Philip Hodgetts, President, Lumberjack System
Michael Kammes, Director of Business Development, BeBop Technology/Creator, 5 THINGS series
Erik Johnson, PhD, Vice Dean for Academic Programs, Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California
Michael Horton, Head Cutter, LACPUG
James DeRuvo, Editor-in-Chief, doddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight on The Buzz, we talk with experts about the current state of media technology. We begin by asking Philip Hodgetts, the CEO of Lumberjack System, what new workflows, technology, or software has emerged that seems significant for the future of media. He highlights four.
Larry Jordan: Next, since stories will always be with us, we ask Michael Kammes, Director of Business Development for Bebop Technology, whether the determining factor to success storytelling will be new technology, new distribution, or something else. He found a fourth option.
Larry Jordan: Next, Dr. Erik Johnson is the Vice Dean for Academic Programs at the Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California. Tonight, he explains why teaching technology to students is important and what parts of technology are most important to teach.
Larry Jordan: Next, Michael Horton co-founded the Los Angeles Creative Pro User Group almost 20 years ago. Tonight, he explains why user groups remain an important part of the creative process and how he programs his events for maximum impact.
Larry Jordan: All this, plus James DeRuvo’s journal. The Buzz starts now.
Male Voiceover: Since the dawn of digital filmmaking. Authoritative: One show serves a worldwide network of media professionals. Current: Uniting industry experts. Production: Filmmakers. Post-Production: And content creators around the planet. Distribution: From the media capital of the world, in Los Angeles, California, The Digital Production Buzz goes live now.
Larry Jordan: Welcome to The Digital Production Buzz; the world’s longest running podcast for the creative content industry. Covering media production, post-production and marketing around the world. Hello, my name is Larry Jordan.
Larry Jordan: This month, we’re looking at the state of the media industry; from production to post. So far, we’ve looked at producing, production and post-production; tonight, we look at media technology itself.
Larry Jordan: I wanted to look at technology from two perspectives; first, trends that we need to watch; then second, how we teach all this evolving technology to students and adults. To that end, I’ve invited some of our favorite guests, to share their thoughts on tonight’s show.
Larry Jordan: Technology affects not only our industry, but The Buzz itself. After tonight’s show, The Buzz will be going on hiatus; I’ll have more to say on this in my closing comments at the end of the show.
Larry Jordan: Now it’s time for James DeRuvo’s journal. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Happy Thursday Larry.
Larry Jordan: Happy Thursday to you too. What’s in the news this week?
James DeRuvo: This week, at COMPUTEX in Japan, NVIDIA announced a new app called NVIDIA Studio for content creators. It is designed to streamline rendering workflows and NVIDIA Studio can make video effects rendering up to 20 times faster on desktops, using the GeForce RTX or Quadro RTX graphics cards.
James DeRuvo: There’s also support for the REDCINE-X, which we knew about a couple of weeks ago and it can greatly improve pre-vis rendering in apps like Cine Tracer. But it does require laptops or desktops with an Intel I7 processor and at least at GeForce RTX 2060.
Larry Jordan: Where does this fit with NVIDIA gear in general?
James DeRuvo: I like to think of NVIDIA Studio as the digital nitrous oxide of your NVIDIA Graphics engine. You push nitrous oxide through your carburetor and you get this burst of speed and I kind of think that’s what NVIDIA’s doing is, they are dialing in the rendering performance of your NVIDIA GPUs and, in doing so, they’re cutting your output time extremely dramatically.
Larry Jordan: Alright, NVIDIA’s our lead, what’s the second story?
James DeRuvo: Well, bad news again for Nikon users, as B&H has sent out emails to customers who have purchased Nikon brand batteries, to inform them that they may have gotten hold of counterfeit models that the retailer unwittingly received in a shipment from their suppliers.
James DeRuvo: The counterfeit batteries include the ENEL15B ENEL11; through eight models; the ENEL5 and the ENEL3 through one models. Since there is no way to determine which customer received a fake battery from this bad batch, B&H is offering to replace any Nikon battery from a list of suspect models mentioned above. All you have to do is contact B&H and arrange to have your battery replaced.
Larry Jordan: Nikon’s had a tough couple of months.
James DeRuvo: Yes, it’s been a tough Spring for Nikon, one that is overshadowing some great new features coming from their firmware updates; including 12-bit RAW. But users should not discount this recall; because, the dangers of using a counterfeit battery are extremely real.
James DeRuvo: These batteries don’t contain the circuitry that shuts off the charging once a battery reaches full capacity. As such, a fake battery can overcharge, overheat and even catch fire and explode with no warning whatsoever. Users are advised to contact B&H immediately, if they bought a Nikon battery from them; so they can arrange for an RMA replacement.
Larry Jordan: Wow. What’s our third story this week?
James DeRuvo: Canon is offering to de-click your RF mount lenses; so if you’re a Canon EOS R, or EOS RP mirrorless camera user and you’ve got those RF mount lenses, you’ve noticed that the control ring on the new RF lens design can cause a subtle click that could be picked up by a shotgun, or boom mike. To that end, Canon is offering to modify these control rings and will do so for about $60 per lens. Canon is also going to de-click the EF to EOS R mounted adapter as well.
