Digital Production Buzz
December 11, 2014
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
Yvonne Russo, Producer/Director
Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor Reporter, TroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter
Rory McVicar, Head of Product, A-Frame
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 media production, post production, marketing and distribution around the world. Hi, my name is Larry Jordan and joining us is our ever affable co-host, Mr. Mike Horton.
Mike Horton: I am so glad to be back.
Larry Jordan: It’s good to have you back.
Mike Horton: You know it’s raining outside, just a little bit…
Larry Jordan: Just a little bit.
Mike Horton: …here in Southern California. I know Northern California’s getting deluged. But…
Larry Jordan: Wait, wait, how is Northern California?
Mike Horton: It’s underwater. There are people in kayaks. Really, there are pictures. And all it is is just plugged-up storm drains, but it makes it look really cool.
Larry Jordan: Well, aren’t our new audio studios cool?
Mike Horton: Oh, Larry, I’m giddy. No, seriously, I’m just giddy.
Larry Jordan: We are very excited and we’ve been doing a lot of tweaking with the audio and, Mike, your microphone should sound a whole lot better tonight.
Mike Horton: Does it sound a lot better, Mr. Audio Guy?
Larry Jordan: Yes, because I discovered…
Mike Horton: How about if I do this? Hello, can you hear me?
Larry Jordan: That doesn’t sound so good.
Mike Horton: No, no, he shook his head and he goes no, no. He doesn’t want to work with me any more.
Larry Jordan: One of the big things we learned about Mike is that he’s taking into the wrong end of the microphone. It makes a big difference.
Mike Horton: Oh, he did, he told me the last time I wasn’t talking into the microphone, that I was talking into my computer.
Larry Jordan: Yes you were. Well, we have dialed in the mic filter and now we’ve got those rich…
Mike Horton: I’m still working on trying to have a voice like yours.
Larry Jordan: …dulcet tones that we like. By the way, thinking of rich and dulcet, Yvonne Russo, which is no blend at all but it’s the best I could come up with, Yvonne Russo is an award winning producer, director and writer who just finished ‘VIVA VERDI!’, a crowd funded documentary about life inside the retirement home that Giuseppe Verdi built…
Mike Horton: I want to see this. This sounds so cool.
Larry Jordan: …in 1896 and wait ‘til you hear her story, Mike, both about how she funded the film and the film itself.
Larry Jordan: Then Jonathan Handel of Counsel at TroyGould in Los Angeles and a regular reporter on legal and labor issues here at The Buzz has got the inside scoop on the recent Sony hack, as well as problems at ART Payroll and Netco. There’s a lot of stuff we’re going to talk about here today.
Mike Horton: For us people who are not part of the hierarchy, the Sony hack has been so much fun. I’m sorry, but it has.
Larry Jordan: And Rory McVicar is the Head of Product for A-Frame. A-Frame is a cloud video platform used by MTV, Fox, the BBC, as well as hundreds of professional media companies to organize and streamline video production. Rory joins us tonight to describe what A-Frame does and how it can benefit film makers and studios.
Larry Jordan: Just a reminder, we are offering text transcripts for each show, courtesy of Take 1 Transcription. Now you can quickly scan or print the contents of each show, as well as listen to it. Transcripts are located on each show page. You can learn more at take1.tv and thanks, Take 1, for making it possible.
Larry Jordan: Mike, we’re going to be using a special show on January 1st. It’s going to be a live show with all of our regulars, taking a look back at 2014 and look forward to 2015.
Mike Horton: That’s going to be a lot of editing for you.
Larry Jordan: And what we’re going to do, because I know you’re going to be on the road, we’re going to call you at midnight and have you phone in a report.
Mike Horton: Yes, ok.
Larry Jordan: It’s going to be great.
Mike Horton: I’m so looking forward to that. If I slur my words, it’s because I slur my words.
Larry Jordan: You want to visit with us on Twitter, @DPBuZZ; Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Be sure to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter. We’ll be back with Yvonne Russo, learning about crowd funding, right after this.
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Larry Jordan: Yvonne Russo is an award winning producer, director and writer who just finished ‘VIVA VERDI!’, a documentary about life inside the retirement home that Giuseppe Verdi built in Milan, Italy in 1896 specifically for musicians. But there’s a lot more to the story than just the story. Hello, Yvonne, welcome.
Yvonne Russo: Hi, how are you?
Larry Jordan: We are great. Good to hear you on the phone and good to have you with us, thank you.
Yvonne Russo: Thank you. Thanks so much.
Larry Jordan: Let’s take a step back. What first got you interested in media?
Yvonne Russo: Wow. Oh, I’ve always, always loved entertainment. Actually, being a Native American, there was always a lack of Native people on screen, and one of the things I wanted to do to change that was become a producer and actually create content that served contemporary Native America and were able to tell progressive stories; and so I thought, in order to create change, I had to be that change.
Yvonne Russo: So I started producing in my 20s and the first independent feature film I had produced was ‘Naturally Native’, which was a story about three Native sisters who were adopted by Caucasian foster parents and it was a slice of life story about their journey home. That was funded entirely by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe. I was an independent film maker at that time and I worked for a company for about six years at Red Horse Productions and eventually started to go into network television and it’s evolved since then.
Yvonne Russo: I have a career that spans 18 years now, so I’ve done a lot, from indie features all through series. I don’t know, how much time do you have?
