Digital Production Buzz
October 1, 2015
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
(Click here to listen to this show.)
Randi Altman, Industry Analyst and Editor, postPerspective
Jayse Hansen, Freelance Holograph, HUD and fictional UI Designer
Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor Reporter, TroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter
Jessica Sitomer, President, The Greenlight Coach
Larry Jordan: Tonight on The Buzz, Jayse Hansen designs computer interfaces for movies, for example the heads-up display in the Iron Man helmet or the control room monitors for ‘The Hunger Games.’ Tonight, Jayse shares his secrets to creating movie magic and we have illustrations of his work.
Larry Jordan: Next, Jonathan Handel, the entertainment labor report for The Hollywood Reporter has breaking news of an undisclosed provision in a recently ratified union agreement that looks likely to cost independent filmmakers money. This you need to pay attention to.
Larry Jordan: Next, are you doing something stupid when you’re looking for work? Jessica Sitomer, the President of The Greenlight Coach, has discovered that far too often people act like idiots in their cover letters and she has suggestions on how to improve how you present yourself to the world.
Larry Jordan: All this plus a Buzz Flashback, Tech Talk on color correction and Randi Altman’s perspective on the news. The 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. 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. It’s good to have you with us, Michael. It is wonderful to finally see you sitting across the table. Where have you been for what seems like a lifetime?
Mike Horton: It’s good to be back in this chair. You know, we should get comfortable chairs. These are not the most comfortable chairs.
Larry Jordan: You have not been on many sets, have you?
Mike Horton: By the way, has anything else changed while I was gone? No, it looks the same. I like your shirt.
Larry Jordan: Thank you.
Mike Horton: Good to be back. I could just some comfortable chairs.
Larry Jordan: Have you ever sat on a comfortable chair on a set in your life?
Mike Horton: Actually, no.
Larry Jordan: I didn’t think so.
Mike Horton: Just, like, those director chairs. Whoever did those things? They’re ridiculous.
Larry Jordan: They never give you comfortable chairs.
Mike Horton: Well, they fold up.
Larry Jordan: With comfortable chairs, you sit so far back all we do is look at your knees and I’ve seen your knees and they’re not that good, so better to have you in a non-comfy chair.
Mike Horton: Anyway, it is good to be back.
Larry Jordan: How was Amsterdam?
Mike Horton: It was great. It was a really good show. Walter Murch, of course, was there.
Larry Jordan: He always does a good presentation.
Mike Horton: Yes, he was wonderful. He went on for about an hour on things I still don’t understand to this day. We actually recorded his talk and it should be up on the web probably within the next couple of weeks and it’s well worth listening to and watching and if you can understand it, then you’re a better man than I. So thank you Walter.
Larry Jordan: Just to listen to him talk and his examples, he’s done so much incredible work, so I’m glad you got him.
Mike Horton: Well, everybody pays attention, that’s for sure, even if they don’t understand.
Larry Jordan: Even if they don’t understand.
Mike Horton: Exactly.
Larry Jordan: And did you enjoy the city at all?
Mike Horton: I did, I did. I stayed there an extra day just because I came home too soon in the last couple of years and I actually went to Belgium, to Antwerp, and that was fun. It was kind of a rainy day but I got to see beautiful Antwerp, Belgium and went into a couple of diamond stores and went into chocolate stores. The chocolate stores look exactly like the diamond stores, you know that?
Larry Jordan: And they cost the same.
Mike Horton: Yes. No, really, all that stuff is under glass.
Larry Jordan: Oh, and you watch them mix the chocolate. It’s just amazing to watch.
Mike Horton: Oh, it’s amazing. It was fun.
Larry Jordan: By the way, if you haven’t had a chance yet, remember to subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com for an inside look at both our show and the industry. It’s free and new every Friday. We have got an amazing discussion on holographic images coming up. Mike and I and Jayse Hansen, right after this.
Larry Jordan: This is Randi Altman’s Perspective.
Larry Jordan: Randi Altman is the publisher and the Editor in Chief of her own website, called postperspective.com. She’s been covering our industry 20 years and it’s always fun to get her perspective on the news. Hello, Randi, welcome back.
Randi Altman: Hi Larry, it’s good to be back.
Larry Jordan: First, tell me about this panel you were on last night, then we’ll talk about the news.
Randi Altman: It was a panel in New York City sponsored by the VES New York and also HBO and the main guest was Victoria Alonzo from Marvel Studios. She had been their VFX and post chief and she has been promoted within the last couple of weeks to head of physical production. She was kind enough to fly across the country and spend the night with us, talking about how to break into visual effects and the beauty of mentoring and encouraging people.
Larry Jordan: What was the key takeaway for people who want to get into visual effects?
Randi Altman: To just keep trying. She was encouraging people to come up to her after the panel and put themselves out there and really the key was to love what you do. Visual effects is a hard business. It’s long hours, there’s a lot of traveling involved, you might have to move. If you don’t love what you do, you’re not going to succeed, so that was the key takeaway – just love what you do and want to do it.
Larry Jordan: The next big piece is that we’ve had some new cameras and new gear announced today. Let’s talk about the new cameras first. What’s the breaking news there?
Randi Altman: Over the last week, RED came out with their new Raven, which is lightweight and under 10k, so that was a big deal. GoPro came out with a new camera as well, which is wifi and Bluetooth enabled and mountable. The Raven isn’t available yet, they’re taking pre-orders, but it just shows you how many different options there are for people out there.
