Ned Soltz, Contributing Editor, Red Shark News, Ned Soltz Inc.
Randi Altman, Editor-in-Chief, postPerspective
Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor Reporter, TroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter
Michele Yamazaki, VP Marketing, Toolfarm
Philip Hodgetts, President, Lumberjack System
Michael Kammes, Director of Technology, Key Code Media
James DeRuvo, Senior Writer, DoddleNEWS
Male Voiceover: 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, our leading analysts look back at 2017 and highlight the key trends and events that made them most impact on our industry this last year. What surprises me is how little they agree.
Larry Jordan: We start with James DeRuvo, with DoddleNews, looking at the top news stories of 2017. Then we switch to our analysts, starting with Ned Soltz, Contributing Editor for Red Shark News; Randi Altman, Editor-in-Chief of postPerspective.com; Jonathan Handel, Entertainment Labor Reporter for the Hollywood Reporter; Michele Yamazaki, the VP of Marketing for Toolfarm; Philip Hodgetts, CEO of Intelligent Assistance and Lumberjack System; and Michael Kammes, Director of Technology for Key Code Media. An entire year in the space of an hour. The Buzz starts now.
Male Voiceover: 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: Hello, my name is Larry Jordan. Well, it’s the end of another year, pretty amazing how fast the time went by. Every year, for the last ten years, we take the last Thursday in the year and look back at key trends, technology and news that influenced our industry. Then, on the first Thursday in the new year, we look ahead to the trends we need to watch in coming months.
Larry Jordan: I’ve always enjoyed these sessions, because, when we get our team together, there is very little consensus; events that were important to one go unmentioned by everyone else. It makes for fun listening and a great way to reflect on the year now ending and, at the end, I’ll share my thoughts with you as well. We start with James DeRuvo and our DoddleNews update. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Happy New Year Larry.
Larry Jordan: A very Happy New Year to you as well. How you doing?
James DeRuvo: Oh I’m doing okay, just, you know, Christmas holiday.
Larry Jordan: It’s sort of a very interesting week, the time between Christmas and New Year and you feel like you should be doing something and not doing something at the same time.
James DeRuvo: It’s a perfect time to bone up on that Larry Jordan training.
Larry Jordan: It is and read every article on doddlenews.com. Thinking of that James, what’s the news this week?
James DeRuvo: There’s not a lot. That’s what you expect from the Christmas holiday week. However, there is a lot of rumbling about Apple purposely slowing down older iPhones to conserve battery life. There are now potentially nine class action lawsuits pending and while this isn’t strictly mainstream filmmaking news, since most of us use our phones to shoot video and mobile filmmaking is a thing, this is definitely something to keep an eye on.
Larry Jordan: Alright, so we’re a little news light this week; so let’s shift gears, because, this week, for the entire show, we’re taking a look back at 2017 and asking our regulars to share their thoughts. What are some of the highlights of the past year for you?
James DeRuvo: Well, first off, RED had a banner year; introducing their Super 35 8K Helium Camera; their latest Monstro Vista Vision Image Sensor and their IPP2 workflow, which promises to future proof post-production with HDR monitoring tools, greater dynamic range, more accurate skin tones. Then, on top of all of that, RED also introduced this mysterious RED Hydrogen One Android Smartphone. It’s got a 5.7 inch holographic display, which coupled with RED Tools coming on the platform, promises to make this phone a smart hub for the RED camera system. It was quite a year for RED.
Larry Jordan: Well those are a lot of very interesting announcements, but announcements were made by lots of different companies. What made RED your number one pick for the last year?
James DeRuvo: I think it’s because RED continues to stay ahead of the power curve and cinema cameras; they’re always looking over the horizon; they’re always blazing the trail and everybody else is following behind. It hasn’t changed in the last two or three years and Hydrogen alone, by itself, shows that they’re still peaking over that horizon and that has always led me to put RED up into that top category and this year, with everything that they’ve done, they’ve got to be leading the pack.
Larry Jordan: Okay, RED’s number one, who’s your number two highlight?
James DeRuvo: GoPro righted the ship this year and then they turned around and redefined what virtual reality can do. By streamlining their camera product lines, cutting expenses and offering some cool new products, GoPro was once again posting record profits in 2017. They introduced their GoPro Hero Six with the new GP1 sensor; the 360 degree GoPro Fusion Camera continues to push the envelope in action camera design. GoPro just is back and it’s exciting to see.
Larry Jordan: What caused the GoPro turnaround?
