Digital Production Buzz
November 13, 2014
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor ReporterTroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter
Josh Apter, Founder & President, Manhattan Edit Workshop
Philip Hodgetts, President, Intelligent Assistance
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Larry Jordan: Live from Ralph’s Maytag Museum and Podcast studio in beautiful downtown Burbank; it’s the Digital Production Buzz.
Larry Jordan: Production, post-production, distribution.
Larry Jordan: What’s really happening now and in your digital future? The Buzz is live now. 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 and joining us, our ever affable, ever handsome co-host, Mr Mike Horton.
Michael Horton: Hello Larry.
Larry Jordan: It’s good to see you here Michael.
Michael Horton: I’m so giddy, I can’t tell you why but I’m just giddy with excitement.
Larry Jordan: It’s going to be a good show
Michael Horton: It’s just one of those Thursdays where you’re just giddy; you don’t know why.
Larry Jordan: And it’s wonderful to see you again; it’s been a whole week since last I saw you.
Michael Horton: I know and you look different.
Larry Jordan: It’s the lighting; it’s all about the lighting.
Michael Horton: Your beard is greyer. Did anybody tell you that? Your beard is greyer.
Larry Jordan: Yes, it is longer and greyer and there’s more wrinkles.
Michael Horton: It is longer.
Larry Jordan: Recently, Neil Patrick Harris made news when he said that the writers for his upcoming variety show would be union. However, the show producer is ITV, which has not yet signed any union agreements. Jonathan Handel, Entertainment Labor Reporter for the Hollywood Reporter joins us tonight to discuss the implications.
Larry Jordan: Next, the video of an actress. Michael, you may not have seen this.
Michael Horton: I have seen it along with two million other people.
Larry Jordan: The video of an actress, dressed as Princess Leia, silently walking through the streets of Manhattan, exploded this week on YouTube with more than 2.5 million views. Josh Apter, the inventor of the Padcaster, is the force behind this movie and he joins us tonight to talk about how he created it. And love it or hate it, metadata is essential to today’s digital productions; however, almost none of us are trained in how to design, enter or use it.
Larry Jordan: Philip Hodgetts, President of Intelligent Assistance, explains how metadata can organize all your projects, whether they’re simple or complex.
Michael Horton: I can’t wait to have that conversation.
Larry Jordan: It’s almost but not quite as good as Codecs Michael; it’s going to be great. Stay with us.
Michael Horton: I’ll be out in the kitchen while you’re doing that.
Larry Jordan: Just a reminder that we’re providing 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 this possible.
Larry Jordan: Mike, you got any plans for Thanksgiving?
Michael Horton: No, do you want to come over?
Larry Jordan: Yes, I mean, well I’ve had your cooking.
Michael Horton: Listen, I cook the best turkey in the entire world; in fact, they call it the world famous turkey.
Michael Horton: I do that for Thanksgiving and Christmas; it is my world famous turkey and there is no turkey in the world that is better than my turkey.
Larry Jordan: I cannot wait.
Michael Horton: So come on over.
Larry Jordan: I’ll come on over; do you have cranberry sauce?
Michael Horton: Bring Jane. No I don’t do that. What I do is, I just soak it in butter, just lots and lots of butter. People love it.
Larry Jordan: It’s not baked, it’s fried.
Michael Horton: It’s fried. No I don’t fry it, it’s awesome, it’s going to be really good.
Larry Jordan: Just as a reminder, visit with us on Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com. We’re also on Twitter @DPBuZZ and subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Every Friday you get an inside look at our show and the latest news inside the industry.
Larry Jordan: It’s an interesting time for the industry, as we try to redefine whose role is what; which is what we’re going to be talking about next. I’ll be back with Jonathan Handel, the Entertainment Labor Reporter for the Hollywood Reporter, in just a few seconds; right after this.
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Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is an Entertainment and Technology Attorney of Counsel at TroyGould in Los Angeles; he’s also the Contributing Editor on entertainment labor issues for the Hollywood Reporter and he’s got a blog at jhandel.com and Jonathan, this is starting to be a habit; it’s good to have you back.
Jonathan Handel: It is good to be back; some habits are very much the right thing.
Larry Jordan: Yes, some of them you don’t want to break.
Michael Horton: As part of the introduction, we should say that Jonathan drives a Porsche.
Larry Jordan: Well he drives a Porsche in the cat dishes, if you remember correctly.
Michael Horton: Well that’s right. It was a viral video, I think.
Jonathan Handel: It wasn’t a very threatening … unfortunately.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, Neil Patrick Harris made news this week; what did he announce?
Jonathan Handel: Well this week or actually this past week, I should say, he announced that a new show that he’s doing is going to be a union show. What should I call it? I guess a talk show or something; a variety show maybe is the right word and have a ten episode order being produced by ITV Studios America.
Larry Jordan: Now isn’t ITV a UK based company?
Jonathan Handel: The parent company is, yes, ITV Studios America, as the name suggests, is US based but ITV in the UK is in fact not just a company, it is one of the major networks there and is the home, for example, of ‘Downton Abbey’.