Larry Jordan: Well, you’ve been doing it for long enough that…
Mike Horton: Enough time.
Larry Jordan: …we’re not going to go through your entire resume, that’s for sure.
Yvonne Russo: I know.
Larry Jordan: Tell us about this latest ‘VIVA VERDI!’ film. What was the genesis of the idea?
Yvonne Russo: It’s so exciting. In 2010, I was working for National Geographic and I was on assignment in Milan, working on a story called ‘Milan: The Big Heart’, and it was really about the Milanesi and the places that they go to where the non-tourists go and so it’s like where they hang out, where they shop, all this stuff.
Yvonne Russo: I was following a photographer and we were creating an episode out of this and he said, “On the list, we are going to this retirement home,” and I remember saying, “Retirement home? That’s not going to make viable television. What’s up with this retirement home?” and he said, “No, you don’t understand. It’s a very famous retirement home that Giuseppe Verdi built and the residents that live there are renowned opera stars from the past and we’ve got to go check it out.”
Yvonne Russo: So I was a little skeptical, but I said, “Ok, let’s go.” We went and the moment I saw this place, I was just blown away. Giuseppe Verdi willed his entire fortune – can you imagine? – to build this home in Milan for musicians and artists who did not have any money for retirement. They didn’t have pensions, they didn’t have anything and he said that this was one of the biggest gifts that he could give, because he just wanted people to continue with the craft of music and to keep creating, no matter what their age is and money should not stop them. He didn’t allow the house to become open to the public until after he had passed away, because he didn’t want the acclaim; and to me, that was like, wow, that was truly amazing.
Yvonne Russo: Fast forward to when I was there, you walk in and this mansion, it’s a neo-Gothic style, it’s very beautiful, it’s vast but all you do is you hear music. You hear these performers just singing away, teaching, playing piano. There’s this livelihood and this vibrancy and I was like, “Wow! This is just amazing. Who are these people who live here?”
Yvonne Russo: So we went through the house and we were taking pictures and I learned that a lot of the residents are still teaching a young generation of opera stars and opera singers that come from around the world, young students, whether they want to learn how to play piano or they want to sing in theater or whatever it is, the residents are teaching them and I was really blown away by it. They also have music therapy.
Yvonne Russo: The director of the house, his name is Ferdinando Dani and is in charge of implementing music therapy. So that way, when you’re an elder and you’re in your 90s, you still want to play music and you want to be sharp but maybe you’re not as sharp as you were before, so what he does is every day he has them in these classes and it touched my heart on such a profound level that, at that moment, I just said, “Some day I want to come back and I want to tell this story independently.”
Yvonne Russo: So that was in 2010. After that, I was working for networks, I was working for the Smithsonian Channel for a couple of years and Casa Verdi was still in my head. I could not get it out of my head and I said, “You know what?” I was speaking to myself and I said, “I just have to go. I just have to go and get the permission to do this.” So when we were wrapping up the show, my editor was working on the final cut, and I had a down week and I traveled to Milan to go and ask permission from the Board of Directors to see if I could tell the story, and also be a fly on the wall and really watch the residents on my own time and absorb the vastness of this place.
Yvonne Russo: I got the approval and came back to the States and a year later I just said, “Ok, I have got to do this,” and I knew that I needed to raise the money independently and that’s when I launched the Indiegogo campaign to kick start things.
Larry Jordan: Now, wait, wait, hold it, hold it, hold it. Take a breath. It’s a fascinating story.
Yvonne Russo: I can talk a lot.
Mike Horton: It sounds like a wonderful story.
Larry Jordan: It’s a fascinating story, but why did you decide to crowd fund it? Verdi is a famous name, Milan’s a famous city. Surely you could have got funding through more traditional sources?
Yvonne Russo: Yes, well, we’re still in process. This is actually the second phase of production. We’re still going to be shooting all of 2015 as well. I plan on going out twice more. Firstly, these residents are dying. One minute they’re ok and then six months later somebody’s really sick or somebody has passed.
Yvonne Russo: As you know, it takes a while to raise money and I just felt like I needed to just get there as soon as possible, shoot the way that I want to shoot it as a director and really spend the time there. Now I’ll cut this into maybe a half hour, use that as my tool to move forward and to raise more money so we can go out again. It’s a documentary, so we’re in process right now. We’re in production.
Larry Jordan: So the goal for the crowd funding was not to fund the entire project, but just to fund a phase of it?
Yvonne Russo: Mhmm, yes.
Larry Jordan: And what was your financial goal for the crowd funding?
Yvonne Russo: The financial goal was 47,000 and I ended up raising that, but on Indiegogo it says 29,000. However, during my process, I found an investor who came on board who said he could either fund it through Indiegogo or separately outside of Indiegogo and I decided to have him fund it outside of Indiegogo, so that way all the fees weren’t taken out so I had a little more money. The campaign ended and we raised 29,000 and then the rest separately.
Mike Horton: Yes, for those who do not know the difference between Indiegogo and Kickstarter, if you set 47,000 as your goal and you don’t meet that goal, then it’s all over with Kickstarter. With Indiegogo, you get to keep that $29,000, plus obviously what this wonderful philanthropist has contributed to your story.
Yvonne Russo: Yes, yes, and his name is Ron Simons of SimonSays Entertainment. He’s our Executive Producer, which is very exciting.
Mike Horton: Super.
