Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor Reporter, TroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter
Ross Shain, Chief Product Officer, Mocha from Boris FX
Joseph Nilo, Head of Training, FxFactory
William Goldenberg, ACE
James DeRuvo, Editor-in-Chief, doddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight on the Buzz, we have an in depth conversation with Oscar winning editor William Goldenberg, a look at new trends in visual effects, and an update on how the Writer’s Guild managed to make just about everyone in Hollywood angry.
Larry Jordan: We start with Jonathan Handel, contributing editor on entertainment labor issues, for the Hollywood Reporter. Last week a secret Writers Guild meeting managed to anger just about everyone associated with writers in Hollywood. Tonight, Jonathan explains why.
Larry Jordan: Ross Shain is the chief product officer of Mocha for Boris FX. Tonight he shares his thoughts on new trends and technology in effects that he’s expecting next month at the NAB show.
Larry Jordan: Joseph Nilo is head of training for FxFactory. Tonight he explains how he creates a compelling demo for new effects software, FxFactory’s new YouTube channel and key trends in effects that he’s looking to see at NAB next month.
Larry Jordan: William Goldenberg won the Academy Award, BAFTA and ACE awards for film editing with Ben Affleck’s best picture winner, Argo, plus Oscar nominations for editing ‘The Imitation Game,’ ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ ‘Seabiscuit,’ and ‘The Insider.’ Tonight, as part of NAB insight, William Goldenberg shares his thoughts on editing.
Larry Jordan: All this, plus, James DeRuvo with our weekly doddleNEWS update. The Buzz starts now.
Announcer: Since the dawn of digital filmmaking, Authoritative: One show serves a worldwide network of media professionals. Current: Uniting industry experts. Production: Filmmakers. Post-production: And content creators around the planet. Distribution: From the media capital of the world, in Los Angeles, California, the Digital Production Buzz goes live now.
Larry Jordan: Welcome to the Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for the creative content industry, covering media production, post-production and marketing around the world.
Larry Jordan: Hi, my name is Larry Jordan. When we were first planning this show, we wanted to devote all our time to talking about current trends and technology in effects as part of our lead up to the NAB show in April. But then, life intervened. The Writers Guild is threatening major upheaval for television and feature film writers that looks to reverberate through the entire industry starting April 7th. So we needed to make room for Jonathan Handel to explain what’s going on. Then, we had a great opportunity to chat with Oscar winning film editor William Goldenberg about his philosophy of editing, along with a preview of his upcoming keynote, on the future of cinema at NAB. So we needed to make room for him as well. Still, our conversations with Ross Shain and Joseph Nilo about effects are fascinating, especially when Ross starts talking about new technology that is making holograms real. This will be a fascinating show.
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.
Larry Jordan: And now it’s time for our weekly doddleNEWS update with James DeRuvo. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Happy Thursday Larry.
Larry Jordan: And a wonderful Thursday and five weeks to go until NAB.
James DeRuvo: Five weeks. My feet are already hurting.
Larry Jordan: So James, what’s the news?
James DeRuvo: Before I begin, I want to encourage every content creator and filmmaker who listens to the Buzz to go and see the documentary ‘Apollo 11’ in IMAX. Created with over 700 hours of never before seen 70 millimeter documentary footage, this film is simply stunning. A time machine that captures the excitement of that historic space mission and trust me Larry, on IMAX, I’m serious, it’s like you’re there. It’s amazing. It’s probably one of the best documentaries ever made.
Larry Jordan: Alright, well we’ve now got ‘Apollo 11’ the documentary on our list of things to see. What’s on your list of news?
James DeRuvo: USB4 has come out of nowhere with Thunderbolt 3 speeds of up to 40 gigabits per second. But only with USB4 certified cables. It’ll also be USB3 backwards compatible.
Larry Jordan: How does this announcement fit in with current versions of USB?
James DeRuvo: With all the confusion surrounding the renaming of the USB3 spec, now USB4 comes, it makes me wonder why did the USB international forum even bother to rename USB3? Some think that USB4 is merely Thunderbolt 3 gone open source with speeds that are nearly identical to the spec, these speeds are only capable however, through USB4 certified cables and we probably won’t see it hit the market for about 18 months or so. Plenty of time for Thunderbolt 4 to arrive, if it ever does.
Larry Jordan: It’s finally good news that USB is getting faster, and now we have yet another new name, USB4. What’s next?
James DeRuvo: Blackmagic has announced their Generation 2 URSA Mini Pro. This second generation 4.6K image sensor has the generation four Blackmagic Design color science, shoots up to 150 frames per second in 4K, using Blackmagic RAW, and 300 frames per second in HD in Blackmagic RAW. It’ll have 15 stops of dynamic range, which seems to be the ceiling at the moment for dynamic range and Blackmagic has also made Blackmagic RAW available for the pocket cinema camera 4K through this cinema camera 6.2 update.
Larry Jordan: Well, wait a minute. Doesn’t Blackmagic normally announce new products at NAB in the spring, and IBC in the fall?
