Heath McKnight, Editor-in-Chief, Doddle
Simon Browne, VP Product Management, Clear-Com
Rob Read, Business Development Manager, Roland
Ali Ahmadi, Director of Products and Marketing, K-Tek
Michael Kammes, Director of Technology, Key Code Media
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 looking at audio and new changes at our sister site, doddlenews.com. We start with doddleNEWS. Heath McKnight is the editor in chief of doddleNEWS, a website devoted to media industry news and reviews. Tonight he joins us to highlight their latest redesign and their goals for the website going forward.
Larry Jordan: Then we shift gears into audio which encompasses a lot of territory. For example, Clear-Com specializes in audio communications, especially for live productions. Tonight, Simon Browne, the VP of product management for Clear-Com, explains what we should consider when setting up a communication system, either in the field or the studio.
Larry Jordan: Roland may be best known for music, but they are actually much more. Tonight, we talk with Rob Read, business development manager for Roland, about the gear we need for live broadcasts because when you’re creating live, you need the best audio and video equipment you can get.
Larry Jordan: K-Tek makes tools that make audio better. Boom poles, microphone cases, kit bags of all kinds. Tonight, Ali Ahmadi the director of products and marketing for K-Tek tells us about the kit we need to get our audio act together.
Larry Jordan: Michael Kammes continues the age old debate about whether to mix on speakers or headphones. Nothing brings you closer to your audio than headphones but which are the best for mixing project audio? Tonight, Michael Kammes, the director of technology for Key Code Media examines what’s out there, when to use speakers and when to use headsets, then provides suggestions on the best headphones for mixing.
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. I got my start many years ago working in radio and truthfully, audio still has a very warm place in my heart. So tonight we’re looking at different aspects of the audio industry, but audio, like video, is a pretty vast space, encompassing communications, live and recorded productions, editing, mixing and consuming. There’s a lot of sounds out there which is what interests me about tonight’s show. We look at different pieces of the audio puzzle to learn what’s new and see how they all fit together. I’m looking forward to the conversations.
Larry Jordan: By the way, I want to invite you to subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Every issue, every week provides quick links to the different segments on the show, plus articles of interest to filmmakers, and best of all, it’s free and comes out every Saturday.
Larry Jordan: Now it’s time for our doddleNEWS update, with James DeRuvo. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Happy holidays Larry.
Larry Jordan: And a happy holiday to you as well. What have we got in the news this week?
James DeRuvo: Well, Canon is announcing three new pro grade prosumer grade camcorders, with 20x optical zoom, support for XLR microphones and two of them, and 1080p 60 frames per second recording. They are also rumored to be working on a C300 Mk III and maybe a C400 that will record in 6K and we’ll know about that after the first of the year.
Larry Jordan: With most cell phones shooting 4K images these days, are these cameras coming late to market?
James DeRuvo: There’s no doubt that they’re definitely late to the party, the fact is that Canon’s development of cameras happens with such a glacial pace. I have wondered Larry that with these new 1080p HD cameras being announced, would anybody really care in a 4K universe? What’s more interesting to me is this anticipated C300 mark III, although maybe recording at what we now would consider a modest 6K, even that seems a little too late to the party.
Larry Jordan: That’s Canon’s new cameras. What else have you got on the camera front?
James DeRuvo: Moondog Labs has expanded their accessories for iPhones. You may remember Moondog Labs for their 1.33x anamorphic lens adaptor. I think it’s beautiful, does a great job, but now they’re coming out with some new accessories which include filters to support lenses from Zeiss that you can actually attach to your iPhone, and this is the one I’m really excited about, these little weights that you can add to a three axis gimbal stabilizer like the DJI Osmo mobile or the new free flying Movi for the iPhone, which would compensate for the extra weight when you use those lenses. … weights which would sit on the bars of the gimbal, it’s really kind of cool.
Larry Jordan: How good are Moondog’s optics?
James DeRuvo: They’re fantastic. There’s no denying that Moondog makes a superior optic like the anamorphic lens adaptor which enables you to shoot wide screen, 1.33x. It looks cinematic. So you can bet that with these filters will add UV and polarizing support but it’s those cool counterbalance weights that got me excited.
Larry Jordan: Alright, Moondog has got some new accessories and I was just thinking, you haven’t talked about drones for a while. Anything happening on the drone front?