James DeRuvo: The price does not include tax and shipping and it must be done at an authorized Canon facility.
Larry Jordan: Why Canon and why now?
James DeRuvo: Well I think it’s a warranty issue Larry. There are plenty of DIY videos out there on how to de-click lenses and they’re very popular with shooters who use old legacy film lenses for their shooting. But, you’re on your own with those DIY techniques; you don’t have a warranty with those old lenses and, just because Canon will warranty this service, I think makes it worth having a professional do it.
Larry Jordan: What other stories caught your attention this week?
James DeRuvo: Other stories we’re following include, there’s talk that Canon may be discontinuing, not only the 7D series DSLR, but also the Canon 5DS R, in favor of mirrorless designs. There’s a hidden 10-bit 5K mode in the Panasonic S1 and Sony slashes prices on their mirrorless cameras by as much as $1,000.
Larry Jordan: Wow. James, as you know, our industry is constantly changing, as these new stories attest and, tonight, that affects both of us.
Larry Jordan: Starting next month, we’re integrating doddleNEWS into the larryjordan.com website. Plus, you’ll also be writing stories for both doddleNEWS and my weekly newsletters; which I think is especially nice.
James DeRuvo: Well, what I like about this move is that, we are able to preserve all our doddleNEWS content from the last eight years, while bringing it to a larger larryjordan.com audience.
Larry Jordan: But with The Buzz going on hiatus, it means I’m not going to talk to you every week and I’ve enjoyed working with you during the last three years on The Buzz. I’ve looked forward to your news updates every week. I wish you great success.
James DeRuvo: Thank you Larry and right back at you. I’m going to miss these little happy Thursday moments.
Larry Jordan: Indeed yes. James DeRuvo is the Editor-in-Chief of doddleNEWS and, thanks for all your hard work here on The Buzz.
James DeRuvo: Back at you Larry.
Larry Jordan: I want to introduce you to a new website, thalo.com. Thalo is an artist’s community and networking site for creative people to connect, be inspired and showcase their creativity. Thalo.com features content from around the world, with a global perspective on all things creative.
Larry Jordan: Thalo is the place for creative folks to learn, collaborate, market and sell their works. Thalo is a part of the Thalo Arts; 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.
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 he specializes in explaining new technology. Hello Philip, welcome back.
Philip Hodgetts: Hello Larry.
Larry Jordan: Tonight, we’re looking at media technology trends to watch and what we need to know to stay current. As you look back over the last year, what new workflow, technology, or software has emerged that seems significant for the future?
Philip Hodgetts: Well that is going to be extremely subjective; because what’s significant to me may not be significant to other people and vice-versa. But, I’ve identified three trends that have sort of surfaced in the last year; not just necessarily come about in the last year. Obviously, I’m going to see a lot more machine learning in our toolset; not as the big I’m taking over your job bogeyman, but more as smarter and smarter tools.
Larry Jordan: Let’s get the list and we’ll come back and talk about each of them. The first is machine learning and smarter tools. What’s the second one?
Philip Hodgetts: Post starts on the set. The third one is, more of the workflow is moving to the Cloud and the final trend, which is actually the fourth of my three, is mobile production and how we can get a lot of production quality and flexibility in very small packages.
Larry Jordan: Well let’s take a look first at machine learning and smarter tools. Why is this one significant?
Philip Hodgetts: It’s going to probably have the biggest change on the way we do our work day by day and then anything since non-linear editing; because, it enables us to get metadata faster; enables us to manage our assets with less human intervention and human intervention is expensive. That’s the most expensive kind of metadata we can get is the ones where people literally listen to and then make notes about our media.
Philip Hodgetts: That machine learning is already inside the latest release of Resolve, we’ve seen Adobe do a lot of sensei powdered tools within the Premiere Pro ecosystem. There’s a lot going on and it’s going to continue to go on and we’ll just find that more and more of our tools have a little help going on from the machine learning that’s in the toolset.
Larry Jordan: You’ve stressed before that you don’t see this machine learning costing jobs. Why not?
Philip Hodgetts: It’s not going to take away jobs in the way that people are like, oh it’s going to replace an Editor. I don’t know that machine learning, up to this point, has ever replaced a complete job; but it can certainly make parts of the job faster and maybe make the number of assistants necessary, or the need for an assistant less necessary.
Philip Hodgetts: Evolving technology always changes the jobs that are available; whether that leads to fewer, or more is very much depending on how you do the math and how you view the technologies.
Larry Jordan: Philip, how are you using machine learning in the tools that you create?
Philip Hodgetts: The most obvious place, of course, is the Speech-To-Text in Lumberjack Builder, which is a purely machine learning based technology; one that is easily rolled out across new languages. The provider we have now has actually got 25 different languages for support. We support all of those in Lumberjack Builder.
Philip Hodgetts: Can I share a little bit of exciting news with you about Lumberjack Builder?
Larry Jordan: Absolutely.
Philip Hodgetts: Tomorrow morning, we will be announcing Builder 2.0. There is only one important new feature in that, but Builder 2.0 will support Premiere Pro XML import and back to Premiere Pro. You can get all of the Builder advantage, regardless of your favorite NLE.
