Digital Production Buzz
November 27, 2014
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
David Colantuoni, Sr. Director Product Mgmt, Creative Apps/Storage, Avid Technology
Robert Neivert, Chief Operations Officer, Private.me
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. My name is Larry Jordan. We recorded this show a couple of days early so that our co-host, Mike Horton, along with the rest of our staff can take the day off; and happy Thanksgiving everybody.
Larry Jordan: We have an amazing show today. We start with Dave Colantuoni. He’s the Senior Director of Product Management for Avid Technology, specifically all of their media applications. Recently, Avid announced new licensing and features for Pro Tools, which is an indispensible tool for audio recording, editing and mixing. We talk with Dave about the whole Avid media family and he gives us a sneak peek as well on the upcoming release of Pro Tools.
Larry Jordan: Then, Ned Soltz, Contributing Editor for DV Magazine, returns with a look at cool new camera accessories that you need to learn more about.
Larry Jordan: And Robert Neivert, the COO of Private.me discusses net neutrality, individual privacy and the challenges of the web.
Larry Jordan: Just a reminder that we’re offering text transcripts for each show, courtesy of Take 1 Transcription. Now you can quickly scan or print the contents of each show, as well as listen to it. Transcripts are located on each show page. You can learn more at take1.tv and thanks, Take 1, for making it possible.
Larry Jordan: Remember to visit with us on Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com; we’re also on Twitter @DPBuZZ, and you can subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com for an inside look at both our show and the industry.
Larry Jordan: I’ll be back with an amazing interview with Dave Colantuoni, right after this.
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Larry Jordan: David Colantuoni is the Senior Director of Product Management for Avid Technologies. In fact, he leads product management and design for all of Avid’s professional video editing, storage and broadcast product portfolios, including the Media Composer family, ISIS storage, Avid motion graphics and video service and Pro Tools, the industry standard for audio post. Hello, Dave, welcome.
David Colantuoni: Thank you very much for having me. I appreciate it. Thanks for talking to me today.
Larry Jordan: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Start with something simple – what’s your role with Pro Tools?
David Colantuoni: I run the product management, and product design teams here and just to simply break it down, the product management team is responsible for the strategy and the business of Pro Tools; the design team takes the strategy and the business needs and turns them into what the end user ends up using in the product. They work on workflows or they design things with customers or user interface helmets, things like that. I’m responsible for both of those entities.
Larry Jordan: So because people love Pro Tools, it’s all because of your work?
David Colantuoni: Well, I have an unbelievable team that actually does a lot of the work. It’s a pretty good team. A lot of them are located multi-nationally, so we have some folks in Burlington, Massachusetts, we have some folks out in Berkeley, California, Mountain View, California, so there are a lot of people who are scattered about working on Pro Tools. It’s a great team, though. Some of the marketing is in Florida. Avid actually is a big company and it’s located in various parts of the world. Some of the engineering is located in other parts of the world, for instance.
Larry Jordan: I want to focus on Pro Tools, and we’ve all heard about Pro Tools since forever, but the Avid Media Central platform is a new term to me. What does that mean?
David Colantuoni: About a year and a half ago, we had a new CEO come in and we started on a new initiative here, building out what we’re calling our Media Central platform, and it’s all part of the Avid Everywhere initiative. Really, this is an opportunity for us to re-look at the marketplace.
David Colantuoni: Avid has been in the marketplace for 25 years or more now, and so we decided that we were going to take a fresh look and a fresh approach to how we were going to interact with our customers, listen to our customers, understand their workflows, understand what our partner needs are and understand what our company needed to do to work for the next 25 years and more.
David Colantuoni: We decided that there was a need for somebody to take leadership in the industry and build out what we consider a very robust and open platform, which we’re calling the Media Central platform, and what this really is the opportunity for Avid to take its products and make them extensible to not only our customers and accommodate their workflows, but also invite in partners who can fill in parts of the workflow that our customers need, and work directly with us and make sure that our customers have a seamless experience using Avid products and other products.
David Colantuoni: This is a way for Avid to lead the industry. Media Central is an open platform that has multiple components, multiple APIs, user interfaces, player engines, for instance, that allow media to be played back on multiple systems using the same media engine, and really allows us to be open and work within our own workflows here at Avid so the customers can interact seamlessly to solve their business challenges.
Larry Jordan: Audio post professionals tend to be a pretty iconoclastic bunch. They worry about audio, but they really don’t care about motion graphics or video servers or ISIS storage. Why should they care about the Media Central platform?
David Colantuoni: That’s a great question. If Avid does this right, the customer should not notice that they are actually using a platform, and so far they really haven’t noticed that. The nice thing is, as we make this all work behind the scenes, there should be a seamless experience for a customer to use Pro Tools, for instance.
David Colantuoni: I actually referenced a player engine and I can give you a very concrete example of the things we’ve done in the last year to make this real for a Pro Tools customer. Pro Tools had its own player engine before to play back video. Actually at Avid, we had a number of them here and we decided that that just wasn’t right.
David Colantuoni: Not only can our customers not use, for instance, Media Composer or Pro Tools or some other product at Avid, they are just having trouble making all these products work better together. In the Media Central platform, we actually extracted the Media Composer player engine and we’ve now developed that in a platform. What that means is that Pro Tools actually gets that for free.
