Dave Colantuoni , Sr. Director of Product Management, Avid Technology
Alec Schreck, Freelance Reporter, www.4-alecschreck.com
Michael Kammes, Director of Technology, Key Code Media
Oliver Peters, Editor, Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Sam Mestman, Workflow Architect, FCPWORKS
James DeRuvo, Film and Technology Reporter, DoddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight on The Buzz, we are talking about workflow which is a repeatable process to get work done efficiently.
Larry Jordan: We start with Michael Kammes, director of technology for Key Code Media, who provides an overview of what a workflow is and why it’s important to anyone doing professional work.
Larry Jordan: David Colantuoni is the senior director of product management for Avid. Tonight he describes how to best configure an Avid Media Composer system. The gear you need, and the gear you don’t.
Larry Jordan: Oliver Peters, creative lead for Oliver Peters Post Production Services describes how to create an effective, reliable workflow for post production.
Larry Jordan: Sam Mestman, workflow architect for FCPWorks explains how he creates custom workflows for clients. What he looks for, and what he avoids.
Larry Jordan: Alec Schreck is a freelance reporter with increasingly tight deadlines. Tonight, he describes how he’s configured his system for maximum reliability and speed.
Larry Jordan: All This, plus James DeRuvo with our weekly DoddleNEWS update. The Buzz starts now.
Announcer: 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: 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.
Larry Jordan: Hi, my name is Larry Jordan. Tonight, we decided to devote the entire show to the process of getting things done, specifically we’re looking at workflow which is the process of getting work done efficiently. As you’ll hear, there are lots of different ways to organize work and gear, but the underlying reason is that, as professionals, we don’t get paid until the work gets done. So the faster we can complete a job the faster we can get paid, and move onto the next task.
Larry Jordan: I’ve always been fascinated by how different people configure their systems. The different ways they track media, and the steps they follow to finish a job. As you’ll discover, there’s no one perfect answer. But there are a lot of different good answers, and it’s my hope that you’ll pick up a technique or two tonight that can simplify your life.
Larry Jordan: By the way I want to invite you to 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 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.
Larry Jordan: Now it’s time for a DoddleNEWS update with James DeRuvo. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Hello Larry. How are you?
Larry Jordan: I am talking to you, it’s a highlight of my week. What’s the news?
James DeRuvo: We’re going to be talking about cameras again. A little bad news for poor Nikon. Nikon is the one that actually released the first DSLR camera that had video and ever since then, they’ve been struggling to catch up with Canon and Panasonic and Sony. Last year, they announced they took a $250 million loss, their camera division, and as a result, they’ve laid off a lot of key staff members and cancelled the pocket sized mirrorless DL line, before it even came out. Just cancelled it. So Nikon is having a hard time, and it’s a pity because some of the greatest lenses out there for DSLRs are Nikon lenses. It’s a pity that Nikon hasn’t been able to keep up, even though they’ve tried with their film initiatives, and such.
Larry Jordan: OK, what else we got?
James DeRuvo: On the other hand, Lytro, the light field camera that enables you to change focusing up and down the focal length, and in depth of field. They released their first virtual reality short film this week. It’s called ‘Moon,’ and it lets you watch from a third person perspective, an astronaut walking on the moon. It was filmed with their new Lytro Immerge camera which is not only a spherical 360 degree virtual reality camera, but it also allows you to move within 3D space with parallax. So it’s like being in a real life video game in virtual reality which is really cool. Through that, they’ve been able to raise over $60 million in investment capital, so Lytro could be the future of virtual reality cameras. An amazing camera system.
Larry Jordan: Alright, what else we got?
James DeRuvo: Finally, Fujifilm announced an affordable but fast Fujinon cinema zoom lenses for their Super 35 mm cameras. They were designed for the Super 35 mm and APS-C e-mount cameras that are for Sony, and the two lenses are the MK18-55 and the MK50-135. They’re both super fast with a T rating of 2.9 and they’re designed with similar weight and length stacks, so that you can switch out the lenses and you wouldn’t have to adjust your matte box or your follow up focus. They’ve really thought these lenses out. The 18-55 is going to cost 3,799 and will be out in April, and the price for the 50-135 is to be determined. More lenses are planned to be released later this year and two more in 2018.
Larry Jordan: The nice thing about lenses is that not only can you use them on a single camera, you can move them between cameras, which means that lenses, more than just about any other technology, is a good investment because as your camera needs change, you can still keep using the same lens.
James DeRuvo: Exactly. The thing you need to remember is that your camera is more of a system than it is just a camera and as your camera gets better, you can keep the lenses. There are some Nikon lenses there that were made in the 50s and 60s, that you can put on a DSLR camera today and they will give you some amazing fine quality images. So, if you’re going to spend some money, spend it in the glass.
