Digital Production Buzz
February 11, 2016
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
(Click here to listen to this show.)
BuZZ Flashback: Synderela Peng
David Colantuoni, Senior Director Product Management, Creative Apps/Storage, Avid Technology
Philip Hodgetts, President, Lumberjack System
Dan Montgomery, President, Imagine Products, Inc.
Larry Jordan: Tonight on The Buzz, Avid just released a new version of Avid Media Composer, along with additional support for RED cameras. David Colantuoni is the Senior Director of Product Management at Avid and joins us to explain their latest release.
Larry Jordan: Next, Philip Hodgetts, CEO of Intelligent Assistance, lives on the leading edge of technology, but for many of us deciding whether to invest in new gear is a major gamble. Tonight, we’re doing something different. Rather than talk about how cool all this new technology is, Philip and I will discuss how to decide whether and when it’s time to buy new gear, because sometimes the best decision is to do nothing.
Larry Jordan: Next, we all know we need to archive our projects for the long term, but how? Dan Montgomery is the President and CEO of Imagine Products, a company that specializes in media management and archiving software. Tonight, Dan shares his thoughts on the best way to preserve our media and projects for the long term.
Larry Jordan: All this plus a Buzz Flashback, Tech Talk and Randi Altman’s Perspective on the News. The Buzz starts now.
Announcer #1: Digital Production Buzz is brought to you by Other World Computing at macsales.com; and by imagineproducts.com, the workflow experts.
Announcer #2: Since the dawn of digital filmmaking – authoritative – one show serves a worldwide network of media professionals – current – uniting industry experts: production, filmmakers, post production and content creators around the planet – distribution. From the media capital of the world in Los Angeles, California, The Digital Production Buzz goes live now.
Larry Jordan: And welcome to the Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for the creative content industry covering media production, post production and marketing around the world. Mike Horton has the night off.
Larry Jordan: The rush to announce new products, both software and hardware, continues in the run-up to NAB, creating an almost overwhelming wave of rapidly changing technology. This leads to a bigger issue that we want to explore tonight – how do we decide which new technology to buy? We don’t have unlimited funds or unlimited time, so what should we buy? What should we ignore? And what are the implications of these decisions on ourselves, our clients and the industry? I’ll have more on this shortly.
Larry Jordan: Also, please subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Every issue every week gives you an inside look at The Buzz, quick links to all the different segments of the show and curated articles of special interest to filmmakers. Best of all, every issue is free. I’ll be back with David Colantuoni right after this.
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’s the editor in chief of her own website at postperspective.com and, as always, it’s a great pleasure to say hello Randi, welcome back.
Randi Altman: Hello, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Randi, I’ve been reading recently about the Hollywood Post Alliance, HPA, and their upcoming tech retreat next week. What’s this all about and are you going?
Randi Altman: I am going, actually, and I will be very happy to leave this frozen tundra that I live in and head down to Palm Springs. Indian Wells, actually. It’s the HPA tech retreat. HPA is now part of SIMPTE, so this is the first tech retreat where that partnership is going to be on display, so it’ll be interesting to see if it’s any different than years past. But based on what they have scheduled, it’s going to be interesting. It’s a great show – they’ve got breakfast round tables, so you walk into breakfast, you pick what topic you want to learn about that day, you sit at a table and there’s an expert and a conversation that goes on, so it’s kind of neat.
Larry Jordan: What kind of subjects do they talk about there?
Randi Altman: Everything – HDR, big data, working in the cloud, post for OTT, which is big and new, virtual reality. Anything you can think of, anything you want to learn about, they’ve got a panel for it.
Larry Jordan: Thinking about new technology reminds me that last week Avid announced a new version of Media Composer. In fact, Avid’s going to be on the show in just a couple of minutes, after you and I finish chatting. But there have also been some new announcements on cameras. What’s happening there?
Randi Altman: Yes, it’s chockfull of announcements. Canon has a new DSLR, still and video, so they’re targeting both; and then also AJA, which people hadn’t thought of as a camera company until a couple of years ago, introduced a small block camera that’s going to have some use in media entertainment and also some corporate and maybe security aspects as well. But then also Panasonic yesterday introduced a new version of the Varicam, so that’s a 4K cinema camera that’s out there. People were at the event yesterday and they were talking about it pretty nicely. It’s nice and light.
Larry Jordan: It’s the Varicam LT and one of the big advantages is it doesn’t weigh nearly as much as a standard Varicam, so it’s a lot easier to maneuver when you’re in tight place.
Randi Altman: Correct, yes, under six pounds.
Larry Jordan: A Varicam for under six pounds, can you imagine? Wow. Thinking of new gear, though, Tangent announced some new hardware. What did Tangent talk about?
Randi Altman: Tangent, which is pretty well known for its colorist panels, was at IBC in September in Amsterdam talking about its low cost offering called the Ripple and they were showing it as sort of a tech preview and they got some pretty good feedback. They were initially hoping to ship it in March, but because of all the feedback they were getting, they decided to implement some of the wish lists of users that took a look at it, so they are probably shipping closer to the end of April. They’ll be at NAB with the panel, and they’re expecting the cost to be around $350 and they’re targeting some part time colorists, editors. They’re saying that it can sit on your desk next to your keyboard and your mouse and not get in the way.
