Digital Production Buzz
February 26, 2015
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
(Click here to listen to this show.)
Dan Sachelli, Event Manager, BVE
John Kelly, General Manager, JVC/Europe
Jeromy Young, CEO, Atomos
Nigel Wilkes, General Manager, Panasonic/Europe
Jim Marks, DP/Director
Michael Accardi, President, CueScript
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Larry Jordan: Welcome to The Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for creative content producers covering media production, post production, marketing and distribution around the world. Hi, my name is Larry Jordan and this week we are in London at the Excel Convention Center for the BVE trade show. In fact, our entire show this week originates from BVE.
Larry Jordan: We start with Dan Sachelli. He’s the Commercial Manger, the person in charge of BVE, to give us an understanding of what this show is about. Then we talk with John Kelly, the General Manager for JVC Professional products about some of the new camera technology that JVC is introducing here at BVE. Then another announcement came from Atomos and we talk to Jeromy Young, the CEO and Co-founder of Atomos about some of the new announcements that they’re making here in London.
Larry Jordan: Then Nigel Wilkes, the Group Manager for Panasonic Cameras, talks with us about Panasonic’s view of the changing world of camera technology. Jim Marks is a Director of Photography, but we found him talking about a brand new 4K lens from Schneider Optics, so we talk about commercial production and the challenges of getting the right lens for your camera; and we wrap up with Michael Accardi, the President of CueScript, about how to pick a prompting system, whether you’re in the field or in the studio. It’s going to be an exciting show with some wonderful interview.
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: And as long as I’m doing reminders, remember to visit us on Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com; we’re also on Twitter, @DPBuZZ, and subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com for an inside look at both our show and the industry. I’ll be right back with Dan Sachelli, the Event Manager for BVE, right after this.
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Larry Jordan: I can’t think of a better place to start our coverage of BVE than a conversation with the gentleman responsible for the show. His name is Dan Sachelli, he’s the Commercial Manager for BVE. Dan, thanks for joining us today.
Dan Sachelli: My pleasure.
Larry Jordan: How would you describe BVE?
Dan Sachelli: BVE is the UK industry hub for the whole broadcast and production industry. It’s a three day exhibition and conference taking place over here in Excel in London and it houses 270 exhibitors on their own dedicated stands and over 350 brands, and plays host to 15,000 industry professionals.
Larry Jordan: I know you work for I2I, which is an exhibition company. Does this mean that BVE is a part time job for you or full time?
Dan Sachelli: No, not at all. You’re quite right, I2I operate in many different sectors, but I solely operate on BVE year round.
Larry Jordan: So as you were planning the show, what was your theme for this year’s event?
Dan Sachelli: The theme of BVE this year has been one to reflect what’s going on in the industry, as we do every year – converging technologies, collaborative technologies. BVE is embracing a wider range of products and services than ever before and we’re trying to shift the perception of BVE to something far greater.
Larry Jordan: I’ve been visiting BVE, I would guess, for four or five years and this has got to be the biggest exhibit I’ve seen. You’ve got much more of the Excel hall involved and the energy and the number of people attending, what is it, 10,000 people you have coming to the show this year?
Dan Sachelli: We have 15,000 actually, all said and done, by the end of the show. We’ve not had the stats in yet because we’re talking during the show, but that’s what we expect. The projections are looking good. There’s been a lot more investment going on in the show this year from our side, but also on the exhibitors’ side. People are taking a lot of pride and investment in their stand space and we’re reflecting that with our theaters. Obviously the fantastic 4K theater is just behind us and you can see from that, it’s a statement of intent about how serious we are at BVE.
Larry Jordan: One of the things that impressed me is the integration of conference sessions directly on the show floor as opposed to having the conference in some hall somewhere else. Why put the conference on the show floor?
Dan Sachelli: I guess the most important thing to mention about the conference and the content is that, unlike any other show in the UK or even European or global, it’s 100 percent free to attend, whether that’s keynotes, whether that’s master classes, workshops, panel discussions. Everything’s free to attend. The idea of having all the theaters on the show floor is that they house in the audience a lot of the key buyers that are coming to BVE. As soon as those sessions are finished, those audience members are straight onto the show floor, mingling with the exhibitors.
Larry Jordan: Now, you’ve got a production theater, a post production theater, a really lovely 4K theater for showing 4K films and conversations on 4K. What are some of the other stands that you have here for the conference?
Dan Sachelli: For the conference, we’ve got a cinematography and lighting theater. You mentioned production, but we’ve also got a producer’s theater which talks about the finance of getting projects off the ground etcetera for new time producers. We’ve got a connected theater, talking about IP delivery. We’ve got a broadcast, tech and workflow theater. So for every vertical that BVE represents, we’ve essentially got a dedicated conference stream.
Larry Jordan: Have you started working on next year’s show yet?
Dan Sachelli: We have, yes. For the past six months at least we’ve been thinking about 2016. We think about 2017, we’re thinking about 2018. We’ve already added a new theater and it’s on the floor plan you can see behind me, so we’ve got an AV theater and an AV zone. We’ve got an outdoor broadcast area, but it’s February in London so we’ve brought that inside. We’ve got an expanded production services area acknowledging how important that sector is to the industry, as well as the kit and products on the show floor so, yes, lots of plans.
Larry Jordan: Do you try to put the same companies that are competing in the same area together? Or do you try to keep competitors apart? What’s your thinking on positioning?
Dan Sachelli: The whole idea of BVE and exhibitions in general is that it’s a place for people to come and contrast, compare and test competing products and, although we don’t strictly zone the whole show floor. If you look on the right hand side it’s generally more about broadcast, broadcast hardware, delivery, connected delivery. The left hand side of the show as you look at the floor plan is post production, acquisition and production service. So yes, the natural order of things suggests that you’ll be close to competitors and I think that’s a good thing, I think it’s healthy.