Larry Jordan: OK. So Neil announces that his show, which is a variety show, is going to be union, if I remember correctly. Why is this such a big deal?
Jonathan Handel: Well it’s a big deal because, what ITV Studios America does, the business they’re in, is not the Downton Abbey type of business; in fact, they don’t even produce that show, it turns out. The business they’re in is reality and so-called unscripted shows; shows for the National Geographic Channel, A&E, TLC and so forth.
Jonathan Handel: The Writers’ Guild is divided into two halves to literally act like two separate unions, west and east, and the Writer’s Guild East, for the last four years, has been trying to unionize these unscripted or you might call them thinly scripted shows; in other words they’re shows that to the viewer are not fictional narrative shows and people might assume, well there’s no script for that, people are making it up as they go along. But, in fact, there are writers that write what the host on a variety show may say or the host on any sort of a non fiction show.
Larry Jordan: Now wait. The Writers’ Guild East, which is one of the sides of Writers’ Guild, has been talking with ITV for four years?
Jonathan Handel: For four years and not making progress; and it’s got very bitter.
Larry Jordan: Why has it taken so long?
Jonathan Handel: Well, this really is, in a sense, the fault line between the way unionism and unionization work in Hollywood, which I sort of put in quotes, I could do air quotes but we’re an audio podcast, of course, and the way unionization works in the rest of the country.
Jonathan Handel: Now in Hollywood, meaning the traditional scripted business; scripted movies, scripted television shows, fictional shows; whether they’re network or cable or what have you, there are a variety of things that go on that don’t go on in the rest of the economy. One thing is that, these shows are really virtually always unionized, in terms of the writers, the director, the actors; so there’s never any dispute.
Jonathan Handel: For instance, let’s say that I’m a producer and I produce a pilot, I buy a pilot strip and the network says we like it and there’s financing and then we produce this pilot script. Later, it even gets ordered to series. Does the producer say, I do not want a union involved, I want non-union writers, I want non-union actors, a non-union director? No, of course not. In fact, even before they have signed any individuals to work on the show, they sign contracts; signatory documents with the Writers’, Actors’ and Directors’ Guilds.
Jonathan Handel: Now, in the economy at large, things work exactly the opposite. First of all there’s very little unionization; unlike Hollywood scripted work which is virtually 100% unionized, the private sector of the US is about seven percent unionized. A tiny, tiny number and it’s been a steep decline, really since the era of Ronald Reagan’s Presidency.
Jonathan Handel: Ironically, before being President, before being Governor of California, he was a President of the Screen Actors’ Guild. But, one of the things that Reagan did during his presidency was, he broke the Air Traffic Controller’s Union; just fired them all when they went out on strike and really was very noted for helping to bring an anti-union climate to the fore. If you look at the graphs, unionization was something like 35-40% of the private sector economy at that point.
Larry Jordan: Interesting that you say that, because Margaret Thatcher was very anti-union at the same time.
Jonathan Handel: That’s correct, she was, and Reagan and Thatcher, of course, were very much, you know, soul mates in terms of their political ideology; very close allies in terms of the way they dealt with the economy, regulation of business, their attitudes towards labor. In fact, Thatcher’s approach to the Mine Workers’ Union was very much like Reagan’s approach to the Air Traffic Controllers and was the subject of a movie that came out earlier this year, on a gay group in London, supporting mine workers. I forget the name of the movie, so my apologies to the filmmakers.
Larry Jordan: ’Pride’.
Jonathan Handel: What’s that, ‘Pride?’
Larry Jordan: Yes.
Jonathan Handel: OK, thank you.
Larry Jordan: It’s an absolutely brilliant film, by the way, for any of those who have not seen it. It is an exceptional film.
Jonathan Handel: It really is; a very moving film based on a true story.
Larry Jordan: Alright, so let me get my brain wrapped around this. We’ve got the Writers’ Guild is saying you need to be union and ITV are obviously saying we’re not union and what puts this sort of at the forefront of the whole union movement?
Jonathan Handel: Well, that’s right. Basically, what you’re looking at is, you’ve got scripted Hollywood very union, but here’s unscripted Hollywood and it’s a struggle, just like it is in the larger economy. You know, the companies say, “We don’t want to go union” or they’ll say, “Look, under the law we’re not going to go union unless the workers vote to go union and we’re going to fight it. We’re going to lobby the workers to vote against it,” you know, etc, etc, etc.
Jonathan Handel: The ante has sort of been upped in the last six months or so with New York City Council hearings about practices and the union saying that there is wage theft going on; in other words that writers are working overtime and not getting paid overtime, not getting paid for the hours they work. The union says that ITV is stealing $30,000 a year from each writer. Meanwhile, the parent company saw their profits surge at least 27% last year; a lot of that due to the financial contributions of the American unit; of the ITV Studios America.
Jonathan Handel: Into this stepped Neil Patrick Harris. His new show, which is not yet titled, is based on a British show. Obviously Harris, who is going to be hosting the Oscars and has hosted the Tonys and the Emmys, you know, very much has a persona of a nice guy and a good guy; you know, not someone who wants to be the target of claims of being anti-union, for example, the way Joan Rivers was during the last, you know, few months of her lifetime, with…Fashion Police; which was not ITV but another reality show in which both the Writers’ Guild West and East were both involved.
