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Quick Chat: Larry Jordan on NAB 2014

By Randi Altman

As we approach NAB 2014, postPerspective thought it would be fun to throw a few questions at Larry Jordan (www.larryjordan.biz), who will once again be at the show with his podcast Digital Production Buzz,  (@DPBuZZ).

What do you think will be the hot topic at NAB this year?
Clearly, 4K is all the rage. We’ll see 4K everywhere — cameras, monitors, software… What’s interesting to me, though, is that computers are essentially 4K-capable already. The real challenges of 4K are in storage, network bandwidth, and workflows. Those are the non-sexy things that will determine how easily you can work with higher resolution images.

Also, lurking around the edges are new distribution opportunities for high-resolution images that bypass traditional broadcast and cable outlets. Is Netflix poised to be the “next-big-thing” when it comes to high-res distribution?

I’m going to be watching storage systems very closely. I think 2014 will be a sea change in storage in terms of much faster bandwidth — USB 3, Thunderbolt 2 — and capacity. And with increased utilization of Flash memory to speed storage delivery and access.

So you think that 4K has been accepted by the masses out there… that people want it?
There are three elements to the 4K story: acquisition, editing, and delivery. We are already acquiring images in 4K, 5K, even 6K. With 8K on the horizon. That is no longer hype, but every-day reality for many of us.

The real challenges for 4K are in processing the images after capture (the traditional DIT role), editing and storage systems, and distribution. This NAB I expect to see significant gains in editing and storage to support higher resolution images — 2K, UltraHD, 4K, and above.

The more exciting play is distribution. If no one can see a 4K image, why shoot it?  There’s a point where using high-res for reframing and image stabilization is not enough. We need to get 4K in front of an audience. Once media creators can start making money with 4K, the market will light up.

The dilemma is that most, but not all, digital theaters are using 2K projectors and not likely to up-res very soon. The costs to broadcasters and cable head-ends to upgrade to 4K are extremely high, so those are ruled out for the near term. Currently, browsing the Web is a 720p medium.

So where does that leave us?  Netflix, and all the services that pipe video directly from the Internet to the home. The new H.265 codec, combined with faster Internet pipes connected directly to the television COULD mean that non-traditional distribution could totally bypass traditional broadcast and cable and deliver high-quality images. THAT will cause a major battle between the companies that supply Internet connectivity — traditionally cable and telcos — with companies that supply the content — Netflix, Google, Apple and others.

The battles this year will be over distribution — and they will determine how quickly, if ever, high-res images can be seen by the mass audience.

As LightIron’s Michael Cioni said recently: “People can’t watch it, until we create it.”

Who do you think will lead the way with viable 4K solution on the capture side and on the post side?
I don’t think we’ll see a leader in 4K image acquisition (capture). All the major players are already there: Red, Sony, Panasonic, JVC, Canon… You name it. At the BVE trade show in London in February, every time you turned around you were seeing another 4K camera. Image capture at 4K will be the same rugby scrum we’ve come to expect with every other video format — multiple cameras, multiple codecs, multiple formats.

It really shouldn’t surprise anyone that, like SD and HD, we have TWO different 4K formats — UltraHD and True 4K — each with different image sizes.

(Sigh) The time I am looking forward to is when the industry can agree to just one of anything. But, I don’t ever expect to see it. There is too much commercial advantage to fighting over separate formats. Still, if I were given a vote, I’d pick UltraHD, because of its ease in up-converting traditional HD media.

What’s your take on Cloud-based workflows? Are they ready for widespread adoption?
I am SUCH a skeptic about “The Cloud.” It is great for pre-production collaboration and script-writing.  It’s fine for sharing address books and calendars. It’s even fine for final distribution. All the videos on my Website, for example, are distributed using Amazon S3 servers and their Cloudfront CDN.  But for editing and post, I’m not impressed.

Here are my two reasons:
1. Security and ownership
2. Bandwidth

Not a day goes by but that we read about yet another “major US corporation” that was hacked, assets stolen, and, “Gosh, we are really sorry about this…” Storing media on The Cloud does not give me warm and fuzzy feelings.  I could go on, but you have a page limit.