Larry Jordan: And how about Dell?
Randi Altman: Both Dell and HP came out within the week. Dell today announced new precision mobile in-tower workstations and they’re kind of good looking, durable workstations. The mobile ones have been redone inside and out and I think that our industry, which likes cool looking and very fast, sleek computers, are going to like these. HP came out with new entry level systems, so instead of those who might be inclined to build their own, it’s a very good stepping stone and you don’t have to start from the very beginning, you could start with this and then add what you like for what your needs are.
Larry Jordan: What other highlights have been percolating across your desk?
Randi Altman: Oh, you’re not going to like it.
Larry Jordan: Oh, ok.
Randi Altman: Virtual reality. The train keeps running along.
Larry Jordan: Virtual reality refuses to die?
Randi Altman: It does, it does, even though it’s at its beginning stages but… just announced that they got a lot of investments from some big players and studios, so that is going to turn into some creative content for the virtual reality world. But also even at IBC there were some rigs people were putting together, GoPro rigs at the Al-Jazeera booth, there was an eight camera rig for virtual reality and it’s not going to go away. Not yet.
Larry Jordan: Randi, I think virtual reality has a lot of promise, but I’m always skeptical of all this new technology. Any other thoughts before we leave today?
Randi Altman: Actually, at this moment in time, we have an interview with Ridley Scott, the director of ‘The Martian,’ up on the website; and writer Ian Blair – I spoke to him recently about working digitally, his love of pre-vis and his dislike of long post production schedules. It’s an interesting read and I encourage everybody to check out that website and that story.
Larry Jordan: Randi’s website is postperspective.com. As always, Randi, a delight visiting and have yourself a great week.
Randi Altman: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: To read more from Randi Altman, visit postperspective.com.
Larry Jordan: This week on The Buzz – Jayse Hansen, Jonathan Handel, Jessica Sitomer, Tech Talk and Buzz Flashback.
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Larry Jordan: What do you do when you’re making films about worlds that don’t exist with characters that are using technology that doesn’t exist as well? Well, you hire our next guest and ask him to create believable user interfaces like these from ‘Ender’s Game.’
Larry Jordan: That art was designed by holographic artist Jayse Hansen. Jayse specializes in creating advanced 3D fictional user interface graphic designs and animations for on-set playback and post production visual effects. Hello, Jayse, welcome.
Jayse Hansen: Hey. How are you guys going?
Larry Jordan: Well, we’re stunned. After watching that ‘Ender’s Game’ thing, Mike and I have just decided to pack it in and go home. That was just brilliant.
Jayse Hansen: Oh, thanks. I can’t take credit for all of it. It was a great team. There was a dream team of people on that one.
Larry Jordan: Well, take credit for all of it at least for the next ten minutes. How would you define holographic or HUD or user interface art?
Jayse Hansen: I would say it’s pretty much time an actor or character in a film is interacting with a computer of some kind, either has it on his head as a heads-up display, like ‘Iron Man’, or a holograph, like in ‘Big Hero 6,’ and they’re interacting with it. All that stuff needs to be designed, created and animated and staked ahead of time.
Larry Jordan: I want to stay with ‘Ender’s Game’ for a minute. Here’s a screenshot of the cafeteria scene. Notice the big scoreboard that’s on the back wall. Now, let’s dissolve to the same scoreboard. This time we see it not on set but inside After Effects. Jayse, do any of these designs exist during production or is everybody just acting with a green wall?
Jayse Hansen: It differs with each film. Sometimes the director really likes to have everything on set so that the actors have something to react to, but sometimes – in cases like this – it’s just so big and they want it to be a volumetric holographic look and so we’ve got to do it in post. It’s designed sometimes ahead of time and Ash Thorp and some of the guys came in on that one ahead of the film; and then in post, we go in and design the final storytelling version of it.
Larry Jordan: I noticed that the scoreboard was inside After Effects. Is After Effects your main creation tool?
Jayse Hansen: Yes, I pretty much stick to just Illustrator, After Effects and Cinema 4D. That gets me pretty much everywhere from concept all the way to final – sometimes we’ll deliver the final plates, sometimes even in stereo, right out of After Effects.
Larry Jordan: We’ve already established that you worked on ‘Ender’s Game.’ What are some of the other recent films you’ve worked on? This then gives me a lead-in to what I want to talk about next.
Jayse Hansen: One of the ones that was most fun recently is ‘Big Hero 6.’ Also the ‘Iron Man’ stuff and ‘Avengers.’ I spend a lot of time in the Marvel universe doing HUDs and holographic displays and also designing things like the grass screens on the heli-carrier in ‘Avengers.’
Larry Jordan: In a minute I want to show some specific examples from ‘Iron Man,’ but before I do, when you get a new project such as ‘Iron Man’ or the ‘Avengers,’ what instructions are you given and how do you plan your work?
Jayse Hansen: Sometimes it’s fairly detailed, sometimes it’s really rough. On ‘Avengers,’ we got kind of like an Excel spreadsheet of every shot – there were quite a few – and in each one it had one or two story points they wanted to get across that the HUD should be doing, but it’s all text. Sometimes the editors will send us a pre-vis version, no real design to it, but what’s happening and the pace of it and we’ll take that and it’s almost like starting with a blank slate. We have Robert Downey Jr against a blue screen and then we filled that in with the design.
