Digital Production Buzz
November 20, 2015
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
(Click here to listen to this show.)
Randi Altman’s Perspective
Tech Talk with Michael Kammes
BuZZ Flashback: J. J. Smith
John Putch, Director / Writer / Producer
James Mathers, President, CoFounder, Digital Cinema Society
Nick Mattingly, CEO, Co-Founder, Switcher Studio
Larry Jordan: Tonight on The Buzz, John Putch has directed television series like Ugly Betty, Cougar Town and Nip/Tuck, as well as feature films like Route 33. Tonight, he shares his secrets on directing and the differences between directing for film and TV.
Larry Jordan: Next, Nick Mattingly’s Switcher Studio is an IOS app that enables anyone with an IOS device and an internet connection to capture and deliver multicam events to online audiences. Now with the new Director Mode, it can record broadcast quality HD media that meets professional broadcast standards. Tonight Nick explains how it all works.
Larry Jordan: Next, James Mathers is the President of the Digital Cinema Society and a veteran cinematographer. Tonight we talk about creating the best editing workflow for 4K media and whether 8K is even worth considering.
Larry Jordan: All this plus a Tech Talk with Michael Kammes, a Buzz Flashback 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 Blackmagic Design at blackmagicdesign.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. Mike Horton has the night off
Larry Jordan: Two announcements recently caught my eye that I want to share with you. First, CalDigit announced a new set of docks featuring USB C connectors. Now, we’re much more familiar with the ubiquitous USB A. There are several benefits to USB C, the most obviously being that the connectors are reversible which means there’s no right side up or upside down. A bigger benefit is that USB C is much smaller, making USB easier to add to mobile devices.
Larry Jordan: Also, this new connector can be used for monitors as well as hard drives because it supports HDMI and display port streams as well as data. Finally, these new connectors carry far more power. Currently, USB connectors allow 2.5 watts. The new connector allows up to 100 watts and its bidirectional, so a connector device can either send or receive power.
Larry Jordan: A second interesting announcement was Atomos releasing their new Shogun Studio, which is specifically designed for high end 4K workflows. This got me thinking about how quickly 4K has grown in importance. In fact, last week I did a webinar on 4K media using iPhones and Final Cut and next week I’ll do a second 4K webinar featuring Adobe Premiere. In just a few minutes, we’ll hear James Mathers, cinematographer and President of the Digital Cinema Society, share his thoughts on both 4K and 8K workflows.
Larry Jordan: I also want to remind you to subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Every issue every week gives you an inside look at both The Buzz and the industry, plus quick links to all the different segments on the show. We have interesting articles from websites all over the world and, best of all, every issue is free. I’ll be back with director John Putch right after Randi Altman’s Perspective on the News.
Larry Jordan: This is Randi Altman’s Perspective.
Larry Jordan: For more than 20 years, Randi Altman has been covering our industry and now she’s the editor in chief of her own website, called postperspective.com. It’s always wonderful each week to get Randi’s perspective on the news. Hello, Randi, welcome.
Randi Altman: Hi Larry, how are you?
Larry Jordan: I’m talking to you, it’s a week before Thanksgiving, how can I not feel great? Randi, I want to do something different this week. We’ve talked a lot about what the breaking news is, but I want you to take a step back. You’ve interviewed hundreds of editors over the years. What traits make for a successful editor?
Randi Altman: A variety of them. I would say what’s most important is just being able to get along with people in a very confined space. That’s important. Also not being afraid to express your opinion, not in an aggressive way, but just feel confident enough to speak up and say, “Hey, what about trying it this way?” or “What about doing it that way?” I think that the client respects that, that’s part of the job, but some editors are more concerned that they might offend so they’ll keep quiet.
Randi Altman: But from the editors that I’ve spoken to, the ones who have been successful and the ones who keep in touch with past clients and employers the most are the ones who are able to express an opinion, and that’s been very important. I also think being part therapist is also important. You never want to tell the client that, but I think with any aspect of this industry, part therapist is an important talent to have.
Larry Jordan: I was just thinking, you’ve listed three things: people skills – the ability to work with people in small groups and enclosed dark rooms for weeks at a time; keeping in touch and being a good listener and expressing your opinion. You haven’t mentioned technology once. It sounds to me like the technology part is not the biggest part of being a successful editor.
Randi Altman: It’s important, but let’s not forget there are a lot of people out there who can now afford the editing tools that are being used in editing suites, so people have the skills – and that’s important – but if you have the skill and not the personality or the ability to be flexible and work in those dark rooms, then I think you’re going to find less success. I think it’s a combination of both.
Randi Altman: In terms of technology, more and more of these editors are being asked to do more and more, so they need to know After Effects, they need to start learning Resolve and they need to expand their toolbox creatively but also personality wise. I think if you’re a shy person – and I’ve met many editors who are – you have to go out of your comfort zone and participate.
Larry Jordan: So what advice would you give to an editor who’s starting out? What should they practice on? Should they develop their tech skills? And if they need to develop people skills, how do they do that?
Randi Altman: I think it’s just putting yourself in that position. I’m thinking of one specific editor who is a quiet person, who does not like to speak up and I remember him having some trouble at the very beginning because he was overwhelmed, didn’t know how to handle a loud and bossy client standing behind his shoulder so he clammed up and he did not offer his opinion and I think that hurt him. Just from doing it over and over again, he learned that he needed to change in order to get jobs and work and he’s pretty successful right now.