Jonathan Handel: He stated definitively on Twitter last week that ITV had told him the show will be union and, if so, will be written by union writers period.
Larry Jordan: Now this is what you wrote about last week, you said that Neil had made this statement. What’s happened in the last few days to either move this forward or move it sideways?
Jonathan Handel: So far as we know, well at least publicly nothing has happened. Whether there have been meetings and discussions; there presumably have been some and, you know, it was a dramatic statement for him to make. But what the course of those were, we don’t know. That is currently where things stand, but it is such a definitive statement that it really does not leave any wiggle room. You know, he says the show is going to be unionized.
Larry Jordan: Now, does this mean that Neil’s show could be union and the rest of ITV not, or does this force ITV America to be union for all of its shows?
Jonathan Handel: The former. It could be that his show will be unionized and the others won’t be; but that creates a very difficult untenable kind of position for ITV. What’s the standpoint that you’re making then? If you’ve got a strong actor who demands that we’ll sign a union agreement otherwise we won’t, I mean, that would sort of be where they would be left.
Michael Horton: You lost me at the beginning when you talked about Writers’ Guild East taking this whole thing forward. What is the difference between Writers’ Guild East and Writers’ Guild West and Writers’ Guild?
Jonathan Handel: There is really no such thing as the Writers’ Guild. These are actually two separate unions, the Writers’ Guild East and West. On major contracts they bargain together; so, for example, when they’re doing their negotiations for the studios on movies and scripted TV, they bargain together as if they were the WGA and they’re often referred to that way. But there actually isn’t a single WGA. In fact, the Writers’ Guild East is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, which is, as you know, an umbrella group that many but not all unions are affiliated with. Writers’ Guild West is unaffiliated, they’re not affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
Jonathan Handel: East is somewhat more politically engaged. I will frequently get statements from them about issues like net neutrality, copyright law, things of that sort; you know, political issues in play in Washington and Writers’ Guild West tends not to send out statements on those kinds of issues. Writers’ Guild West, of course, has more Hollywood writers, more big movie writers.
Michael Horton: I had no idea they were completely separate.
Jonathan Handel: Yes. Basically there were separate unions; there was a separate Television Writers’ Union formed at one point or Radio and Television Writers’ Union perhaps and, if I’m getting it properly, the Screenwriters’ Guild formed in LA and the Radio and Television Writers’, you know, eventually became the nucleus of these two separate East and West unions.
Larry Jordan: Gail, in our live chat, is asking; so when I register an idea with the Writers’ Guild, which Guild am I registering it with?
Jonathan Handel: You can actually register with either one of them; they both have online registries, they’ll both be pleased to take your 20 or 30 dollar fee, whatever it is exactly.
Larry Jordan: Is registering with one the same as registering with the other, or, I mean, is there a difference in protection?
Jonathan Handel: Well there’s no real protection from registering with the Writers’ Guild actually. If you want to protect something, truthfully you register with the copyright authors, NBC. The only protection that registering with the Writers’ Guild gives is that, when you put register at WGA on your script, people in Hollywood think it means something.
Michael Horton: Well we actually had this discussion before, I think, with Jonathan a while ago; but this is brand new news to me.
Larry Jordan: So, let’s just make sure we understand. The two are talking, they’ve been talking for four years. Neil Patrick Harris has stirred the pot by saying his show will be union and if his show is union, you’re saying that ITV America will most likely need to have all of their reality shows be union; because this is a foot in the water.
Michael Horton: No, that isn’t going to happen.
Jonathan Handel: I think that, if his show is union it just ups the pressure enormously on them to go union with all their shows. Because it becomes, you know, what is the justification. You can’t produce a show profitably if it’s unionized but you’re producing this one, you know, and it’s unionized.
Michael Horton: Well we don’t know what this show is right? We don’t know if it’s a variety show, a reality show.
Jonathan Handel: Well it’s a variety show; it’s based on a very odd British show, whose name is also very strange. I may have it for you in a minute or two. But it’s not going to be a slavish imitation of it, apparently, so we don’t really know exactly what it’s going to be like.
Jonathan Handel: Neil Patrick Harris just came out with his autobiography and it was in the form of a ‘choose your own’ adventure book.
Larry Jordan: Choose your own adventure.
Jonathan Handel: Yes, in fact, the book is called ‘Choose Your Own Autobiography’ by Neil Patrick Harris and you get to choose, from page to page, whether, you know, you should go to band camp or theatre camp or something, you know. Somehow, I suppose, you make the choices that correspond to his autobiography, if you really want to learn about what he was like growing up. But I haven’t read the book or played it or whatever the right word is.
Jonathan Handel: But the show is called ‘Saturday Night Takeaway’; it’s actually called Something and Something Saturday Night Takeaway; but I don’t have those and it is a variety show. Beyond that, we don’t know much about it.
Larry Jordan: Just to pull this back, clearly, the Writers’ Guild East is vested in this and ITV is vested in this. Should the rest of us care?
