Mark Harrison, Managing Director, DPP (Digital Production Partnership)
Douglas Sheer, CEO / Chief Analyst, D.I.S. Consulting
Stefan Lederer, CEO, Bitmovin
Randi Altman, Editor-in-Chief, postPerspective
James DeRuvo, Editor-in-Chief, DoddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight on the Buzz, we look at the state of the media industry, two weeks before NAB redefines it for the coming year. We start with Mark Harrison, managing director of the Digital Production Partnership in the UK. Recently they researched key hardware and audience trends over the last several years, and discovered reasons why what we expected to happen didn’t. He has a fascinating report.
Larry Jordan: Douglas Sheer has been researching the media industry for more than 40 years as the CEO of DIS Consulting. Based on his studies, he has concerns for our industry that you need to hear.
Larry Jordan: Stefan Lederer is an expert on data management for online video. As the CEO of Bitmovin, he’s spent time looking at the impact changes to net neutrality will make on our industry and shares his thoughts tonight.
Larry Jordan: Randi Altman is a highly respected journalist and editor-in-chief of postPerspective.com. She shares her thoughts on the changing role of women in the media industry.
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 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. NAB is legendary for setting the direction of our industry for the coming year. It’s one of the two major events that developers and users alike look to for new products, new trends and new ideas. The other is IBC in September. So we thought it would be useful to take stock before NAB starts, to get a stronger sense of where we are today. Our guests tonight do not disappoint.
Larry Jordan: Due to time zone differences between Los Angeles and London, I recorded our first guest, Mark Harrison, a couple of days ago and I’m still reflecting on the key issues he brought up. His research will definitely change the questions I ask industry leaders during our coverage of NAB for the Buzz and it will also change the way you look at hardware today.
Larry Jordan: It’s always true that change is coming, but many times the change that arrives isn’t what we expect. Tonight’s guests will give us a better understanding of what’s coming, what’s important, and what’s hype.
Larry Jordan: Before we start though, 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. Best of all, every issue is free, and comes out on Saturday morning.
Larry Jordan: Now it’s time for our weekly doddleNEWS update with James DeRuvo. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Hi Larry.
Larry Jordan: So what’s this I see on your website?
James DeRuvo: I want to let everyone know that we have our annual readers poll going on right now. We’ve got some exciting plans for this year, and we want to know from our audience how we can best bring doddleNEWS to them. I would like all of our listeners to swing by the website and take the survey. It’s only ten questions, it’ll take you about three minutes.
Larry Jordan: So what’s in the news this week?
James DeRuvo: You know, the RED Hydrogen One smartphone that RED has been talking about, it’s this game changing mobile device that has a holographic 4D display. Unfortunately it’s going to be delayed until the summer. RED former CEO Jim Jannard, who’s shepherding the project, says that there’s been some supply chain issues. But I think the real problem is carrier certification which has held up the launch of the device, and when it finally does ship in the summer, first to those who have pre-ordered and then to the rest, RED will launch the Hydrogen network, an online streaming site for all their 4V holographic video content. You’ll be able to not only watch it, but also to offer your own content for sale. It’s going to be an exciting project.
Larry Jordan: Do you see this delay as a big deal?
James DeRuvo: No, I think it’s normal actually. RED is used to the bleeding edge in designing the next generation of technology, and while this is Jim Jannard’s pet project and it’s been beset with a few supply chain issues, it comes as no surprise that we’ll have to wait until summer but I think it’ll be worth it.
Larry Jordan: Alright, that’s RED. What else we got?
James DeRuvo: Oculus has announced a new standalone virtual reality headset called the Oculus Go. Being built in partnership with Xiaomi, the Oculus Go doesn’t need a computer or a smartphone to run its virtual reality content, it has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 802 11AC wifi, and 32 gigabytes of onboard storage for under $200. But unfortunately to meet that price point, the Oculus Go is going to lose the hallmark 3D sound headphones and head tracking which made the Oculus Rift device so immersive.
Larry Jordan: Well what’s driving Oculus right now?
James DeRuvo: I think the bottom line is when VR headsets launched last year, a lot of them came in with too high a price tag. Then coupled with a lack of content, it caused many, including myself, to view virtual reality as merely a gimmick. If the genre’s going to survive, the cost is going to have to come down on hardware. The Rift headset had an original price of around $600 and it’s already been cut down to $400, but unfortunately users would also have to update their computer in order to enjoy the experience, so it became way too expensive to get into it.
James DeRuvo: Oculus had to respond with a more affordable virtual reality option to compete with Samsung’s $99 Gear VR which was linked to the Samsung Galaxy mobile phones. Oculus Go eliminates the need for any computer, any mobile device. It’s just a standalone device, and that’s going to make it ideal for virtual reality on the go.
