Digital Production Buzz
December 4, 2014
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
Jordan Kelly Montgomery, Producer/Director, Jordan Stone Productions
David Foley, Sr. Technologist & Founder, NanoTech
Tom Coughlin, President, Coughlin and Associates
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. Our co-host, the ever handsome Mike Horton, has the night off.
Larry Jordan: We start this evening with Jordan Kelly Montgomery, a producer/director with Jordan Stone Productions. Recently, they completed editing of a series for Fox Sports, only to confront figuring out how to deliver their final product, so tonight we’re talking about deliverables.
Larry Jordan: Next is David Foley. He’s the Co-founder and Chief Technologist at NanoTech Entertainment. They are a company focused on delivering 4K media to the home and he shares his thoughts on the challenges of dealing with 4K this week.
Larry Jordan: Then we look at the latest trends in technology with Tom Coughlin, the President of Coughlin and Associates. Tom has built his career reporting and consulting to the storage industry. Since media devours storage, I thought it would be a good idea to talk with him about how we’re going to get more space to store all of our stuff.
Larry Jordan: And just as 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 all possible.
Larry Jordan: I am so excited. Today marks the start of broadcasting from our new studios in Los Angeles. Yes, we’ve moved out of Ralph’s Maytag Museum after all these years and into a new state of the art space which used to be the former home of DTS. In this week’s Buzz newsletter, which comes out tomorrow, I’ll provide a rundown of all the audio gear that we’re using for the show and how we’re using it.
Larry Jordan: Our move to these new studios marks a significant change to what we can do each week on The Buzz and you’ll see more changes coming later in December and in January. For now, the hammers are still building out the facility, but it is so exciting to be here and I can’t wait to tell you more about it.
Larry Jordan: By the way, thinking of exciting things, we are very pleased to announce that The Buzz and Moviola have collaborated on a special video event that premiered today featuring a candid interview with Emmy nominated producer/director/editor Luis Barreto. You’ll get a rare behind the scenes look at what’s required when working in reality television, the importance of casting beats in scripts, budgets, deliverables and how Luis broke into the business. It’s a unique opportunity to learn about what really goes on in reality television.
Larry Jordan: You navigate to moviola.com, click on the featured video of the day, you’ll see The Buzz logo, register and enjoy the show. That’s moviola.com, Luis Barreto and, man, when you see it, it’s going to change your life on reality programming. Luis was an incredible guest and Mike and I had a great time talking with him.
Larry Jordan: Remember to visit with us on Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com; we’re also on Twitter @DPBuZZ, and you want to subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Every Friday morning it comes out with an inside look at our show, our guests and the industry.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of the industry, I’ll be back with Jordan Kelly Montgomery right after this.
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Larry Jordan: For over a decade, Jordan Stone Productions has partnered with some of the largest production companies in the world to produce exciting content from development through post. A recent partnership included Hoplite Entertainment’s reality series ‘Stable Wars’ for Fox Sports and it is this production that we want to talk about. Hello, Jordan, welcome.
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: Hello, thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: We are glad to have you with us. How would you describe Jordan Stone Productions?
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: Jordan Stone Productions is a boutique production company that produces original content, mostly in the reality space. What we do really well is partner with larger production companies whenever the workload gets a little too big, and they really need someone to come in and get the ball all the rest of the way across the goal line. That’s where Jordan Stone Productions comes in and brings their creativity.
Larry Jordan: Ok. We’re going to talk about deliverables, but we’re going to quickly set the stage. Tell us about what ‘Stable Wars’ is.
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: ‘Stable Wars’ is an exciting show. I’m so excited to be a part of it. It’s a second season show, the first time that Jordan Stone Productions has been asked to be a part of it, and we’re partnering with HopLite Entertainment on this show. This is a really exciting show. It’s really unique in the way that it’s such a sports oriented show. It focuses on the Del Mar horseracing syndicate. We have two male syndicates and one all female team and what they’re doing is they each have their horses that they’re racing down in Del Mar and then they’re in competition with each other. So you get the big epic scope of the big time, big money horseracing but then we really focus that energy down to just these three syndicates and how they’re exciting and in competition with each other.
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: Of course, the more that they’re in competition with each other, the more they’re actually going to end up appreciating each other. So it’s a very positive spin in a reality world which could easily go negative and we’re proud of the fact that it stays pretty positive and fun.
Larry Jordan: What is Jordan Stone’s particular role in this production?
