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

Jun/19

11

If Production were Food Service

I’ve long struggled with a good way of expressing the diverse range of work that’s done under the banner of “professional production.” Then inspiration hit me at last month’s LACPUG meeting when I discovered that Blackmagic Design Product Specialist Shawn Carlson used to be a chef in fine dining restaurants: What if we compared the diversity of professional production to the diversity of professional food service.

There’s a very clear distinction between food prepared at home (hobby/amateur) and food prepared outside the home and purchased. There is no “prosumer” in food service, as indeed there shouldn’t be in production.

Professional food service encompasses a very, very wide range of experiences. From Michelin Starred and Fine Dining restaurants, through formal dining, casual dining, quick service, take out, all the way down to food trucks and hamburger huts. Wherever you work, whichever market segment the food service, there’s no doubt that everyone is in professional food service. They are professionals.

I have no problem equating the Studio Film (and high end TV) to the Michelin and Fine Dining restaurants. High cost, high value and a unique experience unlike other dining opportunities.

Fortunately for my budget they’re not the only type of professional food service, and “Hollywood” isn’t the only type of professional production. There’s a lot of different types of professional production as there are food service. Weddings, Events, Journalism, Corporate, Education, Social Media, Product marketing, Product Help, video catalogs, etc.

There’s not one type of “professional” in either industry.

Last Friday we released Builder 2.0, but we only sent out the press release today. Builder 2.0 works with FCP X XML as it always has, plus Premiere Pro XML from now on. Those who have followed Lumberjack, or my writing about it, from the start, this will seem like a major departure for a tool “built for FCP X.”

Lumberjack System has been exclusively focused on Final Cut Pro X. It’s a very natural fit as both use Keyword Ranges/Keyword Collections at their core, and that’s a hard concept to translate to other data structures. At the first development of Lumberjack System I said it “would be available for FCP X at first, then Premiere Pro and eventually Media Composer.” Obviously marketing never spoke to product development.

It became obvious we couldn’t easily replicate the Keyword Range/Keyword Collection experience outside of FCP X, so we decided to focus where we could do an excellent integration, leaving aside other opportunities where the integration might not be as complete.

There’s certainly been no disrespect to Adobe and Premiere Pro CC: via Intelligent Assistance Software we make a suite of apps for Premiere Pro, including Change List CC that is essential for feature film production.

As Builder developed we got a lot of interest in a version that worked with Premiere Pro. Philosophically there was no reason to not do it, because Builder takes XML from its host NLE and gives back an edited result to that host. Nothing in that workflow was incompatible with Premiere Pro.

When we researched we initially came to the conclusion that we couldn’t support Multicam Sequences from Premiere Pro, and I considered that a deal breaker in 2019. However, a casual conversation with Adobe’s Karl Soule pointed us in the right direction, so Builder 2.0 supports Multicam Sequences in and back to Premiere Pro as active multicam clips.

With some further help from Adobe Developer support we’ve been able to make Builder fully feature compatible between outputs: Temp Voice Over, Placeholders, and Closed Captions are all fully supported in both outputs.

The incredibly clever Dr Gregory Clarke worked out how to make one app work with both XML versions automatically, with no user intervention required. Start from Premiere Pro and Builder knows to send the output back to Premiere Pro. Start from Final Cut Pro X and Builder knows to send the output back to Final Cut Pro X.

Builder transparently works with both types of documents – even different types open at the same time – but cannot translate between input and output.

According to MESA’s SmartScreen news the two metadata standards bodies Entertainment Identifier Registry (EIDR) and Digital Data Exchange (DDEX) are working together to streamline music metadata with film and TV metadata.

“Music synchronization is an inseparable part of film and TV production,” Will Kreth, EIDR executive director, said in the announcement. He added: “This partnership will have a truly significant impact on all rights-holders. It may seem trivial to agree on standard IDs and common wording, but you can’t effectively measure or monetize what you can’t easily identify — and the truth is, even small inconsistencies can hold up payments of sync rights. We are excited to work with DDEX to make the whole process more efficient on all sides.”

https://www.mesalliance.org/2019/05/06/eidr-joins-forces-with-ddex-to-streamline-metadata-standards/

It won’t make any difference in production, but for those working in distribution it will be important.

A new episode of The Terence and Philip Show looks at what money can buy in production.

When we buy goods or services, we rarely consider the time cost that is associated with the purchase.

Which is more expensive: a wifi switch for $25 or a Dimmer for $46? At first blush, the dimmer seems more expensive, but when you consider that the wifi switch didn’t work after more than 40 minutes of trying to make it work, and had to go back costing additional time, it’s no longer that good value. Consider the dimmer took less than five minutes to install and configure.

At a nominal $30 an hour value on a person’s time, the “we never got it to work” wifi switch cost $45 and we got no value at all. After a refund that “cheap” device still cost $20 and we got nothing. The dimmer’s effective cost $48.50 it was still better value even if the other device had worked!

All too often we only consider price and never consider what it costs in our time and effort. Training is a great example. Back a few years Total Training had a comprehensive After Effects training course with over 40 hours of lessons. Most people didn’t realize they were making a $10,000 investment.

