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Transcript: Digital Production Buzz – December 24, 2015

Digital Production Buzz

December 24, 2015

[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]

(Click here to listen to this show.)

HOSTS
Larry Jordan
Mike Horton

SEGMENTS
Randi Altman’s Perspective
Tech Talk with Larry Jordan
BuZZ Flashback: Bruce Nazarian

GUESTS
Philip Hodgetts, President, Lumberjack System
Ned Soltz, Contributing Editor, Digital Video Magazine, Ned Soltz Inc.
Michael Kammes, Director, Technology, Key Code Media
Larry O’Connor, President & Founder, Other World Computing
Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor Reporter, TroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter
===

Larry Jordan:  And a very happy Christmas Eve and a very merry Christmas.  Tonight on The Buzz, we take a look back at key trends during 2015.  We’ll cover hardware, software, workflow, labor and legal issues with our Buzz team, including Randi Altman, Philip Hodgetts, Ned Soltz Larry O’Connor, Michael Kammes and Jonathan Handel.  Tonight, on Christmas Eve, it’s the highlights of 2015, The Buzz starts now.

Announcer #1: Tonight’s Digital Production Buzz is brought to you by Other World Computing at macsales.com; and by Black Magic 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 creators and the industry, covering media production, post production, marketing and distribution around the world.  Tonight we begin the first of two special shows to end the year.  We’re going to start by taking a look back at 2015 to highlight some of the most significant trends in media, and what better place to start than our own resident expert, Mr. Mike Horton.  Hello, Mike, and a very merry Christmas to you!

Mike Horton:   Thank you, Larry.  Thank you very much, and a merry Christmas to you, merry night-before-Christmas!  By the way, what’s your favorite Christmas carol song?

Larry Jordan:  Carol of the Bells.

Mike Horton:  Carol of the Bells.  Little Drummer Boy.  Don’t know the words, I always forget the words but, boy, I love that song.

Larry Jordan:  Yes, that’s very true.

Mike Horton:  That’s a song that gets you in the spirit.  Anyway, I’m in the spirit.

Larry Jordan:  Well, thinking of getting in the spirit, as you look back on 2015, what strikes you as significant about the year?  I want to get your opinion before I ask some of the other guys.

Mike Horton:  Two come to mind really quickly: VR, drones.  Drones and VR, they took over the entire year as far as I was concerned; drones especially were in the news almost every day.  VR, especially just in the last few months.  Giant corporations and companies are growing up around this whole industry.  I guarantee you, in January at CES you’re going to see this thing explode.  It doesn’t feel like 3D, it feels like it’s something that’s sustainable, that people are actually going to use, and I think whatever business models are out there – right now gaming seems to be the only business model, everything else I’m not really sure – but I do know that every studio is on board.  There’s a lot of companies getting on board in terms of filming all the added extras for DVDs.  It’s exploding.

Larry Jordan:  Well, I know Randi Altman is definitely looking forward to seeing how VR develops, but I also was just thinking that you spend a lot of time working with user groups.  What’s been happening with user groups over the last year?

Mike Horton: You know, it’s a fight.  It’s a fight to get people to come out of their little cubicles, their offices, their homes and to meet one another face to face.  It’s always been a fight, and it still continues to be that.  In fact, it gets harder and harder each year because technology develops, and the fact that you and I can have this conversation together, where I’m at my home, you’re at your home or you’re in your office, and we can see each other and we can see behind each other, it just makes it that much more difficult.  But it’s still very, very important for people who are very serious about what they do to get out of the house and shake the hands of somebody that’s a lot smarter than they are.

Larry Jordan: Well, you know, networking is still critical in our industry, not only who you know but who knows you.

Mike Horton: And it’s hard to get the young ‘uns to kind of get out there and do that sort of thing, but I keep trying, and I will keep trying and, eventually, darn it, they’ll listen!

Larry Jordan: Well, Michael, have yourself a great holiday, and we’ll chat with you next week as we celebrate New Year’s Eve together and look forward to 2016.

Mike Horton: Alright, merry Christmas to you and everybody else behind you.

Larry Jordan: And merry Christmas to you as well.  By the way, I 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.  Best of all, every issue is free.  I’ll be back with Philip Hodgetts right after Randi Altman’s Perspective on the news.

Larry Jordan: This is Randi Altman’s Perspective.

Larry Jordan: Randi Altman has been writing about our industry for more than 20 years.  In fact, she is the editor in chief of postperspective.com and, as always, it’s a delight to say welcome Randi, good to have you back.

Randi Altman: Hi Larry, happy Christmas Eve!

Larry Jordan:  And a very happy Christmas Eve to you too.  Thanks for taking time out of your holiday schedule to join us, but I wanted to start the show taking a look back at 2015 by talking with you.  What were some of the highlights that you’ve seen over the last year that stick in your mind?

Randi Altman: Some of the trends?  Well, one in particular would be virtual reality.

Larry Jordan:  Why so?

Randi Altman: It came in strong at the beginning of the year, and it has not let go.  More and more workflows, ways to view it, people interested.  It’s just rolling along.

Larry Jordan:  Well, you’ve been a big fan of virtual reality since we started talking with you on these perspectives, so I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts next week as we look forward to what’s happening in 2016.  But what other trends have come to your mind over the last year?

Randi Altman: Well, High Dynamic Range has been a talking point throughout the year.  More and more people have been interested in those kind of workflows.  Adobe recently announced that they can work with High Dynamic Range workflows, so we’ll be seeing more of that, I think.

