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Transcript: Digital Production Buzz – August 27, 2015

Digital Production Buzz

August 27, 2015

[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]

(Click here to listen to this show.)

HOST

Larry Jordan

GUESTS

Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor Reporter, TroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter

Avery Lu, Co-Founder, CMO, Palo Alto Scientific, Inc.

Casey Hupke, VFX Designer/Animator

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Larry Jordan: Tonight on The Buzz, SAG-AFTRA just went through an election that exposed deep rifts still festering in the union. Jonathan Handel, the entertainment labor reporter for The Hollywood Reporter, joins us tonight to explain what’s going on and what it means to the rest of us.

Larry Jordan: Avery Lu is the cofounder of Palo Alto Scientific, a company that makes wearable tech. He’s concerned about improving our fitness, but I’m concerned about the security of wearing all this highly personal medical data on our wrist. We talk with him about tonight about both issues.

Larry Jordan: Casey Hupke is a freelance visual effects designer and an animator. He combines his love of comedy with illogical special effects to create offbeat, unique looks for IBM, AT&T, Coke and many others. Tonight, he shares his thoughts on creativity.

Larry Jordan: All this plus Randi Altman’s perspective on the news, Tech Talk and The Buzz Flashback. The Digital Production Buzz starts now.

Announcer #1: Tonight’s Digital Production Buzz is brought to you by Other World Computing at macsales.com; and by Xen Data, at xendata.com.

Announcer #2: Since the dawn of digital filmmaking… Authoritative…one show serves a worldwide network of media professionals… Current…uniting industry experts… Production…filmmakers… Post production…and content creators around the planet. Distribution. From the media capital of the world in Los Angeles, California, The Digital Production Buzz goes live now.

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 and marketing around the world. Mike Horton has the night off.

Larry Jordan: Last week on The Buzz, Doug Sheer, the CEO of DIS Consulting, said something that’s been echoing in my head ever since. During the interview, Mike asked why cameras that used to cost $100,000 are now less than $10,000 and Doug responded by saying he didn’t think the media industry has recovered from the recession of 2008. So many companies are on the financial edge that he expects to see a number of acquisitions in the not too distant future.

Larry Jordan: This started me thinking – every one of us loves to get something for free or, if we can’t get it for free, we want to save a ton of money when we do buy it. After the financial meltdown in 2008, no-one was spending any money so companies lowered prices just to get something to sell. As every business owner knows, payrolls don’t stop even if sales slow down. Prices started falling and at the same time many companies ramped up R&D to create new cooler products which they released as soon as possible and, in some cases, these new products went to market before they were ready.

Larry Jordan: But in other cases, these new products replaced older products but at new, lower price points. Pricing pressure accelerated as new companies came to market with lower costs than existing companies. New products were released at increasingly faster rates and new technology replaced old technology, except that now changes were coming so quickly and prices were dropping so rapidly that a new sensibility arose in customers, meaning the longer you wait to buy, the better and cheaper the product that you want will become.

Larry Jordan: This new paradigm tends to paralyze the market. I read this every day in my email from readers and hear it in my conversations with vendors – why buy now when, if I wait, it’ll be faster and cheaper? This puts us in an untenable situation. Vendors need us to buy today to fund the development of tomorrow, but customers are reluctant to buy today because they know something better will be released tomorrow, and an industry finds itself in a precarious position of needing sales that aren’t forthcoming.

Larry Jordan: We have serious expectations disconnecting between buyers and sellers, one that is only going to get worse. The center cannot hold and at some point soon things are going to break. As Oliver Hardy said, it’s another nice mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.

Voiceover: This is Randi Altman’s Perspective.

Larry Jordan: Randi Altman has covered the post production industry for more than 20 years. She currently runs her own website at postperspective.com. Hello, Randi, it’s good to have you back.

Randi Altman: Hi Larry. How are you?

Larry Jordan: I’m talking to you, this is the highlight of my week. It’s good to see you again. We missed you last week.

Randi Altman: Yes, it’s been a quiet summer.

Larry Jordan: Well, IBC is coming up. What big announcements should we expect?

Randi Altman: Your guess is as good as mine. At this point, everybody is very close lipped about it. Everybody’s announcing that they’re going to be there with great stuff, but nobody’s actually being specific about what they’re going to bring to the show. I expect 4K, I expect cloud based workflows, collaboration and all that, but no specifics yet. Sorry.

Larry Jordan: You mean they’re not telling you their secrets ahead of time?

Randi Altman: If they are, I will be sued on many levels. I have to zip it and lock it, yes.

Larry Jordan: Ah, where are our ethics when we want to know the inside scoop? That’s my question. You know, I was just looking over your website again, because I always enjoy reading all the interviews that you’ve got there, and you’ve spent your professional career interviewing people. How do you find and select your subjects?

