Paul Babb, President/CEO, MAXON US
Louis Hernandez, Jr., Chairman and CEO, Avid
Carey Dissmore, Founder, IMUG, MediaMotion Ball
George Hall, President, Video Streaming Services
Norman Hollyn, Teacher, Editor, Writer & Professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts
James DeRuvo, Film and Technology Reporter, DoddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight on The Buzz we are looking for reasons for hope. Working in media, it’s easy to become cynical and depressed, constant change, decreasing budgets and increasing competition make it hard to stay cheerful. So tonight we talk with industry thought leaders to get their view on how we can move forward, hopefully.
Larry Jordan: We start with Paul Babb, the CEO of Maxon US. No part of our industry is under more stress today than visual effects. So tonight Paul shares his thoughts on ways we can respond without getting crushed.
Larry Jordan: Carey Dissmore, freelance editor and IMUG co-chair, explains why he’s still excited to get to work every day, along with what each of needs to do to recapture our enthusiasm.
Larry Jordan: George Hall began his career with super computers, back when those were a thing. Now he’s the president of Video Streaming Services. He’s seen the downs and ups of our industry and tonight reflects on how to stand out from the crowd, get noticed and enjoy your work.
Larry Jordan: Norman Hollyn is an editor, writer and professor at USC. He’s deeply involved in enabling the students of today to succeed in the job world of tomorrow. Tonight he explains how lifelong learning is the key to staying competitive.
Larry Jordan: Finally, Louis Hernandez Jr. is the chairman and CEO of Avid. He’s also the author of The Storytellers Dilemma. This book is an in-depth look at why the people who create content are making less money than ever and the stress this puts on the entire creative process. His interview is a fascinating analysis of how we got here, and what it will take to get back out.
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. Well, it’s been a heck of a week. Ransomware paralyzed companies around the world, even held films for ransom, as you’ll learn in a few minutes from James DeRuvo. Tens of thousands of college kids are graduating and hitting the job market, and discovering that getting a job in media after college wasn’t as easy as they expected. For the rest of us, we face the daily challenges of too few jobs, too much competition and budgets that continually redefine not enough. Plus a technology industry that releases gear with an obsolescence life span of about 18 months. It’s enough to make even the most cheerful person feel a tad depressed.
Larry Jordan: About a month ago I wrote a blog asking industry leaders to share their reasons for hope. The answers I received ranged from encouraging to deeply moving, and the comments from readers were so positive, that we decided to continue this conversation in tonight’s show. By the way, I’ll include a link to my original blog in the weekly Buzz newsletter that goes out tomorrow.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of that, I want to invite you to subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Every issue gives you an inside look at The Buzz, quick links to the different segments on the show, and curated articles of interest to filmmakers. Best of all, every issue is free.
Larry Jordan: Now it’s time for a DoddleNEWS update, which actually needs reverb, with James DeRuvo. Hello, James.
James DeRuvo: Hello Larry.
Larry Jordan: I want to put reverb on my voice for DoddleNEWS update to make it sound even more dramatic. What you got?
James DeRuvo: DoddleNEWS update. Well, this week Red Giant launched their new Universe 2.1 bringing along a new GPL accelerated plugin pack with new text effects similar to those that were very popular in the 80s like the old retro look of the titles from ‘Ghostbusters,’ the look of VHS. Man, that was almost 40 years ago now Larry. How can it be that long?
Larry Jordan: I know, let’s not go there. Let’s just keep talking about all the cool stuff from Red Giant. What else?
James DeRuvo: The new post production tools include the ability to create holographic inserts like Princess Leah saying “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi” in ‘Star Wars.’ It can also add text straight into the start and end points of the timeline. With these cool new tools available in Universe, old is new again. But seriously, who really wants to degrade their footage to make it look like an old VHS tape? I honestly thought those days were dead and buried.
Larry Jordan: You know, it drives me nuts. I spend all the time making the lighting perfect, the focus perfect, the shot perfect, and then we degrade it to make it look like it was shot 30 years ago. Drives me nuts. What else we got?
James DeRuvo: Well you were talking about kids graduating from college, and this kind of has a little bit of a link to that. Film Florida is working to convince the Florida legislature to bring back filmmaking to the sunshine state after disastrous legislative changes. In our two part story, we talk about a perfect storm that happened with the housing bubble bursting in about 2008, that brought Florida and the country’s economy into a deep recession. To make matters worse, the Florida legislature then voted to scuttle their popular tax incentive that gave filmmakers up to a 30 percent discount for filming in the sunshine state. After that crushing blow, Florida went from being the number three most popular state to film in, to plummeting almost out of the top ten, with producers choosing to go to neighboring Atlanta, Texas and Louisiana who give similar tax breaks to what Florida used to enjoy. On top of that, there’s a huge brain drain as students are taking their film education from Florida schools like Florida State University, and Full Sail University, and simply going where the work is. Without that tax incentive, I don’t know that even the most modest attempts at luring the business back will work, since it’s far cheaper to film in neighboring states.
