Digital Production Buzz
February 19, 2015
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
(Click here to listen to this show.)
Paul Babb, President/CEO, MAXON US
Sean Mullen, CEO & Lead Creative, Rampant Design Tools
Bob Caniglia, Senior Regional Manager Eastern North America, Blackmagic Design
Voiceover: The Digital Production Buzz is brought to you by Blackmagic Design, creators of the world’s highest quality solutions for the feature film, post production and television broadcast industries; and by shutterstock.com, a global marketplace for royalty free images and videos. With over two million royalty free HD and 4K video clips, Shutterstock helps you take your creative projects to the next level; and by Other World Computing, providing quality hardware solutions and extensive technical support to the worldwide computer industry since 1988.
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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. Our co-host, Mr. Mike Horton, is off today.
Larry Jordan: Paul Babb is the CEO of Maxon US, which is a company devoted to 3D and virtual reality software. Recently, Paul noticed an uptake in effects hiring and we bring him into the studio tonight to talk about it.
Larry Jordan: Sean Mullen is the CEO and Chief Creative Officer of Rampant Design Tools. They specialize in visual effects elements for editors and VFX artists. We want to talk with him about the impact 4K media is having in effects.
Larry Jordan: And Bob Caniglia used to be an editor who’s now working for Blackmagic Design. We talk with him tonight about their new intensity 4K capture cards and updates to their ATEM switchers. And, because Mike isn’t here, I’m also going to work in a discussion with Bob about codecs to help you decide which codec is the best choice for your project or media capture.
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 this possible.
Larry Jordan: The big news this week is that NAB has opened early registration for the upcoming NAB show and The Buzz is the first to have a free registration code that allows you to get into the expo floor for free. That code is LV4883. That’s LV4883. So when you go to nabshow.com and you want to register for the exhibit hall, type in LV4883 and you’re there. Now, The Buzz itself is going to NAB for the seventh year. We’re planning 11 live NAB show Buzz reports during the day. Each one runs more than half an hour.
Larry Jordan: Then, in the evening, we present the NAB show Buzz special report. Now, that’s over an hour of additional interviews. Our goal is to help you understand what all the industry leaders are doing during NAB. Over 15 hours of programming during three and a half days at NAB, all of it designed to help you understand what’s going on in our industry, because NAB is the time where everybody across the world gets together to talk about where media is headed.
Larry Jordan: I was just reflecting, when we go to NAB, we bring a production crew and basically we set up a live radio broadcasting station in a 20 by 20 foot booth directly on the tradeshow floor and then we invite people to come join us and we have almost 100 interviews with every leading industry scheduled to attend and talk with you on The Buzz, so even if you can’t make NAB, you can make sense of what’s happening inside our industry.
Larry Jordan: It’s going to be an exciting time. I’ll have a whole lot more to talk about as we get closer to the middle of April, which is when NAB occurs at the Las Vegas Convention Center. In the meantime, remember to visit with us on Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com; we’re also on Twitter, @DPBuZZ, and check out our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com and subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter. I’ll be back with Paul Babb right after this.
Larry Jordan: Blackmagic Design is now shipping its production camera 4K, a super high resolution 4K digital production camera for Ultra HD television production. Featuring a large Super 35 sensor with a professional global shutter, it also offers EF and ZE compatible lens mounts and records to a super fast SSD drive.
Larry Jordan: Capturing high quality ProRes files, the Blackmagic production camera 4K gives customers a complete solution to shoot amazing high resolution music videos, episodic television productions, television commercials, sports, documentaries and much more.
Larry Jordan: The Blackmagic production camera 4K also features an incredibly tempting price of $2,995. Learn more about the Blackmagic production camera 4K that is definitely priced to move, visit blackmagicdesign.com today.
Larry Jordan: Paul Babb is the President and CEO of Maxon US, as well as a graphic software technology expert with more than a decade of experience in 3D animation, visual effects and motion graphics. Recently, he’s been thinking about how today’s economy is improving hiring opportunities, especially in virtual reality. Hey, Paul, welcome.
Paul Babb: Thanks, Larry, for having me.
Larry Jordan: So before we get into this whole discussion of hiring, give me a description of what Maxon makes.
Paul Babb: Maxon. We develop a 3D animation product called Cinema 4D and Cinema 4D enables artists to do anything from movie visual effects, of course, the most interesting part, broadcast graphics, scientific and medical animation, architecture or engineering visualization, on down to any kind of design, website design, DVD menus, corporate presentations, courtroom simulation. So many things.
Larry Jordan: Many things, but I’m sure there are clusters within which your customers occur. Who are typical customers?
Paul Babb: I’d say our biggest market, our biggest cluster of customers, is in the motion graphics market.
Larry Jordan: Now, what makes Cinema 4D so helpful for that?
Paul Babb: Well, ease of use. It’s a very fast, easy program to pick up. It’s very much geared towards graphic artists. Integration’s a huge thing. We integrate extremely well with the Adobe suite of products. There is a light version of our product actually built into After Effects.
Larry Jordan: I remember when you were getting ready to launch that. There was no small level of stress putting that together.
Paul Babb: And a little excitement too. We also integrate extremely well with Photoshop. Photoshop files can be used for a multitude of things, textures, they could be extracted.
Larry Jordan: Now, when you say integrate, what does that mean?
Paul Babb: It means that the processing during the workflow is a very smooth transition, so bringing in an Illustrator file into Cinema 4D to create 3D geometry from, say, a 2D graphic is very quick and easy, just open it up.
Larry Jordan: So if I’m using Illustrator and I’m creating a corporate logo, I would take that Illustrator file and then you could extrude it into…?
