Digital Production Buzz
February 12, 2015
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
(Click here to listen to this show.)
Kanen Flowers, Chief Mayhem Officer, That Studio
Dan Berube, President, Boston Final Cut Pro User Group
Maxim Jago, Director, MaximJago.com
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Larry Jordan: From the media capital of the world in Los Angeles, California, The Digital Production Buzz goes live now.
Larry Jordan: And welcome to The Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for creative content producers covering media production, post production, marketing and distribution around the world. Hi, my name is Larry Jordan and joining us is our co-host, the ever affable, incredibly handsome, wonderfully well read…
Mike Horton: Wow.
Larry Jordan: …Mr. Mike Horton.
Mike Horton: Hello, Larry. Hello, Mike.
Larry Jordan: We’ve got a great show tonight, starting with Kanen Flowers, the Chief Mayhem Officer at That Studio, with a preview of what to expect at NAB.
Larry Jordan: Then Dan Berube, the Founder of BOFCPUG, which is the Boston Creative Pro User Group…
Mike Horton: Pro User Group.
Larry Jordan: …and Co-Founder of the Supermeets…
Mike Horton: It’s really hard to say, isn’t it?
Larry Jordan: I’ve heard of Supermeets. Anyway, he’s, along with Mike, the Co-Founder of those and joins us to share his thoughts on Sundance 2015 and his experiences at the Editors’ Retreat this past week in Florida.
Larry Jordan: Then we wrap up with Maxim Jago, the filmmaker and futurist, talking about the future of technology and media.
Mike Horton: Holy cow, what a line-up.
Larry Jordan: It’s a great group.
Mike Horton: It’s a, yes, really great group.
Larry Jordan: Just a reminder, 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: Mike, I am so excited.
Mike Horton: Yes, I’m so nervous. But you should be real nervous.
Larry Jordan: It’s the brand new TalkShow from Newtek and we’re premiering it here on the show. Let me show you what it looks like. It’s a combination of computer with video generator that allows us to present broadcast quality Skype calls live on the show. It provides extremely high audio and video quality, the ability to cue calls, delivers full frame studio grade video from over 300 million Skype users and allows our guests to watch the show while we interview them. It’s, like, serial number two. We are excited because all three of our interviews tonight use TalkShow and Skype and we’ll be starting with our first one, with Kanen Flowers, in just a minute.
Mike Horton: Kanen is going to…
Larry Jordan: Isn’t that cool?
Mike Horton: …premiere it. He’s the first one to do it. Let’s see if it works, folks.
Larry Jordan: Well, what I was told is that Microsoft got serial number one and we got serial number two.
Mike Horton: Really?
Larry Jordan: And we are putting on the air and, I tell you, we’ve been working with it in rehearsal and it is stunning.
Mike Horton: Yes, saw a little bit of it, it looked really cool.
Larry Jordan: Oh, it’s just amazing.
Mike Horton: I’m hoping Kanen puts a green screen in the background.
Larry Jordan: I think what Kanen has done is he has moved his computer outside to Hawaii and he’s on the beach and he’s showing us what…
Mike Horton: Why the heck not? We should do that with Dan, because Dan’s in Boston in 20 feet of snow or something.
Larry Jordan: Well, Dan is suffering from severe cold and, against doctor’s advice, he is getting up out of his near death bed, just to be with us because chatting with us on The Buzz is that important to him.
Mike Horton: It is, yes. Ok.
Larry Jordan: Let’s see. We’re continuing to tweet, we’re using Wirecast for our live stream and we’ve spent a lot of time making Wirecast work, so…
Mike Horton: Yes, we should actually show another picture of this place. Well, we can’t because we need a roving camera, but this is just amazing.
Larry Jordan: Well, you saw the studio tour that we did last week.
Mike Horton: Yes. You should play that every single week before the show.
Larry Jordan: Well, I think what we’re going to do is run elements of that as part of the pre-show, as part of our opening.
Larry Jordan: By the way, remember to visit with us on Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com; we’re 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. Mike and I will be back with Kanen Flowers right after this.
Mike Horton: On Skype.
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Larry Jordan: In 2014, Kanen Flowers founded That Studio with a focus on independent visual effects, creative content and distribution of new films. Along with his Co-Founder, Alan E Bell, Kanen is helping new and existing artists get their content onto the internet. Hello, Kanen, welcome back.
Kanen Flowers: Oh, hello Larry. Good to be back.
Larry Jordan: It’s good to have you back. It’s been a long time since last we chatted. Let’s start at the beginning. Why did you decide to start That Studio?
Kanen Flowers: Originally we started That Studio with the idea of helping independent filmmakers create original content. I’ve always been an independent filmmaker, as you know. I started out as a technology guy and always had an eye towards film and toward creating independent film, television. I was always the guy that preferred ‘Sideways’ over ‘Transformers’, so I always thought, “Oh, it’d be really interesting to help people like that,” you know? And so I got into film thinking this whole film thing is going from film cameras to digital cameras and, as a technology guy that made a lot of sense to me.
Kanen Flowers: As I got into it more and more, I started realizing that there are a lot of ways to create content out there, but there aren’t a lot of tools that are really geared toward what I would call the independent filmmaker. There are a lot of plug-ins and a lot of stuff that you can use, but I didn’t feel like anybody was really trying to figure out… let’s say I want to make the next upstream color with… or primer. How do I do that? Where do I start? How do I begin? How do I even approach? It’s an enormous undertaking, to figure out how to approach making an independent film or television show or to kind of liberate yourself like that, and so I got excited about that and I spent two years…
Larry Jordan: It sounds like what you were doing is not looking at the individual technology, not looking at the plug-ins, but looking at the process, that you were looking at a process solution rather than a technological solution.
Kanen Flowers: Yes, we did. We spent two years really screwing up publicly. We created this company called Scruffy TV and I know Michael Horton has seen a lot of the mess, but we spent two years just failing publicly to see, like, how do we even build this stuff?
Mike Horton: Yes, but a lot of that mess we also learned from.