Larry Jordan: Putting on a show like this has got to be exhausting. What is it that gets you excited enough to come to work every day?
Dan Sachelli: I think just the reminder of what is actually happening when you get here. It’s great. You work on a show cycle that’s a year long and by the time you come, you sort of forget what you’ve been working towards. But it’s really important to keep that in mind throughout the year, what the actual end goal is of what you do, and then obviously we get to come and see it and it’s really rewarding, actually, seeing it all come together.
Larry Jordan: For people who want to learn more and stay in touch with BVE across the year, what website can they go to?
Dan Sachelli: Our website is bvexpo.com. We’ve got various social media channels that you can access us through – Facebook, Twitter. You can get in touch with me directly if you email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in being an exhibitor or you just want to find out more. My biggest piece of advice would be to come down and check it out for yourself.
Larry Jordan: And Dan Sachelli is the Commercial Manager of BVE. The website again is bvexpo.com and, Dan, thanks for joining us today.
Dan Sachelli: Thanks for having me. Thanks, Larry.
Larry Jordan: A company that we’ve covered for a long time is JVC and John Kelly is the General Manager for UK, Ireland, Scandinavia and MEA, which means the Middle East and…?
John Kelly: Africa.
Larry Jordan: Africa. We’re here at the JVC booth at BVE. John, thanks for joining us today.
John Kelly: It’s a pleasure.
Larry Jordan: Why is JVC at BVE? There’s NAB, which is clearly huge, and there’s IBC, which is also huge. Why a small show like BVE? What attracts you?
John Kelly: Certainly we would of course consider both NAB and IBC as key international broadcast events, but we also believe it’s very important to get in front of as many customers as possible on a more local or regional basis. We’ve been very active in the UK and in Western Europe for many years, of course, and we see the BVE exhibition as a key part of getting our products and technology message out in front of customers.
Larry Jordan: As I stand here at the booth, I look and I see Canon and Sony and Panasonic and all the usual suspects. What customers should consider JVC? Who do you think your market is?
John Kelly: The market is very diffuse now, for one thing. In days gone by, there was very much a defined strata of professional products from the broadcast side through the kind of products that might be used for general production through into education markets and lower end videography. What we see now is almost, if you like, a flattening of the market where the same kind of technology is accessible not just to broadcast customers but, indeed, to perhaps more entry level videographers, guys wanting to get in and produce low budget cine movies, for example, so the market we’re seeing is compressed a little bit in that regard, both in terms of price and, as I say, in terms of access to technology.
Larry Jordan: I was talking a little earlier today with the General Manager over at Panasonic, who says that with the move from tape based cameras to tapeless, it essentially has become a sensor with a computer behind it, which opens up the floodgates to companies like Blackmagic or AJA, who have never been competitors before, to enter what has been traditionally a camera person’s space. How does JVC respond to that competition?
John Kelly: I think that’s a very interesting question and I think, from our point of view, much of the answer to that lies in camera ergonomics. You’re fully correct that the, let’s say, architecture of many cameras now is very much an electronic computer one, if you like, with of course that sensor at the front end as a dominant feature from an optical point of view. What we see as critically important is adopting an ergonomic formatted camera that professional customers actually can recognize and can easily work with. Of course, it’s easily possible that customers can use video DSLR type products, but what we also see, in our experience, is that they do have some limitations in terms of the practical use, in terms of things like having ND filters or having XLR professional audio support. We believe, including some of the new products we’re showing here at BVE, that the camera solutions we’re offering provide that level of ergonomic and functional control as a camera.
Larry Jordan: Which gets me to the fact that we’re at the JVC booth. What are you showing here that’s new?
John Kelly: We’re actually launching four new camera products at BVE this year, so a very exciting time for us. I’ll give you a quick overview of the range, firstly starting with a model called the GYLS300. This is a very important and interesting product for us, because the LS300 is our first large sensor camera. JVC is perhaps quite well known as producing camera products more suited to ENG style news and video production. Of course, the cine style, the shallow depth of field, large sensor market is one which has been very steadily growing over the last couple of years and the LS300 is really our first product to address that particular market. That has a Super 35 native 4K sensor at the front end, but behind that – again, going back to the point I made earlier – is the ergonomic camera style that a professional camera user would recognize in terms of those manual camera controls. We think the combination of the very large sensor and 4K resolution that gives but with a very strong ergonomic camera package provides a really good solution.
Larry Jordan: Ok, so we’ve got the LS300. What other news products do you have?
John Kelly: We have what you might say is in a sense technology wise a companion product to that, a model called the GWSP100. The SP100 takes the same sensor but puts it in remote camera head connected through an umbilical cable to a recording base station and we’re getting a lot of interest in this product from areas like sports, natural history, for example, aerial shooting, anywhere you need a very high quality but compact recording camera system. We see that as, again, a very interesting and actually quite a unique product.
Larry Jordan: Ok, that’s two cameras, so we’ve got two more to go.
John Kelly: Yes, that’s right. The third and fourth products are really brother and sister models, which are the HM170 and the HM200. These once again are HD and 4K recording products, as all of the cameras we’ve referred to are, but these are a little bit more designed as integrated lens, more point and shoot, ENG style cameras, but still giving you the benefits of 4K native recording as well as HD, but in a more compact point and shoot type form factor.
Larry Jordan: Are customers actually buying 4K cameras? Or are they just looking at them right now?
John Kelly: What we’re seeing at the moment, the level of interest in 4K is very high but I think we all recognize there are a number of challenges in terms of delivery and transmission of 4K content. We see two main application areas, one in terms of acquiring in 4K as an archive but still delivering in HD at the moment; or, indeed, just simply using the cameras as excellent acquisition products for HD for the here and now but perhaps with an eye over the next couple of years towards beginning to shoot and produce in 4K.
Larry Jordan: As you wear your General Manager hat and look at competition and industry trends, what are you keeping your eye on for this next year? What are we going to be paying attention to?
