Dave Walton, Assistant VP, Marketing Communications, JVC/Kenwood USA, Corporation
Piet Thiele, Product Manager CINE, Schneider-Kreuznach
Marcelo Lewin, Founder, HowToCreateVR.com
Steve Weiss, Creative Director, Zacuto
James DeRuvo, Editor-in-Chief, doddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight on the Buzz, we look at the state of production technology today. We start with David Walton, assistant vice president of marketing for professional products at JVC Kenwood, USA. Dave shares his thoughts on the challenges facing camera manufacturers and where production is headed in the future.
Larry Jordan: Piet Thiele is the product manager for the cine lens division of Schneider-Kreuznach. While the camera industry is challenged by cell phone cameras, he showcases a growing need for high quality lenses coming from surprising markets.
Larry Jordan: Marcelo Lewin is the founder of Howtocreatevr.com and a passionate VR evangelist. Tonight he explains the different versions of VR, why filmmakers should start paying attention and describes a very exciting near term future for VR.
Larry Jordan: Steve Weiss, creative director for Zacuto isn’t impressed with gear. For him, it’s about talent, and story. Tonight, Steve shares his thoughts on what filmmakers need to know to stay in business, and as you’ll discover, it isn’t gear.
Larry Jordan: All this plus James DeRuvo’s journal. 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. This month we’re looking at the state of the media industry from production to post. We began with a look at post production. Last week we talked with producers. Tonight we look at production and next week we look at media technology in general.
Larry Jordan: One of the more common themes we’ve heard so far is that change is continual and accelerating. But as Dave Walton explains in his interview, when have we not been challenged by change? As we were planning tonight’s show I wanted to cast a wide net. So we’re talking with camera manufacturers, lens manufacturers, a VR evangelist and Steve Weiss, who’s focused on the business of staying in business.
Larry Jordan: By the way, Marcelo Lewin’s interview on VR was eye opening to me. Granted, I’ve been a VR skeptic, but there is so much more to this format than is visible at NAB. Many filmmakers tend to view VR through the lens of a camera, however, when you remove the camera, magical things can happen.
Larry Jordan: You’ll enjoy all of our interviews tonight, every one of them has interesting things for each of us to think about.
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 James DeRuvo’s journal. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Happy Thursday Larry.
Larry Jordan: And a happy Thursday to you too. What is in the news this week?
James DeRuvo: Adobe has expanded Premiere Rush, their IOS editing app. It’s now available on Android. Adobe has launched Premiere Rush for Android, and it’s got all the same tools available on the IOS platform, including intuitive editing, color correction, AI powered audio sweetening through Adobe Sensei, and a customizable motion graphics through Adobe Stock. So now users will be able to shoot on their Android device, do some basic editing, share it to the internet, and then sync it back up to their desktop through Creative Cloud for more advanced post production workflow.
Larry Jordan: So what’s your take on this?
James DeRuvo: With Premiere Rush coming to Android, this is bound to heat up a mobile filmmaking platform war. Up to now, users didn’t have a hallmarked editing app for the Android platform, although users have been able to shoot FiLMiC Pro on Android for about a year now. Now that Adobe has swung their support over to Android, I expect that a mobile filmmaking war will erupt and mobile filmmaking apps on Android will explode.
Larry Jordan: OK, Adobe is our lead. What’s our second story?
James DeRuvo: Tough news for Nikon.
Larry Jordan: Oh dear.
James DeRuvo: Nikon has had to issue a recall on select Z7 and Z6 full frame mirrorless cameras. There’s a small batch of the Z6 and Z7 mirrorless cameras that are experiencing problems with their vibration reduction feature, due to a flaw in manufacturing. And although not every camera is affected, Nikon is encouraging all Z series users to go to a pair of websites they have created, called serial number checkers so that they can input their serial number and see if their cameras are affected by the recall. And you can find those links on our website at doddlenews.com.
James DeRuvo: Nikon will pay for the repair, plus shipping to and from the Nikon repair facility and they’ll do it regardless of their warranty status.
Larry Jordan: Sounds like challenging times for Nikon.
James DeRuvo: Well it’s very true Larry. Though the Z series is an impressive mirrorless camera, and Nikon pulled out all the stops to hype this new camera line, it hasn’t really translated into the kind of sales Nikon was hoping for. The Sony full frame mirrorless camera is still outselling both the Nikon and Canon series combined. And so Nikon has been pulling all the stops. They’re trying to do everything they can to get people to buy the Z series, including offering trade in values, adding 12-bit RAW in a firmware update this summer, and they’re even giving filmmakers the opportunity to rent a Z6 filmmaking kit for up to a week. Anything to get shooters hooked on this camera, and the videos are remarkable. So I understand why they’re trying to do it. But with this recall issue, it’s going to be a tough road to hoe for a while, I’m afraid.