Larry Jordan: OK, what’s our third story this week?
James DeRuvo: Nikon has launched their D850 Filmmaker Kit. The D850 is their brand new flagship DSLR, it’s a really nice camera, I’d really like to get one. The Filmmaker Kit comes with a trio of prime lenses, it also has an Atomos Ninja Flame external monitor recorder, and a pair of wired and wireless microphones, and an extra battery to keep you shooting. The price is $5500 for the entire set, which is a $700 saving over purchasing all of those items piecemeal.
Larry Jordan: Why is Nikon doing this?
James DeRuvo: What’s interesting is while Sony, Panasonic and Canon have ruled this handheld DSLR mirrorless category for video, it’s often forgotten that Nikon blazed the trail first putting video on a DSLR in the Nikon D90. The strength here is the combination of the new D850 and the Ninja Flame external monitor recorder for recording in 4K RAW. And if you’re moving from mobile filmmaking through a smartphone or an action camera, and really want to cut your teeth on 4K, this Filmmaker Kit makes it really easy to get going.
Larry Jordan: OK, that’s RED and Oculus and Nikon. What other stories are you covering this week?
James DeRuvo: Google may be buying the experimental light field camera company, Lytro for an incredible bargain. We launch a new feature called 20 Questions with Chris Johnson of Mediaworkstations.net, and FiLMiC Pro goes global with a new short film contest.
Larry Jordan: Where can we go on the web to read all these stories?
James DeRuvo: Well first off, don’t forget to take the reader survey, and that survey and all of these stories and more can be found at doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the Editor in Chief of doddlenews.com and James, as always, thanks for joining us and we’ll talk to you next week.
James DeRuvo: We’ll talk to you next week.
Female voice: Starting Monday April 9, join the Digital Production Buzz at the 2018 NAB show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Larry Jordan and the Buzz team are taking their microphones on the road to cover the latest news and announcements from the largest media show in the world. Every hour of every day, the Buzz is live on the trade show floor. More than 100 interviews creating 27 new shows in four days. The Buzz has webcast directly from NAB for ten years and our coverage is legendary, heard in more than 195 countries around the world. If you’re attending the show, visit us at booth SL10 527 and say “Hello.” If you can’t attend, visit NABshowbuzz.com for a schedule of shows and guests. That’s NABshowbuzz.com and join the Buzz at NAB.
Larry Jordan: Mark Harrison has 20 years experience as an award winning freelance producer and director, as well as holding a number of senior innovation roles at the BBC. Now, he’s the managing director and co-founder of the Digital Production Partnership, or DPP, an international business change network for media companies. Hello Mark. Welcome back.
Mark Harrison: Hi there Larry, good to speak to you again.
Larry Jordan: How would you describe the DPP?
Mark Harrison: Well the DPP is an industry organization that loves change and loves working with companies who love change. I guess what’s unusual about us is that we’re not a trade body, so we’re not here to advocate for anyone or to defend the interests of anyone. We’re here to work with any company in the media supply chain, whether they’re in production, whether they’re in technology, or whether they’re a content provider, to help them to understand and manage change at this really exciting time in media.
Larry Jordan: Why is this necessary?
Mark Harrison: Well, it’s a great question. It’s because what’s really changed about the media industry I think over the last few years, is that it’s just no longer possible to be great at everything on your own. The days of the great big monolith broadcaster or monolith technology provider, giant independent production company that can just do everything, have gone. You have to collaborate. You have to be open, you have to find partners if you’re going to be successful and that’s leading an awful lot of companies to now want to engage with others. That requires coordination and really that’s what we do. We’re there in the middle bringing lots of really smart people together so they can work more effectively together.
Larry Jordan: Speaking of smart people, in February at the HPA Conference you released a report called Why We Get Trends Wrong, And How To Get Them Right. What were you studying?
Mark Harrison: Something that had been on my mind for a little while, because I go to the Consumer Electrics Show every year in Las Vegas, and follow the trends there, and of course numerous broadcast technology shows and I speak at lots of conferences, and I was becoming aware that the things I was being asked to talk about and I’d often listened to other people talk about, and the things that I would read about in the industry press, didn’t seem necessarily to be quite the same things that were characterizing consumer behavior. I thought, “Is this actually true? “ So I went back using my own notes going back over many years, and also the power of the internet, and researched backwards on what we’ve been all creating a buzz about over the last ten years or so and compared it with what’s actually been happening amongst consumers and their use of media.
Larry Jordan: As you were doing this studying, what did you discover?