John Kelly: I think, from an acquisition point of view, two of the trends we’ve touched on are obviously key – 4K, of course, and in our case certainly the large sensor technology. As I said, that’s a part of the market that we were not addressing previously and we’re now able to do so and we’re very optimistic about growing that particular sector of our business. The other aspect, I think, of technology which is very important from a camera and acquisition point of view is in terms of networking connectivity. Now, this is an area that we’d like to think JVC have excelled in over the last couple of years, starting with models like the HM650, which was very widely adopted for news gathering, broadcasting and other production areas, and the combination of functionality that offers and will continue to offer in terms of live streaming, in terms of FTP file transfer, in terms of remote camera control, we see an increasing demand for those features in camera products.
Larry Jordan: One last question and I’ll let you go. Is there any logic at all to the naming convention of JVC cameras? We’ve got GY cameras and HM cameras. These are pretty weird acronyms. Is there a sense behind it all?
John Kelly: There is a sense but we like to keep it a mystery. We like to keep some things hidden, so I think we’ll have to draw a veil over that particular point for now.
Larry Jordan: John, for people who want more information, where can they go on the web to learn more?
John Kelly: They can go to www.jvcpro.co.uk.
Larry Jordan: That’s jvcpro.co.uk and John Kelly is the General Manager for the UK, Ireland, Scandinavia and MEA for JVC Professional. John, thanks for joining us today.
John Kelly: Thank you very much.
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Larry Jordan: This crowded booth behind me is the Atomos booth and, if you haven’t heard of Atomos, you may have heard of Samurai or the Shogun or the Ninja, which are their digital recorders. I’m delighted to introduce Jeromy Young, who’s the CEO of Atomos. Jeromy, step on in.
Jeromy Young: Cheers
Larry Jordan: Tell us, what is Atomos?
Jeromy Young: The word – I’ll tell you that first – is the original Greek word for indivisible, Socrates five and a half thousand years ago, and that’s my business partner and I, Ian Overliese, who’s our technical genius. We both love the customer and their products and what they need to do with products, and so we’re just endeavoring to produce products that reduce your time, increase your profit or creativity, because most creative guys, when you show them that you’ve got a bit more time left, they just do more to make it better, so I always say, “No, you can spend more time with your family or have a beer or something,” but no, they like to be more creative. We’re delivering tools that make that happen.
Larry Jordan: What was your first product?
Jeromy Young: Our first product was the Ninja, Ninja 1, and what it was, a ninja is an assassin – you’ll notice a theme in our products, with Samurai and Shogun, they’re all warriors and assassins – and the Ninja was the assassin for mpeg and the cost of media, P2, SxS cards, all of those proprietary formats the Japanese companies forced customers to buy and made a lot of money from or the replacement for tape where they made a lot of media profit. We wanted to cut across that to show that you could record directly to an editing format at the camera and go straight into the post production process.
Jeromy Young: I worked for ten years in Japan, Ian worked on mobile phone A6 for many years and then we both went to Blackmagic Design, helped grow that company, and then we broke out to make Atomos. We know the post production side and we had to learn the production side when we first made the Ninja. The Ninja had just a half decent screen for the time and it was recording directly to Apple ProRes from the sensor of the camera. 10 bit 422 direct from sensor was our original message and that has grown into adding lots of features for monitoring, because we realized the production guys actually cared about the monitor whereas the post production guys cared about what format they were recording.
Jeromy Young: We actually ended up marketing to two crowds and that really made us strong, because we now understand focus peaking, two to one zoom, all of the things that you need to be a really amazing monitor. We partnered up with Sharp and LG to make the best screens in the world for video. We adjust frame rates on video. We’re not a Lego block company, where we take IP from other people or chips from other people. Every single line of code, every piece of software is written by us, every design of the product is done by us, so we believe in an all-encompassing solution but without locking the customer in.
Larry Jordan: So you started with the Ninja and then where did you go from there?
Jeromy Young: Ninja led to Samurai. All the Ninja line is HDMI only, so we were really targeting that hobbyist, prosumer up to pro video market, where the cameras will come in more and more with HDMI and people making money from producing video to the masses, so weddings, corporate events. These type of customers were using HDMI cameras. Then we got a lot of requests for the SDI. Coming from the SDI world, we obviously had that on our road map and so then we spun the product into a slightly bigger screen, so that was a 4.3 inch screen on the Ninja and then we spun it into a five inch screen and then added SDI to it.
Jeromy Young: It was only an SDI product because we realized early that if you and HDMI and SDI, the cost goes up. To keep the cost down for customers, most of the time you have an SDI camera so that’s what you’re using; and then we led into convertors which then converted HDMI to SDI. It was the world’s first battery powered convertor with a continuous power system. All of our products have a continuous power patented system which is one battery goes down, switches to the other side and then you swap them out and charge the other one or have another one ready.
Jeromy Young: We’re well placed in the convertor space to put that technology in. We still have our connect convertors, which are extremely popular. They convert HDMI to SDI or vice versa, they have a battery on top that lasts ten hours, so you don’t need to plug it into the wall, so most of the time it’s like, “Damn, I’ve got this SDI feet but I’ve got a cheap HDMI Dell monitor that I want to use,” so that was what that product was for, plus it made the Samurai into a Ninja and the Ninja into the Samurai and we made a battery foot that clicked on the back and it’s a very small product, so everything hit a sweet spot in the convertor market.
Larry Jordan: So where does Shogun fit in?
Jeromy Young: Then we realized that our screens weren’t good enough. So we ended up going to mobile phone technology screens, they were custom screens for us but they used those really high quality Apple or Samsung type of screens that everyone’ used to looking at. It seemed a bit weird that you’re paying a lot of money for pro product but it didn’t look as good as your iPhone, so we brought that technology into the professional era and made the Ninja Blade and the Samurai Blade, and the Blade is the razor sharp quality of the screen. That then led to what happened next. 4K cameras started to come out.