Kanen Flowers: Yes, I hope so. I know I learned a lot and you’re exactly right, Larry, it started out as, “How do I do this process? How do I build this group of people who know what they’re doing? How do I enable them with the tools?” and, for us, even “How do I have a group of people around the world all collaborate?” and those are all really hard questions to answer. Along the way, we discovered a couple of things and I can talk about it as little or as much as you like.
Larry Jordan: Help me understand what it is that you discovered, because when you talk about collaboration with a team of people around the world, that’s a management issue. How do you manage remote creative people? It has nothing to do with filmmaking, it has everything to do with management, motivation and inspiration. There’s a big difference between that and telling a story with pictures.
Kanen Flowers: No, I completely agree, and one of the biggest challenges we had in the beginning with that studio was accountability. Accountability is really tough when you have people in Poland or Australia and you’re in San Francisco or Hollywood or wherever you are – Portland for nine months while we shot a TV show.
Kanen Flowers: Yes, accountability’s tough, but it turns out that a combination of creating a strong meritocracy, where people are rewarded for actually working, and then using the right tools. We use Cello and Whipster and there are just a ton of tools that we use that really enable that. It’s tough and I think a lot of people try and skip over that. There’s a massive human component to some of this work that we do.
Larry Jordan: I’m discovering it here. As our business gets bigger and as we start to add more and more staff, figuring out who’s responsible for what and figuring out realistic deadlines and clear lines of communication is a never ending process of self discovery.
Kanen Flowers: I absolutely agree, and tools are only as good as the people who are using them too, right? So the hardest part is obviously getting everyone on board. I’m lucky enough that I have a group of people who all share my vision, this idea that we can all collaborate together to build tools for people like us, but also for other independent filmmakers.
Kanen Flowers: One of the great things that came out of this whole process is along the way we shot ‘Hero Punk’, which was the first feature film shot on a Blackmagic cinema camera, which was kind of fun, all green screen, which you can see behind me this green screen.
Larry Jordan: It’s an amazing green screen, by the way.
Mike Horton: We’ve got to do something with that green screen.
Larry Jordan: I’ve never seen a higher quality green screen in my life.
Mike Horton: We’ll send him the technology.
Kanen Flowers: I think it’s $29 on Amazon. I’m cheap. I think I probably mention that every time we talk. So yes, building all of these different properties like ‘Hero Punk’ and ‘1820’, and we’ve shown some of the stuff that we’ve done. We’ve shown behind the scenes and we’ve shown how to, but what we discovered along the way was really fascinating. We discovered that, not only were we having to build this process, but also we realized that there were actually a ton of tools that we didn’t have and that, in fact, no-one had and it was really frustrating.
Kanen Flowers: I’ll give you a great really quick example. Let’s say that you have – which you would if you shot on the Blackmagic cinema camera and you shot especially cinema D and G – let’s say you have 120 terabytes of footage that you start editing, the editor works on, and then you get into picture lock. Well, after you get that 120 terabytes of footage into picture lock, what do you do now? You conform. Conform is such a boring thing to do and nobody wants to do it. It turns out there was actually no tool that automated that process, there was no tool that took that 120 terabytes of footage, put it into a common codec, put it into a common naming convention and put it into a format that you could put on one drive and send out to people around the world.
Kanen Flowers: So in the process of building our own content, we also started building our own tools. One of those tools is Conform Studio, which does exactly as I’ve described – it’s a tool that conforms your footage and it’s relatively inexpensive. I think right now the price is 79 bucks for it, so we’re trying to build things that work for people and also things that people can afford.
Mike Horton: Wow, Kanen, I hadn’t even heard of Conform Studio, which I am looking up right now. Oh, there it is. There’s a download. Oh my God.
Kanen Flowers: Yes, it’s a fun tool that we built along the way, Mike.
Mike Horton: It came out in June. Where have I been?
Larry Jordan: Clearly, you have not been reading your memos.
Mike Horton: You need better PR, Kanen.
Larry Jordan: Oh, go on, embarrass him in public. Let’s just make him feel like he’s inadequate, could you?
Kanen Flowers: That is bad.
Mike Horton: Welcome to The Digital Production Buzz.
Larry Jordan: Kanen, do you think of yourself as a visionary or as a storyteller or as a technologist or as a filmmaker? How would you categorize yourself? I use words like ‘irreverent’ and ‘edgy’ and ‘willing to take risks’ and ‘killer sense of humor’, but how would you describe your role and what you’re trying to accomplish for yourself?
Kanen Flowers: I’ve often joked that I’m kind of the anti-Stu Maschwitz. He started out as a filmmaker and became an accidental technologist and I think I started out as a technologist and became an accidental filmmaker, which is kind of interesting. But with both of us – and I don’t mean to compare myself to Stu, although I think he’s a wonderful human being – I think that we’re both really focused on the idea of putting together a technology that makes people’s lives easier. It’s kind of an interesting thing.
Kanen Flowers: There are a lot of tools out there that I really have no interest in because I think that they’re impossible to learn. Michael, you and I have talked about this before. You need a PhD in about six different subjects to learn something like Nuke or one of these other tools, and so I’ve made it kind of my life mission to make that process of creating visual effects or beautiful music, like with That Studio Atmospheres, or Conform Studio, the thing that Michael mentioned earlier, I’ve made it my life’s mission to make those tools easier for filmmakers. I don’t think you should really have to have a giant budget or a giant crew or a bunch of, frankly, guys who are overpaid and sometimes rather difficult to help you bring your vision to life.
Kanen Flowers: That maybe makes me controversial and, don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of these visual effects artists, I think they’re great, but you shouldn’t be shackled to them. You shouldn’t be held captive.
Larry Jordan: But let me play devil’s advocate for a minute. I think one of the challenges that brings out creativity is that when you’re fighting against a technological barrier, if everything is possible and everything is easy, it’s hard to decide which way to go. But when you’re always hammering up against a barrier, the cost of doing live television 30 years ago, the fact that you had to paint on wet concrete to do what Michelangelo did, it’s the fight against what technology allows you to do that allows creativity to flourish. It sounds like you would not agree with that.