Forty hours just to watch the content once. To learn you’d need to watch at least twice, more likely three times. Then to work along and reinforce the learning would be another 2-3 times the length of the course. It’s reasonable to consider that you’ll spend a month’s working time on transferring the content on the DVDs to your brain, you only have to be on $2500 a week for the cost to exceed $10,000 in lost opportunity cost. The other alternative though, is to slowly fall behind because you’re not learning enough to keep up!

Learning new software is expensive. Upgrading an operating system – even one that incurs no direct charge – is still expensive as you lose 2-3 hours of productivity. If you’re a programmer it can take a week to get back to the same development environment. That free OS upgrade could cost a programmer $3-4,000 in lost income producing time.

Don’t be fooled into valuing your time at nothing.

May/19

8

Art, Design and Creativity

At the end of every episode of The Terence and Philip Show I challenge our audience to “Do something creative,” but what do I mean by ‘creative’?

Creativity is a mix of randomness and restraint: extreme and editing. If there is no randomness, no sense of doing something different, then it’s hard to be considered creative! It’s equally easy to be completely random without restraint or editing and be unable to decide what is effective design or art. (More on those later.)

A long time ago in a country far away, I employed a graphic designer for some publishing work we were doing. I distinctly remember him generating three versions of an ad where he was unable to decide which was “best.” What was so odd, was that one of the designs clearly communicated content and mood better than the other two, which was immediately obvious (to me). He had random down, but lacked the editorial eye.

Creativity isn’t something exclusive to painters, sculptors and other practitioners of the “fine arts.” While they are a sub-branch of creativity, it is not limited to fine arts. To be really creative one has to be outside common bounds, while fine arts define common bounds!

Design is creativity applied to problem solving, which is why it appeals to me. Whether that problem is an icon design, a garden landscaping challenge or a new iPhone, the same skills of trying something new and different (randomness) combined with an editorial eye, work to solve the challenge.

It’s also beholden on the designer to be aware or changed opportunities: new tools, techniques and material make new opportunities possible. Applying those new solutions is definitely creative.

Art adds another dimension: passion. For about a year I shared a house with a college art student, David Middlebrook, now one of Australia’s more prominent landscape artists. Even then he had a very savvy understanding of “art” and had two working definitions, both equally true. “Art is what the art world will buy” and the much less cynical “Art is Passion.”

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a passion for people, for landscapes or for changing the world, Art is the expression of creativity with passion.

Bottom line: you can’t be conventional and creative.

May/19

7

Filmmaking as a VR “Game”?

According to UploadVR.com Disney’s Jon Favreau directed the photorealistic remake of The Lion King in a VR environment created for the film.

The inevitable merge of VR and filmmaking and one that opens a lot of creative opportunity for photorealistic filmmaking, although I suspect that humans may still suffer from the Uncanny Valley effect, for a couple more iterations of technology.

May/19

6

Micropayments at last?

What’s new in Publishing has an article today about Micropayments “unlocking an entire economy” between ads and subscriptions, which really resonates with me because it’s something I’ve really wanted, and something I’ve invested time and money into developing.

As far back as my earliest days on the Internet on the Media 100 User email Group (still alive and well BTW) I realized I’d make a nice side income if anyone I’d helped could tip me 5c or 10c. That wasn’t possible in the early 1990’s, but come to early this century we tried to bring micropayments to podcasts (via KlickTab).

KlickTab, and the Open TV Network, suffered from the classic bind of not enough content to be attractive for potential users, and not enough users to be attractive to potential content providers.

If we can find a cost effective way of allowing small “tips” (aka Patreon) or charges for an article, or a video or segment of video, that is also frictionless then it might, as the article suggests, open new streams of revenue for content creators.

Subscriptions require a regular, ongoing supply of fresh content, and a long term commitment making them less attractive for creators and consumers, but small – and appropriate – amounts for specific content requires no commitment on either side.

May/19

2

Why I’m Learning Swift

Nothing about my job description requires I code anything! The open secret is that I get credit for the code written by my husband and partner Gregory Clarke, so I don’ have to write code.

Now I have a 50,000′ overview of coding and the technology, enough to be an effective product manager, but I can’t code, or truly understand what Greg has written.

This makes me/us very vulnerable.

Technically I don’t need to write Swift, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll be a more effective manager if I can at least read Swift and gain a glimmer of understanding.

So, starting Sunday, I’m doing the 100 days of Swift course.

Of course, it still won’t help with all the XML knowledge Greg has, nor with the various quirks of FCP Classic, FCP X, and Premiere Pro’s handling of XML or media, but it’s a start!

Apr/19

29

Metadata is Expensive

As big a fan of all metadata as I am, I do acknowledge that the most useful metadata is also the most expensive to obtain. Technical metadata from the camera comes at almost no cost: set the camera correctly and metadata on frame size, codec, frame rate, Timecode, Time of Shoot, etc comes effectively free.

Not so content metadata about where the shot it, who is in the shot, what people are saying, what people are talking about (requires understanding), or where people are. That metadata takes time (and mostly human involvement) to add, making it quite expensive.

Back in 2008, when we released First Cuts for FCP, we knew the power of metadata to kick start the editing process for non-scripted production. First Cuts didn’t reach its potential because of the expense of the metadata offset some of the benefits.

That’s why I am so interested in the potential for Machine Learning to reduce the cost of acquiring Content Metadata. Once we can derive the metadata affordably, we can use that to kick-start the creative process and avoid the paralysis of an empty timeline!

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