James DeRuvo: Well normally they do, but Blackmagic last year shifted its major hardware announcements away from NAB in favor of their own web cache showcase. I find that interesting and while this appears to be a completely redesigned camera from the ground up, the URSA Mini Pro gen 2 maintains the same ergonomic casing and lightweight footprint. Price is 59.95 and Grant Petty hinted that generation ones are likely to get a price cut until their stocks deplete, since the generation two is going to completely replace it. But I’m really excited about Blackmagic RAW coming to the pocket cinema camera 4K which is already turning heads for its impressive image quality and some calling it the best entry level cinema camera on the market.
Larry Jordan: OK, that’s Blackmagic Design, what’s our third story this week?
James DeRuvo: I’m talking to you on the RODECaster Pro podcaster mixing board and they’re getting through a firmware update multichannel recording via USB output of up to 14 tracks using your computer recording software.
Larry Jordan: Why is this update so interesting to you?
James DeRuvo: Content creators are more than just video makers, and filmmakers these days. They have podcasts, they have live broadcasts, they have all these different things to reach their audience and the RODECaster Pro is really the must have mixing board for podcasting and live audio mixing. For under $700, you just can’t beat all you can do with it.
Larry Jordan: Good to know. What other stories are you and your team working on this week?
James DeRuvo: Other stories we’re following, Frame.io is now SOC type 2 compliant for greater online security. YouTube disables comments on videos featuring children due to advertiser concerns, and Compact Flash Express will likely take over the XQD market thanks to firmware updates from Nikon and Sony. It now seems genius that Nikon’s stuck with the XQD format in their Z series mirrorless cameras when everybody thought they were crazy.
Larry Jordan: Amazing what hindsight can do.
James DeRuvo: Indeed.
Larry Jordan: James, where can we go on the web to find these and all the other stories you and your team are working on?
James DeRuvo: All these stories and more can be found at doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the editor in chief of doddlenews.com and joins us every week. James, we’ll see you next Thursday.
James DeRuvo: See you next week.
Larry Jordan: Turning to other news, it’s time for Jonathan Handel. He’s an entertainment and technology attorney of counsel at Troy Gould in Los Angeles. He’s also the contributing editor on entertainment labor issues for the Hollywood Reporter, which is why we’re chatting with Jonathan today. Hello Jonathan, welcome back.
Jonathan Handel: Larry, thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, let’s get right into it. What’s happening with the Writers Guild?
Jonathan Handel: The Writers Guild is trying to change the rules that apply to talent agents. The Guild, like the state of California and the state of New York, regulate talent agents. Each of the unions has a set of rules called an Agency Agreement or a Franchise Agreement, there are various names for it. Almost a year ago, the Writers Guild signed a one year notice of termination so the existing rules expire April 6th. On April 7th, the Writers Guild is likely to impose new rules, unilaterally, and that’s something that the talent agencies are very uncomfortable with, to put it mildly.
Larry Jordan: Well why does the Writers Guild want to make changes in the first place?
Jonathan Handel: There are three reasons. One of them is a basic question of power. We think of the talent agencies and the guilds as both being very powerful. They both serve an overlapping constituency of writers in this case, and they have their own separate functions, Writers Guild negotiates the basic union agreement, the basic wages and so forth. The talent agents negotiates wages above that for people who have more power and more standing in the industry. So two organizations, one overlapping constituency. That’s the way it works in practice.
Jonathan Handel: But the Guild says, as a matter of very basic power, unions have the exclusive right to represent the unionized workers, in this case the writers, and therefore any power that the agents have, notwithstanding the fact that they have these beautiful expensive buildings and lots of money, any power that the agents have derives from us, the union, and we’re going to dial it back. Now that’s number one.
Jonathan Handel: The next two are two specific practices that the agents engage in that the Guilds don’t like. One of them is called packaging. There are two aspects to packaging, one is you take a script, you bring your agent a script, the agent says it’s great, and “This would be great for George Clooney, who just happens to be a client of our agency as well, so we’re going to package the script with George Clooney. We’re going to see if Clooney likes the script and if so we’re going to go out to the marketplace with Clooney plus the script packaged together and find a studio that wants to buy this as a movie, or as a TV series or whatever the project is.”
Jonathan Handel: Now that’s fine, but what the Guild objects to is the payment process that works in conjunction with that. You may think that agents get ten percent of what their clients make. In general, especially the big agencies, that’s not it at all. They don’t take anything from what the clients make. Let’s suppose this Clooney plus Jonathan Handel script pilot, television series actually gets picked up by a studio. Are they going to take ten percent of what they negotiate for me and ten percent of Clooney’s fee? They’re not. They’re going to take what’s called a packaging fee from the studio itself, not paid by the clients, paid by the studio. And the way that packaging fee is calculated is complicated, we don’t have to get into it, but the Writers Guild says, that reduces their incentive to maximize the money that comes to Clooney and Handel. And in fact notwithstanding the fact that Handel created this television series to begin with and it turns out to be a really successful series, sometimes the agency makes more money than the creator himself, or herself. We don’t like that.