Larry Jordan: It’s interesting. I’ve heard it said that an editor’s job is 50 percent people skills, 25 percent technical skills and 25 percent creative skills. Would you agree with that mix?
Randi Altman: I would, I would.
Larry Jordan: What I want to do now is, this is like the first part of a two part conversation because I want to bring you back next week and do the same kind of analysis of what it takes to be a successful director, which is another group of people that you spend a lot of time interviewing.
Larry Jordan: Randi Altman is the editor in chief of postperspective.com. Randi, as always, a delight chatting with you. You take care.
Randi Altman: Thanks Larry.
Larry Jordan: To read more from Randi Altman, visit postperspective.com.
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Larry Jordan: John Putch is often referred to as an independent film maverick because one of his first indie efforts, Valerie Flake, landed him at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival. His other notable films include the indie cult favorites Bachelor Man, Mojave Phone Booth – which you have to see – and the Route 30 trilogy films. His television directing just impresses the heck out of me. He’s directed Family Tools, The Goodwin Games, The Middle, Body of Pool, Scrubs, Cougar Town, My Name is Earl, Ugly Betty, Grounded for Life, Outsourced. He has his own apartment at both CBS and NBC. He’s directed multiple television movies and miniseries. John, welcome back. Where do you find time to sleep?
John Putch: That is the greatest intro ever! I sleep just fine. Boy, that sounds important, thank you.
Larry Jordan: You’re more than welcome. Today, I want to talk about directing, but before we talk about the new stuff I need to find out what’s happening with Route 32, the trilogy?
John Putch: The trilogy is complete. I finished Route 33 a year ago and the whole trilogy is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD in a box set, which is available at route30trilogy.com. One of the last screenings that you’ll see of Route 33 locally in LA is tomorrow at the Directors’ Guild of America in West Hollywood at 3pm in Theater 2. We’re going to show it on a DCP which I made here in my home using Adobe Premiere and a media encoder.
Larry Jordan: You are an amazing technologist, that’s all there is to it.
John Putch: I am a geek, Larry.
Larry Jordan: When you’re getting ready to do anything and you’re in the prep stages and you’re wearing your director hat, what are you thinking? What are you prepping to get ready to direct a project, whether it’s a film or a television series?
John Putch: It’s wildly different between film and TV. The TV schedule is they have just endless, endless meetings. The first day you get there, there’s a meeting about the concept of the whole script and you must page turn the script at least ten times before you shoot and all you do is talk about the color of this and the angle of that and the stunts in this.
John Putch: They have a regimented set of meetings that go along and location scouts leading up to your shoot. On a movie, it’s quite different. You’re meeting with all the creative departments and your vision is really what they’re going off of, whereas in television you’re really just the hired gun and the vision is set and you’re just coming in and orchestrating it for them, puppeteering the script ’til it’s finished shooting.
Larry Jordan: Would it be correct to say that with television you’re really just blocking talent and cameras, and with film you’re crafting more of the whole story?
John Putch: Yes, with an asterisk on the blocking talent and stuff, because you do participate a bit more than that if you want to. But, yes, I would have to say I feel a little more creatively involved in a film scenario than a TV scenario, but that is not to say that the TV is not fun and they welcome your creativity as well. You’re really just putting your touch on it, or not. You’re literally just falling in line with everyone else and delivering the episode the way it’s supposed to be.
Larry Jordan: When you’re directing and you’re going on a location scout, what are you looking for?
John Putch: It all starts with what the script is asking for. You’re looking for things that look really cool in a frame. For instance, I was doing a show called Rush Hour last week, which is a new show on CBS, and there was this scene written to take place on Sepulveda Dam over here in Sino and that great spillway that’s used in movies occasionally. We actually got the location but we went there and said, “Ok, here’s how we’re going to shoot it and here are the angles we want,” and everything and that was a case of a great location that was written in.
John Putch: But if it isn’t written in and it says ‘A building in Koreatown,’ with the location scout you go down to Koreatown and you look around for a building and you hope it’s pretty cool looking. I think LA is hard for locations for me because I’m so used to going to Pennsylvania, where everything is gorgeous and everywhere you look there’s a beautiful picture.
John Putch: Here, it’s different. It’s urban and it’s flat and there’s not good architecture here, so when you do a movie or a show in LA you’re limited to how the city looks and sometimes it just doesn’t look that exciting. That’s why you see pictures of the skyline of LA in between every shot on a TV show. There’s always some helicopter drone shot of these incredible office buildings and skyscrapers because, really, if you look to the Valley, there’s nothing. Or it’s the beach. Go elsewhere to shoot, that’s my advice. Don’t tell Phil Mealey said that. Sorry Phil Mealey.
Larry Jordan: Let’s talk working with actors for just a second. Again, there’s a difference if you’re working with an established series or if you’re creating a pilot or if you’re doing a film, because with a pilot and a film you’ve got more creative flexibility as you’re trying to figure out what the characters are. But how do you work with actors and what kinds of instructions are you looking to give them, again wearing your director’s hat?
John Putch: If you cast your film right with the correct people – and you have to have an eye for talent for that – then pretty much 90 percent of your job is done and then you become the audience member for them and guide that actor through his or her performance and help them look and sound good and come off as correctly.