Larry Jordan:  You know, I’m a big fan of HDR since I saw a technical demonstration of it about a year and a half ago, but it’s just amazing how all that additional light changes your perception of the image.  The biggest challenge, I think, that we’ve had, is that we haven’t been able to look at it; there’s been no monitors on the market for the last year, which we’ll talk more about when we chat with you next week.  Any other trends that caught your mind in terms of editing software or the post process?

Randi Altman: Not necessarily on that end, but I think on the production end, I’ve been seeing more and more people, including feature films, shooting on a variety of different cameras and not just picking one or the other.  They’re picking, essentially, a camera for a particular scene,  including using GoPros or iPhones, the 6S, which can shoot 4K, so I have found that to be very interesting.

Larry Jordan:  So, rather than standardizing on a single codec for shooting, we’re seeing multiple codecs used in production, and we’ve got to standardize in post.  That’s a shift, it  seems to me.

Randi Altman: Yes, absolutely.

Larry Jordan: What I’d like to do is get some opinions of our Buzz family, to see what they think has happened in 2015, and then come back to you next week, and put our prognostication hat on and see what you’re thinking is for 2016.  Does that work for you?

Randi Altman: It does, Larry, absolutely.

Larry Jordan: Randi is the editor in chief of postperspective.com.  Visit her website for all the most fascinating interviews in our industry.  Randi, a wonderful holiday to you, and we’ll see you next week.

Randi Altman: Thank you, Larry.  Take care!

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

Larry Jordan:  Philip Hodgetts is the CEO of Intelligent Assistance and Lumberjack Systems.  He is also involved with technology in virtually every area of digital production and post production.  Even better, he is a regular contributor to The Buzz.  Hello, Philip!  Welcome back.

Philip Hodgetts: Thank you for having me.

Larry Jordan:  And a very merry Christmas Eve to you.

Philip Hodgetts:  Merry Christmas to you too!

Larry Jordan:  I wore my lumberjack and Christmas shirt just for you today.

Philip Hodgetts:  I appreciate that, yes, very much.

Larry Jordan:  We’re devoting tonight’s show to take a look back at 2015 and see what some of the trends are, and I couldn’t think of a better person to start with than yourself.  So, as you look back at the year, what trends come first to mind?

Philip Hodgetts:  I think the nicest thing about 2015 is that it’s been kind of a consolidation year.  There’s been nothing new and radical this year that’s upset us and thrown us in a loop.  You know, no completely new camera technology, no completely new editing system, no completely new codec.  Okay, we’re starting to have to deal with H.265, but it’s a soft roll out; we don’t have to worry about that too much just yet.  So it’s been a nice year of consolidation and thank goodness for that, because we need one of those pretty regularly because, if we’re constantly in turmoil every year it’s not good in general, because it’s not good to be reinventing workflows every second week.  So I think it’s been a nice consolidation year.  It’s the year that we’ve seen 4K production become routine, that it’s no longer special.  4K is what you produce if you can afford to, if there’s likely to be any legs on the program material.  It’s also a consolidation year of getting smaller.  We’ve got 4K GoPros, which are tiny.  We’ve got micro cameras from Black Magic Design and other people, both studio and field cameras, that are incredibly tiny compared with what we were used to.  Now, of course, no one toy is perfect for every situation, but having these small cameras, small mounts, opens up a whole lot of new opportunities for production.  This is the year that my partner Greg, and I have produced a lunch video series, where we simply go into a restaurant, put up a couple of GoPros, some microphones on people and record a lunch conversation.

Larry Jordan:  But I want to pick up on a word that you used.  You called it a year of consolidation, and it doesn’t sound like companies are acquiring other companies, they’re not consolidating that way; it sounds more like everybody’s taken a deep breath and it’s a pause before the next big thing.  Am I hearing that correctly?

Philip Hodgetts:  Exactly.  That was the intent, not so much consolidation of companies being bought up or technologies being brought together, but simply a year where nothing too dramatically new was introduced.  I can’t think of a single hugely dramatic release this year that changed the entire production world.  You know, we’ve had it in the past where we had the Red digital cameras coming around, and workflows associated with that.  We had it in 2011 with FinalCut Pro 10 coming.  We’ve had it with a lot of the cameras from Black Magic, who we weren’t expecting to make cameras.  So we’ve had years where there have been some fairly dramatic overturns, changes in the industry that have just created turmoil and the need to generate new workflows.  Offline, how do we link these new media formats?  Once we get those sort of initially conquered, then it’s nice to just be able to roll them out on feature film or production after production.   It’s those times when things are in turmoil that makes it very difficult for everybody in production to have to deal with this constantly changing terrain under their feet, and having some sort of stability for a while lets us consolidate workflows that work, and that everyone is familiar with.

Larry Jordan:  Two things that surprised me, though on the software side.  One was the rise of DaVinci Resolve.  It has continued to evolve into now some people consider it an editing package of its own worth.  The other is the rapid development that Adobe’s been putting Premier through.  It’s not anywhere near the same software that it was a year ago.  What do you think about both of those?

