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

CAT | Business

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…)

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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This is the first time I’ve taken a deep look at a TV show and worked out what I think would be the perfect metadata workflow from shoot to edit bay. I chose to look at Pie Town’s House Hunters franchise because it is so built on a (obviously winning) formulae, and I thought that might make it easier for automation or Artificial Intelligence approaches.

But first a disclaimer. I am in no way associated with Pie Town Productions. I know for certain they are not a Lumberjack System customer and am also pretty sure they – like the rest of Hollywood – build their post on Avid Media Composer (and apparently Media Central as well). This is purely a thought exercise built around a readily available example and our Lumberjack System’s capabilities.

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I was privileged to be invited to a panel at 2018 HPA TR-X: Everything You Thought You Knew About Artificial Intelligence in M&E and What You Didn’t Know You Didn’t on a panel titled AI Vision Panel: What Will Happen and When?

It was an interesting topic, although our panel got quite pessimistic about the future of society if we’re not very careful with how AI/Machine Learning comes into our lives, but that’s a blog post for another time.

What has really set me thinking was a comment by John Motz, CTO Gray Meta that his 12 year old and her friends, spend more time creating media for each other than simply consuming it.

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The latest show starts with discussing a recent survey that claims TV holds the top spot in tech devices, but we aren’t so sure.

This discussion, as usual, covers a wide range of topics including internet availability, changing business models and the opportunity YouTube presents.

Episode 79: TV holds the top spot in tech devices?

Jan/18

18

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

A few weeks ago we published an episode of The Terence and Philip Show dealt with Imposter Syndrome. Yesterday I came across an article on 21 Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndromehttps://startupbros.com/21-ways-overcome-impostor-syndrome/ that seemed like a logical follow on!

I think I mentioned it on the show, but one of the most important things when getting introduced to a new group: Get a GREAT introduction.  As long as you don’t every disprove the introduction that’s how people will think of you. With that in mind  #14 Say what you can resonated with me.

Well, from a couple of days of reading and email newsletters, but there is quite a focus.

MESA Alliance quotes Deluxe Entertainment Services Group chief product offer Andy Shenkler as saying:

“AI is obviously playing a fairly broad role, especially with the areas that we at Deluxe are working on,” he told the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) in a phone interview. That includes “everything from the post-production creation process, localization” around advanced language detection and auto translation – “and then even down into the distribution side of things,” he said, noting the latter was “probably the least well-known and discussed” part of the equation.

That article goes on to talk about who’s technologies they use and how they use it to assign metadata to incoming assets. Speaking of Content Metadata (in this case about finished content, not for use in production) Roz Ho, senior vice president and general manager, consumer and metadata at TIVO, writes in a guest blog at Multichannel News:

Not only does machine learning help companies keep up with the tsunami of content, it can better enrich metadata and enable distributors to get the right entertainment in front of the right viewers at the right time.

Machine learning takes metadata beyond cast, title and descriptions, and enables content to be enhanced with many new data descriptors such as keywords, dynamic popularity ratings, and moods, to name a few.

Liz finishes with a short dissertation on how these machines, and people enhanced by them, will be the direction we take in the future.

And out of CES some headlines:

CES 2018: Consumer Technology Association Expects Major Growth for AI in 2018

CES 2018: AI Touted Heavily by LG, Samsung, Byton on Eve of CES

It seems like every day there is news yet another application of Machine Learning (AI) into the Media and Entertainment space, either in production – where it is helping decide what goes in to production as well as helping in production – through to helping people find more appropriate content.

As part of the regular year end activities The Digital Production BuZZ invited me, and a bunch of other people, to look forward to 2018 and predict what the major themes will be.

Here is a link to the full show –  
http://www.digitalproductionbuzz.com/2018/01/digital-production-buzz-january-4-2018/
Here is a link to the Transcript-  
http://www.digitalproductionbuzz.com/2018/01/transcript-digital-production-buzz-january-4-2018/
And here are the links (including the MP3 version) to your individual interview – 
http://www.digitalproductionbuzz.com/interview/hodgetts-smart-assistants-hdr-and-vr/
MP3: http://www.digitalproductionbuzz.com/BuZZ_Audio/Buzz_180104_Hodgetts.mp3

If I was to summarize 2017 it would be: AI, HDR, VR, AR and Resolve. If you missed any trend they would be Artificial Intelligence (really Machine Learning); High Dynamic Range; Virtual Reality (i.e. 360 or 180 degree video); Augmented Reality; and Blackmagic Design’s Resolve 14.