Jeromy Young: I lived and worked ten years in Japan, worked very closely with Sony, Panasonic, Canon, Nikon at those times, so we have a very strong relationship with those guys. We’ve implemented HDMI start/stop trigger from the camera to us and that’s an open standard that we’ve let the world have – even our competitors can use that – because we believe in an open side. So there’s the Sony and the Apple side, which is quite closed and then they try to make money off that; then there’s the Microsoft theory, where everything’s open and everyone can use it.
Jeromy Young: We’re trying to mix those two together. I’d learnt my trade in DV and then we went HDV and then there was HD coming into the equation, so I’ve seen these cycles before and we knew that 4K would come very soon, so we teamed up with Japanese makers and we announced Shogun at NAB last year off the back of the A7S and GH4 products from the Japanese makers, which we had known about for six months or a year before. We knew that we couldn’t produce that product, the development time was about a year. We announced the product, saying we’d ship it in October.
Jeromy Young: We ended up slipping a little bit to December, because 4K is actually very, very difficult at these data rates, a little bit more difficult than we thought, but we ended up getting it over the line and we’ve got our best screen on that product, which is a 1920 X 1200. We’ve got a nice bar down the bottom that lets all the menu structures be there and we’ve added things like 3D Lux, 4K down convertor to link to infrastructure. We record to SSDs and we’ve just announced the DNxHR, as well as obviously the ProRes 4K formats that we support. We believe we’re the best monitor in the world that just happens to record these amazingly high quality formats and plays back and is a deck and edits on the device. That’s where the Shogun is.
Larry Jordan: You’ve also announced some new stuff here at BVE. What have you announced?
Jeromy Young: The DNxHR, first in the world to record to Avid, and Avid’s making a bit of a comeback. They’ve got a nice cloud based solution which the hiring guys are really looking forward to using, and they’re about to release their Media Composer DNxHR supported software. They gave us the spec and we finished it pretty quickly. We’re the first in the world to record this format and it’s at the camera from these amazing sensors of these 4K cameras – FS7, A7S, GH4 all the way up through SDI cameras and beyond. We also announced a pretty comprehensive 3K Lux implementation to allow the higher end customers to use the Lux that they either custom make or from a camera like SLOG, CLOG etcetera. When it comes in to the monitor, it’s all washed out, so we do a transformation on the screen, still recording the SLOG etcetera so that you can still do what you want with it after, but you can look at it, set up your shot for exposure and color accuracy like it’s a rec709 monitor, so you’re back in the world that you know and you’re not sitting there with a washed out image, trying to guess what’s going on.
Larry Jordan: There are a lot of digital recorders from a lot of manufacturers and most of the companies that make digital recorders are all good solid companies. Why should somebody buy one from you? What is it that makes your stuff unique?
Jeromy Young: There are two things, I think. I could go all day on that question, but the first thing I’d say is that we care extremely deeply about the actual production and what people do on a daily basis and that’s encompassed by us putting everything in the box that you need to get started. The only thing we don’t put in is a hard disk and an HDMI cable or an SDI cable, you need to provide that yourself. But on the hard disk side, we have open hard disks that we standardize and test and we say, “These are approved. You will have no problems using these, provided you use the Intel model number, the Samsung model number, the Toshiba model number,” etcetera. SanDisk is probably the best disk that we have in implementation right now, but we give you the drive caddy, the USB3 to SATA drive caddy.
Jeromy Young: We give you the cases to put the drives in. We give you the chargers, the batteries. We give you a waterproof case and it’s all encompassed in one price, so we’re the most affordable and we’re the most all encompassing. Then we go into the functionality. We have put a deck, a really high end monitor, a recording device like a camera but at 20 times the quality and about 30 times the data rate of what the cameras are capable of internally. We record directly from the sensor and we continue to update our software on a weekly basis. As we’re developing features or find a problem from a customer, we immediately fix it and release a new version, so it’s very much like your iPhone. It pops up and tells you, “We have a new update, please link to your computer and update,” so we don’t leave you behind. We don’t charge for extra formats. We’re doing FS RAW next month, which is our next update, so since the beginning of all of our products, we’ve done 57 updates to our operating system. It’s called AtomOS, we’re now at AtomOS 6.2. We went through 1.0, which was on the Ninja; 2.0 added metadata tagging from Apple. We do editing on the device to make sure that we’re sitting right at the point of capture or, once you’ve finished the production, you can then go and metadata tag in and out points.
Larry Jordan: Jeromy, where can somebody go on the web to learn more about the products you’ve got?
Jeromy Young: Atomos.com. It’s right there. All of our information’s on there, we’ve got a bunch of videos and all the products are listed there.
Larry Jordan: Jeromy Young is the CEO and the Co-Founder of Atomos. Jeromy, thanks for joining us today.
Jeromy Young: Thanks a lot.
Larry Jordan: It would be impossible to be at BVE and not see the Panasonic booth directly in the middle of this great exhibit hall, and I’m talking with Nigel Wilkes. He’s the Group Manager for Broadcast and IT Systems with Panasonic. Nigel, thanks for joining us today.
Nigel Wilkes: You’re welcome.
Larry Jordan: First, congratulations on the award that you guys announced in your press release today. What did you get?
Nigel Wilkes: We’ve been working over the last couple of weeks on a costume drama. We’ve just launched VariCam 35 and VariCam HS and that camera originated 12 years ago, when we were in the days of HD, when HD was starting, and 720 and we were very strong on the natural history side at that time and we could never quite get into the top of that triangle where ARRI was sat, they were sat there with their filmic history etcetera and they owned the feature and the drama world. Over the last two years, we’ve developed a new VariCam, which is what we have here today, a modular product but it has some secret little technical bits in there which is giving us the edge on the competition. Over the last two to three weeks, we were involved with 24/7, which is one of the large drama hire companies in the UK and they decided that they wanted to be a bit more radical and they didn’t want to go down the ARRI road because it was safe and everyone likes that brand. They decided to go with VariCam so, yes, it’s been great for us because it’s our first drama, it’s a high profile one that’s going out on BBC HD. They’ve taken in six cameras and they’re doing prep this week and they start shooting next week, so it’s good. I’m excited by it.
