Tag Archives: Nutmeg Creative

Nutmeg ups Drew Hankins to editor

Nutmeg in NYC has promoted Drew Hankins to editor. Hankins, who began his career as a production assistant at Nutmeg, has been an assistant editor at the creative and post house since 2011.

In that role, he supported producers, cut spots and prepared files for various platforms — TV, web, social media and apps — for clients such as Animal Planet, A&E, Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, Discovery, Disney, ESPN, HBO, Nickelodeon, Syfy and Verizon.

Recent projects have increasingly showcased his editorial talents, including several music-video-style remixes for infectious songs from SpongeBob SquarePants, as well as the mini-documentary spoof of VH1’s Behind the Music, How Luna Became the Loudest Loud, all of which were instant viral hits. He edits on Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere.

“An editor is one of the last people to touch a film and, ultimately, the person who brings the film to life,” he says. “I’ve been exposed to many amazing movies over the years, but the one that made the biggest impression was Goodfellas. It’s so well-crafted; it’s perfect. It made me say, ‘That’s what I want to do!’

He was also impressed and inspired by the film Jaws. “Editor Verna Fields was tasked with creating a suspenseful movie with very little usable footage of the malfunctioning mechanical antagonist. She managed to turn that into a plus, creating chills with only glimpses of a fin or ripples in the water. She went on to win the Oscar for Film Editing. As Spielberg famously observed, ‘Had the shark been working, perhaps the film would have made half the money and been half as scary.’”

What gives Hankins a feeling of accomplishment? “Seeing something I cut, out in the wild. Just knowing that others are seeing it makes me feel good.”

Photo credit: Eljay Aguillo

Nutmeg adds Broadway Video’s former design group

New York City-based Nutmeg, a creative marketing and post production house, has acquired Broadway Video’s design team formerly known as FAC5. Under the Nutmeg brand, they are now known as NTMG Design.

The team of four — executive creative producer Doug LeBow, executive creative director Fred Salkind, creative director David Rogers and art director Karolina Dawson — is an Emmy, Telly and PromaxBDA award-winning creative collective working on design across multiple media platforms. Existing clients that could benefit from the new services include broadcast networks, cable channels and brands.

With services that include main titles and show packaging, experiential and event design, promotions and image campaigns, the group has worked with a variety of clients on a wide range of projects, including Nickelodeon HALO Awards; Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards; The Emmys for Don Mischer Productions; Indy 500 100th Anniversary for ESPN; HBO’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony for Line-by-Line Productions; Thursday Night Football and Sunday Night Football tune-in promo packaging for CBS Sports; AT&T Concert Series for iHeart Media; The Great Human Race for National Geographic Channel; The Peabody Awards for Den of Thieves and others.

“Nutmeg has always embraced growth,” says Nutmeg executive producer Laura Vick. “As our clients and the marketplace shift to engage end users, the addition of a full-service design team allows us to offer all aspects of content creation under one roof. We can now assist at the inception of an idea to help create complete visual experiences — show opens, trade shows, corporate interiors or digital billboards.”

“We look at these new design capabilities as both a new frontier unto itself, and as yet another component of what we’re already doing — telling compelling stories,” says Nutmeg executive creative director Dave Rogan. “Nothing at Nutmeg is created in a vacuum, so these new areas of design crossing over into an interactive web environment, for example, is natural.”

The new NTMG Design team will be working within Nutmeg’s midtown location. Their suite contains five workstations supported by a 10-box renderfarm, Maxon Cinema 4D, Adobe After Effects, one seat of Flame, Assimilate Scratch access for color and an insert stage for practical shooting. It is further supported by 28TBs of Infortrend storage. 

While acknowledging tools are important, executive creative director Fred Salkind says, “Sometimes when I’m asked what we work with, I say Scotch tape and scissors, because it’s the idea that puts the tools to work, not the other way around.”

Main Photo by Eljay Aguillo. L-R: Fred Salkind, David Rogers, Doug LeBow and Karolina Dawson.