Larry Jordan: Let’s get back to some specifics because, frankly, I love looking at your images. Let’s look at the heads-up display for the Iron Man helmet. What were your goals in creating this display?
Jayse Hansen: This is the mark 7, it’s one of the crazy advanced suits where he adds weaponry for the first time, where he goes all out in fighting the aliens at the end of ‘Avengers.’ The reason this one is mostly red is Joss Whedon, the director of that, and Yannick… the VFX… wanted it to be, “This is weapons mode,” and it starts out all blue and calm and then it transitions to this crazy armored version.
Larry Jordan: Here’s another example of your design work for ‘Iron Man.’ It’s more of a two dimensional display. What is it for and how did you create it? It’s got all the text callouts going around it.
Jayse Hansen: I do all these at Cantina Creative. That’s a company that’s known for all this kind of work, especially in Marvel films. This is how I present the work. This is actually in the HUD for ‘Iron Man 3’ the mark 42 suit, and this became the basis for the next hero suit in ‘Avengers II,’ mark 43. This is just explaining all the functions of this particular widget and the directors love this because they’re trying to tell such a fantastic, crazy story so anything that grounds it into some real functionality they really love.
Jayse Hansen: We’ve found that we can’t just put random graphics up, even if it’s up for two seconds. You feel it. You may not be able to pinpoint what was wrong with it, but you feel that it’s all fake. So we put quite a good deal of thought into thinking these out and how they work.
Larry Jordan: Thinking about all fake, I want to transition from live action to animation, because ‘Big Hero 6’ was another film that you worked on. What are the difference between designing HUDs for movies with live actors – think ‘Iron Man’ – versus cartoons, where the interface itself is a cartoon?
Jayse Hansen: Yes, that was a super fan transition. They came to me and said they usually don’t hire out, but they had all my work up on their inspiration board at Disney Animation and they thought, “Let’s just see if he’s available,” so I was of course very available for this one and they said, “We’d like to give you ideas for what this is and then set the design language and tone,” and we did a variety of things. We did stuff really as advanced as an Iron Man UI, as we were trying to figure it out, and then we did a more caricaturized version where it was the same language that I had established but Disneyfied and softened and I always thought of it as my UI… but on a Playschool toy or something. It’s got the softer edges and it’s bigger and cuter.
Larry Jordan: Did you have to change your design tools because it’s softer and not as sharp and in focus? I was really struck by the fact that you have to design this incredible interface and then you’ve got to make it cartoony.
Jayse Hansen: Yes, we’re always degrading the images to make them look as though they were photographed, and all of this final work here was done by the Disney animators and Bruce Wright specifically did a lot of work on the holographic stuff. What I would provide is all these concepts, mock-ups straight out of the typical tools – Cinema 4D and After Effects – and then they used their big proprietary software that they use for all their animation stuff and repurposed it and took it and recreated it inside of that. It worked out really well, it’s nice. It was a great project to work on.
Larry Jordan: Let’s go back to ‘Iron Man’ and take a look at this holographic design. For example, we’ve got this full body shot from ‘Iron Man.’ What tools are you using to create these holographic images?
Jayse Hansen: That’s pretty much all Cinema 4D and then I composite it all together in After Effects. I’ll typically render out maybe seven or eight different passes and then combine those in After Effects for the final comp.
Larry Jordan: We’ve got a live chat going and Don is asking whether you do any effects for TV’s CSI series.
Jayse Hansen: I don’t. I’ve never done any TV series, but I’ve always been interested. I love watching those and they get kind of crazy, but it always looks like it’d be fun to work on.
Larry Jordan: I want to switch from the craft, and we are just stunned with these images, they are…
Mike Horton: Oh, let’s stay with the craft.
Larry Jordan: But I want to get to the tools that you’re using. You’ve talked about After Effects and Cinema 4D. Do you sketch out ideas first or do you start to build models? Talk to me about your workflow.
Jayse Hansen: Yes, I always start on paper and I draw badly but that’s the thing I allow myself to draw really badly and just get ideas out of my head, and then it becomes really apparent once I’ve done that what I need to research and so I’ll back that up with research on real world interfaces, research on fake interfaces. I like to know everything that’s ever been done out there and I’ll also look at hardware and re-imagine that – if that was a holograph what would it look like? – and so I go straight to Illustrator from paper, and then straight from Illustrator to After Effects to break it up, and then back and forth between Cinema 4D.
Mike Horton: Where do your inspirations come from? Some of the stuff looks like Hadron Collider schematics or something, that you got a bunch of blueprints from stealth fighters in a military place and you put all these ideas together and come up with these wonderful HUDs.
Jayse Hansen: Yes, you’ve pinpointed it exactly. My bookshelf is full of manuals for how to fly the Space Shuttle, schematics, diagrams, anatomy books and a lot of data visualization design is a lot of my inspiration.
Larry Jordan: I just realized, you’re based in Las Vegas and most of the productions you’re working with are in New York or LA. How do you move files back and forth and how do you get notes? Walk me through the interface with the rest of the post team.
Jayse Hansen: That’s a good question. For instance, on ‘Ender’s Game,’ which was done with G Creative in Canada, we had people stretched out. I actually live in San Diego, I was here in Vegas, Navarro Parker was in LA and Paul Bodrie, who did a lot of work on ‘Hunger Games’ as well, was in Canada and we finally figured out that for image sequences we could just use .jpegs at first and get the main bulk of the work done with that before needing to start transferring .exr files all around.