Larry Jordan: Well, congratulations. At the other end of the spectrum, we’re looking at the GH4, which has just exploded in popularity. Who are you finding are the customers for that?
Nigel Wilkes: Do you know what? The history of the GH4, we started out with GH2, which was a great product, and then GH3 came out and then GH4 came out, which was the world’s first 4K DSLR single chip camera, and the interest on it has absolutely exploded. We were at BVE here last year, the consumer guys came to join us, a guy called Mark Baber, who’s their Lumix specialist. He joined us on the stand and he was 16 deep with this camera. We got a lot of visits from the MD of a very high end camera manufacturer, who came over to see what was going on, and over the 12 month period that product has been sold to everybody from the guy who’s at home who just wants to shoot stills and get really high end still images to that low end film shooter who wants to get out and do shorts and maybe weddings and all that sort of stuff, right up to recently ‘Star Wars’. On ‘Star Wars’, they actually used GH4 for all their drone shots, so I’m a bit worried about that camera because he’s at the bottom of my chain but he’s slowly coming up.
Larry Jordan: Well, I had the pleasure of doing a road trip last spring with Philip Bloom and you could not pry the GH4 out of his hands. He was shooting it everywhere, so you have fans in a lot of places with that camera.
Nigel Wilkes: Ah, it’s amazing. It’s amazing, yes.
Larry Jordan: One of the things that I’m curious about, because you look at the strategy for Europe and try to figure out where the company is going and sales and marketing and all of that, how are you seeing the industry evolve?
Nigel Wilkes: The industry’s changed so much. I’ve been with Panasonic for 16 years now and my original job was I was the HD sales guy and I did that from the early days when we were arguing about whether 720p and 1080p was HD and everything else, and it was probably at that moment that it was one of the best jobs in the world because it was a product that everybody wanted. It was mechanism based, it was tape based, so the choices were few. You had basically manufacturers of cameras and as soon as we started moving to P2 and Panasonic started the whole solid state recording side, and at the time that we did it, it was probably 12 years ago, everyone said that Panasonic was mad, “Why are you moving away from tape? Why are you putting it onto cards? It’s never going to work.” But if you look at where we are right now, every manufacturer is doing exactly what Panasonic started all that time ago.
Nigel Wilkes: The problem with it, and we made this statement at the time, was that as soon as you take the tape mechanism away, basically you’re putting a computer on the back of a lens, so that now opens up the whole world and it wasn’t going to be long before someone like Microsoft would rock up with a camera, or maybe Google or even our friends from GoPro. I think now there is so much choice out there that Panasonic has to change as a company. We are a manufacturer of products, that’s what we do, but we manufacture robust product, product that you can take into the worst places, whether it’s deserts, as in the heat and humidity, or whether you’re taking into cold areas. We’ve had to change as a company because this industry’s changed. There’s so much choice now. You don’t ship a lot of boxes all of the time because people don’t have the budgets.
Larry Jordan: But just to raise the flag, Panasonic, like every manufacturer, is trying to find out what’s going to be the next hit product and they’re all coming out with new codecs, they’re all coming out with new formats, they’re coming out with new sensors. The change from a person that’s buying cameras point of view is almost so quick that we’re afraid to do anything because as soon as we buy it, it’s out of date. How does Panasonic respond to the instant obsolescence?
Nigel Wilkes: We’ve always had the policy with our codecs and our recording formats to basically supply all of our cameras with the same codecs. So it doesn’t matter whether your budget is three grand, four grand or whether you’re budget’s 37 grand, 40 grand. The codecs in the cameras are exactly the same. It means that you can get program makers or filmmakers all working on the same codecs, doesn’t matter what budget they’ve got, they’re all different, they’re all producing the same type of product, but it also means that you can use a multitude of different types of cameras on the same shoot and when you go into the edit, all your codecs are exactly the same. We’ve always done it, we’ve always stayed on the same sort of codecs route that we’re on now. We started with DVC Pro, we went with DVC Pro HD; we started with AVC Intra now and some of our competition, if you’ve noticed, now have AVC Intra going into their cameras. We bought out Ultra, which has now allowed us obviously to bring out 4K. But the one thing that Panasonic’s always delivered is when you go into the edit, if you go back to the days of editing film, you would cut each individual picture and then glue it together and it’s the same with us. With our codecs, when you’re editing, it’s exactly the same as editing film. When you cut, you cut a picture.
Larry Jordan: All of your codecs are iFrame based. You’re not using compressing groups of pictures, you have each individual frame.
Nigel Wilkes: That’s right.
Larry Jordan: It makes for larger file sizes, but it makes for a much more efficient edit.
Nigel Wilkes: Yes it does, yes.
Larry Jordan: So how do you manage to get excited? Every time you turn around, there’s new competition coming up, there are companies you’ve never heard of like HAA and Blackmagic releasing cameras and you’re with a more traditional camera company that’s struggling to respond to the industry. What gets you convinced it’s time to get out of bed in the morning and go to work?
Nigel Wilkes: Working for a sales company like I do, or a manufacturer as I do, working for a big brand, that’s what drives me because I’ve had, I guess, the pleasure of working on some major productions in the time that I’ve worked for this company. We are very big in natural history and those guys need a very robust product. When you’re working on something like ‘Planet Earth’ or ‘Frozen Planet’, where they’re taking them to the worst places in the world, and when they come back after being away for three years and you didn’t get one phone call to say that, “My camera’s broken down,” that for me is what drives my passion and we’re the same with news. We have every international news organization bar one in the UK and they’re exactly the same. When you watch news at night, these guys are going into the worst territories, they’re going into war zones, and our cameras survive. A lot of the competition that’s come out, although they’re very good budget wise, could you take them into those areas? I don’t think so. I don’t think they would survive, so that’s probably what makes me tick.