The sounds of Brooklyn play lead role in HBO’s High Maintenance

By Jennifer Walden

New Yorkers are jaded, and one of the many reasons is that just about anything they want can be delivered right to their door: Chinese food, prescriptions, craft beer, dry cleaning and weed. Yes, weed. This particular item is delivered by “The Guy,” the protagonist of HBO’s new series, High Maintenance.

The Guy (played by series co-creator Ben Sinclair) bikes around Brooklyn delivering pot to a cast of quintessentially quirky New York characters. Series creators Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld string together vignettes — using The Guy as the common thread — to paint a realistic picture of Brooklynites.

andrew-guastella

Nutmeg’s Andrew Guastella. Photo credit: Carl Vasile

“The Guy delivers weed to people, often going into their homes and becoming part of their lives,” explains sound editor/re-recording mixer Andrew Guastella at Nutmeg, a creative marketing and post studio based in New York. “I think that what a lot of viewers like about the show is how quickly you come to know complete strangers in a sort of intimate way.”

Blichfeld and Sinclair find inspiration for their stories from their own experiences, says Guastella, who follows suit in terms of sound. “We focus on the realism of the sound, and that’s what makes this show unique.” The sound of New York City is ever-present, just as it is in real life. “Audio post was essential for texturizing our universe,” says Sinclair. “There’s a loud and vibrant city outside of those apartment walls. It was important to us to feel the presence of a city where people live on top of each other.”

Big City Sounds
That edict for realism drives all sound-related decisions on High Maintenance. On a typical series, Guastella would strive to clean up every noise on the production dialogue, but for High Maintenance, the sound of sirens, horns, traffic, even car alarms are left in the tracks, as long as they’re not drowning out the dialogue. “It’s okay to leave sounds in that aren’t obtrusive and that sell the fact that they are in New York City,” he says.

For example, a car alarm went off during a take. It wasn’t in the way of the dialogue but it did drop out on a cut, making it stand out. “Instead of trying to remove the alarm from the dialogue, I decided to let it roll and I added a chirp from a car alarm, as if the owner turned off the alarm [or locked the car], to help incorporate it into the track. A car alarm is a sound you hear all the time in New York.”

Exterior scenes are acceptably lively, and if an interior scene is feeling too quiet, Guastella can raise a neighborly ruckus. “In New York, there’s always that noisy neighbor. Some show creators might be a little hesitant to use that because it could be distracting, but for this show, as long as it’s real, Ben and Katja are cool with it,” he says. During a particularly quiet interior scene, he tried adding the sounds of cars pulling away and other light traffic to fill up the space, but it wasn’t enough, so Guastella asked the creators, “’How do you feel about the neighbors next door arguing?’ And they said, ‘That’s real. That’s New York. Let’s try it out.’”

Guastella crafted a commotion based on his own experience of living in an apartment in Queens. Every night he and his wife would hear the downstairs neighbors fighting. “One night they were yelling and then all we heard was this loud, enormous slam. Hopefully, it was a door,” jokes Guastella. “Ben and Katja are always pulling from their own experiences, so I tried to do that myself with the soundtrack.”

Despite the skill of production sound mixer Dimitri Kouri, and a high tolerance for the ever-present sound of New York City, Guastella still finds himself cleaning dialogue tracks using iZotope’s RX 5 Advanced. One of his favorite features is RX Connect. With this plug-in feature, he can select a region of dialogue in his Avid Pro Tools session and send that region directly to iZotope’s standalone RX application where he can edit, clean and process the dialogue. Once he’s satisfied, he can return that cleaned up dialogue right back in sync on the timeline of his Pro Tools session where he originally sent it from.

“I no longer have to deal with exporting and importing audio files, which was not an efficient way to work,” he says. “And for me, it’s important that I work within the standalone application. There are plug-in versions of some RX tools, but for me, the standalone version offers more flexibility and the opportunity to use the highly detailed visual feedback of its audio-spectrum analyzer. The spectrogram makes using tools like Spectral Repair and De-click that much more effective and efficient. There are more ways to use and combine the tools in general.”