Mark Harrison: I found some interesting discrepancies. To put them into headline terms, I describe them like this. It seems as if professionals who work in media are so fixated on audio visual technology, that anything that suggests it might somehow change in form is incredibly interesting to them. So they run off and get very excited about it, so particularly there’s a new device, a headset for viewing things on, a new kind of screen, they get very excited about. But that’s not what excites consumers. Consumers simply love video, and they love streamed video and they love it on a range of devices, but particularly their smartphone.
Mark Harrison: If you look at the impact of those behaviors amongst consumers, the direct impact back into the way the media industry has to commission and make content, you find some really profound changes, and yet those are not the things that we tend to talk about when we get together at our conferences and shows.
Larry Jordan: Isn’t the tech industry being enamored of new devices focused more on content creation and what you’re saying, it sounds like the consumers focus much more on distribution?
Mark Harrison: Yes, that’s true. You might say the consumers are very old fashioned. Somebody said to me recently, and I thought it was a really great observation, they said, “What’s extraordinary about consumers of media is that unlike any other product, they’re all experts.” That’s because human beings innately love and understand storytelling, so they know great content when they see it, and they just gobble it up. Really, that’s all they want. But somehow the media professionals keep assuming that there must need to be some fundamental changes in how we make and shape content, to go on keeping consumers happy. There’s no sign that consumers actually think that themselves.
Larry Jordan: Why is this important?
Mark Harrison: The reason I think it’s important is twofold. First, there’s not a lot of money around now in the media industry. Even amongst many of the big players, everyone needs to get very focused upon surviving and competing. There isn’t lots of money to spend on piloting brand new technologies, building prototypes, and doing lots of research and development. Yet, we are still wasting millions of dollars pursuing new developments that we think are going to be important, but just aren’t. Meanwhile, if we are to satisfy the demands of consumers, which for instance now require us to make very high quality content at extraordinary speed, and delivered over the internet with great resilience, then we really do have to focus all our efforts in that place. Frankly, those companies that don’t are not going to make it.
Mark Harrison: If you look back over the years, you see this list of technology that goes 3D, second screen, Google Glass, VR and they all have this thing in common. They’re all demanding that consumers actually consume storytelling in a fundamentally different form. It’s a really big ask. Yet, time and time again what I’ve heard very senior people say is “This is going to change everything. We’re going to have a whole new kind of storytelling. It’s going to be a whole new kind of creativity.” But it never happens.
Larry Jordan: As you said, consumers are traditional. They like watching it the way they’ve always watched it, just on devices they already have at hand, TVs or smartphones.
Mark Harrison: Yes that’s right, and I guess that’s very untraditional in some respects because whoever would have guessed, even ten years ago, that people would be very happy watching high quality content, episodics, movies, on a smartphone? That was ridiculous. Yet they do and we have to respect the fact that they do. I’ve heard many professionals bemoaning the fact that younger people are content to watch content on a smartphone. But you know what? If you hold that smartphone near enough to your face, it becomes a pretty big screen from the point of view of your field of view. The quality of it of course nowadays, is outstanding because of the technology of displays. So we just have to respect that the world of consumption has changed.
Larry Jordan: So you’re saying we need to shift our focus from the technology of content creation to the technology of distribution because storytelling really hasn’t changed?
Mark Harrison: Well yes. Pretty much, that’s what I’m saying, but actually my point really is that the behaviors around content consumption are profoundly changing. The whole architecture of how we make content. Not so much the filming and the recording of it, and the shaping of it in the edit suite, but certainly the point at which it leaves that edit suite and goes through production and distribution chain to get to the consumer. That is having to be dramatically rearchitected in order to meet the demands of the consumer.
Mark Harrison: But even in the production realm, although we might use the same tools, we now have to just work incredibly fast because of the appetite for consumers to have good content, really quickly. So it’s not that the production and the delivery end isn’t being changed, it is but it’s being changed in response to consumer behaviors and I guess what I’m saying is, we need to take those more seriously.
Larry Jordan: Well the title of your presentation was Why We Get Trends Wrong and How To Get Them Right. We’ve talked about that we’re missing the mark perhaps in not paying enough attention to consumer behavior. What do we need to do to get trends right in the future?
Mark Harrison: Well there’s a number of things. The first is, we have to simply be less snobbish about what it is that consumers like doing. I’ll give you an example. A few years back video became incredibly popular on Smartphones. A lot of people began to film holding their Smartphone upright. It was the wrong aspect ratio from the point of view of any filmmaker. For a long time people who worked in say broadcasting, just insisted consumers were wrong, they were going to have to learn how to shoot correctly. Well, consumers didn’t give a fig, they just went on shooting, holding their smartphones the wrong way up. As a result, they introduced a whole new aspect ratio, and vertical video is now a capability that has to be incorporated into lots of video playing and creating products, and also it’s a format that now has to be used by people who produce short form content such as news and sport. You have to take it seriously.