Kanen Flowers: Oh no, I think we’re in violent agreement, Larry. I totally agree with you and I think that the part that I think is difficult for any independent filmmaker today – budget is always a pain point. It’s difficult. Finding really good people who are talented is amazingly difficult and then there’s this hard barrier, which is if everyone can make a film, everyone will and so how do you get your voice out there? I think we have, as independent filmmakers, we have many, many, many barriers that we have to overcome and one of them should not be, “How do I use this stupid software?”
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: True.
Mike Horton: Well, that’s always part of it, but whatever you’re going to do, just do that story that I want to see.
Kanen Flowers: Yes, exactly.
Mike Horton: And that’s how you get your voice out there.
Larry Jordan: Although finding good stories is sometimes tricky.
Mike Horton: That’s the problem. There are a lot of people out there telling stories, but I don’t want to see them. Or if I do see them and they’re not very good, then that’s where it ends right there.
Larry Jordan: Kanen, let’s change hats for you for a second. Coming up in April is my favorite toy store, which is NAB, and I know that you’re doing a panel at NAB, but I don’t know what the panel is about and I’m trying to decide if I should just sleep longer or if I should attend. So tell me what’s happening for you at NAB and then we’ll talk a little bit about what you’re looking to see.
Mike Horton: Oh, you should take your digital recorder any time Kanen’s on a panel.
Larry Jordan: A digital recorder?
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: All right.
Mike Horton: Record what he says.
Larry Jordan: I got it. So first, what are your thoughts on the panel? What’s it about?
Kanen Flowers: I’m doing two things at NAB that are both very, very exciting for me. One is I’m doing an all day green screen workshop that teaches people how to use this cruddy green screen, like I have behind me, with tracking markers and all of those things to create fully realized 3D environments, so I’m going to walk people through a full day of how to do that.
Larry Jordan: A full day of staring at a green screen? Man, you are a cruel and unusual taskmaster. I’m impressed.
Mike Horton: Yes, but he’ll change the background often.
Larry Jordan: Oh, ok, good.
Kanen Flowers: That’s right.
Larry Jordan: Ok, so we got a day workshop on green screen.
Kanen Flowers: So a workshop on green screen; and then the other thing is you said panel, I can’t help but get excited about telling you this – at NAB we are launching an Adobe Premiere Pro panel and an Adobe After Effects panel that is a panel inside both Premiere Pro and After Effects that gives you ready access to over 10,000 high quality visual effects, flame, fire, explosions.
Larry Jordan: It’s not a panel, it’s an extension. That’s where you have your own part of the interface.
Kanen Flowers: That’s correct.
Larry Jordan: You’re launching two extensions, Premiere and After Effects?
Kanen Flowers: That’s correct.
Larry Jordan: That is very, very cool.
Mike Horton: That’s going to work with the That Studio, all the ten gazillion effects that you have in that?
Kanen Flowers: That’s correct, Michael, you’ll be able to preview them, download them, automatically comp them into your timeline and you’ll have read access to over 10,000 practical visual effects, tons of composed music and tons of composed sound elements. We’re adding a bunch more stuff too.
Mike Horton: Wow.
Larry Jordan: No wonder you’re not getting any sleep these days. I understand. That’s a ton of work.
Kanen Flowers: Yes.
Larry Jordan: What’s been the biggest challenge in putting that together?
Larry Jordan: That is so cool. Are you sitting there doing the coding yourself? Or are you waving your magic wand at others who are doing the coding?
Kanen Flowers: I think I’ve written one line of code.
Mike Horton: And you did it very well.
Kanen Flowers: No, mostly it’s great people on my team like Bart Walczak who’s actually in Warsaw, Poland.
Larry Jordan: Oh my goodness.
Kanen Flowers: And different people like that, yes.
Mike Horton: Can we get a preview of this? Is it up on the website yet?
Larry Jordan: No, it’s a secret, Michael. Nobody knows. We can’t talk about it ‘til NAB.
Mike Horton: Oh, then…
Kanen Flowers: We’re doing a closed beta between now and NAB and we’re looking for feedback, because we want to launch it as the best possible panel we can.
Mike Horton: Oh it’s closed beta. Well, there is something here on the website. It says it’s secret though.
Larry Jordan: Yes, we can’t talk about it, so we won’t mention the fact that if you go to thatstudio.com, you won’t learn anything about this secret. Kanen, as you’re looking forward to NAB, putting your technology hat on, what are some of the things you’re looking forward to seeing? Are your eyes really lighting up at 10K video preview technology?
Kanen Flowers: Absolutely not. I’m still shooting at two and a half K most days.
Mike Horton: And it looks exactly like 10K.
Kanen Flowers: It’s hard to tell the difference.
Larry Jordan: Oh yes, true enough, true enough. So what’s got your interest?
Kanen Flowers: To be honest with you, I don’t want to sound like a big fan boy, but I mentioned the Adobe Premiere Pro panel that we’re doing, and the After Effects panel, I’m really excited to see, I saw a sneak preview, like many people did, at Adobe MAX and I’m really excited to see some of the great audio tools and some of the great video tools Adobe’s doing. They seem like they’re just on fire the last year. It’s crazy. So I’m excited about that. We’re going to be over in the plug-in pavilion, what I think some people call ‘Tiny Town’.
Larry Jordan: It’s one of my favorite spots, though. You meet such great people and there are so many cool apps in such a small space that go into the plug-in pavilion. It’s just a must see on my trip.
Mike Horton: Plug-in kiosks.
Kanen Flowers: Yes, and come by and see us if you do. I mention them because right behind them, taking up basically the width of the plug-in pavilion, is Red Giant and I’m really excited about what Red Giant’s doing with Universe lately. I think they really turned the dial up to 11 on that, which is great.
Larry Jordan: That’s a very cool point. Beside taking a long nap after NAB launches, what’s in the future for the rest of the year for That Studio?
Kanen Flowers: Well, we’re finally at a point where I think we’re going to be able to show some of the really cool stuff we’re doing with regard to the creative content. Michael has seen, I showed it at LAFCPUG, actually, for the first time, the behind the scenes and how we put together ‘Hero Punk’, and so that’s exciting. But we have the TV pilot that we’ve been talking about for about a year now, ‘1820’, we’re about to show a heck of a lot of that, along with how we used a bunch of the tools we’ve created along the way to build it. So I think this year is just going to be a ton of content and a ton of tools from us.
