Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor Reporter, TroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter
Philip Hodgetts, President, Lumberjack System
Randi Altman, Editor-in-Chief, postPerspective
Michael Kammes, Director of Technology, Key Code Media
Sam Bogoch, CEO, Axle Video
James DeRuvo, Senior Writer, DoddleNEWS
Announcer: The Digital Production Buzz is brought to you by KeyFlow Pro, media asset management software, designed to meet the needs of work groups at an affordable price.
Larry Jordan: Tonight on the Buzz we are catching our breath after all the news and releases over the last couple of months. We’ve invited several of our regulars to share their perspective on recent topics, and where things are headed in our industry. Plus, we have a special look at why so many editors have a hard time getting excited about media management.
Larry Jordan: We start with Jonathan Handel, the entertainment labor reporter for the Hollywood Reporter. The Harvey Weinstein scandal has ballooned into something much bigger and spread around the world. Tonight Jonathan shares his thoughts on what’s happening and what it means.
Larry Jordan: Philip Hodgetts, the CEO of Lumberjack System, continues our discussion on the impact of machine learning on the creative process, and what we need to know to remain employed in the future.
Larry Jordan: Randi Altman, the editor in chief of PostProspective.com shares her thoughts on current trends in post production, including the latest interest in 8K media and HDR.
Larry Jordan: With many productions now shooting well over 100 terabytes of data, how do we keep track of all this stuff? Tonight, Michael Kammes, the director of technology for Key Code Media shares his thoughts on workflow, storage, and finding that missing shot.
Larry Jordan: Continuing that discussion, Sam Bogoch, the CEO of Axle Video explains why so many editors are reluctant to use media asset management software. Why it costs so much, and what’s the minimum that any MAM needs to do. His answers will surprise you.
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, we tried really hard to come up with a theme for today and we just couldn’t do it. There were so many different things that we wanted to talk about that rather than try and just unify around a consistent standard, well we didn’t actually. What we wanted to do though, is we wanted to take really two looks at things. One, I wanted to talk to some of our regulars to get their sense on trends and continue several conversations that we begun a while ago.
Larry Jordan: The first is going to be with Philip Hodgetts. Philip and I have been talking about the impact that machine learning and artificial intelligence has on editing and Philip has done some writing on this, and I wanted to go further in this conversation because Philip is more optimistic, and I’m more pessimistic and I just want to see if his thinking has changed yet or not. Then, we’ve got two really cool interviews, well we’ve got a bunch of cool interviews, Randi Altman, how can you complain about somebody of her caliber and we’ve got Michael Kammes and Sam Bogoch and what Michael is doing, Michael and Sam are both going to be looking at media asset management. Not in terms of what’s available, but why we keep avoiding it. Some interesting conversations today, and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you, but thinking of interesting conversations, it’s time for our doddleNEWS update with James DeRuvo. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Hello Larry.
Larry Jordan: So what’s news this week?
James DeRuvo: SmallHD has introduced a new firmware update for their entire monitor line which is really going to help streamline getting going when you’re on set. They created OS3 which is the firmware update that expands the future set up of all their monitors including the 17 inch production monitors, to auto calibrate. So basically they’re plug and play. It adds false color values that can also be customized beyond 100 percent, to specific values chosen by the user. It’s a really interesting update.
Larry Jordan: James, how do you rank this as an update?
James DeRuvo: They call it their largest update ever. SmallHD has given users many tools that they’ve been looking for, including the ability to customize the color to the false color value, so you can set it up the way that you like it. And on top of that, thanks to the ability to save all these settings to an SD card, you can now just literally take an SD card, save the settings and put it in every single monitor on set and in minutes you’re up and running without even having to calibrate every single monitor individually. Such huge updates can save time and money.
Larry Jordan: Well they’re not the only ones doing upgrades. Who else do we have to talk about?
James DeRuvo: Blackmagic put out a big announcement today which is their winter fall lineup update and it includes new hardware, including the 8K compatible DeckLink Pro with 12G-SDI that records 12 bit, 444 in rec 2020. There’s a couple of others in there as well that are color formats. They also have new mini video converters for HDMI to SDI conversion and vice versa. They’ve dropped the price of their micro converters and they’ve also in their camera OS 4.2 update, they have expanded the feature set of the micro cinema camera and the micro production camera line ups for expanded dynamic range by up to two stops, frame rates of up to 60 percent, and you can now output to RAW by SDI.
Larry Jordan: It’s always nice to have updates but this doesn’t sound like a lot.
James DeRuvo: It’s not a huge update at all but we’re used to getting this big gigantic announcement in the spring before NAB. But with this winter update, Blackmagic is expanding the capability of their hardware to take advantage of many of the new tools that they have in DaVinci Pro, and that’s always a good thing Larry.
Larry Jordan: OK, so that’s upgrades. What else have we got?