Paul Babb: Just extrude it. As a matter of fact, you could extrude the layers separately, put different colors on the layers, animate those layers separately. It’s all built in.
Larry Jordan: Are people principally using it to create still 3D objects or are they using it to create motion?
Paul Babb: Motion graphics.
Larry Jordan: Now, I know that there are other packages out there, Maya comes first to mind from Autodesk. Why would somebody consider Cinema 4D?
Paul Babb: I think ease of use and workflow, integration with other packages. Ease of use, I think, is one of the biggest things. I really do. I think ease of use is a huge obstacle.
Larry Jordan: Now wait a minute, wait a minute. I have opened Cinema 4D. I’ve seen all 755,000 million options. How am I supposed to learn this stuff?
Paul Babb: Well, I’ll be honest with you, 3D is complicated.
Larry Jordan: Yes it is.
Paul Babb: It is complicated, but I would say relatively easy. How’s that? There are things you can do in 3D, the basics, that are quite easy to pick up. You want to create film quality special effects, you want to articulate a character animation? Yes, it’s going to take you some time, probably a couple of years to really get to the skill level where you can do that on your own.
Paul Babb: But motion graphics utilizing an Illustrator file, extruding it, animating it, bringing into After Effects, doing what you want to do with that, especially if you have experience with After Effects, the transition to Cinema 4D is actually quite easy.
Larry Jordan: Let’s get back to the learning question. Do you help people figure out how the software works?
Paul Babb: God, you feed me so well. Sure. We created a site called cineversity.com where we put up video tutorials, we add plug-ins, we add presets, any kind of utilities that will help people work, but mainly it’s there for tutorials, to get started. We have anything from getting started tutorials to character rigging tutorials to breaking down projects, anything just to help people get the job done.
Larry Jordan: We’re slowly moving over into this hiring question, but are you finding that most of your customers are repeat customers upgrading or are most of your customers coming in new?
Paul Babb: I think it’s about half and half. Like everybody else, we’ve gone to an annual licensing model where people try to stay updated and, by having that annual licensing model, Cineversity’s included and anything else that we might offer. It’s kind of half and half. I think most of the people who are working want to maintain to have the latest versions, so they’re getting the latest and greatest and the newest features, and we’re getting a lot of new customers through our relationship with Adobe and just from knowledge of the market.
Larry Jordan: What’s in the light version of 4D?
Paul Babb: Light version is actually quite powerful. It comes with…
Larry Jordan: It’s a medium version?
Paul Babb: Well, it’s kind of a combination of our lowest version, called Prime, but it also has some functionality that is only available in Broadcast and Studio. In the motion graphics…
Larry Jordan: Wait, wait, those are the three levels of the program?
Paul Babb: I’m sorry, yes. No, we actually have four levels. We have Prime…
Larry Jordan: Which is starting.
Paul Babb: …which is the starting package. We have Broadcast, which is focused on broadcast graphics. We have the Visualize product, which is really geared towards architects and engineering people doing visualization; and then we have the Studio bundle, which has everything.
Paul Babb: Now, there’s a tool in our program called MoGraph, specifically for motion graphics, and we gave a couple of features in there for the light version because we want to give people kind of a little introduction, a little tickle with those tools so that they can start playing with those things. So it’s sort of in between the Prime and the Broadcast in that it doesn’t have all the functionality of Broadcast, but we give a few of the motion graphics tools away.
Larry Jordan: You’ve been with Maxon for, what, ten years?
Paul Babb: 18.
Larry Jordan: Are you serious?
Paul Babb: Yes. When you said I had a decade, I actually probably have 25 years of experience in this industry.
Larry Jordan: If you’d just update your bio once in a while, it would be helpful.
Paul Babb: That’s Vicky’s fault. Vicky!
Larry Jordan: How have you noticed the customers changing over time?
Paul Babb: Wow, good and bad. Because the tools have become so sophisticated, a lot of people who are coming into it for the first time expect that the tool is going to do most of the work for you and, bottom line, any of these digital art tools are still art tools, meaning you have to have an artistic eye, you have to be an artist to a certain point.
Larry Jordan: It’s a paintbrush that doesn’t help you to paint.
Paul Babb: It’s a very elaborate paintbrush. It doesn’t do the painting for you. Now, it does a lot of things for you that a paintbrush can’t do, but having that combination of technological knowledge and artistic skill is really the way you master these tools.
Larry Jordan: So what you’re saying is the customers have evolved from being pure artists to being technologists or being less sophisticated? What I’m trying to figure out is are you seeing, for instance, originally everybody was in motion graphics, creating it for broadcast or everybody was an architect creating. Has the pool expanded? Have you seen a trend that you’re paying attention to?
Paul Babb: I think it’s less industry focused, like you’re saying. What we see is more sophisticated people with greater knowledge, like the next generation coming up. They’re exposed to the tools so much earlier, so they’re much more knowledgeable. But there’s an anticipation that the art part will take care of itself, so sometimes you get people who are more technician than artist.
Paul Babb: Now, you also get that, because they think that the tool’s going to do more for them, they expect more from the tool, so you have to educate them on the artistic aspects of it, that you can’t give that part of it up. You can’t expect that the tool’s going to do all that for you.
Larry Jordan: Now we’ve got all these people who are using this tool and we’ve got a larger and larger customer base for you, which is wonderful, people need to get a job and the last few years have not been good years for getting work in the visual effects industry.
Paul Babb: Well, that’s visual effects, not motion graphics.
Larry Jordan: What is the difference in your mind?
