers, and we recently joined forces to start a featured script of the month where writers can submit their scripts for free to Simply Scripts. It goes through their vetting process there and they choose a script of the month, which then comes to me, which gets a full notes service for free, which is then posted on their site and gives as well as the script, and the log line and all that great stuff, so that we can give those writers a showcase, really. It’s not a contest, it’s a showcase, and try to get writers that deserve exposure more exposure to the professional community, to other writers, to producers and directors and it’s free, which is different than all the other sites out there. They have one for shorts as well, but the one I’m working on is for features right now and we’ll try to maybe expand shortly.
Larry Jordan: I’m going to run out of time and I want to get a couple more concepts in. If a producer is looking for a writer or a script, can you help them connect the dots?
Danny Manus: I can if it’s really, really ready, and I’m tough on my clients, obviously, but if something does get a recommend, much like with the Simply Scripts deal, it can and will go through my Hollywood Connections program, which sends a script out to about, I’ve got about 60 or 70 companies and reps who have agreed to read it. So if it’s really ready and it gets a recommend, whether it’s through my service or the Simply Scripts showcase, yes, it will go out to a number of people around town and hopefully get noticed and get picked up.
Mike Horton: What a great thing.
Larry Jordan: And what website can people go to learn more about you and your services?
Danny Manus: You can always go to nobullscript.net.
Larry Jordan: That’s nobullscript.net and the Founder of No Bulls Script Consulting is Danny Manus, the CEO and Script Consultant. Danny, thanks for joining us today.
Danny Manus: Thanks so much for having me and please follow me on Twitter, @dannymanus.
Larry Jordan: Will do. Bye bye.
Mike Horton: Thanks, Danny.
Larry Jordan: Finding the perfect royalty free image or video for your creative project can be a crucial step in the film making process and, whether it’s for your website, publication or video segment, the experts at shutterstock.com can help you choose from over two million royalty free HD and 4K stock video clips, including time lapses, aerials, green screens and model released clips.
Larry Jordan: Sourcing over 12,000 brand new video clips each week, Shutterstock consistently offers the highest quality stills and video clips from professional film makers. Plus Shutterstock provides sophisticated search engine tools so you can search and drill down by category, clip resolution, contributor name and more. Also, use their great no risk try-before-you-buy option so you can see how their clips will look in your project before making a single purchase.
Larry Jordan: Try Shutterstock today – sign up for a free account. No credit card is needed and, as an added bonus to you, enter promo code BUZZ2014 before December 31st to receive 25 percent off any footage package. Discover shutterstock.com.
Larry Jordan: Dan Montgomery is the President and CEO of Imagine Products Inc. He and his wife Jane founded Imagine Products in 1991 with a concept of creating software to improve video production. From that initial dream has sprung ShotPut Pro, HDVU, ProxyMill, PreRollPost and others. Hello, Dan, welcome.
Dan Montgomery: Hi.
Mike Horton: Hi, Dan.
Larry Jordan: We are glad to have you and say hello to Mike. He was feeling a bit lonely.
Mike Horton: Yes, hi Dan.
Dan Montgomery: Oh, hi Mike.
Mike Horton: I’m here.
Dan Montgomery: You’re lonely? Why are you lonely?
Mike Horton: Because I miss you so much.
Dan Montgomery: Well, you know how to fix that.
Mike Horton: I know.
Dan Montgomery: Wait until it’s cold and then invite us out.
Mike Horton: I know, that’s what you always say.
Larry Jordan: What we want to do is leave where it’s warm and go where it’s cold, just for the change.
Dan Montgomery: Well, yes, we can do that.
Mike Horton: Yes, it never gets cold here.
Larry Jordan: Dan, give us a thumbnail description of what Imagine Products does.
Dan Montgomery: We’re a workflow solution provider. That’s the catchphrase these days, isn’t it?
Larry Jordan: I like that. Solution, provider and workflow all in the same phrase.
Dan Montgomery: All in the same phrase.
Larry Jordan: That’s a gold star right there.
