Tag Archives: post production

SGO’s Mistika Boutique now compatible with AJA’s T-Tap

SGO has partnered with AJA Video Systems to make its subscription-based full-finishing software solution Mistika Boutique compatible with AJA’s T-Tap portable Thunderbolt-powered I/O device in the latest Mistika 10 release. SGO also launched a special promotion offering a free 90-day trial of Mistika Boutique with new AJA T-Tap, Kona 1, Kona 4, Io 4K and Io 4K Plus purchases.

Mistika Boutique, which is designed for Windows and macOS, runs on industry-standard, off-the-shelf hardware. It features the complete spectrum of professional finishing tools, from conform to VFX, color grading, Stereo 3D, VR and more. Pricing ranges from $112 to $338 per month. When combined with AJA T-Tap — an affordable, compact video and audio output device that allows professionals to monitor high-quality 10-bit HD, SD, HDR and 2K video with embedded audio output from any compatible Mac or PC — Mistika Boutique offers users with a new cost-effective option for feeding Mac and PC outputs to preferred displays for an enhanced finishing experience.

“In recent months, the importance of strong remote post production capabilities has become paramount, and our partnership with SGO aims to make mobile finishing that much simpler, providing an affordable way to get your Mistika Boutique output from your laptop or computer to a range of supported 3G-SDI and HDMI displays,” says Nick Rashby, president of AJA Video Systems.

“Mistika Boutique was created for any type of post facility, including smaller studios or even freelance artists who want to take full advantage of the capabilities that our Mistika Technology software provides, with the added flexibility to work with their preferred hardware. T-Tap is an intuitive and cost-efficient device, making it a perfect complement for Mistika Boutique users finishing 2D, 3D and even VR content on a laptop or computer,” reports Geoff Mills, managing director at SGO. “Having worked with AJA previously to integrate Kona and Corvid cards into our high-end, turnkey Mistika Ultima finishing systems, delivering Mistika Boutique support for T-Tap was a natural progression.”

Leon Silverman to chair HPA Industry Recovery Task Force

Industry veteran and former Hollywood Professional Association (HPA) president Leon Silverman will lead the HPA Industry Recovery Task Force (IRTF). He is a founder of HPA and continues to serve on its board. Over the course of his decades long career, he has held executive roles at major studios and entertainment companies including Netflix, The Walt Disney Studios, Kodak and LaserPacific. In these roles, he has focused on the intersection of technology and creativity, working closely with a number of key industry organizations.

The HPA’s Industry Recovery Task Force is focused on the sustainable resumption of the production and post industry with the aim of understanding how to enable content creation in an evolving world impacted by the pandemic crisis. The task force’s upcoming virtual Town Hall events will share the latest health and safety, technical and creative best practices.

“We are at a pivotal moment at an important and challenging time in our industry,” says Silverman. “While the pandemic forces us to evolve the way we work to effectively create and deliver content, we also have a real opportunity to not just get back to work, but to move our industry forward. This Task Force will mobilize experts, artists and technological visionaries from a range of disciplines to thoughtfully collaborate on industry evolution and innovation. The HPA is well suited to help create a common ground and forum for this conversation, and while we may not be in the same room, we can still help bring our industry together. I sincerely believe we can emerge from this current crisis stronger and focused on enhancing creativity and content creation itself.”

The first IRTF Town Hall will be held in July and will be moderated by Hollywood Reporter tech editor Carolyn Giardina. HPA plans to continue this format over the following months as the impact of the pandemic evolves. These events will present the latest knowledge and processes for individuals and companies at work on sets, in post-on-set environments, visual effects companies, studios, production companies and post companies. The first event will feature a panel that includes medical experts, scientists, political leaders, post artists and members of guilds. Video case studies will take pros behind the scenes to learn how facilities and companies have managed the challenges of the pandemic.

“It is extremely important,” notes Silverman, “to collaborate with the key individuals who have scientific knowledge as well as those who have already set standards for returning to work to make sure we are in sync with their guidelines and can educate our HPA community. Ultimately, our aim is to build an incredibly collaborative, creative and technically sound future.”