James DeRuvo: More and more often mainstream filmmakers are turning to the iPhone X or the iPhone 7 as their platform of choice for creating short films and feature films even. While the XL mark has given the iPhone X the second highest scores for a mobile device ever, the video camera offers pretty good optical image stabilization that can make mobile filmmaking even more cinematic than before. And it can shoot 4K at up to 60 frames per second, 240 frames per second at 1080p, and the iPhone is becoming very popular with filmmakers, Steven Soderbergh, and Jack Schneider both of whom shot their latest films using the mobile platform.
Larry Jordan: You know, listening to you describe it, reminds me of the very long tradition that if it makes pictures, use it to make a movie.
James DeRuvo: Anselm Adams once said that the best camera you have is the one you have in your pocket, and that’s literally true these days. It wasn’t that long ago that Pixar guru John Lasseter stated that shooting films with a mobile device would become a major tool in the cinematic art flow of every filmmaker and when you consider that an Oscar was given for a documentary that was completed on an iPhone, and another iPhone film called Tangerine was the toast of Sundance last year, it seems to me that filmmaking on a mobile platform is becoming more popular than ever Larry.
Larry Jordan: Thank you James. James DeRuvo is a senior writer for doddleNEWS, and joints us every week with the weekly doddleNEWS update. James, we’ll talk to you again next week.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is an entertainment and technology attorney of counsel at Troy Gould in Los Angeles. He’s also the contributing editor on entertainment labor issues for the Hollywood Reporter, and best of all, he’s a regular here on the Buzz. Hello Jonathan, welcome back.
Jonathan Handel: Larry, it’s a pleasure to be back with you.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, let’s not waste time, I want to get right into it. The last time we spoke, the Harvey Weinstein scandal was just blowing up. Now it’s exploded both in Hollywood and the Me Too movement. What’s your take? Where do we stand first in Hollywood?
Jonathan Handel: It’s hard to keep track quite honestly. It’s Harvey Weinstein, it’s James Toback, it’s Kevin Spacey, Tyler Grasham, the agent at APA, who am I forgetting? I mean, there are accusations against Dustin Hoffman I guess. There were accusations against George Takei that he’s denied. We could go on and on. Not only in Hollywood but Judge Roy Moore from Alabama, turns out to not live the sort of life it seems that he contends everybody else should be living. The British defense minister has resigned, a member of parliament as well. It just goes on and on and on. The state capitals, at least eight or so of them are in an uproar according to the New York Times. The publishers of two separate art magazines have resigned here in the US. There was a celebrity chef.
Jonathan Handel: This has been an outpouring and I’m not meaning to make light of it by pointing out the number of people. This has been an absolute outpouring of revelation, hopefully all of it true. Seemingly most of it true. This is one of the issues that we get to is that there is a vast gulf between a court of law and the court of public opinion which renders its opinion quite quickly and then moves on having writ judgment. It’s important to remember that none of these people have been found liable in a civil case. Almost none of them have even been sued. None of these people have been found criminally liable. I don’t believe that any of them have had criminal cases initiated against them, although police are investigating Weinstein and perhaps some of the others. Police in New York, Los Angeles, I think Beverly Hills and London in the case of Harvey Weinstein. Kevin Spacey also is being investigated.
Jonathan Handel: I have to look at this and say I spent a year and a half covering false allegations against Brian Singer and three other men in 2014-15. The case had collapsed that ended up with the lawyers apologizing, acknowledging that the charges were provably false, paying a settlement. The accuser himself didn’t acknowledge anything, instead he filed bankruptcy to escape the counter sue that had resulted in the settlement from the lawyers. But he couldn’t escape the clutches of the FBI which delivered 121,000 pages of evidence against him to his criminal lawyer, and an alternative scheme that he had engaged in, he ended up pleading guilty to securities fraud arising out of lying to investors and forging documents and going to jail for two years. Meanwhile, his lawyer who had a history of dishonesty himself, he’d been suspended from the Florida bar for a year and a half, and then previously in a separate incident, barred for life by a Federal Judge in Oregon, he’s actually back in the latest wave here. Dominique Huett, an actress I believe, sued the Weinstein company rather than Weinstein himself, for negligently allowing Weinstein to behave the way he allegedly did. And her lawyer is none other than Jeff Herman, the lawyer for the lying accuser several years ago, who is himself a disgraced attorney.
Jonathan Handel: We do have to look on the one hand that the intensity of reaction here is what’s going to make this stick finally. You know, Anita Hill talked about being sexually harassed by Clarence Thomas. Didn’t make a difference. A number of women talked about being sexually harassed by Donald Trump. Didn’t make a difference, he got 63 million votes roughly, including from many women. So, on the one hand the intensity’s important. On the other hand, how do you stop that intensity from sliding over into a witch hunt where people who are opportunistic and not telling the truth, join in among the crowds of people who probably are?
Larry Jordan: It is an interesting balance between the court of public opinion and the court of justice. But do you see this growing into something that’s going to have life or is it just going to be another flash in the pan, and we move on to the next crisis du jour?