Guastella has been with the series since 2012, during its webisode days on Vimeo. Back then, it was a passion-project, something he’d work on at home on his own time. From the beginning, he’s handled everything audio: the dialogue cleaning and editing, the ambience builds and Foley and the final mix. “Andrew [Guastella] brought his professional ear and was always such a pleasure to work with. He always delivered and was always on time,” says Blichfeld.

The only aspect that Guastella doesn’t handle is the music. “That’s a combination of licensed music (secured by music supervisor Liz Fulton) and original composition by Chris Bear. The music is well-established by the time the episode gets to me,” he says.

On the Vimeo webisodes, Guastella would work an episode’s soundtrack into shape, and then send it to Blichfeld and Sinclair for notes. “They would email me or we would talk over the phone. The collaborative process wasn’t immediate,” he says. Now that HBO has picked up the series and renewed it for Season 2, Guastella is able to work on High Maintenance in his studio at Nutmeg, where he has access to all the amenities of a full-service post facility, such as sound effects libraries, an ADR booth, a 5.1 surround system and room to accommodate the series creators who like to hang around and work on the sound with Guastella. “They are very particular about sound and very specific. It’s great to have instant access to them. They were here more than I would’ve expected them to be and it was great spending all that time with them personally and professionally.”

In addition to being a series co-creator, co-writer and co-director with Blichfeld, Sinclair is also one of show’s two editors. This meant they were being pulled in several directions, which eventually prevented them from spending so much time in the studio with Guastella. “By the last three episodes of this season, I had absorbed all of their creative intentions. I was able to get an episode to the point of a full mix and they would come in just for a few hours to review and make tweaks.”

With a bigger budget from HBO, Guastella is also able to record ADR when necessary, record loop group and perform Foley for the show at Nutmeg. “Now that we have a budget and the space to record actual Foley, we’re faced with the question of how much Foley do we want to do? When you Foley sound for every movement and footstep, it doesn’t always sound realistic, and the creators are very aware of that,” says Guastella.

5.1 Surround Mix
In addition to a minimalist approach, another way he keeps the Foley sounding real is by recording it in the real world. In Episode 3, the story is told from a dog’s POV. Using a TASCAM DR 680 digital recorder and a Sennheiser 416 shotgun mic, Guastella recorded an “enormous amount of Foley at home with my Beagle, Bailey, and my father-in-law’s Yorkie and Doberman. I did a lot of Foley recording at the dog park, too, to capture Foley for the dog outside.”

Another difference between the Vimeo episodes and the HBO series is the final mix format. “HBO requires a surround sound 5.1 mix and that’s something that demands the infrastructure of a professional studio, not my living room,” says Guastella. He takes advantage of the surround field by working with ambiences, creating a richer environment during exterior shots which he can then contrast with a closer, confined sound for the interior shots.

“This is a very dialogue-driven show so I’m not putting too much information in the surrounds. But there is so much sound in New York City, and you are really able to play with perspective of the interior and exterior sounds,” he explains. For example, the opening of Episode 3, “Grandpa,” follows Gatsby the dog as he enters the front of his house and eventually exits out of the back. Guastella says he was “able to bring the exterior surrounds in with the characters, then gradually pan them from surround to a heavier LCR once he began approaching the back door and the backyard was in front of him.”

The series may have made the jump from Vimeo to HBO but the soul of the show has changed very little, and that’s by design. “Ben, Katja, and Russell Gregory [the third executive producer] are just so loyal to the people who helped get this series off the ground with them. On top of that, they wanted to keep the show feeling how it did on the web, even though it’s now on HBO. They didn’t want to disappoint any fans that were wondering if the series was going to turn into something else… something that it wasn’t. It was really important to the show creators that the series stayed the same, for their fans and for them. Part of that was keeping on a lot of the people who helped make it what it was,” concludes Guastella.

Check out High Maintenance on HBO, Fridays at 11pm.


Jennifer Walden is a NJ-based audio engineer and writer. Follow her at @audiojeney.