John Putch: If you don’t cast it right or you have no control over the casting and it’s not the right fit, the actor, then your work as a director is much more difficult and you have to spend a little more time working with this person and helping them into this character. I like to see what people bring, I don’t like to tell them what to do, and I observe how they interact in the scene in a rehearsal or two and then I might offer a suggestion or a tip or help them if they need help. But if they’re working great, I don’t try to go in there just to say something because I’m the director. I just let them do it.
Larry Jordan: What’s a typical note?
John Putch: A lot of times, too big or too small. It comes down to simple stuff like that for the tone of whatever it is you’re doing. If you’re doing a broad com like Route 30, everyone knows – and I’m often building people up, I’m saying, “No, no, no, this is not an episode of Perry Mason, this is Blazing Saddles,” and I say, “You’ve got to honk your horn or think of the clown when you’re doing this movie,” so that’s a comment I make; and sometimes you’ve got to go the other way and you have to bring them down because they’re too big. Simple stuff.
Larry Jordan: What are you looking for in an actor when you’re casting? Are you looking for some invisible spark? Are you looking for an interpretation? What are you looking for?
John Putch: I think you are open to anything and I look for something that will surprise me or something that I didn’t think of, and that tells me, “Oh, I’ve got a different take on this and, boy, did I like it,” so that makes it interesting to me. When you write stuff and you direct it, you have to be open to someone else’s interpretation of what you wrote and if it’s better the way they present it, if it’s just better than you ever hoped, you need to jump on that person and cast them. So I like to be surprised and I hope that somebody comes in and makes me go, “Oh! I didn’t even think of that.” I like that.
Larry Jordan: How much work do you do with your actors in rehearsal and how much work do you do with them once they’re on set?
John Putch: Two part answer. Television, you don’t work with them at all until you see them on set when you block the scene and the entire crew is standing around watching you while you block the scene. It’s very nerve-wracking for an actor if you’re not experienced and you say, “Hey, start over there, end up over there. You need to pick up the file at this point and you have to end up leaving through that door,” and then literally I just say, “Ok, let’s see what happens,” and that’s what happens in the TV realm in rehearsal.
John Putch: Film, I would rehearse more often, even on my little movies – same thing, you come to set, we rehearse. Maybe we do it more times than you get to do on a TV show and then while we’re setting up I’ll maybe work with them, work with the actors a little, or not. I’m in the habit of hiring professionals, so I really don’t have to spend a lot of time rehearsing with them. I send them off and tell them to run their lines together, make sure everybody’s comfortable with the scene before they leave the blocking and I don’t ever do pre-rehearsals. I haven’t in a long time. I’m not a big fan of read-throughs, I hate doing read-throughs.
Larry Jordan: Why’s that?
John Putch: You just don’t get an honest read of the material, in my opinion, because people are nervous and they’re performing and you’re sitting around a table and that’s not how you do it when you shoot it. I never get an honest reaction from a reading, so I kind of never do it.
Larry Jordan: But it could be argued that on set is the most expensive place to rehearse and, as you said, it’s nerve-wracking; and yet you find it the most helpful?
John Putch: Yes. Again, on my little movies, there’s no expense really because we’re micro budget, we’re small. On TV, you’re expected to know your stuff when you show up, so everyone who walks into a television show and rehearses a scene knows that they have maybe two passes at it in there to get it blocked and then, while the crew is setting up, they have time to really lock in what they just did on the blocking.
John Putch: But sometimes a show will have problems with the script or a scene or an actor who’s a pretty big name will not be happy with the material in that scene for some reason because it just bumps them somehow and things will grind to a halt and the writer will come down and the producers will come down and they’ll talk for a long time and try to figure out how to smooth out that bump for this person and sometimes that can really eat into your day. I’ve lost half an hour, 45 minutes sometimes when that happens. But just roll with it, Larry, you know? I’m there until they want me to leave.
Larry Jordan: Well, let’s talk about one where you did have a little bit more control, which is The Father and the Bear. What’s the thumbnail plot description?
John Putch: It’s a retired character actor who has diagnosed dementia and he longs to perform at this beloved summer theater one last time, because he retired five years earlier. So against his daughter’s wishes he accepts a role from the newly installed artistic director, who’s unaware of his condition and through just the sheer humanity and cleverness of the staff and cast of the show, they help him sail through the one night performance to great success. I won’t give away the end but it’s got a very interesting special ending.
Larry Jordan: How can you not spoil the ending when you said he does the play to great success? That sounds like a perfect ending, music swells, fade to black to me.
John Putch: Well, it is but there’s a caveat to it and it deals with this disease. Well, I’ll just tell you. He doesn’t remember that he ever set foot in the theater six months later.
Larry Jordan: Oh wow.
John Putch: He doesn’t remember that he had this incredible success, so it’s chilling in a way. It’s really a theater story and it’s so fun because it really shows summer stock the way it was, and I grew up doing that when I was young, and at this theater, so not only was I shooting a movie in this theater I grew up in that my father ran. We’re all over that place still, it’s still in operation, it’s 65 years in, and I’m shooting a movie with an actor who stars in the film who I also grew up with who worked at the theater for over 40 years and I’m using Super 8 footage I shot from the ’70s through the ’80s of this actor in this film as flashbacks to show his lifespan, his career, which is his character in the movie.