Jonathan Handel: So far, this has been like nothing I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen a story continue with this intensity for what, six weeks now? News rooms are in an uproar. People are following this stuff and are reporting these stories. I think that this is going to continue to have legs, and I hope and think that it is going to have an influence on people’s behavior in the future.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, for people who want to keep track of your thinking and what you’re writing, where can they go on the web?
Jonathan Handel: Two places, thrlabor.com, the Hollywood Reporter Labor, and my personal website, jhandel.com.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is an entertainment and technology attorney and the contributing editor on entertainment labor issues for the Hollywood Reporter. Jonathan, thanks for joining us today.
Jonathan Handel: Larry, thanks a lot.
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Larry Jordan: 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, thanks for having me back.
Larry Jordan: Well you know, it is never hard to twist my arm to invite you back on the show. I always enjoy our conversations. You know, last time you and I were on chatting, we were talking about the intersection of machine learning and editing. And I want to continue that discussion a little bit more tonight, but before we do, just to set the scene, could you describe the automated editing program that your company released a few years ago, First Cut I think it was called? What did it do?
Philip Hodgetts: First Cuts, yes, we were originally going to call it the Assistant Editor because it did that preparation work for an editor, but it turns out there’s a lot of things out on the internet called Assistant Editor, so it didn’t search very well. So we changed the name to First Cuts before release. What First Cuts did was, it was a knowledge system. Before we had artificial intelligence, one of the ways we embodied knowledge was in what are generically called knowledge systems.
Philip Hodgetts: One of those examples early intelligence assistance that we’ve produced for Final Cut Pro and other applications in the early days. They model the way somebody already thinks or the knowledge somebody has, and embodies that into a software algorithm, so it’s not artificial intelligence as we’ve been talking about. It’s not even machine learning. It’s literally where we would run an edit through the system that we were generating. It would come out with a result, I would say, that result doesn’t feel right because it’s not the way I edit, that B roll should be earlier, later or should be at the end and not the beginning or the middle. So we would go back with, Greg would insist that I now give him a rule of thumb that described the behavior that I was suggesting that we implemented. So, in effect, First Cuts was a very competent tool that learnt how to build storage based on rules of thumb. If you were basically teaching the introductory rules of thumb to an editor so they could get started, and get competent at it before they started getting creative edits, then that’s pretty much what you would do and First Cuts was just smarter, unlike most beginners, it followed all the rules all the time. But there wasn’t in any way shape or form an artificial intelligence or machine learning tool.
Larry Jordan: No, absolutely true, and that gets me to my next question. What does machine learning allow us to do today that you weren’t able to do with First Cuts?
Philip Hodgetts: Well I’m not even sure that we’re quite there yet, that I would find a machine learning approach that would work as well as our knowledge modeling, but what machine learning does in general is it allows us to teach a machine, generally based on some sort of neural network, but really what’s inside doesn’t matter. We show the machine a lot of examples until it’s the outcome that we would like to get from those examples. So if we were recognizing skin cancer for example, it’d show a lot of scans of images that have already been diagnosed and we have the human diagnosis for that, and over time the machine feeds back onto itself from the results that it’s getting to the results that are desired, until it starts to produce the same results. Completely and absolutely on its own.
Philip Hodgetts: We don’t understand how it gets the results inside, which I do admit is kind of a little bit scary, because results that go in are going to influence the results that come back, so if we start to model systems in the existing world, we’re going to start modeling biases that already exist. Not so much a problem in the editing world, but as, you know, in the broader picture of how machine learning will influence society, we must be careful not to institutionalize in our machines the bias that we have in society now.
Larry Jordan: You said that machine learning is not quite there yet. What does that mean to you?
Philip Hodgetts: Well for example, what we did in First Cuts, is a lot of very complicated things that interact with each other. It is possible to give a machine a goal like walk, but with walking the goal is very simply described as be upright, move forward. I don’t think that you know, even in yours and … brilliance you could simplify the essence of editing down to something that concise. We’re dealing with a much more complex system of interactions and emotional overtones that are very hard to put into metadata. And of course not having that good metadata in the first place is where First Cuts fell down at the time it came out.
Larry Jordan: We’re going to have a conversation first with Michael Kammes, but second with Sam Bogoch talking about some of the applications, especially from Sam, that machine learning is being able to dial into the media asset management. But let me posit something. If we accept editing as feature film, then I think it’s going to be hard for a machine to edit a feature film anytime in the near term. But if we define editing as pulling sports highlights, or looking for action in a news scene or taking an existing cut and just cutting it 30 seconds shorter, that’s much more mechanistic which artificial learning could help us with, true?