Larry Jordan: Very, very cool. Congratulations. The second one is post workflows on set. What’s that mean?
Philip Hodgetts: Post is starting on the set. We’ve seen, for quite a while, the Digital Imaging Technicians are doing image mock-ups on the set. They’re doing the color grading, so that the Director knows what they’re getting on the set. They’re grading through, say, raw into viewable footage on the set. There’s a lot of move to do more metadata entry on the set and, obviously, we’re part of that. I think it’s a trend, obviously.
Philip Hodgetts: There are more and more times where post is starting on the set and I think it’s a good idea that post is involved in the shoot; because, a lot less will have to be fixed in post, if post were there to say, ah-ah, can’t do that.
Larry Jordan: The third one is workflow in the Cloud.
Philip Hodgetts: Michael Kammes, I think, has made a very good career decision to go to Bebop, who are one of the pioneers of moving the apps that we use every day into the Cloud. But it’s not only moving your apps into the Cloud, or moving media between people in the Cloud; but they are definitely trends that we’re seeing.
Philip Hodgetts: I would think that we’re seeing this Cloud slowly coming into the shoot and the production. People like SyncOnSet are doing the traditional core sheets and all of that through the Cloud; they’re providing important metadata about costuming and all that back to the production; so that big thick paper bible is being replaced by a tablet.
Larry Jordan: It seems that, implicit in the statement, workflow in the Cloud, is that collaboration is going to continue to increase. Because, if you’re an artist of one working in your own studio, you don’t need the Cloud. It’s only when you need to collaborate, the Cloud becomes useful. Is that true?
Philip Hodgetts: I would agree with that completely. As much as I admire Frame.io, I have no personal need for it; but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a valuable tool. Just because I don’t need something in my workflow, doesn’t mean that other people won’t find that very valuable. Most people like me, I mean those small individual Producers, are probably not doing very much DIT work on the set really, are they?
Larry Jordan: Your fourth one is mobile productions.
Philip Hodgetts: The thing about mobile production is that, it’s a small production kit with a high pay-off. Now, I started to get interested in this back in 2012, when I was setting up for the long aborted Solar Odyssey project. We had very limited space on the boat and very limited power; so we had to work with tools that would work in that situation and we were looking at DSLRs and GoPros at that point.
Philip Hodgetts: I wonder now, if I was looking at that, if I wouldn’t simply say, well why not just use the iPhones and the iPads that everybody already has and put the production together that way? There’s a whole range of tools. I’ve done a lot of work with Switcher Studio, both from vocal coaches studio, as we put on showcases there and also at NAB. We used Switcher Studio to do to camera live streaming to the internet and the toolset will fit in a briefcase.
Philip Hodgetts: There’s a competitor to Switcher Studio, Cinamaker, which has a cable option which, in high noise areas, or areas where Wi-Fi wasn’t working, that might be great for that. LumaFusion is a very powerful editing tool on iOS and Apple even made an app for the iPad Pro; where everything, including the music and the editing, was done on the iPad Pro itself. I think that’s a major trend, is that, there’s a lot that can be done with these very small, very portable toolsets.
Larry Jordan: This leads into a business side question. As technology becomes ever more powerful and cheaper, how does the creative artist remain in business, when barriers to entry keep getting lower?
Philip Hodgetts: I guess the answer is, how does anybody stay in business? It’s by adding value; finding new ways to add value. I think, one of the disservices that the production industry did for itself in the 80s, 90s and into the early part of this century, is that they sold the access to the tools. I can produce high quality, because I’ve got Betacam, versus you’ve got a three quarter inch system.
Philip Hodgetts: That was a mistake because, you were never selling the tools, you were selling the stories that you could make with them and storytellers find new ways to evolve, as the technology evolves, to tell their stories.
Philip Hodgetts: I think, this is probably, even, slightly pre-empting your next question; but the production side is relatively easy. Anybody can get the tools to produce a story; be it with an iPhone. There have been movies that have been created with an iPhone; more than one. It’s the distribution side that makes it more difficult for people to get their movie seen and heard.
Philip Hodgetts: We know that the competition at Sundance is incredibly high; the chance of getting your short shown there is astronomical; but people still strive for that.
Larry Jordan: As you look to the future, as you said, stories will always be with us, but is the determining factor to success with our stories going to be technology; new forms of distribution; or something else?
Philip Hodgetts: I’m probably going to go with the something else. All of those things, the technology and the new forms of distribution are important; but the compulsion to tell stories is something that is deep in the human psyche and we will always seek to tell those stories.
Philip Hodgetts: The very aggregation that works against the individual storyteller being heard actually works for other individual storytellers. I mean, the number of people who’ve built a career because they could access a much larger audience via YouTube, or aggregate an audience for their short film, or even feature via Facebook and other social media. Take away the individuality on one hand, but give you tools where you can stand out on the other hand.
Philip Hodgetts: I’m going to have to say, at some point, we have to wonder whether art is a business, or art is a passion. We used to have a lot of people who could make a lot of money out of production; I think we’ll see a lot more people making less individually, but making decent incomes. I think that’s more important. I’d rather see 20, 30, 50, 1000 creative people making their stories and getting them out to people and making a modest living from it, than having two or three bazillionaires in Hollywood controlling every sitcom.