Philip Hodgetts:  I think you’re right.  Both are exciting in their own way.  I honestly don’t really know what to make of DaVinci Resolve.  I mean, certainly it is a basic editing platform at this point.  It could probably still use a little bit better media management and some key word ranges would be nice, but maybe that’s proprietary to other people!  But certainly, Black Magic are putting the effort into bringing in new features and, if they continue with 80 to 100 new features per year, then it gets to a point where it has to be taken seriously as … as well as a finishing tool, as well as a DIT tool for on-set use.  So they are building up from set to distribution tool, there.  I’m just not sure where the user base will come from.  I certainly think new users will come into that and the low, I think, free price will be very attractive, but I think the company that would need to be most concerned about the rise of DaVinci Resolve, particularly since it has collaboration built in, would be Avid, and it would be, I think, threatening their Media Composer product, except the Media Composer is so well entrenched that it probably doesn’t.  I see Adobe have done a lot of really, really great work with Premier Pro, and the whole suite really.  There are some really great innovations in there.  I love the character animation tools that are in After Effects and in the standalone application.  They’re certainly at the forefront of H.265 encoding.  It would be the easiest place to go to get H.265 encoding right now, and I read that, today, Netflix are planning to re-encode their entire library in H.265 for more efficient distribution.  At this point, nobody’s got H.265 playback, but I guess that will come!

Larry Jordan:  Hold it, hold it!  I want to pause on that for just a second.  I’m really excited about what H.265 means for the future and, for the first time we’re now able to encode into it using Adobe Media Encoder, but I do want a word of caution in, in that being able to encode in H.265 doesn’t mean anybody can play it back yet.  So, very much this is the time to experiment and see, but don’t shift your library over to 265, because nobody is going to be able to watch it.  Philip, we’ve talked about the fact that hardware seems to be on a plateau and there’s bubblings in software but nothing that really stands out, but the one thing we haven’t talked about is distribution, and I think distribution has changed a lot this year.  What have you noticed?

Philip Hodgetts:  Certainly, distribution has probably been the thing that’s most disrupted this year, and I think we’re seeing the beginnings of the disruption rather than the result of it.  We already have a lot more program producers, like Amazon, Netflix, Google and YouTube.  There are a lot of new players in the content space, and we’re starting to see a lot of channels come through in apps on various devices: portable devices, Apple TV.  So we’re seeing the appification of channels, I think.  You know, Netflix and Amazon do come up on an Apple TV and other Roku devices and similar places as apps.  So the channel has become the app, I think.

Larry Jordan:  The appification of channels!

Philip Hodgetts:  The appification of channels, you heard it here first!

Larry Jordan:  You should be ashamed of yourself.  Philip, what I want to do, because this really blends us into not only where we’ve been in 2015, but where we’re going next year, is to invite you back next week, and let’s take a look forward at what we could expect for 2016.  Does that work for you?

Philip Hodgetts:  That works for me.  It’s always a minefield to go through, but let’s try it!

Larry Jordan:  You know, I was just thinking we’ve been doing this look forward for years and years, and nobody’s caught us yet, so let’s see what happens for another year.  For people who want to keep track of your writing, what website can they go to?

Philip Hodgetts:  philiphodgetts.com is probably the best point of contact for me.

Larry Jordan:  And Philip Hodgetts himself is who we’ve been talking to.  Philip, is the CEO of Intelligent Assistance and Lumberjack Systems.  Philip, thanks for joining us today.

Philip Hodgetts:  My pleasure.

Larry Jordan:  Still to come on The Buzz…

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Larry Jordan:  Ned Soltz is an author and editor, and consultant on all things related to digital video.  He’s also a contributing editor for Digital Video Magazine, a moderator on 2-pop and Creative Cal forums and, best of all, a regular correspondent here on The Buzz.  Hello, Ned!  Welcome back!

Ned Soltz:  Hello Larry, and to you merry Christmas, and to all Christmas celebrators listening today a merry Christmas to all of you.

Larry Jordan:  And a very merry Christmas to you too, Ned.  We’re devoting tonight’s show to look back at 2015, so what are some of the trends that caught your eye this last year?

Ned Soltz:  I think one of the trends that caught my eye last year is a couple of things that happened just in recent weeks.  We’re beginning to see particular vendors now as active financers as well as consultants in the production of hardware specifically.  A couple of years ago we saw Able Cine involved with a German manufacturer in the production of a PL mount to B4 adapter, and just this past week BenPro in LA announced that they had collaborated with a German to produce (and, obviously, then to distribute through BenPro), a rather high end line of full frame macro lenses, 100mm length and a couple that are a little bit longer.  I think one goes up to about 150.  These, of course, are very high end products, designed for full frame cameras like a Sony A7, or to the high end of that like an Alexa 65, but the fact is they’re involved now in the production and possibly even in the financing.  Now, on the level of something more affordable to the likes of you and me, although I’m sure that you’re doing well enough to afford a fleet of Alexa 65s…

Larry Jordan:  I don’t even bother to buy them anymore; they’re a drag on the market.