Paul Babb: Well, visual effects, you’re talking about film studios and people competing for shots in a film. I’m talking about broadcast graphics, motion graphics. Our industry is booming and has been booming because, if I go back a little bit and say when you and I were growing up there were three TV stations, ok? Then they added a couple, maybe a couple of local channels, right?
Paul Babb: Then cable came along and there were a few dozen channels, then there were a few hundred. The service I have now, I’ve got about 3,000 channels, ok? Now, there are 3,000 channels that need station IDs, lower thirds, bumpers, interstitials, all that. Turn the internet into a broadcast medium…
Larry Jordan: Yes, I know exactly.
Paul Babb: …and now you’re talking millions of TV stations. That’s where the jobs are I’m talking about and when you started out with ‘now I have all these customers and they’re looking for jobs’, it’s actually more that I’ve got all these studio customers who are looking for artists. Back to the conversation about people expecting the tool to do some of the art for you, what we find is, just like you would teach a painting class, if you had 25 students in the class, maybe two of them would be good artists in the beginning and maybe a couple of others would develop over time and the rest of them are taking an art class and maybe don’t ever get it.
Paul Babb: It’s the same thing with 3D. In a class of 25 students, you’ll probably notice one or two of them that just get it right off the bat and maybe three, four or five that over time develop into decent artists, and the rest of them it may be too complicated, they may be great technicians and may be useful in the industry but not great artists. There’s always work for people but it’s getting more and more sophisticated.
Larry Jordan: I got an email today from a guy who was writing to say, “How do I find work?” Clearly, who you know and who knows you is important, but is there a job list or a job posting that people can go to? How do you find the gigs that are out there and, more importantly for studios that want to find an artist, how do they track them down?
Paul Babb: That’s a great question and we’ve pondered the idea of establishing something like that, a place where people can do that, and I think there are other groups of people, other businesses trying to be headhunters for design houses or that type of thing. It really is the Wild West to a certain point. People are going on forums, they’re creating their own work and creating portfolios online, trying to get the attention of other people.
Paul Babb: I think there are a lot of internships going on. A lot of the schools now are trying to connect with studios and set up internships where they give students a chance to get in there and do a little work. But there really isn’t a tried and true place to go look for a job or connect artists at this time.
Larry Jordan: Yes, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it. We own a couple of websites which could easily be converted to a job board and it takes a lot of work to maintain a job board, and then how do you charge for it, and who pays for it, and how do you guarantee that the person, what’s the saying? On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog, so we’re still thinking about it but we haven’t decided to go ahead. So it’s a hard question to answer.
Paul Babb: Absolutely. We’ve been in the same position. It comes up occasionally as a, ‘Is that a project we want to take on?’ and actually, in honesty, Cineversity, the site we’ve created for tutorials to teach, it’s not a money making proposition, it’s a service that we provide to our customers so that they can become better artists, want to upgrade etcetera, and so we’re paying for that out of our own pocket. So how do you make money doing that? It would be a great service to provide, but I’m with you across the board. I sell software for a living, I don’t deal with websites like that.
Larry Jordan: If you were to advise somebody who’s in college right now or a graduate from college and they’ve got graphics design skills and they’ve got good technical skills and they want to learn Cinema 4D, which is a wonderful package, where’s the market right now? Where are they likely to be employed? Is it broadcast motion graphics? Is it architecture? Who looks like they’re doing the hiring?
Paul Babb: Well, it’s across the board, but motion graphics is the market in which there are a lot of jobs out there. If you do a search for After Effects Cinema 4D jobs, you will find people putting up listings in all the different places where there is hiring. You will see a lot of jobs for After Effects and Cinema 4D users. In terms of learning it, there are so many free resources out there. There’s Cineversity that we do, there’s Gray Scale Gorilla, Nick Campbell’s site. There’s linda.com, there are so many resources. You can even search YouTube and Vimeo and find dozens of great tutorials to get started.
Paul Babb: To learn, it’s like anything else, give yourself a project. Find a commercial that you like and duplicate it, or the simplest things and start from there. Once you start building a portfolio, that’s what’s going to get you hired, being able to show people that you can accomplish something, do great work.
Larry Jordan: What’s your take on devices like Oculus Rift?
Paul Babb: I think right now virtual reality is a big buzzword and I think that there is going to be a lot of opportunity in that. I think that’s a little further down the road, if I’m going to put myself out on a limb. I would say that probably the bigger opportunity is going to be content creation for augmented reality.
Larry Jordan: What’s the difference?
Paul Babb: For instance, augmented reality might be an application on my phone where I can choose a couch from IKEA and put it in my room like this and see what it’s going to look like in my room, or I can put the carpeting there and see what that’s going to be looking like, as opposed to a immersive environment, which I think is going to be more probably at first for gaming because that’s where the interest and the money is.
Larry Jordan: So the hollow deck is still a ways away?
Paul Babb: I think so. But augmented reality has so many applications. Like traveling, you could get your walking tour on your phone and walk around and look up and you can have signs or there are applications already where people can leave notes for each other in certain places and they show up through augmented reality, they shine it on a brick wall and, “Oh, Bob was here, he left a message for me.” They can be private, public.
Larry Jordan: I was just reflecting, two years ago the big buzzword was 3D, stereoscopic 3D, and then last year the big buzzword was 4K, and we’re going to be talking more about that with Sean in the next section. Now maybe virtual reality. Is that likely to have legs or is it something that people are just talking about to give themselves something to talk about?
Paul Babb: I think it’s a combination of both. Everybody wants something to talk about, they want that buzzword, it makes it more interesting to go to the trade shows and for those companies, they get that kind of buzz. Again, I think virtual reality is going to take some time because look at how much work it takes just to create the content for a film that’s static, it’s not going to change.