Randi Altman: It depends. I never like following an actual framework, even though in publishing you need to do that. I like to see what’s new, what’s interesting. I am a fan of film, I’m a fan of TV, of any sort of entertainment, so if I find that I like it, I’m assuming maybe other people do as well, so a lot of times it’s just from personal taste, and a lot of times that’s worked pretty well for me. Plus interesting people, people who seem fun.

Larry Jordan: Thinking of fun and interesting people, there have to be a couple of interviews that stick in your head. What’s one of the memorable ones?

Randi Altman: One of the most anxiety inducing interviews was with Jerry Bruckheimer right around the Pirates of the Caribbean time, early on, and his assistant said, “He will call you one day,” and I just sort of had to wait. He’s a busy guy, I understand, but when he did call it was about seven o’clock my time and my young son was with me. There was nothing that I could do, so I handed him a toy and hoped for the best. But the toy was Sing and Snore Ernie and every three seconds he would hit the belly and you would hear Ernie snoring. Jerry Bruckheimer.

Larry Jordan: Does Bruckheimer remember or even talk to you about this?

Randi Altman: Well, he hasn’t spoken to me since, so I’m assuming it didn’t go well on his end.

Larry Jordan: How about another one? Any other interviews come to mine?

Randi Altman: Oh, there have been a lot. Stephen Colbert was a ton of fun to interview, very serious about what he does but fun. Danny DeVito I spoke to about the After Effects work he did on his own film, ‘Death to Smoochy,’ which was not critically acclaimed but it was a ton of fun to speak to him about it. He is a gear head. I’m assuming he still is, this was a while ago, but he really got into the technology behind it, which was fun.

Larry Jordan: Thinking of technology, next week is the last week of the run-up to IBC, so we’ll talk to you about how you get ready for IBC next week. In the meantime, Randi, what’s your website for people who want to keep track of what you’re up to?

Randi Altman: Postperspective.com.

Larry Jordan: Thanks, Randi, we’ll talk to you next week.

Randi Altman: Thanks, Larry. Take care.

Larry Jordan: To read more from Randi Altman, visit postperspective.com.

Larry Jordan: Still to come on The Buzz – Jonathan Handel, Avery Lu, Casey Hupke, Tech Talk and Buzz Flashback.

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Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is an entertainment and technology attorney of Counsel at TroyGould in Los Angeles. He’s also the contributing editor on entertainment labor issues for The Hollywood Reporter, with his own blog at jhandel.com. Hello, Jonathan, welcome back.

Jonathan Handel: Larry, it’s a pleasure to be with you.

Larry Jordan: Jonathan, there’s so much I want to talk about. I’m going to stop talking about your Porsche and get right to the important issues. Hollywood unions have been making news these last couple of weeks and especially SAG-AFTRA. What were the results of the recent election?

Jonathan Handel: There has been a lot of news and I’m wearing my residuals tie in honor of the unions. The elections at SAG-AFTRA were very contentious. The group called Membership First, the challengers who were in control of the union from 2005 to 2008 have come warring back. They didn’t win the presidency, the President is still Ken Howard of Unite For Strength, the group that’s run the union now for the past six years and Ken has been President for the past six years, but they did win the Secretary Treasurer position and the Head of the LA local, which is the largest local in the union; and then, of course, they won a number of board seats and so on and so forth – there are a lot of boards and delegates and things like that in the SAG-AFTRA structure.

Jonathan Handel: The takeaway is that the next several years are going to be very contentious. First they have their convention coming up in a month and they elect certain officers there; then they have their commercials contract negotiations early next year; and then late next year, they’ll begin the process of negotiating their 2017 contract. The entire process of negotiating these two big ticket contracts, the two contracts that account for most of the income of SAG-AFTRA members, is going to be very much inflected by political contention.

Larry Jordan: Jonathan, if I remember correctly, we’ve got the two different parties and Membership First was in power from 2005 to 2008 and there was just constant internecine warfare to the point that they lost a contract, if I remember correctly. Are we looking to have this kind of interparty warfare going on again?

Jonathan Handel: It hopefully won’t be as bad as it was because, of course, in that period SAG and AFTRA had not merged and so there was this big target for Membership First to say, “Look, AFTRA is undercutting us on deals, they’re doing this, they’re doing that,” and there was the specter of the other, the other union there to contend with. But it is clear that we’re going to be hopefully not at that level of contention, but we are going to be seeing a more contentious period in contract negotiations and that may affect how the studio and commercials relationships play out.

Larry Jordan: One of the interesting comments that was made by the Membership First people, the insurgents in this election, as it were, was that AFTRA and SAG were losing money in royalties because of the way the contracts were negotiated. But your research turned up something different, did it not?

Jonathan Handel: That’s correct, at least to the extent that we have figures. We don’t have figures for SAG-AFTRA but we have figures for the Writers’ Guild and there is a great degree of pattern in the way these unions bargain. I brought a prop today which is the residuals book that I’ve been working on and the cover of the residuals book is the residuals chart. The reason I’m able to summarize the residuals system in a chart is that there is a great deal of patterning between the unions – it’s called pattern bargaining – so when you get stats from the… who does publish detailed statistics, you can make some inferences about SAG-AFTRA, and for the first time last year the Writers’ Guild new media residuals exceeded their network prime time residuals.