Larry Jordan: Well you know, I was just thinking because you guys at Doddle were talking about the fact that film credits have been disappearing in a number of states. So I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your articles. What else we got?
James DeRuvo: You mentioned that Disney is being held hostage by hackers, and that story is really interesting because it’s actually the second chapter in an ongoing saga of hackers breaking into Hollywood film production servers and stealing intellectual properties and holding them for ransom. The first, Netflix was being held hostage for the first ten episodes of the new season of ‘Orange Is the New Black.’ Now hackers are threatening to release ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Don’t Tell Tales,’ in 20 minute increments, online, unless Disney pays an unspecified amount in Bitcoin to the hackers. Disney CEO Robert Iger says that Disney is working with the FBI to track down the culprit, and has told investors that the Mouse House will not cooperate and pay the ransom. There was a rumor that the film the hackers actually purloined was ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi,’ but that rumor was quickly dispelled, but nevertheless, Disney is engaged in a billion dollar gamble as Pirates 5 is already $70 million over budget and will need every dollar it can earn at the box office to turn a profit. The FBI is up against the clock on this Larry, because the hackers list includes ABC, National Geographic and Fox and summer’s bound to get worse before it gets better.
Larry Jordan: Well we’ve been very struck by the ransomware that’s swept the industry this last week, so we’ve scheduled a special show for the 29th of June, specifically to talk about security in the film industry, so I’m looking forward to sharing more of that as we get closer. What other headlines are you watching?
James DeRuvo: We’re also watching stories about the latest rumored refresh of new MacBook Pros, coming next month to Apple’s Worldwide Development Conference in June. It’s probably not going to be an iMac though. Atomos Shogun got a firmware update this week for Quad Link SDI support, and the deadline is fast approaching for Rhodes’ half million dollar My Rhode Reel short film competition. So if you’re planning on entering that competition, you got to get your entries in before June 30th. That’s it for this week Larry.
Larry Jordan: For people that want more information, where do they go on the web?
James DeRuvo: All these stories and more can be found at doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the senior writer for DoddleNEWS at doddlenews.com. James, as always, thanks for joining us, we’ll talk with you next week.
James DeRuvo: See you next week 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: Paul Babb is the president and CEO of Maxon US, as well as a graphic software technology expert with more than a decade of experience in 3D animation, visual effects and motion graphics. Hello Paul, welcome back.
Paul Babb: Hey Larry, thanks for having me on.
Larry Jordan: It’s always a pleasure, you are always a fun guest, and I love chatting with you.
Paul Babb: Ditto.
Larry Jordan: So tonight we’re looking for reasons for hope for those of us working in the media. What’s your take?
Paul Babb: Oh boy, I think this is probably one of the best times for people to be working in media. Software is more accessible than it’s ever been. Hardware is faster than it’s ever been. There’s more work for artists out there. I think there’s a lot of reasons to be positive.
Larry Jordan: Well just a couple of years ago, it didn’t look like any visual effects house was going to survive. What turned things around?
Paul Babb: Well I’m not talking about visual effects houses, I’m talking about individual artists. I’m talking about the opportunity for an artist to express themselves, to do what they would like to do. I agree with you, I think there is some struggle in the visual effects industry, still defining itself, still trying to find ways to compensate the artists and recognize those artists. But for those individuals who want to get into the industry, I think there’s a tremendous amount of work. We’re seeing a lot of artists breaking off and starting up small shops, medium size shops and I think it’s more about the individual artist than the bigger studios at this point.
Larry Jordan: I agree with you that there’s probably greater opportunity for artists and tools like Cinema 4D and others are more affordable and more powerful than ever, but can we make a living?
Paul Babb: Absolutely. When you and I were growing up, there were three TV stations. Maybe a couple on the UHF if you spun the little dial, you could tune into the local channel. Nowadays you’ve got thousands of TV stations. You’ve got websites that are turning into broadcast channels. So you’re talking about thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of outlets for artists to be creating station IDs, bumpers, interstitials, lower thirds, everything. TV show openings, films, whatever they want.
Larry Jordan: I’m just waiting for the period really. I was just waiting for the sentence to end. Whether you’re in a mid career and trying to figure out how to refocus yourself, or a college kid coming out with hopes of getting a job in the industry, what skills do we need in order to make a living creating visual effects?
Paul Babb: I think that the calling card for the artist these days is a good demo reel, and I think that the skills that you can build by putting together a nice demo reel will get you there. Certainly they have to understand how to build assets, utilize assets, composites, edit, the Adobe Suite, Cinema 4D, After Effects, all the tools that are expected to be used out there. But I think a good demo reel is the first thing an artist really needs to work on, and you get there by putting together some projects. What turns you on, looking on television, looking online, trying to recreate or build your own pieces from the ones that have inspired you online or on film or on TV.
Larry Jordan: You work for a software company that develops the tools that people need to be able to create these effects. But are there skills that we need that aren’t tool related that can enable us to succeed in the industry today?
Paul Babb: Of course and that goes back to the skills you need to work with clients. You need communication skills, business skills, the ability to be out there in the world and communicate properly or learn how to help focus a client to understand what they want, and be able to deliver that.