Jonathan Handel: Finally, a newer practice called affiliated production. The talent agencies, the big three, which is WME, William Morris Endeavor, CAA, and UTA have all set up affiliated companies that actually substitute for studios and are buyers themselves and do production or production type activities. You’re not forced to take your project to them, they are an additional choice in the marketplace. But the Writers Guild says that that’s inherently conflicted. That if your agent is also at least even indirectly your employer, you don’t have an agent to begin with. Now the irony is that one of the people who’s in business with Endeavor Content, the WME affiliated entity, is none other than Beau Willimon who’s the president of the Writers Guild East. So while the Writers Guild East is taking this very strong stand against affiliated production, Beau Willimon is actually availing himself of it because he got a better deal with Endeavor Content than was available from Universal and Disney and whoever else.
Larry Jordan: So what happened last week where all this blew up?
Jonathan Handel: We’ve been ticking down of course to April 7th and last week the Writers Guild met with managers to try to enlist them in their fight against agents, and they met with entertainment lawyers. The meetings, particularly the meeting with managers, did not go well. The meeting with managers was described in terms that we won’t repeat on a family show, but it involved four letter words by managers involved, and what the managers and lawyers both told me, and I interviewed a total of over ten of them, was that the Writers Guild didn’t seem to have the vaguest idea how the industry really works. They didn’t seem to have a plan, they were going to blow things up in a way that would make things worse for writers. That this was cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face in the words of one entertainment lawyer, and that the results were going to be disastrous. Talent agencies are not going to sign on to the new rules the Writers Guild intends to impose April 7th, and writers are going to be forced by Writers Guild rules to therefore leave their agents because you can’t stay with an agent who hasn’t signed the current rules.
Jonathan Handel: The current rules right now were negotiated jointly between the agencies and the Writers Guild, but as of April 7th the rules will be rules that the Writers Guild imposes unilaterally, assuming that the union membership approves what the union leadership is doing. There’s going to be a vote on March 25th, but the leadership will get their vote, they’ll get it in the 90s. The union leaderships almost always do. So we’re headed towards what’s likely, although the Writers Guild says they’re not going to compromise on these issues, I think it’s likely to be federal court litigation on April 7th and very unstable and uncertain situation potentially.
Jonathan Handel: Everyone involved, except the Writers Guild, is predicting utter chaos. The idea that a sort of open submission process with notices on the Writers Guild website coupled with managers and entertainment attorneys and people leaving their agents, the idea that that’s going to substitute for the existing process which is driven largely by agents, does not seem to be something that people are comfortable with in the least.
Larry Jordan: It sounds like we’ve got a recipe for a disaster coming up in about a month?
Jonathan Handel: Potentially so. The Writers Guild is absolutely adamant, the agencies are adamant, there have been a couple of meetings between the two sides, but I would say no real negotiations. It was more talking past each other. There are no meetings scheduled. I don’t think there will be any meetings until after this March 25th vote, at which point the Writers Guild will be even more firm in its position that they’re not going to compromise. The Writers Guild says these are issues of principle, this is conflict of interest, you don’t compromise on principle. But the reality is, the issue of packaging fees could be resolved quite easily in a certain sense, it’s an issue of money, by compromising and saying in instances where shows succeed beyond wildest dreams, and perhaps an agency is making a lot more potentially than the writers are, rare cases where that happens, you share some of the excess above a certain threshold with the writers.
Jonathan Handel: I mean, it’s about money. Money is compromisable. Money is as lawyers like to say, fungible. It’s something that, there’s more for me, there’s less for you, there’s more for you, there’s less for me, somewhere in between you find a compromise point. It’s not like the Hollywood Ten and refusing to testify before a malignant Congress. But the Writers Guild has taken a very strong position on this and their position on the basis issue of power, of do these talent agencies which in the real world today have an independent existence, and enormous amounts of money and power and stature, do they in fact exist just at the sufferance of the Guild and have only so much power as the Guild deigns to give them? That in many ways is the most difficult to compromise issue of all.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, we’re going to have to keep an eye on this in the coming weeks. For people that want to follow your writing on this, where can they go on the web?
Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is the contributing editor on entertainment labor issues for the Hollywood Reporter as well as of counsel at Troy Gould. Jonathan, thanks for joining us today.
Jonathan Handel: Thanks very much.
Announcer: 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 trade show 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: Ross Shain is an accomplished visual effects industry veteran, and the chief product officer of Mocha, with Boris FX. In 2013 something I had forgotten, Ross was recognized by the Academy of Motion Pictures with a science and engineering academy award for his and his team’s work on the design of Mocha Pro planar tracking software. Mocha’s tools have recently been used in ‘Green Book’ which won Best Picture, and ‘First Man’ which won Best Visual Effects. Hello Ross, welcome back.
Ross Shain: Hey Larry, thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: To get us started, how would you describe Mocha?
Ross Shain: Mocha is a motion tracking software that we have been developing for over 15 years. We use the software to analyze the movement of pixels. Mocha has a very powerful tracking engine that could be used to track graphics to video, could be used to remove objects, to stabilize objects. It’s used for lots of core foundations in visual effects and post.
Larry Jordan: Well I’ve heard the term planar tracker from you especially but what makes a planar tracker different from just simply setting a few tracking points?