Larry Jordan: I find that to be fascinating. New media exceeded prime time.

Jonathan Handel: That’s right, so in practical terms you’re talking about Hulu, and you’re also talking about Netflix and Amazon Prime re-runs of programming made for other platforms, so it’s not quite apples to apples, but the growth rate on new media is 40 percent year over year, whereas the decline in network prime time is five percent declining year over year. This year, when we see the statistics play out, you’re going to see an even stronger new media year and an even weaker network prime time year.

Larry Jordan: How would you describe the core disagreement between the two parties inside SAG-AFTRA? I remember Membership First. What’s the other side called?

Jonathan Handel: Unite For Strength. Unite For Strength is the incumbents and the core disagreement really goes back to merger and it’s whether merger has brought benefits or not. Believe it or not, at some level Membership First is still fighting the merger battle, even though the unions merged three years ago. One thing that does bother them and has taken quite some time is that the pension and health plans still have not merged. The health plan they are working on; the pension plan is a very difficult and much harder situation. But one wonders why it has taken three years.

Jonathan Handel: Part of that is the contracts. The TV contracts and commercial contracts didn’t merge themselves until 2014 and so until those contracts were merged, it was unlikely that they were going to merge the pension or the health plans. But it still is obviously something that people are really dissatisfied with because your earnings count for one plan or the other and if you work under separate jurisdictions, as it were, you may not qualify for health under either, whereas if… were combined in a single plan, then you would. That’s the essence of the problem that people have with this.

Larry Jordan: Both sides have high level actors being visible, but something that you wrote about caught my attention, which is there are tens of thousands of actors who are at the bottom level of the union which used to be the Screen Extras’ Guild. It sounds like they’re being used as pawns in this whole discussion. Is that a true statement? And, if so, how?

Jonathan Handel: I don’t want to wade into whether they’re pawns or not per se, but they certainly are a political factor. They’re a group that is inherently going to be unhappy with the status quo because the status quo for extras is they’re paid like paupers and they’re herded like cattle. That’s the way that to a great degree it’s going to continue to be, because there is a hierarchy of extras versus principal actors versus star actors. There’s a pyramid in the way the economics and, frankly, the power works within the acting profession.

Jonathan Handel: Extras as background actors as well as stunt performers do play a significant role in the politics here and, in fact, Jane Austin, the woman who ran for Secretary Treasurer and for LA Board President on a Membership First ticket, is actually not an actor, she is a stunt performer, so the head of the largest local of the largest actors’ union in the world is not actually per se an actor. It’s kind of surprising.

Larry Jordan: Do you think the two top executives, one from each of the different parties, are going to be able to work together? The initial statements were all very conciliatory and were all in one family, but sometimes those can be deceptive.

Jonathan Handel: I think it’s going to be difficult. There is a lot of mistrust, there’s a lot of politicking. The convention process where they elect the Executive Vice President – who in many ways is more powerful than the Secretary Treasurer, really is the second most powerful elected officer – that’s probably going to end up being contentious, but it probably will end up being the Unite For Strength candidate because Membership First didn’t want delegate candidates to really control the convention. But it’s difficult politics for them.

Larry Jordan: I want to talk about the IATSE agreement, but one thing that struck me in the article that I read which you write was that broadcast and cable audiences are in decline and new media audiences are in the ascendancy. What does that mean for the long term health of the unions?

Jonathan Handel: What does it mean first of all for the long term health of the industry is the question, because it flows downward from corporate and companies to labor. I think that’s a cloud of uncertainty that everyone’s operating under. One of the points is if you are able to successfully as a consumer get off of a $100 a month cable package and go to a $40 a month skinny package or never buy the $100 package in the first instance and just buy your skinny package with Netflix or Amazon Prime and maybe a bit of cable, you’re talking less money that flows into the system.

Jonathan Handel: The less money that the hated cable companies scoop up from us, the less money they have to pay the program suppliers and in turn the less money goes to the unions, so it’s difficult. You’ve got more programming on the air, more shows, residuals have grown, television residuals in particular have grown. Bottom line, TV residuals have grown I want to say maybe ten percent year over year or something, I forget the exact number. I do know that over the last six or eight years, that theatrical residuals have been completely flat. I’m getting this from Writers’ Guild figures.

Jonathan Handel: It’s going to put pressure on the union, there’s no doubt about it, and when you have changing viewing patterns, things like over the top services like HBO Now, that people use instead of HBO, you get a lot of technical questions. Again, this residuals chart is complex because there are a lot of distinctions that are made between different media and when you get a new medium out there… it doesn’t fit necessarily correctly in those categories. People have to juggle to figure out, “Ok, do we treat this as new media? Do we treat it as HBO, as pay TV? What about when… with the new media and theatrical release, how do you treat that?”