Paul Babb: Virtual reality demands that there’s content to your actions that can change, depending on which way you look, what you’re doing, how you’re reacting to your environment. That’s a lot of content and that’s going to take a lot of time, and they haven’t even really mastered it to a point where it’s that, you know… Oculus Rift is pretty cool, but I still think it’s got a long way to go beforehand. Whereas augmented reality, it wouldn’t be that hard to create a model of a couch and be able to swap out the fabrics and then create something where you can peg an area and see what that couch is going to look like in your house. I think that’s something that is a little bit more reachable sooner.
Larry Jordan: Let’s switch this for just a second. We’ve talked about having artists get jobs and where to look. What do producers need to know about this technology that they don’t? In other words, what tips do you need to give them to help them make the most of it?
Paul Babb: Number one, it’s the artist. It’s the artist, it’s not the tool. A lot of producers and a lot of executives get caught up on the tool that’s getting used. They go, “Oh, I’ve heard this tool’s really great.” It doesn’t matter. It’s the artist who’s wielding that tool. I think the most important thing would be a visual effects supervisor who’s got a track record, you see their work and you like what their work looks like. It really comes down to the artist. I actually have a friend in the industry and we had this conversation and he was enamored with different studios and different people and I said, “Yes, but if their top artist left, they’re not that studio any more. It’s a different studio.”
Larry Jordan: So what are you planning for NAB this year?
Paul Babb: Oh, we’ve got a great line up.
Larry Jordan: Oh, talk to me about that.
Paul Babb: I think I have about 20 different great artists. I’ve got people who have worked on motion graphics for MTV, South Park, ESPN, ABC, NBC. Pretty much name the broadcaster and we’ve got somebody represented. I’ve got artists coming in to show medical animation. I’ve got guys…
Larry Jordan: Now, when you say coming in the show, what’s happening?
Paul Babb: Well, at the booth at Maxon at NAB, we set up a theater presentation so the people there can come in and every hour we have an artist come in and do a nice little presentation and show off how they did it, what kind of work they’re doing etcetera. We also broadcast that live. So if you don’t come to NAB, you can kind of virtually come to NAB through our booth.
Larry Jordan: Oh, very cool.
Paul Babb: So if you go to c4dlive.com, people can go on there and watch our presentations live. Now, if you want to see what those presentations are like, you can go to Cineversity because what we do is archive those each year, so right now they could go watch last year’s NAB Instagraph presentations and then they can watch them live or afterwards.
Larry Jordan: And what website can people go to to learn more about Cinema 4D?
Paul Babb: Maxon.net.
Larry Jordan: That’s maxon.net and Paul Babb is the CEO of Maxon US. Paul, as always, a delight visiting. Thanks for joining us.
Paul Babb: Are we done already?
Larry Jordan: We are done. See you soon.
Paul Babb: Thanks, Larry.
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Larry Jordan: Sean Mullen is the CEO of Rampant Design Tools. He’s also an Emmy award winning visual effects artist with over 60 feature film and television credits, including ‘Charmed’, ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, ‘Ally McBeal’, ‘ER’, ‘Nip Tuck’ and many others. His company, Rampant Design Tools, specializes in creating original drag and drop visual elements for editors and VFX artists. Hello, Sean, welcome back.
Sean Mullen: Hey, Larry, thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: It is wonderful having you with us. Sean, 4K is all the rage from a marketing point of view. Are you seeing any significant information coming from 4K? Like sales or interest?
Sean Mullen: Well, all my clients are ordering 4K at this point. So far in the last 12 months, I’ve had about 90 percent of our projects deliver in 4K.
Larry Jordan: How many?
Sean Mullen: 90 percent.
Larry Jordan: Wow. So tell me about the products that Rampant Design Tools develops, then I want to talk about the 4K products.
Sean Mullen: Well, like you said, we create drag and drop effects and we have everything from light leaks and foam effects to your favorite, the monster toolkit, and different kinds of mattes and flashes and optical effects and we deliver everything in 2K, 4K and in 5K.
Larry Jordan: 2K, 4K and 5K. Is there a difference in developing a 4K or 5K project compared to a 2K? Can you do something with that higher resolution that you can’t with 2K?
Sean Mullen: If you grab any of our free samples and you drop a 4 or 5K element into your 2K or HD timeline, you will definitely see a difference in clarity.
Larry Jordan: How so?
Sean Mullen: It’s more clear, there’s a lot more latitude to play with, the frame size is larger so you can reposition things to your liking. You can scale. You can definitely see a lot more clarity.
Larry Jordan: The 4K and 5K files, though, are significantly larger. How are you handling the larger file sizes, especially when people need to download them? Because those files can be gigantic.
Sean Mullen: That’s true. We have two options. If you buy our continental hard drive, you’ll get the full ProRes 4444 or 422 HQ trillions. We don’t offer that as a download, we offer the lower res versions of ProRes LT or ProRes Proxy as a download.
Larry Jordan: Are you finding the best delivery mechanism would be a hard disk as opposed to something else?
Sean Mullen: Right now, yes. You’d be surprised how many drives. Right behind me is a giant pile of boxes that we have just finished shipping, so you’d be surprised how many drives we ship per week.
Larry Jordan: Are you finding that people are working with 4K? Or are they down sampling it for a 2K or HD project? What I’m trying to get a sense of is how many people who are actually working natively at 4K are just simply taking advantage of the extra pixels?
Sean Mullen: I think right this second more people are working in 4K and delivering in 2K or HD or, like you said, they’re just using the 4K frame in an HD timeline. I would say the majority of people are still delivering in 1080 right now.
Larry Jordan: Describe some of the effects that you’re creating. What are people buying?
