Larry O’Connor, President & Founder, Other World Computing
Larry Jordan, Host, Digital Production Buzz
Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor Reporter, TroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter
Michele Yamazaki, VP Marketing, Toolfarm
Michael Kammes, Director of Technology, Key Code Media, michaelkammes.com
James DeRuvo, Film and Technology Reporter, DoddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight on The Buzz, we look back at key trends in technology for 2016. We start with Larry O’Connor the CEO of OWC. Larry shares his thoughts about key highlights in hardware and software for the year. Next Jonathan Handel, the entertainment Labor reporter for the Hollywood Reporter, looks back at labor issues during the year and the political challenges organized labor faces in the new politics of 2017. Next, Michele Yamazaki Terpstra, the VP of marketing for Toolfarm, looks back at plug ins and three D software. Next, Michael Kammes, director of technology for Key Code Media, shares his thoughts on hardware, work flow and storage for the year past. And, as always, James DeRuvo joins us, this time with a look back at 2016 on DoddleNEWS. The Buzz starts now.
Male Voiceover: Since the dawn of digital film-making…One show serves a world-wide network of media professionals. Uniting industry experts, production, film-makers, post production and content creation around the planet. Distribution from the media capital of the world in Los Angeles California. A 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. Hi. My name is Larry Jordan. Tonight we look back at 2016 from a variety of perspectives – hardware, software, work flow, labor, distribution and more. Part of the fun in any retrospective is checking to see how accurate we were in predicting in the future at this time last year. And based upon what I’ve been reading, we betted about, oh, 50% – mostly.
Larry Jordan: Tonight James DeRuvo looks at some of the top stories for 2016. Then Michele Terpstra covers the top 10 list of plug-ins this past year. Jonathan Handel has an interesting take on how politics is affecting labor issues, while Larry O’Connor spots key hardware and software trends. Then Michael Kammes and I have a dialog on what we’ve spotted along with a discussion on the new MacBook Pro laptop. It will be an interesting show. By the way, I want to invite you to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Every issue, every week gives you an inside look at the Buzz quick links to the different segments on the show and curated articles of special interest to film-makers. Best of all, every issue is free and comes out on Friday. And now it’s time for a DoddleNEWS update with James DeRuvo. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Hello Larry. Let me be the first to wish you happy new year.
Larry Jordan: Okay. And a happy almost new year to you as well. But before we shift into the new year, let’s take a look back at 2016. What are some of the top stories?
James DeRuvo: Well I think I’m going to start with the second story because I want to save the positive story to last. I think the biggest sale this year was virtual reality. Content creators lauded out this bold new technology. Everybody’s getting into it. Amazon just hired a DP. Netflix is getting into it, Hoover’s getting into it. Virtual reality just hasn’t translated into sales because the headset is too
expensive, you have to buy a brand new computer to support it. Going with the less expensive Samsung Galaxy that works with the mobile phone, you have to still have to use their phone. So it’s just too expensive. There is not enough content yet and some people can get sick watching it and all that, plus the fact that privacy is a real big issue now, virtual reality is the dud this year. That to me was a really big story this year in 2016.
Larry Jordan: What’s another one?
James DeRuvo: Drone competitors. Three D Robotics closed its stores this year after failure to solve problems with their solo drone. I really liked the solo drone. I thought it was highly innovative. It had software that could really future proof a platform, but unfortunately, the had a lot of problems with it and they kept a lid on those problems. But they burnt through all of their capital. They only sold about 25 hundred of them and they ended up closing their doors. It was a really bad story that happened suddenly. Then on top of that, GoPro had to recall that long-awaited Karma drone due to sudden power failures. Those two companies were the only two that could really compete with DJI and now they’re all but alone at the top of the heap. There’s a shake up going on in the drone world and DJI are riding high.
Larry Jordan: We have concerns about virtual reality, drone competition, do we have any good news at all?
James DeRuvo: We do. My favorite story of the year was the fact that Jarred Land, the CEO of RED, or as he likes to call himself, the fire chief, lifted 20 RED 8K HELIUM cinema cameras for sale and they sold out in minutes. A $35,000 camera and he sold them all in literally 10 minutes. It’s got a super 35 8K sensor with 3.65 Micron pixels. It uses that DSMC2 architecture for increased dynamic range and it now supports ProRes. Land was so confident about it, he gave this 19-year-old kid his own personal helium camera and said, “Go shoot something.” And the kid came back with an amazing short film about boxers called, I believe, the Underdog and showed the incredible dynamic range of this RED HELIUM Super 35 8K sensor. I really do think that’s the story of the year.
Larry Jordan: Do you really think the story is the 8K, or do you think the story is Dynamic Range, or just the fact that they only had a few of them and they sold out?
