Jen Soulé, President, OWC
Ned Soltz, Contributing Editor, Red Shark News, Ned Soltz Inc.
Michael Kammes, Director of Business Development, BeBop Technology/Creator, 5 THINGS series
Philip Hodgetts, President, Lumberjack System
James DeRuvo, Editor-in-Chief, doddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight on the Buzz, we are talking about intriguing ideas that caught our attention; from new camera gear, to new ways of working in the Cloud, to whether spending more money for a commercial creates a better commercial.
Larry Jordan: First though, we start with news. OWC announced this week, they’ve acquired three new companies. Tonight, we talk with Jennifer Soulé, President of OWC, about who they acquired and why.
Larry Jordan: Next, Ned Soltz, Contributing Editor to Red Shark News, looks at things we can hang on our camera and things we can hang our camera on.
Larry Jordan: Next, Michael Kammes is fascinated by how the Cloud can improve media workflows. However, as he explains tonight, the Cloud requires us to think differently from what we’re doing now.
Larry Jordan: Next, Philip Hodgetts, CEO of Lumberjack System was intrigued by whether spending more money for production makes a difference in the message. Philip reports on wistia.com’s experiment to create the same commercial with budgets of 1K, 10K and 100K. The results were surprising.
Larry Jordan: All this, plus a special tribute to Norman Holland and, as always, James DeRuvo presents our weekly doddleNEWS update. The Buzz starts now.
Male Voiceover: Since the dawn of digital filmmaking. Authoritative: One show services 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. Hello, my name is Larry Jordan.
Larry Jordan: In this intensely quiet period, before the start of this year’s NAB Show, I thought it would be interesting to look at media technology in a different way. Interesting ideas that caught the attention of our regulars. Ned Soltz, I discovered, is fascinated by the gear that attaches to our cameras. Michael Kammes is struck by how the Cloud requires us to think differently and Philip Hodgetts was captivated by a recent series of documentaries on what happens when you shoot the same commercial with three different production budgets. All intriguing ideas.
Larry Jordan: By the way, if you enjoy The Buzz, please give us a positive rating and review in the iTunes store. We appreciate your support, to help us grow our audience. Now it’s time for our weekly doddleNEWS update with James DeRuvo. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Hello Larry.
Larry Jordan: What’s the news this week?
James DeRuvo: Cupertino gives us updates to both hardware and software. The first thing that came out today, Apple updated Final Cut Pro Compressor and Motion with key updates and bug fixers. The biggest feature is that version 10.4.6 of Final Cut Pro, plus the latest versions of Compressor and Motion, will now automatically detect media files that may be incompatible with future versions of macOS after Mojave. It’ll then convert them to a compatible 64 bit format. They will also be several fixes to issues where share destinations and workflow extension buttons will just, whoof, disappear out of nowhere. There are also several other annoying bug fixes and housekeeping updates. All three applications will improve reliability in sharing your files to YouTube.
Larry Jordan: What’s your view of the update?
James DeRuvo: Well, most of version 10.4.6 is a mere housekeeping updates; fixing several annoying bugs. The big feature of this update is Apple taking steps to automatically identify and reformat legacy Codecs, so that users can prepare for a future after macOS Mojave. This will give all Final Cut Pro, Motion and Compressor users a leg up in futureproofing their old legacy media.
Larry Jordan: Apple announced at the Worldwide Developer Conference last year, 2018, that Mojave would be the last that supports 32 bit; so for developers, this is not new news. But for all of us users, we’re still panicking to make sure things are going to work. What especially impresses me here is that we can use compressor, which is a $50 program and use it to convert legacy media, for instance, Premiere users can use this, or Avid users can use it, as a way of doing your conversion. Even if you don’t edit with Final Cut, Compressor makes this something that all of us could take advantage of.
James DeRuvo: Do it automatically.
Larry Jordan: That’s our first Apple story, what’s number two?
James DeRuvo: Well Apple, yesterday, announced what could be the last Intel based iMac refresh. 4K and 5K iMacs get a modest boost in performance with eighth and ninth generation Coffee Lake processors. The iMacs will receive the AMD Radeon Pro 500X GPUs with the 4K iMac receiving four gigabytes of VRAM on the Radeon Pro; while the 5K iMac will receive eight gigabytes of VRAM on the Radeon Pro.
James DeRuvo: The 5K iMac users will also get the option of upgrading to the Radeon Pro Vega. IMac Pros will also get a tiny little update with the Radeon Vega upgrade option and up to 256 gigabytes of DDR4 EEC RAM for the processor.
Larry Jordan: What’s your take here?
James DeRuvo: To tell you the truth, it’s difficult to get excited about this last update. After waiting over two years for a refresh of the iMac lines, getting a processor that’s at least 12-18 months old isn’t really all that sexy; even if it does boost performance by a promised 40-80%. This update though is clearly just a placeholder to placate the Apple faithful, until their new Apple designed processors come out in the iMac in 2020.