Larry Jordan: That’s very cool stuff. When do you take off for HPA?
Randi Altman: Tuesday morning.
Larry Jordan: Ah, well then we’ll wish you a safe trip and give us a report from there next week and we’ll hear what the latest tech gossip is. Randi, thanks for joining us today.
Randi Altman: Thanks. Take care.
Larry Jordan: You can read Randi’s work at postperspective.com and Randi will be us, as always, next week.
Larry Jordan: To read more from Randi Altman, visit postperspective.com.
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Larry Jordan: Mike Horton may have the evening off, but we have a worthy replacement sitting in his chair. I’m delighted to introduce Philip Hodgetts, the CEO of intelligent Assistance, who’s going to join me as we start to chat. Philip, good to have you with us today.
Philip Hodgetts: Oh, it’s great to be back in the studio, Larry.
Larry Jordan: It has changed many years.
Philip Hodgetts: Yes, yes, it’s a long way different from that first studio, but we don’t go into that right now.
Larry Jordan: No, it’s too depressing to think about. David Colantuoni is the Senior Director of Product Management at Avid. He leads product management and the design for all of Avid’s professional video editing, storage and broadcast products, including the Media Composer family, ISA storage and motion graphics and video servers, and Pro Tools, which is the industry standard for audio post. Hello, David, welcome.
David Colantuoni: Hey there, how are you? Great to talk to you again.
Larry Jordan: Well, unfortunately I screwed up your last name while you were listening, which is the worst possible time to screw it up, but I apologize for that.
David Colantuoni: It was pretty close, actually. Colantuoni.
Larry Jordan: Well, Colantuoni?
David Colantuoni: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Well, I’ll just drop four vowels, it’ll be a whole lot easier.
David Colantuoni: Ok. If you get somebody from old school Italy, they’ll correct you.
Larry Jordan: We will let me be corrected. David, virtually all of us have heard about Avid, so I want to get right into the new. Tell us about the new Media Composer.
David Colantuoni: Ok, great. First of all, thanks for having me. I’d like to talk a little bit about Media Composer 8.5. It’s certainly been quite a few years of resurgence for Media Composer. We’ve done a lot of different work on a whole slew of things to modernize the UI, and we introduced subscription and a whole lot of other things that we’ve been working on. We actually spent a lot of time with editors.
David Colantuoni: We created this Avid customer association a few years ago, when Louis Hernandez Jr joined the company. He wanted to really reach out and have our customers have a say in the products that we’re making, and the workflows and solutions that we’re trying to come up with. We have a council that helps us choose the different features that we’re trying to put into products that gives us a lot of feedback, so this release is actually the first release that we’ve worked on that was in direct concert with our Avid customer association products and solutions council.
David Colantuoni: You’ll see a lot of changes in the product that were centered around editorial. We did some menu simplification. After 27 years of making Media Composer, engineers would put things in menus and they would not actually be logical, so customers were telling us, “We just can’t find anything,” and so now we have our customers saying they can’t find anything because we moved it where they were so used to using it, but I’ve seen a bunch of folks saying it’s logical now – a thing that’s associated with the bin is in the bin menu and things like that – so we actually spent a lot of time with folks doing that. We’ve gone through and added simple editing features.
David Colantuoni: These things make a big difference in people’s lives, being able to see a clip being dragged around in a timeline, for instance, seeing an outline. That is such a small thing but folks were telling us it could improve their lives a lot and allow them to edit faster and that’s what Media Composer’s really all about. Some of these things have been in other editorial applications for a while. Dragging clips and making a video track so that you can just drop it wherever without having to go to a preference or anything like that, those are the kinds of things that these folks have been asking us.
Larry Jordan: David, one of the things that Philip and I are going to be talking about in the next segment is how soon we should adopt new technology. Now, this is a major release for Avid, there are a lot of new features. What’s your opinion? Should everybody upgrade immediately or should they wait or should they see how the new version shakes out? What’s your advice?
David Colantuoni: That’s a really good question. It depends on where you are in a project. We recommend that – and this is for pretty much any application – if you’re in the middle of making a production, we’d suggest you wait until the end. Sometimes folks really have to wait as they’re always editing, but if you have a little bit of downtime, make sure that you’re not going to affect anything that could help you miss a deadline or anything like that. In general, since we have subscription and everyone’s on our support plan that includes upgrades now, it’s really personal. When you’re ready for it, install it. This one has a lot of features that editors have been asking for, so we think people are going to upgrade more quickly, and the reviews have been really good on it.
Philip Hodgetts: Is it going to cause an issue for the larger plant, where they might be needing to upgrade across a whole bunch of different productions? How do you advise those sorts of people to rollout a major release like this?
David Colantuoni: Generally with Avid, those customers are very big. If you take a news organization, some news organizations have hundreds, thousands of Media Composers actually tied in with Interplay, tied in with ISA storage and a whole lot of other products, so they really have to wait and plan an upgrade for a year, believe it or not, before they upgrade. That’s the extreme.