Larry Jordan: One of the things a little bit later in the show is a conversation with Carey Dissmore, who is going to stress the importance of relationships. But it sounds like you think the same thing is important? It’s not only building a network, but having people skills, true?
Paul Babb: Absolutely. Carey’s a fine example. I’ve known Carey for over 20 years. He is the king of building the community. He build the IMUG community online, he brought that community together every year at NAB with the Media Motion Ball. Very admirable. I’m telling you that having that group of people around you, your support group who can give you feedback on the work you’re doing, point you in the direction of good plugins, just be there when you’re having trouble finding clients, or when you need a shoulder to cry on, or some advice, absolutely.
Larry Jordan: One of the things I’ve noticed is that there’s more and more women emerging both in visual effects and as leaders within the industry. What’s brought about this change?
Paul Babb: Oh I think it’s inevitable. I think some of the best artists we’ve seen out there are women. We’ve been doing a tremendous amount, making a lot of effort to get female artists to come demo in our booth. We have put it out online, we’ve made introductions, told them to get out there. But I think it’s opening up. I think the technology barrier is no longer a barrier for women any more. I think there’s a lot of great women artists out there, and they’re starting to make themselves known. I think as we see more of these great women make themselves known, it will inspire other women to come into the industry, but certainly we’ve seen a huge change over the last five, six years.
Larry Jordan: One of the things I enjoy as I teach at the school that I teach at, is watching the kids get ready for graduation and partly because it’s my class, and partly because kids today are interested in visual media, a lot of them look to get involved with media in some form, whether that’s visual effects or other parts of the production post industry. What advice would you have for someone who is older, and finds themselves competing against all these new kids? How do we overcome all this competition?
Paul Babb: Boy that’s a great question. I think you have to go back to what you’re good at. I think you have to go back and look at the industry, and see where maybe you’ve fallen behind a little bit, maybe you’ve got to go out and look at some of the new tools and retrain in some of those newer tools. I think experience can pay off a lot, especially in some of these newer industries in VR and AR which are just emerging industries, and people who know how to accomplish production, know how to maintain good business relationships and make those relationships successful for both sides. I think you just have to get yourself involved.
Larry Jordan: Get yourself involved. That’s very easy to say, and sometimes really hard to do.
Paul Babb: Yes it is.
Larry Jordan: What gets you excited about coming into work every day?
Paul Babb: The work that artists do with our tool. That really is it for me. It’s so funny because it’s not really a part of my job that I have to do on a daily basis, but what I get inspired by is what artists are doing with Cinema 4D. When a new project comes across our desk that we know that we’d like to promote. When we hear about projects that they’re working on. When we see people breaking into new areas, like VR and AR and see the work they’re doing. The art inspires me and I think inspires others as well. The work is what it’s all about.
Larry Jordan: One of the questions I wrestle with is, when students ask what they should do as they graduate, whether they should work for free as an intern or whether they should get paid and whether they should look for making a good living, or just work for anything that pays money? That’s a really hard question to balance when you’re getting started. Any job that gets you experience is good, but at some point you’ve got to earn a living. How do you make that transition and what do you advise new students, or students coming out of school, new people in the industry in terms of balancing creating art versus getting paid for creating art?
Paul Babb: I can tell you I’ve been doing this for nearly 25 years, and I’ve been at Maxon for about 18. We hire a lot of young tech support people. We bring people in, they’re the young up and comers, those are the ones that we can afford to have in tech support, and I’ve seen a lot of them move onto studios. The ones that have been successful did the job, earned the money that they could earn in the job that they could get, and put the extra hours in to improving their skill set in the areas where they were most passionate. We’ve got people who have ended up in Disney, Universal, everything. But those guys that did that were the ones that put the extra hours in, after hours, to work on their own personal projects. The ones that they had a passion for. When they could put together something to sell themselves, a demo reel that shows off the kind of work they’re passionate about, that’s where they get the work from. That’s where they’re going to get that attention, when they start putting that work out there.
Larry Jordan: So it starts with a demo reel, discovering what you really care to do, and then putting that passion into your demo reel and leveraging that into a job?
Paul Babb: Yes. Absolutely.
Larry Jordan: I had a really good question to follow that with, so hang on, let me just see if I can come back to it. It’s gone. This old age part just kicks in. Tell me, what were the artists highlighting at your NAB booth? What were they showcasing?
Paul Babb: We had everything, across the board. We had visual effects, motion graphics, FUI, fictional user interface creators. We had medical animation. We’ve been editing these videos and so it’s kind of interesting. Station IDs, we had a guy who just did a station ID for us for Cineversity, our training site. He broke it down how he created that. Across the board, artists are using the tool in a multitude of ways, and in a multitude of skill levels. We had people at the very basic level, 2D artists, who were showing how they’re incorporating 3D into their workflow and how to make that transition. All the way up to people doing visual effects for film and television, at the top of their game.
Larry Jordan: So it sounds to me, as I reflect back on our conversation, that we’ve got lots of opportunities for people, but it’s up to us to drive our own career. It’s not going to land in our lap. We’ve got to really drive, how we perceive the market, how the market perceives us, and what we do with the opportunities that are available, true?