Larry Jordan: I agree, the update is nice and, by the way, spending more money for a GPU increases your speed, but doesn’t increase your image quality. Still, the upgrade’s minor.
James DeRuvo: Speaking of image quality, the display used in both models is exactly the same as the previous model; so you’re not really going to see any difference on the screen.
Larry Jordan: All good to know. What’s our third story this week?
James DeRuvo: Nikon is now bundling their Z series camera with a free FTZ adaptor. If you buy the Nikon Z7 or Z6 full frame mirrorless camera, Nikon will throw in the FTZ lens adaptor now for free; before you got $100 off. Now, the entire adaptor will be included in your purchase and that’s a $250 value. The FTZ adaptor also opens up the use for over 350 F mount Nikkor lenses, plus an additional 90 other lenses in the Nikon line.
Larry Jordan: Why do you think Nikon’s doing this?
James DeRuvo: Well, while the hype for the Z series full frame mirrorless and camera was pretty huge and, admittedly, the footage is pretty impressive, the word on the street is that this hasn’t translated into the kind of sales figures that Nikon was hoping for. The thinking is likely that, Nikon users are balking at having to reinvest in another round of new glass; especially when some of the best glass that Nikon makes is up to 40 years old.
James DeRuvo: They also didn’t want to have to pay for an adaptor to use it. Therefore, Nikon is pulling out all the stops and adding this FTZ adaptor free, as part of the bundling purchase; in order to lure those users and get some more sales.
Larry Jordan: James, what other stories are you and your team working on this week?
James DeRuvo: Other stories we’re following include, Nvidia is using artificial intelligence to create photo realistic, real-life images from simple doodles and sketches. Apple resurrects the iPad Air and iPad Mini, with new A12 bionic models and the filming of that Apollo 11 documentary I mentioned last week, required literally reinventing the film scanning reel, to handle thousands of hours of unseen 65mm and 70mm footage. In doing so, they probably saved a valuable historical artefact; the footage itself.
Larry Jordan: Where can we go on the web to learn more?
James DeRuvo: All these stories and more can be found at doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the Editor-in-Chief of doddleNEWS and joins us every week. We’ll see you next Thursday.
James DeRuvo: See you next Thursday.
Larry Jordan: Jen Soulé is the President of Other World Computing. She has been with OWC for 21 years, starting on the sales team in 1997. She’s a strong advocate for OWC’s green initiatives; including alternative energy, a corporate recycling program and water and packaging efficiencies. Hello Jen, welcome.
Jen Soulé: Hello Larry, thank you, it’s great to be here.
Larry Jordan: You know, I was just thinking, normally we talk with Larry O’Connor, but you are the brains of the operation; so let’s get right to the news. What did OWC announce this week?
Jen Soulé: On the product side, we announced our memory for the brand new iMacs that will be shipping in, I should think, a week now and also wanted to announce our overall expansion into both Asia and Europe, as well as here within the US.
Larry Jordan: What did you do in terms of the expansion? I understand you acquired three companies; what did you acquire?
Jen Soulé: Two of the companies are related, Extron and Akitio. Akitio is sort of the brand that people would be familiar with; they sell external storage solutions and docs, a lot of EGPU and PCI expansion boxes and then the engineering arm that’s in Taiwan, it was under the name Extron. Essentially, two different companies, purchased the US side and then the Taiwan side and then a separate distribution company that we bought in Belgium, to better support our European customers.
Larry Jordan: I can understand the benefit of buying a European distributor; that distribution’s always good, but OWC’s been making storage since the beginning of time, why were you interested in bringing in Akitio?
Jen Soulé: We’ve been pretty impressed with their engineering and production quality; something I think we’ve done really well as well. But theirs is just a little more polished on some of the designs and how they were able to accomplish it in production and I think a lot of that was how close their engineering and production is to the supply chain. For us, that really became a key element. We had a small engineering team in the US, but it was largely bolstered by a lot of our partners overseas; so now, sort of, instead of being bolstered by partners, it’s bolstered by ourselves.
Larry Jordan: What are your plans, now that you’ve got these three new companies under the hood. What’s it going forward?
Jen Soulé: For our customers, our European and Asian customers are going to have better sales support, better customer service, better text support; because it will be on the ground, in the same language and in the same time zone; which obviously gets rid of a lot of delays. They will also see an improvement in the availability of the product on both the continents. Both OWC and Akitio. Akitio will remain a brand, but a lot of that product is going to end up folding in under the OWC brand.
Jen Soulé: From a product perspective, people can expect to see, you know, products coming out faster from us; as we can kind of control more of the process from the idea all the way to the production. I think, with the additional engineering both on the hardware and software side, we already were working toward really pulling those together and you’ll see that accelerate; so you’ll see more full hardware, software solutions coming out of us, over the course of the next year.