Dan Montgomery: There you go. We make software products, primarily for the video industry.
Larry Jordan: What got you interested in development in the first place? It’s not an easy life.
Dan Montgomery: It is not an easy life. It’s an interesting industry we’re in, though, because most of the people we encounter, a very good portion of them, are entrepreneurial type people and so they’re very close to the money and they’re very close to trying to get value for their money and then make sure that things work and we like helping them.
Larry Jordan: Yes, when they don’t drive you nuts. It’s a very fine line. Help me understand, because I want to focus on the storage and archiving products that you’ve got, because you’ve also had some relatively new releases in that. Media seems to be growing almost exponentially. Image sizes are getting bigger, frame rates are getting faster, file sizes, it’s just the storage is huge. What archive and storage trends are you keeping your eye on?
Dan Montgomery: I ran across an executive summary by a fellow named Tom Coughlin.
Larry Jordan: Yes, Coughlin and Associates. He’s been on the show many times.
Dan Montgomery: Yes? Good. When I was looking at some of the different LTO consortium sites and things like that, his executive summary caught my eye because they were talking about a six fold increase in digital storage over the next five years.
Larry Jordan: Mmm, six fold.
Dan Montgomery: Six fold. That’s huge. And he’s also saying that the media industry itself, the media and entertainment industry, the revenue is expected to increase 20 percent over that same timeframe.
Mike Horton: Really?
Larry Jordan: So storage increases six times and revenue to pay for it is only at 20 percent increase? This causes me to get very nervous.
Dan Montgomery: Yes, but storage is getting cheaper.
Larry Jordan: I hope so.
Dan Montgomery: You can store an LTO tape these days for less than five cents a gig.
Larry Jordan: The tape is cheap but the hardware itself is pretty darn expensive, isn’t it?
Mike Horton: Well, actually that’s coming down now too, the hardware.
Dan Montgomery: That’s right. Well, five cents is the total cost of ownership, compared to a hard disk is probably about 25 times that.
Larry Jordan: Wait, wait, wait, wait. Back that up.
Mike Horton: If you archive to tape. I love we’re going back to tape.
Dan Montgomery: We’re going back to tape.
Larry Jordan: Wait a second. When you say that we can get it for five cents a gigabyte and hard disks are more expensive, if I look at an LTO tape piece of hardware, the drive, and the tape combined, it’s much more expensive than a hard disk. Shouldn’t I just archive my stuff on a hard drive?
Dan Montgomery: Hard drives are designed to fail, so they last about five years.
Larry Jordan: Ok.
Dan Montgomery: Less than that if you don’t fire them up, if you just put them on the shelf and never connect it to source…
Mike Horton: We have to remind everybody that you’ve got to spin them up every once in a while.
Dan Montgomery: That’s right.
Mike Horton: Even the SSDs need to be spinned up.
Dan Montgomery: That’s right. But the whole concept is that LTO tape has about a 30 year shelf life and that’s because the media itself, you can access that tape 16,000 times before it even starts to wear out, so that’s pretty significant. That’s 16,000 passes end to end, over 200 dumps of the entire content of the tape. An LTO 6 tape runs about two and a half terabyte storage. You quickly pay for that three or four thousand dollar LTO drive that you have when you spread it across a few tapes.
Mike Horton: I just went to see the recent screening of ‘Gone Girl’, which they shot in RED 6K, and the total storage on that was 252 terabytes.
Dan Montgomery: See, that’s huge and in the media industry…
Larry Jordan: Wait, wait. How much, Michael?
Mike Horton: 252 terabytes.
Larry Jordan: Terabytes.
Dan Montgomery: 252 terabytes.
Larry Jordan: Wow.
Mike Horton: And they kept it all, every single clip.
Larry Jordan: I know that ‘Avatar’ was two petabytes, which is even bigger. These are just phenomenally huge files.
Dan Montgomery: Larry, what Tom was saying in his paper was that one third of all you folks out there that shoot media save every captured clip.
Mike Horton: Yes. Well, this movie did.