John Putch: So I’m using all the footage, Larry, I have collected in my lifetime from this place and I’ve created a story around it and I’m using it in the film. So it’s weird and magical and I’m just fascinating while I’m editing and I’m very emotional while I’m editing it too.
Larry Jordan: So production’s done, you’re editing. What are you editing in and what gear are you using?
John Putch: I’m using Adobe Creative Cloud, the Premiere Pro, which I’m very fond of. This will be my second feature on it; I did Route 33 on it and enjoyed it. Do you want to see my edit…
Larry Jordan: I’m afraid to ask, but yes I’d love to see.
John Putch: I love this idea. Instead of giant hard drives just piled up all over your desk and then putting them in the closet with power cables and all that stuff, I use this. This is a rocket store video toaster. It’s Thunderbolt, it holds two full size or laptop drives. I buy the raw drives, I put them in, I edit and then when I’m done with it I store these on the bookshelf in a little case like this.
Larry Jordan: That is very cool. When do you expect to wrap editing?
John Putch: Wow. I think I’ll lock picture by Christmas because I have nothing on my plate, I can just sit here and edit like a madman, which I really enjoy. With all the sound work and all that stuff, I feel like end of March I’ll have it done and ready to put out there.
Larry Jordan: Well, we’ll bring you back in a few months and get a status report on how the editing is going. John, for people who want to keep track of all the stuff you’re doing, what website can they go do?
John Putch: I would say go to putchfilms.com and then from there you can go to the Route 30 site, the Father and the Bear site, whatever you want.
Larry Jordan: John Putch is the person we’ve been talking to, a producer, a director, a filmmaker. His website is putchfilms.com and, John, thanks for joining us today.
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Larry Jordan: Nick Mattingly is the CEO and cofounder of Switcher Studio. This is an IOS app that enables anyone with an IOS device and an internet connection to capture and deliver multicam events to online audiences. Recently, they added Director Mode, which records broadcast quality HD. Hello, Nick, welcome.
Nick Mattingly: Hey, how you doing?
Larry Jordan: You know, I am blown away by what the Switcher Studio does; and, by the way, for you watching, before I start chatting with Nick, visit switcherstudio.com so you know what we’re talking about. Nick, I showed this to our production team and our jaws hit the floor – this is amazing – so my first question has to be does it really work?
Nick Mattingly: Yes. It’s actually been on the App Store for just over a year and we kept working at it, tightening down the screws and just kept making it better and better and we’ve got customers all over the world and it’s just so cool to see how people are using this product.
Larry Jordan: Well, I introduced it in the intro, but how would you describe Switcher Studio?
Nick Mattingly: Switcher is a mobile video app that allows you to record and stream live video from multiple angles using iPhones and iPads.
Larry Jordan: Now, am I using the iPad as the switching or can I do it on an iPhone? What kind of gear does this work with?
Nick Mattingly: It’s IOS, so it works for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. You pick one device that’s your main mixer, your switching interface. That’s where you log in with your Switcher account that you create through our website and then you just install the app on another iPhone or iPad and wait to connect as a camera. You can literally pull somebody off the street and say, “You’re a cameraman today,” for your production.
Larry Jordan: Because my brain wraps around it more easily, let’s pretend that the switcher is the iPad and we’ve got iPhones for cameras. How do the iPhones connect to the iPad so you can see picture?
Nick Mattingly: All of the cameras communicate over local wifi network, so before you launch the app you’ll go into your general settings and just make sure they’re all checked on the same network. You can always build a bigger bubble if you’re using an AirPort Extreme. That’s a great way to start. If you’re doing a mobile production, you could fire up the Hotspot on your phone, connect your devices to it.
Nick Mattingly: You won’t be able to get very far away from the devices doing a production like that, but you can always build a bigger bubble. We’ve had customers that have set up dedicated networking systems in concert halls and for football stadia where they’ve had kids at the coin toss at either end of the field running around just completely untethered.
Larry Jordan: What was it that led you to invent this and how long did development take?
Nick Mattingly: One of our business partners and I had a media agency previously and I was more on the web and application development side, he was a production guy. He’s done hundreds of TV shows, thousands of live streaming productions at this point, and we were also consulting with people who wanted to do live video, who wanted to create their own content, and it was so frustrating to see people get excited about doing video but then put the brakes on because it’s so expensive, it’s so complicated, it takes so much time to set up and we would have customers who would spend months moving around budgets and hire someone just to run the gear because it doesn’t make sense. We put a brake on that and turned our development inwards, said, “How should this work?” and now we have Switcher.
Larry Jordan: How long did it take to develop?
Nick Mattingly: There is a lot of time that has gone into this project. We have got seven incredible people on our team. We’re not all developers, we’ve got people who are doing production and support and people who have been involved in broadcast, radio and television. One of our guys developed games for Electronic Arts for a while. A lot of time has gone into this. One of our developers had probably three years in it before we started kicking up the notch on getting it where it is today.
Larry Jordan: Wow. How would you compare this with a Tricaster?
Nick Mattingly: It’s very similar from a functionality standpoint. The end product that a viewer will see is that same kind of multi camera production where it’s really dynamic, you have multiple angles, you can bring in graphics and effects, picture in picture. You’re not spending five, ten, $30,000 on equipment.