Mike Horton: Any release date at all on ‘1820?’ Or is there a self imposed deadline that you’re putting on yourself?
Kanen Flowers: It will be before October.
Mike Horton: Good.
Larry Jordan: Of which year?
Kanen Flowers: Of this year.
Larry Jordan: Oh, ok, good. Just checking.
Kanen Flowers: It will be in the future.
Larry Jordan: By the way, on our live chat, which is going on right below the live video stream, Eric is asking whether you’re doing any more work in 4K or everything you’re doing is 2.5.
Kanen Flowers: Oh no, we’re definitely shooting some stuff in 4K, but we’re mostly editing and most of the stuff that we’re doing with all of our artists is in two and a half, yes. We are shooting in 4K, though.
Mike Horton: And one day you’ll be able to come to LAFCPUG and actually show it on our 2K projector, if we ever get it plugged in.
Larry Jordan: It’s plugged in, it’s just…
Mike Horton: Long story.
Larry Jordan: …there’s no power.
Mike Horton: Interview me one day and I’ll tell you all about it.
Larry Jordan: Yes, we don’t interview you, you’re too depressing.
Mike Horton: Ok.
Larry Jordan: One other question before we let you go, Kanen, you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the process of filmmaking, everything from management down to the technology. For somebody that wants to start doing their first independent film, and they understand how a camera works and they understand how to point a microphone and pick up sound, so they’ve got the basics down, what don’t they know? What advice would you give them that they need to understand before they tackle a feature?
Kanen Flowers: Hmm. I think the hardest thing – I said this earlier – but I think the hardest thing is finding talented people and knowing how to spot that talent, and I think the thing that is really important, and that goes for not just the crew or the people working behind the camera or around the camera, but also goes for the actors.
Kanen Flowers: I think learning to spot that talent is a real gift and I think that you can learn that but I think it takes some effort and I would just encourage them to watch as much as they possibly can with a very critical eye to see what it is that makes a performance and what it is that makes a shot.
Larry Jordan: And my advice is don’t be afraid to make a mistake and don’t pretend you know everything. Those are the two biggest mistakes, is don’t try to be perfect, just do it and learn from what you’ve done.
Mike Horton: Hire wonderful people and let them do their stuff.
Kanen Flowers: Yes, and you can watch the 100 crappy videos that we released before we got to something that was even watchable if you want to learn how not to do it. We’ve got plenty of evidence out there.
Larry Jordan: Kanen, what website can people go to to learn more about what you and your team are creating?
Kanen Flowers: They can go to thatstudio.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s thatstudio.com.
Mike Horton: And they’ll learn nothing about the panel.
Larry Jordan: And Kanen Flowers is the Chief Mayhem Officer and Founder of That Studio, Co-Founder truthfully. Kanen, thanks for joining us today.
Kanen Flowers: Thank you, guys.
Mike Horton: And I’m going to fool with Conform Studio.
Larry Jordan: And nobody does a better job of fooling around than you do. Thanks again, take care.
Mike Horton: I am so smart.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Mike Horton: Bye Kanen.
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Larry Jordan: Dan Berube is the Founder of the Boston Creative Pro User Group. He’s also the Co-producer with our own Mr. Mike Horton of the world famous Supermeets and long time recurring guest on The Buzz. Hello, Dan, welcome back and in spite, by the way, of a mean cold, he is standing up to chat with us today.
Mike Horton: And he’s got 50 feet of snow outside, I’m assuming.
Larry Jordan: Hey, Dan, how are you?
Dan Berube: How are you, Larry? How are you, Mike?
Mike Horton: Hey, Dan.
Larry Jordan: It’s 80 degrees outside and Mike and I are in air conditioned studios. I just want you to know we’re thinking about you.
Mike Horton: Yes, and it’s going to be 90 degrees tomorrow.
Dan Berube: Thank you, thank you. Rub it in. I don’t know how useful I’m going to be during this next ten minutes, because I am so full of medicine that you would not believe, but I finally got rid of the hoarse voice. I’m just excited to be back and to go from Daytona, beautiful Daytona, back to over four feet of snow here in Waltham, with another blizzard happening this weekend.
Larry Jordan: I know. It’s like…
Mike Horton: I know. It’s incredible.
Larry Jordan: If it’s Monday, it’s got to be a blizzard.
Mike Horton: Have you seen the pictures?
Larry Jordan: I know, it’s been phenomenal.
Mike Horton: The pictures are just incredible.
Larry Jordan: What you don’t understand is Dan is not in his house, he’s inside a snow drift that he’s been able to furnish.
Dan Berube: Yes, it’s pretty warm in here. I tell you, it brings me back to my childhood because we used to do the snow banks and build Eskimo huts and whatnot, but I don’t have to worry because I’ve got tiny houses in the front of my yard that people are living in. I like it.
Mike Horton: I want to know how the dogs can go outside.
Larry Jordan: Before Mike gets his… on and heads out to say hi, you were just at Sundance and I wanted to get your take on what was happening there. What were you doing at Sundance?
Dan Berube: I was. I was there basically working with Emerson College, sponsoring a couple of the six female student filmmakers that were there for the festival in tandem with Creative Mind Group and Creative Mind Group does programs at Sundance in Berlin and Cannes. It’s basically building up their experience as filmmakers at the festival to give them an enabling presence at the festival. I was there, I was actually rooming with your next guest, Maxim Jago, so I get to say that I slept with Maxim at Sundance.
Mike Horton: Cool, we’ll start the… like that.
Larry Jordan: You may say that, he may not want you to say it, however. There’s a difference there. What was your takeaway from Sundance? What’s the highlight that you remember?
Dan Berube: This was the first festival at Sundance for me, so I went there with an accreditation pass that was, like, 200 bucks. The festival pass is, like, three and a half million dollars, so I couldn’t afford it, so I didn’t see any films there. But what I did see was lot of filmmakers and I went to a lot of networking events and got to stand in line outside at over capacity crowds.