Larry Jordan: Now, let’s focus on the crowd funding aspect. You raised $29,000. How much effort was it to raise? How much money came in at the end? Walk me through the whole…
Mike Horton: 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Yvonne Russo: Oh, you’ve done this. Have you done this?
Mike Horton: No. Well, yes I have, and it’s so hard. It is so hard and it’s so stressful and, yes, I have done it and was I successful? No. It was so hard, so I understand what you went through. You probably lost five years of your life and it’s really hard.
Yvonne Russo: It is the most humbling experience.
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Now, tell me why.
Yvonne Russo: I planned. I went to the seminars, I went to Kickstarter seminars, the Season Spark seminar, Indiegogo’s, I really did my research and I thought, “Ok, I’m buttoned up. I have everything put together.” I created extensive lists of friends and family and all the social capital throughout my career, who do I know. It’s everybody, it’s all your organizations. I had to create a list.
Yvonne Russo: At the time, my producing partner – and I say at the time because the Indiegogo thing just really threw her off. She was like, “I can’t do this,” – she’s just a friend now. But it was so difficult. We put our lists together and we thought, “Ok, let’s go ahead and do this,” but we treated it almost like a film. You have to have so much development way ahead of time, because once you launch, there you go.
Yvonne Russo: You start with your friends, “Hi, I’m raising money,” ok, and then they’ll take a look at it and then another day passes, nobody’s contributed or maybe they have, and then you have to go to your broader circles, and your larger fish pools of people and you’re always asking for money. It got to the point where I actually printed out flyers and stood in front of the Metropolitan Opera…
Mike Horton: Oh my gosh!
Yvonne Russo: …passing out flyers about the campaign. I went to a newspaper called … which is an Italian/American newspaper, and asked them if they would please write something about our campaign to help us raise money, because we had to make our deadline.
Yvonne Russo: We sent out various releases to different press organizations, bloggers and journalists and people would say that they would write something and they didn’t come through or they did come through. It was just hard. It was just really hard and I’m a Sundance Fellow, so Sundance said, “Ok, well, we’ll support you but we have an agreement with Kickstarter, so we can’t say Indiegogo, but we’ll say our Fellow Yvonne Russo has her film out, support her campaign.” They have to be vague.
Mike Horton: Did you find one thing worked better than everything to get you to the top, to your goal?
Yvonne Russo: Yes, letters. Personal letters.
Mike Horton: Really?
Yvonne Russo: That’s all. Yes, just personal letters.
Mike Horton: Great idea. Actually handwritten letters or emails?
Yvonne Russo: No, emails, but really personalized emails, humbly asking for contributions and I think that’s the way that we really received most of our funding because those contributions were larger amounts and they came from people who really understood the project and knew me personally in my career. I think it was really the letter, just the personal touch.
Yvonne Russo: After a while, people just get sick of hearing about it. That’s the truth, they don’t want any more emails coming in. It’s like, “I don’t need a gift. Here, here’s your money, go away,” so it’s tough. I also recommend a pre-launch. What we did is also a soft launch. What we decided to do was tell our friends and family, we asked them to contribute, they said they would and we estimated an amount of money that we would have the day we launched for the public.
Yvonne Russo: We said, “Can you please contribute your money on a Sunday, then we’re going to go ahead and launch to the public on the Monday,” so then that way we weren’t starting at zero and at least there was something in the canteen account. We had to be so creative and, a long story short, we met our goal and it was in the end very exciting.
Larry Jordan: A couple of questions, first coming in from the live chat. Thomas wants to know what you would do differently for crowd funding, and clearly starting a day earlier for family is one thing. Has something else come to mind? And then I’ve got a second question to follow up, but go ahead. What would you do differently?
Yvonne Russo: I would have a full time team on board. Honestly, a full time team because it’s so hard. The moment that you take your finger off the keyboard and you don’t tell people what’s going on, your numbers will not increase. Somebody has to be at it 24/7, all the time. So I would literally hire people, I would have a full staff, depending on how much money, and I would also try to get foundations or organizations or companies that would tie into your campaign earlier on and try to lock them in and engage them early, so that way, when you do launch, you have their contributions during the campaign.
Mike Horton: Did you use video at all in your Indiegogo page? Or was it just pretty much text?
Yvonne Russo: Yes.
Mike Horton: Ok, good.
Yvonne Russo: No, video. You have to use video.
Mike Horton: Yes, yes.
Yvonne Russo: And have different versions too.
Larry Jordan: Eric in our live chat’s asking whether or not you used the PBS Development channel. It sounds like that would be a good fit, he says. Have you considered that?
Mike Horton: The what?
Yvonne Russo: No. No, I haven’t.
Larry Jordan: PBS has a Development channel.
Mike Horton: It does?
Larry Jordan: He suggests you consider that.
Yvonne Russo: I didn’t know that.
Mike Horton: I didn’t know that.
Yvonne Russo: Cool. Thank you.
Mike Horton: Eric, give us a link.
Larry Jordan: Yes.
Yvonne Russo: Yes, Eric.
Larry Jordan: Don’t just sit there typing, Eric. Be useful.
Mike Horton: Come on, Eric, give us a link.
Yvonne Russo: Email me, Eric. Can you email me?
Larry Jordan: I’ll pass it on as soon as he types it into the chat. He’s typing now.
Yvonne Russo: Excellent.
Larry Jordan: Given how much work, you’ve spent full time for what seems like forever to raise $29,000, which is a drop in the bucket for most films. Would you ever use crowd funding again?