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: What Jordan Stone did was we came in – Jordan Stone’s primarily my wife and myself – and I came on board as the Supervising Producer on the show. So I would be in the field, overseeing all of the production in that aspect in the field, as well as taking that ball and bringing it back to post.
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: Post is really where we shine at Jordan Stone. We have some outstanding editors on our staff who are seasoned in this business, and who have worked for some of the top networks out there in promo and in television and we work together as a team. I’ve got to tell you that this reality work moves so fast. It moves faster than everybody expects it to, because deliverables change, expectations change, the shows change and as that happens we have to keep up with that demand and that’s what our team is able to do.
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: Jordan Stone Productions does story and there’s been a big emphasis on that. We do story really, really well. We can be handed a bunch of stuff that doesn’t necessarily make sense and make sense out of that. I credit our team for being able to do that all the way through.
Larry Jordan: Ok, so let us now fast forward. We’ve done this incredible reality shoot at Del Mar race grounds, you’ve got incredible pictures, it’s gone through the editorial process and you’re getting ready to deliver the final version. This is where I want to spend some time working through some of the issues. Why are deliverables so hard?
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: Deliverables are hard because deliverables are always changing. I’m still pretty young and… ten years, and ten years ago when we started off it was different and we were lugging in the… into the edit bays and hooking them up and… you had to turn into Mr. Spargo or… I’m really not a technology guy. I learned it to do what I do in the business, but I really try to lean on other people for that – it’s another expense and another addition that comes in there and it’s another responsibility that I don’t really want to have on top of me.
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: What we do is get everything to the specs that we need it to be, get the show timed out and then we run that process over to our… We use Alpha Dogs. I used them on my first very show I made for G4. It was called ‘Champion of Champions’, it was a half bike show, half documentary show and I was in way over my head and I didn’t know what we were going to do and somebody mentioned, “I’ve got to show you these guys over at Alpha Dogs,” and I said, “All right, let’s go see what these guys are all about,” and, man, I’ve got to tell you, the biggest thing that I hope anybody walks away from this evening with is if you’re going to show big budget, low budget, whatever it may be, you’ve got to go to Alpha Dogs. They’re just so great. Oliver Chan, he’s the general manager over there.
Larry Jordan: Ok, wait, wait, wait, wait. Hold it, hold it, hold it. I have absolute faith that the staff is perfect, but I want to focus on deliverables. What did you have to deliver to Fox? What formats were they looking for and was there just one or were there multiple versions? And how were you involved in managing quality on the output?
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: Fox then had moved all the way over to digital, so we’re still cutting up things, transferring over to tape for those guys and then they’re shooting that off onto satellite to some of the other affiliates. So it’s a little challenging because what we have is Fox San Diego, Sun Sports, Sportstime Ohio and a bunch of others that I’m not even aware of that are getting a different deliverable. Those are just the domestics that we have so far. Coming down the pipeline as we speak are other deals being made at gunpoint, and let’s not talk about those at this time.
Larry Jordan: No, it makes sense.
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: As well as international ones as well.
Larry Jordan: What it sounds like is that each one of these different distributors needs a different format. Is there no standardization in terms of delivering file formats to different companies?
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: There’s new technology and the guys that can afford it do have it and then the other ones, they haven’t been able to move over just yet. I’m a little nervous to find out what international is going to be like. We’re so ready to see what that’s going to come at, but it is, it’s always different. When I’m talking to closed captioning or I’m talking to all the different departments that I have to to get everything finalized, there are lists and lists and lists of all sorts of deliverables that there could possibly be.
Larry Jordan: It sounds to me like, because you’re the Supervising Producer, you contact the folks over at Alpha Dogs and say, “This is the deliverable spec,” and you hand them the sheet of paper that Fox Sports or Sun Sports gives you and they’re then charged with meeting that spec. Is that true?
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: Yes, they save the day, that’s what they do.
Larry Jordan: Tell me more about what ‘Stable Wars’ is. What are the challenges? Is the challenge in the shooting or is the challenge in the editing?
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: That’s a good question and I think it depends on which side of that… that you fall on. I’ve traveled the line between being in the production, the edit bay and I’ve really got to tell you, you don’t get one without the other.
Larry Jordan: No, that’s true.
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: Early on in my career, I started on the post side, I was like, “It all happens in post. If you don’t have it here, then you don’t have it anywhere.” If you don’t have it on camera, you don’t have it in post. When you get that understanding, and the biggest thing that needs to be understood is that grace needs to be given to each side of that communication back and forth, and then everybody just needs to understand that it’s never going to be perfect, or it’s going to be the way you expected it but it is going to be as good as it could possibly be.
