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



AI and Production: Now

In the Overview I pointed out that most of what is being written up as Artificial Intelligence (AI) is really the work of Learning Machines/Machine Learning. We learnt that Learning Machines can improve your tax deduction, do the work of a paralegal, predict court results, analyze medical scans, and much more. It seems that every day I read of yet another application.

There are readily available Learning Machines available for all comers, but there are ways to benefit from them without even using one.


Over the last couple of years I’ve become more and more interested in the ways that the research being done into Artificial Intelligence (AI) might be applied to production and post production. In this article I’ll be giving an overview of what AI is at this stage of development, and what technologies are being used. Later articles will cover immediate and future applications and implications.


Obviously the 10th anniversary blew past without me noticing, but the question came up the other night and it turns out I posted my first article “Why aren’t there workstation class graphics cards for Mac?”  I concluded that article with:

Until we get support for these tools, there remain good reasons to go with Windows for true power graphics users.

Who would have thought we’d be having the same discussion 12 years later! Also that week I wondered whether HDV would “be something” (and for five years it was); discussed DV, HDV and ‘good enough’; the problems of transitioning 4:3 material into 16:9 and NAB 2005 rumors. Apparently I started being “officially jaded” about NAB in 2005!

I chose the theme of “The present and future of post production business and technology” and – apart from some dabbling into production itself – the theme seems as relevant now as it was then.

Final Cut Pro was at version 4 and Premiere Pro wasn’t available on macOS/OS X. We’ve come a very long way. I’ve discussed an enormous range of topics: from predictions about Final Cut Pro X to recent writings on artificial intelligence. Along the way I’ve talked business, marketing, and wondering who would buy YouTube!

That was one of my big predictive misses suggesting copyright issues would kill any purchaser, and dismissing Google because of their existing (at the time) Google Video. But overall I have been remarkably accurate along the way.

In that first month I wrote about the rise of video as another form of literacy, a theme that had been constant for at least five years before that, and one we’re seeing come to fruition now. When there are over 2.5 million seats of the best-selling NLE it’s obvious that professional video production is now serving many more roles than just movies and television!

The evolving nature of the production industry has been another regular theme, with broadening platforms, evolving business models, and the ‘threat’ (or is it an opportunity or business model problem) of unauthorized distribution also being regular themes.

In that first week, technology issues like Using Scopes to measure video levels mix with articles like Can you compete with free (yes).

This blog has been one of the few constants in the 12 years since I started. When I started Intelligent Assistance was still in the training business, with our series of Intelligent Assistants. They too had evolved from the groundbreaking DV Companion for Final Cut Pro in 2000, to more creative topics like the first color grading tutorial series (if not the first) for Final Cut Pro called Practical Color Correction, or our Killer Titles series.

In February 2005 the DV Guys hadn’t finished their five year run NAB 2000-NAB 2005. Greg and I had not created The Digital Production BuZZ to replace it, which we sold to Larry Jordan and Associates in late 2007 and is now part of the Thalo Artist Community.

We used the proceeds of the sale to Larry Jordan to preview our first piece of software: First Cuts for Final Cut Pro, which was a practical application of my strong interest in metadata for story building – now under my ‘Content Metadata’ umbrella – and an attempt at a knowledge system. First Cuts essentially embodied my style for creating edits, built around a very large number of interactive ‘rules of thumb’.

As software developers the upheaval that was Final Cut Pro X hit us very hard at first. The preview demolished half our business for three months. We saw the benefits of Final Cut Pro X very early – in fact I published Understanding the Metadata Foundations of Final Cut Pro X five minutes after Final Cut Pro X was released.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, apparently my little book influenced Glenn Ficarra toward experimenting with Final Cut Pro X for Focus.

Final Cut Pro X – for all its disruption – has been good to us, and I think we have benefited the Final Cut Pro X community.

Because Final Cut Pro X was so controversial in 2012, we took the opportunity to be part of a reality TV show on a solar powered boat. While that didn’t work out quite the way it was planned it lead directly to the development of Lumberjack System, which is increasingly unlocking the power of metadata for logging and pre-editing. Lumberjack became the second company in our small portfolio.

That project also lead to my subsequent interest in small production kits. How small can we make a production kit while still maintaining quality. The confluence of audio synchronization for multicam clips, small cameras, alternate mounts and small, affordable storage lets us create without the back breaking load.

We use the small production kit for Lunch with Philip and Greg, The semiSerious Foodies (occasionally) and my ongoing family history project.