The specific schedule and speakers for the upcoming town halls will be announced shortly.

This is Us: Talking with showrunner Dan Fogelman

By Iain Blair

In a time when issues of diversity and social change are at the forefront of society’s collective conversation, the Emmy Award-winning series This Is Us has proved to be very timely. Created by Dan Fogelman, produced by 20th Century Fox Television and airing on NBC and Hulu, the show chronicles the Pearson family across the decades: from Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) as young parents in the 1980s to their kids Kevin, Kate and Randall searching for love and fulfillment in the present day.

Dan Fogelman

Fogelman’s TV credits include The Neighbors, Pitch and Like Family. He’s written film screenplays for Pixar’s Cars and Disney’s Bolt and Tangled. His live-action film credits include the screenplays for Last Vegas; Crazy, Stupid, Love; and the semi-autobiographical The Guilt Trip. He also directed and wrote the features Danny Collins and Life Itself.

I recently talked with Fogelman about making the show, the challenges and why he loves post. In fact, post supervisor Nick Pavonetti also joined in the conversation.

You finished Season 4 just before the COVID crisis. Have you started Season 5?
Yes, and we have a pretty unusual process. We’ve had early pickups for the show, which allows us to jump right into the next season at the end of the last one in terms of storytelling. So we’ve already mapped out a lot of it and written quite a lot, and we’re way ahead, which helps us with both production and post.

Where do you shoot, and what cameras do you shoot on?
We shoot on stages at Paramount using ARRI Alexa cameras. It’s a two-camera setup — A and B — and our shooting style is pretty voyeuristic. This was established right back in the pilot. We like to put you right inside the room with the family. It’s not that super-hand-held, shaky, on-the-ground action look.

We try to really get inside with the characters and cross-shoot where possible, as it allows for the natural moments to play out with multiple angles, as opposed to trying to manufacture them for a second position. We have an amazing DP, Yasu Tanida, who works with the directors to find the frames that allow us to use this setup. But for specialized episodes — like the Vietnam battle sequence the concert or the episode that was set entirely in a waiting room — we’ll use three or four cameras, but that’s very rare.

Do you like being a showrunner?
I love it. It’s the best job ever, but it’s difficult, challenging and relentless in terms of the schedule. When I’m exhausted, I often fantasize about jobs that allow you to clock off at 5pm. That’s not this gig. But I started down this path because I wanted to be the final word on the page and the final edit of this thing you love.

You have a giant crew and giant cast. Are those the big challenges of running this show?
Yeah, it’s a huge army of super-talented people. The big challenge is storytelling because on this show it’s really complicated since you’re not just telling one linear story a week, but often five or six, all in just 42 minutes. And we have seasons that are interconnected in time periods and multiple time periods — up to six. So keeping track of all that when we should be focused on one character, one storyline, one time period, is the real challenge.

Where do you post?
We do the editing on the lot at Paramount and have three editors and their Avid bays, which are conveniently close to our writers’ room and Nick Pavonetti’s post team. We do our mixing at Technicolor on the lot and the color timing at Technicolor at Sunset Gower; our sound editorial is done at Smart Post Sound with supervising sound editor Randy Thomas.

Do you like post?
Honestly, it’s my favorite part of the whole process. I’m a writer by trade, and post is all about rewriting. I spend very little time on set because when I go, I find very little I can add, as everyone knows what they’re doing. I spend a lot of time writing the scripts and working with writers on theirs, and then with the editors, as you’re essentially writing in the edit bay sometimes. I have a hard time letting anyone else take control in the edit bay.

Besides dealing with all the characters, storylines and time periods, what are the big editing challenges?
Timing and pacing, since after a first cut, a typical episode tends to come in about 10 minutes longer than NBC’s very strict run time of 42 minutes and 30 seconds, which is what we have to hit. So we have to reshape the story and maybe cut down my overly long monologues — but they still have to feel part of a whole with the piece.