Larry Jordan: It’s a never ending challenge. You work as hard as you can in production to make it perfect and then, when you look at it in editing, it’s amazing how much stuff slips through the cracks that you’ve got to fix. Each hand has to do the best they can and when it’s all done you’ve managed to hide the mistakes, especially reality. Reality must make that especially hard.
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: This has happened on every show. When we first start getting the footage coming in, the first thing I do is go, “This is going to be a nightmare. It’s not going to work out at all,” and so I feel that there’s a level of insecurity that I feel the first couple of episodes. That usually means that we’re doing a good job. It’s really about the fourth episode that I can stop and look at it with open eyes and then go, “We’re making a really good show here.”
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: I’m usually not the first one to say it, it’s usually the networks. They’ll get a look at the show and they’ll go, “Oh, that’s fantastic. We want that show,” and then actually more and more people are biting for the show and I was like, “They want our show? They want our show?” but when you’re in the trenches, it’s hard to tell if you’re winning the war or losing, you really don’t know.
Larry Jordan: Does Fox try to influence the content much?
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: No. The only thing that Fox is concerned about is standards and practices, making sure that, at certain times you can only have, you can’t show hard alcohol, even if it’s just a bottle in the background. They want it blurred or a different shot at it. Typically all they care about, they take a look at the show, they saw that it was fine, they saw it was exciting and family friendly they were like, “We’re on board.” Not to mention it is a second season show, so it’s had a chance to prove itself to its audience, so they really just let us make the stuff that we wanted to make.
Larry Jordan: It’s exciting to be able to have a network show and that size audience with that size company and be able to develop it the way you want. For people who want more information, Jordan, where can they go to learn more about both the company and the show?
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: I would really encourage folks to check out Fox Sports for ‘Stable Wars’. Their site is good, but also we have our own Facebook page, it’s stablewarsdelmar on Facebook and it’s got fun videos, it’s got interviews, it’s got links to some of the cast members and stuff if you want to really learn about the show and have a good time and enjoy it and that’s a good place to find out where it’s…
Larry Jordan: And where can they go for Jordan Stone?
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: You can check us out on jordanstoneproductions on Vimeo. You can see a lot of the sizzle reels and the development that we’ve done.
Larry Jordan: Jordan, I’ve got to cut you off, but thank you so much for your time. We will talk with you again soon and I wish you all success.
Jordan Kelly Montgomery: A pleasure. Thanks so much.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
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Larry Jordan: David Foley is the Senior Technologist and the Co-Founder at NanoTech Entertainment, which is based in San Jose and focused on entertainment and communications products. He’s an award winning IPTV and gaming designer and development professional with over 20 years of experience in the industry. Hello, David. Welcome.
David Foley: Hi, how are you?
Larry Jordan: I’m doing great, but it’s not me I’m interested in. I want to learn more about you. Tell us what NanoTech Entertainment is.
David Foley: NanoTech Entertainment is a company that started out in the out of home entertainment gaming business – arcade machines, casino machines – and then a few years ago we saw a trend in television where the market was moving towards a streaming over the top kind of model, and an on demand content model as opposed to the traditional broadcast market, and so we started investing and developing technology for that market and we are now meeting in the middle with the manufacturers of televisions and we think this is the first year where really the viewing habits have changed substantially and you’re seeing a shift in how people watch television.
Larry Jordan: What does over the top mean?
David Foley: Over the top is when you have a set-top box like a Roku or you have a Smart TV that’s connected to the internet and you’re getting your television from an internet source as opposed to from a regular traditional broadcast or cable source.
Larry Jordan: This would be like Netflix or something of that sort?
David Foley: Correct.
Larry Jordan: Are you making hardware or programs to run on top of the hardware?
David Foley: We’ve done both, actually. We built the first streaming set-top box that does 4K and we also build a lot of streaming channels.
Larry Jordan: Now, there’s a lot of discussion in the industry about 4K and I think all of us are pretty well accustomed to shooting four, five, even 6K for production to get the highest quality imaging we can, but there’s a real bottleneck when it comes to distributing 4K to the home. How are you getting around that?
David Foley: There are two things. One is you need to optimize your compression and in the last year there has been a big movement to move over to the new HEVC or H.265 standard and that’s really benefited everybody in that you’re getting about a 40 percent improvement in requirements for the bandwidth needed to broadcast something. We’ve been able to successfully stream 4K as low as six megabits per second.
Larry Jordan: At six megabits per second for 4K?