One of the most consistent themes throughout the blog with 84 different posts on the subject. How we acquire and use metadata – particularly metadata about the content of shots – is my primary focus these days, which has lead to an increasing interest in what the evolving field of Artificial Intelligence with 20 related articles so far. Overall, I’ve written 1377 articles in 12 years, or about one every three days on average.

Personally Greg and I moved from Woodland Hills to Burbank in 2006 where we spent 10 happy years in Avalon Burbank. The easy walkability of Burbank and great pool in the apartment complex helped in my transition from middle-year sloth into a more healthy version of myself.

2008 I was granted Permanent Residence as an Alien of Exceptional Ability, and many readers helped with submissions for that. In 2016 I became an American Citizen

While in Burbank we married after only a 17.5 year ‘engagement’ and moved into our own little house a year ago in February 2016.

There’s a lot of interesting material in that 12 years. I sometimes return to older articles and get surprised by what I wrote at the time! Hopefully I will continue to be interesting over the next 12 years.






LWPG with Steve Martin

Steve Martin is the creative force behind Ripple Training and has been using and teaching Final Cut Pro since 1999. Since Final Cut Pro’s introduction, he has introduced thousands of people to Final Cut Pro through his classes, workshops and training products. He has consulted and/or trained for Apple, Adobe, Disney, Canon, Walmart and other companies.  He is also a writer, producer and avid photographer. We caught up with Steve for lunch at the 2016 Final Cut Pro X Creative Summit on October 31st.




Lumberjack Story Mode in Action

With Lumberjack System we don’t focus enough on Story Mode. Of late Transcript mode and Magic Keywords have taken the main focus, and of course the primary real-time logging and pre-editing tools are well known by now.

But Story Mode is ultimately move valuable if the project continues more than a one or two day shoot. Story mode lets us send Lumberjack logged Final Cut Pro X Events or Libraries back to the Lumberyard app to create string-outs from all the footage.

This recently became very valuable for a recent project: extracting the conversations on Final Cut Pro X from nearly 20 episodes of Lunch with Philip and Greg for an upcoming documentary.


The Wall Street Journal (firewalled but details available here) reports that Apple is planning to join its competitors in original programming.

The shows Apple is considering would likely be comparable to critically acclaimed programs like “Westworld” on Time Warner Inc.’s HBO or “Stranger Things” on Netflix.

I would say the move was inevitable, and predicted it seven years ago in Dec 2009. More from the WSJ”

Nonetheless, the entry of the world’s most valuable company into original television and films could be a transformative moment for Hollywood and mark a significant turn in strategy for Apple as it starts to become more of a media company, rather than just a distributor of other companies’ media.



The Terence and Philip Show Episode 76: Creativity

In Episode 76 of The Terence and Philip Show, Terence and Philip tackle the very broad subject of ‘creativity’. Settle in because there will be tangents!




Zach Arnold’s 5X Challenge

Just over five years ago, I challenged myself to drop my blood pressure without medication, largely to prove a point to a doctor I’ve never been back to! Since then I’ve been able to recover my physical strength and fitness, so I would encourage everyone to make some effort this year to not sit still at our desks!

Zach Arnold – of Fitness in Post fame – has put together Optimize Yourself, a new program that he promises will give you 5x the energy, productivity and creativity. Even if you don’t join the Optimize Yourself program, do something to improve your fitness this year.


2016 was a year of consolidation and growth for Greg and I: citizenship, green card, artificial intelligence and a house and yard dominated the year. 2017 looks like being another interesting and exciting year.

Philip and Greg 2017. Thanks to Kay Stammers and Tristan Parry.

Philip and Greg 2017. Thanks to Tristan Parry.




LWPG with Ryan Velin and Mads Larsen Nielsen

By some odd co-incidence, after a run of guest one at a time, we have two pairs of guests in a row: this time Ryan Velin and Mads Larsen Nielsen.

Mads Larsen Nielsen

FCPX Post System Integrator, Metronome Mads Larsen Nielsen has 15 years of editing experience. As network system integrator he has handled more than 100 documentaries and large scale television productions. Since arriving at Metronome Productions 3 years ago, he has been responsible for developing network and server environments and optimising workflows for Final Cut Pro X productions.

Ryan Velin

Head of Final Cut Pro X Post Production, Metronome Ryan Velin has been an editor at Metronome Productions for more than five years. For the past 4 years he has been in charge of implementing Final Cut Pro X into post production and is now entirely committed to coming up with new ways of working and the implementation of new technology all revolving around Final Cut Pro X.


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