Philip Hodgetts: It’s already happening. I mean Wimbledon earlier this year was using Watson’s AI to serve up highlights. They would pull out based on the action in the shot, the social media activity around that, statistics out of the shot, to pull out and recognize the areas of the tennis match that were important and pull that out into an accessible edit. For this type of templatized production, I think we’ll see a lot of application of where machine learning can pull in appropriate elements for these templates. And not this year or next year, but not too far into the future. You know, those templates could be smart enough to pull in the elements that go into say a corporate video or a certain type of education video and, as you’ll talk to Sam about, logically we will be searching our footage in the future by its content. By the images that are in it and by the words that are spoken not by the metadata that we’ve had humans enter. Heaven forbid we shouldn’t get rid of the metadata, I think it’s still going to be valuable, but the reliance on the human entry is what we’re going to move away from.
Larry Jordan: Well let’s switch gears just a little bit. Let’s say from a business perspective, if you’re a high end feature film editor, your job is secure for the rest of your career. But for editors, and a lot of us are doing mechanistic work, I want every editor to remain employed. If the medium to long term trend is for simple editing to be machine enabled, what do editors need to do to make sure they’re employable in the coming years? Or are we going to see a lot of fall out at the lower end of the editing craft?
Philip Hodgetts: Well, the one thing that I’ve seen so far is that while lots … jobs get automated by these machines, there’s been very few jobs that have been completely replaced by machine. So I think a double edged sword there. I completely agree with you at the high end, you know, the editors working on feature films, on Hollywood, television, studio television, these are all fairly safe jobs. These are very conservative industries. The same people are going to be using machine learning to determine what will be produced, what is successful, what storylines work with and resonate with the audience. Back to the individual editor, you have to start to bring in the things that the machine won’t be doing for long term, and that’s the creativity, that inspired spark that takes this mechanistic edit and turns it into something that sings and most importantly affects the emotion. Machines are starting to be able to recognize emotion when they see it, but create something that is emotionally compelling and manipulates human emotion? I think that’s a skill that will remain in human hands for the rest of my career.
Larry Jordan: So how about for people that are doing simpler editing? Do they have to look for other work or what should they do to protect their own jobs?
Philip Hodgetts: Learn to adapt and use these new tools. I mean these are tools that are organization and pre-editing tools. These are no different than cameras and stands and the lighting things we use. They’re simply tools and the more efficiently you use tools, the more efficient you become. You can start to produce more for the available funds. Will everyone continue to be employed? Probably not. I mean if something is going to be replaced by machine, it’s probably inevitably going to be replaced by a machine in some situations at least. The thing is that a good story teller and creative people will continue to be employed. If you’re not one of those, you know, check how your barista skills are going.
Larry Jordan: So the short answer is, keep practicing your creative skills, keep working on your people skills to keep the clients happy, and keep an eye on technology and take advantage of it when you can?
Philip Hodgetts: Shower and clean your teeth before you go into the edit bay.
Larry Jordan: Philip, for people that want more information about what you’re thinking and the products you’re creating, where can they go on the web?
Philip Hodgetts: You can see our stuff at lumberjacksystem.com and intelligentassistance.com and I also occasionally write at philiphodgetts.com which was my more active in the past blog.
Larry Jordan: Occasionally is not often enough. And Philip Hodgetts is the CEO of both Intelligent Assistance and Lumberjack System, and it’s always a delight Philip chatting with you. Thank you so very much for sharing your time.
Philip Hodgetts: Thank you for having me.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: As my friend Mike Horton enjoys saying, if you haven’t heard of Randi Altman you are not paying attention. Formerly the editor in chief of Post magazine, now the editor in chief of PostProspective.com, Randi has covered post production for more than, well let’s just say a long time. Hello Randi, welcome back.
Randi Altman: Hi Larry, good to be back.
Larry Jordan: Randi, you’ve been covering post since like forever. What have you seen recently that’s caught your eye?
Randi Altman: Oh boy, yeah, I have been doing this for a very long time. So recently, I’ve been to many trade shows it feels like in the past couple of months. You’re starting to hear a lot about 8K at least from the manufacturers. Not necessarily so much from the people that are out there working, but it’s interesting. I mean, am I allowed to ask you a question back?
Larry Jordan: Sure.
Randi Altman: What do you think of 8K? I mean, obviously the companies that make monitors and graphics cards and all of that, they want to play in 8K. What are you hearing from people about 8K?
Larry Jordan: I have no interest in 8K. I’m not hearing people ask me about 8K. 8K I think is just a way for manufacturers to sell more gear. We can’t even see 4K on a screen less than 100 inches across, and even on a, on a movie screen, unless you’re sitting within ten feet of the screen, you can’t see the difference between 2K and 4K. The eye doesn’t perceive it. 8K I think is just a marketing way of selling more gear, but other than that, I don’t have an opinion.
Randi Altman: What about those who might say you’re future proofing your content? Same answer?
Larry Jordan: Exactly when is resolution a substitute for having a good story?
Randi Altman: Never, that’s a very good point. Like I guess the ideal would be both. But as you say, we’re not ready yet.