Dan Montgomery: And the flip side of that is 90 percent of what’s archived is never accessed again.
Larry Jordan: Yes, but the problem is we don’t know what the 90 percent is.
Mike Horton: That’s where that really groovy software comes in.
Dan Montgomery: You never know, do you?
Larry Jordan: Dan, I want to give you time to talk about your software. What tools can we use, especially tools from Imagine Products, to archive the footage that we’re creating?
Dan Montgomery: A few years back, in 2009, IBM developed what they call a linear tape file system, LTFS, which is an open standard and that was really ground breaking and they released… in 2010 and they got a lot of buy-in from different hardware manufactures and now we’re seeing products that aren’t even tape, like Sony’s optical disk storage is LTFS compatible. So as long as the equipment and the software is written to that standard, now you have interchangeability between equipment manufacturers and you can be assured that something I put on the shelf today, even if I have, let’s say, an HP drive, tomorrow I can access it with an IBM drive. That’s part of what’s driving, I think, a lot more people toward this kind of media.
Larry Jordan: Well, that and, as Michael says, the decrease in cost of LTO drives themselves. But while the LTO file system is nice, there are limitations to it, which is getting to what you guys provide.
Dan Montgomery: It’s not a hard disk. It doesn’t have random access like a hard disk, and that’s why we got into the LTO software. We were providing ShotPut Pro and people were trying to use that with tapes, then they discovered that, gosh, there’s no back end part for making it easy to retrieve things or find what they put on the tape and logically cue them up and retrieve them, and so that’s what you need in a software like PreRollPost for, to be able to keep track of things – where it is on the tape – and to logically cue them up. Let’s say I want to retrieve 25 clips. If you do that through Finder and just browse for them and pull them off, it’s going to thrash all over the place trying to find where they are.
Larry Jordan: Have you done any tests to see, has Apple improved Finder’s ability to handle tape with Yosemite OS 10.10?
Dan Montgomery: No.
Larry Jordan: So it’s the same?
Dan Montgomery: It’s the same.
Larry Jordan: I have played with LTO tapes using Finder and it’s an exercise in watching paint dry, so anything that speeds that up is a good thing.
Dan Montgomery: And there are other applications out there that do a similar thing, but that’s what you have to do. You have to optimize that part of it, and then being able to retrieve it and make sure that what you’ve got back was what you put on the tape to start with. What makes this unique is a couple of things. One is that we do MD5 verification front and back. So we’re doing it at the beginning when you’re reading the file, and putting it on tape, and storing that information with the file information. When you retrieve it off the tape, we double check it so you know that the copy you put back on the hard disk matches with the original.
Larry Jordan: Now, Dan, the software itself is called PreRollPost and we’ll get your website in just a second. Are there applications that work with PreRollPost? And, if so, in brief, what are they?
Dan Montgomery: We have a compression software called ProxyMill that helps create proxies for the video to be able to search and play those. We have a viewer that’s an all-in-one viewer that will view any kind of format, HD material down to proxies, that’s called HDView and that’s a handy thing to do with it. ShotPut Pro, of course, can be used up front to put it onto hard disk in the field and then you’re copying those disks to tape.
Larry Jordan: Where can people go on the web to learn more about all of these products?
Dan Montgomery: Imagineproducts.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s imagineproducts.com. Dan Montgomery is the President and CEO of Imagine Products and, Dan, thanks for joining us today.
Dan Montgomery: Thank you.
Mike Horton: Thanks, Dan.
Dan Montgomery: Hope you’re not lonely, Michael.
Mike Horton: Yes, I’m not lonely any more, Dan.
Larry Jordan: Take care. Talk to you soon. Bye bye.
Dan Montgomery: Ok, thanks.
Larry Jordan: When you’re working with media, one thing is essential – your computer needs peak performance. However, when it comes to upgrading your Mac, there are so many different options to choose from that the process can be confusing. That’s why Other World Computing carries the best upgrades that let your computer’s performance and storage grow as your needs grow. Since 1988, OWC has become one of the most trusted names in quality hardware and comprehensive support to the worldwide computer industry.