James DeRuvo: I think the story is Dynamic Range because people kept buying and they had this big waiting list. The fact that it’s a super 35 8K sensor and they were able to do that, because they made the pixel size so incredibly tiny, and still maintained that dynamic range that RED is known for, I really do think that that was what really drove it. Film-makers were looking for a more affordable
platform to shoot on for 8K and they got it in HELIUM and it’s been so popular, they had two different versions.
Larry Jordan: For people that need more information, where can they go on the web?
James DeRuvo: All these and other stories can be found at doddlenews.com
Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the senior writer for DoddleNEWS, returns with our weekly news update next week. Happy new year James. We’re talk to you in a week and in a year.
James DeRuvo: See you next year Larry.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
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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, is macsales.com. OWC is both a reseller and a developer, supporting all things Mac for more than 25 years. Hello Larry, welcome back.
Larry O’Connor: Thank for having me back Larry.
Larry Jordan: It’s my pleasure and thank you for taking time out of your holiday week to chat with us this week. Happy holidays to you.
Larry O’Connor: Yes and merry Christmas, happy new years, happy all the holidays.
Larry Jordan: Larry, I want to divide our conversation tonight into three parts: hardware trends for this last year, software trends and then what OWC has done. So to start with, what key hardware trends have you noticed?
Larry O’Connor: I’ve tried not to notice the elimination of all the different ports. Everything’s getting to down to one interface or one net connection on these systems. Maybe there’s more than one of the same, but they’re all the same and you’ve got to have other things to use your legacy stuff and there’s definitely a push away from having different options for different peripheral types and more towards a universal connection.
Larry Jordan: A lot of people have expressed discontent with the standardization on a single port but it seems to me there’s also advantages because you have basically a single interface for everything. Am I misunderstanding this?
Larry O’Connor: No, I think we’re on the same page there. It’s just the matter of not pushing it so abruptly as opposed to any kind of transition. That’s the real issue. Five years from now, people … and although what’s going to be the hard connections for the high speed stuff, but nonetheless right now, it’s really an upheaval transition when you set up all those devices and all the different
Larry Jordan: Well I’m reminded of other times where Apple has killed ports which are almost too numerous to mention, SCSI 25 and Firewire 400 and Firewire 800 and Toslink and Applenet. I mean Apple has never met a port that it doesn’t like killing.
Larry O’Connor: …fun stuff that Apple starts and takes away.
Larry Jordan: So we’ve got the standardization or the unification to a single port. Any other hardware that’s caught your eye? Any hardware trends?
Larry O’Connor: No that’s the great thing and I guess the only other aspect, and I think we’re seeing some changes, I know we’re going to see some changes in 2017. The majority of the improvements haven’t really come. We haven’t had a lot of processor speeds. We’ve been very dependent on internal GPU. That’s one area we’re going to see some changes in 2017. We’re going to see some more meaningful processor advancements in the way the GPU process. Certainly the GPU dependencies are and what you can do with. Updating your GPU in the future I think is going to change a lot of it.
Larry Jordan: So we’re going to see more improved CPU. Let’s shift to software. What’s software trends caught your attention?
Larry O’Connor: You can separate people with more … make it more expensive for this stuff. I think it’s a really disappointing trend, all this software’s gone from the professional licenses to where you buy something and actually own it, to these annual renewals. Or you’re licensing what you use and if you don’t pay the renewal, you no longer have a license to use software apps. But that’s
certainly been a trend, within the last couple of years and really picked up steam this year. In a couple of years, I think there’s not going to be outside of … fabrications that we depend on, everything in parallels, capability, whether it’s Microsoft Office on the options to actually own software are quickly going away.
Larry Jordan: Do you think it’s a permanent trend? This sort of stuff seems to go in cycles. Back before microcomputers were invented, when main frames and minis were there, all software was rented and none of it was purchased. So it seems to me that as soon as everything all becomes subscription based there’s a new market that opens up for people that are just selling it.
Larry O’Connor: Yes. That’s okay with the Cloud and the … is there, not the support. This kind of rental environment so to speak, it’s going to stick around for a while. I agree with you, it opens up a new market, but it’s going to take something highly disruptive to turn this one back around for no other reason that the applications that have the popularity, that have the supremacies out there. We’re now faced with options with renting versus buying.
Larry Jordan: Let’s shift to the third, which is something a little bit closer to your heart which is what OWC has been working on this past year. What have you guys done that is most significant?
Larry O’Connor: I think everything that we do is significant. Most significantly, in general has been to bring solutions that avoid … strategy in hardware. These are people in a position where they got to buy a new computer just to add more storage or can’t replace a drive. So we’ve been keen to provide solutions and improve solutions and advance solutions to keep Macs running longer. And I think it important because if you look at the pressure of capability and you can buy brand new today versus five years ago. You don’t buy a new computer today because it’s too slow … started with. But some other reason. Maybe you have problem with the drive, maybe you don’t have enough capacity and without OWC out there, Apple doesn’t offer upgrades for these
things. So the solution is buying a new Mac and we continue to have an exceptional line up that avoids the necessity of buying new for something as simple more storage. And we’re going to continue that trend even with the 2016s. We have some solutions for those 2016s and actually, significantly about three years ago, we got a patent on a particular design concept, seeing
the writing on the wall on this thing coming. The other area is IMac. Millions of IMacs out there that have a firmer lock on their hard drives and … just taken off over the last couple of years. … a visual interface. It talks to SMC so you can pick out the Apple drive with its custom film ware and put any hard drive you want in and still have proper diagnostic and … monitoring. These are general things, the solution, to keep these machines.