Yvonne Russo: No.
Mike Horton: Only if you’ve got a staff.
Yvonne Russo: No, I don’t think so, unless I had a very, very large team. We have lots of Facebook friends and lots of LinkedIn friends and, again, lots of social capital, but I don’t know that it’s really the thing for me.
Mike Horton: Like you said, it’s so humbling to beg for money all the time.
Yvonne Russo: It’s humbling.
Larry Jordan: And not get the money, that’s even worse.
Mike Horton: And not get the money, yes. But you got it.
Yvonne Russo: I got it.
Mike Horton: You got it and you did it, so wonderful for you.
Yvonne Russo: Oh yes.
Larry Jordan: So you’re going to be shooting for 2015. What are you shooting for as a release date? Are Mike and I going to see this before we retire?
Yvonne Russo: Yes, actually. Probably the end of 2016. It’s still some time because I want to follow a couple of storylines and that’s just going to take some time as these characters evolve in real life. We plan to shoot in April, in the spring.
Larry Jordan: Stop a second. Stop, stop, stop, stop. Here’s the link – www.pbs.org/pov/filmmakers/resources-4-filmmakers.php.
Mike Horton: Or just Google PBS Development channel.
Larry Jordan: Yes, PBS Development channel at pbs.org and quickly, Yvonne, before I run out of time, what’s the website for the film?
Yvonne Russo: Vivaverdithefilm.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s vivaverdithefilm.com and Yvonne Russo is the producer and director of it. Yvonne, thanks for joining us today.
Mike Horton: Yes, great story and I’m looking forward to it.
Larry Jordan: We wish you great success.
Yvonne Russo: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Yvonne Russo: Ah, thank you so much. Bye bye.
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Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is an entertainment and technology attorney of Counsel at TroyGould in Los Angeles. He’s also the Contributing Editor on entertainment labor issues for The Hollywood Reporter and has a blog at jhandel.com. Hello, Jonathan, welcome back.
Jonathan Handel: Well, it’s a pleasure to be back.
Mike Horton: Hi, Jonathan.
Larry Jordan: It’s a pleasure to hear you back, so there.
Mike Horton: We’ve got to have Jonathan come out here.
Larry Jordan: Oh, we’ve got to show him the massive gold lamé studio that we’ve got.
Mike Horton: Oh, it’s awesome. Drive the Porsche out here, Jonathan, you’ll love it.
Larry Jordan: What’s left of the Porsche.
Mike Horton: Yes, that’s right.
Jonathan Handel: The Porsche was a radio controlled car. I don’t think it’s street legal.
Larry Jordan: I don’t know, you could find a reason.
Mike Horton: What car does Jonathan drive? Lexus?
Larry Jordan: Jonathan drives a used Volkswagen Beetle.
Mike Horton: A Bentley?
Jonathan Handel: No! It’s a Mercedes SLK, bright yellow sports car.
Mike Horton: I knew it!
Larry Jordan: See?
Mike Horton: It’s a Mercedes, I knew it.
Larry Jordan: He’s a lawyer.
Jonathan Handel: It is, but it’s a convertible.
Mike Horton: Oh!
Larry Jordan: That’s because his hair likes flying back.
Mike Horton: I know it does, because Jonathan has a lot of hair.
Larry Jordan: It does. It’s like that mane of… anyway, Jonathan, there’s only…
Jonathan Handel: Are we on the air?
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Yes we are, of course. There’s a lot going on in…
Mike Horton: This is called entertainment.
Larry Jordan: Mike, shut up.
Mike Horton: All right, go ahead.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot going on in the industry right now. I want to start with the massive data hack at Sony. What’s the latest?
Mike Horton: It’s fun.
Jonathan Handel: Fun’s not the word.
Mike Horton: Yes, well, it is for us. Not for Sony.
Jonathan Handel: Not for Sony, no, not for Sony.
Mike Horton: And the employees, obviously.
Jonathan Handel: And the employees. The news today was medical records were released.
Mike Horton: Oh my goodness.
Larry Jordan: Oh no.
Jonathan Handel: So, yes, not fun for anyone. I think it was about three dozen employees’ medical records, so people who had cancer and this and that. This is a disaster for Sony. It really just keeps going on and on and supposedly the amount of data that was lost was 100 terabytes or something and we’ve just seen snippets of it.
Mike Horton: Jonathan, why are trades reprinting this stuff?
Jonathan Handel: It’s interesting. Variety actually just did sort of an opinion piece on exactly that today that I haven’t had a chance to read. We’re the press. You ask why the New York Times printed the Pentagon papers, why did people print some of the Snowden papers and stuff. It’s our obligation to print information.
Jonathan Handel: Now, people are not printing the names of employees or their medical records or printing people’s social security numbers, but stuff like salaries of the top executives and the email correspondence between some of the executives where they were making racist remarks about President Obama…
Mike Horton: Well, yes, that brings up the question why are they reprinting the emails between Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal? What news is that?
Jonathan Handel: That’s a bit of a hard one. I’m not sure I want to be in the position of trying to answer that question, frankly.
Mike Horton: Well, that’s not what we’re talking about, but I just thought I’d throw it at you before you get here with your Mercedes.
Larry Jordan: What’s Sony’s legal and practical exposure? If 100 terabytes of data has been stolen, that’s got to leave them massively exposed.