Larry Jordan: Nigel, thanks for joining us today. Nigel Wilkes is the Group Manager for Broadcast and IT Systems for Panasonic UK. Their web address is panasonic-broadcast.com. That’s panasonic-broadcast.com. Nigel, this has been fun. Thank you.
Nigel Wilkes: Thank you very much. Thank you.
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Larry Jordan: We’re in the Vitec booth, which is one of the largest companies in our industry, and Vitec has a number of different products, one of which is Manfrotto. Manfrotto is known for the camera heads that they make, but they also distribute products both in the UK and throughout Europe, and one of the new products they’re distributing are Schneider lenses and I want to learn more about what some of the new Schneider lenses are about. To do that, I’ve invited in Jim Marks. Jim is a commercial director who’s specialized in doing a lot of different video and he wants to talk about the new lens that Manfrotto is showing in their booth. Hello, Jim.
Jim Marks: Hi, how you doing today?
Larry Jordan: Tell me about what you’ve been up to as a director and as a DP.
Jim Marks: My career’s been varied, I think we can safety say. I began as a stills photographer, did that for almost two decades, and then about six years ago I changed into the moving image, so I came into that world.
Larry Jordan: To expand or because stills just dried up?
Jim Marks: Smart question. Both is the simple answer, and it began being a 80/20 split, a bit of moving. It’s now the complete reverse, 80 percent moving, 20 percent stills.
Larry Jordan: What kind of commercials have you done?
Jim Marks: I do TV commercials. I’ve done them for insurance companies, I’ve done holiday commercials. It’s a mix between web TV and, because I used REDs, I also pull stills, so it’s a real cross media kind of thing.
Larry Jordan: Do you find in a particular genre there are a lot of special effects or lots of actors or what?
Jim Marks: I’d like to say that I’m heading towards the world of drama. I think that’s a fantastic thing to aim towards. I tell you what, at my age – 45 – I like to learn new things and I feel, moving into film, I’m always learning and I think that’s the key thing. You never stop learning.
Larry Jordan: Well, that’s true of the whole industry, not just of directing. What is the challenge that you’ve got as a DP? What are you looking for? Is it just the look or are you fighting technology all the time?
Jim Marks: Oh, it’s both. One of the great things about this glass is it’s a full frame and, as we’ve seen with RED with the sensor change, my Dragon sensor still works with these at full frame, because that’s bigger than Super 35.
Larry Jordan: Now, tell me what full frame means.
Jim Marks: Full frame is the 35 mil standard, if you like. When people talk about focal lengths, be it a 50 as a standard, 28 as a wide or 100 mil as a portrait lens, everyone still refers to that as the full frame standard. As we know, video cameras, the chips, the sensors, come in many, many different sizes and, of course, that throws things out. For instance, because this is a full frame camera, a 50 mil, which would be a standard on a camera with a smaller chip, well, that’s not a standard. That becomes a tighter bit of glass.
Larry Jordan: Ok. Well, let’s just hold up a second. What you’re saying is that the image cast by the lens on the sensor fills the frame of a 35 millimeter still.
Jim Marks: Yes.
Larry Jordan: And some lenses don’t fill the frame?
Jim Marks: No. Well, the lenses do, but the sensors are smaller, so if you’ve got, say, a Blackmagic or a camera with a smaller sensor than full frame, the focal length has a slightly different meaning. To get a standard lens, I’d need to drop to, say, a 35 mil rather than a 50 on this glass, which is why actually it’s very important that they’ve got some wider glass, which they have. They’ve got a 25 now and an 18, which means you can get that wide point of view as well.
Larry Jordan: Ok, so what you’re saying is that for people who are experienced photographers, they expect a certain image from a 50 millimeter lens or a certain image from a 100 millimeter, more of a zoomed in look.
Jim Marks: Yes.
Larry Jordan: And when you have a full frame sensor, then you’re getting a 50 millimeter look that you expect, you don’t have to retrain your eye.
Jim Marks: No.
Larry Jordan: So for people who are new to photography, do they care?
Jim Marks: Do they care? Perhaps not, no. Whatever works for you, I think, is the honest truth. But because I work on a lot of different cameras with a lot of different sensor sizes, you need to understand that otherwise, to be honest, you’ll take the wrong lens with you to get the shot you want. You have to understand that, yes. It’s not complicated.
Larry Jordan: Tell me about this lens. What is it?
Jim Marks: This is a range of primes from Schneider. I would say they’re at the affordable end of the market. The key thing about them and what I like is the size. They’re actually quite small physically for cinema glass, and by cinema glass I mean glass that has proper focus throws and markings for distance and a common front end.
Larry Jordan: Let me just see. This is about, well, it feels like it’s just a pound or two. It’s not very heavy.
Jim Marks: Yes.
Larry Jordan: When do you care about the length of the lens? Or what are you judging the lens on? What criteria do you use?
Jim Marks: The first criteria has to be the quality of the image. I don’t care what the lens is like if the image is not what I want. As a DP, more and more the glass you choose is a bit like film stock. It’s kind of the look.
Larry Jordan: It’s that important?
Jim Marks: Oh, totally, totally, 100 percent. The chips give a particular look, you’re shooting a nice flat image, perhaps, but no, I would think that lens choice for a DP is almost like film stock used to be when we were shooting films.
Larry Jordan: Now, there’s Cooke Optics, there’s Schneider lenses, there’s Canon lenses. How do you decide which is what? Which do you pick?