Ross Shain: Basically tracking is based on analyzing pixels and a standard point tracker is going to only be looking at a very small area of pixels and when those pixels go out of focus or if the light changes, or if there’s a motion blur, or if someone’s hand swipes across of that area that will break a point tracker, whereas the planar tracker’s using a user defined area to track pixel patterns as opposed to just individual pixels. What this means is that we can track things that go out of focus or track things that are very difficult to track, and from our perspective as a team, we’ve always just looked to make the process simplified so that an editor of a beginning artist could solve some pretty difficult tasks.
Larry Jordan: Give me some examples and we’ll allow you to brag. How was Mocha used in say ‘Green Book’ or ‘First Man?’
Ross Shain: Yes, I can talk a little bit about ‘Green Book’ specifically because we actually featured Victor DiMichina who was the visual effects supervisor on our website recently, we interviewed him. This is actually very cool because the main actor who won Best Supporting Actor this year, his character is a virtuoso piano player so they actually used Mocha and some visual effects ingenuity to replace the actor’s head onto a stunt piano playing double. What they did in ‘Green Book’ was really interesting. There’s lots of scenes where you see the main actor tearing it up, this great piano playing.
Ross Shain: Some of these ideas do take some foresight and it’s the job of the visual effects supervisors to think about how visual effects are planned. So Victor was on set with the director and basically they planned out all the shots where the actor would be playing piano. They brought in a stunt player who’s like a virtuoso player, who had the same build as the actor, and they would dress him up in the actor’s clothing for that scene, and they also would calculate the distance between the actor and the camera, and make sure that the lighting was exactly the right way. Then they would shoot the actor himself just from the head up on a green screen and what happens is they ended up using Mocha to stabilize both shots. So then you have two stabilized shots, you’re going to marry them together using keying and rotoscoping or masking, and then you’re going to basically match the movement so that the head from the green screen shot will be married to the body of the stunt double. They did many shots using this technique in ‘Green Book’ but that’s like an example of how in depth that Mocha could be used.
Larry Jordan: You mentioned one thing that I want to follow up on. You said that one of the reasons the visual effects supervisor was on set is to plan the effect. Many times we view effects as being something we do after all the shooting is done. What do you recommend for planning visual effects?
Ross Shain: That’s a great question and I think that a lot of people hear the term fix it in post, and they might get to an edit session and then the producer or the editor look at each other and say, “Oh we’ll fix it in post and we’ll send that shot to a specialist.” That’s all well and good but actually planning productions is a huge part of visual effects. There are specialist visual effect supervisors that are paid to go on set and work with directors. But this idea does not have to be just high end productions. With some thought into how you shoot, how things are lit, definitely kind of understanding the relationship and the distance between the camera and your object, very important. But also thinking about areas that could be motion tracked. So if you’re shooting something on a green screen, it can be very useful to add markers to the green screen. But definitely thinking about these kind of things is a real important part of the visual effects process.
Larry Jordan: One of the things that I’m excited about is NAB which is our annual trade show, comes up next month and everything seems to change at that show. What are you looking at in terms of technology trends? I’m not interested specifically in product announcements, but technology trends that you’re expecting at NAB?
Ross Shain: The things that I’m interested in seeing this year are volumetric capturing. What is volumetric capture? Just think of it as holograms. As the industry pushes into the VR and AR space, we’re seeing a lot of interest in that hologram aspect, a full 3D capture of performances, and I definitely think that volumetric capture is going to be a buzz at NAB. On the software side, there’s been a lot of talk about AI tools and machine learning assisting post production, so I think you’ll also see that will be a buzz as well.
Larry Jordan: How can you see machine learning help with effects?
Ross Shain: The largest portion of effects really is like isolating objects, tracking, cleaning up. Sometimes it’s resizing, sometimes it’s replacing objects and these kind of things. I think what you’re seeing, even the Adobe Sensei stuff, we’re beginning to see a lot of commercial software developers incorporating AI techniques to assist with repetitive processes, and the idea is that large data sets of video clips, extremely large sets, can actually help an AI or machine learning application understand a lot more about the footage and will eventually be able to be incorporated to help automate some of the tasks that an editor or a visual effects or motion designer does every day. So lots of exciting things.
Larry Jordan: Thinking about exciting news, you guys have already made some exciting news. Late last year you announced new versions of Sapphire, Mocha and Continuum. What’s in the new products?
Ross Shain: So Sapphire is like the flagship plugin package for visual effects artists, motion graphics creators. Boris FX acquired Genarts, I think two and a half years ago. Sapphire has some nice new features, lens flares has been the bread and butter of Sapphire, very popular, and you see it in all the JJ Abrams ‘Star Wars’ type of films. The lens flare designer has been totally revamped. There’s also some new creative effects to do a pixel sorting, current type of look, the modern version of digital damage kind of thing.
Ross Shain: On the Continuum side again, another plugin package that we make that is very popular with Avid and the Premiere communities for editing. We’ve added a revive of an old product called Particle Illusion which is a real time particle generation system, that’s now included in Boris Continuum and this is like very realistic smoke and fires and sparkles that an editor or a motion graphics artist can add to a scene. It’s very easy to learn, and I think that’s the heart of Particle Illusion is that you can just drop on an effect and add some realism without ever going into a 3D application. So that’s a really cool thing.