Jonathan Handel: Yes. So far we’ve got 75,000 social security numbers, I think, the health information, so to start with you’ve got exposure to employees, former employees and movie stars and non-star actors and so forth whose social security numbers and in some cases medical information have been revealed. The question is did Sony take the proper steps to secure this data?
Jonathan Handel: Now, there’s a question that not enough people are raising, it seems to me, or that no-one, I haven’t heard anyone other than myself phrase, which is I think that some of the finger here has to be pointed in the direction of the computer industry. They had a file, for example, I guess an Excel spreadsheet or something, of some information and the password was password. First of all, why is someone using that as their password?
Jonathan Handel: But secondly, who exactly is the computer programmer that programmed an encryption and password system that allows people to put in an idiotic password like that? Second question – why isn’t every single computer keyboard sold today sold with a fingerprint scanner so that passwords and encryption and so forth can be biometric and not your dog’s name plus your zip code.
Jonathan Handel: We rely on technology to such a degree that our reliance has blasted way past our prudence and sensible caution when it comes to cyber security and I think some of that lays at the feet of the technology industry.
Mike Horton: Damn, that’s my password, is my dog’s name and zip code.
Larry Jordan: From a certain point of view, if you’re selling a new piece of equipment – I just bought a bunch of new network gear – the user name is admin, the password is password. So the very first time you log in, you don’t have to have some bizarre password because you just installed it, you don’t know how it works. The fault is not necessarily with the manufacturer, the fault is the guys, once they set it up, didn’t change the password.
Jonathan Handel: I don’t agree. Some of the routers that get sold today have stickers on them and the SSID for the wifi network is blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and the password is blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and it’s not admin and password, it’s whatever is on that sticker and so if you’re like the typical user who doesn’t change that stuff, you’re at least pretty darn secure because it’s not admin and then password, and it shouldn’t be.
Jonathan Handel: Likewise, the computer keyboard question, the fingerprint scanners. The computer industry is certainly happy to give us things that we don’t already know that we need, and in some cases find that we like them and that they’re useful features for us. Well, this is something that we all should know that we need and it really starts to become a little bit like the car industry not giving us seatbelts for decades because, well, consumers might not like the extra cost and this and that. It starts to run a little sour in the taste, it seems to me.
Larry Jordan: Before we run out of time, thinking of hacked websites, ART Payroll was hacked in October.
Mike Horton: I did not know that.
Larry Jordan: But the hacking wasn’t announced ‘til last week. What’s the latest about this?
Jonathan Handel: Well, that’s right, this is one of the payroll companies that producers use primarily for union workers, for actors and crew members and so forth.
Mike Horton: And I get checks from them.
Jonathan Handel: You get checks from them? Well, hopefully you got an email from them about the hack.
Mike Horton: I have not.
Jonathan Handel: Really?
Mike Horton: No, not yet. Unless my wife hasn’t told me, because she looks at the mail, but I have not had that email or that mail.
Jonathan Handel: That’s surprising, because that letter actually went out a week ago or so.
Mike Horton: No, I’m very familiar with that payroll service because I have residuals almost every week.
Jonathan Handel: I would contact them because they say that they’ve notified affected people. Unless they have some reason to know for sure that your data wasn’t affected, which I don’t know. But it points out that this is not just a Sony problem or a Target problem or a JP Morgan Chase problem. It’s something that can affect much smaller companies as well.
Mike Horton: I think you know, because you’ve talked to security people, anything can be hacked. Anything. Anything.
Jonathan Handel: Sure, but the question is putting up enough walls so that you’re not as attractive a target as my password is password and let’s just go rampaging through and see how many terabytes of data we can collect.
Mike Horton: Yes.
Jonathan Handel: You’re right, everything can be hacked. Look at Snowden, for example. I happen to think that a lot of what he did is patriotic and we ought to know about the NSA’s programs, but the interesting thing from the hacking perspective is here’s this guy who wasn’t even an NSA employee, he was a contractor…
Larry Jordan: Very quick, very quick.
Jonathan Handel: He sat in Hawaii and he managed to vacuum up data from all around the NSA and those are the computer security people.
Larry Jordan: And, Jonathan, your blog is?
Jonathan Handel: My website, actually, is at jhandel.com and there is a blog there as well.
Mike Horton: Yes, we ought to talk about this more.
Larry Jordan: And Jonathan Handel is the jhandel himself and, Jonathan, we will have you back because there’s still more stuff we can talk about.
Mike Horton: Yes, thanks so much for your insight.
Larry Jordan: Thanks for joining us today.
Jonathan Handel: Thanks a lot, guys. Bye bye.
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Larry Jordan: Rory McVicar is Head of Product at London based A-Frame, which is a cloud video platform used by MTV, Fox, the BBC and many others. We use it to organize and streamline video production and, as A-Frame’s principal product expert, Rory is responsible for developing new workflows and new features. Prior to joining A-Frame, Rory worked as both an offline editor and a freelance videographer, so he knows media. Hello, Rory, welcome.
Rory McVicar: Hello, Larry, how are you doing?
Larry Jordan: Well, I’m really glad to be talking to London because it’s raining on the day we’re recording this interview and it’s nice to hear somebody that knows how to deal with rain, because I’m having a hard time coping.
Rory McVicar: I think that’s very likely that your involvement with London today has resulted in the weather surrounding us. It’s got that effect.
Larry Jordan: Rory, let’s start with the most obvious question first, what does A-Frame do?
