Maxim Jago, Director, MaximJago.com
Jim Cummings, Animation Voice Actor
Pierson Clair, Faculty, Viterbi School of Engineering, USC
Philip Hodgetts, President, Lumberjack System
Stephen Nakamura, Senior Colorist, Deluxe’s Company 3
James DeRuvo, Film and Technology Reporter, DoddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight The Buzz takes a look back at some of our favorite interviews over the last six months.
Larry Jordan: We start with Maxim Jago, a producer director who is currently financing two films. Tonight he shares his experiences on how to get the money you need to get your production started.
Larry Jordan: Pierson Clair is a digital forensic investigator. He gets called in when companies have a data breach. He also teaches computer security at USC. Tonight Pierson explains whether the data we store in the cloud is actually secure and what we can do to keep our data and our systems safe.
Larry Jordan: Philip Hodgetts, the CEO of Intelligent Assistance explains the key concepts in how to preserve our media and the increasing importance of metadata and machine learning in helping us find our files.
Larry Jordan: We look at the basics of color and color grading with Stephen Nakamura, the senior colorist at Deluxe’s Company 3 in Los Angeles. His projects include Oz, The Great and Powerful, Prometheus, Zero Dark Thirty, and many others.
Larry Jordan: Next, Jim Cummings is probably the most famous person you’ve never heard of. Acting in hundreds of animated features, Jim is the voice of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Ka the snake, and many others. Tonight he tells us what it’s like being a voice actor, along with a great story from recording the Lion King.
Larry Jordan: All this, plus James DeRuvo with the top five news stories from the first half of 2017. 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’re doing something a bit different. One of the benefits of creating a weekly show is that we accumulate some really good interviews. In fact, when you visit digitalproductionbuzz.com you’ll discover more than 1800 interviews that we’ve presented and archived since 2009. But not to worry, tonight we’re only presenting six. Our favorites from the first half of 2017.
Larry Jordan: When we were deciding which interviews to include, we wanted to be sure they covered a wide range of subjects so, tonight we talk financing, security, backups and archiving, the basics of color, and voice acting. It’s a great show, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you, and to get us started, here’s James DeRuvo with a DoddleNEWS look back. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Hello Larry. How are you? How’s your summer?
Larry Jordan: Summer so far is far busier than I was expecting. But, it’s time for us to take a break, so this week we’re doing a highlight show, and I thought it would be really interesting if instead of doing your standard this is the news this week report, we took a look back at the first half of 2017, and picked your top five news stories. How does that sound?
James DeRuvo: It sounds great. I’ve got a handful here of stories that have really grabbed my attention this year so far, and I’m anxious to share them.
Larry Jordan: So what’s story number one?
James DeRuvo: I think one of the biggest stories has been Kodak’s film comeback.
Larry Jordan: How so?
James DeRuvo: Recently they opened up ten labs in cities including Atlanta and they re-opened an old lab in Queens, New York. They’ve signed a five year deal with Pinewood Studios for a central film processing lab that will also provide digital conversion services. The idea is to make it closer for film makers to get a safer and faster turnaround on film … processing, since before this they had to FedEx all their unexposed negatives to have them processed. So they’re re-opening up all these labs all across the country, and it was only a few years ago that Kodak was flirting with bankruptcy, having one fire sale after another on their assets, and now being the only game in the town providing film services to the industry, Larry they show no signs of slowing down, and it’s a remarkable turnaround.
Larry Jordan: I agree that it’s a remarkable turnaround, but the world has gone digital. Why is this your lead story for the year?
James DeRuvo: Everybody said that film was dead and that everybody was going to go digital, but there was a small cadre of film makers including Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarrantino, JJ Abrams, who were all dedicated to restoring film as a viable option for cinema. Granted it’s going to be an artistic choice. It’s never going to be the main choice for film makers like it once was, but I really do think it’s an important turnaround considering that just a few short years ago there was no place to get your film developed. So I think it was an important story for the year considering where they were just a few years ago.
Larry Jordan: OK.
James DeRuvo: You may remember that RED recently launched their Hydrogen mobile device. It’s a fully functional android smart phone with 5.7 inch high resolution holographic display, a modular system that works in concert with the RED Scarlet, Epic and Weapon platforms to create virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality content that can be viewed virtually with glasses free. So you won’t need any glasses or any goggles to watch virtual reality content.
Larry Jordan: What is it that makes Hydrogen such an important story for you?
James DeRuvo: Honestly, virtual reality hasn’t really been a thing for me. I can see its applications for video gaming, but having to wear that big bulky headset is just a drag and I’m kind of waiting for that hallowed deck like experience that you see in Star Trek. And Hydrogen looks to be a big step forward in that because you’re not going to have to wear glasses to get that experience, and I think that’s really going to push the medium where it needs to go. RED tends to do that. They look over the horizon, see where something needs to go and creates something to push that envelope and if anybody can get us into a virtual reality future, I think it’s going to be RED.
Larry Jordan: What’s our number three story?
James DeRuvo: I think this is a big story because Magic Lantern always sends shock waves whenever they unlock a hidden feature in Canon’s operating system and a few months ago, Magic Lantern announced that they were going to be able to bring 4K video to the Canon 5D Mark 3. I mean, the 5D Mark 3 is kind of old. It’s several years old now, but they’re going to be able to unlock ultra high definition recording in 14 bit raw, using a super 35mm crop for wide angle, close to anamorphic. It’s going to take that old camera that was discontinued and people were putting away and it’s going to give it more legs, so don’t give up on that 5D Mark 3 just yet. You may be able to shoot 4K on it real soon.