Larry Jordan: With an extensive online catalog of Mac, iPhone and iPad enhancement products, as well as a dedicated team of knowledgeable experts providing first rate tech support, OWC has everything you need to take your current system to the next level. Whether you need to maximize your system’s memory, add blazing speed or enhance reliability, look no further than the friendly experts at OWC. Learn more by visiting macsales.com. That’s macsales.com.
Larry Jordan: Rob Bessette is a very talented colorist at Finish Boston. He’s been working for more than eight years bringing his clients’ visions to life on both the large and the small screen. Tonight, we want to talk with him about the process of color grading and how to use it to improve our projects. Hello, Rob, welcome.
Rob Bessette: Thanks. Thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: What first got you interested in color? Because that’s not the sort of thing that a grade schooler would say, “Oh, I’m going to do color correction on Hollywood films.”
Rob Bessette: I kind of lucked into it, to be honest with you. I started working as an assistant editor at a post house in Boston editing in Avid, Final Cut, Flame, all those things, and we had a color suite and I, to be honest with you, didn’t even know anything about it and it really piqued my interest. I bugged the senior colorist there enough that he let me assist him and kind of tagged along with him and took on an apprenticeship role.
Larry Jordan: When did you move over to Finish Boston?
Rob Bessette: I’ve been at Finish since 2005.
Larry Jordan: Just for people who are curious, what does Finish Boston do?
Rob Bessette: We specialize in post production, visual effects, color correction and editorial.
Mike Horton: Also, you guys have got the coolest kitchen I’ve ever seen. Go to their website, look at their kitchen. It’s awesome.
Larry Jordan: Yes. In fact, it’s so awesome that I tried to go to the fourth picture and the computer froze, and it stayed with the kitchen and I had a chance to study the kitchen for a long period of time.
Rob Bessette: It didn’t want you to leave.
Mike Horton: Forget the screening room, go to the kitchen.
Larry Jordan: Rob, what exactly does a colorist do? And are there things that you bring to a project and things you decide not to add? In other words, what do you do and not do?
Rob Bessette: It really depends on the project. In the simplest terms, what we do is just kind of make the image or the piece feel the way that the director of photography or the director wants this to go. For example, for something like a romantic comedy, they might want it to feel warm and fuzzy, where if it’s a horror movie, they might want it to feel cool and moody. Just set the mood and make you look where you want to look. Sometimes I call it visual relating as far as selecting areas of focus and really just kind of helping you see the image the way you want the audience to see it.
Larry Jordan: Wait a minute, wait a minute. Areas of focus? The focus is controlled when it’s shot. What do you mean by areas of focus when you’re doing color grading?
Rob Bessette: For example, if someone is against a blown out background, you might try to duck the background down a little bit to make it not stand out so much, or you’ll put a power window on someone’s face to make you draw the attention to the face as opposed to something else that might be distracting. You want to push that into the background so you can actually look at where you’re supposed to be looking.
Larry Jordan: Have you worked on any projects the rest of us might have seen?
Rob Bessette: I’ve worked on a couple of features, a lot of commercials. I generally do commercials for McDonald’s, Subway, Carnival Cruise Lines, Titleist Golf and a couple of movies, some long format stuff that’s playing on Palladia right now, the music channel; a movie called Aerosmith: Rock for the Rising Sun. That’s on currently. But mainly commercials for the most part.
Mike Horton: You talk about emotions with color grading for feature films and narrative type of things, but when it comes to commercials, when you’re color grading those things, especially when you’re doing products such as cars, how much leeway do you have here?
Rob Bessette: Well, you’re dealing generally with an ad agency and then the ad agency’s representing the client. So it’s really in their interests to make their product look as good as it can, so you do have some limitations with the creativity. It’s all about the product. You want to sell the product and you want to see the label, you want to make it look beautiful, and that’s really the ultimate goal when working on commercials. But every now and again, you do get the chance to, where something’s not heavily featuring a product, try to think a little bit outside the box and make the commercial stand out from others, because most do rely on products for sales.