Larry Jordan: What is it that’s most exciting about these acquisitions for you?
Jen Soulé: For me, it’s just seeing the company really be able to expand in these critical areas. You know, when you have a salesforce, you know, sitting here passionate about the product in the US, the messaging doesn’t necessarily come across. There’s idiosyncrasies in every geographical region and every country and we didn’t frankly sell well into Asia. I mean, it’s 60% of the world’s population; so, in particular, that aspect of really being able to convey what’s exciting about OWC products and talking to customers and hearing their story, that part really excites me.
Jen Soulé: Also, tying in the engineering and expanding the engineering capability; because we have so many ideas and sometimes have them limited by that capability. Now that we have a much bigger team, then we’re going to be able to do more. I’m kind of excited about both those aspects.
Larry Jordan: Jen, for people that want to learn more about the products that OWC has, where can they go on the web?
Jen Soulé: OWC.com and that really kind of talks through a lot of the different brands that we have and it’s a jumping off point to take you to macsales.com. If you’re looking for specific products you’re looking at buying right now; both OWC, Akitio and other brands that are of particular interest to Mac customers. Also, of course, it will lead you to Akitio, Softraid, Mediafour; all the different brands that we carry and that are now under the OWC Monika.
Larry Jordan: That website is three letters, owc.com and Jen Soulé is the President of Other World Computing. Jen, thanks for joining us today.
Jen Soulé: Larry, thank you so much for having me.
Male Voiceover: Join the Digital Production Buzz at the 2019 NAB Show in Las Vegas Nevada. Starting Monday April 8th, Larry Jordan and the Buzz team are taking their microphones on the road, to cover the latest news and trends from the largest media show in the world. Every hour of every day, the Buzz is live on the tradeshow floor, creating 27 new shows in four days; more than 100 interviews with key industry leaders. The Buzz has webcast directly from NAB for 11 years, with legendary coverage that’s heard in more than 195 countries around the world. If you’re attending the show, visit us at Booth SL10 527 and say hello, or join us live every day of the show at nabshowbuzz.com. Join us as the Buzz covers NAB 2019, live at nabshowbuzz.com.
Larry Jordan: Ned Soltz is a Contributing Editor to Red Shark News; he’s also an author, editor, educator and consultant on all things related to digital video. Best of all, he’s a regular here on the Buzz. Hello Ned, welcome back.
Ned Soltz: Hello Larry, it’s wonderful to be back. I was waiting for the call. I haven’t been on the show in a few weeks and I was hoping that I would be shown a little love and, now, here it is.
Larry Jordan: I would have called you sooner, but I just had to talk to a couple of other people first.
Ned Soltz: Oh, okay, I can understand that.
Larry Jordan: It has nothing to do with a lack of love Ned; oh my goodness, no. You are deeply appreciated. Ned, you’ve given us an interesting hook when you wrote that you were going to talk about things to hang your camera on and things to hang onto your camera. Let’s start with the things that hang on cameras. What’s caught your eye?
Ned Soltz: What’s been catching my eye lately, there’s a lot of this small, but powerful lighting and I’ll mention two brands in particular. I’ve got the whole new Litra kit sitting right here in front of me, as a matter of fact and then there are also new offerings from Lume Cube. These are two very impressive little lights. They’re not very expensive, we’re talking in the $100 range, but, you know, particularly with the Litra, looking at it now, there is a soft box attachment, there’s barn doors, there are diffusers, they have a variable color temperature and intensities and the light is very true. It’s excellent and very high lumen. These are impressive little lights.
Larry Jordan: Now, there were two companies you mentioned; which were the company names again?
Ned Soltz: Litra and Lume Cube.
Larry Jordan: Have you worked with the Lume Cube? I have been getting emails from them about five times a day; so their marketing is aggressive. But I have not yet had a chance to buy any. Have you played with them yet?
Ned Soltz: Yes, I’ve played with them. I would say Litra and Lume Cube are pretty much the same quality of light; they each have their own little looks. The Lume Cube is waterproof and a little more sealed; the Litra just projects its light a little differently. But in practicality, they really are going to be about the same; it’s a matter of just what your own personal preference might be.
Ned Soltz: Both are going to have a maximum life of really a little over an hour; but if you run them at full power, it will be less. There’s USB charging; however, if you have a camera that has a USB output on it, that also provides power, you could power your little lights from that.
Larry Jordan: Well the Lume Cube is the size of a children’s building block, it’s about one inch square. Does it really generate enough light to be able to illuminate anything besides itself?
Ned Soltz: It puts out a lot of light. Both the Litra and the Lume Cube are about the same size. It puts out up to 1500 lumens; but, you know, again, for an on camera light, you’re really not looking to light an auditorium, or light an entire set. This is for fill, or for facial lighting for interviews, or relatively small areas, or documentary, or handheld work. That stops with really any on camera light; I mean, nobody has quite come out with a full HMI 2001 equivalent to hang on your camera.