Sean Mullen: We have everything from practical effects like fire, smoke, water, rain and snow. We also have more subtle things that sell quite a bit. On the major networks, you see all of our light leaks and, believe it or not, our mattes are really popular. Film flashes, different kinds of color overlays, grungy effects, that kind of thing.
Larry Jordan: With the effects that you’re creating, are you seeing your customers are segmenting in particular parts of the industry? Or are you selling everything everywhere?
Sean Mullen: We sell to everyone who’s doing wedding videos and corporate projects all the way up to feature films and broadcast shows. Every single major network has our content and uses it quite a bit, but we sell to many, many corporations for corporate pieces and, like I said, wedding pieces and independent films, so we’re pretty much spread out across the board.
Larry Jordan: Now, if I remember correctly, the stuff that you’ve got would be an overlay on top of existing material, so I would have a background shot and you’d lay flames or smoke or fog on top of it. Are you seeing a shift in tastes in terms of the kind of overlay files people are using? And are you seeing any trends start to develop in terms of what seems to be the hot visual effect these days?
Sean Mullen: Practical effects have kind of taken a step aside. It’s really more of the overlays. People are really getting into taking a LUT file and adding some really great color effects to their video and then combining it with our overlays to give it that more organic feel on top, so you see a lot of our overlays used everywhere, even in the news.
Larry Jordan: Take me through one of them, let’s say smoke, because I can picture that easily enough. How do I use the smoke overlay in my project? What would be an application, not in terms of the effect but practically speaking? I get the hard drive, I open it up, what do I do with it?
Sean Mullen: You bring it into any of your editors or your compositor or you throw it into After Effects or you bring it into Premiere or Final Cut. It’s a QuickTime so…
Larry Jordan: Let’s bring it into After Effects. So I’ve got After Effects fired up and I’ve got a shot of a forest. How would I integrate smoke with a background shot of a forest?
Sean Mullen: I would find a shot that feels right; we have over 200 clips in our smoke library, so something’s probably going to work best for you. Drop it on. You can sample it very quickly by using a blend mode but, to be honest, I would probably use Unmult from Red Giant, it’s free, and then a compound blur to really give the look and a more professional feel. But you can absolutely just drop it on and use a blend mode.
Larry Jordan: Describe the second technique that you’d prefer. Walk a little bit more slowly through that. What do we do to blend it more smoothly?
Sean Mullen: As you know, smoke’s not necessarily 100 percent transparent. There are layers of thickness, so you want that to happen in your composite. You don’t want to just see straight through it, it doesn’t quite work that way, so what you do is you do a compound blur and so whatever’s thicker in the smoke is less transparent than whatever’s not and it gives a more realistic effect.
Larry Jordan: What’s the average cost for your products?
Sean Mullen: We have everything from $29 all the way up to $500 and the $500 would be a massive library of 5K.
Larry Jordan: And what am I getting? Am I getting a QuickTime movie?
Sean Mullen: Yes, everything we deliver is in QuickTime.
Larry Jordan: Does it include an alpha channel or not?
Sean Mullen: On the hard drives, yes, our products include alpha channels.
Larry Jordan: So what do I get for the download? Why would somebody download this?
Sean Mullen: Quickness. To be honest, I’m a purist, I think putting an alpha channel on a light effect doesn’t make any sense. You’re definitely going to want to blend light so that it looks more realistic, but some people insist on it. The only way to have it today is to download. Trying to ask someone to download a ProRes 4444 with an alpha channel would be a nightmare, so we avoid that altogether.
Larry Jordan: Nightmare, I think, is a polite term. Have you got any cool deals going that people can take advantage of?
Sean Mullen: Right now, if you use the code rampant50, everything’s 50 percent off in the store. Anything you buy is 50 percent off.
Larry Jordan: Is that upper and lower case?
Sean Mullen: It’s all lower case, rampant50.
Larry Jordan: Lower case, rampant50.
Sean Mullen: That’s correct.
Larry Jordan: That is very cool. What’s the next title you’re going to be working on?
Sean Mullen: I can’t talk about…
Larry Jordan: Oh, Sean, we know. Just make something up. Is it coming out soon?
Sean Mullen: It’s coming out soon. We have a massive booth this year at NAB. You know what? I heard through the grapevine you’re not 100 percent on board with the 4K, so I want you to come check out, I’ve got two 65 inch 4K monitors, I will prove to you the value of 4K. I’ll give you a personal demo. Speaking of which, we’re giving hundreds of 4K clips away absolutely free, just to prove that 4K’s not scary and that it’s awesome.
Larry Jordan: I’m not afraid of 4K, I just don’t think it’s valuable in most situations for distribution, but acquisition, it’s perfect. Sean, what website can people go to to learn more?
Sean Mullen: You can get hundreds of the 4K effects for free at 4kfree.com or you can see our regular website at rampantdesigntools.com.
Larry Jordan: Rampantdesigntools.com. Sean Mullen, CEO. Sean, thanks for joining us today.
Sean Mullen: Thanks, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
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Larry Jordan: Bob Caniglia began working in the film and television industry in 1985 as a part time cameraman and editor of industrial videos. Then he was an editor for the Disney Channel and 5:25 post production, working on music videos for Prince, Madonna and Michael Jackson. Bob then came to Blackmagic Design when the company purchased DaVinci in 2009, where he is now the Senior Regional Manager for Eastern North America. Hello, Bob, welcome.
Bob Caniglia: Hi, Larry. Thanks for having us.
Larry Jordan: We are glad to have you on. I want to start with some context. How would you describe Blackmagic Design?