Larry Jordan: Do you think 4K on a Canon is going to make sense?
James DeRuvo: Well it future proofs your content. I think that’s why it makes sense. If they can get it to work consistently to where it provides 14 bit color and it looks good, it’s going to future proof people’s content so they don’t have to go out and spend $10,000 on a new rig. At least it’ll be a great stop gap measure, and I guess that’s what I’m talking about.
Larry Jordan: OK, what’s next on your list of top five?
James DeRuvo: I think the big thing for drones this year so far has been the Federal court overturned mandatory FAA drone registration. The registration requirement was that all drone pilots had to register their drones from .55 to 55 pounds. They had to affix that drone registration number onto their drone, so then it could be looked up and it was required before you could fly. But the Federal court ruled that the FAA overstepped its constitutional authority in requiring it as a mandatory registration, and so the FAA will continue to offer registration on a volunteer basis, but drone pilots, if they want to pull out, they can get a full refund on their registration fees, and they have to sign an affidavit promising to follow the current FAA guidelines.
Larry Jordan: The ruling said that the FAA can regulate drones, they just can’t require registration?
James DeRuvo: Registration cannot be mandatory. Honestly, only because Congress hasn’t given them the authority to do so. If Congress were to pass a law tomorrow, granting the FAA that mandatory authority, then we’d be back to square one again.
Larry Jordan: We decided to take a look at the top five stories for the first half of 2017. We’ve reached number five, what have we got?
James DeRuvo: Streaming video is everywhere. With YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Periscope, Switcher Studio live, you can’t get away from video content streaming and with the latest add ons you can even stream 360 degree video live from your iphone. Even Adobe has gotten into the game with Character Animator which allows you to animate live on the air. It’s a crazy time for content creators Larry.
Larry Jordan: Sometimes you have to be crazy to be a content creator James.
James DeRuvo: Isn’t that the truth?
Larry Jordan: Where can people go to keep track of the latest news in our industry?
James DeRuvo: All these stories and more can be found at Doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the senior writer for Doddlenews.com and returns again next week with our weekly DoddleNEWS update. Thanks James.
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, film makers and story tellers. From photography to film making, 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: We first presented this interview with Maxim Jago on March 16th, 2017. Maxim Jago is a film director, a screenwriter, an author who splits his time between film making and speaking as a futurist, especially at events celebrating creativity. He’s also the chief innovation officer at filmdoo.com and a mentor for new film makers. Hello Maxim, welcome.
Maxim Jago: Hi there Larry. It’s great to speak to you.
Larry Jordan: It is wonderful to have you back with us. I just realized the last time we spoke was September last year. So at that point you were working on two films, what’s the status of them?
Maxim Jago: Well it’s been fascinating. We’re developing a project in direction, so we’ve actually got three films and a short now and some technology projects. What we’re finding is that the distribution landscape has pretty much finished changing now, but we’ve been talking about it changing for a long time, and talking about the way it’s been watered down, that we’ve got all these metrics now, we’ve got all these modes of tracking audience behaviors. But you’ve still got this fundamental problem of how do you convince the public that they want to engage with a story? What we’re finding is that actually it really comes down to cast, and that’s very much our focus at the moment.
Larry Jordan: It really comes down to what?
Maxim Jago: Casting.
Larry Jordan: Really?
Maxim Jago: The names, the international names. If you are part of the studio system, where you’ve got a reasonable budget for a film, and that incorporates a budget for your talent, for your casting, then it’s no problem. But if you’re working on projects, then really who is in the project is absolutely critical.
Larry Jordan: So if casting is the most important, how can you cast without knowing what your budget is?
Maxim Jago: Well you do have a budget. It’s one of those funny things about production. You could make it for nothing or you could make it for whatever it is now, a million dollars. But, ultimately, you’re going to name a number and you’re going to come up with a budget for that number, within which you know you can produce the film. But of course, it’s critical that you have casting in place, or at least some aspirations for casting, because without that you can’t estimate your revenues, and without the revenues you can’t estimate how much you can get to make the film. So it’s a sort of a chicken and egg thing.
Larry Jordan: I would say absolutely. Well let’s pretend, just for the conversation, that we have a film and you’ve cast it. How are you going to finance it? Where does the money come from today?
Maxim Jago: Well, I’m speaking very much as an independent film director here, but the route would be to begin discussions with sales agents and distributors. These are the people that can look at your approximate budget, the genre for the film, the territories that they’re looking at distributing in, and importantly, the names that you have attached to the project. Based on that information, they can forecast some revenues, and that’s really the next stage. Once you’ve got those from somebody credible, you can go to potential sources of finance and show them that you think you’re going to make tons of money.
Maxim Jago: But I think that there’s an ethical dilemma for film makers, because if you were producing the equivalent to this, which would be a business plan for a new company, you’d have very simple metrics to use to look at how you’re going to make money for the investors of the company. How long investment needs to be in the company, whatever it is. But with a film, there are just so many variables, and as far as I can tell now, if you produce your reasonable budget, in a reasonable time scale, and you distribute worldwide in all media, it’s very likely indeed that you will double your original investors money. If the music sounds OK and the story is alright, you’ll make back the investors’ money. Of course, if you do have a famous name in the film, you’ll have some better metrics. People will be more attracted to the film, you’ll get a better distribution, and you’ll probably make more money.