This show has a great score and great sound design. Talk about the importance of sound and music, and working supervising sound editor Randy Thomas.
That’s another part of post I love — playing with the score by composer Siddhartha Khosla, which is such a vital part of the show’s emotion and power. Even without picture, it stirs real emotion. Then I drive Nick crazy talking about the mix since we have a lot of music — a lot of needle drops, a lot of score — but all the dialogue is crucial too, so finding that balance in the mix takes a lot of time and effort to make it all sing together. Randy is so good at all that.

What about all the VFX? What’s involved?
Nick Pavonetti: It’s quite complicated. We’re this little family drama, but there’s a huge amount of VFX that are quite delicate and subtle — ageing and de-ageing characters. We have an in-house VFX coordinator, Jim Owens, and an in-house artist, Josh Bryson, who’ve really helped us get the VFX to the high level we want. That team will probably grow next year. So they’re right with us in the edit room and going through cuts in progress. We use a bunch of VFX companies — Ingenuity, Technicolor, CBS Digital, Big Little Panda, Inviseffects and Parker Mountain.

Nick, what are the big challenges in post for you?
It’s a big show and just getting all the pieces together on time in post is very demanding. As Dan said, we’re always trying to cut stuff down and we may be doing reshoots at the last minute and then having to drop that in. It’s not like a Netflix show where it’s all done six months in advance. We’ve mixed Saturday and Sunday for Tuesday air. That’s a very tight schedule.

Dan, where do you do the DI, and how closely do you work with colorist Tom Forletta?
It’s not really in my wheelhouse, so I trust Nick, Tom and our DP and their judgment on all that. But if we’re doing an episode set in Vietnam, for instance, where we’re doing a lot of really heavy VFX, I want to make sure it all looks real and realistic in the final color, so I’ll be more involved.

There’s a lot of talk about the lack of diversity in the entertainment business, but you recruited behind-the-scenes diverse talent, including black directors like George Tillman Jr. and Regina King, and black female writers like Kay Oyegun and Jas Waters. Why did that matter to you?
Well, this show is meant to be about the collective human experience in this country, so you’d like the people working on it to reflect that — and you’d like it to be like that on any show, and I feel we all still have a ways to go.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Behind the Title: Orci’s CD of production Allen Perez

To become a better producer, he became an editor, sound engineer, motion graphics artist and camera assistant… then went back to producing.

Name: Allen Perez

Company: Orci

Can you describe your company?
Orci is a multi-segment marketing agency that has worked with global brands including Verizon, Dole, Honda and Disney. Orci also provides production, editorial, post and graphics as part of its services.

What’s your job title?
SVP, Creative Director of Production

Acura – Senses

What does that entail?
I provide creative input for a production and creative perspective, and I also get involved producing projects. I provide support to other producers and always work toward delivering the best piece, regardless of the budget or the platform where the content will live. It can be a full-up production or in-house production that may require a still image.

What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
The level of involvement that goes beyond producing. I’m also a director so I get to step back as producer to focus on directing. And I sit on the board of directors and work next to our CEO, COO and SVPs.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
The creative process that carries through the whole development of a production. From a brainstorming session where doodles become full-blown ideas that go into storyboarding all the way to a project that comes to life.

What’s your least favorite?
Time is the most mind-bending part of the process. Every project has different challenges. Producers are time negotiators. All parties involved are focusing on their own due date, so there are several timelines within the main timeline, and it is up to the producer to keep everyone synchronized and on track. It’s like directing an orchestra.

What is your most productive time of the day?
Early morning. I start my day by looking at my schedule, reading emails and developing my daily-plan list. Then, I begin to work. This morning ritual is key so I can get a clear sense of what I need to accomplish.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
Winemaking tickles my brain. Passionate winemakers are creative people, the type that see things differently and think that everything is possible. The care that goes into winemaking puts me in touch with Earth in ways that you wouldn’t expect.

How early on did you know this would be your path?
This profession chose me during my high school years. I took a photography class, and that was the beginning. During high school, I worked at a video rental store and watched a lot of films. I began producing while going to college. Once I discovered the big impact a producer has on a project, I didn’t look back.