Nick Mattingly: There are no special hardware requirements, you’re just using IOS devices, so it’s maybe not necessarily a replacement for a Tricaster type set-up. If you’re spending that kind of money on a video set-up, you will notice a difference in quality. But in many ways it can complement those systems. A traditional video mixing set-up a lot of times is a permanent installation. What are you using in your studio? Do you ever take it out? Probably not. If you do, you can but it’s going to take an incredible amount of time to do that. Switcher, I’ve got a four camera set-up in my laptop bag at all times and I can be up and running in just a couple of minutes.
Larry Jordan: Well, we have a vested interest in webcasting here at The Buzz, so we’re all listening very closely to this. What format video do you support? Can you do both 720 and 1080?
Nick Mattingly: The main mixing device will record locally to its own storage and that can be up to 720. Using the new Director Mode, it will disable the built-on camera on the main device and each connected camera or source will have its own independent capture. With that, we’re able to have full quality video from every angle, still see it on our main mixer and composite it after the event and match it up with every edit made during the production, regardless of any hiccups or glitches on the network.
Nick Mattingly: With this workflow, you could have a 1080p fixed frame rate video coming out of your production that you can even push into Final Cut and have everything show up. All of your cuts are already in place, you don’t have to start from scratch in time sync. You can just tug at it if you miss an edit or need to move things around.
Larry Jordan: So in that second example, say I’m working with iPhones, the iPhone is the recording device as well as the camera and the iPhone is sending a signal over to the switching iPad in this case, correct?
Nick Mattingly: Exactly. One of the great benefits of the new Director Mode functionality is if you are doing a production where you want to broadcast live real time for people to watch while it’s happening – maybe you’re sending it to YouTube or Ustream – but you don’t have a great internet connection or you get down to the wire and you’ve got to make some adjustments and you drop the quality for the live broadcast so you can get it out to your viewers, because as long as there’s a moving picture they’re going to be happy.
Nick Mattingly: But there’s a different expectation for on demand content. If I’m watching at my leisure just as a viewer, you want it to look like something you’re going to see on TV. With Director Mode, you can do a live broadcast at any quality, do the best that you can or drop it down if you need to, and still have a full quality HD recorded video to upload afterwards.
Larry Jordan: Are we able to pick the streaming service this feeds to or are we locked into a YouTube thing?
Nick Mattingly: It uses RTMP and works with just about anybody, so as long as you can get a stream URL and a stream ID, you can hook it in with a lot of platforms – almost any Wowza service, YouTube, Ustream, Twitch, Concert Windows, Stage It. There’s a big list. If you go to our website, in the knowledge base section there’s a list of supported streaming platforms where we have full tutorials on where to go on their websites to get information, how to interface it with the app and we just keep making it easier and easier. We still have people finding platforms that we didn’t even know about that hook in with the product.
Larry Jordan: It’s just an amazing piece of work. It’s stunning to watch. What do we need to install to get this to work and how much does it cost?
Nick Mattingly: All you need to get started is on IOS device – iPhone, iPad. You’ll go to switcherstudio.com and create an account. You can get a seven day free trial without even putting in a credit card, take it for a test spin and use that to log into the main mixing device. With that main device, you can use the built-in camera, you can add photos, you can add graphics, you can do images with opacity if you have a lower third or a corner bug built. We even have a desktop screen sharing app for Mac where you can bring your computer screen in, so you could do a picture in picture or a two up.
Nick Mattingly: That’s without even getting into the multi camera component. All you need is one device to get started. It works all the way back to iPad 2, iPhone 4. We’ve really tried to keep this lightweight so that it works with devices that people already have. Obviously newer devices are going to perform better, you’ll be able to take advantage of newer features as those become available. The iPad Pro would make a great mixing interface; the iPad Air is a great mixer. Even the previous iPad Mini make great mixing interfaces. so if you’re starting from scratch and you have absolutely nothing, you could get an iPad Mini for $300. You want to get it on a tripod so you get… tripod for 60 to 80 bucks. Want to make sure you have good audio, so maybe look at getting an iRig or a TRS adaptor for 30 or 40 bucks. So for $500, you’ve got an awesome video mixer that you can start adding cameras to.
Nick Mattingly: If you’ve got a phone in your pocket, you’re ready to do a two camera set-up and it’s really easy to add from there. We have customers who are doing four camera set-ups that with any other video mixing software, you’re going to have to have a $2500 laptop just to run it, and they’re doing full four camera set-ups with all of the gear and accessories that they need to go along with it for the same price.
Larry Jordan: You have just depressed people owning remote trucks enormously, I just want you to know that. Who are some of your customers?
Nick Mattingly: We have a school in Australia that’s using it for visually impaired students. The kids have their own tablets or they project video on the wall – they’re not even recording or broadcasting. There’s a school that’s using it for theater staging, so they’re making sure their lighting is right and that their markers are where they need to be on stage. We have a guy who has a dyno rig where people are bringing in their suped up cars and he’s got all of these meters and stats going and he’s revving engines and smoke and he’s doing productions and giving people video.
Nick Mattingly: It’s all across the board. Its religious services, concerts, athletic events, local government. It’s incredible to see what people have done with this and it’s made it hard from a marketing standpoint because it’s being used in so many different ways, but that’s a good problem to have.
Larry Jordan: It is indeed and for people who want to learn more or see the tutorials or download the demo, what website can they go to?
Nick Mattingly: You go to switcherstudio.com and there’s a seven day free trial. Check it out.