Larry Jordan: I’d be afraid to turn that one on, I think.
Ned Soltz: That’s right, yes. But seriously, I think, particularly where you have options for these now that range from barn doors to diffusers, with a soft box, for example, these can be very nice interview lights on your camera; if you’re really operating as a solo operator and run and gun and don’t have the luxury of being able to come up with a multiple light set up.
Larry Jordan: What else have you got?
Ned Soltz: Well, there also are, of course, microphones. In the low end of things, inexpensive, that Rode video mike has been around for ages and, you know, it’s a pretty good piece of audio equipment for the money and certainly very useful for mirrorless/DSLR shooters. If you are obviously looking at higher level mikes, of course, those can always be hung onto that camera as well; even with small mixers that you could attach on it.
Ned Soltz: I still have a Sound Device’s MixPre-D; you know, it’s a two mike mixer. It’s a pretty expensive thing, but Sound Devices are not exactly a cheap product; however, you really get what you pay for with it. You can hang a little mixer onto the camera and be able to mix two mikes. I think on camera audio is important.
Ned Soltz: Then, as well, look at a company called Tether Tools. They make all kinds of interesting things, from power adaptors, to something that they call a … cables; particularly if you’re having to deal with HDMI cables coming in and out of your camera, there’s no locking on that whatsoever. Just like the old Firewire cables; we’re old enough to remember Firewire.
Larry Jordan: I’m quite old enough to remember Firewire, thank you very much.
Ned Soltz: The worst of it was that four pin Sony cable, that engineer should have just been thrown off of Mount Fuji for coming up with that. Also, other manufacturers, there are stoppers to be able to secure that cable and a variety of arms and, don’t forget, if you have a wireless mike, to be able to put a holder on that for wireless mikes.
Ned Soltz: This brings me to the fact that, if you are going to be hanging gear on your camera, regardless of mirrorless, DSLR, or a traditional video camera, it’s really a good idea to have a cheese plate; so that you have multiple attachment points for all of these mikes and mounts and arms and everything else that you’re going to be putting on these cameras.
Larry Jordan: What did you call that again?
Ned Soltz: A cheese plate.
Larry Jordan: Why a cheese plate?
Ned Soltz: Well, because it’s got holes like Swiss cheese. We should call it a Swiss cheese plate, or an Emmenthal cheese plate; rather than just a cheese plate. But it’s just something that has all the holes in it and most cameras today have a couple of mounting points on the camera itself, or on the camera handle and it’s always good to have something with multiple mounting points and that could be a cage, or just an add-on on the top of your camera.
Larry Jordan: Just so I understand, because I haven’t worked with cheese plates for a long time. The camera mounts to this piece of aluminum that’s got holes in it and that’s what mounts to the tripod?
Ned Soltz: That piece of aluminum can mount on top of your camera.
Larry Jordan: Oh, on top of your camera?
Ned Soltz: Or it could be, like with the DSLRs and mirrorless particularly, cages are really popular. On those cages, you’re going to have cheese plate like multiple attachment points. Or, for example, in my FS7, I have one where the handle comes off of it, you mount the cheese plate on top, you can mount the handle back on it and you have a number of different mounting points; particularly for articulating arms and things like that, where you’re maybe wanting to mount lights, or attach that wireless mike adaptor.
Larry Jordan: Eric, who’s listening in our live chat, he’s saying that he mounts his with rods to the rear of the camera; just to be able to have more accessories attached.
Ned Soltz: Absolutely, that’s another way of doing it. Particularly if you’re going to be attaching batteries to it as well; that’s another important thing that you’re maybe wanting to attach, is extra batteries.
Larry Jordan: Let’s just get a quick laundry list of the companies you’ve mentioned. You’ve mentioned Lume Cube and you’ve mentioned Tether Tools and who else? 00:25:00:17
Ned Soltz: I’ve mentioned Litra, I’ve mentioned Rode. There certainly are others, in terms of lighting; there’s another lighting company that I want to mention that’s Aladdin. They have this little eye light that’s inexpensive, but really just a great thing to have on the camera and they have a few other camera mounts. What I find is, a bargain isn’t a bargain if you don’t get acceptable results out of it; so I don’t necessarily look for the least expensive of products, particularly in lighting. Although LEDs are getting better, you still have to watch for color discrepancies and color fidelity and CRI and other things that measure the fidelity of your color.
Larry Jordan: You make a good point, saving money and ruining a scene is not a cost effective way to save money.
Ned Soltz: Exactly. One of the things that I really try to advise people, when they ask me about cameras and gear and getting starting is really, the camera is probably almost the smallest part of your investment. It’s the lighting, it’s the audio, it’s what you hang onto that camera and then, as we can transition to the other important thing, is what you hang that camera onto.