Also, there is a lot of debate as to who owns my assets if the cloud company storing them goes bankrupt. Apparently, many cloud companies own your assets in the event of a business failure. That, too, is unacceptable to me.

The second issue is that, in spite of the hype, not everyone has tens of megabytes of upload speed. Do you know how long it would take me to upload a 10GB file given my current connection?  More than a day! Once we move to high-res imaging, files that used to be 10GB will be 4 to 8 times bigger. The Web is just not designed for those workflows.

Adobe is working on a solution with Adobe Anywhere. Other companies are nibbling at the edges of this puzzle. But, for me, until I know my data is secure, that I own the material that I create and I have both the money and pipes to move huge media files, the reality is that the Cloud really doesn’t get me very excited. For distribution? Yes. For editing? No.

Still, it is a fascinating topic and, one of these days, someone will figure it out. In any case, I’m willing to listen to anyone’s new ideas.

With the new additions and essentially a reboot of FCP X, do you expect to see more people out there in the pro world working with it?
Apple has already announced that more people have purchased FCP X than purchased FCP 7 (Final Cut Studio 3). This, to me, sounds like a success story.

What surprises me is the range of new users that Apple has brought to the editing table. People that never edited before are using FCP X. And, looking at the sales trends of my training, I would have to agree. FCP X has become fashionable again.

But what about the pros?
Truthfully, I get about 300 emails a day from editors all over the world. Virtually all of them earn their living in one way or another with editing. What I’ve learned is that the “high-end” is everywhere. Pros are everywhere. It is no longer true that you need to work on a studio film to do great work. In fact, outstanding work is being done on far smaller budgets. A long time ago, a term was coined to describe what we are going thru: “disintermediation.” This is the process of moving the creative process out of facilities in and into home offices and laptops.

In the past, we needed to work for a studio or a post house to work with top-flight gear. Now, $100,000 cameras can be rented for a pittance. Virtually any computer, located in a mud hut, by the pool, or in a small home office, can edit broadcast-quality HD.

I don’t think anyone knows who’s  pro anymore. The definition I use is that a pro is someone who gets paid for their work. Someone who needs to deliver edited, polished “professional” video on time, on budget, with a quality that meets the client’s requirements.  Given that definition, pros are everywhere.

What was your reaction to Avid’s delisting notice? What do you think is happening with the company?
Avid is in a very difficult position for the long term. I wish them well because they are a good competitor, which benefits all of us.

With the changes Apple in terms of FCPX and some questions about Avid, where does this position Adobe Premiere?
Traditionally, Adobe has always been everyone’s second choice.  For the first time, Adobe has seized the opportunity all the confusion in the market has created and forcefully gone after it. Not just with cool marketing, but with in-your-face, gotta-pay-attention software updates. Lots of them. Lots and LOTS of them. In other words, Adobe decided they needed to do more than talk, they needed to deliver on some seriously aggressive promises. I think everyone in the industry is stunned with how fast, and how well, they’ve responded.

We are definitely in a three-horse race and, while everyone has their favorite, I don’t think anyone is ready to declare a winner. And THAT is what makes this such an exciting time!

3 thoughts on “Quick Chat: Larry Jordan on NAB 2014

    1. Randi Altman Post author

      Really just that the FCP X that exists today is quite different than the one they introduced. There are a lot more tools for the pro user now.

  1. Paul Antico

    All the hype about 4k seems to me to be too soon and so what. ARRI is not on the 4K bandwagon for example, as I understand it. ARRI has this to say about 4K:

    “We believe that the most distinctive image characteristic is contrast, and after that it is really a question of whether we need to increase temporal resolution if we aim for higher spatial resolution than 2K.”

    But who uses ARRI anyway? When the time comes, I suppose 4K will have it’s day since that ship is sailing full steam ahead. Icebergs in the way—who knows? But really, as Larry points out, the web is 720, TV is HD, and there is no rush or ability and/or funds to upgrade everything in the short term to 4K. And why? Are people not happy with HD as it is now? I want 5 million K! It’s soooo much better! I believe that the content is more important than the technology and our current technology is damn good. But it seems there are many for whom the technology IS the content: let’s go go go 4K !! What, barriers to entry for the industry are at low points? Let’s create some gotta have expensive equipment way before it will ever be really needed! Yay 4K !!


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