Bob Caniglia: I’d describe Blackmagic as the enabler, the one company, I guess, in the industry that is trying to get as many products to as many people as possible and sort of leveling the playing field so that you’re not judged on the products you’re using, you’re judged on the final quality of the content.
Larry Jordan: So what’s your role with the company?
Bob Caniglia: One of the things I do is work with the Reseller Channel, we have a large reseller channel that sells all our products – we don’t sell any directly – so I work with them. I do a lot of one on one demonstrations at trade shows – we do a lot of trade shows. I do a lot of the press, like this, and anything in between. Fortunately, I have a pretty strong background in a lot of the equipment that we make, so when they were making cameras and switchers and they started adding on other things, I actually knew much more about that in terms of using it than I even did about color correction.
Larry Jordan: Let’s start first with the Intensity card. Describe first what the card is and then we’ll talk about the upgrade second.
Bob Caniglia: Sure. The new Intensity Pro 4K, which we announced this week, is a digital capture card that will take in analogue audio/video, as well as HDMI and the new 4K will even capture up to 4K resolution, as well as display 4K output. So this way it goes into a computer, Mac, Windows, Linux, whatever operating system that you’re working on and you can either bring in legacy videotapes or maybe a straight input from a live digital camera.
Larry Jordan: Is support for 4K video the only new feature on the card?
Bob Caniglia: Well, that’s basically the big upgrade to it, is that now you can do 4K. For the same price as the original Intensity Pro, you’re now getting an upgrade path to 4K when you need it, so you can do SD HD today and then 4K in the future.
Larry Jordan: Now, what formats does the card record to?
Bob Caniglia: You can record to a variety of ProRes formats and it works with a host of software, whether it’s any of the Blackmagic software, Media Express, you can use that, you can use Resolve, you can use Sony Vegas, Avid, Media Composer, Final Cut X, Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, so a host of software solutions actually.
Larry Jordan: I just checked the back of my iMac and there’s no PCIE slot, so for people who are on the new Mac Pro or an iMac or a laptop, are they out of luck? Is there a Blackmagic product that can help?
Bob Caniglia: We have Thunderbolt capture devices as well as USB3 capture devices, so there’s a host of products that’ll fit everybody’s need, all the way up to the DeckLink 12G 4K card that has PCIE as well. But there’s a variety of different solutions for input and output and it starts as small as one of our mini recorders and mini monitors, which are just Thunderbolt products that you can use for $145 to either capture or output SDI or HDMI.
Larry Jordan: I’m a new user and I’ve got a lot of legacy tapes, whether they’re as old as U-matic and half inch VHS or Beta or Digibeta, and I’m trying to figure out how to bring them into the computer. I’m looking at two really reputable companies. There’s Blackmagic Design and there’s HAA and both of you make capture cards. How would I make the decision as to which company’s product to support and to buy?
Bob Caniglia: I think that you’re going to find a similar feature set. It might be a price point thing. It depends. One of the things about legacy tapes, whether you’re using our card or anybody else’s card, is that oftentimes you’re going to need a time base corrector, which isn’t going to be built into the card.
Bob Caniglia: That’s going to be something you’re going to need in line through the old videotape, so actually one of the more important things is to make sure that you have a time base corrector or you’re going to be all over the place in terms of being able to get audio and video in sync and then the picture not rolling and things like that, but that’s not a feature on the card itself, that’s something that has to be done prior to the signal getting to the card.
Larry Jordan: Yes, I transferred a lot of legacy half inch tapes and the difference a time base corrector makes is amazing. It stabilized the picture, took out a lot of chroma fringing, so I think that’s really good advice. But you gracefully ducked the issue of how to decide between an HAA and Blackmagic card. If the prices were the same, is there a feature in Blackmagic that you like or, again, how do I make a wise decision here?
Bob Caniglia: One of the things about Blackmagic is we also make a product called Resolve and the Resolve software could be used to do a variety of things once you ingest it, and it’s free. Resolve Lite is a free software that works beautifully with the Blackmagic hardware and only with the Blackmagic hardware currently, so it would be a great combination to use that as your capture software. Then you could use it to edit and, if you had the full version, you could do some noise reduction as well.
Larry Jordan: When you’re capturing, when would you capture RAW versus capturing to ProRes or DNxHD?
Bob Caniglia: RAW is basically for a primary acquisition, so if you’re going out to shoot with one of our cameras, say, I would record RAW then. For instance, if you were shooting a commercial where the size of the files doesn’t make a huge difference, then shooting RAW is perfect, especially in a commercial where you’re trying to make sure that you capture a product or images that are pristine and that you can get the most out of the color and whatnot.
Bob Caniglia: If you’re going to do visual effects, shooting RAW is great so that you can do green screen work, things like that. When you’re going to capture for archive, when it’s an older videotape or something like that, if you were doing it for your personal use, you’d want to capture it at a mid to higher quality but not fully uncompressed because the file size would be way too large.
Bob Caniglia: But it wouldn’t be bad to do a mezzanine level compression, meaning something in the middle that then, if you wanted to turn that into H.264 to put on the internet, would be fine for use so that your friends can look at it or something like that. But making it H.264 right off the bat probably wouldn’t be the best thing for a longer term archive, depending on how much you like the material.
Larry Jordan: What mezzanine formats do you like?
Bob Caniglia: Any of the ProRes or DNxHD, but just in the smaller, sort of the LT range. It all depends on how much you want to store in a way. It’s something that people don’t actually consider often until they start to record. Even with our cameras, you can record in 4K RAW all the way down to ProRes HD Proxy, and when you have the camera and you change the setting, suddenly you go from ‘I have seven minutes of RAW’ to ‘Oh look, I have three hours of Proxy’, so there’s a metric that you need to figure out – how much storage do I want to use versus how good a quality do I want?