Larry Jordan: OK, that’s Nikon, what’s our third story this week?
James DeRuvo: Could SD Express be poised to become the once and future king of media cards? The SD Association has announced a new spec for the SD card, called SD Express. It’s a new media card architecture that utilizes the same NVME interface enjoyed by SSD and other flash storage devices. It will also utilize the speeds of PCI Express to transfer data to your desktop at a theoretical limit of one gigabyte per second. It looks great on paper, but will it stand up? Only time will tell.
James DeRuvo: But users will also be able to use these SD Express cards in slower SD card models but only at one tenth of the performance.
Larry Jordan: Now, clarify this for me. Is this a released product, or is this a spec?
James DeRuvo: No, right now it’s only a white paper stage at the moment, but the SD Cards Association is clearly preparing for an 8K future and doing some hard core math to make sure the SD spec has legs for the next several years. But my opinion is, that with compact flash express making inroads, and CFast being very dominant in the professional realm, I’m not sure this won’t be a pricey option for the consumer prosumer market for at least a few years.
Larry Jordan: Those are our three lead stories. What other stories are you following for this week?
James DeRuvo: Other stories we’re following this week include future versions of DJI’s drones will carry a transponder so pilots can see them coming and going and vice versa. Panasonic is coming out with an L-mount cinema camera next week, and how about a handy fog machine that fits in your pocket?
Larry Jordan: What I want is a machine that fits in my pocket that allows me to disappear. But a fog machine is a start. Where can we go on the web for industry news and reviews like this?
Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the editor in chief of DoddleNEWS and joins us every week. See you next Thursday.
James DeRuvo: See you next Thursday.
Larry Jordan: I want to introduce you to a new website. Thalo.com. Thalo is an artist 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 gobal perspective on all things creative. Thalo is the place for creative folks to learn, collaborate, market and sell their works. Thalo is a part of 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. Visit Thalo.com and discover how their community can help you connect, learn and succeed. That’s Thalo.com.
Larry Jordan: David Walton is an expert in the field of cameras. He’s also the assistant vice president of marketing for professional products at JVC Kenwood USA. He’s based out of the company’s headquarters in Wayne, New Jersey. Welcome back Dave, it’s always good to talk to you.
David Walton: Good to be here Larry.
Larry Jordan: Today we’re looking at the current state of cameras and production, but before we get into that, how would you describe your role at JVC?
David Walton: Well Larry this is my 39th year with JVC and I came into the company from a production background. I just loved the equipment so much that I had to get my hands on it full time. It seemed like the best way to go. At the time, we were building cameras that had to use an umbilical cable to a recorder, and you plugged the two together and you went out and you shot your program. That progressed of course to putting a recording device, the tape, into the camera. Then we marched on and replaced the tape with hard disks, and then the hard disks eventually were replaced by solid state. Then somebody said, “Hey, maybe we can put more pixels onto the imager and get out of this SD world,” and then we worked our way into HD and now we’re in 4K. Now we’re looking at things like 6K and 8K.
David Walton: A lot of people ask me, where will it end? When do I have enough pixels? So that’s kind of where we are now.
Larry Jordan: 39 years covers just about the most dramatic change in video that I can imagine from the very earliest days of video through today’s digital technology. That is an amazing life span.
David Walton: A lot of people don’t realize that when we started, we were developing tape and people can’t even imagine that. Developing tape.
Larry Jordan: I do remember, and lest I wax rhapsodic of the old days, I’m going to change the subject quickly, because I still have fond memories of threading two inch tape machines and getting ready for a newscast.
David Walton: OK.
Larry Jordan: As you survey the production landscape today, the one word that other guests have used over past shows to describe it, is that we’re in a time of intense change. How does it look to you?
David Walton: I can’t remember when we didn’t have a time of intense change, and my little history that I just gave, kind of summarizes a lot of that. I can remember meetings with the television networks in New York City and we’d go in there with an idea and we’d show them, and then we’d come back a year later with some prototypes of products, and they’d come back to us and say, “Well that was what we thought we wanted a year ago. But it’s all changed now.” Everything has changed, and as a manufacturer, it’s hard to keep up with that.
David Walton: So we do a survey, and I’m just getting ready to put out about a 30 question survey about cinema 4K cameras, and we’re going to launch this survey at CineGear. I can’t help but think about those experiences with the TV networks where, you ask them questions and you get good honest answers from somebody, and then when you go and create the product that they thought they wanted, a year later the landscape had changed.
Larry Jordan: Michael Kammes made a comment a few weeks ago that most of the improvements in cameras today are incremental, that there isn’t a new breakthrough technology driving camera technology. Would you agree or disagree?