David Foley: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Wow. Well, what is the difference – without getting really, really technical – between H.264 and H.265? Why not just make the bit rate lower with H.264?
David Foley: The algorithms that do the compression in H.265 are much more efficient. So at the same bit rate you get better quality or at the same quality you get a smaller file so you can use less bandwidth.
Larry Jordan: So it’s not simply just lowering the bit rate, it’s actually the mathematics of how the video image itself is being compressed.
David Foley: That’s correct.
Larry Jordan: Because you’re involved both in hardware and in the program… what trends are you seeing this holiday season that consumers need to pay attention to?
David Foley: I think what’s most interesting is you’re seeing the second generation of the 4K televisions becoming widely available. You’ve got all the manufacturers that offer a 4K television but they’re also now offering Smart televisions that are able to have apps built into them, like our UltraFlix app.
Larry Jordan: What does UltraFlix do?
David Foley: UltraFlix is the first 4K, all 4K streaming network and what we did was we created a Netflix-like experience; however, every piece of content that we have is in 4K Ultra high def.
Larry Jordan: Ultra high def, that’s essentially a doubling of a 1080 image, so it’s 1920 x 2 horizontal and 1080 x 2 vertical. Why did you pick that size?
David Foley: That’s the industry standard for 4K. That resolution is what all of the new 4K televisions support.
Larry Jordan: There’s also a lot of discussion about it’s not true 4K, where true 4K is actually more than 4,000 pixels on the side. Is there a big difference in image quality between the two?
David Foley: There’s not. We’re talking a couple of hundred pixels and it’s really more of an aspect ratio issue than a sizing issue. What you’ve got with the Ultra high def or 2160P is a straight 16×9 aspect ratio, which is what all the television manufacturers build to.
Larry Jordan: In order to do UltraFlix, do we need to purchase NanoTech hardware? Or can we purchase a 4K set made by any manufacturer?
David Foley: Most of the major manufacturers have a Smart TV. So the folks like Sony, Samsung, VIZIO, they all have UltraFlix built into them and you don’t need separate hardware. We had originally built the MP1 set-top box last year to accommodate those TVs that don’t have electronics built inside of them, like the Seiki’s, so it really depends on the television. If you go down to a Best Buy, every television there can run UltraFlix and most of them come with it built into the TV as you buy it out of the box.
Larry Jordan: What’s keeping you guys busy and excited this holiday season?
David Foley: Really, content generation is keeping us busy. A year and a half ago, we created a division called 4K Studios and we actually purchased two film scanners that scan 35 millimeter film into 4K. We’ve had those things running pretty much non-stop, taking films in and converting them.
David Foley: One of the things that we’ve found is that you have a chicken and egg problem in the industry where the studios don’t want to spend a lot of money converting film until they know there’s a lot of televisions out there, and people don’t want to buy televisions until they know there’s a lot of content out there. So we decided to take the lead in that and we actually set up two studios, one in San Francisco and one in Hollywood, where we’re creating a lot of content that’s all 4K. We’re doing a lot of work for studios where we’re scanning their films and converting them into 4K.
Larry Jordan: What’s involved in the conversion process? Is there much restoration involved?
David Foley: There is, actually. After you do the scan, one of the things that we have to do is re-scan the films because the newer scanner has a better image sensor which is able to actually capture a 4K digital picture of the frame of film. Once you’ve captured the film, you then have to go in and do a repair path and, depending on the quality of the film, that could be a little bit of work or a lot of work, where you go and you fix up scratches, you fix up damage to the actual physical film.
David Foley: After that, you then have to go through a color grading process where you adjust the color of the scans to match what the original film directors wanted to have the scene look like; and then once all that’s done, we have to then go through an encoding process where we actually compress it down to something that could be streamed.
Larry Jordan: I remember reading a while ago that the typical 35 millimeter frame only had a resolution of about 2K. Are you manufacturing data to get it up to 4?
David Foley: No. Actually, you get just a hair over 4K from a 35 millimeter film, so we are at the physical limit now of the analogue to digital conversion. When we go to anything higher than 4K, then you would be interpolating pixels but with the new image centers, you’re at just about a one to one scanning the film into 4K.
Larry Jordan: Is there a particular genre or age of film that people are interested in seeing in 4K? Or are you just grabbing everything you can get your hands on?
David Foley: We’re grabbing everything we can get our hands on and then, as we go to these studios, we’re trying to get the classics. The ones that are going to have stunning visuals, and try and get those first because obviously if something was visually stunning in the theater, you want to translate that to the home experience.