David Colantuoni: The other part, to answer Philip’s question, is it’s getting a lot easier to install Media Composer and a lot of other applications in the world. There’s not this huge installer, and you have to go find your dongle, update it and all that kind of stuff. It’s just becoming a lot easier to do larger installations. We have things like floating license servers that allow people to push updates to every computer that might be on that particular server. We have things that allow for that. But, yes, I’d say wait for your production to go down or some downtime, and that’s the time to upgrade.
Larry Jordan: There are a lot of new features that you’ve put into this – you listed some of them already in the beginning of your interview and I was on your website and exhausted three pens taking notes. One that caught my eye was HDR, high dynamic range video. How is Avid supporting that and the corollary is how are we monitoring HDR video?
David Colantuoni: One of the things about this release is there are a whole bunch of project presets that allow you to set your project to a particular HDR setting. Depending on the type of setting you’re using, for instance the simple one is Dolby, they make their own monitor so if you need to work in a Dolby HDR setting, there are output modules that allow you to view through something that can pass through an HDR setting and do it on a Dolby monitor, for instance. That is something that a lot of folks have been asking us for.
David Colantuoni: This is the next generation after resolutions. Now everyone’s focusing on color, bit depth and things like that and, of course, you’ve seen us at the last few NABs, this has been the big talk. So we’re allowing these types of settings now and there are more of them, there are ACES, there’s BBC, NHK, Sony has their own, there are many different types that are out there and with this we tried to tackle a lot of the most popular ones. It’s really just another project setting and you can output it to a monitor that supports it.
Larry Jordan: You talked about the fact that you’ve improved performance – the ability to drag clips is one thing that you’ve done – but you’re also starting to implement RAM caching. What are the benefits and what kind of RAM allocation do we need to run the new version of Media Composer? Are we looking at a hardware upgrade to get it to really work the way we want?
David Colantuoni: What we’re seeing with codec technology, particularly with the new Long GOP codecs from Panasonic and Sony, that they do require a lot of performance in the computer. A lot of computers come with a lot of RAM now, that’s the good thing, but we would say something around 16 gigs of RAM would allow you to get some RAM caching, but all the way up to 64. If you’re in an editing situation, even on Pro Tools, Pro Tools does RAM caching, it’s just a good idea to have a lot of RAM available and if you’re on Media Composer for this particular upgrade, it can help your playback performance significantly, particularly if you’re working with some of these modern codecs. If you have the ability to upgrade, it will definitely allow you to playback video streams much more easily.
Larry Jordan: Another thing I read in the release is that you’ve done more support for RED files, thinking of codecs. What are you doing with RED?
David Colantuoni: The RED folks have been great. Last year, we announced DNxHR, which is our new codec that is taking over from DNxHD and obviously DNxHD supported HD resolutions and DNxHR supports above HD resolutions. The RED folks have actually taken the codec and they’re implementing it on their cameras, the Weapon camera, Scarlet W, RED Raven, so they are working on actually making that an in-camera codec.
David Colantuoni: We work with a bunch of other partners in the industry, but RED has really taken the lead on making sure that this codec works in their camera. This, of course, helps with a really efficient workflow. If you happen to be editing on Media Composer, it’s a seamless workflow you’re capturing in that particular codec, and you can just ingest your media and start editing right away. That’s a nice feature of the new RED cameras that are coming out and it’s been great to work with them.
Philip Hodgetts: Does that imply that that codec supports high dynamic range or the range of the image out of the RED camera? Or are we just wrapping the RED codec and relying on that to handle that?
David Colantuoni: DNxHR supports high dynamic range, so it’ll also support that through the camera.
Larry Jordan: Which version of the operating system for both Mac and Windows does the current new version of Media Composer support?
David Colantuoni: Probably the biggest request. Windows 10 and El Capitan, and it supports the latest Windows and Mac releases of those.
Larry Jordan: If you were to give a brief answer to this, because we’ve got two or three minutes left, what’s the difference between Media Composer, Media Composer Cloud and Media Composer First?
David Colantuoni: Media Composer First is really a subset of Media Composer, it’s a simplified version, a simplified user interface, and it’s free. We’re still working on that and you’re going to hear more about that at NAB and throughout the rest of the year.
Larry Jordan: Excuse me, David, is Media Composer First announced or released?
David Colantuoni: We announced it last year at IBC, but we haven’t released it yet. We’re still engineering it.
Larry Jordan: Ok.
David Colantuoni: Then Media Composer Cloud is actually a much more sophisticated editorial product that allows you to collaborate using Media Composer and Interplay. It really is built for news gatherings, so if you’re on a site and you have a breaking news story you could actually ingest media and interact with media that’s way back at the home base, at the newsroom, and cut together a story in the field. So that cloud functionality is really the interactivity that you’re looking for.
Larry Jordan: Would this be Avid’s answer to Adobe Anywhere, where you have a server based client operation? A similar concept?
David Colantuoni: Yes, a very similar concept. Yes, absolutely.
Larry Jordan: And what’s necessary? Is cloud really for large organizations, or should smaller shops consider it?