David Colantuoni: Because there’s a platform sitting behind Pro Tools, when they need a player engine for a video, they actually just get it for free. It has to be tied in and there’s a little bit of work that has to go on behind the scenes there, but that’s a very common element that can become real for a user when using the Media Central platform.
Larry Jordan: I can see the benefit, because with earlier versions of Pro Tools, I remember sending sound off to audio post and they could only handle a standard definition video, even if it was shot high def, because the video player wouldn’t support that. Editors now have much greater flexibility in the video formats. They can play back for mixing to picture.
David Colantuoni: Absolutely, and not only that. The same media that can play back in Media Composer can now play back in Pro Tools and it is a wonderful experience. Then, another common element is taking the Pro Tools audio engine and putting that in the platform. All of the components that need to interact with Pro Tools and the Pro Tools audio engine in our Media Central platform will take advantage of that now.
David Colantuoni: Here’s the added benefit – if a partner wants to use, for instance, that video player engine, because that sits in the Media Central platform, we have hooks into our platform that we will give them for free and they can tie their software to use that same engine.
David Colantuoni: Now, that has a great benefit because now not only are they interacting with a video engine on Media Composer, but they have access to Pro Tools or any other product in the Avid portfolio that’s taking advantage of that player engine. It’s extensive and it’s quite difficult to go out and build all of this, but ultimately what we feel, just that simple example of a player engine, for instance, if you use your imagination and see how that could easily solve a lot of our customers’ challenges today.
Larry Jordan: Well, it also solves a lot of your challenges, because now you’re only developing one player or one audio engine as opposed to having 17 different flavors that do the same thing.
David Colantuoni: So true. It does make it easier for us and it makes it easier for our partners too. What happened in the past, before our Media Central platform, is that we’d have a partner who wanted to use that video player engine, and it may or may not have worked and a customer would buy our products and they would buy their products and there would be some interactivity going on between both of the companies, but it wasn’t really a seamless experience.
David Colantuoni: Now, we have certification programs that we’re putting in place at Avid so that customers know that, when they buy our platform or our products and that partner’s product, it’s going to work for them. So yes, it does make it easier for us, but it makes it easier for our partners too.
Larry Jordan: One of the big new announcements you made was on Pro Tools licensing, which I promise I’m going to get to. But with the new Pro Tools 11, what are some of the key features that have been added to this version that we need to pay attention to?
David Colantuoni: With Pro Tools 11, there are a number of features. It’s been out for a little bit now. One of the things was offline bounce, which is a performance feature so you can essentially send your files off in near real time. Then, of course, it’s 64 bit and we also released an AAE engine, which is the engine that I just talked about. That’s now being moved and is sitting in our Media Central platform.
David Colantuoni: There are a whole bunch of other things around ultra low latency with a dedicated input buffer and then the whole player engine that I spoke about that’s sitting in our platform, the Media Composer player engine, that’s all part of Pro Tools 11. It’s actually quite an extensive improvement on the Pro Tools product line, all centered around performance. There are various player engine improvements, and 64 bit performance and then offline bounce. It’s been quite a good release for us.
Larry Jordan: It sounds like it’s been more than just features. You’ve done a lot of fundamental foundational work to try to improve the underpinnings, correct?
David Colantuoni: Yes. These are the things that you don’t get credit for in product management and product development. A few years ago, Avid actually started an initiative to get all of its products with new user interfaces moving to 64 bit code so that we can move these products for the next couple of decades, making sure that they’re on modern, robust platforms and things like that. If I’m not mistaken I think every product now is on a 64 bit architecture like Pro Tools. I know Media Composer is, I know Interplay is.
David Colantuoni: We’ve spent a lot of time really building up the foundation, putting new user faces. Actually, Pro Tools was the first one that went, a number of years ago now. That was really the first take and we’ve actually used the Pro Tools look and feel on how we’ve moved all of the other products forward. It is really centered around modernizing and making sure that the application’s set up for the future.
Larry Jordan: Now we can talk about your latest announcements. What’s the news from Pro Tools licensing?
David Colantuoni: I think I have to take a couple of steps back, and I don’t want to make this seem any more complicated than some of our users think, but what we’ve done as a company initiative under Avid Everywhere is to look at the changing business environment of how software is licensed, and making sure that we accommodate all of our users so they can acquire Media Composer, Pro Tools, Sibelius and all the other products in the easiest fashion that they can.
David Colantuoni: Some companies have moved to subscription only models, some companies still sell perpetual licenses What we decided is we’re going to have a flexible licensing initiative. For Media Composer, we actually moved to a subscription and perpetual model. So you can buy the product, you can buy a perpetual license and keep it forever and use it just like you have traditionally; or you can choose to rent it through a subscription.
David Colantuoni: With that, when you purchase a new seat of Media Composer, you actually get a year of upgrades and support with that purchase. We’ve taken that and we’ve actually moved that to the Pro Tools model. If you purchase Pro Tools today, a brand new seat, you actually get the use of the software forever, as long as it will run on a computer or your system, and you get a year of software upgrades in that whole year, along with technical support. So if you need to ask us a question or you have an issue you want to ask us about, you get access to that. That’s part one of the program.
Larry Jordan: What’s the difference between this new licensing and, say, an annual support contract?