Larry Jordan: That will have to have a longer conversation about in the future. For people that want to keep track of what you’re thinking and where you’re writing, where can they go on the web?
Ned Soltz: The best place to find me these days is redsharknews.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, redsharknews.com and Ned Soltz is a Contributing Editor to Red Shark News and, Ned, thanks for joining us today.
Ned Soltz: Thanks for having me Larry and see you at NAB.
Larry Jordan: Take care, we’ll absolutely see you at NAB. Bye-bye.
Larry Jordan: As Director of Business Development for BeBop Technology, Michael Kammes leverages his experience with creative technology and tools providers, to accelerate growth and provide strategic perspective across marketing, sales and partnerships. Best of all, he’s a frequent and welcome contributor to the Buzz. Hello Michael, welcome back.
Michael Kammes: Good to hear your voice Larry, thank you very much.
Larry Jordan: You know, this move to BeBop is relatively new; how’s it going?
Michael Kammes: I tell you, some days you feel like a rock star and other days you feel like the guy who’s cleaning up after the rock stars. What’s very interesting is that, over the course of my career, it’s been about getting a faster horse; right, more horsepower, faster storage, just incrementally make things better. Even moving from tape to tapeless was an incremental step; now that I’m working at BeBop and everything is based around Cloud methodologies, it’s no longer trying to get a faster horse, it’s introducing people to Teslas and cars; it’s a complete different way of thinking.
Larry Jordan: That’s what I want to talk about; because, this week, we’re looking about interesting ideas that have caught our attention. What’s an interesting idea that’s occurred to you?
Michael Kammes: In retrospect, it almost seems like, why didn’t I think of this earlier? You know, in post-production especially, we’ve been relegated to the technology that is on our desktop, or on the floor next to our desk, or in a machine room that’s down the hall. It’s very rare that we leverage the power of data centers around the world to do a lot of the heavy lifting that we’re still relying on our local machines for.
Larry Jordan: But, when you say heavy lifting, a data center is essentially a server that’s located somewhere other than our site; but a server’s being shared by multiple users. How does moving to a server help us, because, now we’re time sharing?
Michael Kammes: That’s a great way of looking at it and I’ll address the second part first. When you’re dealing with data centers, yes, it’s brokered time; but the work that you may need to do may not require you to have that investment of that $9,000 Mac Pro. You may be able to get by with paying a few dollars for compute time and then be done with it. There is something to be said for the financials of something like that.
Michael Kammes: The other angle is that, when we look at these data centers, the machines that are in data centers are far faster than just about anything any of us are going to have on our desktop, or again, even in our machine room. By leveraging the power of these machines, whether they’re shared or not, to render faster, to export faster, to playback in real time what our local machine can’t and to use the bandwidth that these data centers already have to the internet at large. There’s no reason we shouldn’t offload all of those responsibilities to data centers, instead of relying on what we have at home, or at work.
Larry Jordan: I want to bypass the first mile, last mile speed challenge; instead, I want to look at the workflow concept. Is our workflow the same if we’re editing using locally attached storage, versus editing versus the Cloud?
Michael Kammes: That’s a great question and I think, when folks try and look at using the Cloud, the first immediate knee jerk reaction is to use one of the great sites like Frame IO and even YouTube, to some extent; where it’s the last mile for the review and approve process. That’s a fantastic way of using the Cloud, but that only augments what you’re doing on Prem. You’re still following the workflow you’ve been using for years.
Michael Kammes: When we start introducing the Cloud into post-production workflows, we have to look at, well, do we want to push high resolution media up to the Cloud and edit with that? Sure it will take longer, but the machines up in the Cloud can handle it faster, can render it faster and then you can deliver from the Cloud, as opposed to bringing the media back down to wherever you’re working and push it out from there.
Larry Jordan: It sounds to me that, a good alternative would be a proxy workflow; store the high resolution media locally, feed proxies to the Cloud and use the power of the Cloud for proxy editing.
Michael Kammes: You’re completely right. If you want to cut down on the time it takes to upload, you can certainly utilize proxies and then you can localize the project file and reconnect to the high resolution. In that case, then it falls somewhat into our more traditional offline and online process. However, if you’re uploading proxies, you now are stuck with what proxies are in the Cloud; which means, you always have to localize.
Michael Kammes: We also look at things like disaster recovery and just simple backups. If you’re working on Prem and your non rated drive goes down, or your SAN, a drive goes dead, unless you’ve got back-up somewhere, you’re in a really, really tough spot. If you’re working in the Cloud, traditionally, there’s snapshotting, there’s back-ups, there’s what they call five nines uptime, or 99.999% uptime. While there is a longer upload time with media, you have all these fringe benefits, including disaster recovery already in the Cloud.
Larry Jordan: Should I mention last week’s Facebook’s outage of multiple hours, in terms of 99999 reliability?