Maxim Jago: But you do have this challenge if you don’t have names to convince people to see the film. And I’m reliably told that if you tell an investor that you will just double their money, that you’re confident you’ll do that, and you have the potential to make ten, 20, 30, 40 times their investment, it isn’t good enough. Investors in high risk investments, generally want to know that they’re going to get five or ten times their investment back, or it’s not worth it. So you have another Catch 22 trying to raise the finance for your film.
Maxim Jago: Ultimately, I think the solution is, if you’ve got a cause that people care about, if you have people that care about you that want to invest in your career as a film maker, that can help. But the alternative is that you begin to estimate revenues based on the cast you hope you will get if you get the money, so that you can then have a deal memo with your investors. For example, let’s say I’m trying to get Johnny Depp for a film. You never know, it could happen. I can say to investors, “If we cast Johnny Depp, you’ll commit the money, and here’s the revenues that we’re expecting.” With that deal memo in place, you can probably begin to have discussions with agents.
Larry Jordan: Well where does Kickstarter and Indiegogo factor into this, because you’ve been talking with traditional funding sources, not crowdsourcing?
Maxim Jago: That’s right and I looked into things like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, in fact we really researched and explored running a Kickstarter for one of the projects I’m working on. What I found is that ultimately, what’s going to get people engaged with a crowdfunding campaign, is a prior commitment, a prior connection to something to do with the project. Now an obvious one is going to be, once again, having a star involved. That means that there’s a significant number of people who have a prior connection with one of the characters or one of the cast. Another connection would be, again, a serious issue. There are some big social issues that we need to raise awareness of, and if you have a social issue and a new way of approaching it, then you may find that you can get a big commitment from people for your crowdfunding campaign.
Maxim Jago: Another option is if there’s a story or a narrative, a book adaption for example, that many people have read. One of the projects I’m working on now and developing, is Illusions, the book Illusions by the American author Richard Bach, and we’re looking to try to put together a film project based on that book. 40 million copies of this book were sold, and it’s a real life changing story for many people, so we’re optimistic that there’s an audience, and certainly a new generation waiting for the story.
Maxim Jago: Now if you’re … funding campaign and you can show that prior commitment, you can get that connection and you can get a lot of people to contribute to it. But at the risk of sounding a bit depressing and on a downer about this, I think that if you have no stars, no social issues, no book adaption that people are already passionate about, then from what I can see, and I’ve spoken to quite a few people working projects in the same way, although you will get the outliers, like the Kung Fury film for example was an amazing example of an outlier. No significant names in it but it was just an awesome project that did incredibly well. If you remove those outliers from your assessment, realistically, you’re probably going to raise somewhere between five and … that you can use to produce your film. Now you can step the process, so some people will raise finance for development, then for pre-production, then production, then for post production, and then for distribution. And each one of those is a separate crowdfunding campaign. But if you wanted to raise $100,000 or $200,000, I don’t think that’s completely realistic without that prior connection.
Larry Jordan: Let’s shift gears, because this show is talking both about financing and distribution, do you need to worry about distribution this early in your process? And if so, what questions are you wrestling with?
Maxim Jago: That’s a fantastic question. I think that most of life works better if you plan backwards and so absolutely. You want to be basing it on your distribution, and there’s some great news in this territory. We’ve now seen really good adoption of what people call OTT, let’s say multiple mediums for distribution for films and television and episodic content.
Larry Jordan: OTT, which stands for Over The Top would be Amazon or Netflix or Hulu or something of that sort?
Maxim Jago: Right. I never liked the name, it just means a box next to your TV I suppose, but people don’t care if they’re watching a film now on a laptop, on an ipad, on a phone, on a TV or a projector. It doesn’t matter. This is great for indies, because the big challenge of course traditionally is if your distribution outlet was … TV, cable or theatres, you’ve got a problem because those distribution mediums are very carefully controlled by large organizations who have a flow of content that they are in control of. But now we’re starting to see a much more open landscape for distribution where the key challenge of course … you’ve still got to have people discover you, but the discoverability is improving.
Maxim Jago: At Filmdoo for example, we’re getting three or 400,000 visitors … We’ve focused on particular mediums but we’ve got a great search system. iTunes of course, people used to search, and it’s easier now than it was historically for you to get a film onto iTunes, and they’ve got 800 million plus users. Vimeo Pro … content. There’s YouTube where in some situations you can charge for content, and we’re beginning to see this opening up of the online landscape. Not just in terms of film makers being able to put their content out there, which is great, but also in audience acceptance.
Maxim Jago: I think this is very interesting for the smaller budget productions where you put together something that you’re passionate about, you want to create, and you want to monetize that so that you can move at least towards what a friend of mine, … Flowers is an experienced film maker. He describes sustainable film making. You don’t need millions of dollars, you just need to earn enough money to make the next one and to pay the rent, so it becomes a reasonable replacement to your day job.
Larry Jordan: So to sum up, for someone that’s just getting started with their project, assuming they have a good story, assuming they have the technical skills to pull this off, what advice do you have for them to make money on their project? What are the top three things they need to keep in mind?