Jonathan Handel: So there’s a lot of complexity and the trouble with complexity is that virtually every above the line strike in the history of these unions from inception 80 years ago have been about residuals. So the complexity of the residuals system has a real impact ultimately on whether we see these labor disturbances.

Larry Jordan: In the few minutes that we’ve got left, let’s shift gears to a different union, which is IATSE. They recently announced that they had a contract settlement. What’s happening there?

Jonathan Handel: They negotiated their three year contract and it has three percent increases, it has some increases in pension, I believe. There are various working condition and new media related terms. They really didn’t release many of the details, so we’re still looking at that and I may be reporting something hopefully in the next week or so relating to that contract. I will tell you, in terms of other developments, we have a study which just came out from the DGA on diversity in television directors.

Jonathan Handel: The headline there is no more diversity today than there was last year, it’s still basically a white man’s job. 84 percent of the TV episodes in the last season were white male directors, so that’s a very difficult place. And then just hot off the press, for those who work in music, SAG-AFTRA just announced a new sound recording… that is a new deal with record labels and it has some media residuals and royalty permissions in it.

Larry Jordan: We’ve had a lot of conversation today and over the last year looking at the union situation in LA, which is important for LA markets and New York, but is there relevance, can this be extended to the broad media universe in which we live or is this just really isolated to those two cities?

Jonathan Handel: Well, no, these are nationwide unions. The IATSE contract is a West Coast contract, 13 states, California obviously among them, but 12 other states. But the SAG-AFTRA contracts for commercials, sound recording and TV theatrical upcoming, those are all nationwide contracts, so we are talking nationwide impact here.

Larry Jordan: How about international? Is there any kind of spillover in terms of how these negotiations go versus what’s happening overseas?

Jonathan Handel: Certainly when you have productions that are under US jurisdiction that are done overseas, for example with SAG-AFTRA actors, you’re talking SAG-AFTRA contracts that would apply at least to the American actors. In terms of the contract negotiations that you would see in the UK or in Canada, there is sometimes some modeling. They are aware of what’s going on in the US, but we’re obviously talking separate unions and separate industries.

Larry Jordan: So what stories are you watching for the next two weeks? What’s bubbling under the surface that’s got your attention?

Jonathan Handel: Gee, if I could tell you I would, but my competitors might be watching this as well so I have to be careful with what I say. But I am taking a closer look at the IATSE agreement; I think there may be something interesting there. I’m taking a look at what’s going on with SAG-AFTRA and further I say it not.

Larry Jordan: Jonathan, even if your competition takes notes on what you’re doing, they won’t write it as well as you do. Where can people go on the web to learn more about what your reporting is covering?

Jonathan Handel: Two places – jhandel.com, my own blog, and thrlabor.com.

Larry Jordan: What do we find on your blog that we don’t find in The Hollywood Reporter?

Jonathan Handel: I don’t blog a lot these days so what you find more is background about me, you find links to my past appearances in the media, including Digital Production Buzz, of course, and a way of contacting me, so if there are stories that people want to tip me on or things that I haven’t gotten right, I welcome contact from people around the country and around the world.

Larry Jordan: Jonathan, it is always a delight chatting with you. Thanks for joining us and thanks for bringing us up to date on the guild situation in Los Angeles. Jonathan Handel of jhandel.com. We’ll be right back.

Jonathan Handel: Thank you.

Larry Jordan: Still to come on The Buzz – Avery Lu, Casey Hupke, Tech Talk and Buzz Flashback.

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Larry Jordan: Avery Lu is the cofounder and Chief Marketing Officer at Palo Alto Scientific. This is a wearable tech company whose goal is to bring sports science to everyone. They do this by integrating sports science, data analytics, wearable technology and the internet of things, including shoes. Hello, Avery, welcome.

Avery Lu: Hi Larry, good afternoon.

Larry Jordan: Avery, how would you describe Palo Alto Scientific?

Avery Lu: What our company’s mission is, is to empower sports enthusiasts to participate in sports science, leveraging the whole wearables and the big data analytics. Our first product, ProfileMyRun, is actually designed to help runners improve their running form and technique using an app on our IOS device in the smart insole.

Larry Jordan: This app actually connects with, if I remember from your website, an insole device which has got a sensor built into it which tells you everything you want to know about your feet. Is that true?

Avery Lu: Correct. Basically, there’s a force sensing sensor that’s built into the insole and that would replace your existing insole in your running shoe. That’s actually one of our patent pending capabilities. Then we’re also using accelerometers as well as a Bluetooth LE to communicate with IOS devices to in real time advise runners to improve their posture or…

Larry Jordan: What was it that woke you up in the middle of the night saying you have to cofound a company that does inserts to shoes?