Larry Jordan: There’s nothing wrong, I mean Apple …, these aren’t $500 dollar PCs, these are 1,000, 15 hundred, 25 hundred, over $3,000 cost systems. You get what you pay for. Apple build an awesome system, awesome that the quality is there and they last. It’s only right that there be solutions to keep on going. The other thing – talk a lot about the upgrades, focus on soft grade – the interfaces are exceptionally fast today and the kind of flexibility that soft grades provides for their … solution is without comparison, both in performance as well as in overall drive monitoring and the reliability. All three takes it up to a whole new level. We’ve continued to keep things open. We’re not forcing people into … not going into subscription based, rental program. If nothing else we’ve been true to who we’ve been for 28 years. We’ve kept our focus on solutions for the people and by choice as opposed to … eco system.
Larry Jordan: With the release of Thunderbolt 3, which has got speeds which also no storage can fill that pipe, we can start to use this for other things, not just displays, but can we start to offload either GPU or CPU tasks theoretically through this pipe or is it really going to be just storage transfer and displays?
Larry O’Connor: It’s GPU, that’s the future. What you’re going to be able to do with Thunderbolt 3 and GPUs is incredible. A lot of that we’re going to have to wait for … for. What we’re going to be able to is a relatively low … and we’re just going to plug in a GPU and … the Apple, picking out some ways to do. It can be done now but what we’re going to be doing on the PC side which … do expect Apple to open the door to. It’s really going to make for some interesting future capabilities. You won’t have to put all of your investment into a GPU boosted path. You could have a great machine for portability and then when you need to do the heavy lifting, Photoshop, three D
video, then you just plug in a GPU box and boom. We’re pretty excited about that. And it’s something else again that’s going to get the machines going for a whole lot longer, I do believe.
Larry Jordan: One of the challenges that we’ve got is that Apple is making machines which are less and less repairable and harder and harder to get into which only makes your life more complex. Is this something where Apple is ultimately going to try to lock everybody out?
Larry O’Connor: We have a solution that we’re going to be showing off. It’s top secret at the moment, but we’ll be showing it off next week at the CES. I think people are going to be, hopefully they’re going to be stoked. We’re pretty stoked about it. So far everybody we’ve been showing it to, internally at least, are pretty excited. We’re hoping for a good reception on the solution. I do have to say, I find it highly disappointing that with everything sorted, one thing that goes wrong with that computer and it’s a brick and it’s an expensive brick depending how highly you equip it. The other thing that just kills me, right now solid state storage is really expensive, relatively speaking.
Larry O’Connor: The trend this year … cost increases demand due to … and geometries and it’s a big increase in demand there. Everything kind of came together to put a crunch on supply. I reckon in the next two to three months, maybe longer, we’ll either see pressure on storage state. My main point is, I don’t care if we couldn’t do it, because it doesn’t matter, … an Apple upgrade, but the user has to spend the money up front on a product. … is no only going to go down in cost per gigabyte … ups and downs. It’s a downward trend in the long haul in terms of what these are going to cost you and how much storage. That’s only going to go up. To have an awesome machine, actually the base is now $2700, $2600 and if you buy it …you need more than … the only option is to buy a new computer. I won’t say it’s criminal, but it’s certainly pretty darn close to it. And the other … is to spend a butt load of money up front, but that’s kind of a losing game in terms of certainly on its depreciation because in two years, two terabytes, certainly not the cost of one terabyte, might be the cost of 500 gigabytes so you’re going to lose. All that extra cost you’ve got to pay up front today to have the storage you need for the future, it’s just doesn’t feel right. You talk about these rentals, maybe in another few months, we’re going to see Apple roll out a run of programs because that’s the way … the purpose everybody works these systems. But if somebody spills water on your laptop and you just finished your masterpiece, you’re in the middle of whatever, whatever the circumstance, the machine dies. Of course the Apples are very reliable, but if something happens, anything goes wrong, you’re going to have a backup of what’s on there. The machine starts working … shot and keep going on another computer. You’re done.
Larry Jordan: Larry, for people who want more information, where can they go on the web?
Larry O’Connor: They can visit OWC digital-dot-com, where they can check out all our great solutions, including our docks which are used for feedback and our Thunderbolt Two dock and our new Thunderbolt Three dock which bring back all those ports that Apple left quite frankly to us to provide. At Macsales.com, of course you can find a great selection of all the OWC … third parties and a lot of help.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word – macsales.com Larry O’Connor is the founder and CEO of OWC. Larry, thanks for joining us today.