Maxim Jago: Oh my goodness. First of all, remember that this is a visual medium, and so begin with getting drawings, getting art work. If you possibly can, shoot a scene, make sure there’s something that conveys the mood and the atmosphere of the project, because that will convince people more than anything else. Secondly, I would say, it’s critical that you get … by somebody reputable in the industry. The bottom line is it’s not cool for you to tell people that you’re cool, but it is cool for somebody … and so you need someone who can big you up and who is respected, to make those introductions and get you those opportunities. Ask around, ask your mentors for recommendations.
Maxim Jago: I suppose the third thing I would say is that realism is beautiful, and it’s great to have imagination and dreams and aspirations. Try to couch those aspirations in a meaningful road map from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow, and just begin crossing those stepping stones. If you don’t have a reputation, you can build a reputation for free, by getting your friends together and producing low budget content that’s high quality. The tools are so accessible now, you can do it. And once you’ve built those smaller pieces, and built up your reputation, you can begin to cover the ground and to work on bigger projects.
Larry Jordan: Maxim, for people that want to keep track of the ground that you’re covering, where can they go on the web?
Maxim Jago: Well I have a strange name of course, so just Google Maxim Jago, or my website is maximjago.com. I’m always happy to answer questions.
Larry Jordan: That website is maximjago.com and Maxim Jago himself is the voice you’ve been listening to. Maxim, thanks for joining us today. This has been fascinating, thank you very much.
Larry Jordan: We first presented this interview with Pierson Clair on June 22nd, 2017. Pierson Clair has spent the last decade conducting digital forensic investigations in support of companies who have suffered a breach or other loss of data. His investigative specialties lay in the realm of Mac and mobile devices. Pierson has also spent the last five years teaching classes in information security and advanced forensics at the Viterbi School of Engineering at USC. Hello Pierson, welcome.
Pierson Clair: Hi there, how’s it going?
Larry Jordan: Well I am looking forward to our conversation, that is a true statement. Tonight is all about IaaS and cloud based collaboration. Increasingly, media creators are being invited to move their assets to the cloud. Given that we are all paranoid by nature, is it possible to keep our data safe once it’s stored in the cloud?
Pierson Clair: The joy of the cloud is you’re trusting your data to somebody else. You are trusting that they can house your data better than you can, and you’re trusting that they will take better steps to protect your data than you can. The cloud is one of those great marketing terms that just means, you can’t put your hands on your data.
Larry Jordan: It’s just essentially a remote server, is what you’re saying, under somebody else’s control?
Pierson Clair: Truly. So we’ve been using email forever. Email is now what’s known as the cloud, we just never talked about it that way, ten, 20 years ago.
Larry Jordan: So how can we determine if a cloud vendor that we want to use is secure enough?
Pierson Clair: The current state of cyber security is, pretend and envision for a second that you are that king or queen in the middle ages who has a castle and you are under siege, and you’ve got to protect your castle against 100 percent of inbound threats. You’ve got to be right 100 percent of the time. The attacker who you may not even be able to see, just needs to be right once. So it’s difficult to say “How do I guarantee that something is secure?” because unfortunately the only way to guarantee security is to have your data on a computer that’s turned off and the computer itself is in a safe or safe deposit box, which unfortunately, really makes it kind of useless as a computing device.
Larry Jordan: If we’re a film maker and we’re shooting a movie which has not yet been released, so we’ve got all these proprietary assets that we’ve created, Amazon and Microsoft talk about how much built in security they’ve got in AWS in Amazon’s case, and Azure in Microsoft’s case, if we’re trying to protect assets which are not otherwise available, is there security enough or do we need to do more? And if we need to do more, can we?
Pierson Clair: That’s a great question. You’ve got intellectual property that you need to protect, how do you do it? Every cloud provider is going to say “We’ve got great security.” But let’s go one level higher. Let’s talk about the content of what we like to see as cyber security hygiene. When you’re a small child you get multiple immunizations. Why? To protect yourself and to protect those around you. So cyber security hygiene starts with yourself, with your own computer. Starts with password policy, starts with what you click on. Could an attacker go after a cloud service? Sure. But why do that if they can send you a phishing email that you then click on. A piece of malware is downloaded to your computer without your knowledge. A key logger exists, it scrapes all of your passwords and it may just log into AWS or Azure or Rackspace as you.
Pierson Clair: So taking a step back and looking at your whole cyber security posture, we like to use a phrase called trust no-one. Validate everything. The biggest thing with the current state of cyber security is the technology itself is quite good, which means that most attacks are now what we call social engineering attacks. Whether this is a phone call that you receive saying something along the lines of “This is Microsoft, this is Google, this is Apple, this is Cisco or this is the IRS” and the next line is something like “Your computer is infected, or you haven’t paid your taxes” and they create this sense of worry. This cognitive dissonance whereby you are then compelled to let them have remote access or to send them money. So many of the attacks we now see against Macs are these social engineering attacks where people are coerced either by a banner ad, by an email, by a phone call, into saying “My computer’s infected, because my computer’s telling me so, so I must call this number, I must give them some money” and all of a sudden the computer wasn’t infected before, but is sure infected now after you’ve given them remote access. Never give somebody remote access unless it’s a guaranteed service provider that you have worked with before. Pair that with, trust no-one, because if you question everything, then you’ll maintain a safer security posture.