Ned Soltz:  Yeah, right!  There is this really cool little action camera that I’m hoping to get a hold of in the next couple of weeks, through Adorama.  Adorama collaborated with a Kickstarter campaign from a Chinese company that wanted to produce something about the size of a GoPro except full HD and with a Micro Four Thirds sensor and MFT mount, which they did.  It’s the Z Camera E1, and it’s selling for about $600.  Adorama actually put money into that development through Kickstarter.  Now, wearing my journalistic hat I did try to enquire exactly how much money they did invest, but that amount is certainly not going to be revealed to me, certainly so far.  But the fact is that we’re now seeing vendors who are an active part of development, and to me that’s a significant trend right now.  I mean when you look at the plethora of product, both hardware and software, that came out in 2015, it’s almost very logical that value added resellers know what their customers want, recognize an interesting product, or go about and develop an interesting product with a collaborating manufacturer if nobody else is manufacturing it.  So that, to me, is a significant trend.  Maybe changing gears for a moment, another significant trend is the movement toward mirrorless cameras now, away from the DLSRs.  Indeed, you’re still seeing 7D’s out there and 5D’s shooting video, but more and more something like a GH4 is becoming a real darling of a lot of people.  Sony’s introduction this past year of both the A7R mark 2, and the A7S mark 2, is a whole new dimension right now in the mirrorless cameras, because here we have full frame cameras that can also scale down to APSC size sensor, depending upon the lens.  They are things that are very portable and, in the case of the A7S mark 2 can practically see in the dark.  So we’re seeing that new kind of trend right now with the mirrorless cameras, and alas, I love them, and they’re a sponsor of my Mopictive user group, but we’re still in the situation with poor Black Magic where they can announce at NAB 2015 and still can’t deliver by December 2015.  That’s a shame, because I love the product and what they do, but the ambitious delivery schedules are alienating a number of users, I’m afraid.

Larry Jordan:  Now, are you seeing that camera prices are holding stable, or is there a race for the bottom in terms of the low end?  Is the high end able to even survive these days?

Ned Soltz: I think there’s an interesting market segmentation going on right now, and it’s not just in cameras; it’s in cameras, it’s in accessories, it’s in lighting.  A good example of that, by the way, is Red, because Red, always assuming we’re going to be holding with Red, the announcement this year of both the Raven for the sub-$10,000 market, and the Scarlet-W for the sub-$20,000 market means that, I think, that’s where a great deal of the action is.  There’s probably action in the high end, but I doubt that owner operators are spending the kind of money that they used to spend on buying these high end cameras; they’re going the rental house route.

Larry Jordan:  Yes, the trend is that cameras are obsoleting so quickly you’ll never get your money back if you buy a $20,000 or $30,000 camera; it’s dead before you get your money out.

Ned Soltz:  Oh, absolutely.  For example, what I’m shooting on my Sony FS7, which is a $10,000 camera, let us say, is the equivalent of what I could shoot on $20,000 cameras or more just because of some of the feature sets that Sony puts into that.  So I can make money on that lower end camera.  I can’t make money in my business, if I’m putting $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 into a camera, that’s an absolute impossibility for not that much of a significant return for the kind of work that I do.

Larry Jordan:  Are you seeing any new significant codecs showing up, or are we stabilized in the world of codecs?

Ned Soltz:  Well, we’re seeing more and more of the AVC variant of codecs.  Sony, of course, with its XAVC can now, with the introduction of the C300 mark 2, an XFAVC.  So we’re seeing more and more of the movement towards these AVC codecs in a whole variety of cameras and a whole variety of price ranges.  I wish manufacturers, though, would somehow figure out a way to license and ship Cineform which has been around for a long time and it’s a wonderful codec, wonderfully compact, and I still think has a definite place in the world.  I wish we’d see more of that but, on the other hand, camera manufacturers and everybody else may be introducing codecs based on AVC because they’re efficient to shoot in, but everybody ultimately wants to go to Pro Res, by and large.

Larry Jordan:  My understanding is one of the problems with codecs is the chip that’s used inside the camera has a data rate limitation of around ten megabytes a second, which means that you can’t use some of the high end codecs like ProRes or Cineform, because the chip can’t record the data fast enough.

Ned Soltz:  That is certainly the case in some levels of camera, for sure.

Larry Jordan:  Well, that also would make it cheaper to make the camera, because you don’t have to have that high a bandwidth inside it too.

Ned Soltz:  Right, right.  That’s a factor.

Larry Jordan:  Ned, what I’d like to do is bring you back next week, and New Year’s Eve try to stop your celebrating for just a moment and let’s take a look forward at what the trends of this year mean for what we can expect next year.  Can I bring you back then?

Ned Soltz:  You can bring me back, and I won’t pop the bottle of champagne until after we talk, and that way I’ll be clear!

Larry Jordan:  And Ned, for people that want to keep track of what you’re writing, where can they go on the web?

Ned Soltz:  The easiest place right now is www.creativeplanetnetworks.com.

Larry Jordan:  That’s creativeplanetnetworks.com, and a contributing editor for that network and Digital Video Magazine is Ned Soltz.  Ned, thanks for joining us today.

Ned Soltz:  Thank you, Larry.

Larry Jordan:  In his current role as director of technology at Key Code Media, Michael Kammes consultants on the latest in technology and best practices in the digital communication space.  Also, in his spare time, he creates a new series of web videos called Five Things, and basically lives and breathes technology.  Hello, Michael, welcome back!

Michael Kammes: Thank you very much, Larry, good to see you.

Larry Jordan:  A very merry Christmas Eve!  Before I forget to wish you the happiest of holidays.

Michael Kammes:  And to you and your team as well.  Thank you very much.

Larry Jordan:  We’re devoting tonight’s show to a look back at 2015, and let’s start with the broadest of all questions.  What are some of the media trends that caught your eye?

Michael Kammes:  I wish I could say that trends were sexy, and they were really interesting and shiny, but it’s been asset management, believe it or not.  It’s not the most exciting thing…

Larry Jordan: Michael!  Asset management?  I’m supposed to stay awake for asset management?