Larry O’Connor: Thank you for having me, Larry, really appreciate it.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is an entertainment and technology attorney of Counsel at TroyGould and Los Angele. He is 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, happy holidays, welcome back.
Jonathan Handel: It’s a pleasure to be back and happy holidays to you and the listeners as well.
Larry Jordan: This week we are looking back at the major events of 2016. We just heard from Larry O’Connor about some of the key tech events, but now I want to turn to labor and the industry. What are some of the highlights of the past year for you?
Jonathan Handel: Well certainly one of the – I don’t know if highlight is the right word – but certainly one of the most important things that’s happened is what happened politically, the election of Donald Trump. Trump and, particularly some of his appointees, such as Secretary of Labor designate, are not pro-worker and not pro-union despite the blue collar billionaire world that Trump tried to portray during the campaign. So it remains to be seen how that’s going to affect the Hollywood unions and unions generally. But that really has to be viewed as the biggest story both of 2016 and of the upcoming year.
Larry Jordan: Labor, especially unions, have been under pressure for years. It sounds like the pressure is about to increase.
Jonathan Handel: Well that’s right and ironically, the last time the pressure ratcheted up it was under the presidency of Ronald Reagan who broke the air traffic controllers’ union and began a long term campaign against unions and it’s ironic because Reagan came to prominence initially as president of the Screen Actors’ Guild back in the 1950s. And Trump himself receives a union pension. The ironies do abound. There also is news closer to home and this again is both backward and forward looking, which is the contract cycle between the unions and the AMTPT, representing the studios and producers.
Larry Jordan: Didn’t DGA announce something earlier today?
Jonathan Handel: The DGA board has approved the tenet of deal between the DGA and the AMTPT. It now goes to the members for ratification. They released some of the details of that deal in a sort of an outline form, not the actual contract language just yet.
Larry Jordan: Are you seeing major changes in this agreement or is it a continuation of the past?
Jonathan Handel: I’d say it’s an enhancement on the past, which in the current climate is very advantageous. Three per cent wage increases per year – the same as the previous deal, increases in residuals for a high budget … , like programs made for Netflix and a variety of other improvements that they listed. But this really does contrast with what we’re seeing in the larger external political climate, the election of Trump, the anti-union feeling in the country that continues, and has continued for many years. Other union battles are something of an uphill battle in contrast to this one.
Larry Jordan: As an example of this anti-union feeling, what’s happening with SAG after it’s attempting to unionize Telemundo?
Jonathan Handel: We haven’t heard anything about that in the last month or two and that’s a very, very uphill battle because you’re talking about trying to unionize not just a non-union network, but it’s owned by Comcast, so it’s a sister to NBC and Universal, which of course are unionized, but Comcast is very anti-union. But in addition, it is a network where the performers and the people that they’re
trying to unionize are Latinos – Spanish speaking performers who don’t get the benefits of the union contract. In this anti-immigrant, anti-Latino political climate, combined with the anti-union climate, combined with Comcast’s history on unionization, that really has to count as a triply hard uphill battle.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of uphill battles, we’ve also got the Screen Actors’ Guild and Video Game Developers, don’t we?
Jonathan Handel: We absolutely do. The Screen Actors’ Guild is on strike against about 10 or some – somewhere between nine and 11 – video game companies. That strike has been going on now for about two months and that is an uphill battle also because SAG-AFTRA does not have a high degree of union density – that is percentage of work that’s covered by the union – among voiceover work that’s done for video games. Now the union does say that among cop games they’ve got much higher density, a much higher market share as it were, but statistics are hard to find an both sides are pretty dug in right now.
Larry Jordan: This year, like every year, we lose key members of our creative community. Wearing your labor hat, what key losses stand out to you?
Jonathan Handel: Ken Howard, who was president SAG and then SAG-AFTRA for about six years or so, died earlier this year and it was a difficult loss for a lot of people. Ken was a very spirited guy, very dedicated to the union. Obviously SAG-AFTRA still has political factions and there are people who did and did not like his leadership, but he was a very kind and sincere man. The union has been very lucky, it seems to me, that they had Gabrielle Carteris, the executive vice president, to step in and become acting and then elected president. She’ll be up next year for election in front of the members at large, but she has been very energetic and really has picked up the mantel and run with it quite assertively.
Larry Jordan: For people that want more information about what you’re thinking and what you’re writing where can they go on the web?
Jonathan Handel: Two places; jhandel.com and thrlabor.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s jhandel.com and Jonathan Handel himself is the person we’ve been talking to. Jonathan, thanks for joining us today.
Jonathan Handel: Thanks much, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Michele Yamazaki Terpstra is the VP of Marketing at Toolfarm. She has written or co-written two books on plug-ins as well as becoming the go to person on software and plug-ins for our editing systems. Welcome back, Michele and a happy holiday to you.