Jayse Hansen: We used a version of Boxcryptor, which lives in your Dropbox. It works like Dropbox but it encrypts it before it uploads with a 256 bit encryption so that everything was really locked down and protected but we could just work inside each other’s folders as though we were all in the same room, so we did really well that way.
Mike Horton: Can you stay in Las Vegas or did you have to go up to Canada every once in a while?
Jayse Hansen: I’ve actually never been to Canada. I’ve done maybe four or five films with G Creative and I’ve never been there. I’ve got to get there.
Mike Horton: Do you know how many people want to stay in America and not have to go to Canada? Can you tell them how you’re doing this?
Jayse Hansen: I think it’s just building up trust, that took a while, and working harder than anybody else. I think I work harder because I work from home – I’ve got to prove myself more, I guess – but sometimes I go to LA to Cantina and … with those guys because they’re so awesome.
Larry Jordan: Jayse, a quick question. Say for Iron Man, how long does it take to put one of these designs together?
Jayse Hansen: I’ve got a lot faster now. At first it took forever, but when people approach me I’ll usually have an initial design in a few days. For instance, on ‘Avengers,’ I did the initial UI design for the heli-carrier in three days and I was expecting a lot of changes, but it ended up being kind of the final signature look, and for many films to come after that as well. Then something else like sometimes the HUDs, on ‘Avengers’ I was at Cantina for six or seven months just doing all the shots and the animation and the compositing. We went all the way to final delivery for that one.
Larry Jordan: That’s just amazing. I couldn’t do it if you gave me an entire lifetime to put it together.
Mike Horton: That’s why he does what he does and you do what you do.
Larry Jordan: Jayse, this stuff is amazing. For people who want to learn more about your work, where can they go on the web?
Jayse Hansen: They can go to my website – jayse.tv.
Larry Jordan: And if you haven’t, do check out jayse.tv. The artwork that he creates for movies is stunning. Jayse, thanks so much for joining us and thanks especially for sharing these images with us. The crew and I had the most fun afternoon just looking at all of these. We’re very grateful. Take care.
Jayse Hansen: Ah, that’s awesome to hear. Thank you so much for having me.
Mike Horton: Thanks Jayse.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Jayse Hansen: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: This week on The Buzz – Jonathan Handel, Jessica Sitomer, 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 and has a website at jhandel.com. Hello, Jonathan, welcome back.
Jonathan Handel: Hey, Larry, how are you?
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, there are two things I want to talk with you about tonight and Mike is especially interested in the second one, which is the SAG-AFTRA convention that starts tonight. But first I want to talk to you about the breaking news that you ran in today’s Hollywood Reporter. What’s this secret deal you were talking about?
Jonathan Handel: Well, not so secret exactly, but the implications were less than obvious perhaps. IATSE did its new three year contract with the studios, they reached agreement and it became effective, I guess, August 1st. What’s in that agreement that’s interesting is a new residuals provision that increases residuals but only for independent producers, not for the studios. That’s intriguing because the people that negotiated that were the studios and IATSE. The independent producers weren’t represented at the table.
Larry Jordan: Is this residual increase like a tenth of a percent or is it enough that we should pay attention to it?
Jonathan Handel: It makes a difference. It’s more than a tenth of a percent. It’s a few percent, but what also is possible is that this will become a model for changes to the above the line union contracts when they start to renegotiate them at the end of next year, so that’s one of the things to keep an eye on. That would have a ripple effect and would increase the cost additionally.
Larry Jordan: I’m going to try to summarize this and then you can laugh at me for screwing this up, because the calculations are really complex. Basically, if you hire union help that work with IATSE, those union members are paid residuals based upon the revenue that you earn from the film.
Jonathan Handel: Well, actually the IATSE pension and health fund gets residuals but individual IATSE members don’t.
Larry Jordan: Ah, so it goes to pension and health and it’s calculated based upon different criteria. If it’s in theaters, they get one percent; if it’s on the internet, they get another percent; if it’s on television, they get a different percent. Is that so far true?
Jonathan Handel: Close. In theatres, normally it’s zero percent. For a theatrical movie, when it plays in theatres, there are no residuals on the box office or film rentals. But for the other media, that’s right – home video versus internet versus television, there are various percentages.
Larry Jordan: So because theatrical used to be zero percent, now calculated residuals are being calculated at four and a half percent based upon theatrical revenue, which suddenly changes the whole equation. Again, do I have that right?
Jonathan Handel: That’s right, and the way this works is that it only applies in situations where a producer sells the movie into a territory for what’s called a minimum guarantee, or MG, that covers multiple media. That’s the way independent producers sell their movies. In other words, they’ll get a license fee out of Spain, let’s say, or Germany, from a buyer there that covers multiple or all rights in that territory; whereas the studios, in the major territories they self distribute, so they deal with a network, they do a deal with exhibitors and the language is crafted in a way that it only applies to the business practices of independent producers.
Larry Jordan: Now, the language is tricky enough and I don’t have enough time, nor a chalkboard, to explain how it all works. But for an independent producer who’s selling their movie and working with union talent, they need to read this article. Where can they get the information so that they can get the details on how to calculate the new and already in effect residuals?