Larry Jordan: I got five calls from AT&T yesterday saying that my computer had a bad IP address. I know exactly what you’re talking about. How can we tell if we’ve been hacked? Whether we’ve downloaded one of these malwares that you just mentioned, and what should we do if we are?
Pierson Clair: One of the common misperceptions is that Macs don’t get malware. We have been lulled into the belief that Macs are inherently secure. And yes, they are more secure than your standard Windows installation, but it doesn’t mean that they are a magic shield that nothing can pass through. One, it’s keeping your computer up to date. It’s running patches, it’s keeping those operating updates up to date. It’s also running anti-virus, but anti-virus is only going to stop about 50 percent of attacks. There are far simpler programs, be they things like Little Snitch that will look at just outbound connectivity. “Hey, do you know that your computer’s currently calling out to this server in this geographical location?” On the other hand, if you’re doing really sensitive work, don’t be connected to the internet. Convenient, no. But that way you know that it’s not connected to the internet, so if it’s going to get lost or stolen, somebody has to physically enter your office to take the data that you’re working on.
Larry Jordan: Mac people have been told for a long time, especially media creators, that when we run anti-virus software, there’s a significant performance hit, and because performance is everything when we’re editing media, just because it’s such a complex thing to do in the first place, we’ve turned off anti-virus. How big of a performance hit is there with today’s anti-virus and which companies should we consider using?
Pierson Clair: So there are many great companies out there, and in my capacity at USC I can’t recommend an option, but yes, there will be a performance hit. One of the interesting things is that most anti-viruses allow you to turn off what’s referred to as on-access scanning. And what on-access scanning means is, when you’re working on a file, it’s scanning that file in the background. If you turn off the on-access scanning, you lose a certain level of real time protection, but if you set up scheduled scans, to run say four in the morning when you probably aren’t in front of your … then at least you know that everything that’s changed in say the last 24 hours has been scanned.
Larry Jordan: What references can you suggest for those that want to learn more about data security, that don’t require you to be an engineer to understand?
Pierson Clair: I use Feedly as a seed aggregation service. And I have a Feedly list that’s public, so if you go feedly.com/pclair and I make a couple of hundred resources that I read on a daily basis available, broken down into many different topics.
Larry Jordan: That web address again is feedly.com/pclair. Pierson, for people that want more information or would like to get in touch with you, what do you recommend?
Pierson Clair: They can email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Larry Jordan: The voice you’ve been listening to is Pierson Clair at Digital Forensic Investigator and on the faculty at USC. Pierson thanks for joining us today.
Pierson Clair: Thank you so much Larry for having me on.
Larry Jordan: We first presented this interview with Philip Hodgetts on May 25th, 2017. Philip Hodgetts is a technologist and the CEO of both Intelligent Assistance and Lumberjack System. Even better, he’s a regular here on the Buzz. Hello Philip, welcome back.
Philip Hodgetts: Hi Larry.
Larry Jordan: Philip, tonight we’re talking about media archiving and LTO storage, and I couldn’t think of a better person to talk to than yourself, to help us set the scene and explain some of the differences between backups and archiving and define some terms. So what is the difference between backups and archiving?
Philip Hodgetts: Well, backup, like it implies, is a backup copy of your media. Usually I think we tend to have that nearby during the production space of a show but having just one copy isn’t a backup, so you have to have two copies or more, or three or four copies, preferably in different geographic locations in order to have any form of backup. But I do associate that mostly with the production phase. Whereas archiving is where you would want to keep the work that you’ve done for long term storage. Of course your archive should have a backup. Generally speaking, backups are on A50 or spinning disks, usually in a raised configuration. Archiving could be on a set of drivers, or more commonly, it’s on LTO tape which is a linear tape, backup storage. It’s ironic, we’ve gone from tape to digital, to tape to backup the digital.
Larry Jordan: So it sounds like backups need to be almost on the same type of gear that we’re using for our editing? Whereas archives can be on gear which may take longer to access, true?
Philip Hodgetts: That’s certainly true. The demand for backup would be instantaneous because if something happened to the primary storage, you really want to be able to access that backup as quickly as possible so that you can be back up and running and continue production. Whereas archiving it’s assumed that the main work is finished, it’s maybe a year or two later and you want to revisit something for a new version, a new distribution channel, and so you’ll go to the archive, and certainly LTO tape, while with LCFS the file formatting, it appears as a drive, it is very slow compared with any sort of drive.
Larry Jordan: I was talking with Sam Bogoch, the CEO of Axle Media Management at the Creative Storage Conference yesterday, and he told me that when Axle was released in 2012, they were delighted that it tracked up to 30,000 assets. Their newest version, which they released at NAB this year, now supports over two million assets. How do we manage all the files that a typical media project creates?
Philip Hodgetts: You might guess my answer would include metadata. But in fact, that is exactly what an asset management is doing, it’s tracking all the metadata for an asset. That’s why I said management tools like CatDV, Axle and Keyflow Pro are all very important because the file system for LTO doesn’t give a unique ID to every asset … two assets with the same name, without being asset management level above it to get confused.
Larry Jordan: Philip, I don’t know about you but I do not want to type metadata for two million assets, so what can we do about this?