Larry Jordan: This is really a two part question. I want to have you tell me first about a project that was difficult to do and what made it difficult; and then I want to flip it around and talk about projects that are easy to do and what producers can do to make their projects easier in color grading. With that as a contrast – see how I work in color? It’s really nice – what project have you worked on recently that was really difficult and what made it a challenge?
Rob Bessette: Recently, I’ve just completed a project for Coca Cola and it was shot in Puerto Rico over multiple days, but the commercial was supposed to take place over the course of a couple of hours. A couple of days were rainy, and a couple of days were beautiful and we had to match them together to make them look as if it was one continuous thing. On top of that, they wanted the commercial to feel hot and sweaty. So we got to really go a different direction as far as what we were just talking about. Instead of product, product, product, we got to take a little creative look and really make it red and warm with a kind of golden feel, which turned out really nice.
Larry Jordan: Was the challenge the differences you had in the footage? Or was the challenge working with the client?
Rob Bessette: Definitely the footage. The client was fantastic. There was nothing that they could do about the weather. We’d like to think that we get perfect days to shoot every single time we go on set but, as we all know, that’s not the case. Making the rainy day look like a sunny day and meshing them all together was the biggest challenge by far.
Larry Jordan: What did they do in production? If it’s raining and the cast is getting wet…
Mike Horton: Yes, why didn’t they just wait until the next day? Like baseball.
Rob Bessette: In that case, they were down in Puerto Rico and had return flights and they weren’t able to push that back.
Mike Horton: Oh, this thing called budget.
Rob Bessette: Yes, that does limit us at times, doesn’t it?
Mike Horton: Yes it does.
Larry Jordan: All right, let’s flip the coin. What makes for a great project in terms of either fun to work with or easy to work with, looking at it from your point of view? Clearly there’s the ‘this is fun to do from an artistic point of view’ but technically are there things that can make a project simpler from a production and producer point of view?
Rob Bessette: I’d say for that Coke spot I did, artistically that was one of the most fun projects I’ve ever had, and one of the most challenging technically. But to take care of things on set to make it easier for a colorist and ultimately easier on everyone, if you can control your environment, if you’re inside, obviously that makes things a lot easier, but not everything calls for being inside. Lighting. Everything to me is all about getting good lighting, whether it’s natural light or whether you’re bouncing some light, just controlling that light source. I know it’s not always possible, but if you can, keep highlights under control, make sure shadow detail is there, all that kind of stuff really, really makes my life a lot easier. Probably the biggest thing, I would say, is to make sure that you have someone who knows how to light and that makes a huge difference.
Mike Horton: Yes, but if it’s absolute crap, can you fix it?
Rob Bessette: Sometimes yes, but not all the time.
Larry Jordan: I want to have you come back, because you’re using some technical terms that I want to make sure people understand. You said control the highlights and make sure the shadow detail is there. For people who don’t know what that means, what does it mean?
Rob Bessette: If you’re given a piece or a shot where the highlights are gone or, as we say, blown out…
Larry Jordan: Overexposed?
Rob Bessette: Overexposed, exactly, that detail is not able to be pulled back. In film, you can get some of it back, but in video, if it’s gone, it’s gone. So keep an eye on your waveform monitors while on set to make sure that you do have that information there. If that information’s there, I can do something with it. If it’s not, there’s nothing I can do; and that goes the same with the black.
Larry Jordan: From a highlights point of view, is it better to shoot slightly underexposed?
Rob Bessette: Depends on what you’re shooting, but in general I would say yes.
Larry Jordan: Ok. Now, you talked about shadow detail. What does that mean?
Rob Bessette: Same thing as highlights, just the opposite. If you are losing detail in your blacks, it’s going to look crunched. Say for example if someone was wearing a black shirt, you wouldn’t see the wrinkles in their shirt or the folds in their shirt, it would just look like a black blob. Again, by keeping an eye on your waveforms, you have the ability to make sure that information is there.