James DeRuvo: They introduced a whole bunch of cost-cutting measures and they simplified that product line and that takes a lot of the credit; but I believe that the GoPro Karma’s reintroduction into the drone market, it became the number two seller of the year; plus the Karma Grip sales reversed this downward trend that they were dealing with and created some momentum.
James DeRuvo: This enabled GoPro to start innovating again and that was evident with the GoPro Hero 6 GP1 Sensor and the new GoPro Fusion Camera; which, by the way, comes with OverCapture, which enables you to punch out an HD video clip from the 360 degree spectrum and it’s almost like having more than one camera at your disposal and it may change my mind of virtual reality.
Larry Jordan: James, we’ve got time for one more highlight from the last year; what’s number three?
James DeRuvo: It’s not as positive, it’s not as exciting, but it has to be YouTube’s Adpocalypse. Adpocalypse was where YouTube saw a bunch of their advertisers begin to boycott the platform, because they didn’t like what videos their ads were appearing on and so YouTube tried to stem the damage by demonetizing videos that they deemed were not “advertiser friendly” and that caused a lot of disruption in the content creator community on YouTube.
Larry Jordan: Now why was this so significant?
James DeRuvo: A lot of content creators lost a ton of ad revenue and some even had their ad revenue backdated and taken away from the very beginning of their channels. YouTube made matters worse by not communicating that this was going to happen and then they had this clunky appeals process, which could take weeks, maybe even months to sort out. Meanwhile, those who rely on YouTube for their fulltime income saw that income plummet by as much as 90% and now they’re struggling to make ends meet and still consistently create content. It was a mess.
Larry Jordan: I can just imagine that someone who has his own YouTube channel, but not at the same level as some of these other YouTubers. James, next week, we’re going to flip this whole question around; instead of looking back at 2017, we’re going to ask you and our regulars to look forward to 2018. Now, since I know you’ll be back with us for DoddleNews, I wanted to give you some time to think about your answers. In the meantime, where can folks go to keep up with all the industry news?
James DeRuvo: All these stories and more can be found at doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the voice of DoddleNews and James, as always, it’s fun chatting with you; have yourself a wonderful New Year.
James DeRuvo: Have a happy and safe New Year Larry.
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Larry Jordan: Ned Soltz is an author, editor, educator and consultant on all things related to digital video. He’s also a Contributing Editor for Creative Planet and Red Shark News and, best of all, he’s a regular here on the Buzz. Hello Ned, welcome back.
Ned Soltz: Hello Larry, it’s wonderful to be back.
Larry Jordan: Ned, in tonight’s show, we’re looking back at 2017 and you are our kick-off interview. What were some of the highlights for 2017 for you?
Ned Soltz: I think, this is the year where 4K became de facto. We’ve talked about it and we’ve seen its rise over the last couple of years and, in this year, we’re seeing now, virtually everything being shot in 4K; we’re seeing the 4K consumer sets really ubiquitous at this point; and the transition to 4K being much faster than the transition from SD to HD and the transition from HD to 4K really being virtually overnight, it would seem.
Ned Soltz: We’re seeing much more in terms of capability of 4K shooting, at reasonable price points. We’re seeing the capability of 4K monitoring at more reasonable price points; we’re seeing a 4K consumer set and, in terms of ultimate deliverables, while for a number of years, for example, network TV dramas and episodics have always wanted 4K delivery, we’re starting to see 4K delivery now.
Ned Soltz: This also coincides to me with the demise of conventional cable as we know it, with everything moving IP and the ability to push all of this out over IP; like the OTT services, or even for pay web services that the networks are offering; like CBS offering it’s 4K. It now offers more of an opportunity for 4K deliveries.
Ned Soltz: This is it, this is 4K, it’s real, it’s here and to me that’s the biggest trend that I’ve seen this particular year, in 2017.
Larry Jordan: Okay, what else have you caught?
Ned Soltz: Well, of course, right at the end of the year, now we’re seeing the iMac Pro, which really is impressive and we’re seeing Final Cut 10.4; which to me is really so far the apex in the development of Final Cut. As well as iMac Pro and 10.4, other hardware is leading to be the next thing that we’re going to be seeing in its development of high dynamic range. Cameras now are set up for this, so the Panasonic GH5, for example, which is one of the more notable hardware introductions during this past year, received a firmware update this fall, enabling HLG; as did the Sony FS5.
Ned Soltz: Right now I’m taking a look at the Sony Z90; which is really just in prototype. That’s a starting trend right now, is the high dynamic range acquisition and display and that’s something to be watching for.
Larry Jordan: Ned, I just want to interrupt for a second. HLG is actually part of the Rec. 2020 spec that defines the video image.