Larry Jordan: I’m not saying we’re not ready, I’m just saying there is a difference between the needs of the manufacturer to sell gear which I do not deny, and fully support. And the needs of the editor to make sure that the money they’re spending on the gear is money well spent. I don’t think money for 8K is well spent. I think money for more storage and faster processors, and especially faster GPUs, now that’s hardware budget that’s well invested. I don’t know any actor in any industry that wants to have their close up in 8K.
Randi Altman: It’s true. I remember when HD came out and all the ageing soap opera actors were like up in arms. They were like, “Oh my god, this is terrible.” But you know, everything now, all the blemishes and stuff are essentially fixed digitally, so. But yes, you’re right. 8K, I honestly just don’t know.
Larry Jordan: There’s very few hot buttons I have, but 8K is a hot button. So which gets me back to you. What are your thoughts?
Randi Altman: Well I tend to agree. I mean, you hear the debate back and forth and no, I haven’t heard many users who are looking to work in 8K. As you say, it’s up to the manufacturers to continue pushing and to build product for the future, and they need to be making things for 8K workflows, when those workflows finally do come. I don’t know when that will be.
Larry Jordan: Well remember the doldrums that we were in just before we figured out that 4K was actually a viable mechanism? Television sets and sales had fallen off and the manufacturers were having some problems thinking about what to manufacture next, and all of a sudden, out of the ashes, 4K and especially UHD arose. Do you think there’s more value in more pixels or HDR?
Randi Altman: From what I’ve heard and from people I’ve spoken to, they’re embracing HDR more.
Larry Jordan: OK, which gets me to another question. What are your thoughts on the increasing role of machine learning in the editing and post process? Should editors be worried about their jobs?
Randi Altman: Oh, that’s an easy question, thanks Larry. I don’t think so. I mean, maybe because I’ve been in this industry for a very long time, I’m going to say no, they shouldn’t be, because I do believe that editing is an art, and it’s creative and it’s a very human thing to do, to tell a story in a certain way. While artificial intelligence and all of that might speed up the process, I still think that people need to be creative to tell a story.
Larry Jordan: I got one more hard question for you. Now this time put your business hat on. Making money as an editor, especially as a freelance editor, has always been challenging. Do you think editing is still a viable career path?
Randi Altman: I think for the right person yes. I think that probably less young people are going to go into it, or maybe they’ll start on that path and decide it’s too hard to keep just trying to get jobs and trying to piece together a living. But I think that others who just have it within them, they’re going to seek out opportunities, they’re going to edit on their own, they’re going to create their own opportunities to edit. I don’t know if that answers your question or not?
Larry Jordan: No, it does. So are you basically optimistic or pessimistic about the post industry then?
Randi Altman: I’m optimistic, which is really weird because I’m probably the least optimistic person that I know. But when it relates to this industry and yes, we all agree that in production and post production, everything is blurred, but people have proven, especially with the Netflixes and the Hulus and the Amazons that we want good content. So we’re going to keep watching and we’re going to keep seeking that out and people have to make that. If you’re going to produce the content, you have to post the content, so I guess I am pretty optimistic about it.
Larry Jordan: For people who want to keep track of your optimistic attitude on the post industry, where can they go on the web?
Randi Altman: To postperspective.com.
Larry Jordan: All one word, postperspective.com and Randi Altman is the editor in chief of postPerspective, and Randi, as always, it is a delight chatting with you and I’ll look forward to doing it again.
Randi Altman: Thanks Larry, same here.
Larry Jordan: In his current role as director of technology at Key Code Media, Michael Kammes consults on the latest in technology and best practices into the digital media communication space. Hello Michael, welcome back.
Michael Kammes: Hello sultry Mr Jordan, how are you?
Larry Jordan: I tell you, it’s a great show so far. And it’s only going to get better because I’m talking to you.
Michael Kammes: Thank you so much.
Larry Jordan: You’ve always been fascinated by optimizing workflow and storage and the integration of technology in our lives, and I also know you were listening to Philip’s interview. What’s your reaction?
Michael Kammes: Philip’s been on the bleeding edge for quite a while and now that he’s made the jump further, you know, headlong into AI and machine learning, I think that’s probably the best route to go especially when it comes to all the disparate media and whatnot we’re doing within our industry. So I couldn’t be more behind what he’s doing and where he sees the industry going.
Larry Jordan: Does the increasing use of machine learning enable new opportunities in workflow from your point of view?
Michael Kammes: Oh completely. I think when we look at things like asset management, all asset managements do the same thing at the core. They allow you to find media, and they allow you to then use that media. What I look for in more advanced asset management systems is how can it take away the dragging my knuckles across the keyboard, the repetitive things that I do that doesn’t take the creative power that I have or the intellect that I have. I want something to do the stuff that doesn’t take up those things. So if I could automate transcoding, if I could automate pushing files to different places, if I could automate the tagging of media so I can start to use it, then I want that.
Larry Jordan: We’re going to be talking with Sam Bogoch who’s the CEO of Axle Media, and has developed some media asset management software in the section after you. But before we talk to Sam, why do you think editors are so reluctant to embrace media management software?