Jonathan Handel: Probably the easiest way is to go to thrlabor.com and they will find this article at the top of the list today.
Larry Jordan: Ok, so that deals with working with IATSE union people on your crew, but there’s another union that’s having a big soiree in town and that’s SAG-AFTRA and this is where Mike gets to pay attention. What’s happening with SAG tonight?
Jonathan Handel: SAG-AFTRA is having its biannual convention and it starts tonight with a board meeting and a reception and so on and so forth, then the real business starts tomorrow and goes for three days. What they’re up to is electing certain officers. Now, they’ve just had an election, as I think we’ve probably talked about on the show, for president and secretary treasurer and various other positions, but certain positions, rather than being voted on by the members directly, are voted on by this convention process. They also have resolutions and seminars and all sorts of hoo-ha that you’d see at a… convention.
Larry Jordan: Is there a big issue? Is there an elephant in the room that people are trying to avoid talking about?
Jonathan Handel: I think the biggest thing is that really the second most powerful position in the union, which is executive vice president, is going to get elected in this process. Other than that, it’s a bit anti-climactic. This convention process is something that AFTRA had but SAG did not and as a condition of agreeing the merger, the AFTRA folks insisted that SAG-AFTRA adopt this convention process.
Jonathan Handel: It’s not the most significant thing and it’s somewhat expensive to run the convention, but what is significant, by the way, about SAG-AFTRA really is what’s going on in the next 12 months, which is that they’ve got three contracts that they’re dealing with. One is the interactive or video game contract, where there’s a potential for a strike. They’ve been trying to negotiate that and we have to wait and see what’s going to happen there. The second one, the really big one, is the commercials contract which comes up for renegotiation in early to middle of next year.
Jonathan Handel: Then finally, the TV theatrical. It feels like we just had a negotiation of that, but those only last three years. So starting at the end of next year, we’ll have the DGA, the Writers’ Guild and SAG-AFTRA all negotiating their TV theatrical contracts.
Mike Horton: I’ve been reading a little bit about the SAG convention. Obviously, I’m a member of SAG and have been for 112 years or something. One thing I’d like to impart to all the people who are listening out there who are new to SAG and AFTRA is to get your butt over to the convention, because it’s an interesting couple of days and you can learn a lot.
Jonathan Handel: Well, it’s actually not open to members. It’s only open to elected delegates.
Mike Horton: Oh. Maybe I’m thinking of something else then, I don’t know.
Jonathan Handel: It is curious that way and none of it’s open to the press, even the keynotes, so it’s a bit of a curious process.
Mike Horton: Ok, never mind.
Larry Jordan: But I think it does indicate that you really do need to get involved with your guild if you’re going to be a member, even if you’re not tuned into when their conventions are. That’s still good advice.
Mike Horton: I’m still a member but I haven’t been involved for 15 years now, but I still follow it. Obviously I’m not following this very well.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, where can people go on the web to keep track of what you’re writing and trying to keep up with, with everything that you’re doing?
Jonathan Handel: Jhandel.com and also thrlabor.com are the places to go.
Mike Horton: This new IATSE thing is really… I just read the article and it’s kind of scary for a lot of independent producers and directors.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, we’ll keep our eye on it and thank you so very much for joining us. We’ll talk to you soon. Take care.
Jonathan Handel: Thanks. Take care. Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Bye.
Larry Jordan: This week on The Buzz – Jessica Sitomer, Tech Talk and Buzz Flashback.
Larry Jordan: My focus for this class is not to teach you how to design with Photoshop – design is beyond my skills – but I can show you how we can take existing images and edit them. Taking digital photography and still images and manipulating them in Photoshop is what today’s session is all about.
Voiceover: Welcome to Tech Talk, sponsored by Keycode Media.
Larry Jordan: There are three key rules of color correction. Rule number one, light levels must never exceed 100 percent and black levels must not go below zero percent and we monitor these levels on the wave form and we clamp them as necessary with the broadcast safe filter – I’ll illustrate all of that today.
Larry Jordan: The second rule is to remove a color you add the opposite color. If you have too much blue, the opposite of blue is yellow. Now, the way that Final Cut X work is, rather than working on a wheel as every other video editor does, Final Cut X uses the color board. To add a color, you move a puck above the line. To remove a color, you drag a puck down a line. Again, I’ll show you how that works in today’s session.
Larry Jordan: Rule number three is that equal amounts of red, green and blue equal gray. Combining colors in video is additive, which means that they add together and when you add them all together they create white. Printing is a subtractive color process – when you add red, green and blue together in printing it equals black.
Larry Jordan: So here’s the secret. Although everybody nods their head and says, “Equal amounts of red, green and blue equal gray,” nod their head, yes, that makes perfect sense, that’s not really actionable. But when we turn this around, it becomes one of the most powerful rules in color correction inside any video editor, and that is if something is supposed to be gray it must contain equal amounts of red, green and blue.
Larry Jordan: Now, what scope do we have that allows us to see the amount of red, green and blue in an image? Right, the RGB parade and, in its own way, the vectorscope. If there’s a blue cast, we can use the vectorscope or the RGB parade to help us exactly precisely determine how to get rid of that blue cast, or orange cast. Any other aberration of color we can use the RGB parade and the vectorscope to fix.