Ned Soltz: We should really define this term HLG, which stands for a Hybrid Log Gamma. Now, of course, in the 30,000 foot view we’re now trying to find ways of editing and displaying all of this dynamic range that we’ve been able to shoot with our cameras for a long time. The HLG spec combines standard dynamic range with high dynamic range; because, at the lower end of the curve, you’re picking up everything for standard dynamic range; the high end of the curve, the expanded range for the larger number of stops that you’re able to display with in that; as well as the HLG Gamma, which combines a brighter signal to a standard that’s called Rec. 2100, 2020, plus the HLG standard, to give you more brightness.
Ned Soltz: This is a very good standard that Sony and Panasonic have both adopted; because it ultimately is the most compatible, the easiest to work with. There is no royalty or licensing that’s involved with it, as there is with the Dolby standard, for example.
Ned Soltz: We’re seeing that involved with cameras and the ability to play it right now, because YouTube and Vimeo both support high dynamic range videos; which you can then view on a compatible viewer; which at the moment is an iPhone 8, an iPhone 10, or an iPad Pro. You can actually view this even without a high dynamic range television at the moment, through these YouTube or Vimeo on these particular devices.
Larry Jordan: Do you see HDR as a bigger challenge to editors or colorists, or our storage?
Ned Soltz: Everything’s a challenge right now in storage. I see it as a challenge to shooters, to learn how to shoot it; I see it as a challenge to editors, to learn how to edit it and to figure out how to monitor it while you’re editing; because there are a number of choices which perhaps we can talk about at some future point. Those are the tremendous challenges right now and challenges to the viewer as well; so it’s a brand new frontier that we’re going to have to grow into, just as we actually grew into HD when we moved out of the SD world.
Larry Jordan: What were the most important camera launches last year?
Ned Soltz: I think the GH5 is an important launch; I’ll give Panasonic another shout out here, with the launch of the EVA1. I’ve got one sitting here now, I haven’t had much time to delve deeply into it. But I think here is another very impressive camera launch. The Sony Z90 that we’re seeing in some of those Sonys; as well as, of course, Sony Venice in the high end, for cinema acquisitions. I think cameras at all ends of the spectrum this year, not a lot of cameras, but those that were introduced, are very notable and with significant advances.
Larry Jordan: Ned, what I’d like to do is invite you back next week. We’re going to spin this and see how what’s happened this year turns into trends for next year. Can we invite you back?
Ned Soltz: Oh that would be wonderful, you know I like to talk; so, always glad to be back.
Larry Jordan: Ned, for people who can’t wait to figure out what you’re thinking and writing, where can they go on the web?
Ned Soltz: Take a look right now at www.redsharknews.com and that will give you the most recent articles that I’ve been working on.
Larry Jordan: Ned Soltz is an author, educator and consultant and Contributing Editor to Red Shark News and, as always, a welcome guest on the Buzz. Ned, thank you so much.
Ned Soltz: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: Randi Altman is the Editor-in-Chief of postPerspective.com. She’s been writing about our industry for a long time and she’s an expert in what’s happening in post. Hello Randi, welcome back.
Randi Altman: Hello Larry, thanks for having me back.
Larry Jordan: It is always a pleasure talking to you. What were some of the highlights of 2017 for you?
Randi Altman: Oh boy. Well, you know, it’s like any one thing is jumping out at me; there are a lot of interesting things that sort of happening in the past year. I mean, buzz words were artificial intelligence and machine learning and that’s been an ongoing debate among post-pros that I’ve talked to throughout the year; whether or not it’s actually going to mean anything. You know, there are some people that are saying, it’s all just talk and it’s not going to be a reality; but then there are others who are saying it exists now. That debate continues.
Larry Jordan: One of the things that Ned mentioned in his segment is that, we’re seeing AI or machine learning applied in the pre-post process with automatic logging. One of the questions I have is whether that’s going to start to affect jobs?
Randi Altman: Well, I think the last time that we spoke, we talked about that a little bit and my response was whether or not this would affect jobs. Editing, in particular, was a creative process and I didn’t think that would affect jobs; because you need a human being creative. The logging process is different, that could just be done; so there might be a logger or two that loses some work because of it.
Larry Jordan: Have you noticed anything in software that’s been affecting the industry over the last year?
Randi Altman: What I’ve noticed over the last year is this progress that’s been happening with Cloud based workflows and it might have just been storage or maybe it was rendering; but it’s developed to where now people are doing compositing in the Cloud, there’s editing in the cloud. Cloud is becoming entrenched in the workflow of a lot of post people. There are still people that don’t trust it, that are worried about their privacy and protecting their content; but there are others that have embraced it and are already doing it.