Dan Berube: My favorite part was just meeting people and filmmakers and having conversations with them, because there’s a lot of breaks and a lot of places that you could just sit and hang, and it’s really interesting to see the type of filmmaker that’s at Sundance. I did speak, I presented with Maxim at the HP Sundance House on the Tuesday there, and that was interesting. There was a good crowd, so we got to talk about basically enabling technologies and Maxim approached it to me in conversation, what happened to me, how did I get started in filmmaking in the past, and we talked about the present and then pontificated and prognosticated about the future. So that was a good hour with him there.
Dan Berube: I went to the Canon Creative Studio, I went to the new Frontiers Pavilion. It was amazing because it was all virtual reality and there were several different exhibits. I’m telling you, where the technology is going is incredible, what’s happening now.
Mike Horton: And the VR was covered hugely in all the trade papers. 4K was the buzz last year, VR is the buzz this year, and they’re doing some astounding things. I wish I could have seen that, Dan.
Dan Berube: Yes, well maybe we’ll get to do it at a Supermeet…
Mike Horton: Yes. I mean, I’d love to do that. I know Ted Schilowitz is very into it and a lot of Oculus Rift, of course, you hear all about.
Larry Jordan: But three years ago it was 3D. Last year it was 4K, now it’s VR. Is it one of those things that’s going to appear for a show and disappear?
Mike Horton: Again, you don’t know, but it’s just really cool technology right now. You don’t know exactly where it’s going to go. They were doing narrative stuff. They won’t do feature films on these things. Well, who knows? Maybe they will.
Dan Berube: They absolutely will do. It started this year with Oculus Rift showing ‘Interstellar’, where some of the film was presented using the Oculus Rift. That was at the Smithsonian Institution and whatnot. That’s just a glimpse of what can happen, but there were exhibits where actually two Emerson graduates, the Daniels, they’re music video directors, they did a series of videos that were interactive that had multiple endings and you just pressed a touch screen and it flowed with the story and with the mood and the feeling. That was incredible.
Dan Berube: There was a bird exhibit, where you lay on a table and you strap yourself into wings and you put the Rift goggles on you and you start moving around, flying over San Francisco.
Mike Horton: Oh wow.
Dan Berube: I didn’t get to do that because, I’ll tell you honestly, that was in a darkened room and that was after one of the big parties that we went to. We were basically out until 5.30, six o’clock every morning, so I think if I had done that exhibit, there would probably be some tactile response from me on the floor.
Larry Jordan: Dan, as you look at it, Sundance is really the intersection of technology with creativity. How is creativity changing due to the impact of changes in technology?
Dan Berube: I can speak from my point of view. I was there also promoting a film that I have just worked on called ‘The Chain’, which is based on an original story by Tobias Wolff and I held it – I don’t know if you can see this – I held it on this USB keychain.
Larry Jordan: Yes, we see that.
Dan Berube: I was giving out a ton of these to film festival organizers and filmmakers and reviewers who were interested. For me, enabling technologies today, I think XML has a lot to do with it. Being able to work in a fashion with the software now I created with Adobe Creative Cloud and basically had a team of people who are like minded who you can depend on, just like Kanen was talking about, when making a feature film, identifying people that you want to work with, and they all had different strengths.
Dan Berube: I cut the film, stayed in the MXF codec throughout the process because we shot on the Canon C300 – that’s 1920 by 1080 – and then handed off XML to the colorists who were on the set, to the visual effects artist, Tim Montgomery, who worked on a PC based system on After Effects and Flame. Honestly, I think that Hollywood’s in the past for today’s filmmakers because we’re now able to do things like not worry so much about picture lock, and that was important for Noel, the director, and I because we wanted to be able to make new changes throughout the process.
Dan Berube: We involved the sound designer and the composer early on in the process. We didn’t wait until picture lock to be able to pass that off to them, and I was conforming in ProRes 4444 while the footage was graded and then while Tim Montgomery was still working on the visual effects and we were still feeding versions, iterations of the soundtrack into the film and timeline. That to me was incredible for the experience of the film, and just an indication of where you’re going to see this.
Dan Berube: I’m just scratching the surface and we can’t talk about this in the ten minutes that we have, but I think storytelling is evolving across the medium. George Lucas talked about the super tape…
Larry Jordan: Well, Dan, what we’ll do is we’ll invite you back, because this could use a lot more than another hour.
Mike Horton: Yes, there’s a lot more to talk about.
Dan Berube: Yes, there’s way too much.
Mike Horton: And Dan’s film’s going to be in DC here in two weeks.
Larry Jordan: It’s excellent. Called ‘The Chain’, and where can people go to learn more about you, Dan? Quickly, what website?
Dan Berube: Yes, thechainfilm.com.
Mike Horton: Bye, Dan, talk to you soon.
Dan Berube: Bye bye.
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Larry Jordan: Maxim Jago is a film director, a screenwriter and an author who splits his time between filmmaking and speaking as a futurist. He’s a regular speaker at media technology conferences, film festivals and events that celebrate creativity. He’s also the Innovation Officer at filmdo.com and a mentor for new filmmakers. Hello, Maxim, welcome.
Maxim Jago: Hello, how are you?
Mike Horton: Hello, Maxim.
Larry Jordan: We are doing great. I was just reflecting that you travel the world as an expert on behalf of companies like Adobe, so my first question is where in the world are you today?
Maxim Jago: That’s a good question.
Mike Horton: Where am I?
Maxim Jago: Right now, I’m in Athens, Georgia. I’ve just been speaking at the Georgia University, at the Grady College, giving some presentations to the students here about, if you like, more like the philosophy of films and communication techniques, networking tips, so when they graduate they can meet people and give more than they take, and just speaking about the techniques I’ve learned over the course of making the 50 or so films that I’ve worked on, so it’s been a pleasure.
Maxim Jago: And just before that, as you heard there, I was with Dan Berube at the Editors’ Retreat in Daytona, which was wonderful; and before that, I’ve relocated to New York now, so I’m having my Englishman in New York experience. I have an apartment a couple of blocks from Time Square, which is great, so I had about four days at home and before that, of course, was Sundance and Dan and I shared a room.