Ross Shain: And then on the Mocha side, we’ve just continued to improve Mocha for tracking, object removal, 360 VR, for the 360 creators. We’ve improved the rotoscoping tools in Mocha as well. Lots of … came out in the late fall for Boris FX and we’ll be showing those all at NAB.
Larry Jordan: Very cool. For people that want more information about all of the products, that Boris FX has, where can they go on the web?
Ross Shain: Go to BorisFX.com and we have hundreds of video tutorials and product pages and lots of great content for users to explore and as well as download free trials.
Larry Jordan: That website is all one word BorisFX.com and Ross Shain is the chief product officer of Mocha with Boris FX. Ross, thanks for joining us today.
Ross Shain: Always great to talk to you Larry, I appreciate it.
Larry Jordan: After a 20 year career in both audio and video, Joseph Nilo creates tutorial videos, product and software reviews for the FxFactory YouTube channel as their head of training. Hello Joseph, welcome.
Joseph Nilo: Hi, thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: Before we talk about what you do, set the scene. How would you describe FxFactory?
Joseph Nilo: FxFactory is the app store for pro video. It’s a Mac download, and it’s a single download of the app store and what’s loaded up are thousands of visual effects plugins from independent developers and from FxFactory themselves. And they also work in Final Cut Pro, Motion, After Effects, Premiere Pro, and some audio plugins are even trickling in too, Garage Band, Logic Pro, things like that. So it’s just a one stop shop for all sorts of great visual effects.
Larry Jordan: What does the head of training do for an app store?
Joseph Nilo: There are so many products that come out that at least four to eight times a month there’s new products that I create screen cast tutorials for so people can learn more about what’s coming out and get a quick overview as well.
Larry Jordan: Why you? Why not the developer?
Joseph Nilo: From a branding standpoint, it’s good to have one voice. There are some developers that do some of their own tutorials as well, but when it’s all funneled through me there’s good branding and you know what you’re going to get from our two to three minute videos that we put out.
Larry Jordan: I’ve seen many of your demos and many of your training videos, because I keep getting bombarded with FxFactory emails. How do you plan one of your demos? What’s the process you go through?
Joseph Nilo: It moves pretty quickly because there’s so much coming out. I interface with Niclas who is the CEO I think is his title of FxFactory, the grand poobah over there. As new products come out, I get a license and an overview and a bunch of assets from the developer. I work with the developer creating a script and kind of coming up with a real world example on what their plugins might do and then we just turn around a screencast video with a teaser, and examples, and then how to use them and then boom, and out. There’s so many plugins, it’s hard to keep up.
Larry Jordan: You’re talking to filmmakers, what tools do you use to create the demos?
Joseph Nilo: Let’s see, many of their plugins are in Final Cut Pro so we’re creating them right there. I use Screenflow to grab the screen captures. I actually bounce over to Premiere Pro to do a lot of the editing and using After Effects for any of the graphics. And then just on the workflow standpoint, I share editorial responsibilities with my partner in San Francisco, I’m on the east coast, so we work right out of Dropbox. It lends for a quick workflow and we can turn these around, like I said, four to eight videos per month. We can turn them around quickly.
Larry Jordan: Tonight we’re looking ahead to NAB. What technology trends relating to effects are you expecting? What’s going to be hot?
Joseph Nilo: It’s hard to keep up. When I go to NAB, and I walk around on the floor, I’m just as wide eyed as anybody else. From my standpoint, I tend to be excited about the software announcements to see what’s coming from Adobe and Cinema 4D on the software side of things. When it comes to trends, I like to see less and less of visual effects because they become more ingrained in reality if that makes sense. I want to go along for the ride, I want to see a motion captured actor that looks perfect. I want to see graphics on screen and UI that are flawless and just go along for the ride whenever I’m going to see a movie.
Joseph Nilo: On the other side of things, my world is more in the corporate world. When it comes to graphics it’s always changing. I’m seeing more colorful palettes coming out, I’m seeing these retro 2D animations are very big right now. Maybe a mix with those 2D graphics, a mix of the actual 3D elements as well so it’s hard to keep up. I watch as many movies as I can and when I can see commercials, which I don’t as much anymore, I’m blown away with what’s coming out of Hollywood and New York City and all the big markets.
Larry Jordan: FxFactory also has a YouTube channel. What’s your role with that?
Joseph Nilo: For many years now, I’ve had a look back, and I’ve been doing videos for FxFactory since 2008.
Larry Jordan: Oh my goodness.
Joseph Nilo: I’ve done one million videos at this point, I have no idea. It’s been going and going and it’s fun too. I was telling Niclas the other day if this were accounting software, I would be way less excited, but because I’m a video professional, I get all the new plugins, and I get to play with them, and create videos for them. But what we’re trying to do with the YouTube channel is make it more of a pro video portal, so it’s not just pushing their products all the time. Whatever I can think of showing my different workflow stuff, bigger or more specific subject matter like how to do a proper green screen, or how to stack a bunch of plugins on 3D animations to make them more realistic, or color correction. So there’s more of interest to different people not just do the FxFactory plugins.