Philip Hodgetts: Hopefully the metadata would flow into the asset management system from the production. Many metadata that you enter in production should flow into the asset management system and be available, so obviously … metadata but any logging you’ve done, any keywords you’ve applied, UCG information is also valuable metadata. But the reality is, if you’ve got … of metadata, then up until very recently you would send it through Mechanical Turk with small tasks to small amounts of money, break it down that way. Certainly … have done that with the Johnny Carson shows and other transcript work that they’ve done adding metadata. They had their own version of Mechanical Turk, but mostly these days we can use machine learning to examine the assets and extract the metadata automatically. Certainly for large repositories in an asset management system that’s … or large repositories without management data, it’s probably the only way forward.
Larry Jordan: We’re going to learn a whole lot more about all of these issues on today’s show, but for people that want to keep track of the stuff you’re doing, where can they go on the web?
Philip Hodgetts: Philiphodgetts.com is my … intelligentassistance.com, metadataguru.com or lumberjacksystems.com. I’m everywhere.
Larry Jordan: That’s philiphodgetts.com and Philip, thanks for joining us today. We’ll talk to you soon.
Philip Hodgetts: My pleasure, thank you Larry.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: We first presented this interview with Stephen Nakamura on April 13th, 2017. Stephen Nakamura is the senior colorist for Deluxe’s Company 3 in Los Angeles. His projects include Oz the Great and Powerful, Prometheus, Zero Dark Thirty, and many more. Hello Stephen, welcome.
Stephen Nakamura: Hi, how are you Larry?
Larry Jordan: We are doing great, and I’m delighted to talk to you on the phone again. It’s been almost two years since last we spoke.
Stephen Nakamura: Right.
Larry Jordan: Stephen, today we’re talking about color and color grading. How would you define the difference between color correction and color grading?
Stephen Nakamura: I guess they could be considered the same thing. Color correction basically involves changing the color affecting the imagery of any kind of moving image that anyone shoots, whether it’s on film or digital. In its simplest form, it’s basically matching shots, making sure that they’re smooth and if one shot’s warm and another shot’s cool, you need to make them all warm or all cool, or you can be very creative and make things desaturated, a whole scene or a whole movie saturated, desaturated, warm, cool, contrasty, whatever. So it’s really Photoshop on steroids.
Larry Jordan: For projects where we plan to do a lot of color grading, when should we start planning what we want our look to be?
Stephen Nakamura: That usually happens in the dailies area when they first start shooting. Most productions actually try to set looks on set so that there’s a color correction already baked into the files and those color corrections then get baked in, they send it to their editorial department and the editors start cutting with the footage so that footage already has its own kind of look. Whether it may be slightly desaturated or warm or a certain kind of palette, the cinematographer usually determines with the director a particular feel or look, and a lot of that look is baked in really early in the process and dailies.
Larry Jordan: Does it make a difference what video format we shoot if we’re planning to do color grading? Or are all video formats pretty much the same?
Stephen Nakamura: Especially for theatrical, you want to shoot on the highest dynamic range capture medium that you can. The lower the quality of the images are, the more you’ll have things like clipped whites where we’ll lose information in the whites or crushed blacks where we won’t have information in the blacks. Once your capture medium loses information because it doesn’t have any dynamic range or enough dynamic range, we just will be unable to recover it in the post process, so ideally you want to shoot with the highest quality camera that you could get.
Larry Jordan: Do our choices change, either in codecs or other techniques if we wanted to shoot for HDR?
Stephen Nakamura: Not really. Most of the professional cameras that the cinematographers use have enough dynamic range that if they’re shooting it correctly on set, we have all the dynamic range we need for HDR or Rec. 709 or Rec. 2020 or any of the other massing formats that we need.
Larry Jordan: Which is more important to color grading, resolution or bit depth?
Stephen Nakamura: Bit depth is more important. You could have something that’s 4K with a limited dynamic range, and you’re still going to get the clipped whites or the crushed blacks. How sharp the image is, is far less important than having the full dynamic range in your blacks and your whites, so that when we start pushing images around in all the different formats, you have a very robust image to work with that has very little noise.
Larry Jordan: When you’re color grading a project, are there cultural differences in how we perceive color, or the emotions they create when you’re color grading?
Stephen Nakamura: I think as a general rule, that probably is the case Larry. Certainly if a movie tends to be a very happy, romantic comedy, typically it’ll be a little bit more saturated, it’ll be a little bit warmer. Depending on the time period, they’ll have a certain look so people get real involved in that time period that can be affected by color, that people are familiar with. So a lot of times, depending on the movie, you can take a look at the footage, you can tell what type of movie it is, and you can already get a feel for which direction they may want to go in, even though we may not get a lot of direction.
Larry Jordan: Stephen, where can we go on the web to learn more about you and your company?
Stephen Nakamura: You can certainly go on company3.com and you can find me on there.
Larry Jordan: And that’s Deluxe’s Company 3. Stephen Nakamura is the senior colorist at Company 3. Stephen, thanks for joining us today, it is always fun to chat.
Stephen Nakamura: Thank you so much Larry, appreciate it.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
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Larry Jordan: We first presented this interview with Jim Cummings on April 6th, 2017. Born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, our next guest spent Saturday mornings riveted to the TV screen mimicking the characters in his favorite cartoons. Today Jim Cummings is one of the most well known voice actors in animation. During his career, he’s worked extensively for the Walt Disney Studios voicing classic characters such as Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, King Louis, Kaa the snake, and many others. He’s also acted in blockbusters features for DreamWorks, including Shrek, Ants, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Tarzan, well you get the idea. He obviously can’t find work. It is an honor to say welcome Jim, good to have you with us.