David Walton: I would say that the breakthrough, that a lot of people don’t fully still appreciate it, but it is a real breakthrough and that is in the mobile phone. Years of technology, what you’re carrying in your pocket that is so good at making pictures, moving pictures and still pictures, that it has displaced a lot of the technology that’s gone into professional products. A lot of people don’t realize that in the professional side of the business, a lot of the products that we have built have been a result of the consumer electronics, whether it be tape recording, and the mechanisms and motors and scanners, or whether it’s in the cameras and the LSIs and the signal processors and the tip.
David Walton: It costs a lot of money to build a camera. If you want to build the LSI that goes into do the video processing in a video camera, you can spend two to five million dollars and if you’re only going to selling a few handful of those every month, you really won’t be able to amortize that development. When we had consumer products that were selling in the tens of thousands every month, you could build a tip for those cameras and then exploit that tip in a professional piece of equipment and give a very good value on a very high performance product to the professional market.
David Walton: That base has disappeared because of the cell phone. That technology base. So manufacturers are now trying to figure out “How do we make those same changes in progress, but with much lower quantity and still keep the prices down?” We don’t have that high volume consumer business behind us to drive those prices down on professional gear. So that’s a real challenge.
Larry Jordan: One of the things that JVC as a company is highlighting is the concept of the connected camera. What does this mean, and why is that important to you?
David Walton: Well it’s important for a variety of reasons. Way back in the early 2000s, 2003, we introduced a product called Screen Quarter, and it was basically a video camera, a professional camcorder that would provide streaming over the internet. People scratched their heads and said, “What’s that?” Wifi connection to your facility. “What’s that? What’s wifi?” But we’ve taken that same technology and we’ve used today’s technology and turned it into not only one camera, but a whole line of cameras that can do live streaming, you can stream multi cameras and do all the remote control and […] via a wireless connection. So that’s what we mean by connected cam. These cameras are not just individual products but they are part of a much larger network of video products that all work together.
Larry Jordan: I want to come back to this concept of change that we started our conversation with. It used to be back in the early days when you and I were both starting out that we could buy a Sony Betacam, we’d use that for ten years, we could amortize the heck out of it, but those days seem to be past. The change in camera technology is so rapid. What advice do you have for camera folks looking to buy a camera today that want it to last for a while?
David Walton: I don’t think it’s going to be an issue as long as you’re staying within the same formats. The main changes that have happened have been under […] what people watch. As long as people are still able to produce good quality HD video or 4K video for those who want more resolution, in a 16:9 format, I don’t think you’re going to go wrong with a good quality 4K or HD camera. Most of the cameras now have moved up to 4K capabilities but what we’ve found is that people using them are still using HD. So as long as you have at minimum, HD quality you’re able to produce content that people can use or the variety of video needs they have, the actual content, where it goes, has changed a lot.
David Walton: People do watch […] now on the internet and if you’re trying to make a living eking out some industrial, some corporate business, well one of the things that we all I think can appreciate when we do our shopping, is we find a YouTube video from a company that explains a core product we’re interested in. How well that video’s done, how well it’s produced, may have a lot to do with whether we buy their product or not. Well, it’s changed because that’s an opportunity for a producer but you want it to be good quality, and certainly HD quality, very good quality, and I don’t think the viewer is going to care whether that’s recorded on an SD memory card or on some other device. It doesn’t really matter as long as people shoot it, you can edit it and you can distribute it where it has to go and it’s very good quality, that’s what matters.
Larry Jordan: Part of your challenge in marketing is to take a look into the future and try and figure out where the company needs to head. What are your thoughts on the future? Are you optimistic, or is it a time for pulling back?
David Walton: Measured optimism. Optimism with the realization that yes, we aren’t going to be the same type of company and have the same type of products we did 20 or 30 years ago. We have to acknowledge the fact that people in all walks of life are walking around with very high quality cameras, that they can shoot video with a cell phone that is on par with some of the best video we’ve seen. That doesn’t mean that people who make content for a living are going to be somehow […] from this. There are all kinds of opportunities out there. I mentioned that just with the fact that more people are watching video now than ever before, thanks to the internet. They’re not watching it in the same way so I think that for companies like ours, I think it’s a very good future. We just have to stay on top of it by building the products people want and need.
Larry Jordan: And for people who want to find out the products that JVC offers, where can they go on the web?
David Walton: They can go to pro.jvc.com which gets you right into the professional […] covers cameras, and our system components, studio monitors, field monitors, everything we make is right there.
Larry Jordan: That website is three words, pro.jvc.com.
David Walton: Got it.
Larry Jordan: Pro.jvc.com and David Walton is the assistant vice president of marketing for professional products at JVC Kenwood, and Dave thanks for joining us today.
David Walton: Thank you Larry.
Larry Jordan: Piet Thiele is the product manager for the CINE division of Schneider-Kreuznach. He’s involved in German lens maker CINE lenses which includes the Xenon product line. Hello Piete, welcome back.
Piet Thiele: Hello Larry, thank you for the invitation.