Paul Babb: Absolutely. I don’t think I know of an industry where that’s not true. Hard work always pays off, passion always pays off. You tell me the industry where I can lay back in the job, and the money just comes to me, and I’ll head that direction. I’ve never in my entire life found a job where it was easy and it came easy. That’s the best part of working on something that you’re passionate about. If you’re going to put the extra time in, I hope it’s something that you’re really passionate about, because that extra time will pay off on something that you really enjoy.
Larry Jordan: For people that are passionate about visual effects, where can they go on the web to learn more?
Paul Babb: They can go to maxon.net to find out all about Cinema 4D.
Larry Jordan: If they want to learn how to use Cinema 4D?
Paul Babb: They can go to cineversity.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, cineversity.com and Paul Babb is the president and CEO of Maxon US. Paul it is always fun visiting with you. Thanks for taking the time.
Paul Babb: I agree, thanks Larry.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Carey Dissmore is a full time professional editor. Well, that and MoGraph artist and colorist, as well as a well respected industry maven and the co-chair of IMUG. Hello Carey, thanks for joining us.
Carey Dissmore: Hi Larry.
Larry Jordan: Carey, tonight we’re talking about reasons for hope in the industry. Given all the challenges that we face from budgets to competition to fractured audiences, is there reason for media creators to be hopeful?
Carey Dissmore: I think so. I think that it’s really easy to slip into this sea of despair, whenever there’s change, particularly disruptive change in this industry. But I only have to look back to my own career about 20 years ago during the non-linear edit revolution, where computers really took over the business of post production, as a very disruptive change in our industry that was incredibly beneficial to me personally.
Larry Jordan: Yes, but Carey, that was 20 years ago.
Carey Dissmore: OK fine.
Larry Jordan: So now we’re 20 years farther forward we should get depressed and slash our wrists?
Carey Dissmore: The shoe is on the other foot. No, seriously I think that whenever our industry faces things like we’ve faced the last ten years in particular. Downward price pressure, shrinking budgets, a rush of new talent into the industry which is both good and bad, but it certainly impacts the market rates for things, and market forces are kind of the thing we all have to negotiate around, but don’t necessarily have the ability to control in and of ourselves. You know, the bottom line is, the cream will always rise to the top and the way that happens is by figuring out what’s next and positioning yourself, your business, your skill base on what that is and where the market’s going to find value.
Larry Jordan: It seems to me that not everybody can be the best of the best. Many of us are average, and yet we still have to earn a living. How do we compete in an environment like that where suddenly competition is global?
Carey Dissmore: It’s an interesting challenge, particularly the global angle. The bottom line is, I think this is a business built on relationships. For 20 years of the Media Motion Ball, we’ve focused on building relationships. I think it’s really hard to have the kind of intimate working relationships with an outsourced agency. That might work for really big studios, but the 80 20 rule applies in production. I would guess that 80 percent of all finished production minutes produced out there, of all kinds of video, are probably done by small and independent type agencies and in house video, and corporate and that sort of thing. That’s certainly the market I work in. That’s a market that’s built on people and relationships and personalities and getting along in the edit suite, getting along on set. I think that’s still really key. That’s how you leverage success is built on relationships, not just skills, not just technology.
Larry Jordan: It’s become obvious to me that working in media is a lifelong exercise of learning new stuff. We never really rest on our laurels. But how do we balance learning what we need to know with making money based upon what we know now?
Carey Dissmore: This is always the difficult thing. I always joke that as an independent production person, who has remained fiercely independent for a long time now, that I can’t get by working 40 hours a week in production. I figure it averages out to about 30 percent extra time for what I would deem broadly as continuing education. Now that’s not just a third of my time extra, for tutorials. You know, I love Larry Jordan tutorials, but I would say broadly that’s participating in forums, the conversation between professionals in our industry online, reading about our industry, keeping up with technology, keeping up with skills, keeping an eye on design trends, and figuring out how we’re going to pick and choose the uniquely derivative of where the market is going, where fashions are going. I think that’s all sort of in that broad big category of continuing education in this industry, and if you’re not doing that, you’re not growing, you’re not maintaining and the other part of that is exercising your creativity and stoking those creative passions, because this industry will force you towards cynicism if you allow it to.
Larry Jordan: I’ve never known that to be true.
Carey Dissmore: The bottom line is if you’re not stoking the fire in your belly that got you into this industry continually, you will absolutely die a cynic. I don’t want to go there, I don’t want to be that guy. I want to be the guy who’s as excited to get up and go to work in the edit suite on Monday morning as I was when I was 20 something, when I entered this industry.
Larry Jordan: So what do you say to the 20 year olds that are entering the industry now? If you were to summarize advice, what would it be?