Avery Lu: My founder and CEO, CK Lim, several years ago was told by his doctor that he had to take up a sport to improve his health because he would otherwise have to take beta blockers for the rest of his life. Being an engineer and understanding data analytics long before we had the terms big data, data analytics and data science, he said, “I can solve this problem and I can help others as well.”

Larry Jordan: Your company uses the phrase, ‘Bringing sports science to everyone’. What does that mean?

Avery Lu: What that means is we’re really basing on the sports science and leveraging the whole technology capabilities to really improve people’s lives. Just like right now you have the Fitbits that are kind of the first generation wearables, giving you descriptive information about your weight, your calories, your steps, we want to take it one step further. What if we can predict what’s going to happen and also prescribe to you what you can do to improve your health, improve your fitness to augment your life? That’s really, I think, the goal where a lot of the wearables going forward are going to be focused in order to get that stickiness or rate of adoption that right now is sorely missing in the wearables space.

Larry Jordan: There are two reactions I have to this. The first is that this is just way cool. This is really cool stuff, you’re getting some incredible data out of something that I wouldn’t have thought you could get any data out of, which is how your foot hits the ground, so that’s side one, which is the cool side. The other side is we’re collecting a whole lot of personal information, medical information about ourselves and storing it on a portable device. It strikes me that there are a lot of security issues here. What data are you collecting and how are we keeping it secure so that just an average passer-by can’t get access to all this medical data about ourselves?

Avery Lu: I’m not a data security expert, but I would say that… how we segment the data in terms of how much information… have to have for the user… what they do with it to provide some value, at the same time not having to take enough data to, like you say, piece it together so that people can really understand… to the level… they would like to know. I think that’s really the…

Larry Jordan: You’re aggregating the data to keep it anonymous, but do we need to worry about things like HIPAA rules? I know HIPAA makes medical information even more secure than standard business data.

Avery Lu: I think right now most start-ups like ourselves are trying to avoid the HIPAA and FDA in terms of just getting enough data to provide and prescribe but without actually diagnosing an illness, because that’s where HIPAA and the FDA would have to come in. We have been approached by many different companies that are already working on wearables in the medical space that would like to also participate in the consumer side, so I think there’s an opportunity to work together to try to create these safeguards for people’s medical data going forward.

Larry Jordan: What information is stored locally on the cell phone and what information is aggregated in the cloud?

Avery Lu: Right now, for our current app, I think most of the data is actually being pushed up into the cloud. We just use the data coming back from the cloud in order to advise – using some audible tone so it doesn’t interrupt a runner’s session – if they’re leaning too far forward or too far back. As we improve our app and add additional functionalities to advise them and also as we work to possibly a smart watch as a standalone wearable that can last for ultra marathons, 100 miles, 300 miles, that’s where a lot of the data will be stored locally on a Flash memory and then at the end of the session or maybe at different points during the marathon, it will be uploaded to the cloud.

Larry Jordan: Now, you’ve mentioned that this is anonymous. How can you analyze it if the data is anonymous? There has to be some personalization for you to give feedback to the runner. How are you making sure that the right data does not get lost?

Avery Lu: When we collect the data, of course the user has to… collect data, but I think it’s really after we collect the data, how we safeguard it and then basically be able to give them and only them access to their data. So what happens after the session, they can actually go and look at the runner score and personal data on profilemyrun.com and that is only accessible with a password.

Larry Jordan: Talk to me about the technology. How are you getting the data from the shoe to the phone? How does that work?

Avery Lu: From the shoe, the insole would replace your existing running insole and what you do is there’s actually a cable that collects data from the foot… up to 700 pounds per square inch, and that data is aggregated with the accelerometer data in a module that clasps onto your shoelace. That will then be communicated through your iPhone and then to your IOS app. It basically advises you about your lean, if you are leaning forward enough or leaning too far back and so on.

Larry Jordan: How does your company make its money?

Avery Lu: Initially, it would be from selling the hardware units, the insoles, but really what we want to do is revolutionize the wearable industry in terms of not only selling hardware. Hardware is just a platform to collect data. I think the future wearables are really going to be about data analytics, the prescriptive and predictive nature of what we can provide, and we want to create something, kind of like Steve Jobs took the… MP3 and made it into iTunes and having artists sell their data or their music or their art on an ecosystem tied to IOS.

Avery Lu: What we want to do is create a sports marketplace leveraging social media so runners can share their data amongst themselves and we can even get celebrity runners to sell their profiles, just like artists sell their music on iTunes, and therefore if you wanted to run like Ned Kennedy, who won the Boston Marathon, then he can actually sell you the profile and, using machines or apps and understanding your physiology, we can actually map your run to learn his form and technique to win marathons.

Larry Jordan: Is this a business model similar to Google’s, where the money is in the advertising and you’re marketing our data back to other people or to ourselves?

Avery Lu: In some respects, it’s like that but I think that people will opt in because they see value in how it’s going to augment their life. If they see that the data we’re returning back to them is something we’re expanding, then they’re willing to pay a monthly subscription – it’s $5.99 or $9.99 – if it improves their life.