Jonathan Handel: Well sure. I mean, you know, the question always is, you know, in being involved in this business, what are working conditions going to be like? You know, is there someone who’s going to have your back if you’re not paid for every hour that you work? You know, is there going to be healthcare? Is the business of audio visual production going to be a sustainable business for the workers; not just for executives or, you know, the head of a network or the head of a content company that makes, you know, $50 million? What about for the people that actually create the content? This is a piece of that struggle; so it does make a difference.
Jonathan Handel: If ITV goes union, you know, is it going to lead to some grand immediate change in the way business is done? I don’t know but, you know, the Writers’ Guild East is not just working with ITV, they’ve got others to sign and there are others yet, you know, to be discussed with I guess.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, we’ve talked to you for several years now and I’ve never asked you this question, but you write on all this union stuff. Are you pro union or you just write on this?
Jonathan Handel: You know, I’m a Reporter.
Larry Jordan: I know, I know.
Jonathan Handel: You know, what I think and what feelings I may have about something are sort of irrelevant to off limits, depending. There was a time when I was blogging about this stuff, when I might have answered a little more freely or candidly. But I guess what I will say is that, unions in the entertainment and the content businesses are a fact of life, they’re an extremely important part of the way content gets created; and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of unions and of union contract and of what’s going on, you know, is a part of understanding one’s environment and being literate in the business that many to most of our listeners are engaged in.
Jonathan Handel: That’s the importance here and the interesting part to me is the number of moving parts. You know, it’s not, can we sit and have responsive readings of 2000 page contracts, or multi hundred page contracts I should say, you know, that put people to sleep it’s, you know, what do these contracts really mean and what do these issues really mean for real people and why are things as they are? You know, why do we live in a world where a network executive gets paid $35-50 million and people that create content have to struggle to, you know, put kids through school.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, where can we go on the web to read your blog and be really fast?
Jonathan Handel: The places to go would be jhandel.com.
Larry Jordan: And the Jonathan Handel himself, jhandel.com. Jonathan Handel of Council of TroyGould and the Entertainment Labor Reporter for the Hollywood Reporter. Jonathan, as always, we’ll have you back and thanks for joining us.
Michael Horton: That’s so much Jonathan.
Jonathan Handel: Thanks much, bye.
Larry Jordan: Bye, bye.
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Larry Jordan: The two minute video of Princess Leia silently walking through Manhattan in costume exploded on YouTube with more than two million views so far and Josh Apter is the filmmaker behind it. Hello Josh, good to have you back.
Josh Apter: Hey, good to be here; how you doing?
Larry Jordan: We are doing great. What is the story behind this video?
Josh Apter: Well, I know it’s a tough one, because we really decided to do this on our…You know, I work with this guy Gary Mahmoud and he and I have done a lot of work together. We are about 85% of our way through a web series that we’ve been shooting and then we saw that this video, this woman walking through New York for ten hours video had 35 million views. I mean it was kind of an insane amount of views for a very important topic actually but, of course, we said, well, since it’s sort of something that’s in the public eye, we might as well make a parody out of it; certainly trying to be respectful at the same time.
Josh Apter: We had a couple of different ideas, I think the one that was winning at the time was ten hours of a guy walking through New York, but every time a woman gave him the slightest bit of attention he totally veered off course and ruined the video. It was okay but it wasn’t really coming together. Then, you know, the idea just came up, like, well what if Princess Leia was walking. I mean, I didn’t even know why every problem can be solved with ‘Star Wars’ but we agreed instantly, like that sounds pretty funny.
Josh Apter: We had done some other stuff earlier but with Lando Calrissian and…, we had those costumes. Then, when our friends at Abracadabra on 21st Street decided to loan us the costumes for Darth Vader, Boba Fett and the Stormtrooper, we said, “Well we have to do it now” and that was it.
Larry Jordan: It’s amazing in a variety of different ways; just in terms of how you staged it and I loved all the number of characters from Star Wars that you managed to work into the film. Why did you have to blur their faces?
Josh Apter: Well in the original ihollaback.org video, it blurs the faces of the men in New York that catcall the woman walking through the city; so we just felt it was appropriate that we, you know, follow suit and blur out the faces. Obviously everyone knows who these guys are, you know, it didn’t hurt that it concealed the fact that our people were pretending to be ‘Star Wars’ characters and didn’t really look like them. But, you know, we also thought it would be funny to blur someone who wears a full face helmet just for no reason at all.
Larry Jordan: This wasn’t the first video that was a parody of that other video, they actually had a guy walking through the streets of New York City being catcalled. That was before this one came out, correct?
Josh Apter: Yes, this one was probably the last. We didn’t really think that this was going to make much noise. I think, you know, the original video was sort of on the wane, so, you know, we said look, let’s do it; if we’re going to try to do this, we might as well do it quickly. But we weren’t sure that it was really something that was still, I guess in the public eye or had that much attention. Then it seemed to have hooked in just in the nick of time; so we’re probably the last one or at least one of the last ones out there.
Larry Jordan: Josh, for people that are on live chat and myself, I didn’t understand this was a parody video; in terms of parodying other videos that are out there. What is the source video of this whole thing?