Carey Dissmore: I see them starting to get the fact that even if they’re a staffer, they have to sort of be entrepreneurial when it comes to guiding their career. The hope is that you can find a sustainable career in this business. One that would support a family, and allow you to remain in this business to retirement. That’s the goal, because if we have this massive exodus of our best talent because they haven’t found a way to make a go of it by eight to ten years into their career, that’s a loss for the industry as a whole. Nobody’s going to do it for you, you’ve got to drive it yourself. You’ve got to want it, you’ve got to have passion. I think we touched on all this.
Larry Jordan: Carey, what’s the best way on the web to find you?
Carey Dissmore: I’m most active on the IMUG list which can be subscribed to via email at media-motion.tv. That’s the community that founded the Media Motion Ball.
Larry Jordan: That website is media-motion.tv and Carey Dissmore is a full time professional editor and MoGraph artist, and colorist and always good to talk to. Carey, thanks for your time.
Carey Dissmore: Thanks Larry.
Larry Jordan: George Hall is the president of Video Streaming Services. They’re an internet video broadcaster providing multi camera live switch broadcast for a large variety of events. Hello George, welcome.
George Hall: Good evening Larry and thank you for having me on.
Larry Jordan: Oh it’s a pleasure, I’m looking forward to our conversation. Normally, I’d start talking with you about Video Streaming Services, however, we’re devoting our entire June 8th show to streaming, and I know that you’re coming back then, so I’m going to sidestep that entire discussion for a couple of weeks. Instead, you got your start back when mainframes and super computers ruled the roost, and since then you’ve seen a ton of change in our industry. Given what we’re in today, what gives you reasons for hope?
George Hall: Well, the industry that we’re in has a tremendous number of creative and talented people in many ways. The problem is that the cost of technology is flattening out and lowering the cost of entry for many people that think they want to get into the business, with a handycam for instance. There is a wide gulf between people with a handycam and the professionals that we associate with in the television and broadcast business. So the way to survive is to differentiate, specialize, maybe even merging a couple of skills that you might have. Maybe you’re a really good editor and maybe you need to try your hand at sound or other sorts of capabilities and merge them together.
George Hall: The other thing that you can do is to specialize. So for instance, let’s say you’re a really great cameraman and you’ve got all the appropriate skills to produce whatever it is, PSAs, what have you. Why don’t you go after architects? Go meet some architectural firms, get involved in their groups and start specializing. That’s a very good way to differentiate yourself from the guy on the street that simply has a handycam.
George Hall: One of the other problems of course is that there are an awful lot of consumers of our services, video production in particular, that really don’t understand the difference between somebody that can produce a real, knock it out of the park quality video advertisement, or a PSA or what have you, and as a result by differentiation, you can get in there, get to know these people, get to understand their business and talk their language. By specializing in that sort of fashion, you stand a much better chance of coming out ahead when they start looking for people to produce a particular work for them.
Larry Jordan: What do you tell someone who’s feeling discouraged? How do you get them to focus, refocus and move forward?
George Hall: Well, change is inevitable. In our business, the rate of change is particularly high. It’s even higher I would say than it was in the computer business. Don’t be discouraged by that, embrace it. Embrace the change, and run with it. Figure out ways that you can differentiate your skills and your capabilities from anybody else, that either wants to get into our business or is already in the business. I think those things and a good positive outlook on what your skills can bring to the table for your clients, is a good way to go.
Larry Jordan: So if you were to advise a student just graduating from college and tackling the workforce for the first time, what would you advise them to do? What are the top two, three priorities?
George Hall: The first thing is find somebody that’s been doing it for ten or 20 years and latch onto them. You’re going to learn more from somebody that’s been in this business for ten or 15 years than you will trying to carve out a niche for yourself right out of the gate. Get a mentor. That’s probably the best piece of advice I could give anybody. These guys know all the stuff that’s not written down in the help me guides and that’s what you really need.
Larry Jordan: For people that want more information about what your company can do, where do they go on the web?
George Hall: Well on our website at www.videossc.com they can find out all about us.
Larry Jordan: George Hall is the president of Video Streaming Services at videossc.com. George, thanks for joining us today.
George Hall: Thank you Larry.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Norman Hollyn is a teacher, editor, writer and full professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Norman and I also co-host the popular website called Two Reel Guys. Hello Norman, welcome back.
Norman Hollyn: Hey, good to see you Larry.
Larry Jordan: Norman, these are challenging times in our industry, especially for someone trying to start a career. What do you see as reasons to be hopeful?
Norman Hollyn: I feel that we’re in such a fantastic period of change. The amount of media is just growing tremendously out there and if people who are beginning to get into whatever the industry is, I’m going to put those air quotes around it, if people can move with it as opposed to stay stuck in old media, then I think they’re going to have fantastic careers and really be able to learn new things, use new things, and profit from it.
Larry Jordan: There’s no doubt that methods of distribution have exploded. There’s no doubt that gear has gotten cheaper, but budgets have fallen to the floor, and people are starving to death. How do we deal with the issue and the fact that the creative can’t make any money these days?