Larry Jordan: So you don’t want the shadows too dark and you don’t want the highlights too light.
Rob Bessette: Right, and if you want them to be dark or you want them to be light, I will take care of that. I need the information to be able to do that.
Mike Horton: How important is RAW files versus, say, ProRes files? Does it make your life easier if you just get the RAW files?
Rob Bessette: I would prefer RAW files every time.
Mike Horton: And do you get them every time nowadays, 2014?
Rob Bessette: I do not.
Mike Horton: A-ha!
Larry Jordan: Why do you prefer RAW? We’re going to digress on codecs, because I know Mike lives for these things, but…
Mike Horton: Hey, I live for codecs.
Larry Jordan: …why do you like RAW?
Rob Bessette: For the reason we were just talking about – more information.
Larry Jordan: Back that statement up. Give me a little bit more detail.
Rob Bessette: I’ll be able to push the image a little bit farther than I normally would if I was just given ProRes or some sort of transcoded file, and I understand that sometimes a project doesn’t have a budget for RAW. But if it does and presented with the option, I would choose that every single time.
Larry Jordan: RAW footage generally creates massively large files, which is why you have so much detail there, and not everybody can afford the storage necessary or the cameras. Are there video formats that are hard to color correct or limit you too much in color correction? I have a feeling I know the answer, but I want to get it out so we can talk about it.
Rob Bessette: In my opinion, the files that I am the most against are stuff coming from DSLR, H.264 compressed. If I have to pull some sort of a key, be it from a color or a skin tone, the image falls apart very quickly.
Larry Jordan: Falls apart means what?
Rob Bessette: And then working with something like R3D files or Alexa ProRes handles very well. If I were going to choose a ProRes file, I’d choose from the Alexa camera and that’s obviously a high end piece of equipment.
Larry Jordan: You said an H.264 file from a DSLR camera falls apart. What does falls apart mean?
Rob Bessette: Say, for example, you wanted to color correct a sky, you wanted to make the sky more blue or you wanted to make it have more of a sunset feel to it, by grabbing that color and isolating that hue of the sky, you can then alter that color in whatever manner you want – put more saturation in, color the blue to a red – and if you’re working in H.264 codec, it has a 420 color space, meaning that there’s not as much information there as a RAW or a ProRes file and you start to see little jagged edges that aren’t natural, and obviously digital and not part of the image as it is intended. It starts to cheapen the piece quickly.
Mike Horton: And you get a lot of those files in your facility, a lot of projects done in that codec?
Rob Bessette: Not many.
Mike Horton: Because you can shoot RAW in DSLRs, correct?
Rob Bessette: You can, yes, and we don’t see much of the H.264 footage any more. That was way popular three or four years ago. But for certain things like documentaries or running gut footage, sometimes that’s the best option and that’s just the cards we’re dealt and what we have to deal with.
Larry Jordan: Also, you generally work with commercials, which have a different level of production budget associated with them, so they tend to shoot the higher quality format.
Rob Bessette: Correct. They’re storyboarded, they’re scripted, they know how many shots they have, they know how many days they have. So on commercials you generally get nicer footage, yes.
Larry Jordan: Another thing that we’re hearing in the industry is bit depth, where some video formats, video codecs are eight bit or ten or 12 or 16. What does the bit depth give us and does the bit depth make a difference?
Mike Horton: Oh, good question, because I never understand this.
Rob Bessette: It kind of goes back to what we were just talking about. With the higher bit depth, the more latitude it will have and that I’ll be able to work with. Like with RAW, it’s the same thing, as opposed some sort of compressed file. If I have that bit depth, eight versus ten, 12, 16, whatever it may be, the more that I have, the more latitude and range that I have and it all goes back to what we were talking about. If I’m presented with an image that has workable footage, while it might look awful on set without a lookup table or just you’re looking at the raw footage and you’re saying, “Oh my God, what did I just shoot? It’s all gray and washed out. I’m in trouble,” that to me is exactly what I want and that allows me to make the image in a way that we want to make it.