Behind the Title: Nutmeg creative director Dave Rogan

NAME: Dave Rogan

COMPANY: New York City’s Nutmeg Creative

CAN YOU DESCRIBE NUTMEG?
We are a single-resource creative partner that brings targeted communications to life for brands, networks and ad agencies. A post resource for nearly 40 years, Nutmeg also provides audio, editing, color and graphics, in addition to interactive, identity and social.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Creative Director

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
It depends on the day, on the project and on the client. In some cases, I am acting in the traditional role of agency creative director, coming up with original ideas that meet stated goals for the project. In many other cases, I am guiding a project from genesis to completion, adding a creative perspective or ensuring that our clients’ expectations are met or surpassed.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Almost anything can fall under that title — from original concepting and scripting, to “MacGyvering” a makeshift tracking marker out of a stick on set for an effects-heavy spot.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
When I was an ad agency CD, it was almost impossible getting the creative, production and post talent on the same page at the same time, to my satisfaction. Half of my job was making sure everyone was current on any rolling changes, adaptations to, or special challenges presented by the creative. But because Nutmeg has creative, interactive, production and post all under one roof, we’re able to think through every stage of the project together from the get-go. Instances of something unexpected popping up are almost non-existent because so many heads are in the game at the same time.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
I seem to always be flying the day before or after a holiday. Last year, I flew home from a shoot on Thanksgiving morning. Wasn’t in love with that, I must admit.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
I’m a morning person — I love waking up before the sun and watching it rise.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I’d be trying to convince Dream Theater they need a second keyboard player.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I knew I wanted to be in a creative professional environment from a very early age — before college. I’ve been lucky enough to ride industry trends and continual reinvention to a place where I am still able to continue to shape creative communications in any number of ways on a day-to-day basis.

ParagardCAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
My current projects range from working on a critically celebrated pharma campaign for a disease called nontuberculous mycobacteria — NTM, for short —to a series of hilarious spots for a female contraceptive to an animated PSA aimed at wiping out polio in the Third World. There is also the forthcoming launch of a famous Broadway reboot. It varies every day with no rhyme or reason, and I love it.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Scale-wise, it certainly pales in comparison to most of the projects I’m involved in here, but I take a special amount of pride in Nutmeg’s semi-finalist submission to the Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl (image below) contest a year ago. It was a spot I wrote, directed and co-produced with our internal production team with almost no budget. To know that people really enjoyed it was thrilling and very satisfying for all of us.

Doritos Crash the Superbowl-Dave RoganNAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My iPhone, laptop and my ancient, but beloved, Korg Trinity.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Facebook, mostly.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
Only with headphones! Lately, I’ve been listening to Dream Theater’s prog metal opera, “The Astonishing.” I think my coworkers would tear their earballs out if I played it at any kind of audible volume.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I wish I had a more interesting answer than this, but I find my clients enjoyable, not stress inducing. When I worked at agencies, the dynamic was different and I definitely felt under the gun on a daily basis. At Nutmeg, it’s different. The clients really want our perspective and guidance, and, in most cases, we’re very much partners with the same goals.

Nutmeg Post rebrands as Nutmeg, expands creative services

Nutmeg Post has rebranded its company to Nutmeg, a creative marketing, production and post company. With the expanded portfolio of services, Nutmeg now develops advertising, promotional and original content from concept through production to ultimate completion. They are also focusing on interactive, identity and social media projects.

“The new brand represents the future,” says Nutmeg managing director Jon Adelman. “We’ve always been known for our creative expertise. Those services have grown, matured and proven so successful that we are now a full-fledged creative partner. Our new interactive division adds services that were missing from our toolbox.”

Founded in 1979, Nutmeg has remained independently owned and has thrived in an industry that can be tough on post houses. The studio started as an sound house, but over the years added mixing and post services, building out its other post offerings to include color grading and visual effects.

Leading Nutmeg’s new initiatives are creative director Dave Rogan, an industry vet with two decades of broadcast, digital, packaging, print and corporate branding experience, and interactive executive producer David Buivid, a digital marketing strategist who has guided the creation of work in entertainment, consumer packaged goods, B2B and technology verticals.