Norman Hollyn: Well I know plenty of creatives, in fact recently graduated students of mine, who are making money. I think that the expectation that “We’ll move into big, giant media, and make a bazillion dollars” is what’s unfortunately driving a number of people. So I think it has to do with expectations. It has to do with making sure that you keep your expenses low and also it’s doing multiple projects, constantly, as opposed to “I’m on this, I can’t do anything else.” So, I know students who are making decent money off 360 video for real estate videos, at the same time also doing webisodes on non-fictional’s fictional pieces, as well as, as well as. So I think it has to do with really making sure that your expectations are real at each stage in your career.
Larry Jordan: One of the other challenges we have is the rise of artificial intelligence. AI have started to edit projects as well as help us figure out what we’re doing. What do you see as the impact that artificial intelligence is having on the industry?
Norman Hollyn: As you obviously know from NAB just several weeks ago, cloud based and machine learning are basically the buzz words for this year. I think that machine learning is really going to take over in a lot of ways, and really help us produce things. The editor at this point, I don’t see the editor as replaceable in that way. I think the editor’s job will change, as more metadata and different kinds of machine learning comes in. It’s the assistant editor who I think needs to be super malleable, super nimble and flexible in terms of learning this new technology. I particularly like Philip’s …, I think it’s a start of a discussion, not the discussion, which is where he says that anything that takes fewer than, what is it, three days to teach is going to be automated. I think that that’s an interesting perspective. I don’t fully believe it because we hire assistants mostly to prevent future problems rather than to deal with present problems, but on the other hand, machine learning has probably more experience than any assistant editor out there. So I do think it’s a great place to start that discussion when you have more time.
Larry Jordan: So it sounds like you’re a firm believer in constant learning to stay current?
Norman Hollyn: I think a good 25 percent, if not more, of what an editor’s job is, or a filmmaker’s job is, is keeping current. Those are not billable hours, but they end up with a higher rate later on. So I think that the learning part is super important if you’re starting in the business, and we’re always starting in the business. Whether you’re in the middle of your career, or even if you’re at the later stage where you’ve got a good, solid income, you still have to keep current otherwise you’ll be like all the editors years ago who said, “This digital editing stuff, I just can’t do it, I don’t want to.”
Larry Jordan: Carey Dissmore makes a point in his segment when he was saying that the industry is built on relationships. So you’re saying that a large part of this is not technology and not storytelling, it’s staying current, and Carey is saying a large part is not technology and not storytelling but relationships. It sounds to me like a lot of the success in the industry is stuff that doesn’t relate to editing at all?
Norman Hollyn: That is absolutely true. I always say that more than 50 percent of what we do as editors has nothing to do with us being able to make the actual edits. It has to do with everyone around us trusting us to make the right decisions, and being able to work with us in a very stressful profession. So yes, I think that the combination of knowing how to solve problems, which is part technical I think and also part brain power, combined with the comfort level that as a human being hopefully you make sure that these people have with you, is unbeatable, and it’s going to differentiate you from lots of people who might even be better at the technology than you are but don’t have those other aspects.
Larry Jordan: Norman, for people who want to keep track of your thinking, where can they go on the web?
Norman Hollyn: I think that they should go to Twitter and that’s Schnittman.
Larry Jordan: The voice you’re listening to is Norman Hollyn, teacher, editor, writer and professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Norman, thanks for joining us today.
Norman Hollyn: Thanks a lot, good to see you, keep up.
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Larry Jordan: Louis Hernandez Junior is the chairman and CEO of Avid, a company that needs no introduction, but he’s also an author who just released a new book, The Storyteller’s Dilemma, which is a fascinating look at the business of creating media. Hello Louis, welcome.
Louis Hernandez, Jr: Thank you Larry. Happy to be here.
Larry Jordan: What is The Storyteller’s Dilemma?
Louis Hernandez, Jr: Well it’s pretty straightforward. In the age of digitization where storytelling has been a part of our social fabric since before the written word, and there were cave drawings and there was music to connect us all. As we move forward to today, as things are all digitizing and the connection between the storyteller and the consumer can be much more powerful, much more immediate, much more engaging, the economics of the industry I think, have put in jeopardy the very thing that we work so hard to create. Fantastic stories that connect with audiences in a meaningful way. When you look at the change of the digitization of the industry, of course there’s a lot of positives, more people can tell their story, you can reach more people faster through more channels. But as with most industries that get disrupted, there’s some unintended consequences.
Louis Hernandez, Jr: The unintended consequences here at its simplest is the artist. The very person that we want to help tell these wonderful stories is at risk economically, and if we don’t do something about it, I’m worried that we won’t continue to carry forward with this wonderful industry of storytelling.
Larry Jordan: It could be argued that you have enough on your plate already. Why did you decide to write the book?
Louis Hernandez, Jr: Well as you mentioned Avid operates in 160 countries, and I’m just really inspired by the incredible work that those people in the media industry do. The storytellers, the people who connect audiences, and everyone in between. And it’s a fascinating industry because it’s so important to so many of us, and it touches really all of our lives. As a person who’s also studied economics and finance as well as a technologist, of course I love the fact that technology has had a major impact on the direction of this industry, but as a person who is familiar with finance and economics I can see that there’s some signs of the things we should be worried about. I thought it should be shared with everyone, because everyone cares about storytelling, it’s a part of all of our lives. So that’s why I decided to start writing down the things I was observing. The opinions I was developing, and my views on how we can make this industry better.