Larry Jordan: Philip, for people who want to keep track of your thinking and other projects that you’re working on; including Lumberjack System, where can they go on the web?
Philip Hodgetts: Philiphodgets.com is probably the best place. Everything tends to go into their, across all of my interest areas.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, philiphodgetts.com and the Philip Hodgetts himself is the voice you’ve been listening to. Philip, thanks for joining us today.
Philip Hodgetts: My pleasure.
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. What that means is, Michael understands tech and he’s also a frequent and welcome contributor to The Buzz. Hello Michael, welcome back.
Michael Kammes: Hello Larry, fantastic to hear your voice again.
Larry Jordan: I always enjoy chatting with you, because, tonight we’re looking at media technology; trends to watch and what we need to know to stay current. As you look back over the last year, what new workflow, technology, or software has emerged that seems significant for the future?
Michael Kammes: I think there’s two big things Larry and I’d rather focus on, if possible, not just “Oh this machine has more cores,” or “This software can play back more streams.” I think, right now, we’re in a very good place with the three or four big software players, in terms of NLEs and we have a lock on what the audio realm is. I think, if we take a look at some of the over-arching technologies, I think that the red carpet’s kind of been rolled out for them.
Michael Kammes: One of them is something that one of your last guests just had, Philip. When we talk about Lumberjack System and the tools of incorporating machine learning and, dare I say, AI into storytelling; not to replace Editors, but to take a lot of the pedestrian ditch digging work out of it. Let Editors create, as opposed to doing the more menial tasks. I’m really looking forward to seeing how we can train machine learning to do this for us.
Larry Jordan: You’re right. Philip’s number one comment was machine learning and smarter tools and I want to come back and discuss machine learning with you as well. But what’s your second topic; so we get them both listed upfront.
Michael Kammes: The second topic, I think, is leveraging machines that are not within arm’s reach. It’s not just the Macbook Pro on your desktop, or the PC sitting, you know, at the quiet side of your edit bay; it’s leveraging Cloud, it’s leveraging disparate forms of technology that are not at your fingertips, but now, because of the Internet, we now have access to. That’s not just the technology, but the folks who understand how to use that technology, I think, is going to help storytelling immensely moving forward.
Larry Jordan: Let’s switch back to machine learning for just a minute. How do you see that as enabling storytelling?
Michael Kammes: Storytelling is creativity, it’s the craft and the more time you’re spending doing things that are not craft related, the less time you can spend creating. If we’re talking about organizing keywords, or creating bins, or logging footage, or trimming out uhs and ums; the stuff that takes away from the pure storytelling aspect, I think anything we can do to reduce the pedestrian work, to give more time to the creatives, is a godsend for all creatives. I think that’s where we’re going to see machine learning take precedence first.
Larry Jordan: Let me push back at you on that. I can understand how machine learning would make the tools easier to use and Philip used the term smarter tools; but as technology becomes both more powerful and cheaper and does more, how does the creative artist remain in business when the barriers to entry keep getting lower?
Michael Kammes: That’s a great question Larry and something that I discuss with my colleagues quite a bit. I think we saw this, to some extent, during the great NLE changeover back in the late 90s, when we went from the $100,000 Avid system to, well now we have Final Cut Pro and Adobe and these other software packages.
Michael Kammes: I think there was a time, in the late 80s and 90s, where you could be just a creative; because the financial barrier of entry was so great to get in that not everyone had the technology. How that applies now is, we’re going to see more and more creatives having to do even more and I know this has been something that has been pushed for years.
Michael Kammes: Editors have had to start doing motion graphics and they’ve started to be pushed to do more Photoshop work. But I think, this trend is not going to stop; I think we’re going to see more and more Editors saying, I have to diversify my toolset; I have to learn these and I need to market myself. I can’t just be an Editor on staff. I need to be a one person band and be able to market myself as knowing all of these tools; not just the creative storytelling tools, but also the things for graphics and motion graphics too.
Larry Jordan: Rather than opting for specialization, you’re recommending that all of us become generalists?
Michael Kammes: Unfortunately, I think that’s going to be the way to go. I think this probably sounds like overkill, but, we are generating more content; there’s more platforms for distribution, there’s more platforms for consumption and, so, we’re not going to have this upper echelon of, everything is going to be CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, HBO, you know and Netflix. There is going to be so much content that is going to be, shall we say, at a lower stature that than; both from a quality and financial perspective. I think there’s enough work to go around for everyone.
Larry Jordan: Your second point is leveraging machines that are not in arm’s reach. What does that mean?
Michael Kammes: If you were to buy a machine now, you’re going to be saddled with that machine for three years, five years, or even longer and I think we’re getting into a point where we no longer need to sit on that one machine, or two machines. I think, if we start leveraging the technology in the Cloud, or technology that’s in someone else’s data center; to do rendering, to do processing, or to even plug into tools that we don’t have access to, is going to help us immensely.