“Nutmeg is known for our post work,” says Rogan, “but we are so much more now, with agency-grade creative development, production and interactive, along with all aspects of post production.”

What does Fraunhofer Digital Media Alliance do? A lot!

By Jonathan Abrams

While the vast majority of the companies with exhibit space at NAB are for-profit, there is one non-profit that stands out. With a history of providing ubiquitous technology to the masses since 1949, Fraunhofer focuses on applied research and developments that end up — at some point in the near future — as practical products or ready-for-market technology.

In terms of their revenue, one-third of their funding is for basic research, with the remaining two-thirds applied toward industry projects and coming directly from private companies. Their business model is focused on contract research and licensing of technologies. They have sold first prototypes and work with distributors, though Fraunhofer always keeps the rights to continue development.

What projects were they showcasing at NAB 2106 that have real-world applications in the near future? You may have heard about the Lytro camera. Fraunhofer Digital Media Alliance member Fraunhofer IIS has been taking a camera agnostic approach to their work with light-field technology. Their goal is to make this technology available for many different camera set-ups, and they were proving it with a demo of their multi-cam light-field plug-in for The Foundry’s Nuke. After capturing a light-field, users can perform framing correction and relighting, including changes to angles, depth and the creation of point clouds.

The Nuke plug-in (see our main image) allows the user to create virtual lighting (relighting) and interactive lighting. Light-field data also allows for depth estimation (called depth maps) and is useful for mattes and secondary color correction. Similar to Lytro, focus pulling can be performed with this light-field plug-in. Why Nuke? That is what their users requested. Even though Nuke is an OFX host, the Fraunhofer IIS light field plug-in only works within Nuke. As for using this light-field plug-in outside of Nuke, I was told that “porting to Mac should be an easy task.” Hopefully that is an accurate statement, though we will have to wait to find out.

DCP
Fraunhofer IIS has its hand in other parts of production and post as well. The last two steps of most projects are the creation of deliverables and their delivery. If you need to create and deliver a DCP (Digital Cinema Package), then easyDCP may be for you.easydcp1

This project began in 2008, when creating a DCP was not as familiar as it is today to most users, and a deep expertise of the specifications for correctly making a DCP was very complex. Small- to medium-sized post companies, in particular, profit from the easy-to-use easyDCP suite. The engineers of Fraunhofer IIS were also working on behalf of the DCI specifications for Digital Cinema, therefore they are experienced in integrating all important features in this software for DCPs.

The demo I saw indicated that the JPEG2000 encode was as fast as 108fps! In 2013, Fraunhofer partnered with both Blackmagic and Quantel to make this software available to the users of those respective finishing suites. The demo I saw was using a Final Cut Pro X project file and it was with the Creator+ version since it had support for encryption. Avid Media Composer users will have to export their sequence and import it into Resolve to use easyDCP Creator. Amazingly, this software works as far back as Mac OS X Leopard. IMF creation and playback can also be done with the easyDCP software suite.

VR/360
VR and 360-degree video were prominent at NAB, and the institutes of the Fraunhofer Digital Media Alliance are involved in this as well, having worked on live streaming and surround sound as part of a project with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.

Fraunhofer had a VR demo pod at the ATSC 3.0 Consumer Experience (in South Hall Upper) — I tried it and the sound did track with my head movement. Speaking of ATSC 3.0, it calls for an immersive audio codec. Each country or geographic region that adopts ATSC 3.0 can choose to implement either Dolby AC-4 or MPEG-H, the latter of which is the result of research and development by Fraunhofer, Technicolor and Qualcomm. South Korea announced earlier this year that they will begin ATSC 3.0 (UHDTV) broadcasting in February 2017 using the MPEG-H audio codec.

From what you see to what you hear, from post to delivery, the Fraunhofer Digital Media Alliance has been involved in the process.

Jonathan S. Abrams is the Chief Technical Engineer at Nutmeg, a creative marketing, production and post resource.