Larry Jordan: As you look at the plugins that are being developed by developers, does it go in waves? Are you seeing that some things are popular at one time, and other things are popular at another? And if so, what’s a hot wave right now?
Joseph Nilo: The big wave right now is there’s a lot going on in the Final Cut Pro world. I do probably 80 percent of my work in Premiere Pro but I end up jumping over to Final Cut Pro just to use these FxFactory plugins. What I’m seeing are a lot of text animations and infographics and pre professionally animated elements that you can create for the corporate environment or for social media videos, things like that. So there’s just tons of stuff coming out there that makes the professional video editor’s job a lot easier, and creates just gorgeous graphics that you don’t have to do by hand. Just great looking templates.
Larry Jordan: It’s interesting how social media has totally changed how we approach creating videos, especially for the corporate market. Would you agree?
Joseph Nilo: Yes. You know, you have to roll with it when you’re a professional, so yes, doing things a little bit differently, creating square videos and putting titles and click here and subscribe here. We’re having to do a lot more for our clients for social media, yes.
Larry Jordan: What’s your most interesting plugin over the last few months? What one made you giggle when you saw it?
Joseph Nilo: I giggle all day long, that’s how I am. What I was just saying about the text and some of the pre built animations, there’s a developer called Premium VFX, nice folks out of Brazil, and they make just really gorgeous text animals and infographics and transitions that just add a real dynamic flair to everything and allow you to move, fly your text around. I just think back to when, if you wanted to come up with a gorgeous looking infographic, you would sit down and spend six hours in After Effects, or buy this plugin and it’s been done for you and it’s gorgeous. So any time I can make my job easier, and please the client, that makes me happy. So Premium VFX, they have some great stuff.
Larry Jordan: For people that want to explore the app store of visual effects, where can they go on the web?
Joseph Nilo: Go to fxfactory.com and it’s a free download and you get to try everything out for free.
Larry Jordan: That website is all one word, fxfactory.com and Joseph Nilo is the head of training for FxFactory and Joseph, thanks for joining us today.
Joseph Nilo: Thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: Here’s another website I want to introduce you to. Doddlenews.com. DoddleNEWS gives you a portal into the broadcast, video and film industries. It’s a leading online resource, presenting news, reviews and products for the film and video industry. DoddleNEWS also offers a resource guide and crew management platforms specifically designed for production. These digital call sheets, along with their app, directory and premium listings, provide in depth organizational tools for busy production professionals. DoddleNEWS is a part of the Thalo Arts Community, a worldwide community of artists, filmmakers and storytellers. From photography to filmmaking, performing arts to fine arts, and everything in between, Thalo is filled with resources you need to succeed. Whether you want the latest industry news, need to network with other creative professionals or require state of the art online tools to manage your next project, there’s only one place to go. Doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: For this week’s NAB insight, I want to introduce William Goldenberg. He won the Academy Award, BAFTA and ACE award for film editing with Ben Affleck’s Best Picture winner, ‘Arg’ and received Oscar, BAFTA and ACE nominations for editing ‘The Imitation Game,’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’ He’s also been nominated for an Oscar for film editing with ‘Seabiscuit’ and ‘The Insider.’ Hello William, welcome.
William Goldenberg: Hi, thank you for having me.
Larry Jordan: I could spend an hour just talking with you about the Imitation Game and I rewatch ‘Seabiscuit’ every six months because it’s such a great story that’s well told. So congratulations on your career.
William Goldenberg: Oh thank you, it’s been a fun ride.
Larry Jordan: You’re keynoting the upcoming future of cinema conference at the 2019 NAB show which we’ll talk about in just a minute. But first, what got you started as an editor?
William Goldenberg: Well when I was in college at … University in Philadelphia, I was originally planning on being a doctor. In my senior year I had a class called experimental video, did a lot of editing and overwhelmingly frightened to show any of it to anybody in the last week of school. Instead of showing my final project, I showed all my projects. My professor is very enthusiastic about my ability as an editor and I loved doing it and he was very complimentary about it and everything seemed to click at that moment, so when I moved to California right after graduation, I came here with the idea of being a film editor but didn’t really know how to do it. Took about eight months getting a job as a PA for a small television production company. They were about to make a television movie, they asked me if I wanted to be an onset PA, but I asked them if I could be the apprentice editor and fortunately for me they said yes. Then ultimately, after a few years, I ended up working for Michael Kahn who is Steven Spielberg’s editor.
Larry Jordan: How did you connect up with Mr Kahn?
William Goldenberg: I was working on a film called ‘Punchline’ with an editor named Bruce Green who I worked with on several films. Bruce had been Michael’s first assistant during the ‘Indiana Jones’ years. Michael was looking for a new first assistant and Bruce recommended me and I went and interviewed with Michael, we hit it off and he hired me. When the opportunity came up to work with Michael, I realized that was a great way for me to have somebody as a mentor. I mean he mentored Bruce, he mentored many other editors who were his assistants, so I saw an opportunity to get mentored by arguably one of the top five film editors of all time. So Michael and I hit it off and he was able to train me I guess in his philosophy about editing.
Larry Jordan: What were some of the key things he taught you?