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: Oh, you too.
Larry Jordan: So tonight, we’re looking back at 2016 and since you follow plug-ins pretty closely I wanted to start by asking what plug-in trends were hot this last year?
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: Well, it seems like there were not a lot of new plug-ins or new software. There were loads of updates for existing software where they added new compatibility, bug fixes, a few new features, but as far as new plug-ins it was a little limited. It seems to be really slowing down. I wonder if all of the plug-ins have already been made. It’s so hard to come up with new ideas.
Larry Jordan: I was just thinking of that. Back in 1899 people felt that they had achieved everything that could possibly be achieved and nothing new would be invented. Do you think we’re in the same situation?
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: I think maybe we’re in a little lull but I think that it will come back. It seems like Final Cut Pro X is kind of the hot spot for new products, especially with the FxFactory plug-in. There seems to be quite a few new FxFactory plug-ins this year. But for after effects there were only, I don’t know, a few, not too many.
Larry Jordan: Are more plug-ins sold for the after effects crowd or more plug-ins sold for the editing crowd like Premiere and Final Cut?
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: Well, the after effects users love their plug-ins and they tend to buy a lot of them. There are also plug-ins that are used for multi home so I’m not really sure what they are using it in. But they are selling all the ground, but the affect effects has always been popular.
Larry Jordan: Well, you’ve been tracking what the most popular plug-ins are haven’t you?
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: We have. We have a top ten that we do every year at the end of the year and we’re extending it. It was supposed to end tomorrow, but we thought we would add another 15 days to it. I think over the holidays people just get busy or they are just bombarded with messages and we just haven’t had as many votes as we would like. So everybody can vote on their favorite plug-ins for After Effects, Premiere, Final Cut Pro, Avid, Cinema 4D and OFX.
Larry Jordan: And where do they go to vote?
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: It’s at Toolfarm. If you go to our news page it will be there. We are giving away a couple of Go Pros and copies of a book that we’ve put out recently, Green Screen Made Easy. My co-author and I, Jeremy Hanke released it in October. We are giving that away and also a couple of $100 store credits at Toolfarm.
Larry Jordan: And when do you announce the results because I’m really curious to see what the top ten are?
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: We will announce the results just a few days after we close the survey. We are planning to close it now on January 15th so hopefully by January 20th if you’re not busy that day we will be announcing them about then.
Larry Jordan: Alright. Another thing, you’ve been exploring new software this year. How come?
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: Well, a couple of things. I’ve been wanting to learn some 3D software for quite a while. And it started out last fall learning MODO and NUKE. And then Cinema 4D is something I’ve been wanting to learn for ages. And now I’m enrolled in a Greyscalegorilla course on animation and we’ve been doing things like bouncing balls and arcs and the next tutorial is a bouncing ball. And it’s a once a week class where we meet live online and we have our assignments. Then I’m going to be learning Maya right after that. This is all for Toolfarm so we can support the products and so we have somebody on our staff who really knows the products well so we can recommend products by actually knowing what they do and by personally using them and begin to support them as well.
Larry Jordan: What were the challenges in learning this new software? This is not easy stuff.
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: It’s not and I’ve been in a 2D world my whole life, two and a half D with After Effects and editing software, so this is really different to work in 3D space and I’ve been using Adobe software for so long, putting out or looking at software made by other companies, that everything is laid out differently and things are called different things, which the names of things are different which you would think they would be the same. So it is a learning curve but it seems like once I had a point suddenly it all makes sense. Sitting down and having the time to learn it is probably the hardest part.
Larry Jordan: That’s true of just about everything. There’s always a shortage of time to learn something new. Is there a way you could apply your personal experience to your website to help your visitors?
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: Well, I’m doing a series called Michele Learns Cinema 4D and I’ve been doing it on and off for a couple of years. And I’d like to do a lot more of those. With Maya we are going to be doing a similar series when I start learning it and that should start in January. It will be Maya for motion graphics users, so I’m not really sure what I’m going to be doing with that. I think it depends on what I’m learning.
Larry Jordan: It sounds like an exciting time. For people that want more information or to vote in your contest where can they go on the web?
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: To toolfarm.com.
Larry Jordan: And the VP of Marketing at Toolfarm is Michele Yamazaki Terpstra. Michele it is always fun talking to you. Have yourself a great holiday. We’ll talk to you soon.
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: You too. Bye.
Larry Jordan: Take care. Bye, bye.
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Larry Jordan: In his current role as the Director of Technology at Key Code Media Michael Kammes consults on the latest in technology and best practices in the digital media communications space. He also has a strange but wonderful love of workflow and codecs and process. Hello Michael, happy holidays to you.
Michael Kammes: Thank you very much, Larry. I can’t think of a better way to bookend 2016 than to talk to you. I talked to you in January for your first show and I’m talking to you here on your last show in December. Fantastic.