Rory McVicar: A-Frame is an innovative cloud platform for storing, managing and making use of professional video. So it provides a platform into which disparate stakeholders can upload content, it then provides a layer of visibility to that content that has kind of hitherto been unknown and has allowed users to collaborate around that visibility and maximize the value of the content that they’re working with.
Larry Jordan: I’ve just heard you describe it, but I’m not completely sure I understand what it is that you do. Where do you fit into the production process? Are you a stock footage company or are we moving files around during the editing process or distribution, like Amazon S3? Where is A-Frame?
Rory McVicar: That’s a really good question, Larry, and I think the answer – although I may sound like I’m being difficult, I promise you I’m not – is in all of those places. We are used by different customers in different parts of an asset life cycle, we’re used in different parts of the workflow, but to give you a couple of concrete examples, we do provide viewable storage, work in progress storage for productions that are going into an edit, so we provide a lot of our customers with the facility to look at the rushes that they’ve acquired from a shoot and build a story about an edit before they actually go into the suite.
Rory McVicar: That’s one concrete example; another is the broadcast use case that our customer Fox Sports 1 have adopted, which is many, many dots on the map representative of stringers needing to submit content. A-Frame provides a central repository into which those stringers can deliver their content and then we have transcode capabilities to homogenize all of those many, many different formats into their standard playout go to air codec which they download from, so it creates a kind of funnel for delivery.
Rory McVicar: But that’s just a couple of workflow examples. The actual capabilities that are included in the A-Frame platform are transcode, multi-format upload, high speed file transfer and collaboration tools, which really all revolve around metadata, and that is to say building intelligence around assets so you can find them more quickly, so that you can view them and so that you can access them and pull them down into your edits or whatever environment they move onto next.
Larry Jordan: It sounds like you’re more than just cloud storage. You’re actually processing the media once it comes up to your facility.
Rory McVicar: That’s absolutely right. Whether it’s transcoding a group of rushes that are presented in GoPro or in 5D or in Canon XF305 all into a common format such as DNX HD, for example, we provide a unique solution in terms of being able to simplify what is increasingly becoming a very complex range of acquisition formats.
Rory McVicar: If you factor in all of the different codecs, your P2 cards, your XDCAM disks, all of these things that make video hard to deal with, we keep that and we hide it from the user by throwing it on the back end. What we present on the front end is an H.264 proxy which allows users to sit back and watch video, review it, add comments to it, create log notes against it, build sync pools out of it or create collection from shared editorial concepts and then take that information that they’ve collaborated around and transport it out, whether that’s to Avid, to Final Cut Pro, to Quantel systems or to Adobe Premiere.
Larry Jordan: Well, I can see the advantage of an H.264 proxy file, because it’s tiny. But the big problem I’ve got with starting to get involved with camera masters is that those files can be really big. I mean, if you’re shooting with an Arri Alexa and you’re shooting ProRes 4 by 4 HQ or SQ, you’ve got a real problem on your hands getting that stuff uploaded; and worse, you’re across the pond and bandwidth is often limited as we transfer across the ocean. How do we deal with the bandwidth issues?
Rory McVicar: That’s a great point and it’s a promising consideration, how we build our workflow. There are a couple of different answers to that question. One revolves around a network of upload partners that we have built relationships with around the States. So you can drop off your camera rushes at these post facilities and centers of video communities and they have fast connectivity and are trained in uploading into A-Frame. That’s one piece of the answer here.
Rory McVicar: The second is that we increasingly work with camera manufacturers in partnership to build that proxy first workflows. The latest range of cameras from Sony, from Panasonic, from Canon and also very many off board encoding units will create edit ready proxy material which can be pointed towards an A-Frame project so that as soon as the content’s acquired, it’s pretty much visible to the rest of the project team and, as we all know, production is becoming more and more disparate and more and more global in its nature.
Larry Jordan: Before I get too excited, I was looking over your client list. You’ve got MTV, we’ve got Fox, we’ve got the BBC and none of these are small companies. Are your services priced so an independent producer should even consider it? Or is this really a game for the deep pockets?
Rory McVicar: I think it’s fair to say we’ve got a great foothold in the enterprise broadcast market, but we actually come out of a post production and, in fact, a production background, so our CEO, David Peto, started out as a producer.
Rory McVicar: He then became the owner and co-founder of the UK’s first all Final Cut Pro HD post facility unit and it was the problems that he witnessed working at that facility specific to the growing complexity around file acquisition, disparate locations, how people maximize the value of content that they’ve sweated blood, sweat and tears over a period of months and seeing that content go and live on a hard drive in a cupboard, which was the initial provocation for the idea, really, of what A-Frame could be. We have a large client roster of independent production companies and people making various different types of programming.
Larry Jordan: Give me a couple of examples of where A-Frame would fit into, say, an independent producer’s workflow. Show me how I could use your services.
Rory McVicar: Yes, absolutely. Let’s take digital dailies as a starting point. I think that might be pertinent to a lot of your listeners. If we speak about A-Frame for digital dailies, a good customer case study is a facility, 1619, based out in the States. They use A-Frame pretty much across the board for their productions as a digital daily service and one of the most recent high profile productions that came to fruition after using A-Frame was Scott Rudin Production’s Rosewater. So all of the content that was being generated on set was collapsed down into a common codec by DIT, so it was a lightweight H.264 to start with on being uploaded.