Michael Kammes: I believe that, for Facebook, it wasn’t for where media is usually stored, internetable fashion, like Amazon, or Google, or Microsoft.
Larry Jordan: Alright, well I won’t mention it then. Where do you see the best use of the Cloud? Is it really the editorial process? Is it more in review and approval? Is it more in distribution? I mean, do we really have to commit our entire workflow to the Cloud, or can we pick and choose?
Michael Kammes: You can certainly pick and choose and you can certainly have hybrid workflows; because the Cloud, as you pointed out, isn’t perfect in every aspect. For example, if you want to grade something on a server in a data center, if you’re doing high end grading, you’re going to need something that can transmit that from a data center in real time and, right now, that’s only in theoretical deployments. It’s not something that we can just turn on and it just works. There has to be some concessions somewhere.
Larry Jordan: What’s the best option? If we’re nervous about the Cloud, where should we start dipping our toe in the water?
Michael Kammes: I think a lot of folks will dip their toes in the Cloud water by saying, okay, maybe I’ll use TeamViewer, or maybe I’ll use Remote Desktop, or maybe I’ll use any of these free, or almost free apps for my media workflow. I think what most people have to realize is that, many of these tools are not meant for the niche media and entertainment industry; so it’s important to find Cloud tools that are optimized for media and entertainment and then exploit those, as opposed to trying to fit a square peg in a round whole.
Larry Jordan: What are some tasks that the Cloud is eminently suited for?
Michael Kammes: That’s a good question Larry. Workflows are a lot like dominoes, or houses of cards. If you move one, then you may move all of them and that can be disastrous. If you’re looking for something that the Cloud can do well, that isn’t a big change or burden to what you’re doing now, then review and approve. I think a lot of services have already done that. I’ve already mentioned Frame IO, among a handful of others that are already doing this to facilitate that review and approve process.
Michael Kammes: However, if you look at data centers, they have more horsepower than you could ever have; so their best job is for the rendering and is for the exporting of media. The problem with that is, for you to utilize rendering in the Cloud, you have to have a good chunk of media up there as well, or some kind of proprietary application, which can render in the Cloud and then localize those results, without too much impact to your workflow. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of services out there that can do that for creative editorial.
Larry Jordan: You’ve been involved in workflow since you and I first met many, many years ago and now you’re really working for a company which is focused on Cloud services. What is it about the Cloud that most excites you?
Michael Kammes: The fact that it’s brand new and when I say brand new, I mean, brand new for the media and entertainment industry. If we look, at some of the leaders in our industry, in terms of creative software, we look at things like Avid, right? Their Cloud offering is just beginning. If we look at companies like Apple, in terms of creative editorial, they’re not even doing a lot that’s public, I should say. Then we look at Adobe, who has been dipping their toe in the Cloud for years, but still doesn’t have a complete Cloud solution.
Michael Kammes: It’s very exciting to see these tools that I’ve worked with for decades, that drive our creative industry in terms of technology and for them not to have a solution, that means it’s new technology and I’m uber excited to see where it goes.
Larry Jordan: Are you really that hopeful about media and the Cloud?
Michael Kammes: I am. My biggest concern is that, we’re too early. My concern is that, the bandwidth that we’re afforded here in the US will not increase significantly enough to make this viable. But the tech is there, the tech works, I really feel it’s going to be the future; just whether we’re too early.
Larry Jordan: Michael, for people that want to keep track of what you’re thinking and doing, where can they go on the web?
Michael Kammes: Thank you for yours Larry, take care.
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 resources, presenting news, reviews and products for the film and video industry. DoddleNEWS also offers a resource guide and crew management platform, specifically designed for production. These digital call sheets, along with their app, directory and premium listings, provide in-depth organizational tools for busy production professionals.
Larry Jordan: DoddleNEWS is a part of the Thalo Arts community, a worldwide community of artists, filmmakers and storytellers. From photography to filmmaking, performing arts to fine arts and everything in between, Thalo is filled with the 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: Philip Hodgetts is recognized as a leading technologist, as well as the CEO of Lumberjack System. Even better, he’s a regular here on the Buzz, where, to my eternal gratitude, he spealizes in explaining new technology. Hello Philip, welcome back.
Philip Hodgetts: Hello Larry.
Larry Jordan: Philip, this week we’re talking about interesting ideas that caught our attention. What’s caught yours?
Philip Hodgetts: What I’ve found really caught my attention lately was this documentary series from a company called Wistia out of Boston. The documentary series has the premise that, if we took the same general idea, a 90 second promotional piece for Wistia software and we did it for a $1,000 budget, we did it for a $10,000 budget and we did it for a $100,000 budget, how would that look different at the end and how would the process be different? I’ve always found this intersection of budget and quality very interesting; particularly in an era where, within ten feet of me, I probably have six HD cameras that would have been of a quality I would have died for in the early part of my career.