Michael Kammes:  It’s a dirty phrase, I know.  I’d like to call it automation, because at the end of the day that’s what it does.  It helps to streamline a lot of the things that assistant editors are doing and a lot of loggers are doing and make data accessible, and then be able to automate transcoding or archiving, things that just take up your time during the day that could be used to create content instead of organizing and finding it.

Larry Jordan:  Now, why is asset management, after struggling for visibility for years, suddenly starting to wake up this year?

Michael Kammes:  People aren’t deleting media!  People are using less cameras and people aren’t deleting things.  So the ability to find all this content, and not just find it but be able to store and then do something with it after the project’s over, that’s become an increasingly large responsibility, and facilities just don’t have someone to dedicate to that.

Larry Jordan:  Okay, so we’ve got asset management, which really is partly hardware but mostly software, that has been something that caught your attention.  What other trends have you spotted?

Michael Kammes:  I think we discussed this a little bit last year, and we definitely saw an uptake this year, and that’s not only the asset management portion but also remote editing.  You know, we talked about the Avid Everywhere, and the Interplay portion.  We talked about the Adobe Anywhere scenario.  We’ve seen technologies like Teradici really pick up steam, and so the ability to edit outside the confines of your four walls has really garnered a lot of interest.

Larry Jordan:  Has it been that the interest is caused by remote editing with storing media in one spot and editors in another, or is it the collaboration aspect that’s got people excited?

Michael Kammes:  It’s mainly the collaboration aspect, and we also find smaller boutiques don’t want to have 50,000 square feet for editors.  They want to be able to have a smaller footprint, to be lean and mean, and be able to sub out work when they need it.  Of course, the conversation always goes to well, are you just subbing out to less expensive labor overseas or elsewhere? But more than often that not we’re finding that no, we just have good talent locally that we feel hey, let them create in their own environment as opposed to being in a traditional box or an edit room, which is a square with, you know, no excitement.  So, being able to do it in your own space has a lot of attention.

Larry Jordan:  Well, also that makes it a lot easier to do scaling, where you’ve got a project where you need ten editors and you need to scale down to two or up to 20.  If you don’t have to worry about office space for all of them it makes scaling a lot easier, too.

Michael Kammes:  That makes complete sense.  We’re also finding folks who are going out and shooting overseas or in other States.  They can now start cutting almost immediately, with some caveats, but be able to edit a lot quicker than waiting for the dailies to get back to home base and waiting for that whole process to start.

Larry Jordan:  How about trends in hardware?  Any hardware suddenly lighting up in ways that they haven’t before?

Michael Kammes:  We’re seeing a lot more stuff from manufacturers supporting VMs, and while that isn’t fantastic…

Larry Jordan:  Define VM, what’s a VM?

Michael Kammes:  VM is what they call a virtual machine, and it’s the ability to run a Linux or Windows OS on a larger machine that can host multiple VMs.  So instead of having one computer dedicated to one user, we now can have one computer operating as a central hub for multiple OS’s.

Larry Jordan:  That strikes me as like the mini and the mainframe computers of 30 years ago, where we simply had a dumb terminal accessing a screen that was connected to the computer, that did the computing.  Are we going back to that?

Michael Kammes:  I love that you brought that up, because when I start bringing up the concept of a mainframe topology the younger end users’ eyes glaze over, like they have no idea what I’m talking about!  We are going back to that to some extent.  Obviously, with the previously mentioned remote editing, that’s a very much mainframe topology, and doing centralized hosting of software and being able to have that go out to dumb terminals, that’s obviously a part of that.  Now, we’re not seeing it as much on the creative end, but we are seeing it on the server end.  A lot of facilities who are running databases, who are running Avid, etcetera, those are now supported inside VMs, which makes management a heck of a lot easier.

Larry Jordan:  Alright, well you’ve touched on the other aspect and we’ve looked at hardware trends, how about software?  What’s happening in software that’s caught your eye?

Michael Kammes:  The race to zero.  Obviously the price of software, the bottom has just fallen out of it.  Even if we look at some of the juggernauts like Autodesk, right, who have always had very high tier pricing, even those prices have dropped.  If we look at things like Resolve, right, the base version is free!  The other manufacturers, Apple aside, have gone to monthly fees instead of several thousand dollar flat fee buyouts.  So we’re seeing the price of entry is a lot lower, which means a lot more people can create.

Larry Jordan:  I think one of the trends that’s impressed me, to pick up on that pricing, is the success of subscriptions, of software rental.  While there’s a lot of users that are concerned about it, from the developers’ point of view a steady cash flow has a very, very pleasant sound to it.  It’s not just Adobe, but I’ve seen it throughout the creative space.  We’re seeing more and more companies are pushing subscriptions.  Are you seeing the same thing, or am I misunderstanding what’s going on?

Michael Kammes:  No, it’s amazing, the Pied Piper mentality.  We had Apple several years ago who did the “Let’s sell a lot cheap”, and they made a boatload.  So we had Adobe a couple of years ago say the same thing: look, we’re going to do a monthly fee.  And then who followed suit?  Autodesk did it, Avid did it.  To Avid’s credit, I find that they kind of capitalized on the areas that Adobe didn’t with offering flexibility in terms of perpetual yearly, monthly, etcetera, whereas Adobe just said no, it’s monthly and deal with it!  We’ve seen a lot of companies move to that methodology because Adobe had success with it.

Larry Jordan:  One of the strengths you’ve got is a much greater understanding of Avid than I do.  How is Avid doing as a company?  Because for a while there it was having some problems.  Are they coming back?