David Colantuoni: What’s different is it’s actually included now. We looked at the challenges that our customers are facing today and we had multiple ways of upgrading. There were different tiers that you came in at. We thought maybe we could take a second look at what our pricing was for Pro Tools upgrades and we decided that we wanted to give our customers the best experience possible. So the best way to do that is to make sure they’re always on the latest upgrade or have access to it – because sometimes customers want to wait, they may be working on a project – and having access to technical support.
David Colantuoni: Now, that’s a little bit different than the past because one thing we want to make sure people know is that Avid is unique in that we have an actual entire customer support organization that’s focused only on the media and entertainment business. That’s unusual; there aren’t a whole lot of companies that do that.
David Colantuoni: We have people that worked in the industry, they understand how the products work, who are helping customers with their technical support calls. In order for us to ensure they get that complete experience, we thought we would include this year of upgrades and support in that initial purchase. That’s one difference from before.
David Colantuoni: The second part of it is that, at AES we announced that we were going to give customers the opportunity to purchase what we’re calling the standard support program, which includes upgrades and support for a year, and they would get access to the latest version of software. Now, the interesting thing is that we did do a special deal at AES, where we extended that for 16 months because we wanted to make sure that customers saw the value. We’ve looked at the pricing and we’ve given them 16 months of the ability to upgrade – and, by the way, that’s still going on today, it goes until the middle of December, that particular deal.
David Colantuoni: But moving forward, we’re going to have two programs. One, when you purchase a new product, you’ll get that year of support and upgrades. That’s included with that purchase; and then the second part of that is when that year is up, we want you to come back and re-purchase that year of upgrades and support under that standard support program. Those are the two main differences.
Larry Jordan: Which customers are you aiming this toward? Is it new customers because of the bundle or is it existing customers because it’s a modified version of the support contract?
David Colantuoni: It’s for both, really. It’s kind of a strange name to give it, but really we want to let people know that they are getting those upgrades for a year and they are getting access to technical support, so there are two components to it for $199 for that year. We’re aiming it to any customer who wants to upgrade, and any new customer who feels like they want to buy the software today but not if there’s a new version coming.
David Colantuoni: This way, it ensures that for the next year they’re going to get upgrades for that following year. So if they’re holding back and didn’t want to buy a new seat of Pro Tools, for instance, because they were afraid that it might get upgraded – and by the way we did talk about what’s coming next in Pro Tools and we can talk about that in a moment if you want to – they don’t need to any more.
David Colantuoni: They’re going to have access to that if they want to buy Pro Tools 11. By the way, if they want to upgrade today and they’re on an older version, they can upgrade and then get that previously announced Pro Tools cloud feature that we talked about at IBC and NAB, when it’s released.
Larry Jordan: You just opened up so many doors. I don’t have enough time in a single show to talk about this, but two quick questions. One is what is coming in the next version of Pro Tools? And the second one is Avid has a reputation for always being late in supporting the latest operating systems. It’s always behind. What are you doing to keep up with the latest releases?
David Colantuoni: We’re very tight end with OS manufacturers and we’re working on new Yosemite support right now for Pro Tools. We have quite an extensive test grid that we need to go through and we do work on beta software, but even after the main release comes out we still have some work to do, we’re still looking at some of the issues that our customers are reporting on beta and fixing them. It just takes us a little bit longer because we have so many integrated systems that we need to test. It’s a little bit more work.
Larry Jordan: Just to keep your feet to the fire, Apple and Adobe manage to support OS’s faster than you do. Why does it take you guys so long?
David Colantuoni: Apple obviously test their integrated systems while they’re developing their software, but Adobe doesn’t have hardware and for Pro Tools, we actually have quite an extensive suite of hardware that’s attached to Pro Tools software and that includes HDX and Native and all the computers that that sits in, even all the way up to consoles. Not only that, Pro Tools is actually tied into things like Interplay and ISIS.
David Colantuoni: Some large customers have a lot of Pro Tools systems and they’re using an ISIS and a whole bunch of Pro Tools hardware. We can’t just release that. We need to make sure that that absolutely works, and once we get that final gold master from Apple, we need to go off and that’s when we kick off our final release testing and beta test with our customers and then release the software. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time, sometimes it takes a lot of time. It’s just that we have a lot of different workflow challenges that we need to go through and we can’t release the software just to release it. We want to make sure it works.
Larry Jordan: Now we can get to the fun stuff. What’s coming in Pro Tools 12?
David Colantuoni: I’m not sure if it’s going to be Pro Tools 12, I’ll leave it at that, but the next release of Pro Tools, and I guess maybe what I should do is talk a little bit about what we’ve announced over the past few months at various trade shows. What we’ve been showing is a few things around Pro Tools collaboration and Pro Tools saving to the cloud. We’ve internally named it Pro Tools Cloud, but we’re still working on the name.
David Colantuoni: Essentially, what we’ve shown are multiple Pro Tools users interacting on a Pro Tools session file, on a track, and working together and collaborating, creating music, for instance, over the internet using the cloud. They’re able to chat, they’re able to see each other on video feeds and this is the ultimate way of working together remotely on a Pro Tools session file. That’s just one part of it.