James DeRuvo: Well there’s not really a lot going on on the drone front. We’re kind of waiting for after the first of the year. But Freefly Systems has created a new three axis gimbal stabilizer for the iPhone and it’s called the Movi, because everything Freefly makes these days seems to be called the Movi and it’s designed for one handed operation, it’s a smartphone version of the Freefly Movi which offers many of the same features of their cinematic line including smart modes for moving time lapse, majestic mode, orbit mode, smart pod mode and echo mode. Then we’ll also be able to learn new features with simple firmware updates via a USB connector. So this is really going to add another heavy hitter to the smartphone, three axis gimbal mobile filmmaking market.
Larry Jordan: What are your thoughts on a stabilizer for the iPhone?
James DeRuvo: Well, the Freefly Movi is a split design. It has a vast quiver of tools that are controlled by their free iOS app that will make your smartphone video look really smooth and cinematic, and it may be a little bit more expensive than the DJI Osmo mobile for example, it’s $100 more, but the features it has makes it downright compelling, and I think that this is the kind of thing that you want if you are shooting on a smartphone and you really want to have that steady cam like look, these handheld gimbals are really the way to go.
Larry Jordan: What other stories are you working on for this week?
James DeRuvo: Other stories include Rode wants filmmakers to help them launch their new My Rode Reel film competition. We talk about how to monitor your camera sound without an audio jack, and Sony upgrades their CFast 2 cards to make them ever faster.
Larry Jordan: James, I should also mention that your new website at doddlenews.com is looking great and in the next segment we’ll be talking with Heath McKnight, the editor in chief of doddleNEWS about your redesign, so for people that want more information about where they can go on the web, where do they go?
James DeRuvo: All these stories and more can be found at doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the senior writer for doddleNEWS and joins us every week. James, you take care, we’ll talk to you next week.
James DeRuvo: See you next week Larry.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Heath McKnight is the editor in chief of doddlenews.com. Heath has a long history as an independent filmmaker, producer, editor and teacher. He’s produced or directed over 100 feature and short films and is also the president of the Palm Beach Film Society. Hello Heath, welcome.
Heath McKnight: Hi Larry, thank you for having me.
Larry Jordan: Heath, we just heard James deliver our weekly doddleNEWS update, in fact he’s been with us every week for the last year and a half. But we never have had time to learn more about what doddleNEWS is. So how would you describe the website?
Heath McKnight: We cover filmmaking news so if there’s a new camera, a new software, new hardware, we will cover it. Recently James flew up to San Francisco and covered the GoPro Hero 6 announcement, and we are giving up to the minute updates for all our readers. We also do product reviews. We do tutorials. These are all written by the way. They cover everything from Premiere Pro to Motion Five, to even Media 100 which is now a free app, and we just launched a how to tutorial series by Andrew Devis which covers DaVinci Resolve.
Larry Jordan: What was it that got Doddle interested in news in the first place?
Heath McKnight: We have a filmmaking and production directory and app, and the news was kind of created as just a way to continue delivering the best in the industry, so these producers and filmmakers don’t need to go all over the place, they can get it all there. We even cover a little bit of movie news, meaning if you want to know about the latest Avengers movie, we’ll cover that as well.
Larry Jordan: So why did you decide to redo the website?
Heath McKnight: I came on board in April 2012 and the site had been launched I believe towards the end of 2011. I started changing the focus a little, getting away from general tech and moving into the more educational aspect in addition to the news portion of it. The site had started to get a little bit slower because we have a lot of images, a lot of articles. I mean, up to 20,000 articles and I don’t even know how many images. The overall look was pretty good, for the first few years and it was just time to do it, so we had some discussions, looked at some designs, and we hired a development team and while I was doing all my normal duties with doddleNEWS, I was in the background doing tests with the new site because it’s not just a new coat of paint, it’s also on a new server, it’s lightning fast.
Heath McKnight: We categorized everything a lot better so now you can easily find the filmmaking news, the movie news, but the most important thing is, you can go under tutorials and find really written out pretty clear if you want to learn Premiere Pro it’s there, if you want to learn Motion 5, DaVinci Resolve, it’s all in there, easy to find and you can see all the tutorials we’ve written. In addition we have links to Digital Production Buzz, larryjordan.com, Thalo Arts and more and we’ve also decided to cross post the Buzz podcasts on our site whilst still sending people back over to digitalproductionbuzz.com. We feel that it’s a great way to cross promote all of our sister sites, and obviously too with the tutorials, we definitely encourage them to go to larryjordan.com to learn even more. And it’s just great synergy between all of our sites.