Larry Jordan: It sounds very cool, and James, where can people go that want more information about what’s happening in the industry?
James DeRuvo: All these stories and more can be found at doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the senior writer for DoddleNEWS and returns every week with a weekly DoddleNEWS update. James, thank you so very much, have yourself a good week, we’ll talk to you next Thursday.
James DeRuvo: OK, see you then.
Larry Jordan: 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 communication space. He also has a strange love of codecs, process and workflow. Hello Michael, welcome back.
Michael Kammes: Hi Larry, great to talk to you again.
Larry Jordan: Today we’re focusing on workflow. How would you define what workflow is?
Michael Kammes: Workflow to me would be looking at the process of creating media from conception to distribution, and the steps involved at each point to successfully create and get that media out.
Larry Jordan: Is workflow hardware or is it software, or is it a list of to do points that’s written on the wall?
Michael Kammes: It’s actually even more than that. It’s not only hardware and software, but it’s actually the people who are involved with doing it. Being able to plan out a successful workflow, whether it be production or post production, involves looking at each step of the process and the manpower or person power that you need to complete that task.
Larry Jordan: Why is this so important?
Michael Kammes: I think there’s an inclination, and I think there’s a lot of hardware and software manufacturers that push this, which is “Just use our tool and just create.” I think there’s the immediacy of being able to get results from shooting something or editing something without taking a step back, and saying, “I need to plan everything out, so not only do I have the best product possible, but I do it in the most efficient and cost effective way possible.”
Larry Jordan: I want to stress that point, because I think what happens is, we can get jobs done without ‘a workflow,’ but if we’re charged with getting it done on a deadline, and on a budget, workflow helps us keep it within the budget, and get it done within the timeline. In other words, to be efficient. Is that a true statement from your point of view?
Michael Kammes: I couldn’t like that statement more. What we don’t want to do is step on each other’s toes. We don’t want to retread over the same media we’ve already worked with or steps we’ve already worked with, and we don’t want to have the finger pointing. The more efficient you can be, the more product you can make, and then you can jump onto your next project and continue to make that art, and continue to make that money.
Larry Jordan: Let’s say that we’re setting up or renovating an existing studio. What questions should we be asking that helps us to get answers to this workflow question?
Michael Kammes: It’s a little bit of a cliché term, part of the seven habits, but begin with the end in mind which is where you’re exporting to, where you’re delivering to. Then, once you have that, you can start planning out little nodes, as I call them, nodes of what existing technology you have. Nodes of existing experience or person power to accomplish that, and once you start putting that together, it’s a lot like a puzzle. You can now start filling in the pieces you don’t have that go along with the pieces you do have.
Larry Jordan: One of the concerns that many of us have is technology is changing at such a blinding speed, that we need to make sure that we’re future proofing our decisions. Is it even possible to future proof, and if so, what do we consider to do that?
Michael Kammes: That’s a very tough question because there’s not one single piece of technology that you can buy and say, “Look, in ten years it’s still going to be running as well.” That’s just not rooted in reality. So that’s where consultants come in, folks who see the forest for the trees and also these consultants who are engineers also look at multiple ways to skin the cat. Meaning, if there is a single point of failure in that workflow, is there an engineered way to accomplish that with that workflow having that deficit?
Larry Jordan: So use it like a three year old estimate? If I can get it to last for three years, then consider that the reasonable life of a piece of gear?
Michael Kammes: I mean, if we’re taking a look at the financial aspect of it, most ROI calculations, the return on investment calculations, are usually done over three years. Some stretch to five. But when we’re talking new cameras and new codecs and such, three years is almost an eternity when you’re trying to be bleeding edge with newer formats.
Larry Jordan: You mentioned something I want to come back to, that maybe we need to hire consultants. How do we determine the consultant that we’re hiring actually has a clue what they’re talking about?
Michael Kammes: That’s a real good question. Just like an actor you may hire, or just like a financial person you may hire, you want to see who their client base is. You want to see what they’ve done in the past that can justify. What I love to do is say, “We have a roster of clients we’ve worked with, why don’t you call them, get real world input? Don’t take my marketing BS as gospel. Here are some folks you can call that we’ve helped out, and they’re going to tell you the skinny on that.” I think that’s a very important thing for end clients to do when they’re shopping around looking for intellectual property to hire.
Larry Jordan: Michael, how do you determine what’s a reasonable budget?
Michael Kammes: As I mentioned a few minutes ago, begin with the end in mind. What do you stand to make on the project? I know that’s going to be a very difficult number for some folks to come up with. You know, am I going to sell to distributors? Is it going to go to VOD? But there has to be a, what is the end game in terms of return on the project, and from there you can reverse engineer, but determine how many person hours and man hours it would take to accomplish this, and that whatever’s left over would be for, you know, the technology needed to accomplish this, either buying or renting it.