Larry Jordan: Gone with the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia kind of things?
David Foley: Absolutely. Any of the big epics are going to look great in 4K.
Larry Jordan: What else are you paying attention to in the next couple of months? This strikes me as cutting edge consumer technology, because now we’re able to see in the home the kind of images that normally you could only see in the edit suite.
David Foley: Absolutely. If you go to the store and you see some of these TVs, it is quite stunning. There have been some naysayers who say, “Well, there’s no difference at six to nine feet of looking at an HD screen versus a 4K screen,” but that’s simply not true. One of the things that people forget is that we’re not only talking about more pixels on the screen, but we’re talking about more colors as well. 4K enables us to go to ten bit color and so you’re going to get much more vibrant colors on the screen.
Larry Jordan: Are you seeing any interest in the new Dolby Vision, which gives us even greater bit depth than ten bit depth?
David Foley: Absolutely, and that’s going to be next year’s consumer product, if you will. I think that will be the third generation televisions, because you actually have to do some electronics inside the TV to support that, but one of the things that we’ve done is in our workflow as we go from the film all the way down to the digital stream, we’ve stored everything that we did in the workflow in its original format and we’re scanning everything in 16 bit color because we know we’re going to have to go through and do another pass at everything once the Dolby Vision type color space becomes available on the TVs.
Larry Jordan: It’s exciting times. This is really cool stuff. Where can people go on the web to learn more about the kind of products that you guys are making available?
David Foley: Our website is ntek.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s ntek.com and David Foley is the Senior Technologist and Co-Founder of NanoTech Entertainment. David, thanks for joining us today.
David Foley: Thank you very much.
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Larry Jordan: Tom Coughlin is a Silicon Valley Consultant specializing in storage and he’s also the organizer of the annual Storage Vision and Creative Vision conferences. Storage is critical to media creation, which is why it’s always good to have Tom back on the show. Hello, Tom, welcome back.
Tom Coughlin: Thank you, Larry, it’s great to be back and talk to you and your listeners.
Larry Jordan: I just realized, in my intro I forgot to mention you’re the CEO of Coughlin and Associates. What does Coughlin and Associates do?
Tom Coughlin: I do consulting, and I write reports and things of that sort and I’m involved in organizing several conferences, especially I do some conferences that relate to digital storage in media and entertainment.
Larry Jordan: You’ve got one coming up in January that we’ll be talking about a little bit later, because I’ve had the pleasure of speaking at it many times and it’s always a great time to get together. But let’s talk about this new report you’ve released taking a look at the uses of storage and media. Tell us about the report and what you found out.
Tom Coughlin: It’s a 205 page report with about 91 figures and 50 some tables in it, looking at every aspect of digital storage in the professional media and entertainment and this will be the tenth report on this topic that I’ve done.
Larry Jordan: 205 pages?
Tom Coughlin: Yes.
Larry Jordan: I think I could summarize it as you can’t have enough storage and it can’t go fast enough. What more do we need to say?
Tom Coughlin: That’s right, that’s right. We’ll just close the book right there. But you might worry about the cost.
Larry Jordan: What did you learn that’s changed over the last year?
Tom Coughlin: There’s an awful lot of very interesting trends. We have higher capacities in almost every type of storage technology out there, whether it be magnetic tape, optical disks, hard disk drives or flash memory. There’s been announcement of magnetic tape up to ten terabytes and five; also, hard disk drives are now, still they’re not shipping it, at up to ten terabytes and five. There’s four terabyte flash memory out there.
Larry Jordan: Wait, wait, wait, slow down, slow down. Tom, hold it, hold it. There’s a hard disk that’s got ten terabytes of storage?
Tom Coughlin: They’re shipping eight, but they announced ten by next year.
Larry Jordan: Unbelievable. I just was so distracted by that. Storage is increasing and spinning media, ten terabytes? I thought we’d sort of maxed out around four. How did they manage to squeeze all this extra space in?
Tom Coughlin: There are a few different ways in which people have done that. There’s a technology called shingled magnetic recording, where they partially overwrite a previously written track… that’s one of the ways that people have been able to do that and therefore get more density per disk.
Tom Coughlin: Another way is that a company called HGST, which is a division of Western Digital, have created drives that are hermetically sealed that contain helium. That allows them to get more disks in the drive without running into some problems with the drive as it’s developed because of a phenomenon called flutter.
Tom Coughlin: Those technologies combined together have allowed people to get six, eight and soon ten terabyte hard disc drives; and there’s more technology, of course, waiting in the wings for all of these different devices to enhance their capacity and lower the cost per terabyte of storage.