Larry Jordan: This week we’re looking at the state of cameras and production, but before we head in that direction, how would you describe your role at CINE?
Piet Thiele: I’m the product manager so the first thing I always have to do is to look for the demand in the market, especially in lenses, also in filters, but this is the main thing I have to do. Go to the users, talk to the people and I have to know what they want in the next years to make great movies.
Larry Jordan: How would you describe the state of production today?
Piet Thiele: I think the two things that changed in the last years is that cameras and lenses become affordable, so real cine lenses and cameras which make real good videos and movie clips are becoming affordable for newcomers, and the other change is it’s possible to stream or transfer or broadcast your video into the whole world without any special tools. Just with your computer and all that. So these are the main things that many newcomers come into the market and change the whole game.
Larry Jordan: What impact on high quality lenses are cell phones having, because now everybody’s got a camera in their pocket?
Piet Thiele: Yes. This is also a change that every person has a smartphone and can make great movies with that. It’s also an impact, but I think that people who start with the smartphone, this is just to get a feeling for real good movies, and then they want to become better and better. I think also the big cameras and the lenses are still important also for the newcomers and also the other people who just play in first with their smartphones. But in the future I don’t know. Maybe when you look at the Google phones, they have the best cameras, I think and the software algorithms are great. So I’m a little bit afraid of what will happen in the future but I think it will take some years.
Larry Jordan: Where is the market for lenses today? Does it remain with traditional filmmakers, or is it expanding into new areas like corporate or houses of worship?
Piet Thiele: It’s expanding a lot in the commercial, corporate movies, image movies, web series. It’s a big thing. Non budget web series for festivals, short movies, all of that. So traditional film market, or Hollywood, it’s just only one part of the business any more. And there are other countries like China or India becoming bigger and bigger in this industry too and I think the big growth is also in the entry level for the newcomers. People coming from school and just have a small camera, and then they put a still photography lens on it and make good movies. But then they realize there are some things they can do better and then they want a CINE lens, a purpose built CINE lens and then they make better movies. This is I think one of the main game changers and maybe a danger for some older cinematographers or older DPs who still believe that they are the only ones on the planet. This is what happened in the last few years, and it goes on.
Larry Jordan: Unlike just about any other technology that attaches to a camera, lenses don’t become obsolete, in fact many cinematographers brag that they’re using legendary lenses from 30 years ago. Why should someone consider buying new lenses?
Piet Thiele: Good question. You have to find your appropriate lens for your movie. There are still possibilities for another lens manufacturers to create a special lens. We have a lot of opportunities in this technology time. This year we have special coatings, we have special new glasses, things change and we can create right now, new characteristics and spirit in the new lens. We have new software programs which change the whole development of a lens. Now we really know what will happen when we build a prototype. In the past, we built a lens, we built a prototype, and then we looked through the camera and see what happened in the final image.
Piet Thiele: Right now, we have the whole impact, the whole influence on the final image before we build any lens, before we build any prototype and so we can go to the users, show them our simulations on a computer, and say, “OK, do you want to change the flares, or the ghost and all those things to another color? Do you want this? Or this?” There are new possibilities to create new looks, new characteristics for lenses, and this is a really cool tool to have that.
Larry Jordan: As you mention, there are many different lenses to choose from, not just from your company, but from all of your competition. How does a cinematographer decide which lens they want to use, either for their project or just as their general go-to lens?
Piet Thiele: It’s a personality thing of course, but it depends on what you want to tell the audience, and what emotions you want to create in the audience, or do you want to show the real world, so realistic, real sharp and details and all of that. So it really depends on the movie you shoot. It is not whether you can say “This is the best lens for you, or this is the best lens overall.” I always say, you need the appropriate lens for your purpose. Sometimes it’s my lens from Schneider, and sometimes it’s a lens from another manufacturer. So I’m not afraid when I go into a test between my lens and the other lens manufacturers. So it is always a feeling from the DP or the director and or the producer which lens they want to use. At the end it depends what final image you want to go for and what you want to create for your audience.
Larry Jordan: Part of your job is to take a look at the industry and figure out where it’s going for the next two years and plan products to meet that. As you look to the future, what are the challenges that you see for lens makers?
Piet Thiele: To create lenses which are not only sharp and neutral, so you have to go to the users all the time, every day and talk to them. Then you are able to create something really special with all the technologies I mentioned a few minutes ago. There are also other things like the tilt from CINE tilt which we talked about last year which is totally different from a normal lens. So these are really good ideas which take us forward. But we are also looking into the camera market because it always depends what the camera manufacturers are doing right now. So now the full frame is a big market, so we have to take care that our lenses cover full frame also in the future, that we are more universal and have all the right stuff for these cameras.