Larry Jordan: If something is supposed to be gray, it must contain equal amounts of red, green and blue. If you look at a professionally designed set, on that set somewhere you’ll find something which is a neutral gray – a TV black and a TV white. It may be a coffee mug, it may be the frame of a picture, but a good art director will always put something on the set that’s neutral gray which enables the colorist or the editor to center on that gray and dial out any color aberrations that may be in the shot, with it still providing something which looks natural within the environment of the set.
Larry Jordan: It’s a very secret, sneaky, very powerful technique and we’ll be using that today as well. Here, oh dear, we’ve got plenty of skin but all of it is green. Hmm. Let’s first think about the idea that if something is supposed to be gray, equal amounts of red, green and blue. Well, do we see anything gray in the shot? And the answer is absolutely yes, her white TV shirt – remember white is gray – her black vest – remember black is gray – because white, black and gray are equal amounts of red, green and blue. So I’m going to select this clip and go to the crop menu and crop in so I see just her T-shirt.
Larry Jordan: Let’s go to 50 percent so I can see a little bit more here and we’ll just pull that over to here. There we go. This is supposed to be white and even to our eye here we can clearly see that it may be any color you want but white is not one of them. Command 7, let’s reveal the scope and we’ve got this strong green cast. Well, first thing that I want to do, then, is to grab the global puck and drag it until I remove the green cast.
Larry Jordan: Now, the way that color works inside the color board is you add color by going above the line and you remove color by going below the line. I will confess that I am not a fan of a rectangular color board at all. I find it very, very awkward to use, but once you understand the process, adding color above the line, removing color below the line, I grab the puck and I don’t look at the color board at all. I’m watching simply as I drag wildly around what’s happening inside the vectorscope and I finally get the vectorscope parked where I want it.
Larry Jordan: If I try to watch what I’m doing in the color board, chaos ensues, it just doesn’t work for me. But now notice that that T-shirt is now white. Let’s go back to the inspector, turn off the crop and look at that. This is where we started, this is where we ended up. Totally improved.
Larry Jordan: Jessica Sitomer is a job coach who helps people find work. She’s also the President of The Greenlight Coach but, best of all, she’s a regular on The Buzz because Jessica is really good at providing really helpful career advice. Hello, Jessica, welcome back.
Jessica Sitomer: Hello there, good to be back.
Mike Horton: It is, it’s been a long time hasn’t it?
Larry Jordan: Well, she’s been gone longer than you have, Mike, and you’ve been gone, like, forever.
Mike Horton: That’s true.
Larry Jordan: Unbelievable.
Mike Horton: Good to have you back, Jessica.
Larry Jordan: Which part of the world are you in today?
Jessica Sitomer: Thank you. Today I was in Miami. Two weeks ago I was in Austin, Texas, so I’ve been having fun.
Mike Horton: Isn’t there a hurricane coming down on Miami soon?
Larry Jordan: Not on Miami, but on the mid-Atlantic.
Mike Horton: Oh, over there, ok.
Jessica Sitomer: Yes.
Mike Horton: Well, stay safe.
Jessica Sitomer: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: Jessica, you spend much of your life counseling creative folks on how to get work, keep work and how to be better at work, but before work starts we need to get an interview, so what are you coaching people on currently?
Jessica Sitomer: Well, the big focus lately has been on cover letters because I placed an online ad looking for crew and I left the ad up for 36 hours, received 140 responses and they were terrible. They were making the same mistakes over and over again. I’m lucky I didn’t get any from people I coached because not one was great and very few were even good. Most were just two or three lines and it makes me wonder if people want jobs or if they just want to feel like they’re busy looking for work. I think that’s how other people feel too who get those types of cover letters.
Mike Horton: The cover letter in this particular case, is that just an email, “Hey, I’m available, call me”?
Jessica Sitomer: No, this is for people who are applying for a job online. They’re seeing jobs online or it could be a cover letter for a resume that they’re sending to someone they’ve been referred to because a production is coming to Atlanta and they want to get in touch with somebody. They don’t understand that a cover letter is a reflection of you and who you’re going to be on set or in post or in pre-production.
Larry Jordan: Let me pin you down on this. What makes a good cover letter, then?
Jessica Sitomer: Something I’d like to point out first, since it’s really what people get aware of, is what they’re doing wrong in the cover letter. I have five things that are the biggest mistakes I’ve seen. One of them is never, never, never put anything about being eager to learn in a cover letter – I’m always motivated to learn more, I’m still looking for a great script as a feature debut. People don’t want you learning on their dime, so it’s not a plus and I’ve seen a lot of that.
Larry Jordan: Jessica, I need to emphasize that. We were interviewing for somebody to join our team here and one of the people we talked to just said how excited she was to work with us because she could learn so much and this would be so beneficial to her, and I realized about halfway through that conversation that I wasn’t interested in teaching her and she managed to totally talk herself out of the interview because she thought she was being kind and flattering to say, “I could learn so much from you,” and I need to get work done. So I agree totally with that point of view.
Mike Horton: Never thought of that.
Larry Jordan: Ok, that’s number one. What’s another one?
Jessica Sitomer: I can’t even believe I have to spend time on this but, believe it or not, no profanities in your cover letter. There’s one guy and he’s like, “I’m so and so from New York, I’m a filmmaker who lives, breathes, eats and beeps cinema,” and you can imagine what the beep was. It’s just so unprofessional and he wasn’t the only one who used profanities and people say, “Oh, well, you say be yourself, to be your personality, this is who I would be.”