Maxim Jago: It’s very difficult to get accommodation during Sundance. It’s easy to get stuff out of town but difficult to get it in walking distance, and we managed to get a twin room which was just perfect. Not The Ritz, but it did let us participate in the festival. Then I think before that, I was in New York briefly and before that I had a trip, I was speaking at the Dubai Festival, then I was in London…
Larry Jordan: You can stop now, I’m getting tired just listening to the itinerary.
Mike Horton: Frankly, I want to be Maxim.
Maxim Jago: I don’t have a time zone any more.
Mike Horton: I want to go to those places. I want to go do Dubai. I want to go to Sundance.
Maxim Jago: Oh, you want to go to Iceland. Go to Iceland, there’s some…
Mike Horton: Oh, I’d love to do that.
Maxim Jago: …the official photographer for the tourist board there, a guy called Ragnar, and he’ll take you around. It’s beautiful.
Larry Jordan: What was it that got you interested in technology in the first place? You specialize in trying to figure out what’s happening in the future, but what was it that caught your eye back when you were so young?
Maxim Jago: When I was a child – that’s a great question – I was raised by intellectual hippies. It’s a bit like being raised by wolves but with more intellectual debate. I remember my mother would go to what we call in the UK jumble sales, I don’t know what you’d call them here, you know, people selling bric-a-brac and junk and stuff, and she would give my brother and I all kinds of toys and we would take them all to pieces.
Maxim Jago: It would be a birthday present to give me an old gas meter and a wrench and a couple of screwdrivers to take it to pieces. It’s a kind of obsession to understand how things work. In fact, when I got to 11, with some hubris, I think, I sort of figured, “Well, I think I kind of understand technology now. I want to understand everything else,” and I read a beautiful book by an American author called Richard Bach – he’s famous for writing ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’…
Mike Horton: And all the hippies were reading it at that time.
Maxim Jago: Yes. Well, I read it and I was so excited to have found another human being that was asking these question about, why are we here and what do we know and what is reality? And in the book he draws this beautiful analogy between reality and film. He says that choosing to be born is a bit like choosing to go to the cinema, where all kinds of experiences happen and, if souls exist, then they know that it’s fate but, of course, the characters on the screen don’t and they’re really having the experience.
Maxim Jago: I was so moved by this, his description of reality as a kind of illusion and the parallel with film. It’s one of the major reasons I became a filmmaker and I began studying life, the universe and everything. I wanted to understand everything, basically, and what I’ve concluded is the older I get, the more I realize I have no idea. I think Socrates was right, we’re all winging it, but as long as we can get along, we can have fun along the way.
Mike Horton: Did you ever at any time, I know you like to tell your stories visually, but have you ever tried to write a book?
Maxim Jago: I did, actually. I wrote a novella, and the re-write is in the works. I have about 50 projects and that’s one of them. I had this rationalization of my projects a few years ago, where I looked at how long I thought I was likely to live and just struck some things off the list because I realized that life is short and, you know, you get those bits of advice when you’re a kid and you realize that they’re right when you’re older and it kind of makes you grumpy because you wish you’d realized it sooner.
Maxim Jago: One of the bits of advice I heard was that the secret of life is to find out what you love and to do that, and you’ll always find a way to make money, you’ll always sustain yourself if you really love whatever it is. My obsession, my catnip, is communication, but I love philosophy, I’m writing a metaphysics PhD, which is killing me, it’s going to take forever, but…
Mike Horton: Are you serious? Really? Wow.
Maxim Jago: Yes, it’s beautiful. So it’s ‘The Nature of Being’ is the broad title, it’s an old title. The basic argument of the PhD is that we’re either here by chance, in which case nothing matters, or we’re here for some kind of reason, in which case there is potentially a design and so it becomes meaningful to reverse engineer life; and so I reverse engineer consciousness, I reverse engineer space and time and I conclude that we should get on with it, because clearly if there is a design, not knowing what we’re here for is part of the design, because nobody really knows. So we should stop worrying about it and, instead of existential angst where we worry about whether we’re going to do it wrong, we should have existential joy because if a client gives you a terrible brief, it’s not your fault.
Mike Horton: I tend to wonder why I’m here.
Maxim Jago: Well, exactly. Nobody really knows, so stop worrying about it and get on with it. That’s the gist of the metaphysics PhD. Obviously, it’s…
Mike Horton: Pretty soon, Dr Jago. Dr Jago. That’ll be fun.
Maxim Jago: The thing is, who needs a PhD? But wouldn’t it be cool to have ‘Directed by Dr Jago’?
Mike Horton: Absolutely.
Maxim Jago: I think there’s a lot of… potential.
Mike Horton: There’s your motivation.
Maxim Jago: And it…
Mike Horton: That’s the motivation right there.
Maxim Jago: I can maybe tell girls at parties…
Mike Horton: And it looks great on your business card.
Maxim Jago: Yes, yes, exactly.
Larry Jordan: I want to move you to Florida and the Editors’ Retreat. What were you sharing with the editors? What did you want them to start thinking about?
Maxim Jago: Let me see. Oh, ok, yes, I gave a couple of talks there that were really interesting. Kanen Flowers was sorely missed. Dan was there, we had some real greats there. One of the talks I gave was just a straight up masterclass on Premiere Pro.
Maxim Jago: You know I wrote the… book for Premiere Pro, I recorded the visual training for it, so I’m supposed to know what I’m talking about. I think increasingly Premiere Pro is becoming a bit like Photoshop in that apparently they have an interview question at Adobe for the Photoshop team where they say, “Do you think you totally know Photoshop?” and if you say yes, you fail because nobody totally knows Photoshop. Premiere Pro is definitely moving in that direction, but I showed some of the really advanced techniques, some of the stuff that particularly people who’ve self trained might have missed, just things that might have bugged you about the application that you just didn’t realize there was a tick box that made it perfect, and some more advanced compositing features and project browsing, that kind of thing.
Maxim Jago: But for me, the really interesting presentation that I gave was about communication. My passion, my absolute passion is communication and I’ve spent many years studying it informally. I gave a presentation about really advanced techniques for achieving the maximum transfer of understanding from one brain to another, but also dealing with conflict. There’s an amazing book that I think should be required reading at school called ‘Non-Violent Communication’, I think it might be a guy called Marshal Rosenberg but I might have that wrong. It’s about conveying information without adding judgment and it turns out that we do this all the time and so…
Larry Jordan: Wait, just say that again. Conveying information without adding judgment, did I hear that correctly?