David Colantuoni: It does work with Interplay and we’re seeing a lot of post production houses interested in it because they want to decentralize their editorial away from a traditional post house, and so what that means is they could actually have editors anywhere, and have all of their media back at the post house, and hire out talent and still interact with their media and edit as though the experience is seamless. So more and more we’re hearing of post production houses looking at it. It’s in a bunch of news organizations throughout the world and it’s been a very good product so far.
Larry Jordan: And what’s the difference in the product between the subscription version and the paid for version?
David Colantuoni: There are three different ways to look at purchasing Media Composer. You can subscribe to it annually and pay monthly, so effectively you can subscribe monthly; you can also buy a traditional perpetual license which allows you to use the product forever and if you want to continue to update that version, every year we’ll come back and say, “Do you want to buy an upgrade package?” and that lasts for another year and every year you’ll have to come back and renew.
David Colantuoni: Last year, we had about five or six different releases on Media Composer. This year we’ve already had one and it’s only February, so if you’re on a subscription or a perpetual license with an upgrade program, you’re actually getting a lot of updates and you just continually get them and get new features. It also comes with tech support too, so if you need help you can call Avid or contact us through the web.
Larry Jordan: Which gets me to the last question I’ve got for you today – where can we go on the web to learn more about Avid and Media Composer?
David Colantuoni: You can just go to www.avid.com and you can find out. We’re actually in the midst of revamping our website. I would point you to the blog section, so you can actually just type in ‘blogs’ and you can read about everything I’ve talked about for Media Composer 8.5.
Larry Jordan: David, thank you so much. David Colantuoni is the Senior Director of Product Management for Avid for their creative products. David, thanks for joining us today.
David Colantuoni: Thank you very much and thank you Philip. See you soon.
Philip Hodgetts: Thanks, David.
David Colantuoni: Take care.
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Larry Jordan: Philip Hodgetts is the CEO of Intelligent Assistance and Lumberjack System. He’s also involved with technology in virtually every area of digital production and post production and, even better, he’s a regular contributor to The Buzz, which I’m very grateful for. Welcome back, Philip, good to have you with us.
Philip Hodgetts: Thank you, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Much is being written today about the speed of technology change. In fact, it seems that products today are being released faster, yet they’re less developed, so this leads to a question I want to spend time thinking about – how do we decide when to invest in new technology?
Philip Hodgetts: It’s the business of production and the thing about business is that what you get to keep is the difference between what you earn and what you spend, and the more you spent on gear, the less you’ll have left in your pocket. My general philosophy is I will spend money on gear when I absolutely have to spend money on gear and not before that.
Larry Jordan: Yes, but what determines what ‘absolutely have to’ means? And there’s a time where you’re looking at a new feature that you have to have – what’s the tipping point?
Philip Hodgetts: The tipping point is where you can make more money from having that feature than you could have without it, or you can provide a service that your customers are demanding that you couldn’t provide without having that feature available. I think that’s the primary tipping point. Guys have a tendency to want to play with toys.
Larry Jordan: I have never heard that said before.
Philip Hodgetts: No, never. The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys. Well, I think the wise thing is those people who have a partner that looks after their finances or helps advise them on when we should spend, should listen to the partner and spend when they approve it. When you can justify it to that person, you probably are about ready. If you can justify it to everybody else at the local ITVA meeting or whatever the equivalent to that is, then that’s probably not the right time early on in the technology cycle, unless you’re going to get a major benefit in the short term, and early in the technology cycle is not a good place to buy.
Larry Jordan: Well, when should be an early adopter and when should we hold back?
Philip Hodgetts: For most people most of the time, hold back. But that said, there were people who jumped on the RED bandwagon very, very early on because they could do things with those cameras at that price point that they could not do otherwise, and that made the pain of a very unfinished system, a very raw system, worthwhile even though for a while major productions needed to carry two RED cameras so they could have a spare because inevitably one would be down at any given point in time. But the payback was a dynamic range that was unachievable at that price point, it was unachievable in that form factor beforehand, and that’s probably the driver.
Philip Hodgetts: When you can either push yourself into a whole new area that was never possible before or whether you can make something more cost effectively than it was before – and I think they’re the two criteria: will this give me an edge that puts me in front of my competitors and I can justify it, I’m not going to bet the business on it? Or is this going to provide a clear faster workflow that I can rely on to get the job done faster? Again, faster job, same income means more money in the pocket, less time spent, more customers can be serviced and so you can grow your business.
Philip Hodgetts: To me, it comes down very much to the business argument and it will be different for almost every business as to what the argument is. I love gear. Truthfully, I started asking my parents for a videotape recorder when I was 13 and, trust me, not very many parents knew what that was at that time; and when those same indulgent parents many years later gave me the opportunity to go into business, I went in, slam, I bought time base correctors, I bought vision switches, I over capitalized the heck out of that business and paid for it for the next five years. So the next time I decided to make a big technology leap I stayed behind the curve for a long time and I think behind the curve is a very good business place to be.
Philip Hodgetts: If you’re behind the curve with the technology – I’m not saying buy three-quarter inch recorders, not that far behind the curve – but if you’re just a little bit behind that leading edge – the leading edge is the bleeding edge, that’s another cliché that you hear regularly – then other people prove the technology, other people get the workflows. As a general rule of thumb, about the time the leaders, those leading edge people, are tired with it and moving onto the next thing, that’s the time for you to buy it.