Jim Marks: That comes right at the beginning of the project, when you go through the creative, go through the boards. What kind of look are you after? Do you want flare? Do you want it sharp? Do you want it cool? All these different factors play into the kind of glass. Do you need auto focus or not? Or do you want to do everything manually? It’s right at the beginning as a DP that you decide the glass you want to use, and also the camera system. For production, it’s like a triangle. The camera’s always at the top of the triangle. Have a heavy camera, you need a heavy jib. The camera is always at the top of the triangle, so from the camera everything flows down in that respect.
Larry Jordan: How would you describe the look of a Schneider lens, say, compared to a Cooke?
Jim Marks: Cooke is a bit dreamier, a bit softer. These are very good commercial lenses, really good color rendition, lovely soft out of focus area. I’d say truer colors, more consistent colors in that sense, and also, I have to say, a massive price difference in what we’re talking there. As I say, this for me is the kind of affordable end of cinema glass. It’s what you would perhaps try when you leave the world of still lenses behind, which is a big jump for a lot of people. A lot of people shoot very nice stuff on stills glass and it’s that education, learning what cinema glass can bring to your shooting and how it can improve it and how it can make it so much easier. That’s the key thing.
Larry Jordan: Now, you’ve pointed out a big difference. These are prime lenses, which means they don’t zoom. But for a lot of people who need the ability to change the look instantly, a zoom lens becomes critical.
Jim Marks: Yes.
Larry Jordan: When is it the wisest choice to have a zoom and when it is the wisest choice to have a prime?
Jim Marks: If you’re shooting, say, a commercial or something where the image quality is paramount and where light levels perhaps might be low, you might need the stop, you might need the speed, you’re going to be on primes. If you were filming an event, for instance, that’s a zoom. I can’t change the glass, I don’t have the time, I’m in a challenging environment, perhaps, with weather, then I have to go with a zoom. But these are about image quality, they’re about finessing the way you focus and deal with light and that’s what these primes bring to the table. There is a split. It’s like you wouldn’t use the old MX RED in low light, you’d use a C300. It’s the right camera and the right lens for the right job.
Larry Jordan: Schneider makes a really lovely set of prime lenses. Do they do zooms?
Jim Marks: Not yet, no.
Larry Jordan: So whose zooms would you recommend? What zoom lenses do you like?
Jim Marks: I use all sorts of zooms, I have to be honest. I’ve used zooms from every manufacturer.
Larry Jordan: You’re zoom agnostic?
Jim Marks: I’m zoom agnostic, absolutely. I’ve tried Canon zooms, Fuji, all with a particular look and a particular feel.
Larry Jordan: For people who are new to lenses, how would you describe the look?
Jim Marks: Of a zoom?
Larry Jordan: Of a zoom.
Jim Marks: There’s a tradeoff in terms of the quality and also the speed of the lens. If I’m honest, in some scenarios, people might not notice the difference, if it’s very fast work in that scenario. What you get here is something different that you can’t get with a zoom.
Larry Jordan: And that is?
Jim Marks: It’s that completely dropped background, the lightness. I think the key is the lightness. Often I’m having to gimbal it, it’ll go on my shoulder. If I’ve got a RED on my shoulder, that’s a heavy rig. I don’t often want a big, big zoom. I think another key difference is the size. You can see the size of that. A cinema zoom’s going to be here and it’s going to weigh a ton more and I’m not a young man and when I’ve got a director shouting at me to stand out there for another couple of hours, often you can get better shots for longer with a prime just simply because of the fatigue and it’s on my shoulder or moving around, especially with gimbals as well. If you’ve got a DJI or something like that, you want one of these, you don’t want a heavy zoom on the front. You really don’t, because… heavy.
Larry Jordan: So let me just add that the website you want to go to to learn more about this lens is schneideroptics.com. Jim Marks is a cinematographer, a DP and a commercial director and, Jim, thanks for joining us today. I’ve got more from BVE right after this.
Larry Jordan: I love prompters. One of the reasons I like prompters, they help me solve the problem of the fact I can’t memorize anything to save my life and one of the companies that makes prompters is CueScript and here at BVE I want to learn more about how prompters work and how you pick the right prompter. I want to introduce Michael Accardi. Michael is the Co-founder and President of CueScript. Michael, thanks for joining us today.
Michael Accardi: Thanks for having us.
Larry Jordan: Start by describing why you decided to start CueScript in the first place.
Michael Accardi: Well, I and my partners have been in the industry for quite a while and we’ve been part of the other prompting companies and we just found that there was room for innovations, some really creative ways to do things that would make prompting a lot easier to use and a lot better for the production.
Larry Jordan: Innovations in what way?
Michael Accardi: We have a system that, if you want to go in the field, you can take it apart, put it together, there are absolutely no tools necessary, there are no loose parts. We have a rigidity to the unit so that you don’t introduce any movement into the camera moves. It’s just a better unit all around. The quality of the monitors themselves look brighter, they’re easier to read. We’ve taken out the considerations of having the right inputs, because now we have composited HD SDI, we have VGA. We’ve really put it all in there so that you don’t get caught off guard.
Larry Jordan: One of the challenges with prompters is cameras have different heights for the lenses, from the tripod.
Michael Accardi: Right.
Larry Jordan: What device do we need to put the lens in the middle of the prompter so people are looking at the most prompter screen they can get?
Michael Accardi: There are a couple of different ways to do that. One of the ways is to have what’s called a riser, which will hold the camera high or low, depending on where you need it. The second way is actually to have a mount that’s adjustable so you can put the monitor lower or higher. We have both options available. We like using the mount as the proper way, because now I don’t bring the center of gravity higher than it needs to be, so we give you both options.
Larry Jordan: The hardware for a prompter is wonderful, but the software is what actually makes the difference, because if the software can’t keep up with the speaker, you’re stuck. What software does CueScript support?