Larry Jordan: So what are your plans for the future?
Heath McKnight: We want to keep evolving the new site. I’m sure we’re going to add even more terrific tutorials. I could see us in the next couple of years bringing in more experts to join Kevin P. McAuliffe and Andrew Devis to write even more tutorials about all kinds of different things. I could just see us continuing to grow, and just providing the best experience for our readers and even our fans on social media who really do love what we’re doing and we appreciate them coming and reading and commenting. It’s a great relationship that we have with our readers.
Larry Jordan: For people who want that latest experience, where can they go on the web?
Heath McKnight: They can visit doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s doddlenews.com and Heath McKnight is the editor in chief of doddleNEWS, and Heath, thanks for joining us today.
Heath McKnight: Thank you Larry.
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Larry Jordan: Simon Browne heads up the product management team of intercom products that Clear-Com makes for television, broadcast, theater, live shows, corporate AV, anywhere where teams of users want to connect in real time. Hello Simon, welcome.
Simon Browne: Hello.
Larry Jordan: How would you describe Clear-Com?
Simon Browne: Well Clear-Com has been in the business of providing intercom or communication between people working on the same project for about 50 years now. Starting in the Avalon Ballroom in the Bay area in the US, and trying to find a solution so that they can communicate between the stage and the audio people and so the house engineer at the time, Charlie Button, who is still with us, devised a system whereby a simple belt pack and headset over the same cables could communicate. From there we’ve grown into all sorts of different areas as you mentioned.
Larry Jordan: You head up product management for Clear-Com. What sparked your interest in communication?
Simon Browne: Well I started when I left university in the BBC so I have a long history of broadcasting. I learned then very quickly that the hardest part of it all was really trying to get people to communicate and have the coordination to help make TV programs or radio programs. That was the bit I found was intriguing. I think we all fundamentally understand how video and audio gets to tape, or gets out to the transmitters, but how the background boys communicate and make sure everything happens on time was quite interesting to me, and I went on to work for that part of the business and here I am 28 years later still in the service of intercom.
Larry Jordan: So it’s more than two tin cans and a piece of string?
Simon Browne: Just a bit.
Larry Jordan: So what products are you responsible for? It says in your bio intercom products, but what does that mean?
Simon Browne: Well for us at Clear-Com that’s pretty much all our products. I head up the team that cover all products, so we are talking about simple party line belt pack systems, to belt packs, to headsets, one cable and a power supply, all the way up to digital party line where we digitize those channel communications, to matrix based intercom where we do some of the larger production intercoms for broadcast centers and then there’s all the IP connectivity beyond that, and now moving into smartphones, so the whole gamut really of the way people want to communicate in a duplex manner. That’s to say they can talk and listen to each other in real time without having to break, and it’s a non-blocking operation so when you’re talking you’re not blocking somebody else calling you. So it’s the whole gamut and whole range of products within intercom.
Larry Jordan: Listening to you reminds me of when I was directing live television which is probably before you were born, and the fun that I had at sitting at the communications console and being able to talk to everybody on the team, regardless of where they were, is just one of the highlights of directing. It’s just so cool, so yay you for your help in putting that together. Is there a difference in how live productions communicate say between broadcast television and theater and a corporate event? Or is it just people that need to talk? Is there any kind of differentiation in the products?
Simon Browne: Well there is. There are so many different workflows. There’s two fundamental workflows in the business. One is what we would call a party line or a conference based workflow, and that predominates generally in US smaller broadcast and in theatres and perhaps corporate AV and events. Then there’s one workflow called matrix based workflow and that tends to be for the larger TV networks, larger events like Olympics for example where you have a lot of people communicating with a lot of people and you need to be able to configure that so they have the right names and descriptive in front of the keys in front of them, so it’s a lot more comprehensive in that sense. But it tends to be a one to many in the party line, whereas matrix is point to point and groups.
Larry Jordan: So matrix would be where the lighting team is able to talk, but the audio team wouldn’t hear them, would that be the case?
Simon Browne: That is correct. So the limitation of a party line is that everybody on the same channel and in an analog party line that can mean anybody on the same cable, will talk to everybody else regardless of whether that person wants to hear them or not. In a matrix based system, you can direct your communication more precisely.