Michael Kammes: Because I think creatives want to create. I can’t fault anyone for that. I mean, that’s why you got into this industry. You didn’t get into the industry because you feel like working in an Excel doc, or using Filemaker Pro. You got into the industry because you want to be creative. And a lot of asset management systems require you to do a lengthy process of logging and organizing and that takes the fun out of manipulating the moving image which is again why you got into the industry.
Larry Jordan: So you think that the more that the machine can take over the logging process, the more people will adopt media management?
Michael Kammes: Bingo. When we start using AI technology to do facial recognition and recognize who’s speaking and not just how we translate what they’re saying, what we think they’re talking about, but actually what they’re saying, so subjective versus objective. Once we pair those things together to machine learning, we now have an instant 80 percent, 90 percent of being there, getting things done, and logged. So now we don’t have to spend as much time on the front end. You know, that pay now versus pay later philosophy.
Larry Jordan: Well Sam is going to talk about that exact subject, so I’m going to leave the rest of those questions for Sam, but I want to talk about the other love in your life which is storage. And I know…
Michael Kammes: I thought you were going to say Philip.
Larry Jordan: No, it’s storage. We’re going to talk about storage. Storage is on the list of things we’re going to talk about.
Michael Kammes: OK.
Larry Jordan: Only you and I, I think get excited about the specs of a hard drive, but what’s happening in storage that’s got your attention these days?
Michael Kammes: Well, right now we have several different paradigms. We have the SSD and Flash, and we have the spinning disc, and we’ve got the nebulous, no pun intended, cloud. Right now, there’s a shortage of SSDs which is making things difficult for some companies. What I’m finding out there is that drives are actually getting larger in capacity than what folks actually need. Hear me out on this, I have plenty of clients I work with that I say this’ll be 100 terabytes. They say, “We don’t need that, we only need 20 terabytes.” And I say, “Well that’s two drives.” If you’re going to be sharing this amongst many people, you need more spindles. If I can get you a 20 terabyte two drives, that’s not enough spindles, so people are now paying for throughput as opposed to capacity, and I find that’s a complete change from what it used to be.
Larry Jordan: I totally agree. I just purchased a system for myself. It’s got 40 terabytes of storage on five drives, and you know, that’s illegal I think. But you make a really good point which is that we really need to focus on how we’re going to get the data and how quickly we get the data from our drive to our computer. What’s the next thing on bandwidth? What’s coming up?
Michael Kammes: Well right now I think a lot of facilities finally moving over to a 10 gig infrastructure, instead of the single gig infrastructure they’ve had for years, they’re now moving to 10 gig. That requires running new Ethernet cables which could be expensive. But it also requires a new switching infrastructure, and that’s usually several thousand dollars and a lot of facilities aren’t ready to make that kind of investment. But we’re seeing more and more folks forgoing the fiber route and going more to the copper Ethernet route.
Larry Jordan: I think we have to have another conversation talking about ways to improve your bandwidth, but we’ll save that for another time. Michael for people that want to keep track of what you’re up to, where can they go on the web?
Michael Kammes: Two places, michaelkammes.com and 5thingsseries.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s the number five, 5thingseries.com. Michael Kammes is the technology director at Key Code Media, and Michael, thanks for joining us today.
Michael Kammes: Always a pleasure Larry thanks.
Larry Jordan: 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, 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: Sam Bogoch is the CEO of Axle Video which has developed a new, approachable system for asset management called Axle. Prior to Axle, Sam spent five years doing director level work in product design, product management and business development for Avid. Hello Sam, welcome back.
Sam Bogoch: Hi Larry, great to be back.
Larry Jordan: Sam, I want to talk about the latest news from Axle in a few minutes. But first, I want to take a step back and talk with you about why it’s so hard to get our media organized and the whole process of media asset management. I mean, it’s not unusual for projects today to shoot terabytes of data, thousands of clips. Why is it so hard for editors to get excited about organizing their media?
Sam Bogoch: That’s a very good question and I think there’s at least a couple of parts to it. Let me start with probably the biggest one which is that it’s like doing your chores. Fundamentally getting organized or tagging and managing your media, it’s a lot like doing your laundry. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “Ah it’s a bright, sunny day. I can’t wait to do my laundry.” Or maybe there are people like that, but we don’t know many of them.
Larry Jordan: No, that’s true.
Sam Bogoch: I think that’s probably the first problem is that. If you’re a creative and a visual person, the last thing you want to do is spend a good chunk of your time behaving like a librarian. The second part of it is that video is a hidden medium, and that sounds crazy because it’s the most visual medium. But at the same time, it’s basically hidden from view. To explain this a little more, I’ll go back to the bad old days of analog tape, and you know, someone would put a tape on the shelf, and then they’d have a show on the tape let’s say. But apart from a little label on the side of the tape, they really had no way of knowing what was on it short of putting the tape in a deck and actually watching the show. So for all intents and purposes video was invisible. It was locked up in these tapes.