Honda – Best Friends

As I continued the path, I wanted to learn more about what everyone did to fully engage and bring out the best in them. I did take a small detour: I became an editor, music producer, sound engineer, camera assistant and motion graphics artist to gain a broad understanding of all the moving pieces and how every decision would impact the people doing the actual work. After having such perspective, I went back to producing, and producing got more interesting.

Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
Honda broadcast and social media projects, as well as some Stella Artois projects.

What is the project that you are most proud of?
There are several projects that come to mind. The reasons are different. I guess I’d choose the Honda Civic Coupe campaign back in 1999. I’m a big fan of all things animation. When MTV started airing Aeon Flux in the early ‘90s, I was hooked. The opportunity to do an animated commercial came up, so I brought my Aeon Flux VHS tapes and showed them to the creative team. It was meant just as reference, but everyone loved the look and tone. I managed to get hold of Peter Chung, the creator of Aeon Flux, who ended up directing the spot.

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
1. Cell phone
2. Laptop
3. Internet

What social media channels do you follow?
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

Do you listen to music while you work? Care to share your favorite music to work to?
I do, I can work to pretty much anything. Mac Miller, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan and classical music are on my most-played list.

This is a high-stress job with deadlines and client expectations. What do you do to de-stress from it all?
I paint using acrylics on canvas (oils are too messy!). It allows me to disconnect from it all and to dream awake.

Tom Kendall

Picture Shop VFX and Ghost merge, Tom Kendall named president

Ghost artists at work in Copenhagen studio.

Streamland Media (formerly Picture Head Holdings) has consolidated its visual effects offerings under the Ghost VFX brand. Picture Shop’s visual effects division will merge with Ghost VFX to service feature film, television and interactive media clients. LA-based Picture Shop, as part of the Streamland Media Group, acquired Denmark’s Ghost VFX in January.

Tom Kendall, who headed Picture Shop VFX, will move into the the role of president for Ghost VFX, based out of the Los Angeles facility. Jeppe Nygaard Christensen, Ghost co-founder and EVP, and Phillip Prahl, Ghost SVP, will continue to operate out of the Copenhagen studio.

“I’m very excited about combining both teams,” says Kendall. “It strengthens our award-winning VFX services worldwide, while concentrating our growing team of talent and expertise under one global brand. With strategic focus on the customer experience, we are confident that Ghost VFX will continue to be a partner of choice for leading storytellers around the world.”

Over the years, Ghost has contributed to more than 70 feature films and titles. Some of Ghost’s work includes Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, The Mandalorian, The Walking DeadSee, Black Panther and Star Trek Discovery. Recent Picture Shop VFX credits include Hawaii Five-O, Magnum P.I., The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead.

The Streamland Media Group includes Picture Shop, Formosa Group, Picture Head, Ghost VFX, The Farm and Finalé, with locations in the US, Denmark, Canada and the UK.

Telestream’s Prism waveform monitor upgraded for SDI, IP workflows

Telestream has upgraded its Prism waveform monitor with new functionality and software-based features. Since purchasing this monitor technology, Telestream has developed it into a single solution that is suited to both SDI and IP workflow applications.

Prism can now be configured for all the traditional SDI waveform monitoring tools required in operations, compliance, quality control and post workflows up to 8K resolution. Simultaneously, the same product offers a comprehensive suite of IP-based waveform monitoring tools up to 4K resolution on 25G Ethernet. Prism includes enhanced high dynamic range and wide color gamut reports and tools to increase efficiency.

Prism is a software-based solution, which means it can be installed on one physical device that’s used to support a complete range of applications and features. The Prism user interface and API are remotely accessible, enabling remote work and socially distanced production environments, which are especially relevant during the pandemic. Prism enables multi-user flexibility, where the operators do not need to be at the same physical location as the device.

In addition to remote working, touch-screen and dual-screen options are supported, allowing users to adapt to their preferred working environment. All functionality is available on the same user interface whether working remotely or using a touch screen.