Larry Jordan: Randi, you’ve mentioned the Cloud. Has there been any software that’s caught your eye?
Randi Altman: Absolutely. What I have noticed is, there’s a lot more review and approval software out there and production management software and those are just growing in popularity. The reasons are, is everybody wants to streamline their workflow. Deadlines are faster turnarounds always, budgets are not getting bigger; in some cases they’re getting smaller. Professionals have to find more streamlined ways to do business and not lose money and those software products are coming in pretty handy and they’re gaining in popularity.
Larry Jordan: Do you see any implications of the death of net neutrality on our ability to access the Cloud?
Randi Altman: Oh my gosh. My head might explode. I’m just going to say that, yes. I mean, look, unfortunately this world is ruled by making money and sometimes that can affect the way that we do business. I hope it won’t be the case, but it’s something that we have to watch out for.
Larry Jordan: All the major editing software has been expanding their base; whether it’s Avid or Final Cut, or Premiere, into non-professional markets. Are you seeing an erosion of opportunities for professional editors; because so much of the market can now access professional tools?
Randi Altman: No and that’s a debate that’s been going on since the price of editing software and all post tools in general came down. Going back to the artistry of it all, while someone might be able to take a video and edit it up, it doesn’t mean that I could tell a story in the best way possible. That takes talent, that takes experience, that takes a quality of professionalism and so I don’t think so. Well at least I hope not. I mean, some people might be tempted to go with someone who is coming in cheaper with a bid; but I think, in the long run, the fixes that they’re going to have to make on some of those projects is going to make it cost prohibitive to continue in that way.
Larry Jordan: One of the things I really enjoy about your website is, you cover more than just editing; you look at the post community in general. What’s happening in VFX this last year that’s a highlight?
Randi Altman: TV in general; so streaming and even broadcast has raised the bar quite a bit. You’re watching these shows on Netflix, or Hulu or Amazon, or even some broadcast networks and they are like mini feature films. The audience is expecting feature film quality VFX on these shows that are featuring feature film type scripts and actors and directors. I think that that’s something that we’ve seen is, that there’s no more distinction between the quality that could appear on TV or streaming networks and what can appear in films. Often times, there is less budget for, you know, dramatic series; so that’s been a challenge too.
Larry Jordan: It’s been an interesting year and what I’d like to do is invite you back next week to see if you can’t tell us exactly what the future holds for 2018. Can you spare us some time?
Randi Altman: I can spare you some time; whether or not I could tell you exactly what the future holds, that will be determined.
Larry Jordan: Randi, for people that want to keep track of what you’re up to, where can they go on the web?
Randi Altman: They should go to postperspective.com and there’s a lot of goodness up there; they should just check it all out.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, postperspective.com. Randi Altman is the Editor-in-Chief and, as always, a delight chatting Randi, thanks so much for joining us.
Randi Altman: Thanks Larry.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is an Entertainment and Technology Attorney of Counsel at TroyGould 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. Thank you.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, let’s start by taking a look at the highlights, or perhaps lowlights is the better word, of the past year. What did you see?
Jonathan Handel: Well, for the most dramatic and unexpected was the Harvey Weinstein revelations that turned into a continuing firestorm of revelations, accusations and allegations about men behaving badly with women and, in some cases, with men.
Larry Jordan: Well it definitely snowballed into something much bigger than Harvey himself.
Jonathan Handel: Yes, it really did. I mean, it’s become a cultural moment certainly in the media and entertainment industries and in politics; less clear, perhaps, whether this is going to take root in other industries. One hopes that it does, because, of course, sexual harassment is just a little bit more glamorous, as it were, in entertainment, media and politics but it exists everywhere; a coalmine; a Walmart; you know, whatever it might be. This is something that has been a problem, truthfully, for a millennia. Men have been treating women particularly badly for 10,000 years and perhaps this is the beginning of some real change. One hopes so.
Larry Jordan: But there’s more than Harvey Weinstein that happened last year, what else was going on?
Jonathan Handel: We began the year with the Director’s Guild having done their deal; every three years the unions do their new agreements. They had finished, I think, in December of 2016, but we saw the writer, in the spring, reach their agreement; really a nail biter. It felt like it almost led to a strike, whether that was posturing or not exactly, who knows and then the Screen Actor’s Guild was a bit touch and go as well. But we’re set for another two to three years on these agreements.
Larry Jordan: Did you see any bigger trends in the industry, as your reporting duties took you farther afield, in Hollywood that we should reflect on before we let go of last year?