Mark Harrison: That’s thing number one. Respect what consumers are doing, even if it seems odd to you because it’s going to impact you sooner or later. The second thing is, follow the money even if it doesn’t in itself look as if it’s going to create something new and exciting. So what I mean by that is, if you look at the amount of money that consumers in North America alone are due to spend this year, 2018, on three things, ultra high definition televisions, Smartphones and streamed video and music, three things that belong together because all that streaming content goes into UHD TVs or into Smartphones, they are going to spend $100 billion this year alone just in North America. What are they due to spend on VR? One billion. So, it’s obvious that anything that happens in that streamed video realm into those devices, is going to be massively significant. So watch that space and watch for any particular consumer obsessions that happen within it, because they’re going to be the ones that matter for us.
Larry Jordan: So if you were to take a step back and look at where we’re going to be in three or four years, because I don’t think anybody can look out much farther than that, where are we going to be?
Mark Harrison: We’ll be making more and better audio visual content than ever before, and there’s no doubt in my mind we’re living in a golden age for directors and producers and for content distributors, and of course for consumers. There’s some absolutely fantastic stuff out there. We’ll have more and more of it, it’ll get better and better, and consumers will have an appetite for it that grows and grows. But, they will have a problem that needs solving. Actually, they’ll have two problems that need solving. The first is that they will become extremely intolerant of streamed video that doesn’t stream well. So simple considerations like connectivity, and the video playing capability of devices, is going to be absolutely key.
Mark Harrison: Secondly, and I think even more important, the one thing that’s going to irritate consumers more and more is there’s all this great content, but they can’t find it. The notion of having to move between different platforms, different providers, different devices to get to what they want, is going to really annoy them. At the moment they could subscribe to a music service, and they needn’t even type any more. They can just say to their device, the title of any piece of music in the world from any point in history, and there’s a very good chance it will start playing for them there and then. They’re going to demand that that’s the case with video and it’s only a matter of how the industry ends up delivering that to them.
Larry Jordan: Mark, that’s some amazing things for us to think about. For people that want to keep track about what DPP is doing and reports like this that you’re generating, where can they go on the web?
Mark Harrison: They can find us at our rather long address, which is digitalproductionpartnership.co.uk. That’s our website.
Larry Jordan: You couldn’t get something shorter huh?
Mark Harrison: It’s a shame that DPP is also the name of a government body in the UK, so that might give people rather the wrong idea.
Larry Jordan: That website is all one word, digitalproductionpartnership.co.uk, not .com. Mark Harrison is the co-founder and managing director of DPP, and Mark, thanks for joining us today.
Mark Harrison: It’s been a real pleasure Larry as always.
Larry Jordan: Doug Sheer is one of the broadcast and production industry’s leading researchers and consultants. He’s been in the field for close to 48 years, and he formed DIS Consulting in 1982 and the firm has served over 1800 clients, most of them manufacturers. It also serves as the SMPTE governor for the New York region. Hello Doug, welcome back.
Douglas Sheer: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: How would you describe DIS Consulting?
Douglas Sheer: The primary focus is on end users. By that I mean professionals who are active in the different parts of media and entertainment industry ranging from broadcasts on the high end let’s say, down to the ranks of the freelance providers.
Larry Jordan: What kinds of projects do you work on?
Douglas Sheer: Over the years we’ve studied everything from single product categories like camcorders, servers, lighting to entire marketplace like the digital cinematography market in which there are many products currently in use.
Larry Jordan: I notice on your website that you’re working with a partnership with NAB. What are you doing with them?
Douglas Sheer: It’s just a strategic partnership that originally had us doing work for them, and then emerged as a way of helping to produce market research and helping to find avenues for marketing.
Larry Jordan: I can’t think of anybody who’s been in our industry longer and studying it more intensively than yourself. This week, we’re talking about the state of our industry. What are your thoughts on the current state of the media and entertainment industry?
Douglas Sheer: Keeping in mind that we really focus on the end users, the professional users of equipment, the people who are the creatives that are making the media, and that our client base is mainly manufacturers of equipment. Having said that, our focus is on changes that are affecting those two constituencies and among them, what I would call the massive explosion in the ranks of freelancers, so another way of putting it is the Uberization of the professional film and TV workforce, the rising of a gig economy and the burgeoning of the numbers of people, many of whom used to be full time employees in various ways, now working exclusively freelancing.