Josh Apter: There was a video posted for an organization called ihollaback.org and it’s essentially to sort of show the experience of a woman walking through New York for ten hours resulted in over 100 insanely rude, well not all insanely rude, but, you know, varying degrees of ridiculous catcalls. And so they put a GoPro camera in someone’s backpack and they followed this woman around with the camera facing her as she walked around the city for ten hours, although, I believe it actually wasn’t a full ten hours, and they cut together a film where you are hearing all the different people in different neighborhoods saying stuff to her.
Josh Apter: It’s sort of shocking that, you know, someone who’s not wearing anything particularly revealing and just minding her own business would get that many people catcalling them. It’s an incredible video and, again, it blew up I think 35-36 million times on YouTube. Like I said, we’re not trying to belittle the situation, you know, we just felt it was something that people started parodying already, you know, maybe there was some room in there for us. But it’s a huge, huge video and that’s what we’re parodying. It’s funny that my Mother didn’t realize it was a parody either, she just thought it was really cute. That’s what she said.
Michael Horton: Yes, well it certainly brought the conversation to a forefront, that’s for sure. It makes guys feel pretty awful.
Larry Jordan: Did you get any feedback from people about your parody, in terms of making light of something they think shouldn’t be made light of?
Michael Horton: Oh I haven’t read the comments section, have you read the comments section? Do you actually read those things?
Josh Apter: I’ve read some of the comments. I try not to.
Michael Horton: I know, they’re awful.
Josh Apter: You know, I think there are people on both sides. There was a woman who said this is really an awful thing to do about a really serious issue. Then the comment underneath says, but it’s really funny, so, you know, just laugh for a second.
Michael Horton: Yes, Grant in our chat says, those comments can be brutal.
Josh Apter: Then there are ones that are absolutely phenomenal and great things of people catching little details that we planted in there, that we never thought anyone would catch. That’s the thing, there’s equal parts criticism and then there’s people who really get it.
Michael Horton: I, along with everybody else say, disable the comments; don’t let people comment.
Larry Jordan: How did you shoot it?
Josh Apter: Well we originally were going to use a GoPro just to mimic the same workflow of the original and I had a remote app on my iPad and I was going to hold a Padcaster in my hands and walk forward and be videotaping it off my back. A co-worker of mine, Dan Jameson, who’s actually Hans Solo in the video, in his infinite wisdom said, Josh, “Why don’t you just shoot it on the iPad and it’ll be so much easier for you to have it done that way and then, you know, it’ll be done?” And so, that’s exactly what we did; we shot it on an iPad Mini with a Padcaster Mini and just grabbed it by the handles on the side and walked backwards down the street. It was just that simple.
Larry Jordan: Walk backwards. I was wondering if that was how you ended up shooting it.
Michael Horton: Well I’ve got to ask this though; did you have any real people actually catcalling this very attractive lady?
Josh Apter: Well, oddly enough, our first day out the guy playing Lando could only work on Friday, it seems like weeks ago but just this past Friday. He was leaving for Atlanta so we had to shoot his stuff and the … stuff on Friday last week. While we were shooting his, in one of the outtakes, she’s actually getting catcalled while we’re in the middle of a take. It was a little frustrating actually. You know, it showed how true the situation is and that’s what we really wanted to be careful not to, you know, … our noses at the concept of it. We realize it’s a real thing. I live in New York, I see it all the time but, you know, it did happen and we noticed it.
Larry Jordan: It’s a fascinating idea. Where do you get your actors, by the way?
Josh Apter: Well, these are people that I’ve been working with for a couple of years now. Our Princess Leia is somebody who did a pilot for a series; two or three different short Urban Dictionary films. She’s also in the web series we’re shooting now. She’s sort of like our go to because she’s super spot on, incredibly funny; and if you look at her walking and if you go back and look at the actual video, she’s really channeling the woman in the original video. There’s something so, so similar about the way they carry themselves.
Larry Jordan: Josh, where can people go to learn more about your Padcaster and your work, quickly?
Josh Apter: Well thepadcaster.com.
Larry Jordan: thepadcaster.com. Josh Apter is the inventor of the Padcaster and Josh, thanks for sharing with us today.
Michael Horton: Yes, great job Josh.
Larry Jordan: We’ll talk to you soon.
Josh Apter: Any time guys; thanks a lot.
Larry Jordan: Bye, bye.
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Larry Jordan: Philip Hodgetts is the CEO of Intelligent Assistance and involved in the technology of virtually every area of digital video. He’s also a regular contributor to The Buzz and the man lives and breathes metadata; which is why we want to chat with him today. Hello Philip, welcome back.
Philip Hodgetts: Thank you and yes, we all breathe metadata, because it’s how we know stuff.
Larry Jordan: Well I know, but you’re going to have to back that statement up, because I need you to explain what metadata is.
Philip Hodgetts: Well metadata is what we know about stuff. It’s almost quite literally that stupid. I mean, a little bit of metadata about me is actually my name; that’s the metadata. Another piece of metadata about me is that I’m about five-ten, five-ten and a half on a good day high. It’s stuff that you know about me. So, if we transpose that idea and make it specifically more about the sort of work that we do in production and distribution, well metadata is what we know about the media. It’s the stuff we know. The technical specifications about the media. How big is the frame? What is the frame rate? What is the Codec? Which rolls out all of my favorite subjects together.