Larry Jordan: There’s always been a dilemma between getting our story out and making money out of it. What’s the conflict?
Louis Hernandez, Jr: The conflict is really twofold. First, if you’re in the business of media, what has happened with digitization which is complex, but I’m going to try to simplify it as much as possible, I think on the one hand, you have this explosion of storytelling which is great. We have more choices. But if you need to sustain a living doing it, raising above the fray and being heard, being listened to, being appreciated has come harder and harder. Digitization has allowed you to reach more people, but the economics behind reaching that wider audience has become a lot more difficult. It’s either unknown or less attractive.
Louis Hernandez, Jr: That’s on the business side. So what has happened is, large media companies have begun to spend more money on monetizing assets and reaching greater audiences, and the net result is that because of the economics of the business, is that the creative side of the budgets are declining. That’s on the business side.
Louis Hernandez, Jr: Let’s talk about a consumer now, the person enjoying these wonderful stories. They just want to get the best stories, any time they can, at as reasonable or as low a price as possible, sometimes free, which isn’t always in their best interest. What they probably don’t realize is the yield curve, meaning with all this explosion of content, the actual content that we consume, the concentration of that content has actually gotten worse not better with digitization. So as we demanded more choice and higher quality, we’re actually concentrating our viewership and listeningship to fewer assets and that means that fewer people are actually making money, contrary to what a lot of us thought would happen in the 90s, when we digitized all our media.
Louis Hernandez, Jr: If you have, on the one hand, fewer artists making it, then people in the business of creating content want to go with proven winners. At the same time the budgets within large media companies are focused less on content and more on distribution and on monetizing those assets. So those two forces combined, shrinking budgets on the creative sides with large media, concentration of whatever wealth is on the artist side, makes it harder for new artists to break in. And that is the dilemma. That’s the Storyteller’s Dilemma. So if you’re in the business, or you’re a person who just loves to tell stories for the benefit of the community, you’re good at it, you’re engaging, you tell enriching stories, it’s part of your craft, and you’re the consumer, that’s what you want, we’re actually in jeopardy of undermining the whole thesis behind the industry because we’re making it harder for new artists to break in, and if you’re an established artist, we’re making it harder for you to make money.
Louis Hernandez, Jr: That’s really the challenge that this industry faces, and so many people are interested in how the media industry works. We have worked with every award winning Grammy artist, we do many of the major shows, sporting events etcetera. So many of the community are really interested in hearing and seeing more about their stars, and the people they really admire. They don’t often see what’s happening behind the scenes, and the economics of the business, and the behavior that’s creating. I think if consumers saw that their behavior is creating a disequilibrium for the very people they want to ascend, and in the business side, if we keep spending less on the creative side, then the quality of those stories that you’re fighting to be heard, is going to go down as well.
Louis Hernandez, Jr: That’s really the dilemma we have. How to create an industry that fulfill its promise, great stories that inspire, that educate, that inform a community in an economically sustainable way, that’s the dilemma we’re facing today.
Larry Jordan: I know you make a recommendation in your book on what we can do to solve the problem. But I want to reflect back on a couple of things. First, my favorite chapter in the book is chapter ten, which you titled ‘The Tale of Unintended Consequences.’ It could be argued that tools such as Media Composer and Pro Tools, as they become cheaper and available to more people, have contributed to the problem. Would you agree?
Louis Hernandez, Jr: They have absolutely allowed more people to tell their story, and I’ll go one further. Not just Pro Tools, but Pro Tools sits on Avid Media Central which now allows you to collaborate with anybody via the cloud, anywhere in the world, so Larry if you have a great idea for a song, and you like the way somebody sings in China, and the way somebody plays guitar in Brazil and drums in New York, you can connect via a single session in Pro Tools all those amazing artists. So it’s really allowing you to work with the best anywhere. So I think, like you said, on the positive it’s allowed more people to tell their stories because instead of tens of thousands of dollars a year to do this, it’s literally the price of a haircut every month. So absolutely right, it has changed the economic equilibrium.
Louis Hernandez, Jr: But if you take music, since you brought up Pro Tools as an example of the unintended consequence, last year music revenues finally eclipsed what it was in 1999, in total. We’re talking all forms. Of course, what it was in 1999 has started a slow and steady decline, and now when it eclipsed it around seven billion in 2016, and finally got back to where it started, of course the composition of that revenue has changed significantly. People make a lot less on records of course, or even downloads, or streaming, and a lot more on live venues and alternative forms of gaining income, like promotional experiences, live venues, concerts etcetera. If you look at what happened to the three people involved in the music eco system, the distributors, the people who connect you to the audience themselves, their income primarily driven by streaming and other digital sources, is up fairly significantly, in the hundreds of percentage points.