Larry Jordan: To me, when I hear you describe it, it sounds like budgets are collapsing and more people are making less money.
Douglas Sheer: Well there is a squeeze, there’s no question that there’s a squeeze on the incomes of these now increasingly freelance people. Where they might have been making anywhere from 60 to $150,000 a year, as an inside staff member somewhere, they now might make more like 25 or $35,000 with the exception of the big markets, so LA, San Francisco and New York, DC, certain larger markets if we’re just looking at North America. There the pay skills are higher, but the work of course is very competitive.
Larry Jordan: Seems to me this would have a ripple effect up to manufacturers. If the people that use their gear don’t have as much money, they’re not going to be buying as much gear.
Douglas Sheer: Well it’s funny. It’s had two effects. In the most recent five years, it’s built companies like Blackmagic because companies that were offering camcorders and other products very affordably, say 4K quality camcorders, found a huge market of more and more people pouring into the freelance ranks, who needed to have basic capabilities. They needed to have a camcorder, they needed to have an editing suite. So they needed to buy those things. So at least in the most recent history, it’s actually been beneficial to some companies, and it’s hurt other companies, so it’s been a mixed bag.
Larry Jordan: Well let’s project out. What are you seeing in the near future for say the next one to three years?
Douglas Sheer: Well I definitely see a recession.
Larry Jordan: How so?
Douglas Sheer: An economic recession across the broad span of all markets and people that have tried to time such things have gotten into trouble. So I’m just going to say that if people are curious, all they need do is take a look at Wikipedia and look at the number of recessions, the timing of them, the duration of them, and the depth of them, and they would see that as my father used to say, “We’re cruising for a bruising.” The way it will affect our media and entertainment industry is combining with a weakening dollar, higher interest rates and the enormous debt that we’re carrying which is now 21 trillion, I think it’s going to bring tremendous pressure on media and entertainment markets, theme parks, theater attendance, pay cable, consumer electronics purchases, and on some of the many jobs that I’ve been talking about. It will ripple across the industry.
Larry Jordan: So what should media professionals do to get ready or to prepare for this?
Douglas Sheer: Sell your equities. Seriously. I’m a lifelong bull, so I’m very much the optimist, but in the short term I would say the sensible thing, and of course I’m not a financial adviser, but I would be certainly careful about how much money to have in equities. The other thing too is, to the degree that you can find employment on the inside as opposed to being a freelancer, if that’s what your life looks like today that you’re a freelancer, I would say that would be helpful, although in a true recession no job is absolutely guaranteed.
Douglas Sheer: But there are other aspects to the near future that I think are worth looking at in terms of the impact that they will have on media and entertainment. The other is the trade war, so we’re certainly getting ourselves into what I would call a looming trade war which although right now it’s very limited in its scope, the retaliation on the part of some foreign countries, may start to have impacts on this market. I think also that one thing I see that’s developing, is a more careful governmental look at companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon and many other tech companies. So I think particularly after the mid terms, it’s a possibility that we would start to see much more scrutiny of those companies, and maybe that might even ultimately in some cases, lead to pressure to break them up.
Larry Jordan: So what do you see as reasons for hope? This is a pretty bleak assessment of the next few years.
Douglas Sheer: I guess you would say it is a bleak assessment of the next few years. But I think that from the perspective of manufacturers who have been the primary clients, media and entertainment is not the only part of their market. So there’s the education market, there’s corporate, medical, governmental, there are many different aspects of the market, not just strictly media and entertainment. So in that sense, there’s a lot of growth going on. I think that even during a recession some areas benefit and others don’t. I also think that in some product areas, let’s say technology areas like VR and artificial intelligence generally, the internet of things, and the direction of automation, robotics and so forth, I think that in those areas is a lot of opportunity for growth that could possibly supplant the hit that some of the creative tools may take.
Larry Jordan: Some fascinating comments. Doug, for people that want to follow your thinking, where can they go on the web?
Larry Jordan: That website is DISresearch.com, all one word, and Doug Sheer is the founder of DIS Consulting, and Doug, thanks for joining us today.
Douglas Sheer: You’re very welcome.
Larry Jordan: Stefan Lederer is the co-founder and CEO of Bitmovin. They provide software that solves complex video problems for leading media companies worldwide. Hello Stefan, welcome.
Stefan Lederer: Hello. Thanks for having me on the show.
Larry Jordan: How would you describe Bitmovin?