Jonathan Handel: Yes, consolidation. You know, the rate of technological change; of people watching Netflix and Hulu and so forth and cutting the cord on their cable subscriptions. This has really accelerated and, you know, now we see a potential Disney Fox deal; and AT&T Time Warner deal potentially; Sinclair Broadcasting, the owner of a lot of television stations buying up the Tribune stations and having an even larger footprint. Some of these mergers may or may not happen, but we are seeing a trend towards consolidation in an effort, frankly, to fight off players like Netflix, in particular, which just is a 800 gorilla and growing.
Larry Jordan: But it seems to me that consolidation goes in waves; we have everybody consolidate and then the big companies become unwieldy and small companies start up. I mean, Netflix didn’t exist 15 years ago. Do you think we’re going to consolidate and then we’re going to diversify and then consolidate again?
Jonathan Handel: I think it’s trending more in the direction of further consolidation. You know, we’ve had six major studies for around 80 years or so, this will be the first time, assuming that Fox does successfully sell its assets to Disney or someone else, that we’re down to five studios. I don’t think that that’s going to go in the other direction. Technology drives consolidation, because it becomes possible for people to become larger and larger and then you need to be larger and larger to compete with the other folks that have gotten larger and larger. I think this is a one-way direction.
Larry Jordan: What I think what we need to do is to bring you back next week and give us your opinion on what’s going to happen in 2018. Can you share us some time then?
Jonathan Handel: That would be my pleasure.
Larry Jordan: For people that want to keep track of what you’re thinking and writing today, where can they go on the web?
Jonathan Handel: Two places, hollywoodreporter.com and jhandel.com.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is the Contributing Editor on Entertainment Labor Issues for the Hollywood Reporter and Jonathan, as always, thank you very much and I look forward to talking to you next week.
Jonathan Handel: Thanks.
Larry Jordan: Michele Yamazaki is the VP of Marketing at Toolfarm; a company that specializes in plugins and effects for Video Editors. She’s written, or co-written two books on plugins, as well as becoming the go to person on software and plugins for our editing systems. Hello Michele, welcome back.
Michele Yamazaki: Hello Larry.
Larry Jordan: Michele, what we’re doing in this show is looking back at the highlights of 2017; so what products or trends caught your eye this past year?
Michele Yamazaki: Well it was sort of a lackluster year, I think. We had all of the major well-known hosts come out with new versions of their software; but it seems like everything has kind of reached a maturity. Although they didn’t wow us with new features, they really seemed to have worked on stability and speed and reliability.
Michele Yamazaki: It really seems like all of the major hosts, the Autodesk, the Adobe, Cinema 4D, the Blackmagic, DaVinci Resolve and Fusion, all of these softwares are just much faster and much more stable; they have UI enhancements and workflow enhancements, more so than features. However, VR seemed to be added to everything; VR and 360 video and that kind of thing.
Larry Jordan: Do you see this as the companies have run out of new features; or are you see it as sort of a holding action, to give themselves time to work something new out?
Michele Yamazaki: That’s a tough one to answer. I almost think that the consumers have been wanting these stability and these workflow features for so long and they’re finally really implementing them; as opposed to more features that people don’t really need. I mean, they do still add some of those features that probably a lot of people will never use; however, the speed is really important to a lot of users.
Larry Jordan: You know, there’s an interesting thought. You improve stability and you improve performance, when you want to appeal to your existing users and you add new features when you want to find new users. Is this an admission that perhaps the new users are few and far between and they need to continue building their existing users?
Michele Yamazaki: That could very well be. I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but that makes a lot of sense.
Larry Jordan: Now you talked about VR. What’s happening in VR from your perspective?
Michele Yamazaki: Well, it seems like all of the different hosts, the Adobe and Autodesk and the Final Cut Pro’s new release that just came out, all of these softwares now include 360 VR editing features; you know, Dashwood is now working with Apple and, you know, Metal is working with Adobe. It seems like they’ve really latched onto VR; I think it really is going to be something that people are going to be working with more and more, so it’s pretty smart to add those features now. They really do work in with, you know, you’re still editing things and you’re still tracking things; you know, stuff that we’ve done for years, but now we can do it with 360 video.
Larry Jordan: Put your marketing hat on and let’s shift over to the business side of the equation. This last year we’ve seen the rise of software by subscription. What are your thoughts on this?
Michele Yamazaki: A lot of people don’t like it, because they just want to out and out own their software; whether they really own it or not I guess that’s semantics. However, I know that people don’t like it, but they’re getting used to it and it seems like a lot of companies are doing it. It makes sense, because they have constant money flowing in and not just when they have a major release and it keeps people up-to-date with the software, which makes a lot of sense as well. I know that there’s some people who refuse to go to subscription models and they’re going to be left behind sooner or later.