Michael Kammes: There are a ton of tools out there; asset management systems, render systems, even transcoders, that are hundreds of thousands of dollars and if those move from a CapEx model; meaning you buy it, to an OpEx model; meaning you only pay for it when you use it, that’s going to bring a lot of these tools, which are highly expensive, down to a more consumer, prosumer, or one off perspective for creatives.
Michael Kammes: The more we can leverage tools that we don’t have to buy and we can rent, I think is going to make the quality of product that much easier and will certainly diversify the tools that you can use.
Larry Jordan: How do you reconcile that with the ability to actually access our projects? If we’ve got to rent the software, or rent the hardware, if we’re between projects, I suddenly have to re-rent it just to be able to view something, that strikes me as becoming more awkward, not less.
Michael Kammes: Larry, if we look at the simple things like transcoding, you know that doing a standards conversion; going from 2398 to 297, or back, that simple conversion can be really, really hard. But, if we look at these expensive enterprise transcoders, that are already in the Cloud, that we can rent on a per project basis, what’s wrong with that? How would that be detrimental to the creative and storytelling process, if we get access to that technology for pennies and the dollar; but only when we need it?
Larry Jordan: It’s become obvious, as both you and Philip have talked about, that machine learning and AI in general is going to be part of our lives in greater and great proportions going forward. How do creative artists embrace this and use it to enable our work; rather than fear it, because it’s going to be restricting what they used to be able to get paid for?
Michael Kammes: That goes to the kind of cornerstone of our industry. If you stop and take a breath and look around for too long, you might miss it. Our industry is constantly evolving. I know it’s kind of trite, but we joke in the industry that there’s two reboots every year, right? NAB and IBC. I don’t know of another industry where there are two milestones in a 365 day span, where the industry can change.
Michael Kammes: I think that anyone coming into the industry has to realize, you can’t rest on your laurels and you can only improve your skills and that is a constant evolution that you have to do and, if you can’t, then maybe you should move into management.
Larry Jordan: One last question. As you look to the future, stories will always be with us. Will the determining factor to success as storytellers be new technology; or new forms of distribution; or something else?
Michael Kammes: Wow, that’s a good question. Given the massive VOD model and the fact that we can consume video from just about anywhere, on everywhere, I think if we’re using a monetary scale as being the judgement point for what’s successful, it’s going to be marketing. It’s going to be standing out from every other angle you’re being bombarded with, in terms of media to consume. I think, if you look at it from that perspective, it’s going to be the marketing angle.
Larry Jordan: Well, I think your observation is absolutely correct; but what does a creative artist need to do to be a successful marketer? Because that leads into a lot of stuff that we’re not good at. We’re good at telling stories, we’re good at using tools to tell stories; but now we’re into something different, which is bragging about our work; which many of us are not necessarily comfortable doing.
Michael Kammes: I think, for many, many decades, what we consumed on television and then what we consumed on basic cable television was media that was meant for the masses; it didn’t appeal to niche groups or subgroups. I think, what we’re finding with the Internet over the past couple of decades is that, these smaller groups, these niche interests do have a sizeable audience and that sizeable audience does have purchasing power.
Michael Kammes: I think we’re going to start seeing more Editors, more creatives saying, I’m going to market myself to be in this niche; to work with this group of people, in this industry, because I understand how they think, I understand what kind of content they like and how they consume it. I think we’re going to see a lot more creatives, maybe not bouncing back and forth between action and documentary and YouTube and etc. I think we’re going to see a much more consolidation of that and people choosing certain paths to go down.
Larry Jordan: How do you reconcile this emphasis on the niche market; with what you said at the beginning of the interview, which is, that we all need to be generalists?
Michael Kammes: I said generalists in terms of technology, not in terms of storytelling. I think there are so many technologies out there that we have to learn and many portions within the creative process. If you’re working on a vlog, let’s say, compared to a feature film, there’s still the traditional post-production processes; there’s still the editing; there’s still the grading; there’s still the sound work. All those require multiple tools. Just because you can use the multiple tools for one genre, doesn’t mean you’re equipped to do it better than someone else in another genre.
Michael Kammes: Being a generalist, in terms of technology, is paramount; but I think, honing your skills to one or two particular verticals, I think, is going to be important moving forward and then tying it into marketing, to push yourself and market yourself to those niches.
Larry Jordan: Michael, for people that want to follow the thinking that you’re going through, or keep track of the projects you’re working on, where can they go on the web?
Michael Kammes: Thank you for the opportunity Larry, I’ve always appreciated it.
Larry Jordan: Dr. Erik Johnson is the Vice Dean for Academic Programs at the Viterbi School of Engineering at USC. Among many other duties, Dr. Johnson is also the Interim Director of the Information Technology Program, which teaches students across the university computer and technology skills to complement their major. Hello Erik, welcome.
Erik Johnson: Hello Larry, glad to be here today.
Larry Jordan: How would you describe the Information Technology Program?
Erik Johnson: ITP serves a very important role here within the university. It allows us to teach students from across the university; not just engineering students, but any of the students from Political Science and Economics and Business, computational skills and computational thinking. Giving them tools that complement what they’re doing in their major and opening up new opportunities for them in their careers and so forth.
Erik Johnson: We live in a digital era and it is essential that people from every discipline have good exposure to and be conversant with modern technology and so forth. ITP serves a very important role in that regard. We have about 1,000 students currently; from every possible major around campus.