David Colantuoni: You can also have the ability to save those files to a cloud archive or listening to plug-ins directly in your application and buying them and installing them without having to restart your computer, just instantaneously. If a person in London is using Pro Tools Collaboration and they have a particular plug-in and they send that file over while they’re collaborating to their collaborator in Los Angeles, let’s say, and that person doesn’t have the plug-in, we’ll actually have an experience that will inform the Los Angeles user that they need a particular plug-in and we can let them listen to it and if they want to purchase it, they can purchase it so that they can collaborate even more seamlessly. It’s really the next generation of how we’re using Pro Tools to bring multiple users together in a very wide circle that can be worldwide.
Larry Jordan: That is so cool. Have you announced a release date?
David Colantuoni: We haven’t announced a release date yet, but stay tuned and visit us at NAM this year. We’ll have some things we’ll talk about there, like we always do, and we’ll have some more information on what’s going on there.
Larry Jordan: David, I’ve got another 17 pages of questions I’d love to go over with you. We have to get you back on the show sooner than Avid has been on, so can we invite you back?
David Colantuoni: I would love to come back, thank you.
Larry Jordan: We would love to have you and I will get another 20 pages of questions ready. For people who want to know more about Avid and its products, where can they go on the web?
David Colantuoni: Avid.com. All the information that we’ve talked about here, particularly on the licensing, is up on our web page.
Larry Jordan: And David Colantuoni is the Senior Director of Product Management for Avid Technologies. David, this has been a wonderful chat. Thank you so much for your time.
David Colantuoni: Ok, great. Have a great day. I’ll talk to you soon.
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Larry Jordan: Ned Soltz is an author, editor, educator and consultant on all things related to Mac Digital Video. He’s also the Contributing Editor to DV Magazine, a moderator on 2-pop and Creative Cow forums and a regular here on The Buzz. Ned, welcome back.
Ned Soltz: Hello, Larry, and happy Thanksgiving everybody.
Larry Jordan: And a very happy Thanksgiving to you as well. Ned, last week we looked at the latest trends in cameras. This week, I want to move to accessories. What’s caught your attention?
Ned Soltz: What really is interesting me these days are questions of stabilizers, and drones and other major accessories to make those cameras really work and add production value. Drones are a particular interest. Within recent days here in New York, we’ve had two incursions of drones into JFK air space and that certainly isn’t helping the whole cause with the FAA of the ability to be able to use these devices commercially and yet more and more of them are being produced.
Ned Soltz: For example, the last couple of weeks in the city, we’ve had the PhotoPlus Expo and we’ve had the CCW shows and, in both of those situations, drones have been featured, particularly those manufactured by DJI. They really are producing some phenomenal gear, whether with their own camera or with the ability to mount a GoPro or any of the other smaller action cams, and yet I think that’s sort of a risky investment right here on people’s parts of buying these things when ultimately are you really going to be able to use them in any kind of commercial sense?
Larry Jordan: I think there are a couple of issues here. One is can you; but the second is if you’re not an experienced pilot, however that’s defined, that drone can drift in all kinds of trouble without really too much effort.
Ned Soltz: Oh, that’s a real issue. I was speaking to one operator, for example, who bought three of the DJI drones. He crashed two of them in a tree, only one of them is working right now and obviously somebody who isn’t a tremendously experienced drone operator but a tremendously experienced photographer and videographer. These definitely have their issues.
Ned Soltz: When they work, you’re getting some absolutely amazing and phenomenal shots with them, but I think there’s a great deal of care that needs to be taken. The DJI products, the Phantoms look particularly interesting and they claim that they’re easy to operate, but frankly I’m a little bit afraid of it myself, not being a very good gamer and I was terrible back in the days of Microsoft Flight Simulator. I crashed every time, so I’m a little skeptical myself right now. Intriguing that this DJI, that makes the drones, also makes one of the newest crazes in stabilizers, and that’s the Ronin, a $3,000 device.
Larry Jordan: Now, wait, what does a stabilizer do? I’m familiar with stabilizers which are stabilizing, say, a DSLR mirror and stabilizers in software. What else is there?
Ned Soltz: This is a gimbal based device on which you can place a camera of varying weights depending upon the capacity of the gimbal and the device, hand hold it with the two handles that are there, and either by single operator or by dual operator with a supplied remote, be able to walk around and get absolutely perfectly stable shots overhead, low shoots, movement shots. In other words, it’s not a replacement for a Steadicam, you get a different kind of shot with the stabilizer than you do with the Steadicam, but becoming tremendously popular.
Ned Soltz: The first of these was the Movi, which started at $15,000 for a Movi that had higher capacity for something like a RED. But right now the Ronin stabilizer made by the same people that make the drones, DJI, is about $3,000 and will hold up to, let’s say, a Scarlet with a small prime lens and you can do some amazing work with it.
Ned Soltz: Now, of course, you start getting into some weight, you probably can only hold it three or four minutes depending on how much you’ve worked out that particular week, but what a lot of people are doing is using the good old Easyrig, the thing you strap on your back and the rig that goes over your head and the cable and attaching that to the cable and you can go virtually indefinitely with an Easyrig.
