The present and future of post production business and technology | Philip Hodgetts

Jun/18

26

Putting Words in Their Mouths!

As I research further into Machine Learning to gain a better understanding of what’s possible and how it might be applied, I found a couple of audio related articles. While mostly still in the lab, this research will guarantee the perfect Frankenbite in the future!

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On the night of the Supermeet 2011 Final Cut Pro X preview I was told that this was the “foundation for the next 10 years.” Well, as of last week, seven of the ten have elapsed. I do not, for one minute, think that Apple intended to convey a ten year limit to Final Cut Pro X’s ongoing development, but maybe it’s smart to plan obsolescence. To limit the time an app continues to be developed before its suitability for the task is re-evaluated.

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I speak as both a customer of software (among other things) and a developer of niche software and in both voices I want to scream “Read the Help” many times a day.

We get many emails where someone has tried to use one of our apps and “it hasn’t worked” and they’re “really stressed”. At least 80% are solved by copying and pasting part of the Help. For sure it’s annoying for us to write the Help and then have to provide it in bite size chunks to the customer. It takes time and that costs us money, but that’s not the reason you should read the Help.

Reading the Help will reduce your stress and get you answers faster. (more…)

As someone who’s watched the development of machine learning, and who is in the business of providing tools for post production workflows that “take the boring out of post” you’d think I’d be full of ideas of how post can be enhanced by machine learning.

I’m not.

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At Lumberjack System, we frequently get push back that it’s “too hard” to log during the shoot. If you’re manipulating a camera (reframing etc) then sure you can’t log. And if you’re holding a boom, ditto. But if you’re monitoring audio during recording, or running the interview, then it is totally possible to log during the shoot with no added stress.

I do it all the time. For my family history project I set up cameras, mics and audio records and run the interview and log. Lunch with Philip and Greg is much the same, with the added complication of eating.

The best approach is to work in back-time mode and relax. Back-time eliminates the stress of anticipating when an answer starts because you’re logging “in the past”

I typically work with the 5 second back time on by default. This means I can be fully engaged with the subject while asking the question, and continue to be engaged with them as they start their answer. I can glance down after a few seconds (fewer than five!) and tap on the keyword start.

This takes the stress and tension out of having to “get it right on the moment.”

Back time also allows us to add a new keyword and log it from up to 90 seconds in the past. Keyword range end is always the current time.

When I wrote yesterday’s blog post on Aging Out, I had completely forgotten this episode of The Terence and Philip Show we recorded back in February. Turns out it couldn’t be more relevant.

In this show we discuss the important role of professional skills and experience. They discuss the difference between having the tools, knowing how to use them and how to create with those tools.

With so much changing, new careers will need to be invented.

Jun/18

13

Aging Out?

In a comment on my career disasters’ post (on Facebook) it was pointed out that ageism is playing a big part in why so many highly skilled people have difficulty regaining employment. It’s absolutely not fair, but it’s also incredibly short sighted.

In not retaining highly experienced people in our industry – letting them “age out” so to speak – we lose their combined knowledge and insight. Yes, new people coming into the industry might be able to learn the day-to-day tasks they need, but with years of experience comes an insight that is hard to describe.

When you’ve been through multiple changes of technology; hundreds of hours of troubleshooting and bug reporting; and years of experience dealing with all kinds of people you bring an insight that the new employee simply will not have.

You will be quicker at finding – and fixing – problems that arise. You’ll be MUCH BETTER at making sure those problems do not arise, simply because you’ve been there and got the T shirt. You’ve learnt from your own and other people’s mistakes and know how to avoid them.

And obsolete knowledge can still be insightful. For example, very technique I used tweaking animations on my old Amiga so they’d fit in memory, was useless just five years later when memory became abundant. But when it came to making low bandwidth animation for the early Internet, I had a bunch of techniques at hand to work with.

The only reason to “let” (i.e. force) people to “age out” is if they have failed to keep current with technology and technique. I like to think those people are rare.

I have zero idea how to solve the short sightedness of employers who won’t even grant an interview because of birth year. I’ve had exactly one employer that wasn’t a company I controlled, across my entire career. Even that – Head Technician in a touring theater venue – was without direct supervision. I have gone my entire career without adult supervision, so it’s perhaps a wise employer that would shy clear!

That was the first job I applied for against a competitive field. I have not applied for a second job, so I have zero advice to offer.

I am a big believer in the need for failure in innovation. If I’d been more successful at some of my earlier career directions, I certainly wouldn’t have needed to push forward.

Two recent announcement place IBM’s Artificial Intelligence play, Watson, right in the sports spotlight.

Watson is being used for tagging World Cup coverage, and the relationship with Wimbledon from picking highlights and enhancing user experience to, this year, designing the poster!

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I wish that was a rhetorical question and I was about to propose an answer. Sadly I’m not. At best we have an illusion of permanence, but our business lives can change in an instant. Usually without us being involved in the decision!

There are the obvious examples. The other cast and crew on Rosanne had their livelihood jerked out from below, through no fault of their own.

The production crew on Parts Unknown who face a very uncertain future, as do many at Zero Point Zero Productions.

One acquaintance lost business and home in quick succession and has left LA. Another had a decent, well paying job at a major studio until downsizing eliminated the position. An unfortunate bout of ill health without the cover of employer insurance, and within 2 years he was effectively homeless. Another laid off from another studio job is finding a home for their many talents and abilities.

How do we prepare?

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Endgaget recently had an article on transferring facial movements from a person in one video, to a different person in a different video. Unlike previous approaches, this latest development requires only a few minutes of the target person’s video, and correctly handles shadows.

Combined with other research that allows us to literally “put words in people’s mouths” by typing them and having them created in a person’s voice that never said the words. Completely synthesized and indistinguishable from the person saying it.

Transferred facial movements plus created words in that person’s voice and it will be a forensic operation to determine if the results are “genuine” or created.

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