Rory McVicar: It was then uploaded into a secure project space, at which point it was instantly accessible to the 20 or so people who resided on the West Coast of the United States, the East Coast of the United States and London. It was accessible for them to view, to add their comments and to also be a part of what is essentially becoming a pre-edit process.
Rory McVicar: One thing we’re seeing is the traditional handoff between production and post is shrinking because there is a need to get content rationalized before you can begin to tell a story. We know with file based workflows and the rise of tapeless, people are shooting a lot more content than ever before. You need to have a better idea now about the story you’re going to tell when you’re moving into the edit suite than perhaps you did when you were watching the clock on tape or even film. So that’s one use case.
Rory McVicar: We could also take a look at, for instance, the global file distribution that was experienced. Fox Sports 1 use A-Frame in a use case which involves the submission of stringer content, as I mentioned previously, but one really interesting thing that came out of Fox Sports 1’s use of A-Frame revolves around the international partners that they have to share content with, and what we found was that for every one asset that was uploaded to A-Frame, to the secure project space which was shared between Fox Sports in Pico and Fox Sports in Brazil and Fox Sports in Australia and Italian partners and so on and so forth, each asset was downloaded and went to air nine times.
Larry Jordan: What I’m hearing as you give me these examples is that you service a middle man to take assets which are generated in one spot and sharing them with media creators and producers and everybody else around the world. So an ideal use case for your service is people who are located in more than one location that need timely access to production video. Is that a true statement?
Rory McVicar: I think that’s certainly fair. I think where A-Frame’s value can be maximized is when you have multiple disparate stakeholders spread across the world. But the interesting point is that it provides a central access.
Rory McVicar: Traditionally, file sharing is point to point, but because A-Frame captures the video in the middle, makes sure it stores the original video in exactly the format it was presented in and creates an H.264 proxy, you can begin to build out a kind of self serve model for your partners and for the different elements of your internal organization who need access to this content perhaps at different times of the day, when time zones come into factor, and sometimes they’re right up against a deadline and need to get access as quickly as possible. These are some of the common advantages that we’ve seen in using the service in larger organizations.
Larry Jordan: But the key to this is security and I am not a fan of the cloud, because every day we turn around and some major new site – I mean, just last week Sony was hacked. How do we make sure that assets which we’re not ready to release to the public stay secure?
Rory McVicar: That’s a very fair point and it’s one of the central concerns of A-Frame engineering here in London. What I can say to try and address your concerns is when you upload your content to A-Frame, where is it going? Well, it’s actually going to what we call A-Frame’s broadcast cloud. These are servers owned and operated by A-Frame which reside in top tier data centers in New York, Los Angeles and London.
Rory McVicar: We create three copies of any file uploaded to the system and these servers sit behind 2,048 bit RSA encryption key controlled access, they are locked in cages, they’re manned 24/7. We actively continuously monitor and protect our services from attack vectors such as SQL injection and cross site scripting. When you’re working in the browser, the level of SSL certification is the same as your online banking applications.
Rory McVicar: So it’s one of the primary concerns of all that we do here at A-Frame, to create a secure environment for people to upload their content to, and that’s led to FACT accreditation over here in the UK, which is the equivalent of the MPAA in the States, and we are aligned to the best practices set out by the MPAA in the United States as well.
Larry Jordan: Well, now that I’ve got a really good idea of what A-Frame does and where it fits into the whole production and post process, you’re Head of Product, which means you’ve got to come up with something new. So what’s new?
Rory McVicar: So what’s new? It’s a good question. We’ve just been demonstrating our A-Frame full 2014 release at CCW in New York and we’ve made a number of different enhancements to the existing product. One of the best things about using a SAS product like A-Frame, a software as a service product, is that new functionality becomes available to you without having to outlay a massive cost in either hardware or on premises installation.
Rory McVicar: The enhancements that we make to the product get pushed to users automatically and, as part of the A-Frame full release, we are speaking about automated media movement using a desktop transfer agent so that I can set up a very simple workflow which will take a file from a watch folder on my desktop, upload it into a secure project space on A-Frame, transcode it into the format my collaborator requires and push that content to my collaborator on the other side of the world, all without me having to do anything else. So really simple workflow management using an interface that’s been designed to be training light and on boarding light.
Rory McVicar: We’ve also improved the aspects of control around the project and the count space. We’ve introduced a metrics dashboard, which brings together all of the business intelligence generated from finally getting multiple people working together in one space because, of course, one of the principle advantages of the cloud is that it can break down silos. Well, once you’ve broken down silos, there’s a lot of intelligence that can be gained from seeing how people work together in their different environments.
Rory McVicar: We’ve also focused on building out further integrations, not just with camera manufacturers like Sony, Panasonic and Canon, but also with editing tools and post production tools like Adobe Prelude, where we’ll take in the XMP metadata embedded in any content that’s been logged or rough cut and bring that in along with the media and present it in IUI so that people can search against that, add their own comments and push the amalgam of all of these different strands of intelligence into their edit environment, wherever that may be.
Larry Jordan: I was just reflecting, with all these new services you’ve got, how do you price your services?
Rory McVicar: A-Frame is costed on a subscription model as a software as a service product and essentially the three vectors which generate the price that a company will pay are the amount of concurrent users that are going to be occupying a seat within the account, the amount of storage – remember, there’s no limits on the file size you can upload, there’s no cost to upload for bandwidth, or download – and also which features out of a comprehensive tool set the user will require. So costing is very much built on a bespoke conversation and consultative model.