Larry Jordan: One last question, when should we do this ourselves, and when should we get help?
Michael Kammes: I think before you pick up a pen and write a check for anything, you should be discussing workflow and know what you’re going to do before you even hit record.
Larry Jordan: This all goes back to trying to get good help and people that can give you good advice, which is where Key Code comes in. Where can we go on the web to learn more about the services that Key Code provides?
Michael Kammes: You’ve dropped the name several times, so people can go to keycodemedia.com or check us out on Facebook and Twitter, and we’ll be happy to engage with you.
Larry Jordan: Michael Kammes is the director of technology at Key Code Media. Michael, this has been fun, thank you for your time.
Michael Kammes: Always a pleasure Larry.
Larry Jordan: As the senior director of product management, David Colantuoni is responsible for product vision, strategy and business management for Avid Technologies products, including Media Composer, Pro Tools, Sibelius and Shared Storage. Hello David, welcome back.
David Colantuoni: Hello, thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: David, tonight we’re talking about workflow which is the process of getting work done efficiently. So, the question I have for you is, how do we plan and set up an Avid Media Composer system so it works efficiently?
David Colantuoni: I think one of the things about Avid is, we really are a workflow solutions company. We’re not just about Media Composer. So, you start with Media Composer, and that’s a great thing we can talk about. You can start with a very small system, and use it for editorial, and then grow your workload at the same time. That is one of the things that Avid’s really done well over the last 20 years or so. For a Media Composer system, it’s really simple today. It’s no longer the system of yesteryear, and I still can tell you, the number one question we get is, “I can’t afford Media Composer, it’s $50,000. How do I afford it? How do I configure it? “ and those sort of things. That’s no longer the case anymore. It’s $50 a month, and you basically can step in and set up the editorial workflow very simply. It works on the latest Macintosh laptops that just came out, or PC laptops. Just download the software, install it, and you license it directly through Avid over the internet. Some folks like to have a dongle still, we sell those separately. But there’s very little configuration that goes on with a Media Composer set up and system.
Larry Jordan: Let me interrupt for just a second, because for people that haven’t tuned in to Avid recently, I remember the old days of, I had to buy all Avid gear and it all had to be certified, and I couldn’t run it on anything except very specific system configurations. It sounds like a lot of those limitations are gone?
David Colantuoni: Yes, that’s right. The number one thing we get asked, “Do I have to have Avid, Nexis or Storage, or do I have to have Interplay?” The answer’s “No.” We have a set of configurations for computers that you can go off and take a look at. A minimum required set, you know, I need this much RAM and this much CPU power, and then you can go and use available, off the shelf components. You can use a disk drive from any of the various USB drive manufacturers, as long as your media can play back off of it for storage, and grow up to Avid Nexis if you want to. You really can use a very basic configuration and get started on Media Composer these days, so it’s a great question and that’s a great comment. We get asked that all the time.
Larry Jordan: Like Adobe Premiere, Media Composer runs on both Macintosh and Windows systems. Is there a benefit to one platform versus the other?
David Colantuoni: Not really. We do co-development, it’s the same code base, there’s little things that happen with codecs I guess, ProRes … for instance on Windows isn’t available. But for the most part, no. Pretty simple configuration set up, the code is all the same, the editorial features are all the same. So not really much of a difference between the Mac and PC these days.
Larry Jordan: I should mention that the preferred codec for Avid is the DNx codec of which there are multiple flavors similar to ProRes for Final Cut X. Is that a true statement?
David Colantuoni: That’s true, and we have DNxHD which started many years ago and within the last year or two improved the codec so that it can handle up to 4K resolutions with DNxHR, we call it. So yes, it’s the preferred codec for Media Composer, but obviously we work with so many other codecs in the industry.
Larry Jordan: Without question, there’s many codecs that we can use for Ingest, but if we were to transcode, we would want to transcode into a DNx codec correct?
David Colantuoni: Yes, most customers definitely use that workflow for sure.
Larry Jordan: In ProRes, the workhorse format is ProRes 422 which is in the middle of the family. With DNx, which is the workflow format? What do most people tend to use?
David Colantuoni: Most people use DNx 145.
Larry Jordan: DNx 145?
David Colantuoni: Yes. It’s the same kind of middle of the pack workflow enabler, good playback ability, good quality, good resolution, multi dimensional codec like ProRes 422.
Larry Jordan: One of the issues that we have to deal with, especially as we get into fatter, more efficient formats like DNx, or ProRes is storage bandwidth and capacity. How much do we need to pay attention to storage bandwidth, and where can we get advice from Avid in terms of what bandwidth we need for the type of codecs we want to edit?