Larry Jordan: You know, it has got to be so much fun to take this idea and spend three, four, five years developing it and then just have it explode all over. I wish you great success and thanks so much for joining us today.
Nick Mattingly: Great. Take care.
Larry Jordan: My pleasure. That’s Nick Mattingly, he’s the CEO and cofounder of Switcher Studio. Their website is switcherstudio.com and you owe it to yourself to check it out. Thanks. I’ll be right back.
Larry Jordan: James Mathers is a veteran cinematographer and President of the non-profit educational cooperative the Digital Cinema Society. It’s always a delight having him on the show. Welcome back, James, good to have you with us.
James Mathers: Thank you, Larry.
Larry Jordan: You’ve got a special event coming up this Saturday. What is it?
James Mathers: It’s going to be at the Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. It’s called ‘Four Ways to a 4K Finish.’ It’s a catchy name, I think, but there are so many different ways to get to 4K and it’s increasingly being demanded by the OTTs like Netflix and Amazon and it’s really not that challenging any more, but like the old saying goes, the workflows are like a snowflake – each one is unique and by the time they hit the ground, they disappear.
James Mathers: There are a million ways to get to a 4K finish. We’re going to look at ‘do it yourself’ on the desktop, which is getting to be increasingly practical. We’re going to look at the more traditional models, doing it offline and then going to a place like Photo Camera Modern and doing your basic old fashioned online finish with the Mezzanine 4K master. And then we’re also going to look at hybrids and camera to cloud.
Larry Jordan: Now, I will confess, two years ago I was a skeptic on 4K and I’ve gradually been dragged, kicking and screaming, into the higher resolution environment that 4K offers. Is it really for the mass market? Should general filmmakers consider 4K or should we just sort of stay stuck with HD?
James Mathers: You should consider it and, as a matter of fact, I pitch it and you can see all the gray hair that I have here. I earned all those with a lot of experience and experience tells me that this is very similar to what we went through with HD maybe ten years ago. At that time, there were a lot of producers to whom I was pushing HD and they said, “Why do we want to bother to do that? It’s more expensive, it’s more complicated,” and some of those projects, I look back and they really shot themselves in the foot if they didn’t shoot HD because now they have something that’s 4 by 3 standard def and nobody wants to see it.
James Mathers: I did this documentary where I literally circled the globe for National Geographic doing a documentary on the world’s great religions and it was fantastic, worth the price of admission just for the B-roll of the temples in Thailand and India and everywhere else we went. But it happened to premiere the night that we invaded Iraq to start the Iraq war, so needless to say nobody watched it. We thought about bringing it out again a few months later, but it just lost its momentum and it would be a great program that will stand the test of time but it’s in standard def and when the rights reverted back to the producers, they couldn’t do anything with it, they couldn’t sell it, which was a real shame.
James Mathers: I’ve had lots of examples like that. I have examples like that for us and the Digital Cinema Society. When we first started our streaming effort, we’d record all our events and stream them from the website, but we were finishing only in a really small player window – I forget, like 240 by whatever – and that’s all that you could basically stream in those days. But now you can stream HD and some of the best programs we have are like a lighting seminar with the ASC. It’s hard to show, it’s hard to watch in the small thing. You can’t blow it up full screen like people like to do. I know that we’re going to start doing 4K. As a matter of fact, we’re going to shoot this next meeting with a Panasonic Varicam in 4K and we’re going to finish it and put it on YouTube as a 4K video.
Larry Jordan: Now, there’s some talk going on of 8K and moving up to even higher resolutions. Shall we start to worry about this? I think there’s a point of diminishing returns, personally, where you’re just not going to be able to see all those pixels. What do you think?
James Mathers: There sure is a point of diminishing returns and I think that 4K is a good plateau, not necessarily for production – it’s good to be able to shoot at the highest resolution that you can afford because there are so many things that you can do with reframing and stabilizing and that sort of thing, and to have the extra area is not a bad thing if it’s getting to be practical, as it is – but as far as finishing in 4K, I agree there’s a point of diminishing returns, you can’t really see the difference on the size screens that we have today. As a matter of fact, you can’t really tell the difference between HD and 4K, much less 4K to 8K, on the screen, I’d say a 55 inch screen if you’re more than a few feet back. The geography inside of the space of a living room is going to be a limiting factor. You need to have much bigger screens to be able to perceive the difference in resolution, unless you’re sitting right next to it. So I think that 4K is going to be a good plateau for quite a while to come.
Larry Jordan: For people who want to pick up on all the information of a 4K workflow at your event, where do they go on the web to sign up?
James Mathers: They can go to digitalcinemasociety.org and on there there’s a notice about the event and a place to RSVP.
Larry Jordan: James Mathers is a veteran cinematographer and the President of the Digital Cinema Society. James, thanks for joining us today and best of luck on your special event this Saturday.
James Mathers: Thank you so much, Larry. Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: I’ve got a ton of brand new training videos showcasing all the new features in Final Cut Pro 10.2, and they’re all available today. In fact, we’ve updated our entire Final Cut training for this release. We added more than 70 new movies covering every major and minor new feature in the software.
Larry Jordan: Then I figured, as long as I was recording, I added new techniques and new ways of working that I’ve discovered and written about in my newsletter over the years. We’ve updated our workflow and editing training with 31 new movies and effects with 41 new movies. This makes our Final Cut training the most comprehensive, most up to date and most affordable way to learn everything about this amazing software. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s complete.