Piet Thiele: But we also take care about the newcomers which have not so much budget but they want to make good movies. They can do the high level products, as a lens costs 30, or $40,000 or $50,000. Or you can go to the other direction, the entry level. This is what we have to decide in the future so I don’t want to talk about it too much. To do both for some lens manufacturers is really hard. There are some manufacturers who did that quite well but sometimes you have to decide in which direction you have to go and then you have a lot of possibilities to make great lenses with new technologies and there are still no end for new glass, for new coatings, or for new constructions for a lens.
Larry Jordan: As you look to the future, are you optimistic, or concerned?
Piet Thiele: For motion picture I’m very optimistic. Video is becoming more important every day. You look on Vimeo or YouTube, for motion pictures it’s very important. Video is becoming more and more and you see that also on YouTube when you look on some vlogs or other things. There are such great newcomers which do not go the traditional way of a DP from former times, or they don’t go to university or screen school. They do it on their own, they just do it. And so I’m really looking forward to working with these guys because they make great high quality content with affordable equipment, and it could be fun to work with them. So I’m happy to be here.
Larry Jordan: For people who want to learn more about the lenses that Schneider-Kreuznach makes, where can they go on the web?
Piet Thiele: They can go to schneiderkreuznach.com.
Larry Jordan: That website is schneiderkreuznach.com and Piet Thiele is the product manager for the CINE division of Schneider-Kreuznach. Piet, thanks for joining us today.
Piet Thiele: Thank you very much Larry.
Larry Jordan: Marcelo Lewin is the founder of howtocreatevr.com. He’s also a VR evangelist focusing on VR and AR experiences for the enterprise. In his previous life, he’s been a film maker, photographer, podcaster, project manager and web developer. Hello Marcelo, welcome back.
Marcelo Lewin: Larry, lovely to speak with you again. It’s been a while.
Larry Jordan: Yes, it has been a long while. Tonight we’re looking at the current state of cameras and production. To get us started, how would you describe howtocreatevr.com?
Marcelo Lewin: If you want to discover virtual reality and understand what it is and how to use it, for the enterprise, for narrative, for animation, for gaming, you’ll be able to discover a variety of technologies. Then you can learn how to use these technologies to then go and create. So the tagline is discover, learn, create. Discover VR, learn how to create VR, and then go and do it.
Larry Jordan: What was it that first got you interested in VR?
Marcelo Lewin: Oh my god. I put on the Oculus VR headset, and it just blew my mind. I was a skeptic of virtual reality, I tried it many years ago. I got sick and I just didn’t believe in it. But when I put on the Rift, everything changed. Truly it’s the future of computing, because if you think about it, we all live in X, Y, Z and that’s what virtual reality is. It’s X, Y, Z. There is no interface, there is nothing for you to learn because it’s the way you live.
Larry Jordan: I will confess that I’m a skeptic on VR but let me come back at you. When you’re wearing a VR headset, you’re inside a sphere looking out. In real life, we are outside a sphere, looking in. That’s like 180 degree difference, would you agree, or disagree?
Marcelo Lewin: We are in a sphere, it just happens that that sphere is just open right? And we have a sky but we’re still in a sphere, and we have to make differences between VR and 360 and I know that’s a religious war for a lot of people, but 360 is something called three degrees of freedom which means you’re in the middle, and the only thing you can do is look all around but you can’t move. True virtual reality allows you, gives you six degrees of freedom which means you can move forward, backwards, up and down, right and left, jump. You can do whatever you want. Just like you do in real life.
Marcelo Lewin: As we add haptics, as we add all sorts of things, the way your body is connected to VR, and it’s going to happen. It’s happening now, but it will happen more in the future, it will be very hard to tell the difference between virtual reality and reality.
Larry Jordan: I want to come back to this for a second, because on your website, you do differentiate between different categories of VR. You have VR, 360 VR, and the cinematic VR. You’ve already expressed that with 360 VR we’re at the center of a sphere, but what’s the differences of the other two categories?
Marcelo Lewin: VR is completely computer generated. It can also be photogrammetry, but it’s completely generated by computer and put in a 3D environment where you can move. That’s full virtual reality. Then you have 360 video which you’re in the middle of a sphere, and you’re looking up, down, right, left, but you can’t move. Then you have cinematic VR which is basically 360 video, but in 3D. So you do have a little bit of that depth perception, but you still can’t move.
Marcelo Lewin: Now what’s coming in the future, and it’s happening now and we’re about to have a live event on AltspaceVR with Randal Kleiser, which is a director of Grease, but he’s also done a fully volumetric version of one of the songs in Grease. You’re the one that I want, we all know that song. He did a fully volumetric video where you can actually move around the dancers. That’s the future of 360 video. It’s not where you’re going to be in the middle, but where you’re going to be able to move around it.