Stefan Lederer: Bitmovin is a tool set out of different parts of the media workflow. Media encoding, media playback, media analytics. So we are providing those tools to engineers to develop us, to produce us out in the market, really put together a first class streaming system. So we try to be as good as Netflix, and outperforming leading providers in the market with the technology, with the compression standards that we’re using, with the play implementations that we’re using, with the data that we are generating, for analytic solutions. So really to provide a leading service on the market and our customers like the New York Times, like Sling, like Periscope, our cloud player for example, are choosing us because of this performance and expertise advantage.
Larry Jordan: Is your principle market, the people who buy your products, developers who are putting products together for consumers, or are you selling direct to consumers?
Stefan Lederer: There are developers that build consumer facing applications, like on the media streaming services. At the same time we have companies with customers that build end to end turnkey solutions for consumers as well as for prosumers or professionals as well as for streaming services. We are not selling to consumers directly, but we have a lot of professionals using our service for projects small as well as big.
Larry Jordan: You recently gave a talk at South by Southwest about net neutrality. What did you speak about?
Stefan Lederer: Yes, that was an amazing talk. We had for example Heather of Mozilla who’s heading policy there. We had Nitin from Cloudflare, one of the rising stars in the CDN space and we had … as a moderator who was responsible for net neutrality and why combine one of the most important company explorators in the Silicon Valley. We talked about the problems that are arising by now the internet being unregulated, having better pipes for streaming services like Netflix, for those large incumbents, and how missing net neutrality is hindering and limiting new players in the market to enter the market. We talked about serial metering for example for a bandwidth consumption of apps like Netflix versus new providers how to survive in such an ecosystem. We also talked about all the problems that are arising for the consumers if there’s no net neutrality given. … mentioned at the end of his interview that there were so many different news cases and a way for media, it’s also governments communicate with their population via video. If … online fitness, it has … so many other areas where video is an essential part and net neutrality is essential to guarantee that all the consumers can access those services in the best possible quality and not only the leading five streaming services in the market.
Larry Jordan: Well what do you see as the fallout? I know that a number of people are taking the FCC to court to try to overturn the current rules, but what do you see as the fallout if the rules are not overturned?
Stefan Lederer: What we see is that for example … is preferring certain large providers like YouTube, like Netflix, like the leading streaming services, and it’s extremely hard if you’re now starting your own thing, starting your own live streaming service, on demand streaming service or in general video product. It can also be like Warship or education and so on. Now the consumer cannot watch this service in the same quality as Netflix because you are not in this premium pipe. You’re in the standard pipe … and the quality you can deliver to this particular user is lower than with the market leading services. It’s hard for you to enter the market and be competitive. That’s I think one of the major issues that we see, that we are afraid that the variety of services on the market is suffering by a loss of net neutrality due to recent rulings.
Larry Jordan: One of the other things that caught my eye was a recent report that Bitmovin put together that analyzed the types of media that we’re producing. What did you guys discover?
Stefan Lederer: You see so many different areas where media is used. Media broadcasters and … MSOs, they’re very classic, the media providers that we know over the last decade. But new forms of media are everywhere on the internet. With the push of the button, you can generate video with today’s phones and cameras, and you can share it on social networks and your website and so on. Services like Facebook and Instagram or Snap Chat is completely videocentric, but also beyond that, services like for example Cloudflare or online Word Press or other services are having media as an essential part of their offering. So everybody can contribute media now … and we see more and more services coming out in the elearning space where we see for example you can learn coding, other skills. Elearning is this huge market, we recently saw a market study that said … $60 billion market which is crazy. And you also see for example, light streaming of niche sports, or high school sport events, but also esports and things like that. Also in fitness or lifestyle or cooking and all those things where you think there are new ways of consuming content, even ecommerce. Websites are using media to spread or show what their goods look like, and we see media as entering so many spaces.
Stefan Lederer: One good one for example is internet communication. Every HR department is super keen on using media for better communication, for delivering information to new employees or existing employees, town hall events or a company … speeches, are big topics for large companies, Fortune 5000 companies. It’s unbelievable how much effort is going into those workflows. But it justifies the importance of media nowadays.
Larry Jordan: Stefan, for people that want more information or want to learn more about your company, where can they go on the web?
Stefan Lederer: Go to bitmovin.com and we have a lot of information up there, also for new technology, like … which is more efficient encoding form. There’s other things that you need for example to fight for net neutrality even if it’s not enforced in the network, and there are a lot of interesting things in our blog which I recommend everybody to come and read about.
Larry Jordan: That website is bitmovin.com and Stefan Lederer is the co-founder and CEO. Stefan, thanks for joining us today.
Stefan Lederer: Thank you very much.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
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Larry Jordan: Randi Altman is the editor-in-chief of postPerspective.com. She’s been writing about our industry for more than 20 years, and she is an expert on what’s happening in post production. Hello Randi, it’s been too long since we last heard your voice. Welcome back.