Larry Jordan: Give me some examples of where your gear is used. Drop names.
Simon Browne: Well we sell to all sorts of teams, so aerospace for example, we do a lot of work with the people putting those spaceships into orbit. I can’t name names, but you can guess, particularly those companies looking to do space tourism, we work with them. We work with a lot of sports teams, again we’re not really allowed to mention them, but we do a lot of work with people that are doing video replay and they want to assess the goal or the football systems and so forth, and they’ll go back over our systems for that. We sell into a theater like Broadway and West End, we sell into large churches, particularly here in the United States and in Africa where it tends to be a little like a television broadcast in its own right. We do a lot of touring groups, things like Lion King, or Blue Man Group, those kinds of people. Fiddler on the Roof. We sell into universities, particularly ones doing media. Schools like the Queen’s University in Australia for example and we do theme parks, so we sell to a lot of the larger theme parks, names you’ll know around the world where they have to communicate parades, they have to do the theater work and they have to communicate between the systems for security and so forth. There’s a whole gamut, a whole range of people we deal with.
Larry Jordan: These are some very high stress, high productive, high visibility outfits. You can’t go down. What happens if there’s a power failure?
Simon Browne: Well, yes indeed. Some of it is battery based in that case. But our tagline, our brand is named about connecting people together when it matters, and the matters part of it is important. For example in our matrix based systems, there’s a lot of redundancy. There is power supply redundancy, there is AC redundancy, so if one fuse goes on one power supply then the other one continues going, and the system continues to work. And it can be centrally powered so that the pals in the user stations, in the studios, still continue even if the central switch has gone out for example. So there’s a lot of redundancy and capability, particularly in party line for example, you can have multiple power supplies on the system so you can cope with that. Particularly at music events, you never know if somebody’s going to throw the wrong switch somewhere, and disconnect some part of it. So you can loop things around on rings and so forth. Our systems are available to do that I mean people just configure it that way.
Larry Jordan: I want to shift gears for just a minute. A lot of the people that listen to this program are independent filmmakers. They’re in the field, they need to do communication but they’re not in a studio base where they’ve got to have something which is much more portable and much more rugged. Do you provide that facility as well?
Simon Browne: Yes we do smaller wireless systems that can have 24 volt battery operation. That is often something we do in the remotes. The other thing we do and we’ve done recently is something called Agent-IC which is a smartphone app. So people in the field in a vox-pop or when they’re doing news items or taking … for example, use their own smartphone, load up the Clear-Com app called Agent-IC and connect back to their production intercom over IP. So this is now the modern way of communication if you like.
Larry Jordan: That’s a very cool idea. For filmmakers that wanted to get started with Clear-Com, for doing remote production in the field, I know there’s like 800 million options, but are they investing hundreds of thousands of dollars? Or is there an affordable price to get started?
Simon Browne: Yes, we cover quite a range of pricing, so something simple for example would be something like an LQ IP box which is a little IP server, and you can connect to that over your Wi-Fi operation if you like to your smartphone as I was telling you about. So for the small license fee you can license up the application and connect to this box. You can be up and running with about eight people for [less than $10,000 US]. So that’s probably a simple solution for remotes.
Larry Jordan: When we’re making a decision to buy a communication system for the first time, what questions should we ask? What do we need to be sure of before we spend the money?
Simon Browne: Well I think the biggest decisions are whether you can have somebody who can be wired, and therefore not necessarily moving around, somebody who’s fixed to say an audio console or a lighting desk, or whether you need to have somebody who is mobile, so that they have to go between the lighting desk and the audio console, particularly in houses of worship where you have volunteers who are running around being cameraman for a moment and then doing some audio bit. So they tend to be more mobile and therefore need to have wireless systems. The other question of course is how many people need to communicate with each other and who needs to have the most facilities, you can have a master station? So these are fundamental questions generally speaking after you’ve considered the budget.
Larry Jordan: For people that want more information about the products that you and your company offer, where can they go on the web?
Simon Browne: Yes, we have a very comprehensive website. It’s www.clearcom.com, and clearcom is one word.
Larry Jordan: Clearcom with one word, that’s clearcom.com and Simon Browne is the head of product management for Clear-Com, and Simon thanks for joining us today.