David Colantuoni: We do have a lot of those configurations on our website. If you are interested in Avid Storage for instance, we publish the amount of streams that you can get with the DNx codec. Some other drive manufacturers will also do that if you’re not using Avid Nexis, you’re using some third party storage that works with Media Composer. A lot of companies will also produce the stream count, I can have this many clients, or this many streams playing back with this DNx resolution. On our website, using Media Composer and Nexis, all that information is available.
Larry Jordan: Another big benefit that Media Composer has over say Premiere or Final Cut, is that we can have multiple editors work on the same project. How do we need to change our configuration if that’s one of our goals?
David Colantuoni: With Media Composer, we’ve been in project sharing which we’ve had for collaboration for many years, you really don’t need to do anything. It’s a feature of the product and basically it allows you to collaborate with other folks, multi user editors, and allows you to access media or not access media, or change the media or destruct media while somebody else is using it. There are software abilities that are built into Media Composer that just enable that.
Larry Jordan: A single Media Composer system, we could work with direct attached storage. On a shared system, wouldn’t we need to have a server and have all the editors accessing the server?
David Colantuoni: It’s all based on projects and media and bins, so we have all that intelligence built into the Media Composer database and software that knows when someone has a bin open, and they’re accessing a piece of media. We’re able to detect if someone else is also working on that and so, that intelligence is built into how we interact with Avid Nexis, but some other storage companies also support that. We have some intelligence that behind the scenes is communicating and saying, “Someone’s using this media file. You can read it, but you can’t write to it and destruct it, because this other person’s using it.” That’s all built into the software.
Larry Jordan: The Nexis then is what? It’s a server?
David Colantuoni: Avid Nexis is actually shared storage. You may be familiar with Avid’s storage through the years, Media Matt, and Unity, and ISIS and now the next generation storage is actually Avid Nexis and that replaced the Avid ISIS storage. It’s media and entertainment software defined storage. It does specific tasks that play back massive amounts of media with a lot of clients connected and so it’s purpose built for media and entertainment, and that intelligence is built into that software so you can do that collaborative workflow that we just talked about.
Larry Jordan: How do the computers attach to the Nexis?
David Colantuoni: It’s network attached storage, so it’s an Ethernet connected storage device. It runs on a regular network and there’s different connections, either one gig, ten gig, 40 gig connections that plug into the back of Nexis depending on your configuration. So if you have a network, you just use your traditional network to use Avid Nexis, and Media Composer together.
Larry Jordan: I think this week I was reading about Avid working with Adobe Premiere. What’s the news there?
David Colantuoni: Yes, this is one of the unsung heroes of Avid Nexis. We’ve been talking for a little bit about Avid Everywhere, and our journey through making a platform that not only enables our workflows but invites other companies to participate into it. What it really means is that when we designed Avid Nexis, we really wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just a product that worked with Media Composer. It needed to work with Adobe, Final Cut or Grass Valley or Blackmagic, with Baselight. So we went and worked with a lot of the engineering teams in the industry to make sure that when customers had multi seat editorial, they had some Adobe seats, they had some Media Composer seats, they had some Blackmagic seats or whatever, that they could Avid Nexis as the central hub that connected to the platform that we created, that allowed them to use Media Composer or Adobe Premiere as seamlessly as they need to. What that all means is that we actually engineered Nexis and worked with Adobe to get Adobe Premiere working on Avid Nexis. You don’t need to do anything, you just plug your Adobe in if you have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, and Avid Nexis will work with it.
David Colantuoni: We actually have some videos on our website we’ve created that show you how to use it, and it’s a pretty simple set up. There’s not much setup, it just talks about some of the features in Adobe, but you don’t need to upgrade your Avid Nexis, it comes along with it, and it’s just part of what we’ve been trying to do here at Avid. I know it sounds weird, I’m the Media Composer product manager. I’m also the Nexis product manager. But it’s important for the industry to understand and folks to understand that we realize that different tools have different applications, and sometimes people want to use Adobe, and they need to and it works with our shared storage. Maybe they have another seat of Media Composer and they’re using it with our shared storage. So it’s just a realization that we have to be open and we’ve been making modest strides, and doing a lot of work to make sure that we can support that.
Larry Jordan: Does Pro Tools work with Nexis as well?
David Colantuoni: It does. There’s some workflows that it supports today, but coming soon you’re going to hear more about that. We support some workflows today, and at NAB we’re going to announce some more stuff around Pro Tools. So it’s coming.
Larry Jordan: David, before I let you go, what are the biggest mistakes editors make when they’re setting up their system?