Randi Altman: Thanks Larry, it’s good to be here.
Larry Jordan: There’s two things I want to chat with you about today. First is the general state of the media industry and more specifically, women in our industry. And we’ll start with the industry. You’ve just returned from the HPA tech retreat, what are your thoughts on what you found there?
Randi Altman: As usual, I was hoping to see more young people and more women, and I probably did see a little bit more of both. It was well attended, it’s a great place to be, only because everywhere you go you see somebody you know, and if you don’t know them, you’re sitting next to them and you get to know them, so it’s a wonderful place to learn about technology and trends, and also make friends and potential colleagues and things like that. So it was definitely worthwhile. In terms of the industry and with NAB approaching, there is some excitement, and I have a feeling that the term for NAB this year is going to be AI, so it’ll be interesting to see where that is at, how they think it’s going to affect, or the products that are available for AI and post and production and where that’s leading. Some people are dubious, some people are excited. Just like any sort of new path in the industry, there are believers and non-believers, so it’ll be nice to go and see some product and decide where we’re at.
Larry Jordan: How does AI affect media?
Randi Altman: Not necessarily the creative process, but I think it can help with some of the more tedious parts of the job. You and I have spoken about this in the past too, is will it put any creatives out of business? I truly don’t believe that, because I do believe that kind of creativity is human, and that’s always important.
Larry Jordan: Earlier tonight we heard from Doug Sheer who feels that our industry is heading for some tough times. There’s too many freelancers chasing too few jobs, budgets are continuing to shrink, combined with what he sees as a recession in the broader US economy. In other words, tough times for media. What’s your thought?
Randi Altman: Well I’m not the sky is falling kind of person but what he says, there’s a lot of truth to that, yes. There are a lot of freelancers and budgets are shrinking and people have to do things in a lot less time than they used to. But I think what’s going to happen is the industry is just going to continue to adapt to that. I’m not an economist, I don’t know about a possible countrywide recession but I do know that our industry has needed to adapt over the years, and they’ve evolved with that. The term is, “Evolve or die,” so we have to keep on chugging along so we have to find better workflows, more efficient workflows, until things change.
Larry Jordan: It just strikes me as we’re in really hard times at the moment.
Randi Altman: Yes, I know and I have been in this industry long enough to have seen many dips and recessions and the industry always comes back. It comes back in a different way, but it comes back, things adapt, things change, people find different ways to make a living. I would love for new companies to start popping up all over the place and actually be profitable. I would love for bigger budgets and more time to work on things, but that’s just a different world now, that doesn’t exist unfortunately, where we are.
Randi Altman: I think it all goes back to adapting and trying to keep the creative in the forefront and never lose sight of that. There’s the saying, and I’m going to get it wrong, about how diversity breathes invention? You’ve got to hope that the big giant brains that we have in our industry find different ways to make things efficient without killing the industry itself.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of things changing, let’s shift gears. We’re now in the era of Me Too and Time’s Up reflecting the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. How do you see this changing the role of women in our industry?
Randi Altman: Well I’ve already started seeing a change which has been really kind of fantastic. So over the past couple of years, there’s been at the HPA tech retreat, there’s the Women in Post luncheon, and that’s always very nice, and there was a feeling of sisterhood in a sense for the few women that were at the HPA tech retreat. There was a lot of bonding that was going on and discussions, and also talking to some of the manufacturers and post houses, how they’re gearing up and making a conscious effort to look for qualified women. Not just to hire a woman, because that helps nobody, but to hire qualified women in whatever job they need to fill. One person said they’re hoping to get to 50 50 but it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take a little bit, so that’s one good thing that’s happening is that people are more aware that they have to look a little bit further to get some really good talent, and talent with different kind of perspectives, which is always a good thing.
Randi Altman: But also just opening up the industry to young women and girls who want to join this industry and not be intimidated by engineering in an all male class, starting them early and a perfect example of that is NAB, they have their 4K charity run. I’ll see you there I’m assuming?
Larry Jordan: The 4K charity run?
Randi Altman: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Only if I can walk.
Randi Altman: That’s Tuesday morning and it’s a charity run, and one of the places that the proceeds are going to is Girls that Code. Trying to spread the word a little bit and start programs to get girls to code, and not to be intimidated by it, and you don’t necessarily have to be a mathematician to code. Anyone can do it.
Larry Jordan: Do you see these changes as being systemic? Or do you see them being lip service?