Michael Accardi: We’re going to be introducing our software at NAB. Right now, we work with all the major softwares. Basically, they’re all going to be putting out a composite or a digital signal and our monitors can take that in. The real key to that speed control is having a good speed control to your software and what really makes the difference is the operator. The operator is what takes an average speaker and makes them look like a great speaker.
Larry Jordan: But it seems to me that sometimes you can’t work with a really qualified prompter operator, you’re grabbing a production assistant off the floor to say, “Help run the prompter.” What’s your software likely to do to simplify that problem? How do we solve that challenge?
Michael Accardi: What we’re doing with our software is a little bit different. We’re introducing a brand new software written from ground up, so there’s no legacy in that and it’s going to be a much cleaner, fresh approach to it. But there is still a human factor to being an operator that we can’t instill in the person. They have to have some innate capability there.
Larry Jordan: Well, true. When we’re trying to decide what prompter to use, there are a lot of prompters that are out there from a lot of different companies, what criteria should we use? Help us to pick the right prompter for our task; and let’s say that there are two. One is we’re on a documentary film shoot but we’ve got a little bit of time to set up. Second is, say, a studio operation where you’re trying to pick a studio prompter. How do you decide which one to use?
Michael Accardi: The most important thing is your talent’s capabilities, because what people think is, “I’m going to get a smaller camera, I’m going to get a smaller prompter.” The problem with that mentality is, just because the camera’s smaller, it doesn’t make the talent’s eyes any better, so I really need to choose my prompter based on who’s going to be using it, what distance they’re going to be using it in and what the lighting conditions are going to be. What we’re basically doing is we’re making sure that we get the right size for the application, the brightness so they can read it, whether it’s outside or inside. Then you’d want to know about the input, so that I can put whatever signal I have into it; and then, as you said, how do I set it up and tear it down? And that’s one of the things that we really did concentrate heavily on as well because we really wanted a rounded package.
Larry Jordan: The other challenge is this light loss as it goes through the prompter glass.
Michael Accardi: Correct.
Larry Jordan: How much light should we assume to lose as the prompter glass takes it away?
Michael Accardi: You’re basically losing 40 percent.
Larry Jordan: How much?
Michael Accardi: 40 percent.
Larry Jordan: Wow.
Michael Accardi: We can change that 30 percent, 40 percent by changing the glass. In the old days, that used to be a serious problem, but with the sensitivity of the cameras today, it’s actually not a problem. The cameras really have overcome that.
Larry Jordan: You’ve talked about all the different criteria that we have to work with to pick a prompter. Give us an example, if we’re inside or we’re outside, but what I’m trying to nail down is I’m trying to figure more specifically what do we look for? You’ve given me the questions to answer, but you haven’t given me answers yet.
Michael Accardi: Right.
Larry Jordan: So help me get a little bit more detail on picking a prompter. You’ve told me what the criteria are, how do I answer the criteria?
Michael Accardi: One of the criteria in a studio – and this is also going to play into the field – is you want a rigid system so that when you’re making a camera move, the prompter doesn’t introduce its own move. You really want to have a rigid mounting system that holds the weight, really supports the unit properly and the prompter doesn’t introduce moves into the camera. In a studio, that’s absolutely a steadfast rule. In the field, it’s no different but most prompters are made very lightweight to get into the field and don’t have that capability. What we’ve done is made a mounting system that takes that studio robustness and gives it to you in the field. In the field, you have the added concern of how long, how fast and what problems are the prompters going to introduce?
Michael Accardi: You want to make sure you have a prompter where all the parts are captive, that you don’t need to introduce tools and that works fast. A lot of times, prompters don’t get used because people are so concerned about the problems that they introduce versus the solutions that they bring and, as you said earlier, it is one of the strongest solutions to production, to have a prompter there. There are fewer takes, there’s so much more confidence with your talent and it’s a great tool. We want to make it easy enough for you to get out there and use it.
Larry Jordan: When do you pick an over or below the lens prompter versus a through the lens prompter?
Michael Accardi: Wherever possible, you want to be shooting directly through the prompter glass, you don’t want over or under.
Larry Jordan: How come?
Michael Accardi: Because as you get closer to the talent, when they start to read you’re actually going to see them looking above or below the lens and that is very distracting. We love to work with a mirrored prompter instead of a direct view prompter. There are some applications when you’re on jibs where you don’t want to introduce a piece of mirror. There are applications on Steadicam because of weight that we will do direct for you, but wherever possible you’re going to get a much better eye contact having it through the lens.
Larry Jordan: Another would be a dramatic scene where you want to prompt talent but they don’t want to be looking at the lens, you’d have an off the lens prompter in a situation like that, would you not?
Michael Accardi: Correct, correct.
Larry Jordan: Where can people go to learn more information about CueScript and the products you guys offer?
Michael Accardi: Our website is www.cuescript.tv.
Larry Jordan: CueScript makes prompters and you can learn more at their website at cuescript.tv and Michael Accardi is the CEO and the President of CueScript. Michael, thanks for joining us today.
Michael Accardi: Thank you very much.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank this week’s guest, Dan Sachelli, the Commercial Manager for BVE; John Kelly, the General Manager of JVC Professional products for Europe; Jeromy Young, CEO and Co-founder of Atomos; Nigel Wilkes, the Group Manager for Panasonic Professional products; Jim Marks, Director of Photography for Schneider Optics; and Michael Accardi, President of CueScript.
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 online, all searchable and all available. You can talk with us on Twitter, @DPBuZZ, and Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Our theme music is composed by Nathan Doogie Turner; additional music on The Buzz is provided by smartsound.com. Text transcripts are provided by Take 1 Transcription.
Larry Jordan: I want to make special thanks to our production team in London – Michael Powells and Lindsay Luebbert. Back home, Megan Paulos and Brianna Murphy put the show together. Our producer is Cirina Catania. On behalf of Mike Horton, my name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to The Digital Production Buzz.
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