Jim Cummings: Hi, how are you doing pal?
Larry Jordan: I am doing great. I’m just sitting here, standing at attention just talking to someone of your caliber.
Jim Cummings: A likely story. I’ll take it though.
Larry Jordan: Aside from an addiction to Saturday morning cartoons, what got you into voice over work?
Jim Cummings: I always kind of knew that I was heading in that direction since I was about four. I was in the back of the class, just doing dolphin noises and things like that. I remember my dad when we were watching Mel Blanc on a TV show which I think was the Jack Benny Show, and he says, “You see this guy here? This guy does all those voices you get up and watch on Saturday morning. He does Bugs Bunny and Daffy, Sylvester and Tasmanian Devil” and I said, “You’re kidding? They’re all from this guy? Here he is, everybody likes him, he’s not getting kicked out of class. So maybe I’ll go that way with it.” I always knew I’d be somewhere in the arts as an actor, a musician or a designer. I painted Mardi Gras floats for a few years in New Orleans as a young guy. Although I knew I was never going to be a dancer. Nobody wants to see this. I was in no danger of becoming a professional dancer. Somewhere in the arts yes, but not that. Ten or 12 years old and I wanted to be the ogre or the hermit or the wizard that lived in a cave, because it seemed like it was more fun. So I think I was inadvertently training myself for this career because that’s how it is now. I still get up and pretend to be an ogre or a king or fill in the blank, or a bear or a duck.
Larry Jordan: How do you develop different voices, what’s your process?
Jim Cummings: I just get together with the producer, the writer, the artist and you look at them. Dark Green Duck, he’s not a big gigantic fellow, but he’s not a little tiny guy either so the process of elimination there, although sometimes it’s funny to get the big guy and have a tiny voice come out of him. Look at Mike Tyson. You’re not going to make fun of him for his voice. No matter what. However funny it sounds, or weird, so it’s always fun to go against type too. But you do that and you figure in the size, you figure in whether he’s got a big nose, you might want to have to do something there. That type of thing, and you just kind of mold it. I think a bit of sculpting almost, molding the character as you go. Is he sarcastic? Is he happy? Is he dreary, is he gloomy? You incorporate all of that together, and honestly at that point you just give in to your instincts. I always joking say instincts are the best stinks. If you’re enjoying it and if it makes you laugh, chances are others will too, so give it a shot. But like I say, it’s a molding, you’re sculpting it, and hopefully it comes out OK.
Larry Jordan: You mentioned that you meet with the producer and the writer and other parts of the creative team. What’s the collaboration process like? Are you saying, “Listen to this, what do you think?” Are they telling you what their thoughts are? Walk me through that in more detail.
Jim Cummings: They’re inside the booth and you’re in the studio and you just get on mic, and you’re looking at it, going “Well, this guy looks like, what is he? Oh he’s 700 years old. Oh he is, oh OK, well now, OK” and you get on the microphone and make him sound … They go “Yeah, that’s good. Maybe make him from England.” “Oh OK…” “I don’t know, maybe from Italy.” “…” and then you just switch, and you go, “A little less gravel. A little less this. A little higher.” Because you’re looking at the picture, which always helps. One thing you say is, “If this guy started talking, what would it sound like?” If you answer that question, you’re done. And what does he act like, obviously, that’s the biggest thing. One helps the other.
Larry Jordan: So it sounds like you’re working principally out of sound stages, not out of a home studio?
Jim Cummings: Well not sound stages, but recording studios. Yes. For animation, when you sing and do animation, you always have to go into the studio. A lot of times, like promos and different spots you can do at home. I’m the type of guy that’s got a blue collar work ethic or attitude toward a no color required career. I like to get out and do something, feel like I’m doing something.
Larry Jordan: How is the prep or collaboration different if you’re the lead voice, versus a secondary character?
Jim Cummings: It isn’t. The lead voice just gets a little busier. That’s about it. Still trying to honor the character.
Larry Jordan: It sounds like it’s a very interactive collaboration process in the recording studio as both you and the producer are trying to figure out what this character’s going to be?
Jim Cummings: With the writer, and the voice director, absolutely. Everybody puts their two cents in, and you finally go “You know what? Hold it, there he is right there. Hold onto that guy, let’s do that. Let’s hear him up against blah blah” and you see how things work out and how they sound, and off to the races.
Larry Jordan: Is it always you by yourself, or are there other characters to play off of?
Jim Cummings: For the auditions usually it’s going to be yourself. You alone. But every now and again they’ll bring a couple of people in if they’re going to be a team, like some sort of Abbott & Costello group going on there, then they would have it. But usually you carve them out one at a time, and then they put them all together in the end.
Larry Jordan: It’s interesting because you are inventing the character almost before the animation’s done. You’re recording the audio anywhere from one to three years before production’s complete.