Randi Altman: No I think that they’re systemic, I really do think that it’s opened up people’s eyes and something maybe they haven’t thought about. I don’t believe that it was like a director was deliberately only hiring men on the crew. I just think that they weren’t thinking about it and they’d always been surrounded by men, and it just seemed normal. So I think that their eyes are opened a bit more, and I think that you have initiatives that are happening, for instance just interviewed a director named Jessica Sanders, and she edited a short, which was at Sundance. She went out of her way to hire mostly female crew, including a VFX supervisor and she said that’s one of the areas in the industry that is wanting. There’s just not a ton of VFX supervisors that are female, she says. So she made a conscious effort, she’s always wanted to work with women, she likes having that perspective, but it was also part of a short film series that was dedicated to supporting the voices of female filmmakers, so there is a lot of this going on. Again, it’s like muscle memory. Once you get used to doing it, it’s just going to happen.
Larry Jordan: Why do you think there’s so few qualified women out there? What can we do to boost the number of folks available?
Randi Altman: Well I think there are a good amount of qualified women out there. I just think that again, it’s the just not thinking about, there’s less women in the industry than men, and maybe you have to look a little further. But again I think it’s getting to the girls young, and making them comfortable with more of the technical roles in the industry. We have a lot of creatives, executive producers, but those roles, the more technical roles are actually starting to attract some young females. So I’m hoping that just continues. Again, I really do believe it will be muscle memory. I mean hopefully in a couple of years, we won’t even think twice about it.
Larry Jordan: How about the pay differential between men and women? Are you seeing that start to be addressed?
Randi Altman: You know, to be honest, I don’t know that much about the pay differences. Obviously within the larger scope of the world, yes, and within any industry. But that’s not an area that I know about. I’m hoping again, people are going to open their eyes and realize that talent is talent, and for the same job one shouldn’t be making more than the other. So again, I hope that people are just more aware.
Larry Jordan: So if you were to put your future seeking hat on, what do you think’s going to happen over the next two years?
Randi Altman: I think that we’re going to find more and more women in different roles within the industry. Women holding each other up, and promoting each other. Qualified women. Again, you know, to go back to the bit about companies hiring women, it’s all about hiring qualified and talented people, regardless of gender, and it wouldn’t help anyone if they just hired women to hire women. They need to hire the women that fill the role and fill it well, so same thing with men. I’m hoping that in two years we won’t even be having this conversation. That’s my wish. I hope that it comes true.
Larry Jordan: And Randi, for people that want to keep track of what you’re writing and thinking, where can they go on the web?
Randi Altman: They can go to postPerspective.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, postPerspective.com and Randi Altman is the editor-in-chief of postPerspective.com and Randi, it’s always a treat talking to you. Thanks for joining us today.
Randi Altman: Thanks Larry.
Larry Jordan: I was just reflecting on our interviews tonight. There’s no doubt that our industry is in a time of upheaval but as Randi Altman made clear, we’ve been in upheaval for the last 20 years. The switch from film to digital, from high priced hardware to software that runs on personal computers, from the shift from large technical crews to one man bands. Our industry has been buffeted by changes in audience viewing, technology and budgets for a long time.
Larry Jordan: It’s easy listening to our guests to get depressed. There are no end to the challenges we face as media creators. Motivational author Napoleon Hill once wrote, “Every diversity carries with it the seed of equal or greater benefit.” Think back to the tools filmmakers were using 20, 30, even 40 years ago. Primitive and limited when compared to what we have today, yet even with the equivalent of stone knives and bear claws, they were able to tell compelling stories that we still watch today.
Larry Jordan: This is why Mark Harrison’s comments are so relevant. Don’t focus on the latest tools, focus on your audience. What do they want to see or hear, or learn? What’s our goal? Is it to tell compelling stories, or use the latest gear? If we’ve learned anything over the last few years, it’s that we must not define ourselves in terms of the gear we use, but the stories we tell. A carpenter is not someone who pounds nails with a Stanley hammer, but a craftsman who creates kitchens.
Larry Jordan: Randi Altman is correct. Adversity has always driven creative change. In two weeks, NAB will showcase the latest in tools and technology, but as storytellers, we need to remind ourselves that our clients don’t care what tools we use, but the results we deliver with the tools that we use. Just something I’m thinking about.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests this week, Mark Harrison with DPP, Douglas Sheer with DIS Consulting, Stefan Lederer with Bitmovin, Randi Altman with Postperspective.com and James DeRuvo with 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 all available to you today. Remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter that comes out every Saturday.
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Larry Jordan: Our producer is Debbie Price, my name is Larry Jordan, and thanks for listening to The Digital Production Buzz.
Larry Jordan: The Digital Production Buzz is copyright 2018 by Thalo LLC.