Larry Jordan: If you’re capturing from a standard SD format, standard definition, and you want to get as much quality as you can, would you capture to RAW? Or is that overkill? Granted, the file size is there, but let’s say you’re just plain obsessing about quality. Are you going to see a significant improvement in quality of RAW versus ProRes four by four versus ProRes HQ? Help a videographer who doesn’t understand codecs to understand which codec to pick for this challenge.
Bob Caniglia: The thing about if you’re going to record RAW, then in order to use the asset you’re going to have to do color correction in order to revive it, ok? If you’re pretty concerned about quality, I think at that point, especially in an existing material, I would probably go with ProRes HQ, highest quality there, or the DNxHD 220, something like that, because that way it’s at the highest point if you have the ability to store that off.
Bob Caniglia: Also, from there, then you can make whatever you want and, again, this is where Resolve Lite comes in. It’s a perfect way to turn that from whatever you captured originally to a smaller size, even all the way down to H.264 if you wanted to put it out on the web.
Larry Jordan: How much does the Intensity 4K card cost?
Bob Caniglia: The Intensity Pro 4K is $199.
Larry Jordan: $199, and for people who have existing Intensity cards, is there an upgrade path?
Bob Caniglia: No, there’s no upgrade path to that, but it’s $199. Again, it’s only really if you need the 4K for use today.
Larry Jordan: Is the non-4K version still being sold?
Bob Caniglia: They’re still available if people need them. That card also plays a role in some OEM business, so there are customers, other manufacturers, that build solutions around cards and some of them require those cards, so the original card works fine in those solutions so they’ll still be around for a little while, assuming that we can still get parts, which is basically the case with almost any product.
Larry Jordan: Let’s shift gears from the Intensity card to the new ATEM switcher. Now here, I must confess, that when we were building our studio here, we added an ATEM switcher as part of our production package, so I’m not just a guy asking questions, I’ve got a vested stake in this discussion. What does the new update do?
Bob Caniglia: The new update provides macros and the beauty of the macros is they are all inclusive, and what I mean by that is you can build macros inside macros. Grant Petty, the CEO of the company, did a nice little video on our support site to show people how to use the macros and he even used a great example of bringing in a series of stills and having the sequence reveal itself through a macro.
Bob Caniglia: You can either do it manually by calling the next slide, or have it do it on a time basis, and then you can actually take that macro and roll it into another macro, so there’s a way to really build a lot of pre-built effects and speed up the use of the ATEM so that it’s easier to, say, call in new titles. If somebody’s sending titles in, you could build a macro to bring in slide 13, assign it to downstream key 2 or whatever.
Bob Caniglia: Those kinds of things can be all pre-built and you can just recall them all live while you’re working. I’ve been waiting for these and what I think is great is that we didn’t just implement macros, we implemented them on steroids. I think it’s worth the wait for those that have been waiting for macros.
Larry Jordan: Can a macro be built in the middle of a live production? Or is this something that gets done before you go live?
Bob Caniglia: Generally it’s done before you go live. In theory, you could. The only problem would be that you’d have to avoid the program bus, I think, if you were live on air in order to build a macro but generally you wouldn’t build a macro while you were on air. You would want to do that prior and the beauty also is that, if you have a control surface, you can do it via the control surface or via software, or both.
Larry Jordan: One of the challenges that we’re discovering with the switcher is that it’s hard to change effects or titles during production. We’ve only got the ability to, I think our team calls it the super source, where we’re superimposing more than one image together. How do the macros help us in this regard? Do they add additional capability or are they just adding speed?
Bob Caniglia: They’re adding capability in the sense of being able to get to something quickly to reset an entire set-up, and you could build it so you could transition out of them. Say, for instance, you have a super source where you have a couple of boxes with some people in there or whatnot. You can build one so that it calls that up then, say, trigger another macro that brings on an ID of somebody, and then you can have it hit another one so it takes it off and then maybe make another macro so it will dissolve off, and you could put in multiples.
Bob Caniglia: You could name them, so you would say ‘Super source 2 host A in camera one’ or ‘Reveal super source with key’, ‘Super source without key’, ‘Bring on super source’, ‘Key on super source 2’, so you could really build out a lot of… which is what a lot of people do. You think about today, especially in live newscasts and whatnot, if you have the ability to build macros, well, it’s the same thing. It’s the same song and dance. It’s two shot, one shot, back to here, over the shoulder, not over the shoulder, throw to weather, come back, throw to sports, so there are a lot of different things that can be pre-built.
Bob Caniglia: I worked back in the day when there were no macros, doing live news and I laugh now because I think between the visual effects you can do now in software as opposed to trying to do them all live with a DVE and a big switcher and some of the… stuff that you can do with macros, these TVs don’t know how good they have it.
Larry Jordan: Yes, I remember back in the days I worked at a four re-entry switcher and we had to build all the effects live on different mix effects buses and you were driving something the size of an aircraft carrier to do a live show. Now, the control units are just a small briefcase sized thing. I want to reflect back, take a step back to a higher level. Back in the old days when you and I were getting started, we had massively large switchers that cost billions of dollars from companies like Grass Valley, and then Blackmagic came in and reduced a traditional switcher with the ATEM switcher, it’s a really nice entry system, but then Tricaster came out and Tricaster has what I would call the second generation of switching, which is where it’s all built into a Tricaster system, of which there are a variety of flavors.
Larry Jordan: Then Telestream Wirecast came out and we’re seeing a third generation of switching which is not based on proprietary hardware, but based upon software which is blended inside a Mac Mini. Thinking about these three generations of traditional and Tricaster and webcast, is there still a role in new productions for switchers like ATEM? Or is that really catering to a legacy market? And where do you see switching going in the future?