Larry Jordan: Well, Wistia is an online company that creates video software for growing businesses. What was their ad about?
Philip Hodgetts: Their ad is about one of their pieces of software called Soapbox; which is a Google Chrome plug-in; so that you can record both the computers, camera and the screen at the same time and then in the Soapbox software, you can lay out how you want those to go, whether you want to be on screen, whether you want the screen, or some combination to go together. This is the piece of the software that all three promotional pieces reference this software. They kind of build on each other, the three pieces, but they’re all still a Soapbox promotional piece.
Larry Jordan: Tell me what they did. $1,000 for the production and post, $10,000 and $100,000. What did they do for $1,000?
Philip Hodgetts: Well, each one was shot in a day and they were all done by Sandwich Video; so the same creative company did all three promotional pieces. For $1,000 you get one person for one day, you get an iPhone taped to the computer, you get shooting in carefully chosen but available light and some very, very basic hand cut out paper graphics to carry the message.
Larry Jordan: In other words, it looked really cheesy and cheap?
Philip Hodgetts: Well, no it didn’t, they actually managed to give it a fairly decent look. It didn’t look cheesy and cheap, but when you see it in context of the higher budget pieces later, you really see its deficiencies. But standing by itself, it doesn’t feel like it’s been doing incredibly cheaply. It’s certainly been done on a low budget, but it doesn’t feel cheap.
Larry Jordan: Alright, let’s move up to the $10,000 version. What are the differences between that and the 1K version?
Philip Hodgetts: The same Director, the person who was the solo person in the first one; but we get now a Director and a crew of nine people in total. We get a little bit classier camera, which is a Canon C300 and we get a lighting kit and somebody to look after the lighting and somebody to do professional audio. We do a little bit of lighting, but we don’t do much set decoration, we do a bit of basic clothing and makeup and a lot of lighting and that’s what you get for $10,000.
Larry Jordan: So the 1K is working with available light, the 10K is working with more people, better audio and better lighting?
Philip Hodgetts: That’s pretty much it, better camera gear all round and more people to have creative input. Of course, when you get to $100,000, you get a lot more people. I think the crew on that one was about 30 people in total and in that one, they completely rearranged the office, they had a Set Designer in to reposition everything. The artworks on the wall were all specially created for the promotional piece, they hired actors to play the same people that were in the second piece; which were the employees of Sandwich Video.
Philip Hodgetts: They had a lot higher quality graphics, higher quality lighting. They completely blacked the place out and controlled every bit of the lighting and some really classy graphics. You got custom written music, not library music; all the polish that you can possibly want and you had an Arri Alexa for the camera; with some very nice primes.
Larry Jordan: Clearly, the production quality of each of these improved from the low budget, to the middle, to the high; but what about the message? How did the message feel to you?
Philip Hodgetts: I think, in every case, the message was really creatively done and I want to really emphasize that the budget doesn’t affect the story or the ability to communicate. All three pieces were effective, they were entertaining for the 90 seconds that they were to be watched. They just got more and more polished, I think is the way you’d say it; more and more attention to detail, more people involved, more people in and around the frame, more control over that and more creative input from more people. The downside of that is lack of constraints.
Larry Jordan: Well you run your own company Philip, let’s pretend that you had the money to afford all three of these and you were trying to make the decision of how to promote your own software; which is Lumberjack System. Given what you’ve seen with these three documentaries, where would you spend your money?
Philip Hodgetts: I would try and go to the $1,000 budget, but I think realistically, if you want to do something that does carry a message of a quality company, then I think then the $10,000 budget price point is the sweet point for me and it’s pretty much what the three in-house video guys from Wistia came to as well. The $10,000 gave them polish and it gave them a look that they didn’t otherwise get and that they didn’t get in their own productions, but that the $100,000 gave you, which is ten times more; so you could do ten productions at the 10K level for what the $100,000 production cost. It created a lot of polish and a lot of gloss, but they didn’t feel that it provided the best bang for buck and I think I feel the same way.
Larry Jordan: Let’s take a global look at this, just for a second. Wouldn’t that be a contributing factor to why budgets are decreasing; because we can get so much good video quality and good audio for smaller budgets?
Philip Hodgetts: Yes, it was interesting to see that, you know, although the quality of the camera went up, the actual additional daily rental on a C300 versus an Arri Alexa and the extra primes wasn’t a significant part of the increased budget. The increased budget went on set design, it went on costume, it went on casting and paying actors, it went on a lot more lighting and a lot bigger crew. It didn’t necessarily go on better image quality; I think they got more out of the professional grade of the video than they got out of the Alexa over the C300. I think, if they’d put the same money into grading the C300, we would have got a lot closer.
Larry Jordan: What’s your takeaway, as you look at these three? What’s the lesson that we can learn from this?