David Colantuoni: They really need to think about what they’re going to do before they set up their system. The workflow word is so perfect. What is their workflow? How are they going to ingest their media? What media are they shooting with? Are they using a Sony or Panasonic or whomever and are the capabilities that they’ve provisioned out of their laptop, able to play back 4K, multistreams at 4K? Are they going to need to do some DPX processing and things like that? So before you set up your system, buying the right computer is really important dependent on how you want to approach your workflow from a camera purchase, codec purchase and then processing of that, and then how you’re going to output it, because if you can ingest your media, and you can edit it and then you try to play back all your streams and videos but you still can’t play it out because your computer’s not fast enough, it’s not going to do you much good. So having a good core understanding of your workflow from beginning to end on how you put the pieces in the middle together, is really important.
Larry Jordan: David, for people that want more information, where can they go on the web?
David Colantuoni: HYPERLINK “http://www.avid.com” www.avid.com.
Larry Jordan: David Colantuoni is the senior director of product management for Avid. David, as always, thanks for joining us today.
David Colantuoni: Thank you so much, I love coming on. I appreciate it.
Larry Jordan: Oliver Peters is based in central Florida and is the award winning editor and colorist running Oliver Peters Post Production Services, and he’s been doing so for the last 35 years. Hello Oliver, welcome back.
Oliver Peters: Hello.
Larry Jordan: Oliver, tonight we’re talking about workflow. How would you define what workflow is?
Oliver Peters: I guess workflow means different things to different people, but it’s basically the process of getting from the camera over to a final master and all the pieces in between.
Larry Jordan: Why is it important to have an efficient workflow?
Oliver Peters: Well, obviously it helps to have multiple people involved in the process all understand what the objective is. If that means several editors touching the project or an editor, a mixer, a colorist, everybody has to know what’s expected of them and certain rules of the road have to be satisfied, and that makes it easier and fewer mistakes, and ultimately a faster process.
Larry Jordan: How formal does a workflow need to be? Does it need to be written down and documented, or can it be more informal?
Oliver Peters: I think it depends on how big a group we’re talking about. If it’s a small production company, a handful of people, I think it can be hashed out with everybody getting in a room and quickly saying “OK these are the steps we’re going to follow.” If it’s a much bigger process, multiple editors, assistant editors, DIPs whatever, then I think you probably have to document that a little bit more, especially if it’s not a snowflake type of production where it’s something where the actions are repetitive, whether that’s a TV series or some sort of corporate video series where you’re tending to do similar things over and over again.
Larry Jordan: When a customer comes to you asking for help to set up a workflow, what do you need to know to get them started?
Oliver Peters: It helps to know what kind of camera formats they’re shooting with, and whether there are different steps in the process, for example, is it all going to be ingested, edited and finished all within a single application, like Final Cut Pro X or Premiere Pro? Or are you going to have to hand it off to an audio mixer working in Pro Tools, or a colorist working in Resolve? That tends to dictate things like whether or not you should transcode the media before you get started, or if you’re safe to stay within the native structure of that particular file format.
Larry Jordan: What’s the biggest mistake people make when trying to create a workflow?
Oliver Peters: Probably not allowing enough time for all the steps in the process. Everybody these days I think want to go straight from their shoot right away to editing, and sometimes it may take a day or two in between to copy files, and do that sort of thing. So I think trying to rush the process is maybe the biggest mistake people make. Probably the next biggest mistake is, you know, thinking that they can get by with less and then trying to fix the problem at the end of the line.
Larry Jordan: Yes, I have had many of those panic emails where “It’s not working, and now what do I do?” And I said, “Well, you could start over.”
Oliver Peters: Yes. Nobody wants to hear that, but sometimes that’s the sad truth of things.
Larry Jordan: Very quickly, who’s responsible for setting a workflow? Who’s the driving force?
Oliver Peters: In smaller companies, oftentimes it’s the editor most likely, because the editor knows maybe a little bit more about the technical side of things than other people. In a bigger company you may have a post production supervisor or an operations manager or something whose sole job it is to make sure that everything works efficiently …
Larry Jordan: Last question. For people that want to learn more about what you’re doing and more about your company, where can they go on the web?
Oliver Peters: Two places, oliverpeters.com or my blog at digitalfilms.orgpress.com.
Larry Jordan: I’ll pick the short one for right now. That’s oliverpeters.com, and Oliver, thanks for joining us today. It is always fun visiting.
Oliver Peters: Thank you very much.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Oliver Peters: Alright, bye.
Larry Jordan: Sam Mestman has been working with and dealing with workflow for a long time. He’s the workflow architect for FCPWorks, a leading integrator for the Final Cut X platform. He’s also the CEO of We Make Movies, the world’s first community funded production company. Hello Sam.