Larry Jordan: Now we’re talking cost per terabyte, not cost per gigabyte.
Tom Coughlin: Oh, gigabyte is so… We’re now into tens. We’re in the double digits in the decade.
Larry Jordan: Just because I cut you off as you were doing a summary of the report, you were saying that we’ve got increased storage and faster performance in magnetic tape; we have increased storage in spinning media, hard disk, and are we also getting increased storage in solid state drives?
Tom Coughlin: We are indeed. Solid state drives, there are technologies out there with three dimensional NAND where they actually stack the memory channels inside of basically a hole in the silicon and they can stack them up.
Tom Coughlin: Samsung has products now that are using that vertical math, so that’s a major advance and it’s one of the paths forward towards increasing the density of flash memory. In addition, they’re reducing the size of the lithographic feature, they call them, inside of the chips in order to get more cells in a given surface area of the chips. So there’s a lot of advancement going on there and the price of flash memory is going down.
Tom Coughlin: In addition, there are increased improvements in the error correction capabilities that are allowing the development of three bit per cell flash going to more applications, both on the client end and also potentially on the enterprise side, so there are a lot of things going on with flash. The other technology is the optical disk. There’s a new roadmap on optical disk that talks about 320 gigabyte disks available by next year, write once disks. They’ll have 500 not too long after that and they’re even talking about a terabyte optical disk.
Larry Jordan: Are we seeing any kind of a market for optical disk? We’re seeing that CDs and DVDs are pretty much on the out. Where is optical disk popular?
Tom Coughlin: The optical disk for distribution, as you’re mentioned, are going down in every market except maybe Blu-Ray, where it’s a way of getting the higher resolution content. What these roadmaps are targeting is optical use for archiving applications. There are people who like to use optical media because today’s optical media actually has very long endurance, even without taking special care in the environment. So if you’re trying to create an archive of media, the media itself could last quite a long time, again without extremely special care.
Tom Coughlin: That’s primarily the market for this new optical media. Panasonic has done some work in that and particularly Sony is pushing this. They’ve got what looks almost like a tape cartridge but it’s got 12 optical disks that… one and a half terabytes. The next generation product will be about 3.2 to 3.5 terabytes.
Larry Jordan: When you say it has a longer life, what kind of lifespan are we looking at for that optical media?
Tom Coughlin: The claim there is that they could probably do a 50 year life. The issue you’ve got, of course, with a long life product is finding the equipment to play it on. Format obsolescence is the thing that you worry about with that, but at least the media potentially could survive that long.
Larry Jordan: We have the same problem with LTO tape. The tape will last 25 years but we won’t be able to have players that last that long.
Tom Coughlin: That is the issue and that is why, if you really are into an archiving practice, at some point before it gets too late you need to have a transition plan, moving from one media to another, both in order to avoid the format obsolescence but it also can be a means by which to reduce your costs going forward.
Tom Coughlin: The technology, we mentioned tape or hard disk drives or even optical disks you’re going to be able to get more density of information on a given piece of media and it’s probably not going to cost any more than the old piece of media once it becomes mature and so your net cost and the net footprint for storing a certain amount of information is decreasing over time. There’s a real TCO advantage in migration of content over time and building that into your plan.
Larry Jordan: This whole concept of format obsolescence is one that is new to me. I was just wrestling with that over the last couple of years. We have archives of Digi-Beta tapes and two inch tapes, and one inch tapes and there are no machines to play them on. The tapes are still good and we could still play them if we had the device, but we don’t have the device. That’s an element that you don’t think about having to pay attention to.
Tom Coughlin: Yes, you have to worry about that. That rich content that you’re creating can get trapped on a piece of media that no longer has a device to be played on or no longer will things connect to the interface on your device to read the data, if you’re not careful.
Larry Jordan: Yes, I have a stack of SyQuest drives that meet that criteria perfectly, but you’re too young to remember SyQuest drives.
Tom Coughlin: I know the feeling.
Larry Jordan: One of the things that we’re hearing a lot about in hard disks is 3D storage or holographic storage. What’s that all about?
Tom Coughlin: The holographic storage that people are generally talking about is an optical disk phenomena. The holographic images that you can sometimes see, people make these pictures that give you a three dimensional look, they can store different information that can be read from different angles because of the interference patterns that are created by the light that’s recorded in the optical media. That’s what creates the hologram but it can also be used for storing information in a holograph.