Digging Deeper: Dolby Vision at NAB 2016

By Jonathan Abrams

Dolby, founded over 50 years ago as an audio company, is elevating the experience of watching movies and TV content through new technologies in audio and video, the latter of which is a relatively new area for their offerings. This is being done with Dolby AC-4 and Dolby Atmos for audio, and Dolby Vision for video. You can read about Dolby AC-4 and Dolby Atmos here. In this post, the focus will be on Dolby Vision.

First, let’s consider quantization. All digital video signals are encoded as bits. When digitizing analog video, the analog-to-digital conversion process uses a quantizer. The quantizer determines which bits are active or on (value = 1) and which bits are inactive or off (value = 0). As the bit depth for representing a finite range increases, the greater the detail for each possible value, which directly reduces the quantization error. The number of possible values is 2^X, where X is the number of bits available. A 10-bit signal has four times the number of possible encoded values than an 8-bit signal. This difference in bit depth does not equate to dynamic range. It is the same range of values with a degree of quantization accuracy that increases as the number of bits used increases.

Now, why is quantization relevant to Dolby Vision? In 2008, Dolby began work on a system specifically for this application that has been standardized as SMPTE ST-2084, which is SMPTE’s standard for an electro-optical transfer function (EOTF) and a perceptual quantizer (PQ). This work is based on work in the early 1990s by Peter G. J. Barten for medical imaging applications. The resulting PQ process allows for video to be encoded and displayed with a 10,000-nit range of brightness using 12 bits instead of 14. This is possible because Dolby Vision exploits a human visual characteristic where our eyes are less sensitive to changes in highlights than they are to changes in shadows.

Previous display systems, referred to as SDR or Standard Dynamic Range, are usually 8 bits. Even at 10 bits, SD and HD video is specified to be displayed at a maximum output of 100 nits using a gamma curve. Dolby Vision has a nit range that is 100 times greater than what we have been typically seeing from a video display.

This brings us to the issue of backwards compatibility. What will be seen by those with SDR displays when they receive a Dolby Vision signal? Dolby is working on a system that will allow broadcasters to derive an SDR signal in their plant prior to transmission. At my NAB demo, there was a Grass Valley camera whose output image was shown on three displays. One display was PQ (Dolby Vision), the second display was SDR, and the third display was software-derived SDR from PQ. There was a perceptible improvement for the software-derived SDR image when compared to the SDR image. As for the HDR, I could definitely see details in the darker regions on their HDR display that were just dark areas on the SDR display. This software for deriving an SDR signal from PQ will eventually also make its way into some set-top boxes (STBs).

This backwards-compatible system works on the concept of layers. The base layer is SDR (based on Rec. 709), and the enhancement layer is HDR (Dolby Vision). This layered approach uses incrementally more bandwidth when compared to a signal that contains only SDR video.  For on-demand services, this dual-layer concept reduces the amount of storage required on cloud servers. Dolby Vision also offers a non-backwards compatible profile using a single-layer approach. In-band signaling over the HDMI connection between a display and the video source will be used to identify whether or not the TV you are using is capable of SDR, HDR10 or Dolby Vision.

Broadcasting live events using Dolby Vision is currently a challenge for reasons beyond HDTV not being able to support the different signal. The challenge is due to some issues with adapting the Dolby Vision process for live broadcasting. Dolby is working on these issues, but Dolby is not proposing a new system for Dolby Vision at live events. Some signal paths will be replaced, though the infrastructure, or physical layer, will remain the same.

At my NAB demo, I saw a Dolby Vision clip of Mad Max: Fury Road on a Vizio R65 series display. The red and orange colors were unlike anything I have seen on an SDR display.

Nearly a decade of R&D at Dolby has been put into Dolby Vision. While Dolby Vision has some competition in the HDR war from Technicolor and Philips (Prime) and BBC and NHK (Hybrid Log Gamma or HLG), it does have an advantage in that there have been several TV models available from both LG and Vizio that are Dolby Vision compatible. If their continued investment in R&D for solving the issues related to live broadcast results in a solution that broadcasters can successfully implement, it may become the de-facto standard for HDR video production.

Jonathan S. Abrams is the Chief Technical Engineer at Nutmeg, a creative marketing, production and post resource.