Sam Bogoch: When video went digital, starting around a decade ago, it was still surprisingly hidden. It just went from being on a tape on the shelf to being on a hard drive on the shelf, often with that same piece of tape or post it note on it, and once you got up to a few dozen disc drives and many of our customers start out with many many dozens or hundreds of disc drives, you still kind of have no idea at a glance of what’s on those drives. You’ve got to plug them into a computer. Now at least it’s random access now, so you don’t have to actually fast forward your way ahead in the footage. Nonetheless, it’s kind of out of sight, out of mind. So the biggest challenge I see with media, is to present enough of it in front of you in a kind of transparent way that you feel like you could actually find something. I think from that point onward it gets a lot easier, but until you get to that point, it’s mostly hidden.
Larry Jordan: It’s like a text document. You can quickly search for a word, but you can’t quickly search for a picture and a video clip.
Sam Bogoch: Exactly right.
Larry Jordan: In the last few weeks, I’ve spoken with a couple of media asset management firms whose software costs well over 40, 50, $60,000. Why is media asset management so expensive?
Sam Bogoch: It’s a combination of things. I would say the history of the industry is such that when these systems started being developed, they started for large broadcasters and large content creators. So it was approached like enterprise software, if you’re familiar with the IT world, something like SAP, that big complicated thing that takes months to deploy and never mind tens of thousands, often costs hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars. But the large customers wanted it that way. They saw it as the solution for them, and in many cases they would actually put out RFPs and I experienced a whole bunch of these when I was at Avid, we would get inch and a half thick RFP documents with hundreds of questions and requirements and the assumption was, we were going to be able to find a way to say yes to most, if not all of them. It’s at least partly the customers fault. It’s also a little bit the vendors fault for saying yes, but at the end of the day if you say yes to hundreds of questions and then you have a complex fairly customer specific solution, it’s going to end up costing many hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.
Sam Bogoch: The challenge is that the media industry is democratizing and so that kind of one to one bespoke custom world doesn’t make sense for the quarter million or so video teams that are shooting stuff for YouTube, for corporate video, for social media, for sports teams. These guys wouldn’t even know what to put on that RFP and they certainly wouldn’t be able to afford the outcome. So what they’re looking for is more shrink wrapped software that they can just install and run. I think the challenge is, the traditional vendors, quite a few of them, were geared up for this very static world where things didn’t change that often, and the customers were large broadcasters and large content companies. But I think that business is as big as it’s ever going to be, whereas the real growth is in the grass roots.
Larry Jordan: Well the growth is in the grass roots, I do believe that. But the grass roots doesn’t have the budget to spend and so Axle is in a strange position where you’ve got to have really technically savvy software, you’ve got complex network support and multi-user databases working with different media types on different platforms, to an audience that doesn’t have a whole lot of money but needs it, but doesn’t want to use it which means how do you survive in a low cost world when you’ve really got to roll this very large rock uphill?
Sam Bogoch: You make it sound so attractive, I can’t wait. There are elements of all the things you point out. Interesting to see how things turn out well nonetheless. Like, there are enough people, between us and Adobe, we’ve gone over the numbers, and we think there’s about a quarter million video post production teams out there. Now some of them are literally two people and a dog. Some of them are 30, 40 people etcetera. But it skews towards the small end of the scale.
Sam Bogoch: What we find is that on an ongoing basis, every week another dozen or so of those people pop up out of the woodwork, contact us and say, “Hey, I’m really getting tired of putting hard drives on a shelf.” Or, “I’ve moved all my hard drives on a shelf onto some shared storage, but I still can’t find anything. Mostly because Spotlight doesn’t work over shared storage these days. So, I’m stuck and I need a tool. I don’t even know exactly what it needs to be” and they sure as heck don’t have inch thick RFP documents, but they know they need something and they start a conversation with us, and we have different levels of functionality. Some of them are pretty sophisticated, but at its basic level it’s something that a number of storage companies are already bundling with their shared storage for instance. So what we try and do is catch people when they first become aware that there might be a better way to do this, and then kind of educate them through the process of figuring out how to solve it.
Larry Jordan: What do you see as the essential of any media management system? What does it have to do?
Sam Bogoch: I would argue it has to do as little as possible. Now, that’s putting my own personal bias on it, but the minimum requirement is probably to help people find stuff. We have some customers that literally use our software only for that. So we have all these cool sub-clipping and tagging features and you know, collaboration tools, and review and approval, they never use any of that. These customers are just like, “Hey, I can find stuff now, I’m good.” And that’s it. Because Spotlight does not work over a network, and because 90 plus percent of the customer base is Mac centric, this is really a tool that solves an important problem for them. That’s the basic requirement.