Marcelo Lewin: So today you have VR, but it’s mostly computer generated, so you’re creating these 3D environments, either from scratch or using volumetric video. Then you have 360 video, cinematic 360 is more 360 video with 3D, and then you have AR which is really the outside world, the reality, just augmented with more information, or the ability to interact where digital objects can interact with real world objects.
Larry Jordan: Given that, there’s been a lot of discussion on what kinds of projects work well for VR. Should filmmakers be interested or should we focus more on computer scientists?
Marcelo Lewin: No, completely filmmakers should be interested, and I’ll explain why. Today if you’re doing a fully virtual reality native VR experience, you can either use Unity or you have to use Unreal. However, if you go and discover the different technologies, there’s tons out there and there are more coming up now that are allowing you to bootstrap and not do any programming whatsoever. Just drag and drop. Creation. So that’s one way that things are changing.
Marcelo Lewin: And one thing we want to keep in mind with VR is that we are at a point right now that we were with the internet probably in early 2000. There were many skeptics about the internet, but you cannot judge VR today by today’s standards, by what technology we have. Because the technology’s changing so quickly, especially for narratives, there are some amazing animation that’s being done where you can actually move through and in or out through storytelling. There’s other forms of storytelling where you can follow different actors and get their point of view of the entire story. So you still have a full story line that you follow, but you can follow different actors and get their point of view and that’s being done today.
Marcelo Lewin: So is it hard to do a fully interactive VR experience today? Yes, it’s not for the typical film maker. But it’s getting there, and guaranteed in five years it’s going to be so much easier to do a full six degrees of freedom VR experience.
Larry Jordan: For people who are new to VR, what experiences do you recommend that they check out to learn more?
Marcelo Lewin: Well there’s tons of experiences out there, but if you’re more into the filmmaking side, I recommend three great ones. Number one, check out Defrost which is on VeerR VR. It’s a 12 part miniseries by Randal Kleiser. Check out Marshall from Detroit. It’s a fantastic 3D 360 video that you want to check out. If you want to check out one where it mixes up virtual reality with interactivity, the Invisible Hours. This one allows you to follow a storyline but pick different actors to follow and listen to their point of view about the story. Very interesting.
Larry Jordan: Well if we judge from the hype meter, VR was suffering from massive hype two years ago and then almost disappeared if we look at trade shows, over the last year. What do you see as the key challenges that prevent VR from becoming successful?
Marcelo Lewin: I love that question. It’s adoption. Too much friction to get into VR right now. So for example, I need a powerful computer, I’m attached to a cord, I have this big headset. However, you know by three weeks, or whenever this podcast airs, everything will change. And why is that? Oculus Quest is coming out. Oculus Quest is the first true untethered no computer, no phone required, fully stand alone, inside out tracking, six degrees of freedom, virtual reality headset, or what they call HMDs, head mounted displays. When that comes out this is going to open it up to the mass. It’s still going to take a while. The thing is, with a phone the adoption is easy. I could show you the phone, I can literally hold it in my hand and show you the screen and people start getting it and it was adopted quicker.
Marcelo Lewin: But with a VR, the adoption with virtual reality is you have to be in it to really get it. So we have to figure out a way to convince people not by being in it, but other means of why virtual reality is truly the future of computing. So really it’s how hard it is to get into VR today that’s slowing down the adoption. But it’s about to change.
Larry Jordan: One of the things you said is that filmmakers should pay attention to VR. For someone who’s just getting started in VR, isn’t a computer programmer, does have strong filmmaking skills, what key areas should they focus on as they start to explore this new industry?
Marcelo Lewin: OK, number one, get in all the experiences. Try out VR from a consumer perspective. But look at these VR experiences from the creative side and figure out how they do this. Second, get into 360 video. You can buy for example the E360 VR camera for I think it’s three, 400 bucks. It shoots 5.7K 360 VR, and start learning the workflow because it doesn’t matter if you have a $300 camera or a $20,000 VR set, the workflow is pretty much going to be the same. So learn the workflow. Understand how it is different from filming traditional cinema. There is no frame, it’s all over.
Marcelo Lewin: Second, look at what people are doing. Look at what Brett Leonard is doing with 360. Look at what Randal Kleiser is doing with 360. And learn from them. And the beautiful part about all of this is there’s no cinematic language yet, that means it’s completely open for you to try and do whatever you can, because there’s nothing that you can do that’s wrong. We’re all testing things out right now. But I definitely recommend jump into it, learn about gaming, learn about theater, learn about traditional cinema, and put it all together.
Larry Jordan: For people who do want to learn more about VR, where can they go on the web?
Marcelo Lewin: Hm, let me think about that. OK, just go to howtocreatevr.com.
Marcelo Lewin: Pleasure Larry.
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: Steve Weiss is a co-founder of and creative director for Zacuto. He also has more than 40 years experience as a photographer and director for corporate commercials and fashions with numerous awards to his credit. Hello Steve, welcome back.