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Larry Jordan: Welcome to Tech Talk, sponsored by Keycode Media.
Michael Kammes: Film isn’t dead! So say several A list directors and Blackmagic Design. That’s why way back in July of 2012, Blackmagic acquired Cintel, including their line of telecines… software; and now Blackmagic has introduced their revamped Cintel scanner.
Michael Kammes: The Blackmagic Cintel film scanner is very simple in principle – you scan your 16 and 35 millimeter films, including prints, negatives, interpositives and internegatives, into a media format that can retain a majority of the quality found on the prints. This has always been possible by a third party facility, but it’s always carried a steep per foot cost.
Michael Kammes: Tech Talk was able to head to the Blackmagic facility in Burbank, California and test drive the unit. Let’s see how that went.
Michael Kammes: We’re here at the Blackmagic design facility here in Burbank, California to take a look at the new Cintel scanner. We also have Tina Eckman with us from Blackmagic to talk a little bit about where the scanner fits in and how easy it is to use. So why don’t we start with something very easy, Tina, and that’s the price point of this is so low that it can enter into a lot of different markets.
Tina Eckman: That’s correct.
Michael Kammes: Where are you seeing it fit in, at least in the initial run?
Tina Eckman: Well, it’s really interesting because we did start this, as you mentioned, as a technology preview a couple of years ago and we had listed the price at about $30,000. We’ve had a lot of different feedback over the past year or so developing the scanner etcetera and now that it’s shipping, we have people coming out of the woodwork – which is actually really exciting – and they’re looking at all different markets, which is a benefit of being Blackmagic, we never know what we’re going to get.
Tina Eckman: But it was designed as more of a restorative type scanner, taking that older content, getting it ready for UHD, great fit for that with a lot of the features it’s shipping with, but we’re finding all different sorts of uses and people that of course want to push the limits on the scanner or maybe find a different market, like the dailies market, for example. Film is cool again so if we can extend the life of film a bit more or get a little vintage, those independent guys really like having the option of maybe doing a project for a little less budget.
Tina Eckman: I’m getting multiple calls daily right now from different markets – rental facilities, people who want to service different parts of the workflows like dailies again – and then I should make the point too that we’re not doing everything. Films from the 1900s not so much, a little more current than that, 1970s, a film that hasn’t done a ton of shrinkage or we’ve seen perfs that are really damaged, but in general that sweet spot in the market with all those streaming services out there, some of that old 1970s footage is probably going to look really great on some of those streaming content servers.
Michael Kammes: What components do we normally need to get this off the ground?
Tina Eckman: Once you get the machine calibrated, which was a click of a button and a few seconds and we’ve got it set up, we’ve connected it via Thunderbolt to any Thunderbolt capable machine, whether it’s a Mac Pro like we have here in the office or an iMac or a laptop or a Windows based machine that has Thunderbolt connection, you’re good to go. The speed of the machine and the speed of the storage obviously will play into that a little bit, but you would just make the adjustments rather in Resolve to the frames per second and you can accommodate any of those types of equipment.
Michael Kammes: It would probably make sense to have it connected to a powerful machine because most likely, once that footage comes in, you then want to grade it and, because Resolve uses GP so well, getting a Mac Pro with a lot of horsepower would be great for that.
Tina Eckman: Right, and I suppose it would be based on the project as well. If you’re scanning multiple reels and you need them completely scanning, you may have more than one station so that you can offload the footage to another machine for color and edit and finish and keep the scanner scanning. It really just depends on the client.
Michael Kammes: So what I’d like to do now is if perhaps we can start running some film through here and perhaps you can show us the controls? I understand there’s only a handful of controls that the user may have to intervene and use, so if you could show us that, that would be fantastic.
Tina Eckman: Ok, so some of the features on the scanner itself that you need to be concerned about are dial up here on the housing. This is the manual focus knob, so you can make adjustments to your focus; and then we have our typical transport buttons that you would see down here – rewind, step back, stop, play, step forward, fast forward – and we have the other button here that’s load, so at the beginning when you’re setting your film, you press the load button and you’ll see the tension adjusting on the scanner itself.
Tina Eckman: Once the scanner is ready, then you can move over to Resolve. With that said, you’re not going to see any of the controls in Resolve as a regular user unless you’ve attached a scanner to it and in order to get to the controls, you would simply come to the media page and click on ‘Capture’ and you’ll see that the user interface adjusts accordingly.
Tina Eckman: Certain things have happened before we’ve set everything up, like calibrate for example – once we’ve connected the machine, we calibrated it – but here you can make adjustments for the film type – positive, negative, interpositive, internegative – you can adjust for the film type – 16 millimeter and options for 35 millimeter with two perf, three perf or four perf. If you need to adjust for the perfs, you actually have plus or minus adjustments, very simple to use, as well as frame adjustments.
Tina Eckman: Depending on the machine and your storage, you may want to adjust the scan speed to go 24 or even down to one, depending on your machine. Also before we set anything up, we have the feed A and the take up A or B as well. In this case, we’re using A. You’ll next see the light source area and this is actually quite cool. If you know what you’re doing, you can mess with the colors yourself, but you can get started very quickly by hitting auto black and you’ll see a nice improvement.