Louis Hernandez, Jr: If you look at the people who connect the artist to those distributors, they have fought all the way back and basically are about where they were from a profitability perspective, in 1999. So it’s been a long windy road just to get back to where they started. If you look at the big loser in this equation, it’s the artist. The average artist’s income is down 40 percent on average. Now the concentration as I talked about is also not a great story, because one percent of the artist make a majority of all the revenue. They make it differently than they did before, and 15 years ago that one percent would have earned around 20 to 30 percent, depending on the source document that you would have reviewed. The concentration’s gotten a lot tighter, there’s a lot more artists that you’re competing with as you mentioned, because tools like ours have made it simpler. But the disequilibrium is mainly weighted towards the artists. So the point is it’s as strong an industry as it was before, but the digitization has caused the disequilibrium and what I’d like people to do is think about, “How do we make it so that it’s a fair allocation of resources and wealth distribution, so that we can continue to enjoy these wonderful storytellers, in this case music songwriters, artists etcetera?”
Larry Jordan: The people that are distributing all this creative content are making money, and the people who are creating the content, are not making as much money as they used to? Is that a summary?
Louis Hernandez, Jr: That’s correct.
Larry Jordan: How do we fix it?
Louis Hernandez, Jr: I think everybody has a role in fixing it. First of all, if you talk about most of the media segments, legislators have a role, they have to make sure it’s not OK to steal from artists since we are talking about music, or anyone else. Just because it’s in the media industry doesn’t make it OK just because you enjoy it, and it’s a community based asset that you shouldn’t have to pay a fair amount for it. That’s number one.
Louis Hernandez, Jr: Number two, I think if the consumers realize that their push for more choice, lower prices, anywhere and anytime has been delivered largely, but there’s a way to share common tools to reallocate wealth back to the artist and still get the low cost, very high quality stories that they’re looking for, in any way that they can. I think if large media companies who often have very proprietary tools, between each of these large media companies, I think they can share more of the tools, cut 25 to 50 percent of their cost, and those dollars can go back into feeding the up and coming and next generation artists. I’m sure you’ve heard the statistic that on iTunes for instance last year, there were more downloads from artists that were around when I grew up, than the new up and coming artists. That didn’t use to be the case. Everybody wanted to hear the latest and greatest storytellers. But because of the disequilibrium happening today and the way the economics are falling out, new artists have a tougher time making it, and when they do make it, it’s very short lived.
Louis Hernandez, Jr: Digitization has some wonderful attributes for all of us, allows more people to tell stories and reach more people. But it also has some unintended consequences. But like any community, if we focus on these issues, I think we can get back to this wonderful industry that has touched so many of us in so many different ways, and you asked me at the beginning why did I want to write it? That wasn’t part of the reason. The people who work in this industry are so dedicated, and everywhere I go it touches so many lives. It’s such a joyous industry to be a part of, when you see something that you think you can help or fix, you want to jump in and do what you can.
Larry Jordan: How did what you learnt writing the book, change your strategy at Avid?
Louis Hernandez, Jr: Avid, like a lot of the industry, was going through some fairly fundamental changes. The industry is changing rapidly. Avid I think was there at the very beginning, a lot of people give us credit for the early phases of digitizing storytelling. Since then the entire workflow has become digitized, and just like many of our clients who are the artists and also large media companies are having to change and adapt in many of the ways that I just suggested, we had to do the same thing. We had to change almost everything about our company. The type of people we had, the technology we had, the way we priced and delivered services, the way we deployed our services. We had to also make very fundamental changes.
Louis Hernandez, Jr: The book was not only a reflection of what I was hearing in the industry, it was a reflection of those people who had been a part of the community and supplying the community with tools and technologies, and we just like our clients, have had to make major changes to position us to make sure we can succeed in helping this industry move forward.
Larry Jordan: I found your book to be fascinating, and thought provoking, and depressing and hopeful all at the same time. For people that need to know this, and people that want to learn more, where can they go on the web to get it?
Larry Jordan: I will be happy to. That website is avid.com/storytellers-dilemma, and Louis Hernandez Junior is the chairman and CEO of Avid as well as the author of The Storytellers Dilemma. Louis, thank you very much for your time. This has been fun.
Louis Hernandez, Jr: Thank you Larry, I appreciate it.
Larry Jordan: When I created my blog on reasons for hope, Mike Horton, a former co-host to The Buzz wrote, “Creative people will never have it easy. But we know that. Yet we keep on going. Why? Because it’s what we do. Change and challenge are a part of life, it’s my belief that creativity is at its best when it struggles against barriers. Focus on what makes each of us unique, continue building on our strengths and working on our weaknesses. Network to build stronger relationships, leverage new technology and don’t be afraid to learn something new every day.” As you heard from our guests today, take charge of your career and work hard to achieve it.
Larry Jordan: There are huge opportunities in front of us, the key is to realize that they are not the same opportunities of the past.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank this week’s guests, Paul Babb, the CEO of Maxon US, Carey Dissmore, the co-chair of IMUG, George Hall, CEO of Video Streaming Solutions, Norman Hollyn, professor at the USC Film School, Louis Hernandez Jr, the chairman and CEO of Avid, and James DeRuvo, senior writer for 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. Remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter that comes out every Friday.
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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.