Jessica Sitomer: Well, if you’re meeting people, then you might want to wonder who you’re being, then, because like attracts like and most people out there who are spending millions of dollars on production are professional. They might curse once in a while or maybe a lot, but they’re the head and you’re not yet. So not in a cover letter.
Larry Jordan: Ok, stop swearing. What’s number three?
Jessica Sitomer: Number three is, oh my gosh, please, I’m desperately pleading with you, don’t put desperate pleas in your cover letters. Things like, all capital letters, “PLEASE, JUST CALL TO SET UP A MEETING,” or “PLEASE, JUST SEND YOUR MAILING ADDRESS SO I CAN SEND YOU SOME ADDITIONAL INFORMATION,” or “PLEASE JUST GIVE ME A CHANCE,” or “PLEASE JUST GIVE ME A BREAK.” Oh my gosh, please stop being so desperate.
Larry Jordan: Well, wait a minute. Now, I disagree with that. Shouldn’t you be polite in your letter and shouldn’t you be respectful and isn’t it appropriate to say please and thank you?
Jessica Sitomer: There’s a difference between saying please and thank you and putting pleas in all capital letters, and literally this sentence is all in capital letters, “PLEASE JUST CALL TO SET UP A MEETING AND PLEASE JUST SEND A FAX NUMBER AND/OR MAIL ADDRESS SO I CAN SEND YOU SOME ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND PLEASE JUST GIVE ME A CHANCE AND PLEASE JUST GIVE ME A BREAK.” That was one sentence, all in caps, in addition to a very long cover letter.
Larry Jordan: That strikes me as excessive.
Mike Horton: It’s desperate.
Jessica Sitomer: Yes, they’re desperate pleas. I’m not saying no please, P-L-E-A-S-E. I’m saying no pleas, P-L-E-A-S. No desperate pleas.
Larry Jordan: Oh, all right, so you dropped the last E. Stop pleading, in other words. Well, if we could hear how you spelled it, Jessica, it would make our life a lot easier.
Mike Horton: P-L-E-E-S-E.
Jessica Sitomer: Well, sorry.
Mike Horton: Pleeeeease.
Jessica Sitomer: No desperate pleas for work and attention.
Larry Jordan: All right, so let’s see if I’ve got this correct. No pleading, no profanity and I can’t even remember the first point. Jessica, quick, what was the summary?
Jessica Sitomer: It’s the one you agreed with, it’s never say you’re eager to learn.
Larry Jordan: Oh yes, absolutely. So now we’re up to four and I’ve already forgotten the first one.
Mike Horton: I bet you had that in about 70 percent of the cover letters, “I’m eager to learn,” because that’s flattering.
Jessica Sitomer: Not that many, but enough to bother me. A lot of people were very experienced, but those experienced ones made the fourth mistake and that’s having a cover letter filled with spelling and grammar mistakes. I love especially the one from the 1st AD that I got. It was all about the importance of detail and was nine lines containing five spelling errors. That’s not the way to get an interview about the importance of detail.
Jessica Sitomer: You have to understand, everything is read into either on a conscious level or unconscious. You’re telling me you have an eye for detail and there are five spelling errors in nine lines. That does not say you have an eye for detail and you’ve just lost a job.
Larry Jordan: Yes, I agree with that. When I teach my college kids, I remind them to please check their spelling before they turn in their assignments, and these are not slow kids, and it’s amazing how many spelling errors I have to deal with. If they’re not going to have the courtesy to check their work, why do I have to have the courtesy to even talk to them?
Jessica Sitomer: Right.
Mike Horton: Can you forgive a bad cover letter if their resume is outstanding?
Jessica Sitomer: Maybe. But how outstanding does it have to be, you know what I mean? Most of the people who are applying online are not so outstanding or they wouldn’t really need to be sending a cover letter out for work. When I think outstanding, I’m thinking the top five or ten percent of the industry. Everybody else is on an equal playing field.
Jessica Sitomer: There are a ton of talented people out there with long resumes and I’d be one saying, “Why are they not working?” and if I get a really bad cover letter, I’m like… personality or maybe they just don’t care any more. It would make me question the validity of a great resume if their cover letter was terrible.
Larry Jordan: If I’ve got 50 people applying for a job, I want to use the cover letter and the resume to say no so I can get my initial cut down to five or six people to interview.
Mike Horton: But why go through this process at all? Why not just go through word of mouth, say to somebody you respect, “Hey, do you know a person who could do this job?”?
Larry Jordan: The answer is most of the time we do, but when we can’t find somebody through word of mouth then we have to go to cover letters.
Mike Horton: Ok.
Jessica Sitomer: Yes.
Larry Jordan: We’re at four points, Jessica, and before we run completely out of time, what’s the fifth?
Jessica Sitomer: Don’t put your negative baggage in a cover letter. I had a guy say, “I’m not opposed to volunteering my time or my gear for the right project, but I’ve found that if a production can’t afford to pay for its crew, equipment, location etcetera, it usually can’t afford to fund the project so I definitely lean towards paid projects,” and the one that I put in was not paid because I intentionally wanted to weed out the people who wanted paid work.
Jessica Sitomer: But the way this guy was, I was like, “Excuse me?” because I’ve done some very quality work for low paid projects and there’s so much more to it – letting your bitterness and frustration toward other people, other circumstances, complaints about tax projects were in some of these cover letters. There are a lot of things that people fill out in cover letters that are showing their baggage, showing that bitterness and resentment and you’ve got to get that out of there. It doesn’t belong in a cover letter.