Philip Hodgetts: Then also, what we know about the content. This is a shot that is assigned for scene three, shot two and this is take 14. This is metadata, this is the stuff we know about our media.
Larry Jordan: Well, if metadata describes our media, why is it so important?
Philip Hodgetts: Because, if we didn’t have some metadata, we wouldn’t know what’s happening in the media; literally we would know nothing about the media at all without some metadata. I mean, once upon a time we hoped that somebody would maybe scribble on a case or a piece of paper that this tape has got these shots on it or at least a shot on this day and this location.
Philip Hodgetts: Nowadays, we want the stuff to arrive in the interface when we want. We want to have all of the notes and all of the information that we need, we need as early in the process as we possibly can get it; if not on the set but as soon in the process as we can.
Philip Hodgetts: Without metadata we would have no direction to go, no way to know which direction we should go with the media; it would just be a pile of blank icons sitting in some … space.
Larry Jordan: Then what did we do 20 years ago?
Philip Hodgetts: 20 years ago I had very badly written, because my handwriting is appalling, pages and pages of logging of what was on the tapes that I’d painstakingly generated after I got the tapes back. Because without that, I would have no idea where to find anything on what I had and how to start to store it. And people used transcripts; I mean transcription is a form of metadata, it’s a text version of the spoken word.
Larry Jordan: The software these days is reading all this information; it knows what Codec, it knows what frame size, it knows what frame rate. Isn’t the clip name enough? I mean, the rest of it’s done automatically by our software.
Philip Hodgetts: OK. Randomly choose me which of this information has come from the file via the software. Find say the shot of the launch that day or find me the 13th take of shot 176. I mean, unless you at least put some information into the clip name or the media file name, then you would never know that. You know, as Michael pointed out, we just did that in the edit bay in the past and we used less of it probably.
Philip Hodgetts: The balance of production has shifted from scripted to non-scripted, we’ve gone a long way from where the majority of what was made, the majority of things that got budgets were written to a script, because, we have to know what to shoot, because film’s expensive. It’s only when we got into the more free form of the digital world, we’ve got masses and masses and masses and masses of media. I mean, the recent ‘Gone Girl’ project, they had 600 hours of source material for, what ended up being a two and a half hour movie. I mean, we have so much more to manage than we ever did; when it was film and when it was tape and little time what we could produce because we couldn’t handle it. Now we handle large amounts of media via good metadata.
Larry Jordan: So, are you saying that there’s a relationship between metadata and the organization of your media?
Philip Hodgetts: Absolutely. The metadata is crucial to the organization of the media. Without the metadata there is no organization of the media. As soon as you put something into a folder you’re adding metadata. As soon as you apply a keyword range you’re adding metadata. As soon as you put a favorite on something you’re adding metadata. As soon as you say, this is a good tape, you’re adding metadata. Every single piece of what we possibly think about our organizational structures are really metadata.
Larry Jordan: Well OK. Terri in our live chat is agreeing with you that, she says, we’ve been dealing with all of this since digital photography; but since we started shooting video digitally on the card, we’ve just been making such a heavy focus on metadata and for good reason, since all the control and file detail settings etc is stored in the metadata. It’s especially good for organization. The problem is, where do we learn how to define what metadata we use and how to use metadata? I mean, for people that are coming in, where do they go to learn more?
Philip Hodgetts: I really truly wish I had a good answer to that question.
Michael Horton: Oh good question Larry.
Philip Hodgetts: Yes, so, I think get a free ticket and get to take your problem home.
Michael Horton: Yes, really.
Philip Hodgetts: I mean there are some people like Shane…getting organized and posting a DVD out there. I’m sure that within the Larry Jordan library there’s material on being organized. But if you wanted to go and do this in a film school, no. Apart from being in slate, you’re getting the proper information on a slate, there’s not really much focus on the rest of the metadata world.
Philip Hodgetts: I’d like to draw a quick distinction, if I may, between that technical metadata which we do get automatically from the camera; we get a lot more information. Often down to the individual RGB settings that we’ll use on the sensor. We’re getting massive amounts of technical metadata that we can use to automate post-production processes, for a whole lot of good things.
Philip Hodgetts: We also have to get content metadata, that could be scene shot, tape, whether it’s good or not; but it could also be, you know, keyword ranges about the setting up of a solar panel if this was the launch day. Equally there is parts of that. So the content metadata is probably my primary focus is, I think that content metadata is what we really need to streamline the post-production process and we need to get that by whatever means; as early in the process and as easily in the process as we can.
Larry Jordan: It strikes me that there’s two issues here. One, we need to use metadata to get organized and there’s a certain level of organization which is the same for one project to another. But there’s also that which is unique to each project. Someone doing reality is going to need a different set of organization and someone’s that’s doing it scripted or someone that’s doing a commercial would be different and a longer form.