Ned Soltz: The advantage to the Ronin is that it’s just so unbelievably easy to balance. The Movi, it’s a great product and it’s still the granddaddy of all of these products, but it’s a little bit harder to balance. Two or three steps plus automation and the Ronin balances to your camera right away and probably, with about an hour’s worth of work, anybody can be reasonably good at operating it. The learning curve is a lot less steep than, for example, learning to be a Steadicam operator.
Larry Jordan: So the Ronin would be similar to a Steadicam in concept, in that it’s a handheld camera, but doesn’t cause motion sickness.
Ned Soltz: It’s a handheld camera, and your shots are going to look a little bit different with using a handheld stabilizer than they will with the Steadicam, and there are situations where you’re going to want a Steadicam, but if there are situations where you really need to be moving closely, to be moving rapidly, to be changing angles quickly, then these handheld stabilizers really hold tremendous promise.
Ned Soltz: There are now other clones of the Ronin that you’re beginning to see pop up online and at various shows, that are selling for even less than that $3,000 price point, so I think we’ll see over the coming months an erosion of the price point. The question will be how good they’ll be, but effectively if you did pretty well in high school physics and can understand the concept of a gimbal, there’s the physics behind it and then all that’s required is just engineering something of proper material, weight and durability to be able to hold up to cameras of a variety of weight.
Larry Jordan: Ned, we’ve talked about camera stabilizers and we’ve talked about drones. What else has caught your attention?
Ned Soltz: I want to move on to another topic right now, also shown at the PhotoPlus Show in New York and introduced, a new monitor from LG, effectively a computer monitor. It’s a 31 inch monitor that will support up to UHD resolutions on a Mac. It will not support full 4K on a Mac but, with specific video cards, will support full 4K on a PC and it’s 1399 and they guarantee that it’s something like 90 percent of Adobe SRGB color space and about 90 percent of a DCI P3 color space. So this is something very useful now to monitor all of these HD, UHD and 4K cameras that we talked about last week. It really is a gorgeous, gorgeous image and at 1399 it’s really very much a breakthrough price.
Larry Jordan: And that’s from LG?
Ned Soltz: That’s from LG, right, and it’s a 31 inch monitor at $1399. But again, Mac users should be aware that if you’re shooting and trying to monitor through a display port or HDMI, you’re trying to monitor whole 4K, that won’t happen on a Mac, it’s not supported. It’s only supported on a Mac up to UHD resolutions.
Larry Jordan: Just to be clear, UHD is one of the two flavors of 4K.
Ned Soltz: One of the two flavors of 4K, right, so that is a double 1920 by 1080. That was adapted for broadcast TV because that remains within a 16 x 9 aspect ratio, which is the aspect ratio of broadcast TV. Interestingly enough, the aspect ratio of this LG monitor is 17 x 9, which is the full 4K 4096 resolution. You can display either one on a PC, but only the 3840 resolution on a Mac.
Larry Jordan: Anything else that you think we should pay attention to?
Ned Soltz: Well the Atomos Shogun finally is beginning to ship. It’s shipping at the end of November, so it’s right about now, and they say that by mid-December they should be caught up with all of the backlog, so here you’ll have a seven inch monitor and a device capable of recording 4K video to SSDs that included in that and the price point for that is only $2,000. It will also accept RAW signals from a number of cameras that are producing a video RAW. Shogun is shipping finally, after all of the hype at NAB, and it really is a big deal at, again, a breakthrough price point.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of big deals and announced ship dates, you notice this week also HAA announced the ship date for the CION camera.
Ned Soltz: Oh yes! Yes, yes, yes, we can’t forget that. CION should be in stock at most dealers by the end of December and the images that I have seen from it so far in test footage have been absolutely gorgeous. AJA has really nailed the color science on that camera.
Larry Jordan: Ned, it is always fun talking with you. Where can people go on the web to learn more about the things you’re discovering?
Ned Soltz: They can go to creativeplanet.com and look for DV Magazine and that’s where a lot of my articles will be hosted, and also contact information.
Larry Jordan: Ned Soltz is the Contributing Editor for DV Magazine, as well as a moderator on 2-pop and Creative Cow forums. Ned, as always, it’s been a delight having you join us.
Ned Soltz: Thank you, Larry.
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Larry Jordan: Robert Neivert is the Chief Operating Officer for Private.me, which lets people search online without being tracked. Even more, he’s an expert on net neutrality, which is what we want to talk about with him today. Hello, Robert, thanks for joining us.
Robert Neivert: Thank you, I’m happy to join.
Larry Jordan: First, happy Thanksgiving to you and thanks for taking time out of your holiday to visit. Second, could you define what net neutrality means?
Robert Neivert: Net neutrality is basically the ability for an ISP to not be able to change how they provide service based upon what website or where you’re trying to go. Imagine if you’re a user, you want to be able to access, say, Google or Netflix or anyone equally, that is to say they all get an equal chance. That’s sort of the idea of net neutrality. It’s oftentimes referenced and people talk about it like a roadway. Basically, all the companies have an equal shot to deliver services to the customer.
Larry Jordan: But highways have speed limits. Shouldn’t the web?
Robert Neivert: The web does have a speed limit, but imagine if net neutrality doesn’t pass. Comcast might be able to say, “You, Google, you’re not allowed on the road any more. You, Facebook, you’re not allowed on the road any more.” That’s really closer to what people are talking about if net neutrality doesn’t pass.