Larry Jordan: Are we talking hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of dollars a month for a relatively small production?
Rory McVicar: For a relatively small production, we’re speaking about thousands.
Larry Jordan: Ok, and the other big issue for a lot of independents is they’re project based. They want to be able to subscribe for the period of time that they’re putting the program together but they don’t need to have an annual or ongoing subscription. Do you have month by month subscriptions?
Rory McVicar: We do, although we’re finding that more and more the different pockets of an organization that may have an overarching IT department or operations department are seeing value in actually just gathering together their different teams and providing this service as an ongoing catch-all for different creative endeavors or different projects that are ongoing throughout the year.
Larry Jordan: Rory, A-Frame is based in London. If a US producer wants to use your services, where can they go?
Rory McVicar: While the A-Frame engineering team and the media sales teams are based in London, we also have an office in Boston and also employees working in New York and in Phoenix. So we’ve got quite a reach across the States, actually, covering both sides of the United States. While we are based in London, it’s more and more so becoming equally represented on your side of the pond.
Larry Jordan: But you also have data centers and, if I remember correctly, you’ve got a data center in LA and in New York and London, so even when you’re transferring data, it’s not necessarily going to your London data center.
Rory McVicar: Oh, absolutely right. One of the principle advantages of being able to choose where your media lives, as you can do with A-Frame and as you can’t do with other cloud providers, is that you can ensure that your media stays within the United States if you want to; or, if you’re based in Europe, you could ensure that your media stayed in the London data center.
Rory McVicar: It’s an option that you choose at the point of project creation and then all of your media, when the disaster recovery backup is made, is pushed to its twin location which, in the case of New York and Los Angeles, they backup to each other so you can be sure that your content’s staying within the United States, if that’s a consideration in your particular production.
Larry Jordan: How about producers in other countries outside the North American area?
Rory McVicar: We’re actually seeing a lot of use across different areas of the globe, most notably in Australia, where nine networks are using us. In these cases, they’re using the A-Frame broadcast cloud as it’s laid out and it’s performing absolutely sufficiently for these users’ needs.
Larry Jordan: And for people who want more information about the services and A-Frame itself, where can they go on the web?
Rory McVicar: The best place to go is aframe.com, where you’ll find a blog and you’ll also find White Papers and further information around the product.
Larry Jordan: That’s aframe.com and Rory McVicar is the Head of Product for London based A-Frame and, Rory, thanks for joining us today.
Rory McVicar: Thank you, Larry.
Larry Jordan: You know, Mike, it’s been an interesting show. We’ve had a pretty wide range of guests, starting with crowd funding; and then, you know, the more you think about this Sony thing, the more both sad and embarrassing it gets.
Mike Horton: Yes, we’ve got to bring him back and talk a little bit more about this.
Larry Jordan: Yes.
Mike Horton: I know I’m making light of this whole thing, because a lot of people are having fun with it, including me, but it’s a serious situation.
Larry Jordan: And it’s serious because, I mean, look at what happened with ART. That has the potential to affect you directly.
Mike Horton: Well, the moment I got on the internet, I threw privacy out the window. No, seriously. That’s it. Everybody knows where I am. I know your phone number, I know your social security number. I know everything about you, Larry. Everything.
Larry Jordan: I know, I know, but…
Mike Horton: Everything.
Larry Jordan: …try not to write checks on the account, would you? Because there’s…
Mike Horton: I know the account number, and I won’t. I’ll be a good boy.
Larry Jordan: You just can’t spell it correctly, that’s the situation.
Mike Horton: No, but really, talking to security experts, there’s little we can do about all of this. There’s little we can do.
Larry Jordan: And it’s so widespread that, by the time you get access to it, it’s somewhere else.
Mike Horton: There are a lot of very smart teenagers out there doing the best they can to do these sorts of things and they’re doing very well at it.
Larry Jordan: Well, now that you’ve got me fully depressed, I want to thank our guests for this week, starting with Yvonne Russo, the award…
Mike Horton: Just going back to your thing about the cloud and how you don’t trust it.
Larry Jordan: …winning producer, director and writer; Jonathan Handel of Counsel at TroyGould in Los Angeles and the entertainment labor reporter for The Hollywood Reporter; and Rory McVicar, Head of Product for A-Frame.
Larry Jordan: There’s lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website, digitalproductionbuzz.com – hundreds of past shows and thousands of interviews, all searchable.
Mike Horton: It is, it’s thousands, isn’t it? It’s thousands.
Larry Jordan: It really is. It’s a frightening thought.
Mike Horton: Isn’t that incredible?
Larry Jordan: Yes.
Mike Horton: Is that something to be proud of?
Larry Jordan: It’s an amazing thing to be proud of. You can talk with us on Twitter, @DPBuZZ, and Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. You should visit Mike Horton’s website. It is an eye opener every time you see it. One of these days he’ll clean it up.
Larry Jordan: Anyway, music on The Buzz is provided by Smartsound.
Mike Horton: Or future proof it. I’m very proud of you, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Text transcripts are provided by Take 1 Transcription. Our producer is Cirina Catania, the engineers are Megan Paulos and Ed… On behalf of Mike Horton, my name is Larry Jordan, and thanks for listening to the Digital Production Buzz.
Mike Horton: Goodbye, everybody.
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