Larry Jordan: Well, there’s a wild card in all of this and those are clients. When should the client drive us to get new technology, and when should we show the client that new technology exists and should we buy the gear in anticipation of getting business, or do we buy the gear because the business is there?
Philip Hodgetts: You buy the gear because the business is there is my off the cuff response to that. I think it’s dangerous, listening to clients.
Larry Jordan: Wait, I want to hear you say that again. Really?
Philip Hodgetts: I think it’s dangerous listening to clients in recommendations for technology, because most clients are not spending the time keeping up with technology, they don’t necessarily know what’s changed. Even in fairly significant workflows, people will tend to go back to what they did last time, even though last time was four or five years ago and last time was going to a digital lab.
Philip Hodgetts: This time, you just do it in the NLE that you’ve got, for example. There are times when you need to suggest to the client, “You know, there is a way that will do this that will save you money and we can equip that for you, or we can provide that service for you,” but if you’re listening to clients, they would still want three-quarter inch deliverables or one inch masters. This is not something that’s driven by a technology savvy client in general. If a client is coming back and saying, “We want to invest, we’re going to spend $100,000 a production on seven productions a year for the next five years on virtual reality. Do you have the rig?” once the ink is dry on that contract and you’ve checked they’re bone fide so they will have the money to back themselves up, then is the time to invest in the best VR rig that you can get at the time. Not the most expensive, but the one that will give you the best short term results, knowing that six months from now the technology will evolve and six months from now the technology will evolve again.
Philip Hodgetts: Sometimes making a less extreme investment in the short term to get into a space is a very good idea because you can then dispose of that investment quickly and easily and get a quick payback on it. Honestly, if you can’t get a payback on the investment within six to 12 months, perhaps that investment is not the right one for your business at that point in time.
Larry Jordan: It’s interesting to me. What I’m hearing you say is in all cases you need to look at where the cash is coming from, you’re not looking at the creative benefits of having a particular piece of technology. Am I hearing that right?
Philip Hodgetts: Yes, because even most run and shoot cameras, the little still camera that my mom caries with her all the time…
Larry Jordan: The point and shoots?
Philip Hodgetts: The point and shoot is the phrase I was looking for, thank you very much. But even that’s capable of 1080 video. Everybody’s got a phone in their pocket. I think, ridiculously, we have something like 12 HD cameras in our apartment between two people. Now, some of those are because they do small level production. None of those is a big investment. The most expensive camera in my arsenal I think is a $950 NEX-7 and that’s now coming up for a four year old camera and it’s performing exactly the way it did four years ago.
Philip Hodgetts: An A7 would be very, very nice, I can lust after the low light performance of that and see some benefits for some of the things that I do, but I don’t see a clear path for me to justify that expenditure to my partner because this is not a revenue producing stream for us.
Larry Jordan: How would you define when a product shifts from being leading edge to ready for prime time?
Philip Hodgetts: My general rule of thumb for societal shifts is what are people talking about at the Super Bowl party? So when people are starting to send each other recipes by email, I knew email had arrived outside the tech space. I think when there are defined workflows for a particular type of technology, when all of the pieces are in place and you can go to a vendor and say, “Look, I want a complete workflow that starts with this acquisition technology,” but it’s all going to be driven from what am I delivering at the end, and my general approach would be what is the least amount of money that I can spend that will deliver the quality and storytelling capability that my client or I want?
Larry Jordan: But I’m hearing caution every step of the way.
Philip Hodgetts: I’m coming from a position of where I was not cautious and suffered for it and so I’m probably overcompensating. Look, there can be a place for this bold move and I referenced the RED cameras earlier, and anybody who’s been the first to go and do a major production. As an example, the first editors that did a major motion picture on Final Cut Pro X were able to leverage that to make a major jump in their career to get into feature film editing at a studio level from television editing, and that’s a way of leveraging that technology job.
Philip Hodgetts: Knowing full well, if you are going to make that technology jump, you are going to pay for it somewhere – not in dollars but you’re going to pay for it in longer hours, in having to go and redo work that has been done once before because conform is not working the way you want – if you’re prepared to get some huge benefit out of it by being the first, then that’s a really good reason to jump. If it lets you do something you couldn’t otherwise do – a very minor example, but without a 4K GoPro or a camera of that size that is so non-intrusive, I couldn’t do the ‘Lunch With Philip and Greg’ series that we do because it would just be too intrusive without the ability to have small recorders, so when the technology allows you to do something you couldn’t otherwise do is a great place to do it.
Philip Hodgetts: When the business case is strong for that, then it’s time to do it. Because you want to play with the new toys, no matter how you justify that you to yourself, is not the right time to do it. As I said, technology is mature when all of the moving parts are in place, when the workflows are known, when you can hire people who know how to do that without having to go to the five specialists who are commanding a premium for their special knowledge.
Larry Jordan: Thinking at it from a personal level, how do we manage the stress of continual technology change and, worse, technology obsolescence? As you said, you buy new VR gear; six months, it’s obsolete. You buy a new drone; six months there are new drones out. That is not for the faint of heart.