Robert Neivert: There are alternatives and that may not happen, but conceptually what people want to prevent is an ISP being able to control the content you see. For example, if you’re a Comcast customer and you type the word Google in, you expect to go to Google. But in fact, if net neutrality doesn’t exist at all, that may not be the case. You might type Google, but you might get taken to Comcast’s own search engine and not actually to the site you intended.
Larry Jordan: So it’s less an issue of speed limits and more an issue of access.
Robert Neivert: It’s also about speed, but access is part of that. Let’s use a slightly different example. Comcast recently had a dispute with Netflix. As part of that, they basically made all of Netflix slow down. They gave such poor service that it was no longer viable for you to use Netflix. So although they could get to Netflix, it was not reasonable for them to use it any more and that’s an example of the abuses that net neutrality is attempting to prevent.
Larry Jordan: Is there a relationship between net neutrality and the privacy of personal data?
Robert Neivert: ISPs today generally operate not quite as a monopoly, but mostly as monopoly in the areas. They have a tremendous amount of control over your data and they can choose to control many parts of your user experience on the web. Today, they’re sort of semi-regulated and net neutrality would push that even further to say they can’t really abuse that too much.
Robert Neivert: But if you imagine that isn’t true, they could easily store all the information and make use of that, either selling it off or otherwise making use of it. Privacy is oftentimes protected because of competition. When you have a choice, if you can choose to use a vendor or not, it allows you to choose privacy. But if you only have one provider, you have no choice and it’s difficult to protect your privacy.
Larry Jordan: That gets to another key question, because we’re wrestling with that here as we’re doing a website re-design. Why is it so hard to keep personal data private?
Robert Neivert: Part of that is because of the structure. Whenever we go to do things on the web, say you want to buy something or you’re looking at information, oftentimes we have to give information out to get what we want; the very basic model of the web today is that you give away your information.
Robert Neivert: Think about it, you type your name, your address and other things into a website to get something shipped to you. That concept is that you’re giving away your personal information and it’s theirs. The terms of service that the websites maintain says that the information is theirs to use. That’s one of the reasons, because when the web was constructed the whole idea was they said, “Well, this is easy enough. We’ll give out our information and we get products back,” and that’s why it’s now difficult to claim control of your information, because all these websites already have it.
Robert Neivert: One of the products or services that people have been looking at and exploring now is to say, “Look, you shouldn’t give out this information at all, but if a company wants it, they ask permission to make use of it,” and that’s a different model, a different way of viewing the world.
Larry Jordan: It strikes me that it becomes a question of ownership – who owns data about ourselves? Do we own the data or does the data become public when we enter, say, our shipping information into a store? It sounds similar to when we were publishing phone numbers in the phone book.
Robert Neivert: Exactly. In fact, that’s an excellent analogy. Today, we accept the fact that as we type this information in and these companies make use of it, we grudgingly accept it because we didn’t really think, “Hey, how bad could it be?” We didn’t really think of the consequences. But now, it’s so much more extensive. Where before they might just have had our phone number, now they know everything about us. The level of data has increased to the point where people who don’t know you, you’ve never met, can know so much about you that it feels like a violation of privacy.
Larry Jordan: For instance?
Robert Neivert: For instance, let’s go through a few things. Here’s a very simple example. Say you go shopping on Amazon and you’re looking at various products, and let’s assume for the moment these are very personal products. If you flip over and, say, go to Facebook or something else and you look to the right, you’ll notice ads for those same products start appearing on other web pages. Huh? How does that work? In fact, you’re actually being tracked. Everywhere you go, they know that you looked at those products and they’re happy to push ads for them. This is terrible. Think about the information flow that had to happen there. An awful lot of people suddenly know what you were looking at. Does that make sense?
Larry Jordan: Yes, it makes perfect sense. Your company is called Private.me. How does that affect what we’re doing?
Robert Neivert: Our goal, what we’re trying to accomplish, is to stop the process of you giving out your information, but instead you store your information in a single secure place and, when you give permission for a single use of that information – say to someone to ship you something – the company can see your address only to ship you something and then they can no longer access the information. The whole idea is that you don’t give your information out at all. In fact, you only allow short term permission to make use of. Basically, they can only access it when they want to ship you something; other than that, they can’t see your home address. Facebook can access personal information, for example your age or your birthday, only insofar as you want them to and at the time you want them to. If any time you want to stop, and here’s a very unfortunate example – if you have a stalker or your teenager daughter suddenly starts running into difficulty – that you can literally cut off access. All those companies, you can cut off their access to that information, preventing them from getting further information.
Larry Jordan: It seems to me there are two views of ownership. The point of view of you and your company is that we own our data and the point of view of merchants is that they own data which we have shared with them, but by aggregating it with other vendors they learn more than they would have learned just with a single transaction.
Robert Neivert: Exactly. In fact, that’s very accurate. Private.me is about saying you own your data and we choose to feel that the model of merchants or companies having your data is not the right way to do it. This worked in the past, where say in the past you went to the bank and you gave them your information. It was necessary for them to have it, but they did not have access to the enormous ability to access the information as they do today. Today, with a simple email address, I can find out your income, where you live, I can find out almost everything about your life and that’s too much. The system has built the ability to find out so much about you that it’s now become dangerous to give out your information.