Sam Mestman: Hey Larry, how are you?
Larry Jordan: I’m doing great. We’re talking about workflow tonight, and I’ve discovered everybody has a different definition. How would you define workflow?
Sam Mestman: I think workflow at its most simplest form is … and the components with which you need to do to get from acquisition of media to delivery to the audience in whatever form factor may be required of you.
Larry Jordan: What do we need to know to create a workflow? If you’re helping a client put a workflow together, what do they have to tell you?
Sam Mestman: The number one thing that I know I need to know, before I can get anywhere, is what are the needs of each of your departments? What are the links in the chains who have needs that need satisfying? What does your VFX department need? What does your colorist require? What does your editorial department want to cut with, and what is your sound department going to need? From there, you can look at all of those components, and also what camera are you shooting with, what resolution are you shooting with? Then you can assemble the links in the chain to come up with the simplest way to get from point A to point B.
Larry Jordan: Is workflow person A does this, person B does that? Or is workflow, this is the hardware you’re going to use? Or is workflow a list of deliverables, or is workflow the software? I mean, I’m confused now.
Sam Mestman: I think it’s a little bit of all of that, but I think in a perfect world, the workflow is everybody’s on the same page with how they’re going to work together. They’ve assembled in advance what their pipeline is, and everybody has an understanding of the pipeline. What often happens is, everyone is used to working the way that they work, and so workflow ends up getting wedged into these various needs around what people are attempting to do. But I think the ideal workflow is where everybody’s talking to each other. It’s more about communication than anything. Everybody’s talking to each other about how to get the footage essentially through the pipeline.
Larry Jordan: I was just thinking that many editors have their own method of working, and it works great for them, but it may not work great for the group. So the purpose is to make sure everybody in the group is all working in the same direction.
Sam Mestman: Exactly, and the earlier on people talk about what their process is, and what they want to do, the earlier that potential problems and roadblocks don’t snowball and roll downhill and cost producers endless amounts of money at the end, to solve a problem that could have usually been planned for from the very beginning if people had had a discussion.
Larry Jordan: So what products are you recommending as you’re putting this stuff together?
Sam Mestman: That is a wide ranging discussion, but I think the simplest workflow for narrative that I have seen to this point is shooting with an Alexa and cutting with Final Cut Premiere, Avid basically, and then you’re going to pretty much universally deliver at this point with Resolve, and use Resolve to work with your VFX departments and deliver various things. Frankly, Pro Tools or Reaper on the audio side, that would be the basis of what I’d recommend, and a lot of it comes down to what your lead editor prefers. But it’ll be some combination of those, and then Nuke and Fusion is coming up on the VFX side and After Effects for graphics and titles is what the basis of it is. But on the documentary side you may finish everything inside … at this point, your NLE.
Larry Jordan: I’ve got to ask that question differently. When you’re putting a system together, does everything revolve around your storage and you put the money into storage? Or does everything revolve around your computer and you put the money in the computer? They’re both essential, but it seems to me, or does it all revolve around the camera and everything hangs out. What is the central decision you need to make first from which everything else flows?
Sam Mestman: Look at your storage, so for instance, at LumaForge we make the Jellyfish which is shared storage that’s optimized for video editors, and that’s basically your house. You can assemble your house however you want, and probably the main entrance way is going to be your Macs, or series of Macs, or possibly even PCs if you’re cutting in that department. Then based on how your entry room is, and where the doors are, you may assemble applications which would be different rooms of the house and a staircase that’s basically going to be your online editor, or Resolve, that’s going to lead up to some of the finishing aspects of this which could be the other applications. So I would say your computers would basically be rooms, and your applications would be maybe the decorations around some of that. And the house which your fundamental storage, and if you have direct attached storage, you’re probably living in an apartment, and if you’re in a shared environment you’ve got a house, and that could potentially in a large facility be a mansion.
Larry Jordan: I have never heard that analogy before, and number one I’m not letting you anywhere near my house with a hammer. But I like the idea of houses and rooms and furnishings inside the rooms. That’s very cool.
Sam Mestman: Yes, you definitely don’t want to let me anywhere near your house with a hammer.
Larry Jordan: Sam, for people that need more about what you guys offer, where can they go on the web?
Sam Mestman: The best place to go is to go to LumaForge.com if you’re looking for shared storage, FCPWorks.com for workflow, and if you’re an independent filmmaker, go to wemakemovies.org and come see us in a workshop.
Larry Jordan: I’m just going to pick one of those, that’s FCPWorks.com. Sam Mestman is the workflow architect for FCPWorks. Sam, this has been fun, thank you for sharing your time.