Larry Jordan: How do we get our brains wrapped around how to get organized enough to even plan to use metadata? Because I’ve found that metadata requires a lot of thinking before you start applying the first keyword.
Philip Hodgetts: That’s an excellent approach. You’re right too. The way you approach metadata does depend a little bit on the type of project. Now scripted is very much focused on scene, shot, take and that’s the important metadata and we need to have things organized really by scene, because that’s the way it’s going to be used. Which brings us to the key to this and the way we organize our metadata is starting with the end in mind. We’re starting to say, “Well how do I want to use this information? “What would I like to have when they come to edit this? What information would I like to log so I can find these things?“
Philip Hodgetts: You know, it would be the common keywords to ranges of an interview; so that the same topic will be found across 20 or 30 interviews. It’s all organized in the keyword collection or organized in Subclips and a Bin.
Philip Hodgetts: This is the way you have to work with reality and documentary; you have to work and say, what other things are we going to be working with, so how would I organize things to get the result that I want when I come to edit? A commercial tends to be a little simpler because, when you’re not getting with a lot of media, relatively small project, the organization becomes less important; but still knowing which are the good takes, knowing how you plan to use them, how you put them together so you can find things, it’s still part of being a good editor, it’s part of being about doing the job.
Larry Jordan: Where does the DIT, the Digital Imaging Technician fit into this picture and what about those productions that don’t have a DIT?
Philip Hodgetts: Well, in an ideal world, somebody would be on a set logging what’s going on; whether it’s a documentary shoot, whether it’s a reality show; and reality, there are tight production systems making notes as to where the stories are happening, where the fights are happening, who’s fighting who and what they’re fighting about. I think there are more modern ways of doing that; I’d be silly if I didn’t mention our own Lumberjack System, which is one way of getting that metadata as it happens on the set, but also Adobe has that crazy Live Logger, which is another way of getting freeform metadata, not the scene, shot, take but the freeform metadata that documentary and reality needs.
Philip Hodgetts: These are two modern solutions that are designed to get this freeform metadata as early as possible so that the organization can start early in the process and help the whole edit to go smoothly; get started and get to the point where you have time to polish it. You preached the message that we save time. All these things that save time, so we have more time to be creative in the end of the process. You know, an editor’s job is to polish the project, it’s not to be an organization, a data wrangler.
Philip Hodgetts: The DIT is one person on a set that can tap a few check boxes on and off during a shoot to perhaps log the material; perhaps it’s a production assistant that would otherwise being around. That’s somebody doing another job. Probably not a guy carrying the cameras, probably not a person who’s putting out a boom arm. Their hands are kind of tied with those. But in a lot of cases, there is somebody who can just click a few check boxes or tap a highlight button during the shoot; giving the editor a huge head start when they come to the bay.
Larry Jordan: One of the programs you mentioned was your own, which is Lumberjack, which is exactly that. Basically it’s an onset logging tool to help us organize stuff. How does Lumberjack fit into this picture and how does it work?
Philip Hodgetts: Lumberjack is simply because I needed to get some sleep. Yes, it came out of a real need. I had a project where we were travelling and shooting during the day and all the nights traditionally logging; there was no time to edit or sleep; you know, one or the other and, you know, I opted to sleep. Ultimately, that general idea came to be Lumberjack, which is a way of key wording and getting our keyword ranges as we should. It’s got an iPad version or a browser based version and you do just click a checkbox on or click a checkbox off to cover the range of time that a keyword would be applied to; and that’s what happens.
Philip Hodgetts: It’s like to find keywords in the edit, they’re going to be mashed up with the media later. It’s kind of magical that we mash it up using time of day, but it’s a very well proven workflow now.
Philip Hodgetts: I think Lumberjack is just a way of getting a head start on the edit.
Larry Jordan: My experience with metadata is dating back a few years. I mean, I’ve worked with a little bit, dabbled and so to speak, but I haven’t really been heavily into metadata and I remember years ago, how painful it was and how laborious and time-consuming it was. It sounds like we need metadata but the tools that we use have gotten easier to use to make it simpler; to add the key logging information or onset information; that it’s become easier to use. So if you haven’t played with metadata recently, you need to look at the new tools. I think I’m hearing that; is that true?
Philip Hodgetts: Absolutely that’s true. Yes, great sort of movie slates that will tie into that whole timecode value world of where you have matching timecode across all of the audio and video devices. That metadata transfers straight into the NLE without having to do any work.
Philip Hodgetts: So there are great new tools; because we have the electronics. There was no real easy way of doing time of day, matching up of media files and logging information. There was no easy way of really carrying log notes with the tape. Now, a lot of metadata can go into the file and carry … within the file. My early attempts to do that was, I put my three quarter inch tapes into a big plastic pouch and then all the log notes in there.
Larry Jordan: Philip, Michael is laughing himself hysterical over here. Gail is on the live chat and she’s asking, what was the name of the product that you’ve mentioned to organize metadata on set? You’ve got your own which is by Intelligent Assistance called Lumberjack. Adobe has got Prelude Live Logger. Shotgun is Imagine Products and Red Giant has got one that I’m blanking on for right now. Bulletproof I think.