Philip Hodgetts: No, no. It’s one of the questions I ask at every lunch because I like to know how people cope with that, and people have various means. Mine is I try and get some insight as to whether this is a technology that’s going to fly. I was never enthusiastic about 3D, I didn’t really think it was going to fly in television. 4K, obviously there are lots of advantages, so I shoot a little bit of 4K for those advantages.
Philip Hodgetts: Future proofing is another good reason why you might move forward in technology at this point, when the demand might not be there until some point in the future. But for a corporate presentation that’s going to come and go, no matter how important that is to the production industry, having the latest 4K RED to shoot that is probably not going to be a great payback in the extra amount that you can get for having that in that context, so it’s all about the context.
Philip Hodgetts: I’m one of these people that embrace change, I love change, I love jumping into the new, so I’m happy to put up with some of the teething pains that go with that. You have to choose where you’re going to incur your pain, and if you want to incur that up front and jump into the new technology on the risk that it’s actually not going to fly ultimately – a lot of people got into 3D that have found that it didn’t really pay off their investment – don’t go beyond the comfort point.
Philip Hodgetts: If a particular piece of gear or choice is making you feel uncomfortable deep in the gut, I’d say don’t do it because there is an instinct, I think, that we all have that helps us work out when the right time is to change and not to change. I like to get in first but I advise people to leave it as late as possible, so I’m completely hypocritical. I’m a jump in and do it first person, but I know what I’m doing and I’m prepared to put up with the pain of doing that, and I don’t have paying clients looking over my shoulder saying, “That’s not the way you said it was going to be.” If you’re in that situation, then you really do have to keep all of those moving parts in mind and encourage clients into the right place when it’s to their benefit or it’s going to make it easier for you to produce for them. Otherwise, be as conservative as you possibly can.
Larry Jordan: And for people who want to keep track of these ideas and others, Philip, where can they go on the web?
Philip Hodgetts: Philiphodgetts.com is where I do my sketchpad thinking, not as much as I once did, and of course intelligentassistance.com and lumberjacksystem.com sites are always available.
Larry Jordan: That’s philiphodgetts.com, lumberjacksystem.com and intelligentassistance.com, Philip Hodgetts himself joining us in the studio. Philip, this has been great. Thanks for taking the time to join us today.
Philip Hodgetts: Thanks, Larry.
Larry Jordan: We’ll be right back with Don Montgomery from Imagine Systems, right after this.
Larry Jordan: Welcome to Tech Talk.
Larry Jordan: This is a typical shot where there is just all kinds of garbage in the shot, which is why we need to have a garbage map, we need to get rid of it.
Larry Jordan: Normally what I would do is I would apply the garbage map first, although frankly it works in both directions, but to show you the problems that we’ve got and why the matte becomes necessary let’s first apply the key.
Larry Jordan: Grab the keyer, drag it on top of the clip and let’s take a look at our alpha channel here, our matte. That which is white, which is Andrew, is fully opaque. Parts of the green screen are pure black and they’ll key out perfectly, but look at where all this garbage is here and look down here, the light’s falling off, we’ve got folds in the fabric. It’s not ideal.
Larry Jordan: Before I add a mask, I want to clean up the key, so I select the key. First thing I’ll do is go back to here, select sample color and draw a rectangle near the face but not so close that it’s going to see hair or get skin. You want to be near the face because the part of the key that’s the most important is the part near the face. If that looks good, people will forgive everything else. If the feet look perfect and the face does not, nobody’s going to even notice the feet.
Larry Jordan: Now we’ll go back to our alpha channel here. So we’ve got a good key right up here, but we’re losing it down at the bottom. Let’s scroll farther down. If there are holes in your foreground, we can fill them in by grabbing fill holes and I can tweak this a little bit, spill level compensates for green edges, but the point that I go first is down here where it says map tools.
Larry Jordan: Shrink and expand allows me by dragging this – notice what I’ve just done. I’ve gotten background to be more solid black, enough black that I can now put a boundary around Andrew, which allows me to define the area of the key that I want to keep and which area of the key I don’t want to keep.
Larry Jordan: Let’s switch back so we see the composite and now we’ll add another filter. It’s inside the mask category and it’s called ‘Draw Mask.’ Drop it on top of the clip. I’m going to add a point right here, another one there, another one here. I’m drawing a boundary around Andrew. Now, if Andrew were moving I’d have to key frame this and if I needed curves I would control click on one of these points, and I would turn it to smooth and I would then have a curve that I could then shape by grabbing one of these control handles. But fortunately Andrew is holding still and I don’t have to worry about key framing.
Larry Jordan: Key framing for a mask is the same as key framing with any other object inside Final Cut – you just have to set a position every time Andrew changes position. But what we’ve just done now is we’ve said the only part of the key that we care about is this. Everything else is transparent and we see the background.
Larry Jordan: So that which is from the top clip is inside the mask. Everything outside the mask is transparent, and we see the background behind it and the key then shows up inside the mask. This is how we get rid of all problem footage inside any kind of a key, we draw this mask, this boundary around the object. That which is inside is keyed, that which is outside is transparent, and all the light stands, and the garbage and the folded fabric, all that stuff just disappears and we don’t have to worry about it.