Jim Cummings: Yes. Very much so. A lot of people think you’re doing looping. I remember the movie Mrs Doubtfire throwing everybody off because they thought when Robin Williams’ character was in there doing these voices that it was, they draw them first. Well they sketch them first obviously because you have to know what the character’s going to look like. But they don’t animate them first. Draw them first, sketch them out yes, animate them first, no. Because you can’t draw comedic timing. If you think about it, you can’t draw tension or ‘how long is the dramatic pause is dramatic enough in the art work?’ Whereas if it’s recorded and you hear it, it’s like a radio play playing in your head, and you know. You’ve got the comedic timing right there because you hear it. It’s like the “Wait for it” well, that’s what they’re doing.
Larry Jordan: Are you ever surprised with what they do with your character?
Jim Cummings: I’m surprised at different takes that they use every now and then. But on the whole, no. The biggest surprise I ever had was in the Lion King. I was Ed, and I sang a song called “Be Prepared” for Jeremy Irons. I did all the singing part, there was a lot of talking on there which was him, but all the “Be Prepared,” the singing was me, and the biggest surprise was I did the demo for Hakuna Matata with my friend Jess Harnell, I was Timon and he was Pumba, because Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella weren’t musicians. Sometimes it can be very frustrating for everyone, if you get an actor in the studio who has to sing all of a sudden. If he’s not a singer, sometimes it can be really hard, and it’s tough on the actor because they’re really accomplished in one area, and they can’t pull this off. They thought, “Let’s get Nathan and Ernie a tape, we’ll get Jim and Jess to sing it and then they can know the song way before they get to the session. We’ll make them this cassette, they can ride around in their cars for a month and listen to it, that way when it comes to the sessions, they know it the way they know Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Happy Birthday. Just have it in their head.” We did that, but they didn’t have all the lyrics. Tim Rice of course did the lyrics and he’s from Britain.
Jim Cummings: The lyrics for Hakuna Matata before I showed up were things like “When I was a kid it was rough, you have it easy, I had it tough. Everything you do is not a problem, but I had it really,” and everybody’s dad used to say “I had to walk uphill both ways to school and it snowed every day.” “I know it was terrible for you and I’ve got it easy.” No kid wants to hear that, but I said, “On the other hand we’ve got this stinky guy here with a flatulence problem, and you can’t go wrong with flatulence in an animated movie.” So I said, “I got a lyric,” and I went over and gave Jess a couple of lines, and we went back, and I said, “Roll tape,” and said, “Oh the shame, oh now he’s ashamed. But what’s in a name, what’s in a name? And I got downhearted every time that I,” “ Pumba not in front of the kids,” “Sorry. Hakuna Matata.” So I alluded to farting so I wrote the fart verse, I’m still proud to say.
Jim Cummings: At the premiere you could have knocked me over with a feather. I went up to Don Hahn and I said, “You’ve kept the fart verse?” He goes, “It was the funniest thing in the movie.” I said, “Yes, but you’ve kept the fart verse?” I just couldn’t believe. They didn’t say the word fart, but there was no question what was coming next. Everybody laughed and I thought, “It was the funniest thing in the movie.” But on the other hand, it’s not like I got ‘With additional lyrics by’ because that would have been nice. It was like, wait a minute, so I figure when I retire I’ll just sue Disney, Peggy Lee style and get $15 or $20 million in … What do you think? Sound like a plan Larry? I don’t know.
Larry Jordan: Jim, you’ve been doing this for a long time. What part of voice acting still gets you excited and out of bed in the morning?
Jim Cummings: Oh, honestly, all of it. Unless it’s … some assembly required. Your parents helped you put it together. That probably doesn’t excite me all that much anymore. But like yesterday, it was a blast, it was like another Andrew Lloyd Webber gigantic songfest and I realize that now I’m sworn to secrecy. I could tell you but you’d have to kill me. It was singing for a major video game coming to a monitor near you. It all gets me excited. I love my job. Like I always tell my nieces, nephews, kids, anybody who will listen, “If you make a list of things you feel like doing, you love so much you’d do all daylong for free, and then do them so well that somebody’ll pay you,” that’s kind of what I did. Ergo, I’m still there, you know? The fact that they pay me, I just have to suffer through.
Larry Jordan: The pain just hurts. The voice you’ve been listening to is Jim Cummings, and you’ve been hearing it all your life in cartoons and animated features. Jim, thanks for joining us today.
Jim Cummings: Oh my pleasure, so much. Thank you so much Larry. Be well everybody and stay tuned. And that’s spelled tooned.
Larry Jordan: Jim, you’ve obviously done this before. Is there a question you want me to ask that I did not?
Jim Cummings: No, not really, you did great. Everybody, show of hands, how did Larry do? Hands in the back, perfect. Oh wow, it’s unanimous.
Larry Jordan: I’ve never been greeted by so many fans and hands in my life.
Jim Cummings: That’s right, look at that.
Larry Jordan: Thank you so much for your time. Have yourself a wonderful day, and I hope you stay busy as long as you want to be busy.
Jim Cummings: Excellent, thank you so much, same to you. God speed, God bless.
Larry Jordan: Thank you, take care, bye bye.
Jim Cummings: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: One of the pleasures of doing this show is being able to listen again to some of our favorite interviews, and I want to thank this week’s guests, Maxim Jago, producer director, Pierson Clair, digital forensic investigator, Philip Hodgetts the CEO of Intelligent Assistance, Stephen Nakamura the senior colorist for Deluxe Company 3, Jim Cummings, the voice actor, 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 Saturday.
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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.