Larry Jordan: Tonight, we’re looking at technology. Earlier in the show, we heard from Philip Hodgetts and Michael Kammes about specific applications of technology to media. What I’m interested in talking with you about is the process of getting students prepared for using technology in the working world. There’s an ongoing debate about whether schools should teach theory and fundamentals, or whether they should teach actual operation of software and hardware. Where do you fit in that debate?
Erik Johnson: I would sit solidly in the middle. The middle of the road is sometimes dangerous, because that’s where you get run over. Students need to see both. Teaching students how to use the software that’s in use today is important for them going on immediately to a job; but it may not prepare them for what they’re going to be doing in ten or 20 years.
Erik Johnson: The software that we use today, for a particular application, may not exist anymore; it is essential then to think about, what do we do to prepare students to go onto their first job; but what do we do to prepare them for the lifelong learning and the job that they are going to have in ten years, in 20 years, in 30 years?
Erik Johnson: That’s the place where learning something about the theory becomes important; because, theory is not tied to specific tools we use today, but gives them the fundamentals that they can use to build their learning over their lifetime, so that they can use the tools of 20 years from now.
Larry Jordan: How do you interest students, whether they’re young or old, in learning something they don’t know? How do you hook their attention?
Erik Johnson: Some of it is just through the excitement of what you can do with technology. Also, it’s recognizing and helping them to see that this is helping them for their future. When I’m thinking in the classroom, I’m thinking, especially with the technology; how can I teach them tools that they can use in classes that they are going to be taking in the future?
Erik Johnson: One of the classes that I have often talked, for example, was an introductory numerical methods in programming for civil and environment engineers. It’s taken normally in the Freshman year and it gives students tools that they’re going to use, subsequently, in a job, after they finish; but also to be more equipped to pursue the problems that they’re doing in their other classes, in the rest of their program.
Erik Johnson: My primary focus, in teaching, is to think about equipping them with the tools that they need to move forward.
Larry Jordan: One of the challenges we have with technology is, it’s really, really complex. What approach works best, when you’re teaching a complex technical subject?
Erik Johnson: Walking students through it.
Larry Jordan: How so?
Erik Johnson: I could stand up in front of a room and talk about some of the complex subjects and try to explain them in detail and that’s a piece of it. But, students have to get their hands dirty and so, walking them through, for example, a programming example; or digital graphics, sometimes you have to see it and you have to see it going through the process first and then you have to do it yourself.
Erik Johnson: Doing it yourself is essential for almost all technology learning; because, it’s easy to watch what an instructor does and say, oh that seems easy; yes I can do that, I can do that, I can do that and then, when it actually comes to doing it yourself, you forget about some, or all the little details that go into it.
Erik Johnson: It’s a combination of teaching them some theory, showing them some examples, walking them slowly through things and then giving them a chance to try it; but in an environment where they have access to the instructor, or to some teaching assistants, to answer their questions quickly. Otherwise, it’s easy for them to get frustrated.
Erik Johnson: Having a laboratory environment, for example, where the students can work through problems; either immediately after class, or relatively close to the time that they talk about it in the regular lecture, gives them an opportunity to really do the hands on part of it.
Larry Jordan: I have the great pleasure of hiring students on a regular basis, especially after they’ve just graduated. One of the things I find most interesting is that, many graduates feel that they’ve arrived and they have not yet discovered that they really don’t know much of anything and life is a process of ongoing education and lifelong learning.
Erik Johnson: Lifelong learning, exactly.
Larry Jordan: This brought home to me, a long time ago, with a friend of mine who turned to me in great frustration. He threw his pencil down on a desk and said, “I’m tired of learning, I want to just start doing,” which strikes me of most graduates. How do you convince kids that it is really lifelong learning; this is just the first step?
Erik Johnson: I think, in many ways, that’s what a university is. Yes, students will learn knowledge in their four years here; but a big part of a university experience is learning to learn; it’s learning to approach problems in a particular way; it’s learning how to think. More than just learning facts and so forth; it’s learning in a way that you can then apply it later.
Erik Johnson: As you said, it’s easy, I think, for people to think, okay, now I’ve finished whatever level of school; whether it’s high school, or college or graduate school to think, “I have arrived, I’m done. I don’t have to go to school anymore.” That’s true, you maybe don’t have formal learning you have to do after that. But, informally, especially in technology that is changing exponentially fast, if you stop, you’ll be left behind so quickly today.
Larry Jordan: You’ve been involved with technology for decades. What is it that still catches your fancy? What keeps you interested?
Erik Johnson: There’s always something new and that’s exciting. I think one of the challenges in some fields, in some jobs, is being stuck doing the same thing day-to-day. Tangential comment; one of the things I love about being at a university is, we are constantly developing new knowledge; we are constantly challenged by a new cohort of students.
Erik Johnson: We have to continue thinking; we have to continue innovating; we have to continue advancing and with technology, I think that’s one of the things that’s exciting. There’s something new that comes around the corner every day.
Erik Johnson: Coupled with that, the capabilities we have today are truly quite mind-boggling. The cell phones that most of us use on a day-to-day basis have more computational power than $10 million super computers had just 30 years ago and that opens up so many opportunities for doing interesting and new things.