Larry Jordan: I have multiple things I can say but I’m going to take it as a compliment and we are going to move on. Tonight we are looking back at 2016. What key trends from last year sticks in your mind?
Michael Kammes: It’s a shame that I’m bringing up the rear here because a lot of the folks you’ve had on today have spoken about things that I was going to talk about, so I’m furiously crossing them off my list. So I’ll talk about things that weren’t discussed earlier. One of them, and this makes me immensely happy as a creative, is that many more folks now are paying attention to color. With the availability of Resolve, with the availability of advanced color grading solutions, folks are saying, you know what, I can get cameras that have a wider gamut of color and I can now manipulate this in post. And it’s no longer just an afterthought. And I love that trend in the industry.
Larry Jordan: What makes the color so significant?
Michael Kammes: Well, aside from the obvious storytelling aspects of it, on the technical side there’s the planning for it at the beginning which is being able to light for a logged shot, an S-Log etc. Whether it’s being able to grade for HDR if you have to deliver to Netflix. Being able to hit those HDR specs. So there’s the need to look at that from the inception to the entire workflow instead of just treating it as an afterthought.
Larry Jordan: There’s been a lot of conversation especially with James in our first segment about stuff that didn’t take off. What surprised you that it didn’t succeed that you expected to be successful?
Michael Kammes: Well, as was mentioned, Apple, obviously you know a lot of creatives are hoping for a new Mac Pro which is what I was hoping for. Didn’t see it. The MacBook Pro which I think we will probably talk about later, I still felt it was a little bit lackluster for those who wanted a little bit more horsepower. I was bummed with how the GoPro foray into the drone market went. The Karma just didn’t perform how we had hoped. And lastly, Cloud storage. There has been the push for it but the infrastructure here in the US just doesn’t support that for corporations and so there’s been a big push to have Cloud storage as your primary storage and that just hasn’t panned out just yet.
Larry Jordan: We have huge storage available in the Cloud, huge storage available locally, but getting it from one to the other is a life altering just it’s ridiculously slow.
Michael Kammes: It’s an exercise in futility as far as I’m concerned.
Larry Jordan: Thank you. That was what I was struggling to say. I was hung up on the word distressing. The industry is continuing its shift to digital media and higher resolution and greater bit depth files. From your perspective what are the implications on workflow and codecs with this shift?
Michael Kammes: Well, I don’t think there’s ever been one codec to rule them all and it doesn’t make sense for a lot of the shall we say pedestrian manufacturers, the consumer or prosumer models of Sony or JVC or Panasonic to come out with cameras that shoot fat easy to edit codecs. They are going to shoot stuff that they can put on chip and doesn’t take up a lot of space and isn’t expensive to make and looks good. So we always have this struggle of acquisition codecs versus editorial codecs which you and I have discussed several times. We have yet to find one that will rule them all and as we move into HDR and now the IMF deliverables, that gap doesn’t seem to be closing unfortunately.
Larry Jordan: Some fascinating ideas, Michael. For people that want more information where can they go to learn about you on the web?
Michael Kammes: A couple of different places. 5thingsseries.com which is our web series. michaelkammes.com and of course keycodemedia.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s michaelkammes.com and as always Michael it’s fun to chat with you.
Michael Kammes: Thank you so much, Larry.
Larry Jordan: It’s my pleasure.
Michael Kammes: Before you cut me off, Larry, because you know, the rest of us have been able to talk tonight, I’d like to get your opinion on some stuff. Do we have time for that?
Larry Jordan: Yes, we do. Squeeze it in.
Michael Kammes: Okay, great. Let me turn the tables a little bit and ask you kind of what trends have you noticed aside from what we have discussed tonight, what trends have you noticed this year?
Larry Jordan: Well, it’s funny you were asking because I was thinking about writing something for my newsletter this weekend and I started to come up with a list so are you sitting down?
Michael Kammes: I am sitting down and ready.
Larry Jordan: I’ve divided it into four categories; distribution, hardware, software and business. In distribution VR has launched more slowly than we expected. Kirk Hamilton wrote that 2016 was not the year of VR, it was the year of the start of VR. And the jury is still very much out on whether we can tell stories in virtual reality or just provide experiences. I think games and a lot of what we are seeing with VR is an experiential environment but not a story telling environment. Augmented reality got a huge boost through Pokémon Go, that totally explained to everybody what augmented reality is all about even if they were jumping off cliffs and walking on freeways trying to find these characters. And there’s the other thing that struck me is there’s a lot of games that use VR but almost none of those games are any good. So we’re still trying to experiment with how VR gets integrated with real life.