Larry Jordan: We can even get carried away, should we want to. Select Andrew, let’s twirl
keyer closed and go down to the transform setting. In fact, we’ll just click ‘Transform’ down here and say let’s pull Andrew off to one side. This is the big benefit of having head room and shooting both sides of the body – even if the framing doesn’t look good, I can now drag Andrew wherever I want him to be, except up because clearly I’ve cut off his bottom, but I can drag him wherever I want and position him so I get the framing that I need that fits in with the background that I’ve got, which is clicked on.
Larry Jordan: These are the basics. You apply the key, you adjust is so you’ve got a solid foreground which is white, a solid background which is black, then use the transform controls to position it and tweak it if necessary with the map to hide a mask. This is the stuff that we repeat over and over and over again.
Larry Jordan: Dan Montgomery is the President and CEO of Imagine Products Inc. He and his wife Jane founded Imagine Products back in 1991, with the concept of creating software to improve video production. From that initial dream has sprung ShotPut Pro, HDView, ProxyMill and PreRollPost. Hello, Dan, welcome.
Dan Montgomery: Hi, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Dan, one of the big conundrums for media folks is trying to figure out how to archive their projects for the long term. How would you define the difference between making backups and making archives?
Dan Montgomery: Back in the day, it was all about making copies of your analog tapes and those were backups. Archive really means it’s something you’re not going to touch very often. In a true archive, you have to have at least two copies offsite in different locations that are protected so that they can be accessed in an emergency, whereas a backup is just simply another copy that you have locally probably, and you’re making multiples of those perhaps.
Dan Montgomery: I run into people that try to use LTO. They have one copy, they make one tape and they think they’re safe, but that’s really not a good workflow. You want to have at least two and even if you have it on random access you still want another emergency copy.
Larry Jordan: It seems that there are three big issues surrounding archiving. First, what hardware should we use? Second, what software should we use? And third, and I think it’s the sleeper question, how do we play these files back in the future? I want to start with the hardware question – what do you recommend, archiving on hard drives or archiving on tape?
Dan Montgomery: Either LTO tape or Sony optical disk, something like that that’s more permanent that has a long shelf life, 20 to 30 years. Hard disks are like car batteries, they’re only good for maybe four or five years.
Larry Jordan: Do you have a preference between LTO tape and the optical media that Sony’s released?
Dan Montgomery: Not really. I think in the long run the LTO is probably cheaper and more widely adapted, but there are a lot of different companies involved in the manufacturing and also hardware that’s out there that’ll be able to access it in the future, whereas Sony is just Sony. But then again, it’s Sony and they’re pretty pervasive in our industry.
Larry Jordan: It sounds like you’re not recommending hard drives for long term storage.
Dan Montgomery: Absolutely not.
Larry Jordan: How come?
Dan Montgomery: Just not reliable. They’re not going to be there for the long term, plus the cost per gigabyte is prohibitive in the long run compared to something you can get on a tape drive. Nowadays, LTO7 is about $150 street value, $140 maybe, for six terabytes. That’s pretty cheap.
Larry Jordan: Since we can write directly to tape drives with the new LTFS technology, why do we even need archiving software?
Dan Montgomery: Because everybody’s time’s valuable, so we’re all in a hurry, and we want to get things done as quickly and efficiently as possible, and for just dropping a couple of files onto tape, sure, use ‘Find’ or use ‘Explorer,’ that’ll be fine. But if you’re talking about lots and lots of videos, like most people are doing, you’re shooting a whole day’s worth, let’s say you’ve got six terabytes a day that you’re backing up at night, you want something that’s going to do that quickly and efficiently and index it all and also keep you from making mistakes.
Dan Montgomery: A lot of our software like ShotPut and PreRollPost backup software is all about catching the simple human errors, and keeping you from doing silly things when you’re tired and you’ve been shooting all day and you’re ready to go hit the hay.
Larry Jordan: Tell me more about what PreRollPost does.
Dan Montgomery: We started with a Mac version of that back in 2012, I believe was when we introduced that, and it’s progressed a lot over the last three or four years and we just recently introduced the Windows version. The Mac version is good for OSX 10.9, 10.10, 10.11 and the Windows version is good for Windows 10, 8 and 7, so we’ve got the last three operating systems covered on both sides.
Dan Montgomery: The whole concept of those is simply making it really easy to drop your file, and then see where it’s going, and put it onto the tape and make an offline index so that on your local computer you have the information of what’s on that tape, and we try to gather what metadata we can from the files that you’re putting on the tape and make them searchable, whether you have the tape stuck in the deck or not, so it’s a true index versus a finder copy when you’d have to have the tape in the deck to look at it.
Larry Jordan: So the benefit to PreRollPost is it’s automated, it allows you to work with more files and just a few and it keeps a record of what it’s done so you can figure out what file is stored on what tape. Is that a true statement?
Dan Montgomery: Pretty much, yes.
Larry Jordan: Is the Windows version the same as the Mac, just newer?