William Goldenberg: The biggest lesson he taught me was how to take criticism. What I do is take criticism for a living. Mostly people don’t say good things, they say the bad things when they watch a film, when you’re in the process of trying to make the film as best it can be. You show the studio, you show other people and mostly what you hear are the bad things. And what Michael taught me was, not to take it personally. Was to embrace notes and changes and criticism with enthusiasm and with curiosity as opposed to getting your feelings hurt. Because ultimately it’s not about me, it’s about the film, and what’s best for the film. Criticism isn’t meant at me personally, it’s just what’s working and what’s not working in the film. Amongst the 50 or 60 other things he taught me, that was the most important.
Larry Jordan: Let’s put your editing hat on. I want to give you a couple of scenarios and have you tell me what your thought process is. When you’re first attached to a project, what’s your process as you think about the editing ahead? How do you get started?
William Goldenberg: Well what I do is I read the script obviously and discuss the screenplay with the director and understand what kind of film he or she is trying to make. The more discussions I have with the director, the more I have their thoughts running through my brain while I’m cutting. Why they’re shooting with a certain style, what they’re going for, what kind of tone they’re trying to set with the film? That’s really one of the most important things is understanding the tone of the film. Then depending on what the subject matter is, I’ll do as much research as I can about what really happened, if the story is fact based or a book, I’ll read the book. Try and get as familiar with the subject matter as possible, what kind of lives the characters would really be living.
William Goldenberg: And also what I’ll do is, I listen to a lot of music, movie scores or … songs, and try and set a soundscape for what the music will eventually be by creating a blueprint for the composer by using … music. So I’ll listen to a ton of music and make myself a working library and make notes about what I like about certain things so that when I … action scene, or an emotional scene, I’ll hopefully have listened to music before I’ve gotten started, so I say this might work or that might work and it really helps I think give the composer a blueprint about how music can be used in the film. So those are the things I do to sort of get myself ready.
Larry Jordan: We’re now in the middle of cutting and you’re about to cut a fight scene. What are you looking for in coverage and how do you approach it?
William Goldenberg: A fight scene, or any action scene, I’m hoping that there’s a story. The best action scenes are ones with a story, a beginning, middle and an end. It’s not just a good place for a lot of action. What I’ll certainly try and do is know what that story is and try and tell that story even though it’s maybe a fight, hopefully there’s a story to that fight, not just we’re going to beat the crap out of each other. On the other side of that scene, there’s some sort of story element that’s evolved. I’m also looking for a lot of pieces of film that make it personal because I think what grabs an audience is latching on to the story and then also the characters. So I’m looking for beats where you really see if one person’s losing in a fight, they’re looking really distressed. I mean I know it sounds simple but a lot of times I think editors get trapped into a lot of flash and a lot of fancy editing, but when the audience doesn’t feel like they’re with the characters, I think was filmmakers lose the audience. So I’m also looking to really personalize any action scene so you’re being carried through by either a story element or the actor or the character’s journey. So the audience can latch onto something that’s personal.
Larry Jordan: How do you tell the director they don’t have enough coverage?
William Goldenberg: You really are part psychologist. You’re trying to perk up the director, if you have a director who’s had a horrible day, say “Take a look at this scene I cut, it came out great.” Try and lift their spirits by showing them something that really works and get them back and enthusiastic about going to shoot the next day. I feel like that’s part of my job because you don’t want to bullshit the director but you want them to keep their spirits high, keep their enthusiasm high. It’s an incredibly difficult job to direct a feature film, so there are highs and lows and you want to try and eliminate as many lows as possible.
Larry Jordan: What’s a hard scene for you to edit and what makes it difficult?
William Goldenberg: It’s a funny question because there can be a scene with one character or two characters and it’s very simple, and that can be harder than a scene with 50,000 feet of film and a million characters and it depends on so many factors. What the acting is like? What the temperature’s like? I’d say one of the hardest scenes I ever cut was the raid in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and it was hard because it was so real in terms of the way it was lit and shot, so it was very dark, all the SEALs are wearing basically the same uniform with night vision goggles on, and you’re in a compound with a lot of white walls and a lot of different hallways and rooms and people are spread out all over the compound. So keeping the geography straight and what was going on for the audience, of all these different things that are going on simultaneously, that’s incredibly difficult. These things are all happening at exactly the same time so how do you show the audience that and not confuse them? In that situation, there was a sniper that was on the roof of one of the buildings in the compound that they stationed and we used him as a jumping off point. His shots up on top and sort of reorient the audience, so it’s scenes like that, that can be very difficult. You’re just using your instincts about what makes sense, and what is clear, but you really don’t know till you show an audience.
Larry Jordan: Editing is one of those jobs where when you’ve done excellent work, nobody notices. I’ve always found that frustrating. How do you deal with pouring all your energy into making a scene work, only to have nobody notice? They just say, “Yeah.”
William Goldenberg: I get a feeling when I’m at the beginning of cutting a scene and there’s a huge amount of film and there’s issues with performance or coverage or whatever. Or there’s no issues, it’s just a really emotionally difficult scene, scenes can be difficult in so many ways. But when I put it together, and I know that it works, I don’t need somebody to pat me on the back. I like it. I don’t need to be famous, I just want to do a good job and tell good stories. That’s enough for me. I like being in the unsung hero role, it’s OK for me.