Simon Browne: You’re welcome, thank you.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Rob Read has over 20 years experience in media. He’s currently the business development manager for Roland’s professional AV division and in the past, he’s owned his own production company and has produced and streamed numerous live events working with Facebook Live, and Ustream, TeleStream, ChurchStreaming.tv, BoxCast, Brandlive, the Cube, you name it, he’s worked for them. Hello Rob, welcome.
Rob Read: Thanks Larry for having me, appreciate it.
Larry Jordan: How would you describe Roland?
Rob Read: Roland is an electronic music company but really we’re a media company selling and producing and manufacturing electronics. So I actually work in the pro audio and video division of Roland.
Larry Jordan: I had a chance to visit the pro AV site within Roland. How would you describe what the company makes? Is it principally video or audio focused at the pro level?
Rob Read: It’s a combination of both. I mean, from the pro audio level, we do digital consoles, high end 28 channel consoles, digital snake technologies, and then on the video side, we make live production tools. Not only for producing a live event in a room, but also for web streaming or recording any live event. So, I think having the combination of both of those strengths that having strong audio as well as strong video really makes us a unique company in the market space.
Larry Jordan: So what’s your role within the company?
Rob Read: My title is business development but really that encompasses a lot of things. I would say it’s a combination of product management, marketing as well as sales, so helping our sales channel to grow and develop and push these products into the market.
Larry Jordan: One of the things we’re looking at in this week’s show is the whole idea of audio and one of the things that Roland talks about is its role within live performance and your background is live streaming. Do you see a difference between live performance and live broadcast and live streaming?
Rob Read: If we’re talking in the audio world, mixing audio for a live room is different than mixing audio for a web stream, so having the tools to be able to do both is really key these days because more and more entities are wanting to expand their reach, so not only are they producing their event for the room but they’re maybe recording it or live streaming it at the same time to expand their audience.
Larry Jordan: Well how is it different? I was surprised to hear you say that. What’s different for mixing for the room than mixing for a feed?
Rob Read: I think for a room you want to be able to add some effects to your mix to sweeten your mix, to enhance what’s happening in the room. For example you might be using some different types of reverb effects, but maybe on your web stream you don’t want to have that. Maybe you want to take an ambient microphone to give the room feel effect for your live stream.
Larry Jordan: What would you recommend for companies that want to do more streaming, smaller companies that have smaller budgets? What would you recommend for gear they consider to put a streaming system together?
Rob Read: Finding a solution that is not only an audio solution but also a video solution combination. Because it really streamlines your workflow. For example, we make an all in one solution where it’s an audio mixer, it’s a video mixer and it’s got the USB out for web streaming or recording. So instead of plugging in all of his gear and setting up in a room, it comes this all in one box and you put it down and plug in your audio and video sources but you’re not having to patch all of those together to make it work for the web stream.
Larry Jordan: Why Roland and not Tricaster?
Rob Read: The powerful thing about Roland is our audio. Because our roots are in audio, we have some pretty powerful audio features. For example, let me talk about a couple of unique technologies, one of them that we have that’s just implemented into a couple of our switchers is called auto-mixing. So what auto-mixing allows you to do is it allows you to set waiting per audio channel, so for example if I’m doing a panel discussion, I might have my moderator and then maybe two or three participants. I can set my moderator audio level to be at 100 percent waiting, and then my participants maybe at 85 percent waiting. So when I have auto-mixing selected on, or turned on for those channels, it’ll auto adjust the audio levels based on the waiting that I set, so the moderator audio level might be slightly higher than the participants. Some of those types of features, simple operation. Not everybody is a high level broadcast person that wants the CNN type video effects or audio effects that maybe some of these higher end systems that you mentioned are looking for. They want a simple solution that maybe the marketing manager could operate. The simple workflow of Roland really lends itself to a lot of entities out there including churches and schools and corporate AV professionals.
Larry Jordan: What kind of costs are we looking at?
Rob Read: Our simple four channel HDMI switcher starts at $1,000. All the way up to our 2ME switcher which is $15,000. So everything and a wide range in between. Our all in one solutions that I was talking about that has auto-mixing and web streaming and a built in preview monitor, and an 18 channel audio mixer and four channel video mixer is $2795 so $2800. So simply a lot more affordable for a lot of these entities that I talked about.
Larry Jordan: It’s great that Roland makes this gear, but one of the challenges of mixing is that there’s both an art as well as a hardware component to it. How can you help us understand how to use the gear and do better mixes?