Tina Eckman: The next section down is image stabilization. Of course, we have an automatic checkbox, or you can make adjustments horizontally and vertically yourself. Film protection gives you a little bit more control over the acceleration and the shutter speed and below that is all the metadata. If we were going to capture a clip, a couple of things need to happen. We would set an in and out point up here in the upper left corner, which we’ve already done. We would also find the appropriate folder, so you can see we’ve set up a folder here for Digital Production Buzz. Click ‘Ok’ and then down below we simply hit ‘Capture clip’. So you can completely control the scanner from Resolve and get a beautiful image, simple as that.
Michael Kammes: Thanks to Tina Eckman and the entire Blackmagic team, we have a ton of tech info to share with you. As we saw, the scanner comes equipped with a Thunderbolt 2 port so you can attach it to your computer, Mac or Windows, and using another Blackmagic acquisition, DaVinci Resolve, so you can then clean up and color grade the scanned film.
Michael Kammes: The scanner also has an HDMI output. This allows you to preview your scanned film. I stress, though, that this is only for preview as the port is only HDMI 1.4 and with only 422 color sub-sampling. Also, the HDMI port has no user controls, it just plays whatever the monitor can handle – they simply handshake via HDMI – so if you have a UHD monitor the scanner will just play UHD and the same goes for HD as well.
Michael Kammes: Many folks have asked about resolution – will the unit retain the image fidelity of my original film? – and that’s a valid question. The scanner has a native resolution of 4096 by 3072, which is a 4:3 aspect ratio creating 12.6 megapixels. This is great because the effective resolution, for example, for 35 millimeter is 3840 by 2880. Super 16 is only 1903 by 1143. The scanner also records the perfs as well, so you will need to crop them out in post.
Michael Kammes: I’ve had many discussions on what codecs the scanner encodes to. More DI based codecs, like Cineform, would be an obvious choice, as well as more edit friendly codecs like ProRes or Avid’s DNX flavors. However, the first release of the scanner will scan each frame into an individual 12 bit log Cinema DMG file, very similar to the Cineon encoding schemer. This translates to about 700 megs a second for 35 millimeter at 30 frames or 210 megabytes a second for 16 millimeter at 30 frames. This, of course, means you’ll need some very fast storage.
Michael Kammes: It then falls on the end user to encode this image sequence into your preferred codec du jour. The scanner can hold spools of up to 2,000 feet of film which in terms of running time is about 55 minutes for 16 millimeter or 22 minutes for 35 millimeter if or both are at 24 frames a second. Speaking of frames per second, the unit can play up to 30 frames a second if need be and you can shuttle at 100 or 200 frames a second if you’re using 35 millimeter or 16 millimeter film respectively.
Michael Kammes: Now, those of you who have worked with film before know that in some instances audio can be encoded onto the celluloid itself. However, in many scenarios, sound may be on mag stock or many spools of mag stocks. Unfortunately, this scanner only handles optical audio which is encoded onto the celluloid itself. Your mag reels would definitely need to be transferred elsewhere.
Michael Kammes: The scanner does have AES and unbalanced audio inputs, so if you were still inclined to have a system to read mag stock and convert it, you could capture the audio and the scanned video via the Thunderbolt 2 connection on your computer. However, this feature for audio is not enabled on the first software and firmware release.
Michael Kammes: The unit retails at $29995 and includes a copy of Resolve Studio with a dongle to work with the scanner, and it’s just started shipping. Out of the box, it handles 35 millimeter with an additional accessory kit to handle 16 millimeter formats as well. So if you’re like me, you’re going to break out all of those student, indie and home movies and start getting them transferred; or maybe we should just go back to shooting film. What do you think?
Michael Kammes: I’m Michael Kammes of Keycode Media.
Larry Jordan: It’s time for a Buzz Flashback. Five years ago today…
J. J. Smith (archive): With this camcorder, it’s sort of the coming out for the AF100 camcorders. Apparently, it’s the world’s first professional HD camera equipped with a MOS image sensor and we’re honored to have it at GB Expo.
Larry Jordan (archive): Yes, it’s very cool.
J. J. Smith (archive): The camcorders have a sensitive… recording video and I’m told it has an imaging area almost the same as that of a 35 millimeter film.
Larry Jordan: This was a Buzz Flashback.
Larry Jordan: The AF100 camera from Panasonic changed everybody’s perception on what kind of image quality we could get from HD and I remember the excitement five years ago when they first introduced that four-thirds camera chip. The pictures that it created were amazing and suddenly we realized that we could start to get cinema looks from cameras that didn’t have a huge price associated with them.
Larry Jordan: I’ve been reflecting over the break on our interview with John Putch and some of his thoughts on directing and I always enjoy chatting with him. Nick Mattingly, the CEO of Switcher Studio, James Mathers, the President of the Digital Cinema Society and, as always, Randi Altman and Michael Kammas joined us as guests today.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Thousands of interviews all online, all available today; and remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter.
Larry Jordan: Talk with us on Twitter, @DPBuZZ, and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Our theme music is composed by Nathan Dugie 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; engineering – Megan Paulos, Ed Golya, Keegan Guy, Hannah Dean, the handsome James Miller and Brianna Murphy. My name is Larry Jordan and thanks for joining us for The Digital Production 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 Blackmagic Design, creating revolutionary solutions for film, post production and television.