Maxim Jago: Yes, exactly that. So without me telling you what you are or without me telling you why you did something. The classic example for conflict management would be we’re having a discussion and you start shouting. Now, I could say you’re being aggressive, but then I’m telling you who you are, I’m telling you what you are, and that’s bound to annoy you, it’s not going to help.
Maxim Jago: But if I say, “It’s making it difficult for me to think because you’ve raised your voice,” I’m not saying why you’ve raised your voice, I’m not saying what I think about you raising your voice, I’m describing my personal experience and something that is probably not in dispute, that you’re shouting.
Maxim Jago: So it took me about three months, actually, to adjust the way I communicate and you slip up sometimes, but the gist of it is that the guys says positive or negative judgment will elicit a negative response, so now that we’ve got that clear it’s up to you. If you want to have a bad reaction from people, go ahead; but if you don’t, here are some approaches to how to avoid it, so I was talking about that kind of thing. It’s just invaluable, particularly because we’re working in a world that’s very heavily orientated towards teamwork.
Maxim Jago: One of the reasons I love making films is that it’s not all about me, it’s about the relationships I have with the other creatives that I’m working with. For me, this is fantastic. It’s all about the connections between us as people, so being able to communicate better is quite fundamental, and you see that. I don’t know if Kanen’s ever told you about his old distributed creative process, he has these teams all around the world and somehow he’s created a system where people in different cultures and different time zones can all work together.
Maxim Jago: This is a big deal and I think we’re going to see more and more of it, especially with things coming online like the Oculus Rift very soon. I’m very interested in 360 video and VR and you guys were talking with Dan about that. It is a very exciting time for that; and I’m developing a project that I’m hoping maybe we can work with Ted Schilowitz, he mentioned. We’re hoping to shoot something in June.
Mike Horton: Well, we talked about Kanen assembling this worldwide group of people, but even big studio movies have assembled worldwide. They can just go into a studio with a big screen and a lot of Skype feeds and one person over here is doing color, one is doing the sound and they can be on the stage with the composer and nobody’s together any more, they’re spread out all over the world and that’s coming.
Maxim Jago: It’s amazing.
Mike Horton: Yes.
Maxim Jago: Yes, but there’s a problem with it. Well, there are two issues really.
Mike Horton: There is a problem, yes.
Maxim Jago: One issue is that it’s crucial that we remember that we’re the storytellers and I think that sometimes, especially working as a technologist, we forget that in the old days it would be a bard in an inn somewhere with a lute and they would use the music of the lute to enhance the experience of the storytelling for the audience, and I think as filmmakers we are essentially storytellers and it’s crucial that we remember that.
Maxim Jago: You were talking there briefly with Kanen about are we looking at 10K? I think we’re going to top out in terms of distribution format. I think we’ll top out at 8K and the reason is because of our physical size and the size of the walls in our environment. There’s really no point going beyond 8K, it would be retina. Obviously for acquisition, we’ll go higher, but who cares ultimately? Jeff Greenberg gave a great presentation at the Retreat, where he was showing uncompressed ten bit 1080, which was something like two gig for this piece of video, and then a 1.6 meg H.265 compressed file that on the projection screen, to be honest, it was pretty indistinguishable and looked pretty much the same, and nobody cares about the picture quality. They care a bit more about the sound quality.
Maxim Jago: What they care about is a story that’s compelling, about a performance that’s authentic, about stakes that matter to us so that we can engage with the story and feel something about it, and I think this is something that Hollywood struggles with.
Maxim Jago: And the other thing is fidelity.
Larry Jordan: Let me play devil’s advocate just for a second. I agree that if you don’t have a compelling story, people aren’t going to watch your film, but there is a point where the technology can make the story more believable or less believable and bring you into or out of the story. So it seems to me that there has to be a balance between the creative storytelling and the understanding of the technology to tell the story properly so the audience doesn’t say, “Oh, they’re in a green screen, I don’t believe it any more,” and they tune out. Would you disagree?
Maxim Jago: I 100 percent agree. No, I 100 percent agree. Weirdly enough, I often get asked what I think is the best camera. I have great relationships with the major camera manufacturers. I haven’t seen a bad picture from a camera for ten or 15 years, so I agree with you 100 percent that there comes a point where the technology becomes a hindrance. I’m working on my first feature film now and the sequel to the film will be released the same day of the film.
Maxim Jago: The idea is you go to the cinema, you see the film, but we’re going to rebuild the world of the film in the game and we’re going to have support for the Oculus Rift and maybe some other VR technologies in the game. So the idea is that you cross the fourth wall instead of the characters crossing the fourth wall. You go into world of the film and experience it. Now, I agree with you about that level of fidelity, where the technology is not a hindrance for the audience, 100 percent agree.
Maxim Jago: But for me, what’s interesting is invisible filmmaking. I want to create an authentic experience for the audience by whatever mechanism. Now, I had a go with pretty much every VR technology available. The new holographic technology from Microsoft, unfortunately, I didn’t try but I’ve heard it’s amazing. A lot of people are talking about, and I do think this is the first genuinely new medium that we’ve had for years and years, the fact that things can go on in every direction so you can stage performances and you can decide whether or not something happens based on where the person’s looking, so the narrative can go in different directions and that’s very powerful.
Maxim Jago: But, frankly, it’s a little bit annoying looking over your shoulder all the time wondering what’s behind you. It’s not that convenient. It’s going to be great for games, but what blew me away about particularly the Oculus Rift, which has a very, very fast response time, there’s a very low lag, is that we have a thing called proprioception, which is the brain’s awareness of the body when you’re not looking at it, so you know where your arms are even if you’re not looking at them because of proprioception, and it’s partly to do with your relationship with your environment.
Maxim Jago: Now, when you’re looking at a person, your vision is actually moving the whole time very slightly. You’re breathing, you’re leaning, you shift position in your chair, you notice something over the shoulder of the person that you’re talking to and your gaze moves very slightly all the time. Of course, when you’re using the Oculus Rift, that’s what happens – as you move your head and tilt it and adjust it, you get that instant feedback that feels like you really are there. It’s incredibly immersive.