Larry Jordan: Let’s switch this back again to net neutrality. There’s been a lot happening politically on the net neutrality issue and I want to try ultimately to tie it back in to private data, but I want to come back to net neutrality because Washington has been talking about this. The FCC seems to be involved, President Obama is involved. What’s happening on net neutrality politically in Washington?
Robert Neivert: I think what’s happened, obviously the President has issued a statement to the FCC basically supporting net neutrality and the politics of that are very tricky. It’s easy to understand who gains from net neutrality by looking at who donates money. If you look at the donations, you see the ISPs on one side donating millions of dollars to prevent it and you see on the other side things like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others voting to get it passed, as well as Google and Facebook and a few other companies. We can see who gains from this, who gains from net neutrality. I think what we’re really seeing is a political battle between two titans. You have the ISPs on one side and the large tech companies on the other. What is very interesting is that, in fact, the tech companies are arguing for regulation, and this is unusual. They’re very concerned that the ISPs, which are basically monopolies, will take control of their industry. That’s maybe a little exaggerated, but it’s their fear.
Larry Jordan: It is not unprecedented. I look back at the days of Ma Bell, when Ma Bell was a single phone company not that many decades ago, and we were running into similar issues of monopoly power.
Robert Neivert: That’s very true. What’s going to happen now with an ISP is they have complete control over the delivery of the product for all these tech companies.
Larry Jordan: So it would be that the only way you could get a package would be through the Post Office. It’s not necessarily because the Post Office is bad, but it limits the options you’ve got in how to get a package.
Robert Neivert: Yes. I would say it’s more like FedEx, because the Post Office is sort of a greater good, they have a mission to deliver. FedEx, their purpose is to make money. If they make more money not delivering the package, they won’t deliver the package. To ask an ISP to do the greater good is not a rational statement. The fact is, for an ISP, they are better off preventing services. They will make more money and it’s not like they’re wrong, they’re not evil, that’s what they’re there for. They’re supposed to make money, that’s their mission. That’s what companies are for. Let’s use a simple example. Verizon. It would cost Verizon a lot of money to have Netflix be successful, so really it’s in their interests to block and throttle and choke off Netflix. They make more money. This isn’t evil, they’re optimizing for their shareholders. That’s what we ask them to do. We can’t expect them to be a greater good, that’s not their mission. That’s the government’s mission.
Larry Jordan: Well, then, who holds the power here in this battle? There are actually three parties at work – there’s the government in terms of regulation, there are ISPs, information delivery, and the tech companies providing the original products. Who’s got the upper hand at the moment?
Robert Neivert: I think the battle’s actually a very good analogy. In fact, the three armies are basically tussling it out now. I don’t think it’s clear. Obviously, Obama has thrown in saying, “I support net neutrality,” and the fact that he’s backing the tech company army. The ISPs obviously have put in a substantial amount of money to make sure certain Congressmen are on their side, so they’ve certainly got some of… It’s not clear to me who’s going to win, but I also want to point out that it’s more than just the one battle. It’s more than just the Title II, which is what’s being invaded at the moment. It’s a long term planning.
Robert Neivert: What happens after they pass or don’t pass this regulation? There are many, many things that go with this. What is really being debated is is the internet open access, which basically means is the internet a common good, like roads, and therefore everybody gets equal access? Or, like capitalism, is it bought and sold… like shipping packages, where you can pay more for faster or pay less for slower? The odd part of this is for the most part these companies want capitalism, they want it to be a free market. They want to pay more to get faster and better deliveries over the internet. The problem is, because the ISPs are monopolies, all the other companies realize it’s not a fair game. The game won’t play out, they can’t play it because they can’t switch providers.
Robert Neivert: People can’t switch, so no matter how powerful Google is, no matter how successful Apple is, without a neutrality of some sort, they’re completely at the mercy of the ISP. They simply have no power. It doesn’t matter how good their product is, it doesn’t matter how much money they have, it’s irrelevant because they cannot deliver it without the ISP. Most tech companies don’t like regulation, but because the ISPs are monopolies, that’s actually why they’re fighting for regulation, because there isn’t a choice for them. It’s subtle to explain why there are so many battles here, but it actually comes down to the fact that people who don’t normally want regulation want it when threatened with a monopoly and that’s actually the crux of why you see the net neutrality fight happening. They actually don’t care about net neutrality because they’re already paying for premium service. Google, Facebook, they already pay for it. Nobody talks about it but they actually are paying for it now, today. What they don’t want is a monopoly strike, a cut-off. That’s what they’re scared of.
Larry Jordan: Where is the FCC at this point? What’s going on?
Robert Neivert: The FCC is in the middle. Before a few months ago, they did not want to move them to the higher regulation condition. They were in support of not moving to net neutrality. There has been a lot of public pressure towards them, but with the lobbyists and the corporate dollars, they’ve been swinging back and forth. It is not clear which way they’ll go. Certainly, with the President’s issuance, it certainly has moved them a little bit, but their actions today are showing more indecision than decision. They’ve actually pushed off the vote to next year, so it’s not expected to be resolved until well into next year. I’m not sure where the FCC is exactly; remember, it’s an agency, it’s not a single entity, there are certainly people on both sides. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that you’re asking them to add a substantial amount of regulation which is counter to the way most of the US likes to work, so it’s really a matter of arguing whether there’s a common good or not, whether it’s a necessity like electricity or roads.