Larry Jordan: Jessica, we’ve got live chats going and one of the questions refers back to the conversation we just had a minute ago. They’re wondering whether you’re saying that if you have to look for a job, you’re not good enough to have a job?
Jessica Sitomer: Oh gosh, no. No, no, no. What I’m saying is when you’re asking me if a resume would be so good that I overlook a cover letter, I’m saying the opposite – who in the world would I think was too good to have a bad cover letter, and no-one. There’s that top five or ten percent who don’t need to look for work, people are going to them, but everybody else is on an equal playing ground. Everybody else is looking for work, everyone’s got resumes and cover letters. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had ten shows, ten days of work or ten years of work, you’re all on equal playing ground.
Larry Jordan: Let’s take and flip this. You’ve already told us the five things that we don’t want to do. What should we do to make a cover letter stand out?
Jessica Sitomer: I have a wonderful program that goes into that, but I would say the number one thing you want to do is read the ad very clearly and address what’s in that. If they’re asking you for specific things and in specific ways, such as attach your resume as a .pdf, then attach your resume as a .pdf. I asked for a cover letter along with the resume and a bunch of people didn’t attach a cover letter. They were instantly out.
Jessica Sitomer: If you can’t follow the directions that are given to you in the ad, then you’re out. Like you said before, it makes it easier to weed people out and my goal of how to write a great cover letter, that program, is to help make it really hard on all the producers and people out there who are hiring. I want them to have to say, “Oh, I want to meet this person. Oh, I want to see this person.”
Mike Horton: Yes, that drives me nuts.
Jessica Sitomer: Everyone’s…in the door.
Mike Horton: People don’t follow instructions. Drives me nuts.
Larry Jordan: Another thing that drives people’s nuts is Jessica’s newest book. Jessica, tell me about the name of your book and why you decided to write it. Michael, see if you think of somebody this applies to.
Jessica Sitomer: ‘From Burnout to Blitz,’ and it’s 12 productivity keys to transform stress to success. I write it because I lived through it and I took four years to get out of it and I want to help people get out of it in 12 weeks.
Mike Horton: Well, then I’ve got to get that book because I’m going through burnout. I am, seriously. Larry and I have had this discussion before, lots of times over the last five years. Once a week.
Larry Jordan: Most people think of this as a show, but it’s actually a therapy session, as Mike and I talk before hand.
Mike Horton: I just show up to talk to Larry.
Jessica Sitomer: Well, I’m surprised I’m not… then.
Larry Jordan: Jessica, for people who want more information, you’ve got a ton of resources on your website. What’s the URL and what can people look to see when they come visit?
Jessica Sitomer: You can go to jessicasitomer.com and if you click on The Greenlight Coach, you’ll find everything you want on entertainment; and if you click on Burnout to Blitz, you’ll figure out how to go from stress to success.
Larry Jordan: And what’s your upcoming seminar? What’s the name of the next one you’re doing?
Jessica Sitomer: The next live one that I’m doing?
Larry Jordan: Do you have a seminar title that we should look forward to seeing more about?
Jessica Sitomer: I’ll be doing a webinar on ‘From Burnout to Blitz.’
Mike Horton: Great.
Larry Jordan: Sounds perfect. Jessica Sitomer is the President of The Greenlight Coach…
Mike Horton: I look forward to that one.
Larry Jordan: …spends way too much time working too hard. Jessica, thanks for joining us today.
Jessica Sitomer: Thank you for having me.
Mike Horton: Thanks.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: It’s time for a Buzz Flashback. Five years ago today…
Bruce Dorn (archive): The SLRs use a great big giant sensor and the larger the sensor, the smaller the depth of field at any given F-stop. The SLRs are capable of delivering imagery that looks like it came out of an Aeroflex or a Panavision rather than a camcorder. In a very cost effective body, we’re able to get an incredibly beautiful look.
Larry Jordan: This was a Buzz Flashback.
Larry Jordan: You know, Michael, I was just reflecting back on our conversation with Jayse Hansen and those spectacular user interfaces and how they so contribute to the reality of the movie because you feel that it actually exists.
Mike Horton: Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to do that sort of thing?
Larry Jordan: Oh yes.
Mike Horton: Especially from your home and not having to go to Vancouver or Toronto like everybody else has to do. At the beginning, Randi was talking about you have to love what you do and you have to want to travel if you’re a VFX artist. They don’t want to travel, they want to do it in the city that they live in and Jayse has proven that you can do that with that talent, so hopefully more can and don’t have to go to Vancouver and Toronto and Singapore and London. They can stay here.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests for today, starting with Jayse Hansen, creating advanced 3D fictional user interface graphic designs; Jonathan Handel, the entertainment labor reporter for The Hollywood Reporter; and Jessica Sitomer, the President of The Greenlight Coach and a wonderful job coach in her own right.
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 thousands of interviews all online and all available to you today.
Larry Jordan: Talk 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.com. 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 is led by Megan Paulos and includes Ed Golya, Hannah Dean, Keegan Guy, James Miller himself and Brianna Murphy. Oh behalf of Mike Horton, the handsome voice at the other side of the table, my name is Larry Jordan and thanks for joining us for The Digital Production Buzz.
Mike Horton: Bye everybody.
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