Tom Coughlin: That’s the basic idea. Doing this in practice has turned out to be rather difficult and so there’s still research going on right now. It actually is one of the things they were talking about in that long term optical archive roadmap, but so far there’s no practical implementation or products you could buy with that yet.
Larry Jordan: Another term that we hear a lot about is 3D storage on spinning media. Is that a fancy or is there some development there?
Tom Coughlin: On a hard disk drive?
Larry Jordan: I believe that’s what I remember it as. Normally on a hard disk, you’re just storing right at the surface of the hard disc. Are you able to store in depth or is that simply optical media that does that?
Tom Coughlin: The optical media in particular, because I could focus on different layers. The problem with the magnetics is there is a way that I can record different information with… because there are differences in the penetration of the magnetic field, depending upon the frequency of variation of the field. If I’ve got very fast variation in that frequency, it won’t get as deep.
Tom Coughlin: If I have a lower, slower change in the field, it will get deeper. So I can record lower frequencies deeper in a magnetic media, whether it be tape or a hard disk drive, than I can with higher frequencies and there have been people who have played around with the idea of storing the… information that gives you the information on where you are in the data and the disk at a greater depth, essentially underneath the data layer. I’ve heard about that kind of stuff at some conferences and people have talked about doing that for quite a while.
Tom Coughlin: It’s potentially a viable technology. Writing magnetic information where I can address it in layers at any density, right now we don’t know how to do that, at least as far as I know. I’ve thought about it.
Larry Jordan: Let’s get back to your report. We’ve seen that densities are increasing, storage capacity’s increasing, performance is increasing but that hasn’t covered the full 200 pages yet, has it?
Tom Coughlin: Oh no, no. There’s the way people are using storage, and then you’ve got direct attached versus networking, and then the appearance of even more remote networking with the cloud and all those are very important trends. They’re shaping the way people use storage.
Tom Coughlin: The other thing is the emergence of flash memory and the lowering of cost has encouraged faster interfaces, like the Thunderbolt interface on Macintosh computers, for example. The Thunderbolt 2 can run at 20 gigabits per second raw, it has that potential, and the only thing it could possibly see to channel this so it would use up a significant amount of that bandwidth would be a flash memory device, some kind of solid state storage device.
Tom Coughlin: For people who are working with rich media, that can be very valuable because those files are getting big and transporting them can take a long time with a slow interface. So fast interfaces are important and flash memory has enabled that. The other thing is the networking capabilities have helped people in terms of doing locally collaborative projects, but when you are addressing information and remote data centers through the internet, then you have the possibility of doing collaborations, like video production collaborations, that can span space and time.
Tom Coughlin: So enormous trends and the fact that whole cloud market, I believe, by 2019 will be something like a $1.5 billion market, cloud storage for media and entertainment.
Larry Jordan: We’re going to save the cloud discussion for another time, because I am not yet a fan of the cloud for storing media which is in production or editing, although I’m totally a fan for distribution. But I need a clarification from you – what’s the difference between flash and SSD?
Tom Coughlin: Flash memory is the technology that’s used in solid state drives. The flash memory is actually a means of storing information on a silicon which doesn’t go away when you turn the currents and voltages off, so that’s called a non-volatile memory. An SSD is built with a number of these chips that are using that flash technology. If you ever open up an SSD, you’ll find a bunch of chips on a port. Those chips contain flash memory technology, they contain those cells that store that information by trap charges that stay trapped, at least for a while.
Larry Jordan: So flash is the technology upon which an SSD is built, but the SSD is the entire package, whereas flash is just the storage component?
Tom Coughlin: It is. Now, there are new types of non-volatile solid state technology that I think… could be very, very interesting. There are magnetic solid state devices that are called magnetic random access memory that, especially some were using some interesting quantum mechanical effects with spin tunneling that may be replacing DRAMs and SRAMs.
Tom Coughlin: They’re used for the actual computer internal memory and that could have very interesting applications. If I replace these volatile memories, which require voltage and currents periodically to refresh them and keep them from going away, with non-volatile memory I could lower the power usage of my computer equipment quite a bit and also, when I turn it off, it retains its state so I could boot back up again.
Tom Coughlin: On the other hand, if I crash my software, I’m going to have to actually erase the data on there in order to be able to get back to where I was. So rebooting to recover, you will have to have special circumstances if you want to get back to the original state or if you have a problem and you want to get back to where you didn’t have a problem.
Larry Jordan: There’s a big discussion right now about SSDs with TRIM not being supported by Apple in the latest version of the operating system. What does the TRIM function do and why are people concerned about this?