Philip Hodgetts: I don’t think Bulletproof is onset workflow.
Michael Horton: Live Play from Light Iron’s got a really good thing.
Philip Hodgetts: Yes, Live Play’s got some of that elements to it as well. Lumberjack System is now an independent company of Intelligent Assistance; oh it’s the same two people involved but just to be technical about it, you know.
Larry Jordan: No. I want to give people good information, so I appreciate the correction. Let’s shift gears out of a specific product back into thinking, getting our brains wrapped around planning. How do we organize our thoughts to get metadata into our project? In other words, how do we organize, before we start shooting, so that when we start shooting we know how to log this stuff? What point of view should we bring to our metadata work?
Philip Hodgetts: Well, it does come down to keeping the end in mind; what metadata may be used for when I come to put together the story; what are the stories that we’re covering, what are the key themes? You know, for example, on a documentary I’m still trying to finish but I have logged, the key themes were about top skill, about drag racing, about multi-engine cars and so, I found that, those things were consistent; so I have some key words that I ultimately only logged two or three instances of and that’s probably a case of overlogging.
Philip Hodgetts: It’s really a balance to try and find the distinction between under logging and overlogging. If you under log something you still can’t find anything. There’s nothing worse to have like a 20 minute interview or several 20 minute interviews and say, I know I heard a quote and it’s the most important quote, I know I heard that somewhere, and you spend the next 40 minutes scanning through these interview clips to try and find that quote. Whereas, if you played through it once or you had the key themes or the key thoughts already logged on it, you’ll be able to go straight to those key thoughts and find them in much less time. That’s what we’ve been talking about, where we can use content metadata. Once we have, you know, select with names with metadata, the world is at our feet, we can do amazing things with it; and we will.
Michael Horton: Actually Philip did a Webinar for me over at Moviola and good keywords for metadata. There was a lot of really good tips and tricks, because that’s it, it’s keywords. What are the right words?
Philip Hodgetts: Yes. Well think about it. It’s not a million miles different from the way we might have organized things in the past. If you think of the sort of things that you’d use to name a Bin, that probably is also a good keyword to use.
Michael Horton: I don’t trust myself for a second.
Philip Hodgetts: Well, I’m not sure that we can necessarily help there Michael.
Michael Horton: No, you’re supposed to argue with me.
Larry Jordan: The other thing I think it’s important to note is that, metadata is changeable; I mean, you can always add more keywords, you can always reorganize. The key is, if you’re going to jump on it, by starting earlier, it just helps to get things organized faster. You’re going to end up having to get it organized one way or the other, it’s a question when that organization occurs and it’s much better to do it early when you’ve got the time than when you’re under deadline pressure.
Philip Hodgetts: Of course, you want to do it early, because then you can get the benefits from having it. If you do it too late, you’ve already done all the work the hard way. The metadata way is so much easier when you get religion on it; because, you know, it’s really the same religion as being organized. An organized editor is a productive editor, an organized editor gets the second gig and the third and the fourth; and metadata is the key to organization.
Larry Jordan: And for people, Philip, that want more information on the web about what you’ve got for metadata organization, where can they go?
Philip Hodgetts: Thanks for a great introduction.
Michael Horton: Bye Philip.
Larry Jordan: Take care, talk to you soon, bye, bye.
Larry Jordan: You know Michael, it is an interesting show today. The metadata is so important.
Michael Horton: I know it’s so important, it’s so boring and laborious.
Larry Jordan: I know it’s boring and it’s hard work.
Michael Horton: If I have to do this I just get you to do it, because you’re more articulate; your vocabulary is much, much better than mine is. You can log all that crap if you want to.
Larry Jordan: Well the thing that Philip said, that I was impressed with, is that, adding metadata has become a whole lot easier and it used to be really cumbersome and companies like Intelligent Assistance and Adobe are looking to find new ways to make it easier to add metadata; so you don’t have to spend your life typing.
Michael Horton: That’s true.
Larry Jordan: And nobody wants to watch you type.
Michael Horton: No, no, no, no.
Larry Jordan: This would be bad.
Michael Horton: No and my typos are world famous.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of world famous, our guests are world famous. I want to thank our guests this week, Jonathan Handel, the Entertainment Labor Reporter for the Hollywood Reporter; Josh Apter, the President of the Manhattan Edit Workshop and the inventor of Padcaster; and Philip Hodgetts, the President of Intelligence Assistance.
Larry Jordan: There is a lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website, digitalproductionbuzz.com.
Michael Horton: It’s all metadata.
Larry Jordan: It is not all metadata, some of it is hundreds of past shows and thousands of interviews, all searchable, because of metadata. You can talk with us on Twitter @DPBuZZ and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com.
Larry Jordan: Music on the Buzz is provided by SmartSound; the Buzz is streamed by wehostmacs.com. Text transcripts are provided by Take 1 Transcription. You can email us at email@example.com.
Larry Jordan: Our producer is Cirina Catania, our Engineers are Megan Paulos and Ed Golya. On behalf of Mike Horton, my name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to the Digital Production Buzz.
Michael Horton: Goodbye everybody.
Larry Jordan: Take care.
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