Avery Lu: Right now, you have MapMyRun and you also have the Fitbits and they will charge subscriptions, but that data is still not as useful as it should be. We’re striving as a company, just like the industry, to provide valuable data so that you’re willing to spend money because you’re getting a big bang out of your dollar. With us paying cell phone and direct TV and other bills, why should I justify paying yet another expense?

Larry Jordan: Where can people go on the web to learn more about the products that your company makes and your company itself?

Avery Lu: They can go to profilemyrun.com or they can check us out on Facebook, at facebook.com/profilemyrun. What we do is we blog and post different aspects of our run science and sport science.

Larry Jordan: Still to come on The Buzz – Casey Hupke, Tech Talk and Buzz Flashback.

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Larry Jordan: We also have improved editing trimming and trimming display, I’m going to take the morph cuts out and trim here. As we trim, we have the ability to see the shift in timecode by looking inside the program monitor and if you look really closely you can see the timecode display. As you have a larger screen, the timecode display becomes more visible. I’m running this at a 1280 by 720 set-up.

Larry Jordan: We can also use command, right arrow to move a clip, command, left arrow to move a clip. If I select an edit point, we can move an edit point with option, left and option, right arrow. If we go up to Premiere Pro CC, go down to keyboard shortcuts and search for ‘nudge’, this is where we’re able to set what happens when we want to move a clip. Notice its command, left arrow and command, right arrow.

Larry Jordan: If we select ‘trim’, this is where we’re able to trim. Notice how its option, left arrow, option, right arrow. You can use the same keyboard shortcut, whichever one you prefer, for both trimming with the keyboard or nudging with the keyboard. This is a subtle but significant change because it decreases the number of keyboard shortcuts you have to remember. This next one’s really cool, let’s go back. This is one of those things where you look at this and say, “Why is everybody excited?” but it’s really nice.

Larry Jordan: Let’s go back to our Grand Teton shot here. Go up to effects controls, click this icon to enable the on screen motion control settings and if you’ve got the eyes of an eagle, you’ll be able to see right here in the center of the frame, that’s the indicator for the anchor point. We can now grab the anchor point and drag it wherever we want it to go. Now, I can hear you asking already, “Why does anybody want to move the anchor point?”

Larry Jordan: The anchor point is that portion of the frame around which it rotates and around which it zooms. So rather than have to do a two step set-up where you’ve got to set a position command and you do a zoom and you do a scale command, now you just simply move the anchor point to the point around which you want something to grow or shrink or rotate. You can move the anchor point and then you just have a single command – change the scale. Much easier.

Larry Jordan: The problem in the past with the way this worked was – let me reset here – we would need to remember that Premiere considered the zero zero point to be the top left corner and that meant that if I wanted to rotate around this corner we’ve got to do a ton of math to figure out exactly how many pixels over and how many pixels down that particular point is and then we had to dial the numbers in. It was just painful. Now, thank goodness, we can grab the anchor point and drag it. It’s a small thing but I’ve been cheering ever since I discovered that was a feature.

Voiceover: This Tech Talk was shared from Larry Jordon’s website at larryjordan.com.

Larry Jordan: Casey Hupke is a visual effects designer and an animator who’s been working commercially for more than seven years. As a freelancer, he collaborates with studios to help to find an artistic style for clients such as IBM, AT&T, Coca Cola and Buick. His passion for comedy and a special love of illogical special effects helps to define his workflow and his aesthetic. Hello, Casey, welcome.

Casey Hupke: Hey, guys, how’s it going?

Larry Jordan: Casey, how would you describe what you do?

Casey Hupke: I guess the most poignant way to describe it is a motion designer hacker. A lot of the time, I have to come up with solutions for… at a fast pace.

Larry Jordan: Do you think of yourself as a solutions provider or as a designer of effects?

Casey Hupke: A little bit of both, but probably more of a solutions designer.

Larry Jordan: How come?

Casey Hupke: Well, there are a lot of times where I may be more like a technical director or a lead on a project, so I don’t end up actually getting to go from zero to 100 percent with a frame or a shot. I more or less come up with an idea or a trick and… that out to a team or a department, then they’ll usually finish it off.

Larry Jordan: Who are some of the clients that you’ve had in the past?

Casey Hupke: I’ve worked with a lot of the big studios out in Los Angeles and most recently I’ve been doing concert visuals. I just worked on the U2 tour that’s going on right now and I’ve worked with Katy Perry and Lady Gaga… and Nicki Minaj.

Larry Jordan: We’re going to talk more about the U2 tour in just a minute, but we went to your website and downloaded your demo reel and when I showed it to the team here in the office, everybody’s jaw was on the floor. It runs about a minute and it’s worthwhile, I think, to share it with the audience, so let’s take a look at your demo reel.

Casey Hupke: Ok.

[DEMO REEL]

Larry Jordan: I tell you, Casey, you haven’t met a particle system that you didn’t like. I haven’t seen that many particles in a long time.