Larry Jordan: Well, as a re-seller, do you benefit or are you hurt by developers offering software by subscription?
Michele Yamazaki: I think subscription does help us; subscription software seems to sell as well as any of the others. If people are going to upgrade they’re going to upgrade no matter what and if they only have the option to upgrade to subscription they’ll do that.
Larry Jordan: You know, I think Michele, we’re sort of at a flex point where things are changing in substantial ways, both on the business side and on the software side. What I’d like to do is invite you back next week and share your thoughts on where we’re headed for 2018. Does that make sense to you?
Michele Yamazaki: Yes, I’d love to be back.
Larry Jordan: Where can people go on the web to learn more about you and your company?
Michele Yamazaki: To toolfarm.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, toolfarm.com and Michele Yamazaki is the VP of Marketing at Toolfarm. Michele, thanks for joining us today.
Michele Yamazaki: Thank you.
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 platform 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.
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Larry Jordan: Philip Hodgetts is a Technologist and CEO of both Intelligence Assistance and Lumberjack System. Even better, he’s a regular here on the Buzz. Hello Philip, welcome.
Philip Hodgetts: Hello Larry.
Larry Jordan: Philip, this week we’re looking at the highlights from 2017; so, as you think about that, what comes first to mind?
Philip Hodgetts: This will come as absolutely no surprise to anybody who has communicated with me within this year, artificial intelligence and machine learning are definitely at the top of my list and I doubt that’s a surprise to anyone.
Larry Jordan: Why so?
Philip Hodgetts: This is the first year we’ve really seen this last round of attempted artificial intelligence come into popular purview. A year ago, when we were having this conversation, I probably mentioned that we would look forward to maybe seeing more of this in 2017 and I’m going to claim that I did say that and I actually have seen a lot more of it this year. The first implications we’ve seen are using the Speech-To-Text APIs through apps like SpeedScriber and Scribermatic and Transcriptive.
Philip Hodgetts: These tools are the first to bring the modern era of artificial intelligence into the day-to-day life of a video production person and we’ll see more of that.
Larry Jordan: Okay, we’ve got AI and machine learning as your number one hit; what else?
Philip Hodgetts: Well obviously High Dynamic Range is something that I think is going to change the consumer experience. If machine learning is going to change the production experience, High Dynamic Range will have effects on production, but it’s really going to change the consumer experience of our production.
Philip Hodgetts: To me, it looks so much more natural and real than even higher pixel cam does. I think the High Dynamic Range does more for the viewer experience than does a high pixel cam like ultra HD or 4K. Both together is even better, let’s face it; but then they have challenges for reduction as well; but nothing that we can’t deal with.
Larry Jordan: Well, I’ve been taking copious notes and a glaring thing that’s missing on this list is VR 360.
Philip Hodgetts: Well it’s certainly been a hot topic this year with both Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro X integrating tools that they’ve purchased for third party developers; into their apps and making them native. You know, I’m not as skeptical about 360 as I was about 3D, but I don’t see it coming into our production world narrative or documentary production anywhere near as much as I see it having a role in games and telepresence and museum exhibits. In niches where it unique features can be used, but I don’t see it coming into the mainstream narrative, or documentary, or reality TV area.
Philip Hodgetts: I may be wrong. There are certainly people who are cheering it on and thinking that it is going to be part of the narrative world, but, put me in the skeptical department on that one.
Larry Jordan: Alright, well one last question. You are also head of your own development team; both Lumberjack System and Intelligent Assistance, what for your companies has been the highlight?
Philip Hodgetts: Certainly this year the highlight has been the work that we’ve done on our new app in Lumberjack called Builder. Builder is a new approach to taking the Speech-To-Text NGS, but it then adds a video editing application that is driven by text. We’re still in the development, so we’re going to be able to claim that it’s a 2017 and 2018 development; because we did the majority of the work in 2017 and it will be 2018 where people get the benefit.
Philip Hodgetts: But this to me is really exciting, because it’s not only Speech-To-Text, it’s automatic key wording. Ultimately, we will do more image recognition, because there’s more of that going to be happening in the near future. It’s a lot of implementation of stuff I’ve been hankering for, for over a decade, and it’s really nice to see that start to come to fruition.
Larry Jordan: Well, I think what we need to do is invite you back to next week’s show; can you spare us the time?
Philip Hodgetts: Absolutely, would love to.
Larry Jordan: Where can people go on the web to learn more about your writing and products?
Philip Hodgetts: Philiphodgetts.com is where I do my scratchpad thinking; intelligentassistance.com for the software and lumberjacksystem for logging and pre-editing for Final Cut Pro X.