Dan Montgomery: Well, we didn’t have a Windows version earlier because Mac is pretty pervasive in our industry, although we’ve found that in Europe a lot of people use Windows. We saw that from our other applications so we wanted to address that market. But the Windows version of PreRollPost is significantly different in that it’s more of a single screen interface, so everything is in front of you, you can see on the left hand column your tapes that are mounted, your hard disks that are mounted, you can drag and drop between them, things like that, versus the Mac version, which is more of a wizard where it’s walking you through, “Ok, put your files here, drop them here, now get ready to back it up. Now do this, do this, do this,” so it’s a little bit different interface. It might be a little intimidating to start with, but so far people catch on pretty quickly.
Larry Jordan: There are lots of different archive utilities. Why would somebody pick PreRollPost?
Dan Montgomery: Because it’s inexpensive, and it leverages off of the technology that we’ve been involved with for the last ten years or better as far as knowing how to back things up, and to do it quickly and securely, and to make sure the copies match originals and all those sorts of things. Also, in LTFS land, there are certain characteristics you can’t use for file names, and folder names, and things like that, and an application like this keeps you out of trouble and helps you make good backups.
Larry Jordan: Is it possible to get proxies automatically created of our media so we have a chance to see what they look like without having to waste time downloading them from the tape?
Dan Montgomery: Sure. We do that with our Mac software. We have an application called ProxyMill that can do that on the fly while you’re making your tapes, or you can pre-process them ahead of time and make full length low resolution proxies that would reside on your computer and also on the tape, if you want.
Larry Jordan: One of the things I was struck with about LTO is that each LTO generation, four to five to six to seven, will read that generation and two generations back. It sounds like we can’t just simply copy our archives to a tape and forget about them, we need to actively manage them so that every five or ten years we upgrade them to whatever the current LTO spec is. Is that a true statement?
Dan Montgomery: It’s not so much the spec as it is the equipment, whether you still have that equipment that can read it or not. But look what’s happened – LTO7 is six terabytes per tape versus just two generations ago, LTO5 was about one terabyte, I think, or 600 megs, something like that, so it’s a significant increase in capacity. One LTO7 tape could hold, what, ten of your old ones. So I think, just like you saw with video over the years, a lot of times you need to plan to move all those files forward to a newer generation of equipment if you want to continue to be able to access them.
Dan Montgomery: I want to point out one thing. Our company is 25 years old now and we were invited to do the archives for the Olympics in 2002 in Salt Lake, so we were on site for 30 days, we did the whole thing and what struck me was one of the managers there that was involved with that said, “No two modern Olympics has ever been shot on the same format.” Think about that. Every four years, it’s something different and that’s a big challenge, because they archive all that stuff, but having an index to get something they can find and you keep that going forward, that’s always a challenge.
Larry Jordan: That is a challenge. For people who want more information about you and your products, where can they go on the web?
Dan Montgomery: You can go to imagineproducts.com and find all the demos, prices and download things there. If you want to know more about LTO, you can go to lto.org where there are all sorts of resources there to help you understand how the whole thing works going forward.
Larry Jordan: Dan, thanks for joining us today. Dan Montgomery is the co-founder and President of Imagine Products Inc and, Dan, it’s been fun visiting. Thank you very much.
Dan Montgomery: Thanks, Larry.
Larry Jordan: It’s time for a Buzz Flashback. Five years ago today…
Synderela Peng: For Yogi Bear, we actually had to write things down and make sure that not only is the actual animation and the transitions working, but logically you’re going from this scene to the next, it’s not all just a matter of putting in a cool transition and ignoring what the character is supposed to be really doing or communicating, so there are subtle things like that that we do pay attention to.
Larry Jordan: This was a Buzz Flashback.
Larry Jordan: I find the discussion of finding the best balance between technology and business to be fascinating, Avid’s thoughts on updating between projects and, more importantly, finding the time to plan your upgrades, not rushing into the latest version the instant it’s released but find when that update makes sense for you; and Philip’s thoughts on that were especially insightful on establishing a business case before investing in new technology. Don’t be driven by all the marketing hype on the newest bells and whistles, but instead look for ways to make money on the technology you’ve got and ways to make money on the technology that you’re going to be adding to your operation.
Larry Jordan: It’s also interesting, listening to Dan Montgomery talking about how to protect our assets using technology, whether it’s LTO tape or the Sony optical media, to be able to make sure that we’ve got access to it in the years to come.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests for this week, David Colantuoni, the Senior Director of Product Management at Avid; Philip Hodgetts, the CEO of Intelligent Assistance; and Dan Montgomery, co-founder and CEO of Imagine Products.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Here you’ll find thousands of interviews all online and available to you today; and 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 Doogie Turner with additional music provided by smartsound.com. Text transcripts are provided by Take 1 Transcription – visit take1.tv to learn how they can help you.
Larry Jordan: Our Supervising Producer is Cirina Catania; our show producer is Debbie Price. Our production team is led by Megan Paulos and includes Ed Golya, Keegan Guy, James Miller and Brianna Murphy. My name is Larry Jordan; Mike Horton will be back with us again next week, when both of us will say 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 imagineproducts.com, specializing in workflow applications for over 25 years