Steve Weiss: Hey Larry, how’s it going?
Larry Jordan: I’ve been looking forward to our conversation ever since you agreed to be on the show, so I’m a happy camper at the moment because tonight we’re looking at the state of production technology. As our closing guest, I’m interested in your thoughts on what production technology is hot right now.
Steve Weiss: Well you know, I don’t really care.
Larry Jordan: Why not?
Steve Weiss: I’ve said this like a million times, you know, it’s really more about talent than about technology. I mean, in our 2012 shootout, we kind of proved that you could take any camera and make it look great. It was all about mastering the camera, and the technology was there. It’s about how much talent you have and what you can do with it and knowing how to light. So my DP who I’ve been with for 37 years, he can take any camera and make it look great. So I don’t know. The funny thing is, the other day we had to shoot something and we had one of these handheld gimbal things and we ended up using the iPhone, it looked better. I would say that’s my favorite camera.
Larry Jordan: When you talk about the camera shootout you did in 2012, what did you do and what did you learn?
Steve Weiss: Well we did a blind test where we knew it was a big deal, there was almost 700 people involved in that. We built a set and we allowed a team that claimed they were a specialist in each one of these cameras. Starting from an iPhone 4 to a GH5 and a Canon C300 all the way up to a RED Alexa. I don’t remember all the specific cameras. Then we screened them in theaters, all around the world, in Australia and England and Germany, in the US at Skywalker Ranch, before the ASC, and we labeled them as A through S.
Steve Weiss: After we screened the same shots out of every camera, people would comment on it and there were some surprising results. One ASC member liked the iPhone the best, Francis Ford Coppola who showed up to one of the screenings picked the GH5. So I mean in 2012 we were already having people saying that the technology was good enough. Now it’s six or seven years later, so really they’re all great cameras, any one of them is. I guess it boils down to ergonomics, what you like.
Larry Jordan: Well if technology isn’t the key and you have been saying that for years, I agree, what should filmmakers focus on to grow their business?
Steve Weiss: Story, rehearsals, lighting, and please don’t do your own sound. Hire a sound man.
Larry Jordan: Thank you.
Steve Weiss: Because sound is to me, more important than picture and I’ve only been involved with picture my whole life. I mean I’ve been involved with sound too because it’s part of picture, but I would focus on sound. When you go to a movie theater and you hear bad sound, that does not say good movie.
Larry Jordan: No, I’ve walked out of those actually.
Steve Weiss: When you hear great sound, now you’re looking to story next. And then picture. So I don’t really put picture at the top. Although I’m in the picture business. But I did another film, called Light and Shadow where I interviewed 35 ASC members, and I asked them, these were cinematographers, “What’s more important? Picture or sound?” And probably two thirds of them said sound. So that was pretty interesting.
Larry Jordan: If you think about it, people will watch a black screen with interesting sound, but they’ll have a hard time watching a screen with lots of activity with no sound.
Steve Weiss: It’s everything. If this show was all stat icky and crackly, people would tune out. We always say, bad sound is intolerable. Bad picture could be a creative choice. And I’ve had many people send me films and characters are moving in and out of focus and I know it’s because they’re using DSLRs and this very shallow depth of field. And many of them have said, “Oh no, I wanted that, I wanted to have this feeling of them dipping in and out of focus.” And I’m like, “OK. That’s cool, that’s your creative choice.” Like I said, picture, you can do whatever you want. The key is it really boils down to the story. And rehearsals and how well the acting is. It’s really more in that realm and that all goes into the talent phase, you know, screen direction. How many times do you watch something and a really creative shot is what gets you?
Larry Jordan: When you and I were talking about this interview, before tonight, you said something I found very intriguing. Where should filmmakers focus their efforts? On theatrical or television or somewhere else?
Steve Weiss: I’ve asked this question for the last 15 years to various different filmmakers and various different web series that we’ve done. My god, we did it on our Zacuto live show two weeks ago, and I always get this really weird response. I say “Would you rather have a thousand people see your film, in a darkened movie theater or 100,000 on the web?” And shockingly, 50 percent say a theater, 50 percent, something like that, say that they would rather have the volume of viewers and I had a guest on that was laughing. She was like “Are you kidding me? You created this piece. To me, I would want a volume of people to see it on various platforms. It doesn’t really matter to me.”
Steve Weiss: But I am shocked when I hear people that there’s just this urge to be in a movie theater when only 165 pictures get released a year and Hollywood has a hard time getting that right. So getting in there is pretty rare. I wouldn’t even focus on that. I’d be more interested in getting a lot of viewers online.
Larry Jordan: Well except, let me push back on that, and I totally understand your shock and I’m probably the same, but if a film maker is interested in making money they would probably make more money off 1000 people in a theater than 100,000 views on YouTube as I know from the 100,000 views that I get on my YouTube stuff would not barely buy lunch.