Michael Kammes:  We’re very excited about Avid Interplay and Everywhere becoming more adopted within the industry, and with that I think there’ll be an influx of excitement into the company.  They obviously released a new IO this year, which they branded with Black Magic, which we all were kind of excited about.  Of course, Media Composer 8.3 and 8.4 were released this year and have 4K, so that kind of rounds that out, the feature set that we’ve been looking for from Avid.  So I think we’re pretty optimistic.  As it is, with every NLE, every year, it’s always a crap shoot, but we’re definitely excited about what’s going to happen.

Larry Jordan:  Well, thinking about what’s going to happen leads me to what’s going to happen next.  In less than a week, it’s going to be New Year, so what I’d like to do is invite you back next week to give us your sense of where the future’s taking us and what we can look forward to in 2016.  Does that work for you?

Michael Kammes: I would love to.  I always have acronyms to share with you!

Larry Jordan:  Michael, for people that want to keep track of what you’re thinking and doing, where can they go on the web?

Michael Kammes:  A couple of different places.  You can go to michaelkammes.com.  You can also follow me on Twitter, @MichaelKammes, or my aforementioned series, Fivethingsseries.com.

Larry Jordan:  Michael himself is the person we’re talking to and, Michael, I look forward to talking to you next week.  Thanks for joining us today.

Michael Kammes: Thanks a lot, Larry.

Larry Jordan:  Still to come on The Buzz…

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Larry Jordan:  Larry O’Connor founded Other World computing, which is also called OWC, in 1988.  Their website, which you may know better than their company name, is macsales.com.  OWC is both a reseller and a developer, supporting all things Mac for more than 25 years, and it’s wearing the developer hat that we want to talk with Larry today.  Hello, Larry!  Welcome back.

Larry O’Connor: Hey, thanks for having me, Larry!

Larry Jordan:  A very merry Christmas Eve to you,

Larry O’Connor:  A merry Christmas to you and all yours, you know.  Happy New Year, too.

Larry Jordan:  Well, now we’re going to have you on the New Year’s show as well, so let us not anticipate too widely here.  Anyway, we’re devoting tonight’s show to look back at 2015.  What are some of the trends that caught your eye this last year?

Larry O’Connor:  A wider adoption, substantial in what highly capable creative folks have been able to do with technology and their use of technology, and their dependence on the technology in the stores and such to do more.  Talking about that dependence, though, easier use to get the job done.  I mean better solutions that, you know, let people focus on what they’re best at and where their time should be focused.

Larry Jordan:  So the principle advantage trend for 2015 sounds like it’s workflow to you, doing things more efficiently?

Larry O’Connor:  I would say yes.  There’s bigger, higher capacity drives, arrays that offer a better plug and play capability.  You know, less techno work, but not by any means as easy as everybody would love it to be, but the technology is becoming less of a hindrance and more of an enabling factor than ever before.  Higher capacity drives certainly make a big difference in people’s workflow.

Larry Jordan:  Thinking about storage for just a second, we’ve seen that the storage capacities have significantly increased over the last year, but are you seeing anything new in storage evolve over the last year, or has it just been evolutionary growth?

Larry O’Connor:  I call it revolutionary and evolutionary at the same time but, you know, one thing that has trended, certainly, and I may be biased here, is the emergence of Thunderbolt, especially Thunderbolt 2.  You have different kinds of storage technologies which now work really well with that extra bandwidth, and provide exceptionally improved flexibility to those that need different kinds of storage solutions.  So it’s subtle yet, and easily taken for granted, but it’s really more than just an evolution and, of course, solid state is playing into the equation.  In good balance, it’s not the be all, end all.  However, hybridized and utilized in concert with the right platter storage, there’s amazingly effective solutions today, with exceptional flexibility that really weren’t possible just a couple of years ago, and certainly not in the budget range that’s within reach of so many.

Larry Jordan:  I was just reading a couple of days ago that Western Digital announced a brand new ten terabyte hard drive.  I mean the amount of storage that we’re able to squeeze onto a traditional spinning media disk just is stunning to me.  I could never have imagined we’d have gotten that much capacity out of a single drive.  Are you seeing that trend is continuing, or are we starting to reach the top on what we can put on spinning media?

Larry O’Connor:  You know, there’s always limits in today’s technology, but today’s technology is substantially evolved compared to the same arguments that were made five, six or even seven years ago with spinning platter drives.  In terms of where things are going, from what I understand and the technologies that are currently emerging, we’re going to continue to see higher and higher densities in the spinners, and we’re not yet done with where that platform can go.  Consider it a platform, because the technology inside a hard drive on a lot of levels is a lot different than what it was just a few years ago.  Enabling the high densities is really revolutionary steps and we continue to march forward.

Larry Jordan:  Another thing that you mentioned happened over the last year is SSD’s.  We’re seeing SSD prices start to drop, but we’re not seeing lots and lots of additional capacity on SSD’s.  Are SSD’s stuck on a plateau?