Rob Read: We have a remote control software that’s available for most all of our mixers and switchers that you can download for free for Mac or Windows. You can then connect that to the switcher and say for example I’m wanting to sweeten the mix for my audio in VR4HD, I download the remote control software, and I can tap on the button that says Effects, and it graphically brings up a representation of what those effects look like, and simply you can start playing around with it and you can see and hear the affect that you have by using the different effects in the system. So it’s pretty intuitive for the user to see how they can sweeten their mix in the audio side of things of using our equipment.
Larry Jordan: For people that want to learn more about the equipment that Roland has available, where can they go on the web?
Rob Read: They can go to proav.roland.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s proav.roland.com and Rob Read is the business development manager for Roland’s professional AV division. Rob, thanks for joining us tonight.
Rob Read: Thanks for having me Larry, appreciate it.
Larry Jordan: Ali Ahmadi is the director of products and marketing for K-Tek. They’re makers of audio centric gear including Klassic and Avalon, graphite and aluminum boom poles, shock mounts, shark antenna mounts, wind screens, as well as a variety of kit bags and harnesses. Hello Ali, welcome.
Ali Ahmadi: Hi.
Larry Jordan: How would you describe K-Tek?
Ali Ahmadi: K-Tek is a small family business. We’re a little over 20 years old now. Our founder, Manfred Klemme, was one of the key players in professional audio and literally wrote the book on using time code in cinema cameras. We’ve been manufacturing for over 20 years to make sure that the audio professionals out in the field can either work safer or easier or faster or all of the above.
Larry Jordan: You got started doing boom poles. What’s the technology in a boom pole? I mean, isn’t it just a long stick?
Ali Ahmadi: That’s what it looks like, but anybody who has tried to use a painter stick and then graduated onto a professional boom pole will tell you that there is a night and day difference. There’s actually a lot of secret sauce in our graphite boom poles, from the pattern at which the graphite fibers are woven to the fact that we use graphite fibers and not just regular carbon fibers, resin mixes, surface treatments, how to build the collar, sleeves, collards and so on. So you can open them quickly, close them securely and while you’re sliding the sections in and out. All that has to be done smoothly and quietly. Once you look into it, it’s a lot more than just a stick, but we’ve been doing that for a long time, we’ve had the pleasure of creating different families like you mentioned earlier, for different budget points and feature sets in the world out there of people wanting to use boom poles. So you really don’t need to use a painter’s pole anymore because we have a professional boom pole for nearly every budget.
Larry Jordan: Well another category that you’ve got are audio bags and seems likes there’s a lot of different kit bags that are out there. Why should we consider K-Tek?
Ali Ahmadi: That’s a great question. I always say, you can literally go into a grocery store and pick up a bag and that will allow you to carry whatever you want to carry around, and that’s what a bag is. What we’ve tried to do from day one, thanks to our audio background and thanks to the fact that we managed to recruit a very talented and experienced bag designer, who’s also worked in the industry for a long time, we’ve always managed to create portable work stations rather than quote unquote just a bag. And with that in mind, we hit a lot of the pain points for working mixers. We’re in this environment where they have to carry this large payload in front of their bodies, and they have to be able to set their work stations up and change them quickly and troubleshoot. We’ve managed to hit all of their concerns with our Stingray bag line.
Ali Ahmadi: When we relaunched them in 2015 under what’s now known as the Orange Stingray line, we really doubled down on it. Before then we had two bags, for the most common mixers and it was almost like an experiment. Can we make this work? We knew we could make a good bag slash work station. Since then we’ve created dozens of bags, pouches, harness, waist belt. All these other great carriers. Some of them that I would consider at this season in the year, stocking stuffers. Items that are $20, $25 and $35 and they all have one thing in common. They all do one or many things really well and they’re well made and in the end that’s why we’ve been so successful coming almost out of nowhere in this world of bags, carriers, work stations, and been able to literally beat manufacturers who’ve been doing that for
decades. It simply comes down to they make bags, they are bag manufacturers, and we’re an audio company who started focusing on portable work stations and bag and pouch solutions.
Larry Jordan: Well that gets to a bigger question. How long does your gear last? What’s a typical warranty and how long should we expect it to hold together?