As Augmented Reality is composited in at the viewer’s device, I doubt there will be any direct affect on production and post production.

Virtual Reality has had a good year with direct support appearing in Premiere Pro CC and Final Cut Pro X. In both cases the NLE’s parent purchased third party technology and integrated it. Combined with the ready availability of 360 cameras, there’s no barrier to VR production.

Except the lack of demand. I expect VR will become a valuable tool for a range of projects like installations, telepresence and travel, and particularly in gaming, although that’s outside my purview.

What I don’t expect is a large scale uptake for narrative or general entertainment functions. Nor in most of the vast range of video production. It’s not a fad, like 3D, but will likely remain a niche in the production world. I should point out it’s very possible to make good money in niches!

Conversely I would not buy a new screen without it being HDR compatible – at least with one or two of the major HDR formats. High Dynamic Range video is as big a step forward as color. I believe it provides a fundamentally better viewing experience than simply upping the pixel count.

High Dynamic Range is supported across the most important editing software but suffers from two challenges: the proliferation of competing standards and studio monitoring.

The industry needs to consolidate to one standard, or sets will have to be programmed for all standards. None currently are. Ultimately this will change because it has to, but some earlier set purchasers will probably be screwed over!

HDR studio monitors remain extremely expensive, and hard to find. There’s also the problem of grading for both regular and high dynamic range screens.

I have no doubt that HDR is fundamental to the future of the “television” screen. It will further erode attendance in movie theaters as the home experience is a better image than the movie theater, and you get to control who arrives in your media room!

In 2017 Resolve fulfilled it’s long growing promise of integrating a fully feature NLE into an excellent grading and DIT tool. One with a decent Digital Audio Workstation also integrated. Blackmagic Design are definitely fulfilling their vision of providing professional tools for lens-to-viewer workflows, while continuing to reduce the cost of entry.

When you hear that editors in major reality TV production companies don’t balk at Resolve, despite being Media Composer traditionalists, I do worry that Avid may be challenged in its core market. Not that any big ProdCo has switched yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see significant uptake of Resolve as an editing too in 2018.

My only disappointment with Resolve is that, as of 14.1, there is now way to bridged timed metadata into Resolve. Not only does that mean we cannot provide Lumberjack support, but no transcript (or AI derived metadata) import either. It’s frustrating because version 14 included Smart Collections that could function like Keyword Collections.

In another direct attack on Avid’s core markets, both Resolve and Premiere Pro CC added support for bin locking and shared projects. Implemented slightly differently by each app, they both mimic the way Media Composer collaborates. Resolve adds a nice refinement: in app team messaging.

The technology that will have the greatest affect on the future of production has only just begun to appear. While generally referred to as Artificial Intelligence, what most people mean, and experience, are some variation on Machine Learning. These types of systems can learn (by example or challenge) to expertly do one, or two tasks. They have been applied to a wide range of tasks as I’ve written about previously.

The “low hanging fruit” for AI integration into production apps are Cognitive Services, which are programming interfaces that help interpret the world. Speech-to-Text, Facial recognition, image content recognition, emotion detection, et. al. are going to appear in more and more software.

In 2017 we saw several apps that use these speech-to-text technologies to get transcripts into Premiere Pro CC, Media Composer and Final Cut Pro X. Naturally that’s an area that Greg and I are very interested in: after all we were first to bring transcripts into FCP X (via Lumberjack Lumberyard). What our experience with that taught us is that getting transcripts into an NLE that doesn’t have Script Sync wasn’t a great experience. Useful but not great.

Which is why we spent the year creating a better solution: Lumberjack Builder. Builder is still a work in progress, but it’s a new NLE. An NLE that edits video by editing text. While Builder is definitely an improvement on purely transcription apps, it won’t be the only application of Cognitive Services.

I expect we at Lumberjack System will have more to show later in the year, once Builder is complete. I also expect this is the year we’ll see visual search integrated into Premiere Pro CC. Imagine being able to search b-roll by having computer vision recognize the content. No keywording or indexing.

Beyond Cognitive Services we will see Machine Learning driving marketing – and even production – decisions. In 2018, the terms Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Neural Networks will start appearing in the most unexpected places. (While they describe slightly different things, all those terms fall under the Artificial Intelligence umbrella.)

I’m excited about 2018, particularly as we do more with our new intelligent assistants.

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