Sam Bogoch: I’d say the next level up from that is probably being able to make the video more visible by having proxies, so having low resolution versions that you can play on any computer, not just one with a red rocket card or one with a big hunking processor and GPU where you can, you know, because more and more of the shooting is in 4K. Not that many computers are equipped to play back 4K. And so you have a problem with a source media, if you don’t make a proxy, people are literally not going to be able to view it. Actually 4K and 8K are a step backwards towards the days of tape on a shelf because for the last five, six years, most computers, most laptops have been able to play HD video just fine. But all of a sudden, that’s not so true in the case of 4K and 8K.
Larry Jordan: Sam, before we talk about your products in specific, where do you see media asset management going, say in the next three to five years?
Sam Bogoch: So there are a number of key trends that are really just having their impact right now. I’ve already mentioned the hundreds of thousands of post production teams that are out there shooting material. The challenge is what will those folks use to manage their content? It turns out that storage prices, both on premise and cloud, are dropping very rapidly, so you can now afford a small shared storage system for your team, for a few thousand dollars in some cases, maybe as much as ten or $20,000 but nothing like what a SAN used to cost. And you can also afford cloud storage for a few dollars a month per terabyte which would have cost a multiple of that as recently as one or two years ago. So all of a sudden the storage part is affordable and doable.
Sam Bogoch: Other technologies are coming into play that are also making this a solvable problem. More and more bandwidth, better artificial intelligence, better tools like ours for actually cataloguing what you have. So we think that as opposed to the say 5,000 or so teams that use media management today, that we’ll be looking at something like 50,000 teams five years from now, and that’s again a confluence of all these different things. More teams existing, more people reaching a point where they need to solve the problem, and then the underlying technologies, the building blocks of storage, bandwidth and software becoming much more affordable.
Larry Jordan: Before I get totally lost in this discussion, and we all get completely depressed, let’s talk about some really exciting and happy news. What’s the latest news from Axle? What are you guys doing we should pay attention to?
Sam Bogoch: So the number one thing is that we’re making that visibility even easier to come by by using artificial intelligence technique. There’s been a very marked improvement in the performance and affordability of machine learning and AI so what we’re able to do with our new Axle AI product is pre-tag all your material, so you don’t have to actually sit there and watch it all to put the metadata tags on it. And suddenly, your hours and hours of footage are now tagged with lots of information. There’s speech detect, so you have a transcript, it may not be 100 percent accurate, but it’s 90 plus percent accurate. You have identification of who’s in a scene, and if there’s celebrities it can even name them. What objects are in the scene. What kind of activity is going on in the scene and so forth. And so it takes a huge step towards making thousands of hours of footage searchable and manageable.
Larry Jordan: For people that have not yet started using media asset management software, where do they start with Axle? What’s the entry point?
Sam Bogoch: We have what’s called Axle Starter, and it’s $495. It’s also bundled, with some of our partners’ storage solutions, so we just announced for instance with the folks at Promise, that they’re bundling it with their V-Track shared storage. We have similar deals in place with Simply and Avid. It’s generally intended to be affordable for a post production team that would be buying their first shared storage, and again, here we partner with a number of different vendors, but it doesn’t have to be a vendor that bundles our product, it can also be really any type of high performance SAN or NAS.
Larry Jordan: And for people that want more information about what Axle can do for them, where do they go on the web?
Sam Bogoch: You should go to Axlevideo.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, axlevideo, and Sam Bogoch is the CEO of Axle and Sam, thanks for joining us today.
Sam Bogoch: Thanks so much Larry.
Larry Jordan: You know, I was just thinking. I’m continually fascinated by the law of unintended consequences. This is the idea that even good ideas have repercussions that can’t be predicted at the time something is introduced. Philip and I were talking about one example, how the increasing interest from technology firms in machine learning, runs the risk of automating the editorial process. So that many editors who spend their time cutting simpler projects will find themselves out of work. Now by that, I don’t mean that machines will be able to edit a really good feature film, at least not for a long time. But much of editing today is much less creative, and more machine like. For example, pulling sports highlights or clips of celebrities on the red carpet, or B roll of some event. You know, the kind of editing that doesn’t take a lot of thought, but requires a basic level of skills and technology.
Larry Jordan: Those are the editing tasks that are likely to be automated first. If you think about it, the application of machine learning to logging and identifying footage that Michael and Sam were talking about is one big step along the path of telling an editing system to scan a chunk of footage, find all the clips that feature a specific celebrity, build the selects into a timeline so that a human editor can add, polish and output. In other words, this is a task that a lot of assistant editors do every day. My concern is not that this is bad, but that as editors we need to think about how we can do more than just simply slap clips together for a client, because all too soon, that task can be automated and we’re out of work.
Larry Jordan: How can we continue to boost our creative input while keeping clients happy in the coming world of editing automation? That is going to be a big focus for many of us over the next couple of years. Just something I’m thinking about.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests for this week, Jonathan Handel with the Hollywood Reporter, Philip Hodgetts of Lumberjack System, Randi Altman of postPerspective.com, Michael Kammes of Key Code Media, Sam Bogoch of Axle Video, and James DeRuvo from 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.
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