Larry O’Connor:  No, I don’t believe so.  As you get into higher densities then there’s different challenges that have to be overcome, and you can put out now (pardon my pun) flashy, high capacity products, but there’s a lot more to it, and just like hard drives across time, there are some big steps yet to be made to adjust for the leaps in capacity and ensuring the longevity of the data, the media, is managed and maintained.  I don’t think we’re at a plateau; I think we’re going to see some big jumps over the next couple of years in flash, but we’ll see where we’re at in three or four years in terms of what technology is around.  This is the thing, I mean you talk about SSD, and some people think memory; they interchange terms.  A lot of people out there will interchange hard drive and SSD.  What we’re using SSD’s for in a few years will be very different than what we’re using today.  In fact, even the core technology, the media, I should say the chips, the kind of technology that we store data with is going to be very different, no different than if you look at how a hard recorder was media five or six years ago.  They’re still hard drives to the world, but they’re really a very different beast inside at a technical level.  Regardless of using a chip is still effectively silicon, and a hard drive is made up of spinning platters, but those platters are a lot different than what they had been.  The current technology definitely has a furious … what’s really going to be in a flash or a solid state drive in a few years, or what we call a solid state drive.  I think it’s going to evolve significantly.

Larry Jordan:  As you look at the other hardware that you sell through your website, have you noticed, if we exclude storage, any other hardware trends that suddenly caught fire last year that surprised you?

Larry O’Connor:  I can’t say that anything’s been super surprising, in the sense that products that add external functionality have taken off like wildfire, and that’s because the trend in general has been to take away ports and reduce built-in functionality.  Anything that gives you more capabilities has taken off, but that’s also something that is now, to a certain degree, custom tailored.  I mean you buy the external add-ons, the external capability adders that fit your needs as opposed to getting a solution that already has everything in the box for everybody.  You’re buying things that are just for you.  That’s going to get better as the bandwidth on these systems, you know, with Thunderbolt 3 in the future, that really starts to become a real practical game plan.  With Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2, others, I really wish there was a PCIE slot in some of these systems to unlock everything but, as we move forward, it’s going to be easier and easier just to plug in what you need.

Larry Jordan:  Well, what I’d like to do, Larry, is to invite back next week on our New Year’s Eve show and talk about how we can take the trends that developed in 2015 and spot what the trends are for 2016.  Can we invite you back next week?

Larry O’Connor:  I’d love to be back, absolutely, and wish you a proper happy New Year.

Larry Jordan:  And Larry, for people who want to keep track of what you and your company is doing, where can they go on the web?

Larry O’Connor:  They can visit us at owcdigital.com, and macsales.com.

Larry Jordan:  And Larry O’Connor is the founder of OWC and Larry, thanks for joining us today.

Larry O’Connor:  Hey, thank you, Larry for having me, and have a merry Christmas!

Larry Jordan:  Jonathan Handel is an entertainment and technology attorney of counsel at Troy Gould in Los Angeles.  He’s also the contributing editor on entertainment labor issues for the Hollywood Reporter and, best of all, he’s a regular here on The Buzz.  Hello, Jonathan, welcome back!

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

Larry Jordan:  And a very merry Christmas Eve to you.

Jonathan Handel:  Merry Christmas Eve and happy holidays to you!

Larry Jordan:  Thank you.  We are devoting tonight’s show to a look back at 2015, and I thought I’d ask you what are some of the trends this year that caught your eye.

Jonathan Handel:  Well, there were trends both in Hollywood and nationally, when it came to labor.  In Hollywood, I think the biggest development really the SAG-AFTRA elections.  We saw a frustration among the membership, among other reasons because of the fact that the health plans have not yet merged.  As you recall, SAG and AFTRA merged back in 2012, but it’s been three years and the health plans, as well as the pension plans, are still separate.  Now, those are separate organizations legally from the union but, nonetheless, people were hoping to see somewhat more progress, and it was one of the bases, though not the only basis, on which the merger was sold.  So what we see now is a Screen Actors Guild, SAG-AFTRA, with something of a split in the leadership between the folks who were pro-merger, the ‘unite for strength’ faction, they’re called, and the folks who initially had been anti-merger, ‘membership first’.  Where that’s going to lead, we don’t yet know.

Larry Jordan:  Well, are you seeing this as foot dragging, or just that the two plans are so complex it’s hard to merge them?

Jonathan Handel:  Well, it’s difficult to tell.  What you have to remember is that the board of directors for the pension and health plan is composed 50% of union representatives and 50% of management representatives.  There is some possibility that what management is trying to do is make merger of the health plans a bargaining issue so that, in the next round of negotiation, which will be starting next fall, the union, if it wants to see those plans merged, is going to have to give up something in return.  That’s not really a proper thing to do, if that is what’s being done, because when they sit on that board, both the union members and management members are supposed to be fiduciaries, or trustees, representing the participants in the plan, the people that are receiving health insurance and receiving pensions or qualifying for pensions.  But whether that’s what’s actually going on, we don’t know.  It is important to know, it is not wholly within the union’s power to simply snap a finger and say okay, now we’re merging.

Larry Jordan:  One of the other issues that I remember from our conversations early in the year was on-set safety, and safety in general.  Has that still developed into a hot button, or has that just sort of subsided now that nobody’s getting hurt recently?

Jonathan Handel:  Well, sadly, it’s sort of subsided now but people are still getting hurt somewhat.  I’m recalling that there were, I believe, some injuries or some deaths, I believe, in a helicopter crash involving a production in South America just recently.  You know, it’s simply unfortunately not the case that no-one gets hurt on a regular basis in our industry; it’s a dangerous business at times.  I’d say that, you know, without having my fingers literally on the pulse of the crew from day to day, I’d say that it has, like all things, subsided to some extent, now that it’s no longer right in people’s viewfinders, as it were.  But I hope there’s been some lasting effect. I’d like to believe that there has been, as a result of the Slates for Sarah movement and other movements related to safety.