Larry Jordan: In April you’re keynoting the future of cinema conference. From my understanding this is a discussion. What’s the purpose of it?
William Goldenberg: The purpose is to give others some insight to people who don’t have as much experience as I do or haven’t worked on the sort of films that I’ve worked on, give them insight into what I think makes good editing, makes good editors, gives them a little bit of my background so they understand the process of starting from a college student all the way to hopefully cutting feature films. So give them some insights into how I cut, why I cut, give some insight into what I think editing is and how to get there.
Larry Jordan: Well as you know, the creative media industry is under a lot of stress today. Competition, budgets, technology changes. What do you see as the future of cinema?
William Goldenberg: I see that it’s an ever evolving thing and I think obviously all these streaming services are going to continue, and content’s coming from everywhere now. There’s a big discussion about what makes a feature film. Is it a feature film if it’s a Netflix film? Is it not? But I think that all these content providers and all this competition is fantastic. Feature films being made, Netflix films, series, Amazon series, there’s so much wonderful content. So I don’t know what it holds in store for the business in terms of financially and all that, the business part of it all, but I know creatively it’s just fantastic. There’s so much good material, so much good content that there isn’t a day that goes by where somebody will say to me, “Have you seen this series?” or “Have you seen this Netflix show?” or “Seen this show on Paramount streaming service?” Things I’d never heard of, there’s so much good stuff. So as compared to ten, 15 years ago, not that there wasn’t good product, but it wasn’t nearly what it is now and television has started telling wonderful stories, and big budget projects and I think it’s all fantastic. The discussion about what constitutes a feature film and what doesn’t? That’s important but I think what’s most important is telling great stories, so I see the future as bright. I don’t know about in terms of the creative element of it, I can’t speak to the financial element or the argument about what’s a feature and what’s not, but I think creatively it’s really a wonderful time.
Larry Jordan: That presentation is called The Future of Cinema. It’s a special track conference at the 2019 NAB show and you can learn more about it by visiting NABshow.com. As a last comment, what advice do you have for filmmakers who are in the middle of their career and just need some enthusiastic comment to keep charging forward against all the resistance that we’re seeing in our industry today?
William Goldenberg: Keep trying to tell great stories. The thing that I love about my job is being a storyteller. I’ve never lost my enthusiasm for that, whether I’m working on a project that is a smaller project that I’m not really even that interested in, but just needed a job. Or the most satisfying project I’ve ever worked on. I always get the same jolt of energy from the fact that I’ve told a great story, whether it’s a scene I’m cutting, it’s always to me about being a storyteller. I’ve never lost sight of how much fun that is. It always gets me excited about being lucky enough to be an editor.
Larry Jordan: William Goldenberg is an ACE editor, an Academy Award, BAFTA and ACE award winning editor and has edited most of the great films we’ve seen in the recent past. William thanks for joining us today.
William Goldenberg: Alright, my pleasure, thank you.
Larry Jordan: You know, I was just thinking, a press release from frame.io caught my eye this morning. Emery Wells, the CEO of frame.io announced that frame.io is “now SOC 2 type 2 compliant.” This means that frame.io successfully completed a rigorous ongoing security audit that demonstrates frame.io not only met but far exceeded current industry security standards. This security audit is, according to frame.io, the gold standard for security compliance for software as a service companies. Type one compliance which they passed a while ago, defines security at a specific point in time. Meaning that frame.io demonstrated to external third party auditors their ability to successfully design, and implement security controls, policies and procedures to secure and encrypt your media on their servers.
Larry Jordan: Type two compliance which they announced today, is much more rigorous. This requires that frame.io demonstrate their ability to maintain those same security controls, policies, procedures and standards successfully throughout the examination period from July until today without any exception. These are standards that cover the training of employees, to the distribution of company software and hardware, and even to the protocols for guests that visit their New York headquarters.
Larry Jordan: This audit included examination of their policies and procedures regarding network connectivity, firewall configurations, systems development lifecycle computer operations, logical access, data transmission, backup and disaster recovery and other critical operational areas of their business.
Larry Jordan: The reason I mention this is that many times when I talk to tech companies, they make a big deal of how the security of your data is important to them. But almost none of these companies have gone to the lengths that frame.io has to prove that your data is secure. Talk is cheap and as we’ve seen over and over, especially in social media, it is easy to promise security while not actually delivering anything of substance.
Larry Jordan: Frame.io has put their money and I mean lots of money, into living up to their promises to keep our data secure. This is a major accomplishment and they deserve congratulations. If you want to learn more, or more importantly, understand the kinds of questions you should actually be asking your cloud vendors, visit the frame.io website. They have set a high bar for other service companies to meet. Just something I’m thinking about.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests this week, film editor William Goldenberg, Ross Shain with Boris FX, Joseph Nilo with FxFactory, Jonathan Handel with the Hollywood Reporter, 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 morning.
Larry Jordan: Our theme music is composed by Nathan Dugi-Turner with additional music provided by Smartsound.com.
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 2019 by Thalo LLC.