Tom Coughlin: TRIM is important in terms of the… When you write the information on a flash memory cell, there’s what’s called an erase step and a write step. The erase step basically zeroes that out again and that write step is where you put the information into it. That erase process damages some very thin layers inside of the flash memory device and that’s called wear in a flash memory device.
Tom Coughlin: There is technology that is built into SSDs and other flash memory drives, just like what Apple uses, that have special code in their controllers that try to reduce the wear on the flash memory and TRIM is one of the technologies that’s used that people are implementing in order to try to deal with some of the wear issues. Not supporting it would be an issue for…
Larry Jordan: One of the concepts that Apple has come up with is what they call a Fusion drive – the marriage of SSD with spinning media to get the benefit of the speed of SSD and yet the reduced cost that spinning media provides. Are we seeing that technology being adopted by anybody else, or does Apple have that locked out with a proprietary patent?
Tom Coughlin: The Fusion drive that Apple makes is their own design, but there are many people who are working on what’s called a hyper storage device, which may combined flash memory with hard disk drives. In fact, there are hard disk drives that are sold that have flash memory built into the hard drive and so that flash memory is used for caching information that’s accessed frequently in order to increase the overall apparent speed of the hard drive. Seagate a few months ago said they had sold ten million of those into the market.
Tom Coughlin: There are different options for combining flash and hard disk drives together – at a smaller level, in an individual computer and then when people are building these larger storage systems where there are even more ways, where they have a number of hard disk drives or a number of slots for hard disk drives or an SSD in there or a PCI card with SSDE or there are even some flash memory devices now which can be built into DIMM-like cards. So they actually go into the memory bus, that you can build new types of architectures which combine flash and hard disk drive in even more complex ways that could provide the trade off performance where you need it, but also lowering your raw costs as a storage system to store content.
Larry Jordan: Tom, for people who would like to read the whole report and get a sense of where the industry is going, where can they get the report and where can they learn more about you?
Tom Coughlin: They can learn more about me on my website, which is tomcoughlin.com. On that webpage, there is a link to a page that says ‘Tech papers’ and if you click on that, you will find information on the reports that I do at the top. I also have a newsletter and there’s information on that about midway down the page.
Tom Coughlin: On the lower part of the page, there’s a whole bunch of presentations and articles and things that I’ve done for many years that are available as PDFs that people can take a look at if they want to find out some things that are available. But that report, there’s a brochure on it available very near the very top of that ‘Tech papers’ page at tomcoughlin.com.
Tom Coughlin: If they’re interested in the Storage Visions conference which is coming up here, it’s January 4th and 5th 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada – and I know, Larry, that you’re going to be there, you’re going to help me one of the sessions on New Hollywood – you can go to storagevisions.com and you can get information on that conference.
Tom Coughlin: It’s a two day conference with some great talks, some really interesting sessions on aspects of digital storage and its use and applications, like Larry’s session, and a lot of experts, a lot of chances to network with people and see exciting products in the trade show with the exhibits and sponsors we’ve got. So we’d welcome you and have you come join us January 4th and 5th 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Larry Jordan: Those two websites are storagevisions.com and tomcoughlin.com. Tom Coughlin is the CEO of Coughlin and Associates. Tom, as always, a delight chatting. Thanks for joining us today.
Tom Coughlin: It’s absolutely my pleasure, Larry, and I look forward to seeing you in January.
Larry Jordan: I look forward to being there. Thanks.
Larry Jordan: It’s been an interesting show and it’s been a fun time to start our new studios and share the new opportunities with you. I want to thank our guests who joined us today, starting with Jordan Kelly Montgomery. He’s a producer/director with Jordan Stone Productions talking about the challenges of finding the right deliverable; then David Foley, the Co-founder of NanoTech Entertainment; and Tom Coughlin, the President of Coughlin and Associates. It was a great group of guests and I’m glad to have shared the show with them.
Larry Jordan: There’s lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com – hundreds of past shows and thousands of interviews, all of them searchable, all of them available to help you understand where we came from and how we got to where we are today.
Larry Jordan: You can talk with us on Twitter, @DPBuZZ, and Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Music on The Buzz is provided by Smartsound, text transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription, and you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember to visit digitalproductionbuzz.com, sign up for our free newsletter, comes out every Friday. Love to keep you informed about what’s going on with the show.
Larry Jordan: Our producer is Cirina Catania, our engineers are Megan Paulos and Ed… On behalf of Mike Horton, who has the night off, my name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to the Digital Production Buzz.
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