Casey Hupke: Thanks. Yes, that was I think my biggest claim to fame, working with particles in Datavis or future user interface type design. It was something that there wasn’t a lot of Cinema 4D users using. There was a big hole in that community for a particle guy and I basically saw that as an opening for me to fill that hole and… this is a door that’s wide open… if I could just figure it out and it can’t be that complicated. So after a lot of time, research and development and reading the Cinema 4D manual, eventually I’ve got to a point where that’s now what I’ve been typecast as, which I’m totally fine with.

Larry Jordan: If you get results like that, that’s a great thing to be typecast as. Some of those effects are just amazing. Congratulations.

Casey Hupke: Oh, thanks.

Larry Jordan: I want to deal at high level first and then I want to talk about some of the more specific projects you’ve worked on, but a company comes to you – how do you decide how to solve their problem? Do you see the solution in your head and you go right to it or is it a process of exploration? What’s your creative process? How do you work through getting some of the effects we just looked at?

Casey Hupke: I try to look at the micro level of what’s going on and the design reference or the flame or even the verbal ask and I try to think, at the core of this what’s the movement? Is there something in the real world that I can relate this to? Usually it’s some kind of dust particle in the wind or fluid coming out of a faucet or something and I start actively creating those types of effects and mixing them and mashing them up.

Casey Hupke: A lot of it just comes down to trying to figure out what all the little things are that are making this motion or this reference feel right and it’s usually things that you’re not even aware of, like a little bit of depth in field wiggle or a little bit of motion blur error or just little things that break up the linearity of animations. Those are the things that I look for in a design, the things that are going to make your brain feel confused, like it’s looking at something real but it can’t quite understand it.

Larry Jordan: I don’t want to bring up past history here, but you’re using terms like depth of field and creative terms, but you didn’t start out as a designer. How did you get into this field?

Casey Hupke: I was working at a hair salon that my wife worked at, answering the phones, and I went on Craigslist – and this was in 2004 – and I was literally looking for a cool job and I found this posting for a motion graphics studio called Exopolis who were looking for a production coordinator. So I sent them a completely informal email, just word vomiting about what I do and what I like to do and in that list was this hacking zine that I had published with some friends and I’d built a lot of computers and a lot of technology and instead of hiring me as a production coordinator, they hired me as a part-time IT guy.

Casey Hupke: After about six months of that, they brought me on full time and then they saw me using Cinema 4D and After Effects and Photoshop and they were like, “What are you doing?” and I was like, “Well, I’ve been trying to learn these apps so I can figure out why they’re crashing when people are trying to get renders done, so I’ve just been learning them on the side,” and they were like, “Oh, cool,” and they kept watching and eventually I started answering people’s questions about core level technologies in Cinema and After Effects and then they were like, “Ok, now you’re going to start doing some of this work”, so they gave me a job as a junior animator/designer and kept me as the IT guy.

Casey Hupke: A little bit of time later, they said, “We’re hiring a new IT guy.” I initially thought I was being fired, but they said, “We want you to be a regular staff animator on the team.” I was like, “Wow, ok, this is amazing.” And then over the course of the next several years, I went from a little 19 year old kid in the company to a 24 year old lead animator and the last project I worked on there was this really big thing for Microsoft XBox 360. It was like a ray vision of their user interface and it was the anthem video. But, yes, my college was basically answering a Craigslist ad and then getting thrown into this world of motion design and I had no idea this was going to be where I am today.

Larry Jordan: Well, you’ve got to admit, going from a hair studio to working on a U2 tour is a heck of a change in life.

Casey Hupke: Yes, yes, especially as I didn’t go to art school, I went to junior college a little bit. Even high school I got out of when I was 16 through the California High School Proficiency exam. I’ve always been a self-motivated educator and it’s always been easy for me to pick something up or learn something, so I’ve really enjoyed doing that and lately I’ve been doing NAB and SIGGRAPH with Maxon and trying to pass off the stuff that I’ve learned along the way.

Larry Jordan: That is very cool. Let’s talk more specifically about this recent gig you did for U2. You’ve done a lot of music – Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. What is it about music videos that caught your interest and what are you doing for them?

Casey Hupke: The live concerts were another thing that a company hit me up about a few years ago, this company called Possible Productions, and we decided to do kind of like contractual dating. I came in as a creative director of the company and they wanted to make concert visuals and I was like, “This looks awesome. I’d love to sit for another huge arena and make content, figure out how we’re going to make this song and this theme feel appropriate.” Sometimes its 97 HD screens that are wrapped around a sphere. Sometimes it’s an inflatable that’s impossible to projection map.

Casey Hupke: But the main thing is that you’re not making something that’s just going to be seen on TV or in a movie theater. You’re adding in the vanilla or the sprinkles to someone’s dessert. They’re experiencing this entire thing you’re just a small part of it, but it’s really important to the overall piece. So I just love the fact that we were collaborating with all these different departments – the sound engineers, the grips, the band themselves, the wardrobe – to create this big show. It just felt like I was working in a creative world that I’d never experienced in commercial motion graphics or visual effects for movies.