Larry Jordan: Should we spend more time selecting the video format or selecting a good lens?
Rob Bessette: I would probably say lens and camera. Sometimes the camera, we’re not presented it as an option because they can get expensive very quickly, as we all know. But the video formats are getting so strong these days and they just keep evolving into better and better formats that I think investment in lenses and camera would be better.
Larry Jordan: How about if I have a choice between shooting an interlaced image and a progressive image?
Rob Bessette: Progressive.
Larry Jordan: I want to hear you say that again, because I’m so into that camp. I just love hearing somebody else saying it. Progressive or interlaced?
Rob Bessette: Progressive, every time. The interlaced stuff, to me, sticks out like a sore thumb. I can spot it from a mile away and it just looks old to me.
Larry Jordan: I’ve always like this guy, Mike, I really have. He’s just a great guy.
Mike Horton: You make Larry feel smart. Obviously, you work with a lot of indies. Should they talk to you first before they shoot one frame of footage?
Rob Bessette: I would love to have a conversation.
Mike Horton: Yes, I know that never happens, but in a perfect world.
Rob Bessette: It never happens but I would love it.
Mike Horton: Yes.
Rob Bessette: They always have the conversation when the shot goes wrong and then they want me to fix it.
Larry Jordan: And after they’ve run out of budget generally.
Rob Bessette: Exactly, exactly, because I’m pretty much the last of the line.
Mike Horton: Yes, please fix me.
Rob Bessette: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Rob, how about frame rate? Does frame rate make a difference for color grading?
Rob Bessette: Not really. It all depends on what works best for you. For me, I prefer 23.98. 29.97 to me looks too smooth and, like I said, generally that goes with interlacing and that to me looks a little cheap. But 23.98 is what I get probably 90 percent of the time.
Mike Horton: Yes, but we have plug-ins for that.
Larry Jordan: Wait a minute, wait a minute. You’re doing a 23.98, but it’s not going to air at 23.98, it’s going to air at 29 or 25. Why would you color correct something in a format that doesn’t match how it’s going to broadcast?
Rob Bessette: I get asked that question frequently and there are two thoughts. One is what you just said – why don’t we work in the frame rate that it is? – and the other one, which is my personal opinion, is that I want to work with this footage in its truest nature. I want to be able to see anything that is actually from the camera, from the footage that was captured on set and I don’t want to be second guessing myself, thinking that something is being introduced that could be a cause for a different reason.
Larry Jordan: Ok, but you’re still going to convert the format, so you’re still going to be adding pull-down frames for 29.97 or you’re going to be adding a four percent speed up to move to PAL. Either one of those is going to change the quality of your image, is it not?
Rob Bessette: Correct, but when we deliver, we deliver to a dub house or a place that’s going to upload those files for the broadcast stations and they have the ability to, I mean, they do it every day. So that’s something that we rely on those vendors to take care of and help with in a manner that will…
Mike Horton: In other words, they take the blame.
Rob Bessette: Yes, exactly. That’s what it’s all about, passing the blame.
Mike Horton: Oh, exactly, pass it on.
Larry Jordan: When you’re doing color grading – and we’ve only got about a minute or two left – what tools are you using, what software?
Rob Bessette: I use Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve.
Larry Jordan: And what monitor are you using?
Rob Bessette: Sony OLED.
Larry Jordan: I’m sorry, Sony what?
Rob Bessette: OLED.
Mike Horton: OLED. Is that just unbelievably beautiful, and sharp and crazy?
Rob Bessette: It’s fantastic. Beautiful black.
Larry Jordan: How big an image on the monitor? Are you looking at big monitors or small monitors?
Rob Bessette: My monitor is a 24 inch monitor, but we have a client monitor which is a 50 inch monitor.
Larry Jordan: Clients always like stuff that’s big, but I’ve found the image looks better when you see it on a smaller monitor. Do you agree or am I just blowing smoke?
Rob Bessette: I would agree. It’s easier to get contrast on a smaller monitor.