Steve Weiss: Well in both cases, you wouldn’t get any lunch. So 1000 people in a movie theater is no money, and 100,000 people on the web is no money. But what you should be focusing on is finding a producer’s rep company and if they tune in to this show, we gave lots of examples of them a couple of weeks ago on Zacuto live where they have a whole plan to get you into Amazon, Fandango, all these place, not Netflix. People need to not get focused on Netflix because Netflix buys their content, where these other platforms you get paid on a sort of a licensing agreement, some of them are paid on a per view situation, and it allows you to do marketing. And this woman explains exactly how you can do all your own marketing and she has films that are doing in the $300,000 range, $600,000, no stars. It’s possible using all of these platforms, but again, people, they contact me and say “What do I got to do to be on Netflix?” Well that’s just as hard as being in a movie theater because that’s a sale. But there are ways to go about this. But you seriously have to do your research and YouTube is not a way.
Larry Jordan: No, very true. YouTube is for the general market, but there’s a lot of better options as you’ve just mentioned. If you were to give one piece of advice, aside from pay attention to talent, pay attention to story and rehearse, that focuses on what it takes to be successful as a business, what would your thoughts be?
Steve Weiss: Well, are we talking about for an indie film or for like a corporate production company?
Larry Jordan: No let’s do corporate production, I like that.
Steve Weiss: OK. Number one, I’ve said it 1,000 times, and I’ve said it on your show. You need to get yourself a business man who sells and gets you work. Because every time I see a production company, it’s two creative guys that get together, and say “Let’s form a production company.” Then they go and find a job, they do it, but the second you start doing it, you’re unemployed because you don’t have this business man, a salesman. I’ve had one and every company needs it, who’s out there hawking work for you every single day so that you’re working on five projects at once, and he’s still finding you new ones. So that’s my advice. Get a business man. Jobs are hard to get in this industry so it’s worth anything you have to pay to get them.
Larry Jordan: I like that advice. Find a business man who’s selling while you’re creating. A wonderful idea. For people who want more information about the information you have on the web, where can they go?
Steve Weiss: Zacuto.com, we have a link that has all our web series and we also have Zacuto Live now every Wednesday at 11am.
Larry Jordan: That’s one word which is zacuto.com, thanks Steve, bye bye.
Steve Weiss: OK thanks Larry.
Larry Jordan: You know, I was just thinking. Earlier this week Apple updated their Macbook Pro line of laptops with faster processors with more cores. But the new gear is the same size. It has the same limited ports, the same potential issues with heat dissipation, but it has a new and allegedly improved butterfly keyboard. A keyboard that’s been a problem for three years. As a good friend sent me in an email last night, “Oh sure,” he wrote, “like it’s really fixed this time. I’ll believe it when [KC Johnson] and Joanna Stern say it’s fixed.”
Larry Jordan: The only reason the butterfly keyboard exists is that Apple believes that pro laptops are thin laptops, which is both arrogant and misguided. When I do video production or video editing or audio editing on location, tasks which are considered pro functions, I travel with a 20 pound bag of dongles to connect to every potential piece of gear out there because I need HDMI and audio out and a micro SD slot. None of which Apple considers pro anymore.
Larry Jordan: Every year I promise myself that I will buy a new Apple laptop. I have the money, it’s in the bank. Yet every year Apple updates their laptops and doesn’t fix the keyboard. Doesn’t fix the heat issues. Doesn’t add more ports, and GPU power continues to be constrained. So I’m still traveling with a 2013 Macbook Pro which has plenty of ports, a slower CPU and a keyboard that has never failed.
Larry Jordan: Increasingly CPU speed is less important as GPU speed and storage bandwidth takes center stage at higher resolution formats. But these new pro units boost the CPU. Not GPU. And Macbook Pros still only have a one gigabit Ethernet. Still, they are thin.
Larry Jordan: As you know, Apple doesn’t share its hardware plans with the public so I have no inside knowledge, but it’s my hope that these units are a placeholder for a complete system redesign coming in the next year. A pro laptop that is thicker, that includes a better more reliable keyboard, more ports, faster GPU’s and a heat sink big enough to cool Cleveland.
Larry Jordan: And if they need to slow down the CPU to accommodate that, that’s a good trade off. I’m happy that consumers like thin. I think thin is cute. But excuse me while I grab my case of parts, I need to get some work done. Just something I’m thinking about.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests tonight, Dave Walton with JVC, Piet Thiele with Schneider-Kreuznach, Marcelo Lewin with howtocreatevr.com, Steve Weiss with Zacuto 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.
Larry Jordan: Talk with us on Twitter @DPBuZZ and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Transcripts are provided by Take 1.tv. Our theme music is composed by Nathan Dugi-Turner with additional music provided by Smartsound.com.
Larry Jordan: Our producer is Paulina Borowski, 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.