Larry Jordan: I see that live streaming expands to Facebook Live and Twitter with Periscope joining Google and YouTube. Instagram launched disappearing videos and what this means is that social media is prioritizing video content. As … Ginsberg wrote for the Huffington Post, he said, social media is now driving video content. We’re in the era of live video. Which means that online video is attacking core cable audiences and traditional media audiences, especially for sports are fragmenting. Pay TV is in trouble. Cable TV’s audiences are declining. Over the top audience, meaning Netflix and Amazon, those audiences are increasing as more and more people cut the cord which clearly gives us more places we have to sell our work, but it decreases the amount of money that we can make as we sell to these different distribution outlets.
Larry Jordan: On the software side we saw that the Mac operating system continues to bring iPhone features to the computer, but there’s a lot of debate as to whether this is good or bad. There were major updates to Abode, Apple and Avid editing software, in fact for the first time in years Avid is starting to show signs of life again. There’s more emphasis on real time playback by pushing rendering to the background, which gives us more flexibility in handling high resolution images, but more importantly it’s going to ease the transition into HDR, which, although I was expecting it to be in 2016, it’s actually going to probably take two or three years to finally roll out, because although the industry is moving as fast as it can, the 4K images still, around the world, videographers are still shooting SD video because that’s all their distribution platform will support. HDR is all the rage and I think it’s the future, but we can’t monitor it because the spec is far broader than any current hardware will support. Our reach has exceeded our grasp at the moment. It’s going to take a while for people to catch up.
Larry Jordan: Are you ready for more?
Michael Kammes: The one thing that you hit on a few times, Larry, in terms of the content creation and then the last point you brought up, which is the iOS and Apple, is you recently did an article about the new MacBook Pro and the touch bar and it’s been pretty polarizing in the pro market as to what the response is to it. So I’m curious, you know, after you published it, after you’ve talked to people, are you sticking by what you said in the article? Are there any updates? What can you tell people about the new MacBook Pro?
Larry Jordan: Absolutely but I want to get you one more category before I let you go with the MacBook. On the hardware side for the Macs the big news was that there wasn’t any big news. You made reference to this yourself, in the fact that the iMac and the Mac Pro have not been updated. Apple decided to get out of the monitor and the AirPort business. The point and shoot camera market is dead. Killed by smart phones. And the last VCR, and we mourn the loss, was manufactured in July. DVDs are getting increasingly difficult to create even though there’s still a market for DVDs, especially for weddings and videographers. CPU chips, as Larry O’Connor said, are stuck in a limbo of barely increasing performance while GPUs from AMD and Nvidia are blowing the doors off in terms of performance. iMacs and Mac Pros are stretching way past their normal update cycles and personally I think this is due to Intel’s inability to update their chips in a timely fashion because Intel is not focusing on the desktop market, they’re focusing on trying to get into the mobile market and that’s hurt everybody. And the biggest hardware news is the new MacBook Pro laptop, with 4K and 5K monitors now supplied by LG, being able to plug into a laptop and be driven with the GPU inside a laptop. Oh and I should note that the Galaxy Note 7 devices were exploding in everybody’s pockets during this entire last year.
Larry Jordan: On the business side, and I want to talk about this after we talk about the MacBook Pro. On the business side I’m still seeing way too much competition for jobs which is constantly forcing budgets to decrease, which makes it harder and harder for each of us to earn a living.
Larry Jordan: Thinking about the MacBook Pro, it was launched with great fanfare. It ran into a blizzard of criticism. People were accusing it of having poor or more accurately inconsistent battery life. Consumer reports didn’t recommend this laptop, for the first time ever they did not recommend a Mac laptop. It only has 16GB of RAM and a feeling that Apple is confusing consumer needs, think thinness, with pro needs, think performance. So I decided to take a look at it and I worked with a MacBook Pro for, let’s see, it’s been three and a half weeks now and I really like the touch bar. It’s easy, it’s not distracting, it’s as good or better than F keys and you think well, it’s just a toy and to a certain point it is. It’s not yet programmable, but it’s a really cool step into the future that solves a lot of issues of providing keyboard shortcuts which are contact sensitive which we could never do before. But where I really wanted to spend time is testing how much RAM we actually need, because you remember the mantra, you and I were trained by the same people and they said get as much RAM as you can afford. Get 16GB or 32GB or with the Mac Pro it was 64GB, and with an OWC update we could do 128GB. And I said, well how much do we really need? So I put a series of tests together in my article which is ‘Is the MacBook Pro fast enough for video editing?’ And whether I was working with standard def video or high def video, whether I was working with 4K video, 4K multi cam, 4K multi cam uncompressed, I don’t care what it was, the most RAM that I needed was 6GB. Six, not 16, but six. And the rest of it was used for caching.
Michael Kammes: Was that using Final Cut? Was that using Premiere? What apps were being used for this?
Larry Jordan: It was using Final Cut, although I had a chance to talk with the engineers at Adobe about this and while there is a difference in how Premiere does rendering and how Final Cut does rendering, and how each of them uses the GPU, both of them are using RAM and using the CPU similarly. So that we would get not exactly the same but close to the same results between Premiere and Final Cut.