Larry Jordan: Who do you report too? Who gives you the assignment and who signs off on the creative? How does that process work?

Casey Hupke: It really depends on who I’m working with. I’ve worked with a few different companies that do these large tours. Most recently I was working with Empirical Studio, which is a company in London and they do AC/DC and Ed Sheeran and U2, obviously, and so I’ll usually just be like an implant in their team, travel to whatever venue we’re at. For U2 specifically, we rehearsed in Pennsylvania for a month and then I took a week off and went to Vancouver for two months to get ready on set for the first of the shows on the tour. To answer your question, whoever’s employing me is going to be the boss, whether that’s a band manager or an art director.

Larry Jordan: It’s not the band itself, but it’s their producer or manager who’s the one that’s doing the hiring and making the creative decisions?

Casey Hupke: Well, the band definitely is going to have their say and it’s usually the final word, but with some bands the only thing I’ve got from them is, “Yeah, that’s cool,” and the manager will be like, “Ok, I know they said this is cool, but check this out. We have this idea, we want it to go up and down and then zig-zig-zig,” and then they want to see that in five, six hours. So we have small teams usually, three to six people, that have to turn out an hour of content, so everyone jams on a song, we make style frames out of clipped images sometimes and we just do it like we’re doing Pinterest boards or Cinema 4D explorations with R&D and say, “How does this look?” “I don’t know, let’s try it.” “How is it?” So it’ll be like a quick edit over or something and throw it up on the huge arena screen and practice…

Larry Jordan: How are you playing it back once it’s been rendered and finished?

Casey Hupke: That’s again situational to the concert. There are usually operators who handle the projections that run through a D3 service or a touch designer. It’s like software that’s basically a whole bunch of PCs that are piped in to whatever screens or run into the projectors. There’s usually some form of projection mapping that we see in real time after we render out of After Effects or Cinema and we usually are sitting with maybe 30 other people in an arena, alone, two o’clock in the morning, looking at the stuff that we just made. It’s a super surreal experience.

Larry Jordan: Casey, where can people go on the web to learn more about you and your work?

Casey Hupke: You can find me on Twitter, @darkcasey, or you can find me on my website – xcaseyx.com. I’m in a bit of a transition right now but it’ll be back.

Larry Jordan: That’s xcaseyx.com. You can see it on the screen. Casey Hupke is a visual effects designer. Casey, thanks for joining us today.

Casey Hupke: Thank you for having me.

Larry Jordan: It’s time for a Buzz Flashback. Five years ago today…

Unknown male (archive): When we started out in the library, there was a dearth of music that was actually active that drew attention. A lot of production music was background and it kind of meant that if you were scoring the World of the Squirrel, it would be fine for music, but if you were actually scoring a promo or a trailer or anything where you wanted to cut to video, you couldn’t find anything. So we created a library that actually did that.

Larry Jordan: This was a Buzz Flashback.

Larry Jordan: I was struck by the amount of diversity in today’s show. We were talking with Jonathan Handel about the guild situation and contract negotiations; and then we started to switch to feet and how we can keep track of our running and improve as runners by getting feedback from our feet in terms of the exercising we’re doing; and suddenly we’re doing tours for U2 and Lady Gaga with art design. I had not considered until I was talking with Casey about how we get these to play back, because they’re filling huge walls with multiple projectors and it was interesting that they could have as many as 30 PCs playing this stuff back all at one time.

Larry Jordan: I love the diversity and I love the range of subjects that media now covers today, from the very business-like contract negotiations to some very what used to be outlandish and now considered typical examples of media.

Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests today – Jonathan Handel of Counsel at TroyGould and the entertainment labor reporter for The Hollywood Reporter, Avery Lu of Palo Alto Scientific and Casey Hupke, freelance visual effects artist.

Larry Jordan: There’s a 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 online and all instantly available. Plus our website’s getting a facelift – check out our new look at digitalproductionbuzz.com.

Larry Jordan: Visit with us on Twitter, @DPBuZZ, and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Our theme music is composed by Nathan Doogie Turner, with additional music provided by Smartsound. Text transcripts are provided by Take 1 Transcription – visit take1.tv to learn how they can help you.

Larry Jordan: Our producer is Cirina Catania; our engineering team, Brianna Murphy, Ed Golya, Keegan Guy, Lindsay Luebbert, James Miller and Jen Smith. Thanks for watching The Buzz.

Announcer #1: The Digital Production Buzz was brought to you by Other World Computing, providing quality hardware solutions and extensive technical support to the worldwide computer industry since 1988; and by Xen Data, who provide highly competitive digital video archive solutions.

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BuZZ Flashback

August 26, 2010


Joseph Saba and Steward Winter, co-founders of Video Helper.com, talked about their production music company.