Larry Jordan: For students that are interested in learning how to think, where can they go on the web to learn more about the programs that ITP offers?
Erik Johnson: The ITP website is itp.usc.edu and information about the courses we offer, about the faculty, about the minors and programs that we offer are all listed there; as well as some information about where our students go when they finish.
Larry Jordan: Very cool. That website is itp.usc.edu and Dr. Erik Johnson is the Vice Dean for Academic Programs at the Viterbi School of Engineering at USC. Dr. Johnson, thanks for joining us today.
Erik Johnson: Glad to Larry, thank you very much.
Larry Jordan: Here’s another website I want to introduce you to, doddlenews.com. DoddleNEWS gives you a portal into the broadcast, video and film industries. It’s a leading online resource, presenting news, reviews and products for the film and video industry. DoddleNEWS also offers a resource guide and crew management platform specifically designed for production. These digital call sheets, along with their app, directory and premium listings, provide in-depth organizational tools for busy production professionals.
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: Michael Horton co-founded the Los Angeles Creative Pro User Group more than 20 years ago; he also co-founded the legendary SuperMeets. Best of all, he’s a long-time friend of The Buzz and I am glad to say, welcome back Mike.
Michael Horton: Welcome Larry, it’s great to be with you once again. It always is.
Larry Jordan: It is always fun to chat with you. You know, I was thinking, you were on my first podcast all those years ago; you co-hosted the show with me for nine years.
Michael Horton: Did I really, for nine years?
Larry Jordan: Nine years; so it seems appropriate to me that you’d be here for this one, just before The Buzz goes on hiatus.
Michael Horton: Well, thank you for having me; it really is an honor and hopefully that hiatus isn’t going to be very, very long. Then you can have me back for another nine years.
Larry Jordan: I’m not sure the world is ready for that. Tonight we’re looking at technology. Philip and Mike discussed technical trends, technology past and future; Erik Johnson talked about teaching tech to students. But, for more than two decades, you have been helping adults master their craft. What are the most popular sessions at a User Group, like the Los Angeles Creative Pro User Group?
Michael Horton: Good question Larry and I was actually looking at my past meetings on my website. It actually goes back to the very first meeting that we had back in June of 2000; so that’s 19 years ago. This month will be the 19th Anniversary and I was looking at some of the agendas.
Michael Horton: Early on, when it was a Final Cut Pro User Group, most of the presentations were of a technique nature; how do you do this; how do you do that and a lot of new products. It sort of evolved after we called it the Creative Pro User Group into new products and a lot of creative ways to use those products with creative people coming up and giving an idea on how they do what they do.
Michael Horton: It morphed into more of a creative user group, rather than a technical user group; in fact, we don’t do a lot of technical stuff. We do new products and bringing people who use those products and see how they actually use them themselves.
Larry Jordan: One of the nice things that you do as you program the user groups is, you look for a variety of subjects to cover each month. But people vote with their feet. What is it that you know is going to bring in a large crowd?
Michael Horton: A celebrity Editor.
Larry Jordan: Really?
Michael Horton: Always works; especially depending on the current movie that they just did, or if they are a legend in the business. Of course, that will bring them in. Just this last month, we had Nick Monsour, who did the movie Us. Big hit movie, everybody wanted to see what he did with this complex movie and how he shaped it and we had a discussion on just that.
Michael Horton: Any time I bring in a creative working Editor that, brings a lot of people into the theatre; although, just this last meeting, we had Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve Night; it was all about Resolve and all the new stuff that they have in it and then Version 16. That was a full house.
Larry Jordan: You sure can’t predict, can you?
Michael Horton: Well, we can’t; but there’s a lot of people interested in new products; as long as that new product is somewhat earth-shattering and the stuff that Blackmagic has been doing, every single time they come up with a new version, that seems to make people sit up and notice and they want to come and they actually want to talk to the people who are making it.
Michael Horton: That’s one of the reasons that they show up; not just to see the new features; because they can see that online. They actually want to talk to the people; they want to ask questions, so they want to do that face-to-face.
Michael Horton: The same thing with celebrity Editors. They want to talk to them, they want to ask questions; not just see how they do what they do. It gets very personal in this intimate setting at the gallery theatre; so we try to do that.
Larry Jordan: Taking a step back, what’s more important to you, as you program these? Helping users understand technology, or understand their craft, or become more creative? Or is it something else?
Michael Horton: It’s always been understanding the craft and I try to bring the people in who understand that too. You know, people like you. Any time that you come, you always bring a lot of people to the theatre; because there’s a lot of fans of Larry Jordan and you’re able to articulate the craft, or the technique in a way that a lot of people can’t. You want people like that, you want people like you to come in and do what others cannot do and you have done that several times over the years.
Michael Horton: I’m just scrolling down through all the past Meets and, if they all have something in common, it’s more about craft and not a lot about tech. There’s certainly a lot of new product demos. You know, you have Philip Hodgetts on your show tonight and, next month, he’ll be doing the new Builder and I know a lot of people are going to want to see that; because, we’re going to hype it to the point that this is an earth-shattering new product and it is, in a way. It’s going to solve a lot of problems.