Michael Kammes: Interesting.
Larry Jordan: What was also interesting is the SSD inside the new MacBook Pro is the fastest I’ve ever measured. It pumped out data transfer at 2,300 megabytes a second. I mean the Mac Pro was 900 megabytes a second. The 2013 MacBook Pro from three years ago, 800 megabytes a second. A single SSD is 400 megabytes a second. A spinning hard drive is 120 megabytes a second. We’ve never had anything this fast. So what was happening in Premiere and in Final Cut is normally you would cache from the hard disc into RAM but the RAM is so fast and the SSD is so fast that you don’t need much more than 16GB for SD editing or HD editing, 4K editing. Now yes, if you get into uncompressed raw files, 12 bit, 16 bit, you are going to need some more horsepower but for 99% of us the MacBook Pro is going to be more than fast enough for editing and the key bottleneck is rendering and exporting which is where the GPU comes into play and that’s all done in the background for both Premiere and Final Cut, so really from the point of view of most editors most of the time, the MacBook Pro should be considered as a serious device. Now the battery issue is something to think about, but how many times are you doing a seriously powerful edit on battery? If you’ve got hard drives and RAIDs plugged in you’re plugged into wall power. And if you’re doing a simple edit on battery that’s fine, but for most of what we’re doing when we need the horsepower of a laptop we’re plugged into the wall. And with the ability to drive larger monitors we’re not locked into a 15” screen. I think I’m not necessarily saying that the MacBook Pro is the best possible computer that’s ever been invented and that it could not be improved, but what I didn’t know when I started this testing is how little RAM is actually needed for most video editing. The RAM and the GPUs are used in analysis and in rendering and exporting which is a background task. Not in the actual edit process itself. Even if you’re cutting 4K files. And that I thought was interesting.
Michael Kammes: I’d be extraordinarily curious to see how previous generations of MacBook Pros, utilizing the same sequence that you are using now, how much RAM it uses considering the speed and caching that’s not needed on the new machine, to see if you know, what we’ve been accustomed to over the past couple of years utilizing MacBook Pros and laptops, if that’s now null and void. Because now we have the speed of the new machine and are the results similar?
Larry Jordan: That’s a really good question and if I have some spare time I will take a look at it.
Michael Kammes: I know that we are running short on time, but one of the things you talked about earlier was business trends and I think that’s something that we don’t pay enough attention to. You had mentioned that business trends are putting pressure on freelance and small shops. I think it would be fantastic if you could elaborate on that a little bit.
Larry Jordan: The more I think about it, I think this is one of the biggest trends that we have to deal with. It isn’t hardware, it isn’t software, it’s trying to earn a living. I get emails every week from people who are trying to figure out how to earn a living in media. As software becomes less expensive, I see that creativity is no longer valued. What’s happening to media creators is what has already happened to music. It’s become a commodity. If a song is only worth 99 cents, it’s very hard for normal musicians to make money, though mega acts can make billions. But at 99 cents if you only sell a couple of hundred you’re not making enough to pay the rent. I see the same thing in video. Clients feel that because the software is easier to use, they’ll get the same results regardless of the skills of the person using the software. And this downward pressure on budgets and the devaluing of creativity and the commoditization of video editing, look at all the live streaming that’s going on, makes it hard for people to get started in the industry. If you’ve got a reputation that’s one thing, but if you’re trying to get started it’s really difficult and that one scares me the most because that’s the future.
Michael Kammes: Wow. That’s a great synopsis, Larry. It really is.
Larry Jordan: I will write it up and put your name on it, Michael. And just again, to give people the chance to remember who are you, what website can people go to, to keep track of the stuff you’re doing?
Michael Kammes: michaelkammes.com, and 5thingsseries.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s 5thingsseries.com. Michael, it’s been fun visiting. Thanks so much for sharing your time.
Michael Kammes: Have a good new years, Larry.
Larry Jordan: You take care. Bye, bye. You know, it’s interesting talking with Michael because he’s got such a great perception of what’s happening inside the industry and I love sharing ideas with him. He’s the only person aside from Philip Hodgetts that actually enjoys talking about codecs, which is a gift in and of itself. This has been an interesting show as we look back at 2016, as we have a chance to look at some of the different areas within our industry that have had highlights or stuff that hasn’t quite taken off and I want to thank our guests today, Larry O’Connor with OWC, Jonathan Handel with the Hollywood Reporter, Michele Yamazaki Terpstra with Toolfarm, Michael Kammes with Key Code Media and as always, James DeRuvo with DoddleNEWS.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Here you’ll find thousands of interviews, all online and all available to you, today. And remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter that comes out every Friday. Talk with us on Twitter @DPBuZZ and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Our theme music is composed by Nathan Dugi-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. Our producer is the ineffable Debbie Price. My name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to the Digital Production Buzz.
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