Bob Caniglia: One of the things that we’ve built is pieces for the puzzle. Some of the other systems have all kinds of features that not everybody needs. A friend of mine tours with a band, and I guess I don’t know that I should give it out, but anyway he tours with a band and he told me, he sent me a note the other day saying, “Hey, we’re going out with all Blackmagic this year,” and I said, “Well, that’s interesting,” and he said, “Cost isn’t the thing. It’s the space.” The guy said it’s a lot less space, the stuff works, we’ve been using pieces of it for the last couple of years and decided ‘I don’t know why we’re not using this all the time’, because it’s the size of what they need to do. They need a certain number of inputs.
Bob Caniglia: Some of the smaller systems, sure, it’s great if you only have three or four inputs, but if you’re doing a larger production where you have four or five live cameras, you’re also feeding a video wall and some other things, you need more inputs and a lot of guys want a physical surface to clang on. So those situations are still out there. A lot of churches and schools and things where they want to have hands on and they want to still touch things.
Bob Caniglia: I even have one guy who works for one of the national morning shows on Sundays, he’s the director, he called me, asked me about the original ATEM TV studio and he said, “Am I getting this right? Can I just plug the two cameras of a two camera shoot we do during the week and I could record that on my laptop and then I’ll be good to go?” and I said, “Yes,” and he said, “This is great,” because what he does is he sits in the back of the room, the thing doesn’t make any noise and he hits the spacebar and cuts between the two cameras and does a line cut on his own.
Bob Caniglia: He said he rarely has to do a pick-up, it saves him a ton of time and it wasn’t so much the cost of it, because clearly it doesn’t cost a lot. He said even if it was $10,000 or $20,000 instead of $1,000, the fact that he could physically take in his briefcase and go and do it was the thing that made it the most appealing to him.
Larry Jordan: There’s so much more we could talk about but, as people are looking at the Blackmagic product line, everything from cameras down to switchers, even the mini convertors that you make which I seem to be buying like popcorn right now, what is it that makes Blackmagic products special for you? Because there’s clearly a light in your eyes as you describe this stuff. What is it that gets you excited?
Bob Caniglia: I think the exciting thing is that the whole company is geared towards trying to enable everybody to do as much as they can with as many products as they can at an affordable price. A lot of times, people ask, “Why don’t you tackle a certain segment of the market in a different category?” and truthfully we look at a lot of different things, but if we can’t go in and compete on a price level to get our run rates high enough to make that worthwhile, then it’s not really worth it to us.
Bob Caniglia: For instance, I don’t know, pick anything, if we were going to make a building and our building was going to cost the same as a building cost today, it wouldn’t make any sense for us to get in there, even if we build a better building. So our philosophy, Grant’s philosophy really, is to make sure that we enable the masses so that everybody can do it. What I find the best about it is that we get A level directors who buy our cameras and we get kids in high school who save up their paper route money to buy a camera and they’re both just as excited to use them.
Bob Caniglia: In the old days, you would get judged by the quality of your video image rather than the content, and now you get judged by your content instead of the quality of the video image you use because you can do just as good a job as anybody else. A lot of A level people are using our cameras as B cameras that start to move into A cameras.
Larry Jordan: Bob, where can people go on the web to learn more about Blackmagic?
Bob Caniglia: We’re at blackmagicdesign.com and we’ll see everybody at NAB, at the bottom floor of the south lower hall.
Larry Jordan: The entire bottom floor, if I remember the size of the booth. That’s blackmagicdesign.com. Bob Caniglia is the Senior Regional Manager for Eastern North America. You’ve got to hold out for a shorter title. Just call it VP. Anyway, Bob Caniglia is running out of Eastern North America and, Bob, thanks for joining us today.
Bob Caniglia: Thanks so much, Larry. Take care.
Larry Jordan: It’s been a great show this week. We’ve covered a lot of different information, talking with Paul Babb about some of the challenges and some of the opportunities for getting work in visual effects but, more importantly, in motion graphics, where is where Cinema 4D excels. Thinking
Larry Jordan: back on it, that’s exactly what Sean Mullen is doing as he’s taking these tools and getting them to create not just plug-ins, not just applications, but create visual elements that we can use inside our existing NLEs and in After Effects to add some additional variety and make our projects look unique compared to other people; and I like that idea of finding ways to take existing tools and get jobs for us. That’s what is, I think, the whole reason behind what this industry is doing, is we want to be able to take creativity and earn a living from it.
Larry Jordan: And then we had a chance to talk with Bob Caniglia which Blackmagic Design provides all kinds of tools for us to use.
Larry Jordan: Thanks to Paul Babb, the CEO of Maxon US; Sean Mullen, the CEO and Lead Creative at Rampant Design Tools; and Bob Caniglia, the Senior Regional Manager for Eastern North America, Blackmagic Design.
Larry Jordan: There’s lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Here you’ll find hundreds of past shows and thousands of interviews all searchable and always available. You can talk with us on Twitter, @DPBuZZ, and Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Our theme music is composed by Nathan Doogie Turner and we’re having a great time. Have you noticed this week that we have a brand new open? Well, at least modified version of the open. One of the neat things about the technology we’re using is we’re tweaking it and making the open different a little bit every week.
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Larry Jordan: Our producer is Cirina Catania, our engineering team is led by Megan Paulos, includes Alexia Chalida, Ed Golya, Keenan Guy, Brianna Murphy and Lindsay Luebbert. My name is Larry Jordan; on behalf of Mike Horton, thanks for listening to The Buzz.
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