Philip Hodgetts: The two lessons that we can learn from this is that, one, story still counts over the technology; always and hopefully always will. But the second was that, a lack of constraints actually was considered to be a hindrance to the creative message, rather than a help. The fact that, you know, when you went from $10-100,000 budget you just jumped in so many more possibilities; you could do all these crazy things that maybe don’t always enhance the story. Maybe superhero movies could learn a less from that as well.
Larry Jordan: One of the things I was impressed with, with Claude, who’s the Director and was the actor for the $1,000 is he said, when you’re doing a $1,000 commercial, what you’re doing is, you’re getting rid of everything that doesn’t relate to your message and it really helps to focus you on what is the most important thing you want the audience to learn? He found it creatively challenging, because, one of the quotes that he had, that I saw, that I liked a lot was the fact, he didn’t think you could shoot a video for less than $10,000 and so he took the $1,000 video just as a personal challenge. He said, what it did is, it focused so much of my attention down to what’s the essential. To me, it strikes me as your point, it gets down to what’s the real story you’re trying to tell?
Philip Hodgetts: Yes and the budget doesn’t really impact that as much as you would think it does. The effectiveness of it, having to focus on getting the most succinct message you can, with the least amount of investment, is always a challenge. I think we all grow creatively when we’re fleeced into these corners of having to deal with limitations. I think, the worst thing for creativity is to have no limitations.
Larry Jordan: I send nasty emails off to companies that say remove all the boundaries. Unlimited creativity is about the worst thing you can say to an artist, because now, there’s so many options they don’t even know where to start.
Philip Hodgetts: Can’t even chase down all the creative opportunities they want to; they suddenly have even more to chase down. It’s like, oh no, don’t do that to me. Give me constraints, give me limitations; ‘because I will thrive within them.
Larry Jordan: That’s the truth. Philip, where’s the website people can go to watch these videos?
Philip Hodgetts: It’s at wistia.com and click the series link and go down to one, ten, 100.
Larry Jordan: That website is wistia.com. There’s a button at the top that says video series, click that and they’re talking about their product called Soapbox. Philip, for people that want to keep track of the things that you’re doing, where can they go on the web?
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, lumberjacksystem and Philip Hodgetts is the CEO of Lumberjack System and, Philip, we’ll talk to you in a couple of weeks and figure out what’s going to happen at NAB. Thank you so much for your time today.
Philip Hodgetts: Looking forward to it. Thanks Larry.
Larry Jordan: All of us at the Buzz were shocked at the news this week of the passing of Normal Holland. Norman was a frequent contributor to The Buzz; a Professor at USC, a Film and Music Editor and an Invetorate Lecturer at schools around the world. But most of all, he was a good friend.
Larry Jordan: I first met Norman in the Summer of 2008; he invited me to lunch and, as we sat down he said, you know, we should work together? From that initial conversation came 2 Reel Guys; a 32 part web series that Norman wrote and we both hosted; teaching the basics of filmmaking. The series took four years to fund, develop and produce and every few months I’d find myself sitting at Norman’s dining room table, collaborating on scripts for the next series of shows.
Larry Jordan: What these dining room table sessions became, really, was a masterclass in filmmaking. I focused on technology, but Norman focused on story and, over the years, I realized just how correct Norman was. Normal really loved teaching; he taught his students, he taught our audience and, most of all, he taught me. He taught us to tell stories, because he was such a great storyteller himself.
Larry Jordan: Over the years, I invited Norman to guest lecture for my classes; I took more notes than my students and shamelessly stole his ideas for future lectures. He’s been on the Buzz 14 times, the most recent being last November.
Larry Jordan: In the tributes I’ve read to Norman over the last few days, they mentioned is skills as an Editor and he was very skilled with feature films to his credit. His lectures at schools and universities across the globe and he was teaching in Tokyo when he died. But it was his all-encompassing warmth that I remember the most; his kindness in answering questions, his gentleness working with students, or the crew during long days of shooting and his sense of humor. He had a career to be proud of, but he never took himself that seriously.
Larry Jordan: To his wife Janet and Daughter Elizabeth, I send my deepest sympathy. Norman was unique and he will be deeply missed. If you want to see Norman in action, watch any episode on www.2reelguys.com; you’ll see a true master talking about a subject that he deeply loves, filmmaking. I still hear his voice echoing in my head; it is always about the story. Norman, it was an honor working with you.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests this week. Jennifer Soulé with OWC; Ned Soltz with Red Shark News; Michael Kammes with BeBop Technology; Philip Hodgetts with Lumberjack System; and James DeRuvo with doddleNEWS. 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 and remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter, that comes out every Saturday. Talk with us on Twitter @DPBuZZ and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com.
Larry Jordan: Our theme music is composed by Nathan Dugi-Turner, with additional music provided by smartsound.com. Our Producer is Debbie Price. My name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to the Digital Production Buzz.