Larry Jordan: If the FCC does nothing, isn’t that essentially status quo? Doesn’t that move us toward net neutrality? In other words, doing nothing is actually good?
Robert Neivert: Doing nothing would result in the ability for the ISPs to continue to do what they do now, which is to some level discriminatory traffic, i.e. the ISPs can choose to charge some companies more than others to get service. If they fail to pass it, you should expect to see a change in the service levels. Specifically, certain companies like Netflix and Facebook will be forced to pay money, in some cases substantial amounts, to maintain service.
Larry Jordan: Ok, so the current status quo is not going to last for the long term, so a decision has to be made. Are there court cases that are impacting this decision?
Robert Neivert: At the moment, there are lots of court cases going around, but not directly to do with this. This is a choice of regulation. After the decision gets made, I would expect to see lots of cases and other things, but this is a choice of regulation at the moment of whether or not they qualify as this common needed good or not.
Larry Jordan: We’ve spent a lot of time talking about net neutrality. Does Private.me have, as they say, a dog in this hunt?
Robert Neivert: Not directly. We want choice. We want the consumers to be able to choose where they go, how they use the net, so that they can choose to protect their data. If they have a single provider, whether it’s an ISP or anything else, it’s never good for privacy. Any time one company can force control, they will take control. That’s within their interest. Where we stand on this is that we would like to see choices and, since we cannot control the ISPs, since we cannot say, “We’re going to give choices to end users,” we’d rather see net neutrality so at the very least service providers can equally get to customers and provide customers the ability to say, “I don’t want to give up my personal information from this provider. I’ll choose this other one.” We don’t like the idea of a single ISP having so much control that they can basically take control of your privacy as well.
Larry Jordan: What do you see happening in the next, say, six months?
Robert Neivert: Oftentimes in these things, you don’t have a black and white winner or loser. I suspect that in this case we probably will see some form of net neutrality passed, but I expect there’ll be some exit clauses, some subtleties that allow the ISPs some leeway to charge for something. I just don’t think you’re going to see an absolute win or loss. I think you’re going to see more of a middle ground. Maybe they’ll pass that, but they’ll probably pass another law saying, “Well, in this case you can charge more or less for this,” and a half victory or a half loss, depending upon your point of view on the matter. I would actually expect that. I would expect the result of that is not a lot of changes from where we are today. Maybe little things, but not a lot. What I’m looking forward to or hoping for is to actually advance… to enable something that makes it optimal for the ISP to invest and improve the infrastructure in the US, but I just don’t see that happening from this particular decision. I expect that what you’ll see going forward is someone like Google getting into the game of fiber and going directly to the customer. I expect that to generate a lot more good in terms of better services than this net neutrality.
Larry Jordan: It sounds like we’re going to continue to muddle forward but lean in the right direction, but not really resolve it completely.
Robert Neivert: I think that’s an excellent summary. I don’t see us making any real leaps forward here. I don’t see Congress really being united enough on the topic to push it in any particular movement forward. I think it’ll sort of wobble back and forth.
Larry Jordan: Tell me about Private.me quickly, before we run out of time. Why should I come visit your site and what do I get?
Robert Neivert: Our mission is to allow you to protect your privacy, your information. We started off by simply allowing you to, say, search anonymously so people can’t look at what you’re doing, basically. The overall mission we’re trying to accomplish is that you can take all your personal information, whatever that may be, put it in a nice secure place and, instead of giving it to companies to use, you allow them temporary access. You say, “I’m going to allow that company to ship me something today, right now. That’s the only time they can see my address. After that, they can’t.” Our overall mission is to allow people to say that they own their data and if you want it forgotten, if you want it deleted, if you want it removed, you can hit a button and it goes away and that means your life is yours to control, it is not anyone else’s right to own your personal data.
Larry Jordan: Robert, this has been a fascinating conversation. I want to invite you back in a few months to talk further about this whole issue of data privacy and what we can do to guard our own data. What website can people go to to learn more about you and your company?
Robert Neivert: They can go to private.me and there’s some information there about how to browse, how to do some searching anonymously, as well as our up and coming future products. Any ecommerce company that wants to support this can also work with us to build this anonymous into their website, so we’ll protect all the users’ data so that the ecommerce site can say, “You don’t have to worry about being hacked and having any of this information stolen because we won’t have it, it won’t be on our systems.” We hope to find a lot of companies that are looking forward and want to protect privacy and work with us so that we can help them achieve that goal.
Larry Jordan: Robert, thank you very much. The website is private.me. Robert Neivert is the COO of Private.me and, Robert, thanks for joining us today.
Robert Neivert: That was great joining you. Thank you so much for inviting me.
Larry Jordan: It may be Thanksgiving, but this has been a great show. We started with David Colantuoni, the Senior Director of Product Management for Avid Technologies; Ned Soltz, the Contributing Editor for DV Magazine; and Robert Neivert, the COO of Private.me.
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 and available.
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 are provided by Take 1 Transcription. You can email us at email@example.com. Our producer is Cirina Catania, our engineer is Megan Paulos and on behalf of Mike Horton, my name’s Larry Jordan, and thanks for listening to the Digital Production Buzz.
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