Sam Mestman: Thanks so much Larry.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Here’s another website I want to introduce you to. Doddlenews.com. DoddleNEWS gives you a portal into the broadcast, video and film industries. It’s a leading online resource, presenting news, reviews and products for the film and video industry. DoddleNEWS also offers a resource guide and crew management platforms specifically designed for production. These digital call sheets, along with their app, directory and premium listings, provide in depth organizational tools for busy production professionals. DoddleNEWS is a part of the Thalo Arts Community, a worldwide community of artists, filmmakers and storytellers. From photography to filmmaking, performing arts to fine arts, and everything in between, Thalo is filled with resources you need to succeed. Whether you want the latest industry news, need to network with other creative professionals or require state of the art online tools to manage your next project, there’s only one place to go. Doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: Alec Schreck is a freelance reporter and multi-media journalist. As such he’s responsible for reporting, shooting, editing, writing and tracking all of his news stories. Hello Alec, welcome.
Alec Schreck: Hey Larry, thank you for having me. A fan of yours for many years, great work on your website, blog, you’re really a tremendous resource for people like me.
Larry Jordan: Well thank you, it’s very kind words. Before we start talking about workflow, which the whole show is focused on, tell me what first got you involved with news?
Alec Schreck: Originally software and wireless and banking in New York city, and one of the things I found out was when I was trying to get them to sign on the dotted line, I was a terrible salesman. I loved all the stories, the Hasidic Jewish businessmen, I had 300 business accounts in Brooklyn, mobsters, you name it, I had the whole gamut. Through a lengthy process of a lot of volunteer work, I stumbled into it and I started volunteering at a PBS affiliate, in Oregon and actually learned how to do Final Cut at one of the local cable TV stations in Portland.
Larry Jordan: Now, let’s shift to the present day because you’re a freelance news reporter which means that you need to create a system that’s both reliable and fast. As you were assembling your gear, what thoughts were you using to prioritize what you were going to use?
Alec Schreck: I just quit working for an ABC station here in Texas a couple of weeks ago, and we were up in DC doing the inauguration, and it was obviously jam packed. It was crazy, stuff everywhere, nowhere to park, you can’t set up sticks on the national mall for safety reasons. A lot of improvising, which is something I think many of us folks love. This chaotic improvisation and all that. So we had shot some stuff, and the camera that we had was a slightly older P2 and the footage was so so, and we started shooting some stuff with our iPhones. One day in particular, we had to really run and gun, myself and the photographer I was working with and it turned out great. The story turned out great, we got a lot of killer footage. You almost have to be a purist to hear the difference in the audio, and it was such a fantastic tool. That was the first time I really got hit over the head when I thought that this is beyond the future, this is now. So about a week later I went and bought a new iPhone 7 Plus and I really committed to making that shift.
Larry Jordan: Your principle camera right now is an iPhone rather than a video camera?
Alec Schreck: Yes, absolutely. I’m not an Apple pitchman, but I bought the 7 Plus specifically because it has killer video and the audio is pretty good. The stabilizers starting on the 6 Plus, 6 S plus and now the 7 Plus, are phenomenal. As a matter of fact I was working for a CBS affiliate in Florida, and we were flying to Cuba right before they opened, in a little private plane. Same kind of deal, I was shooting some footage and it was shaky and so I grabbed my iPhone and it was beautiful. It was clean, smooth and that’s when I really first started to get the idea that this is a great way to supplement my work, and then at the inauguration, that’s where I realized it needs to be the lead tool.
Larry Jordan: So we’ve got photos and video that we’ve taken on the iPhone. Walk me through the rest of your system. How do you edit it? What software? And then what’s your deliverable?
Alec Schreck: I think a couple of things. Of course they teach you at PPA, wide beam, tight, super tight, never shoot a shot, only shoot sequences. But when you’re out in the field, if you have breaking news at the desk, the producers, they’re going to want a quick one minute deal or something that you shoot out there. Without fail the photographer always freaks out. “Oh my god, they’re asking for this, or asking for that.” You hit yourself in the head, and think this is the same thing we do every day. But with these iPhones, I have to mention the FiLMiC Pro it’s just incredible, so you can shoot something already done, edit it, and send it right back, laser quick. The FiLMiC Pro is really the key I’ve found out. Shortly after the inauguration I shot a bunch of stuff on this brand new 7 Plus over at the House … building, and I was excited about it, and I sat down and put it together and I just got killed with the renders in the edit. That’s when I reached out to you. The following day I had an awe like moment and I’m like, what about that FiLMiC Pro? Threw that in, problem solved. So instead of having that highly compressed stuff to render in Final Cut Pro, I was able to snatch up with FiLMiC Pro, that app, I could change the frame rate, or the format so that it matched what I was shooting, what was going into the iPhone, what was going into my Macbook in the Final Cut Pro. There was no render whatsoever. Absolutely brilliant. I tried several different cases. Right now what I’m using, I took an iOgrapher case and I got a tremble and I cut about a half inch out of the side where the lightning port is, and it’s a Shure MOTIV mike that has a lightning plug, I plug it right into the phone and it’s great. It’s so fast, so light. Another plus of being so compact, if you’re in an airport or somewhere trying to get a quick sound bite or your gear’s stowed away or it typically throws up a red flag, and you get kicked out, you can grab something so fast. It’s a game changer. It’s really a game changer.