Michael Horton: The other presentation will be more of two Editors and two Filmmakers, one in Germany and one in Los Angeles, making a movie. That’ll be using a lot of the Frame.io. That’s what is happening in the world today, where you can collaborate with people all over the world by using these new tools such as Frame.io. That’s kind of technical, but I’ll bring in something creative; I don’t know yet.
Larry Jordan: User Groups across the country are struggling. What do you see as the future of User Groups?
Michael Horton: It’s really tough. It’s really hard to get people out of the house. LAFCPUG is successful, number one, because we have access to a lot of talent here in Los Angeles; so, even though it’s very difficult to get them out of the house and get them over to LAFCPUG for a presentation and it always is, I have the access to that. The problem is, I also have the competition, as there’s an event almost every night in Los Angeles; two to three events sometimes, of which everyone should be going to, who is in this industry.
Michael Horton: What I try to heighten more than anything is the opportunity to, not only learn something, but to network. I hit people over the head with that every single month; that, if you really are serious about being in this business, you need to get out of the house and meet people, because, you’re more likely to get a job based on who you know, not your talent.
Larry Jordan: Why is that message so hard for potential members to hear?
Michael Horton: I don’t know. Has it always been hard? Probably. I don’t think this is anything new to any new generation or anything. I think it’s always been hard. Especially creative people are a lot more comfortable by themselves, than they are with a crowd of other people and it’s really hard to say hi, my name is and what do you do for a living and, hey, let’s have a cup of coffee and get to know each other; that kind of thing. It can’t be done in one Meet; it has to be done over and over and over again.
Michael Horton: But I can’t tell you how many people have gotten jobs just because they’ve met people at a LAFCPUG Meeting or a SuperMeet. Those are the ones who really give it their all, to try to meet people and so networking is just paramount; it is the most important thing you can do.
Michael Horton: Forget all this technical stuff, you’ll learn that. You know, monkeys can learn NLEs, it’s not that difficult; you can learn all that stuff online. Learning how to meet people and talk to people land be nice to people, that’s a little bit harder. You have to practice, you have to get out of the house.
Larry Jordan: Yes, you’ve got to move your feet.
Michael Horton: You’ve got to move your feet. You know, it is very hard and especially for creative people. We’re socially retarded. It’s part of our nature; it’s in our DNA; so you’ve got to create a new character.
Larry Jordan: For people who decide that it is time to move their feet, get out and meet new people and get that next job, where can they go on the web to learn more about the LA Creative Pro User Group?
Michael Horton: Really easy. Even though we’re called the Los Angeles Creative Pro User Group, our acronym is still lafcpug.org and one of these days I’ll change it. One of these days, I’ll do an update on the website, which goes back to 2000 and it looks like it. But it gets the job done and gives you all the information that you need; so why change something.
Larry Jordan: The website is lafcpug.org and Mike Horton is the Co-Founder of LAFCPUG. Mike, thanks for joining us today.
Michael Horton: Thank you Larry, always an honor.
Larry Jordan: Take care.
Larry Jordan: Our industry is awash in change. During this last month, we’ve discussed the current state of media technology, from producing to post and everyone agrees that change is both disruptive and accelerating; but, not necessarily bad. As you may have read in the newsletter, changes are coming to The Buzz as well.
Larry Jordan: I deeply believe that independent voices are essential to add balance to vender centric marketing; but it is also important for these voices to be effective. To that end, we’ve decided, it’s time to take a break from producing new episodes of The Digital Production Buzz, to refocus our energy into creating more articles, webinars and training; which can enable all of us to succeed.
Larry Jordan: During this hiatus, my team and I want to look at ways we can make The Buzz more relevant to media professionals. Over the last many years, we’ve focused on interviews; but perhaps there are other things we should be doing as well. This production pause gives us a chance to reflect, reconsider and renew the show.
Larry Jordan: Also, starting next month, we’re integrating doddleNEWS into the larryjordan.com website. This means that, James DeRuvo will be writing articles on technology for both Doddle and larryjordan.com; which I think is really nice. This move also makes the content on doddleNEWS more accessible. This break also allows me to restart my weekly webinars; with a look at new tools and technology that I just haven’t had time to cover before.
Larry Jordan: I’ve enjoyed creating every episode of The Buzz; I’ll miss hosting each show and our weekly conversations. But The Buzz isn’t gone, it’s just resting for a while, as we figure out how we can best use it to continue covering our industry and you can still access all of our shows at digitalproductionbuzz.com. In the meantime, you’ll find me at larryjordan.com. I look forward to seeing you there. That’s a wrap.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests this week. Philip Hodgetts with Lumberjack System; Michael Kammes with Bebop Technology; Dr. Erik Johnson with USC; Michael Horton with LAFCPUG and James DeRuvo with doddlenews.com. There’s a lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Here you’ll find hundreds of shows and thousands of interviews, all online and all available to you today.
Larry Jordan: Transcripts are provided by take1.tv. Our theme music was composed by Nathan Dugi-Turner; with additional music provided by smartsound.com. Our Producer is Paulina Borowski. My name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to The Digital Production Buzz.