Ali Ahmadi: We have a fairly generous service of warranty policy, so in general we warranty everything for a year against manufacturer defects and so on. But the reality is, you know, we’re not a big corporation, so the same people that build the products on the line are the same people that service them. We have in actuality, a very generous service policy, or maybe generous lack of service policy and so we always make sure that our customers are taken care of, that they’re treated well, that they’re made whole. But at the same time, we try and be fair, both to our customers as well as to us. When somebody drives over their mixer bag with a truck, there’s not much we can do, but we sure do help them get whole again.
Ali Ahmadi: At the same time, we offer replacement parts for the bags, a lot of time people lose the clear shield. We offer those and so on and when it comes to the more mechanical products like our boom poles, we have a great section on our web site, under support repairs, where you can conveniently fill everything out, send in your boom pole, we have a very painless service process and we make sure that everybody’s taken care of, and we’re known for that. We’re known in the industry for having one of the best services on the audio side.
Larry Jordan: For people who want to learn more about K-Tek’s products, where can they go on the web?
Ali Ahmadi: Our website is www.ktekpro.com.
Larry Jordan: That website is ktekpro.com and Ali Ahmadi is the director of products and marketing for K-Tek, and Ali thanks for joining us today.
Ali Ahmadi: Thanks for having me.
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: 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 also has this wonderful love of workflows and codecs and process and all the rest of the stuff that makes our eyes glaze over. Hello Michael, welcome.
Michael Kammes: Hi Larry, happy holidays.
Larry Jordan: A happy holiday to you as well. Tonight we’re talking about audio gear and I wanted to chat with you about the debate between monitor speakers and headphones. Most people think they should use monitor speakers, but some people think they should use headphones, so let’s start with the bigger picture. When should you use monitor speakers, and when should you use headphones?
Michael Kammes: I think you should be using speakers every waking minute, and I’ll put an asterisk next to that. I think you’re going to get more of a real world approximation especially if your desired end point is TV or a theater or somewhere where other people aren’t going to be listening on headphones. You want to recreate the end user listing experience as much as humanly possible, so that’s why I’m a big fan of speakers.
Larry Jordan: Alright, well then does that mean we should never use headphones at all?
Michael Kammes: No I think you should be using headphones to check your mix. I think speakers are the way to check how it sounds in a real world environment, and then use good headphones to check how the mix will sound to those people who are watching on the go.
Larry Jordan: I want to talk more about how to pick the right headphones, but this brings up a question, when I edit on headphones, sometimes I’m hearing every possible mistake, and so here I am editing out pops and clicks that are easily visible on headphones that never show up on the speaker. Am I getting too obsessive here?
Michael Kammes: I don’t think you’re getting too obsessive, but I think again we need to determine who your prospective audience is. For example your tutorials Larry. Are people going to be watching those on a mobile device, or are they going to be watching those on their desktop while they’re editing, so they can follow along? I think that versus someone who does a podcast which is designed for people on the go, in that case, yes you should be using headphones to emulate the end user experience.
Larry Jordan: In other words, you’re suggesting headphones not necessarily for their accuracy, but so that our ears are hearing our mix the way the consumer’s going to consume it?
Michael Kammes: Completely. And that’s what they do on let’s say feature film dub stages. They will mix on speakers that you commonly will find in a theater, that they traditionally have a pair of crappy speakers, more commonly they’re Auratones, that the mixers can switch to to then hear what it sounds like on old TVs or TVs who have built in tinny speakers, so they can see how their mix translates.
Larry Jordan: What should we look for when we’re picking either speakers for mixing, or a headset for mixing?
Michael Kammes: When you’re choosing speakers for mixing, it should have a flat EQ response, so not favor the low lows or the high highs. It should also emulate the speakers that the end users are listening on, which goes back to our previous discussion which was if you are doing something like a podcast where people are listening on their headphones, then use headphones that have a flat response. We also want to make sure that they don’t have noise cancellation, or anything else that may color the sound.
Larry Jordan: By flat response, you mean that it’s not boosting the bass or not boosting the treble?
Michael Kammes: That’s correct. You want something that will more faithfully recreate what the director and what the sound engineers had in mind when they crafted the project.
Larry Jordan: Is there a difference between the headsets that we use for mixing our audio, versus consuming our audio?
Michael Kammes: Completely. When you’re mixing audio, if you do opt to use headphones, you want something that is flat. So you’re EQing and mixing on an even playing field so to speak. Whereas the end consumer can certainly decide to get something that colors their sound, but traditionally that’s frowned upon via mixers because they want you to hear their vision of how things should have been done.