Larry Jordan: Philip Hodgetts is the CEO of both of those companies and, Philip, thanks for joining us today.
Philip Hodgetts: Alright, thanks Larry, bye-bye.
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 communications space. He is also the Executive Producer and Host of ‘Five Things.’ Hello Michael, welcome back.
Michael Kammes: Hello Larry, great to talk to you again.
Larry Jordan: Michael, put your guru hat on and take a look back at 2017. What were some of the highlights for you?
Michael Kammes: Well, Larry, I kind of classify it into two different categories. I’ve got the stuff that surprised me and the stuff that I thought was kind of interesting. I think one of them, which I think you could probably relate to, is Apple. Obviously Apple came out and said, yes, we may not have made the best product and we’re going to come out with a new Mac Pro next year, 2018.
Michael Kammes: They also announced an iMac Pro many months before it actually shipped; so it was very unique from that perspective, to have a company like Apple, which really doesn’t forecast too much, to actually come out and admit they may have had a few missteps and talk about product that, at that point, was vapor. I thought that was very surprising.
Michael Kammes: I also thought that there’d be more OTT activity this year. What I mean by that is more Apple TV channels, more Roku channels and, although there were more, it seems that the adoption of doing that has been a little bit less than what I would have expected. You know, there are tens of millions of people who are using Apple TV and Roku and yet, you know, I’m not hearing a lot about people saying, you know what, we need a channel. I thought that was pretty surprising.
Michael Kammes: Lastly what I thought was very surprising is that we’re still doing remote editing in the old paradigm; we’re still shipping hard drives and we’re still creating proxies and then trying to download those and edit them. Neither Apple, nor Adobe and only Avid to a little bit of an extent, if you have deep pockets, can most people afford to do remote editing without shipping media and working locally and I thought that was pretty interesting.
Larry Jordan: Well, isn’t that partly due to the low bandwidth that we have access to? I mean, if I tried to do remote anything I’d have to edit still images, because my bandwidth connection is so slow. I think that’s a gating factor is it not?
Michael Kammes: It completely is. The whole concept of the infrastructure here in the United States, you know, isn’t really keeping up with the rest of the more developed nations. We still have latency issues; you know, speed of light, it’s a law, can’t really break that. But I’m really surprised there hasn’t been another plan out there. My gut tells me that Adobe will have something next year and that’s not NDA, it’s just a gut feeling that I have. But we can certainly save that for another episode.
Larry Jordan: Alright. You said there were two categories; stuff that was surprising and stuff that was interesting. You’ve talked about the surprising stuff, what about the interesting stuff?
Michael Kammes: Well the interesting stuff is that, when it comes to storage and you and I have talked about this before Larry, I’ve been a SAN purist. I believe that storage for video is vastly different for shared storage, compared for IT and yet I’m seeing a lot of storage manufacturers come out with less expensive NAS solutions and market that to small workgroups. That’s been kind of the tough pill for me to swallow, because I just don’t think the performance and quality of service is there; yet the price point seems to be so enticing that many small boutique facilities are moving to NAS solutions and I think it just may bite them in the long-run.
Michael Kammes: I was also very interested in a lot of the Cloud offerings; whether it be transcription in the Cloud; whether it be object recognition in the Cloud. Assigning metadata based on the media that you’re adding to these AI services and it also opens a whole new playing field for companies who are provisioning AI services for companies. For example, you know, Watson may be great for audio but isn’t the best for video; so you put an intermediary company in there who can farm out the videos to the proper object recognition software and audio to the proper audio recognition software in the Cloud. I think that’s a whole nother business paradigm which is great.
Michael Kammes: I think also what was interesting is, you know, a lot of people jumped on the VR bandwagon and we’ve seen a lot of high profile facilities closed down. Oculus closed their storage studio, you know, which won multiple Emmys and Nokia shut down their camera unit. I think we’re seeing people kind of seeing the forest for the trees in terms of where VR may be popular in the next coming year.
Larry Jordan: It’s interesting, because, some of the other people we’ve talked to on the show tonight are definitely plus/minus on VR; some are plus and some are minus and it sounds like you’re sort of hovering in the middle.
Michael Kammes: Well, I think there’s a time and place for it. I think the cinematic long-form VR is going to be a very tough nut to crack; I don’t see it going that way. I see short-form experiential VR being more applicable, whether it be real estate, whether it be marketing, whether it be carnival rides and theme parks. I think AR is actually what’s going to be the more important kind of cousin to that; but I think VR’s going to have just a certain niche in the market.