Larry Jordan: You’ve shifted from carrying all this gear into carrying an iPhone, editing it on the iPhone with FiLMiC Pro, did I hear that right?
Alec Schreck: FiLMiC Pro, it’s pretty well known with filmmakers. It fixes the render problem. That was the biggest deal for me. I don’t want a rig with a science project on it. I want as few components as possible, less to break. The foreclose king, workflow, I will absolutely take a little bit lower quality to get an easier workflow.
Larry Jordan: The stuff that you’re shooting, are you shooting 720, 1080 or 4K? And what are you feeding back to the station?
Alec Schreck: 720. Every station that I’ve worked at, or not, it’s 720, I think primarily because of storage requirements. So 720. I’ve played around with 720, 1080 and a little bit of 4K, just to keep it simple. Also too, if I want to cut the package real quick and send it through my phone, to be able to throw a 720 package maybe at 150 megabytes through Dropbox, rather than a 4K package in the Dropbox which you know, two gigabytes, whatever it may be, it’s such a huge time difference, sending it. You miss a slot, you’re out of luck. Matter of fact, you may be out of a job.
Larry Jordan: So you and they are trading off quality for speed? For you speed and small file sizes are the most important?
Alec Schreck: Yes, absolutely. Unless you have a technical genius, and I’ve worked with one guy and I don’t know how he did it, but he knew how to get the settings to where you could send these really small file sizes and that was magic. But typically, 720 is what I’ve seen everywhere.
Larry Jordan: Are you shooting complete packages with sound bites? Or are you feeding raw stuff back to the source, and having them edit it?
Alec Schreck: I rarely send back raw because that feed time Larry. I already know they’re going to be clamoring for teasers and promos and they probably want a VO or a … before the package, so what I like to do is shoot to edit all that real simple stuff, … I like to get all that stuff done and sent and it puts the producers at ease because they already got what they need for their teasers, for the promos, for the early show and then we can cut and just focus on the package with very little interruption typically.
Larry Jordan: What are you doing for lighting?
Alec Schreck: I have a little white panel. It’s extraordinary, the difference between when it’s a little dark at night, with the 6S versus the 7 Plus, it’s significant. I also have an older frezzi that I carry around. I have a stand that I can throw up on it. For the duration of my career, one thing that I’ve tried to think through while I’m shooting, for example if there’s an air conditioner I move them away so I don’t have to try to pull out a buzz in post, if they’re backlit or some kind of weird light, I move them away. If something’s blinking I either move them away, or make sure it’s pronounced, because it’s a cool effect. But I think a lot of it is just you really think quickly, think on your feet, learn from your mistakes. That’s basically it.
Larry Jordan: That is amazing. I remember just doing a single camera shoot, took a bread truck and five people, and you’re doing broadcast journalism with an iPhone. Alec, for people that want more information about you and what you’re doing, where can they go on the web?
Alec Schreck: Absolutely Larry. Alecschreck.com, glad to answer any questions. Larry thank you so much for having me, I appreciate it.
Larry Jordan: It’s my pleasure. Alec Schreck is a freelance reporter, multi media journalist, and Alec, thanks for joining us today. Take care.
Alec Schreck: Thank you Larry, bye, bye now.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that there’s no one single answer to what workflow is, except it’s important for us to think through workflow at the very beginning of a job and make sure everybody is on the same page, and we all understand what we’re using for acquisition and what our deliverables are so that we don’t trip over our own feet as we’re creating the projects. Anything that we can do to get the project done quickly and efficiently, as Alec made abundantly clear, is all to the good.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests this week, Michael Kammes from Key Code Media, David Colantuoni from Avid, Oliver Peters with Oliver Peters Post Production, Sam Mestman with FCPWorks, Alec Schreck, freelance reporter, and James DeRuvo with DoddleNEWS.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot of history in our industry and it’s all on 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.
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Larry Jordan: Our producer is Debbie Price. My name is Larry Jordan, and thanks for listening to The Digital Production Buzz.
Larry Jordan: The Digital Production Buzz is copyright 2017 by Thalo LLC.