Maxim Jago: So the thing I found the most compelling wasn’t the every direction thing – I’m looking forward to the sports and I’m a gamer, I’m looking forward to the games – it was the fact that I really felt I was present with the person that was speaking to me, and what made that feeling of presence was just that the picture could wobble in accordance with the proprioception I have of my own head. It’s very exciting.
Mike Horton: I’m excited.
Larry Jordan: Sorry, I was just taking notes.
Mike Horton: I am, I’m really excited about this technology. I don’t know where it’s going to go, nobody does.
Maxim Jago: Let me tell you the most exciting thing about it. It’s $300.
Mike Horton: Yes?
Maxim Jago: So I’m interested in the really big and the really small. For me, the stuff in the middle is kind of logistics. This for me is the really small, this is consumer technology. It’s $300 for the most expensive, best virtual reality hardware you can get. Google is heavily into it, I was chatting to Trevor, who’s leading the virtual reality for Google, very interesting guy; the guys at Samsung. These people are developing art projects, but the most expensive version you can get is $300. Super high resolution, super responsive, very accurate tracking with your movements.
Maxim Jago: Think about the consequences. There are a couple of ways that you can shoot video with this. One way is that you can have a 360 camera, so 16, maybe 22 cameras, and you stitch the images together. Another way that you do it is you use lasers to measure the environment and you take the textures – you can do high resolution video or you can do it as stills – and you create the environment photo realistically in three dimensional space and then you allow the viewer to navigate the environment. It becomes immersive theater.
Maxim Jago: I’m working on a project right now which is a film based on a play my father wrote – he was a playwright and a poet and he actually died before he finished converting a one act play for me into a screenplay and he hated the re-write. The play is called ‘The Garden’, but he started calling it ‘The Awfulness’ because he couldn’t face doing the re-write. It’s about an underground garden and the entire garden’s fake and there’s an 18 year old blind girl in the garden who’s never been able to see, she doesn’t know that seeing is even a thing and she doesn’t know that the garden’s fake and the entire thing is a set-up and she’s coming of age and she’s starting to ask questions.
Maxim Jago: She’s taken care of by a nurse who pretends to be blind but isn’t, and her father, who pretends to be blind but isn’t, and it turns into a thriller. It’s a beautiful one act play and my plan is that we’ll take over a warehouse in New York, maybe in Brooklyn, we’ll have a week of building up the set, we’ll spend half the budget on the set. The glasses are made of plastic, the flowers are made of cloth but it doesn’t matter because she’s blind, she can’t see, so we can see the lights and the walls, it doesn’t matter.
Maxim Jago: We’ll shoot it for two weeks as theater, so we’ll just run through it twice a day for ten days, and then for the third week of production we’ll invite audiences in for a truly immersive theater, but part of the performance will be 360 video, so it’ll be a film where we’ve shot the film and then live audiences will be able to come into the set and watch the play and it’ll be the same actors, the same environment, the same story. I don’t think that’s ever been done, but we’ll also do that for a 360 camera and we’ll allow people to view it like that.
Mike Horton: I want to be there.
Larry Jordan: Maxim, where can people go on the web to learn more about your thinking and the projects you’re working on?
Maxim Jago: Sometimes I feel like I should make a website called something like confusedenglishman.com. My main website is just my name, just maximjago.com. I also have quite a lot of videos on Adobe TV, 23 courses on lynda.com.
Larry Jordan: You can stop now. We’re already depressed.
Mike Horton: And I want to go to Iceland.
Maxim Jago: Go to Iceland. We’ll go together.
Mike Horton: Oh, absolutely.
Larry Jordan: That website is maximjago.com. Maxim, it’s a delight chatting with you. Thanks so much for joining us today.
Mike Horton: Yes, thanks so much.
Maxim Jago: Thank you so much.
Mike Horton: And good luck on your communication skills.
Larry Jordan: Take care.
Maxim Jago: …but let’s get to that later. Thank you. Thank you very much, guys.
Larry Jordan: Take care. Michael, it’s been an amazing show…
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: …with some great guests.
Mike Horton: There were no codecs, there was no metadata, it was fabulous.
Larry Jordan: We missed cable rolling, however.
Mike Horton: We did.
Larry Jordan: Yes, we did.
Mike Horton: We’re doing that next week, I believe.
Larry Jordan: I want to talk about coiling cables and…
Mike Horton: Well, now with all these lights and with all these beautiful cameras…
Larry Jordan: And that TalkShow Skype box worked great.
Mike Horton: Did it?
Larry Jordan: Oh, it was fabulous. Well, you were looking at the people, for heaven’s sakes.
Mike Horton: I did. It was that little kind of weird thing there. I want to see it when you put it up on the new YouTube channel.
Larry Jordan: It is going to be beautiful when it comes up on our YouTube channel. I want to thank our guests for this week, starting with Kanen Flowers, the Chief Mayhem Officer at That Studio; Dan Berube, the Founder of BOFCPUG and Co-founder of the world famous Supermeets; and Maxim Jago, the technologist…
Mike Horton: Which, by the way, tickets are on sale. I’ve got to get that plug in.
Larry Jordan: Where is it?
Larry Jordan: What city?
Mike Horton: Oh, it’s in Las Vegas.
Larry Jordan: Well, why did you say that?
Mike Horton: Well, where else would it be?
Larry Jordan: I have no idea. Given you, you’re all over world, for heaven’s sake. There’s lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com. There are hundreds of past shows, thousands of interviews all online, searchable and available. You can talk with us on Twitter, @DPBuZZ, and Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Our theme music is composed by Nathan Doogie Turner and additional music on The Buzz is provided by Smartsound. Text transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription and you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Larry Jordan: Our producer is Cirina Catania, our engineering team is led by Megan Paulos, includes Alexia Chalida, Ed Goyler, Keenan Guy, Lindsay Luebbert and Brianna Murphy. On behalf of Mike Horton, my name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to The Digital Production Buzz.
Mike Horton: Goodbye everybody.
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