Larry Jordan: That leads me into my next question, which is, what’s going to happen in 2018. Michael, what I’d like to do is to invite you back next week and see if you can give us some guidance on what we can expect in the future.
Michael Kammes: I’d absolutely love to come back Larry.
Larry Jordan: Michael, for people that want to keep up with what you are thinking and doing, where can they go on the web?
Michael Kammes: There are two places Larry. You can go to michaelkammes.com; you can also go to 5thingsseries.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, michaelkammes.com and Michael Kammes himself is the voice you’ve been listening to. Michael, thanks for joining us today.
Michael Kammes: Always a pleasure Larry, thank you.
Larry Jordan: You know, I was just thinking about 2017. 2017 marked the formal and final end of Apple’s Final Cut Pro 7 and DVD Studio Pro. These two software tools are still used every day by thousands of editors around the world; generally running on 2010 and 2011 Mac Pro systems. With the release of High Sierra, Final Cut 7 will no longer run. The days of 32 bit software are officially over.
Larry Jordan: As more and more vendors announce Cloud based solutions, we will pummeled by ever larger data breaches; even from companies that were supposed to be focused on security. The Cloud may be the future, but we still need to figure out how to make it both secure and fast.
Larry Jordan: James mentioned the problem YouTube had with their adpocalypse. But, for me, 2017 marked the realization that YouTube videos commanded audiences as larger, or larger than the traditional broadcast networks; even though YouTube provides only a fraction of the money available for the same sized audience on network TV and this imbalance between revenue from traditional and new media is a long-term and serious problem.
Larry Jordan: Collaborative editing took a giant step forward with team projects from Adobe. Appealing to smaller and ad hoc workgroups without requiring higher end software, Adobe has taken the lead in enabling team editing.
Larry Jordan: Shooting ratios skyrocketed to ridiculous levels, 1,000 to one; 2,000 to one; 3,000 to one. Planning is no longer done before the shoot, it’s being done in the edit suite. The challenge is no longer, how do we tell a story, but, how do we find the media that we shot? Media management became mission critical; however, media management tools for small to medium workgroups are still evolving with incomplete feature sets and varying levels of affordability.
Larry Jordan: Uploading to the Cloud is not an option, files are too big and network bandwidth is too slow. Small media companies need large media tools, but don’t have studio sized budgets. Developers that cater to the enterprise market are seeing their traditional market implode with falling audiences, falling revenues and falling budgets; this puts enormous pressure on these companies to innovate to the lower end of the market, but they can’t reduce their prices enough to appeal to the small workgroups that proliferate today.
Larry Jordan: VR continues to grow in popularity, though it is still an open question about whether the audiences and revenue are willing to follow and, like all tech, VR is splintering into different formats; 360; 270; 180; mono; and stereo. Only time will tell which of these, if any, the audience is interested in. But more formats are never good when trying to establish a new media standard.
Larry Jordan: Budgets remain under pressure, deadlines are tighter and clients expect every production to look like a feature film. Tools are more widely available, but creativity is always in short supply. Unions, as always, are under attack; yet non-union crews don’t earn the same money or benefits or protections. It’s no longer rare for media pros to need to work two jobs to be able to stay afloat financially.
Larry Jordan: Finally, the pace of technological change continues to accelerate; not only does this make it harder to stay current, it makes preserving the past almost impossible. What our industry needs and doesn’t have is the video equivalent of PDF; a media format that plays everywhere, is editable, and is guaranteed not to fail in the next software upgrade. In 2017, that archiving technology was not announced; worse, no leading media company seems the least bit interested in helping us preserve our past projects.
Larry Jordan: 2017 was an interesting year; 2018 seems poised to continue the trend. Just something I’m thinking about.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our team for all their hard work throughout the year; keeping up with technology is not easy and through their interviews, they help all of us better understand what’s going on. I’m very grateful for their support and the knowledge that they so willingly share. Ned Soltz with Red Shark News; Randi Altman with postPerspective.com; Jonathan Handel with the Hollywood Reporter; Michele Yamazaki with Toolfarm; Philip Hodgetts with Lumberjack System; Michael Kammes with Key Code Media; and James DeRuvo with DoddleNews.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Here you’ll find thousands of interviews all online and all available to you today. Remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter that comes out every Saturday. Talk with us on Twitter @DPBuZZ and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Our theme music is composed by Nathan Dugi-Turner; with additional music provided by SmartSound.com. Text transcripts are provided by Take 1 Transcription. Visit take1.tv to learn how they can help you. Our Producer is Debbie Price and these shows would not be possible without her incredible help; thank you Debbie. My name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to the Digital Production Buzz.