Larry Jordan:  Your principal area of coverage is the guilds inside Hollywood, but another key trend has been flights of film out of Hollywood into other States, and even other countries, due to tax incentives and others.  Are you seeing that trend continuing, or is it about the same, or what’s your take on that?

Jonathan Handel:  Well, it is continuing.  You know, the pieces always get shuffled a little bit.  For one thing, we have seen some production return to California, and to the Los Angeles area in particular, as a result of the California incentives that were increased, finally, after a lot of lobbying.  We also saw North Carolina, I believe, end their inventive program, so there’s been some shift.  But there is an awful lot of production that goes on overseas and you know, in other States, and in addition there is an increase in local production being done in local languages overseas.  So it’s a very globalized business and, of course, when you talk about things like safety, like union coverage, union policies, things of that sort, that makes it a little more complex, because of the geographically dispersed nature of the business.

Larry Jordan:  That was a good point.  I remember reading just a couple of weeks ago there was an article on how Warner Brothers is developing films for local markets outside the U.S.  Russia came first to mind, in terms of the article.  This idea of developing films for international distribution that doesn’t even hit the States is relatively new, it seems to me.

Jonathan Handel:  Well, it’s growing.  I mean there have been little bits and pieces of it for some time, I think, but I think finally the studios are recognizing that is going to be potentially a significant part, at least in some territories, of their business.  So it certainly is becoming more prominent, that’s right.

Larry Jordan:  Last question before we run out of time is about crew sizes.  With the miniaturization of hardware and things becoming more and more automated, are crew sizes, especially on mid-sized films, which is the majority of what Hollywood is turning out, getting smaller or are roughly the same number of people being employed?

Jonathan Handel:  Well, you know, my sense is that the crew sizes didn’t get smaller, the pictures got bigger, so to speak!  You know, we really are looking at a Hollywood business that focuses a lot on [tent poles], and of course you’ve got enormous crew sizes there.  I’m not aware of any significant shrinkage in crew sizes.  I may not be 100% right on that, and our viewers may have some more input than I do, but I’m not aware of a huge change.

Larry Jordan:  Jonathan, are there other trends that you’ve noticed this last year that we need to pay attention to?

Jonathan Handel:  Yes.  The devolution of power when it comes to labor and employment relations from Congress, which has been relatively inactive, particularly with the difference in political control between Congress and, of course, the Presidency, to state and local regulators.  So you see States and cities raising the minimum wage.  You see cities, even, such as Seattle, trying to come up with ways to unionize part-time workers like workers on Uber; things that, at one point in time might have been matters for Congress, but in today’s world are really not being addressed federally.

Larry Jordan:  For people that want to keep track of your thought and your writing, where can they go to learn more on the web?

Jonathan Handel:  Two places, jhandel.com, and thrlabor.com.

Larry Jordan:  And the jhandel himself, Jonathan Handel of counsel at Troy Gould and the entertainment labor reporter for the Hollywood Reporter.  Jonathan, as always it’s fun visiting.  Can we invite you back next week to take a look at trends to look forward to in 2016?

Jonathan Handel:  I’d be pleased to come back, thank you.

Larry Jordan:  We’ll see you then.  Jonathan, thank you so much.

Larry Jordan:  I want to invite you to become a member of our video training library.  Our training library is unique in the industry.  It includes more than 1400 in-depth movies, each accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Every movie in our library can be streamed to any internet connected device, and it includes production and post production, hardware, software and techniques.  It features current and past software releases for both Apple and Adobe and, unlike YouTube, all our training is complete.  And unlike other websites, we focus exclusively on media production and post production.  Best of all, our memberships are affordable, starting at only $19.99 per month.  Focused, in-depth, accessible and complete, this is the training that you need to solve problems, master new software and expand your business.  I invite you to become a member today.  Thanks.

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

Unknown male:  First of all, very different than it was back in the day when record labels were … because the huge growth in the last few years has been that of independently produced and independently released product in a wide variety of different musical styles.  We’re seeing very big changes in the way that artists connect with their fans, and the way fans find artists.

Larry Jordan:  This was a Buzz Flashback.

Larry Jordan:  I want to thank our guests for this week, and remind you that they’ll all be back next week, with their thoughts as they look ahead to 2016: Randi Altman, Philip Hodgetts, Michael Kammes, Larry O’Connor, Ned Soltz, Jonathan Handel and, as always, Mike Horton.  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.  Please 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 from Take 1 Transcription.  Visit take1.tv to learn how they can help you.  Our producer is Cirina Catania; our engineering team is led by Megan Paulos, and includes Ed Golya, Hannah Dean, Keegan Guy, Lindsay Loubert, James Miller and Brianna Murphy.

Larry Jordan:  The holidays are a time of hope and celebration, a chance to look back at the past, appreciate what we have in the present and look forward in anticipation to the future.  All of us at The Buzz are honored to be a part of your life.  Have yourself a very merry Christmas.  On behalf of Mike Horton, 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 Black Magic Design, creating revolutionary solutions for film, post production and television.

Larry Jordan:  If you’d like to see more videos like this one, please subscribe to our YouTube channel.  To stay connected and receive updates from The Buzz, sign up for our free weekly newsletter now, or you can learn more about us on our website.  And thanks for watching The Digital Production Buzz.

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BuZZ Flashback

December 23, 2010


Bruce Nazarian discussed how the music industry changed by artists producing and releasing independently from major record labels.