Mike Horton: Do Sony make a 50 inch OLED?
Rob Bessette: Not yet.
Mike Horton: Oh, so you show them on a plasma or something like that?
Rob Bessette: We’re still on a Panasonic plasma. I’m counting down the days until they do, though.
Larry Jordan: Rob, where can people go on the web to learn more about you and Finish Boston?
Rob Bessette: My work website is finishboston.com.
Larry Jordan: And personal?
Rob Bessette: And I also have a personal website, which is robbessette.com.
Mike Horton: People in Boston should go to the kitchen.
Larry Jordan: The websites are finishboston.com and robbessette.com. Rob Bessette is a colorist at Finish Boston. Rob, thanks for joining us.
Mike Horton: Home of the best post production kitchen in Boston.
Larry Jordan: Take care, Rob, bye bye.
Rob Bessette: Thanks so much, guys.
Larry Jordan: The best post production kitchen in Boston?
Mike Horton: Really. Next time you go to Boston, you go to Finish, go to that kitchen. If it looks anything like the picture on their website, I’m going to that kitchen.
Larry Jordan: It’s the kitchen?
Mike Horton: I bet they make killer burgers.
Larry Jordan: It’s the kitchen that got your attention?
Mike Horton: I wonder if they make Boston baked beans there on the stove.
Larry Jordan: They’re talking codecs. They’re talking lenses.
Mike Horton: By the way, when you go to Boston, you can’t find beans anywhere. Maybe they could find beans at Finish kitchen.
Larry Jordan: We have got to feed you here more, Michael.
Mike Horton: No, seriously, there are no Boston baked beans in Boston.
Larry Jordan: There are Boston…
Mike Horton: There are no Boston baked beans in Boston.
Larry Jordan: There are beans in Boston.
Mike Horton: No. Maybe there are at Finish post production house kitchen. That’s it.
Larry Jordan: Have you ordered your Retina iMac yet?
Mike Horton: No. I’m waiting for your infinite supply of money to come into…
Larry Jordan: Your paycheck is on its way, I mailed it yesterday…
Mike Horton: Wonderful!
Larry Jordan: …so it’s not a problem.
Mike Horton: Something to look forward to.
Larry Jordan: It’s all about you. Thinking of wonderful people and wonderful things, I want to thank our guests today – Danny Manus, the CEO and Script Consultant with No Bulls Script Consulting; Dan Montgomery, the CEO of Imagine Products; and Rob Bessette, a colorist with Finish Boston.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot happening at The Buzz between shows. It’s all posted to our website, digitalproductionbuzz.com.
Mike Horton: Oh, did we get a new sponsor, Shutterstock?
Larry Jordan: We did. We’ve got three sponsors now.
Mike Horton: Hey, that’s awesome. Shutterstock make some pretty good stuff. And OWC too?
Larry Jordan: OWC and Blackmagic. It’s a great group.
Mike Horton: I’ve got to look at OWC’s website. I need a new hard drive for my laptop here because it’s just crap.
Larry Jordan: We just bought a couple of them over at…
Mike Horton: I just bought this thing. It’s just crap. I need one of those SSDs.
Larry Jordan: I’ll sell you my…
Mike Horton: OWC makes awesome stuff.
Larry Jordan: Hush.
Mike Horton: Ok, go ahead, yes.
Larry Jordan: You can talk with us on Twitter, @DPBuZZ, and Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Our producer is Cirina Catania, engineers Adrian Price and Megan Paulos. The voice at the other end of the table is Mike Horton. My name’s Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to The Digital Production Buzz.
Voiceover: The Digital Production Buzz was brought to you by Blackmagic Design, creators of the world’s highest quality solutions for the feature film, post production and television broadcast industries; and by shuttterstock.com, a global marketplace for royalty free images and videos. With over two million royalty free HD and 4K video clips, Shutterstock helps you take your creative projects to the next level; and by Other World Computing, providing quality hardware solutions and extensive technical support to the worldwide computer industry since 1988.