Larry Jordan: Yes, but as I learned long ago in producing shows for TV, how the consumer adjusts their TV set, I’ve got no control over. I just want to make sure it leaves here looking good.
Michael Kammes: That’s a good point, and that’s one reason why a lot of mixers will also have old tinny speakers sitting up on their console, so when they finish a mix, they can toggle to those speakers, commonly they’re Auratones, to see how the dialog sounds to make sure that the most important portions of the mix still cut through.
Larry Jordan: So when we’re picking a headset for mixing, what should we look for? What key specs?
Michael Kammes: The slang is usually 20 to 20. 20 hertz to 20 kilohertz. You seriously want to avoid noise cancelling headphones because that tends to color a sound feel that you’re getting. You want to stay away from ear buds because ear buds go further in your ear. They’re usually louder and they don’t recreate what the mixers intended. Those are probably the three main things you want to focus on.
Larry Jordan: Would you choose a different headset for a different project, or would you use the same headset against all projects?
Michael Kammes: I’d use them across all projects, because any experienced mixer will get accustomed to mixing on different speakers or different headphones and how the sound may be colored. So the more you stay with one set, the more you can get trained on that set, to how things are recreated.
Larry Jordan: Are there brands of headsets that you like, or models?
Michael Kammes: Yes, there’s two that are great. The Sony MDR 7506s, are my go to headphones. Those are about 80 bucks, so they won’t break the bank. Another popular one among mixers are the Sennheiser HD25s. Those are a little bit more expensive, about 130 bucks, but they have a stylish carrying case which makes travelling over the holidays great. The one set I would avoid though, are the very popular Beats by Dre. While they look stylish and they’ll certainly cost a good amount, they color the sound something fierce and I can’t recommend mixing on them.
Larry Jordan: Michael, before we leave, why don’t you give the traditional warning about keeping our volumes under control?
Michael Kammes: You know, this is something that I always thought was, you know, if you’re too loud, you’re too old. But as I get older, I’ve realized that if I use headphones too loud for too long, I will get a ringing in my ear and luckily it goes away, but it’s something that studies have shown that 25 to 30 percent of the listening audience is losing their hearing compared to the 80s and 90s. So it’s very crucial that if you are mixing and you are using headphones, keep it under 85db which is kind of a subway train volume. Don’t go any higher than that for long periods of time or you may risk tinnitus.
Larry Jordan: How do you measure the volume of the headset?
Michael Kammes: That’s a really good question. I have a trusty Radio Shack decibel meter that I traditionally measure my speakers with, and also measure my headphones with before I start any session. So I can ensure I’m at a standard level.
Larry Jordan: One last question. For someone who’s getting ready to start building a mixing studio, do they invest in speakers, or do they invest in a headset?
Michael Kammes: Coming from a TV and film background, I’d always recommend speakers because that’s where most people will listen to. But if you’re starting your career off and you’re primarily doing podcasts, then it probably makes more sense to get a decent pair of headphones.
Larry Jordan: Michael, for people who want to keep track of what you’re doing and thinking, where can they go on the web?
Michael Kammes: Two places. michaelkammes.com or 5thingsseries.com.
Larry Jordan: That is a long phrase, the number 5thingsseries.com and Michael Kammes is the host of 5things. Michael, thanks for joining us today.
Michael Kammes: Have a great holiday Larry, thank you.
Larry Jordan: You know, I was just thinking. Audio doesn’t get enough respect in video production, yet it is the surest way to trigger emotions in our audience. All too often we think that the way to capture the imagination is spectacular visual effects, and those can be fun to watch, but what I’ve learned over the years is that while images show us what’s happening, audio tells us what to feel. Sound effects are the soul of giving an image a sense of place. The sound of someone breathing in the dialog establishes their emotions better than a shot of their face. And music, well if it wasn’t for music, most of us wouldn’t be able to figure out the tenor of a scene. In all three cases, audio is driving our emotions and determining our reaction to what we’re seeing.
Larry Jordan: So the next time you’re planning a production, take a little money from the effects budget, and use it to improve the quality of your audio. Everyone in your audience will say your pictures have never looked better. Just something I’m thinking about.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests for this week, Simon Browne of Clear-Com, Rob Read of Roland, Ali Ahmadi of K-Tek, Michael Kammes of Key Code Media, Heath McKnight and James DeRuvo both of doddlenews.com.
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 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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