Estudios GGM to resume production, open new soundstages

Estudios GGM in Mexico is unveiling three new soundstages as it prepares to resume production activity later this month. Ranging from 10,000 to 13,000 square feet, the new stages will be the studio’s largest and give it a total of nine shooting spaces. Construction of one stage is already complete, while work on the other two will be finished by November, when the studio expects to be supporting a full slate of television and feature productions.

Planned before the coronavirus outbreak, the new stages are meant to serve Mexico’s accelerating boom in television and film production. Launched in 2016, Estudios GGM was operating at capacity prior to the lockdown, providing stages, production offices, casting, editing, visual effects and other services to projects from Telemundo, Netflix, Amazon, Viacom, MGM and other producers. Enemigo Intimo, Falsa Identidad, El Club, Luis Miguel: The Series and Ingobernable are among the streaming series recently shot in whole or in part at the studio.

Francisco Bonilla

“We expect production activity to pick up rapidly beginning in June,” says Estudios GGM CTIO Francisco Bonilla. “We built these stages to increase capacity and meet the needs of producers from around the world who are want to shoot in Mexico. They are large shooting spaces, have high ceilings and are supported by many other resources to accommodate a cinematic style of production.”

Adding to the social distancing guidelines mandated by the Mexican government, the studio will apply a variety of health and safety measures to protect cast and crew, including culture changes and hygienic training for work and everyday life; thermal CCTV monitoring; periodic chemical, ozone and UV sanitization; and restricted access to facilities, sets and offices. The new stages are complemented by modular, multi-purpose space that will allow directors, cinematographers, control room crew and other personnel to work in isolation. Other steps will include regular sanitizing of cameras, lighting, wardrobe and props; the use of masks and gloves; and modifications to craft and catering services. All the studio’s stages are equipped with HVAC systems that draw fresh air from outdoors to reduce the risk of spreading infection.

“We are working with local health officials and medical advisors to develop appropriate protocols,” notes Bonilla. “We are also monitoring the situations in Spain, Italy, Germany, Iceland, Australia and other countries where production has resumed. We are gathering as much information as possible to allow production to ramp up quickly but safely.”

While production has been curtailed during the lockdown, other work has continued. The studio has been using Bebop remote collaboration technology and Adobe tools to allow sound and picture editors, visual effects artists and others to carry on their work remotely. It has also been serving as a beta site for Avid On-Demand, a cloud-based editing platform. Similarly, post finishing has continued at Cinematic Media, the post facility located within the studio complex, with most staff working off site.

Estudios GGM is also expanding its visual effects department. It is hiring artists and adding new capabilities, including high-end motion capture and virtual set technology. Demand for visual effects services has risen dramatically along with the broader push to elevate production value. The studio expects the need for sophisticated visual effects to grow as productions look to limit travel and location production.

For producers eager to get back to production, Estudios GGM wants to make the process simple by providing one-stop solutions. “We provide everything necessary to produce premium television and cinema,” Bonilla says. “That includes experienced talent and crew to reduce the need to travel or bring people from outside the country.”

5th Kind targets post with updates to Core DAM

5th Kind has updated its Core platform with optimized post workflows. Core, 5th Kind’s cloud-based digital asset management (DAM) and realtime collaboration platform, is used in post and dailies workflows across desktop, mobile and Apple TV devices.

5th Kind’s upcoming Core 6.5 release will feature the new Real-Time Review Player, which allows post teams to securely review videos, images, docs and audio files. By the end of the year, 5th Kind says the tool will allow review of 3D models in real time. With annotation tools and accurate synchronization down to the page and video frame, watermarked and encrypted, the Real-Time Reviewer allows teams to make quick decisions for workflow surrounding scripts, contracts, dailies, VFX, previz, marketing and distribution.

Other new Core features include seamless integration with Box.com, so users can link their Box accounts into the 5th Kind platform to browse, view and ingest their Box files into the system. Using the folder path and file name, users can associate their files to their organizational taxonomies. Those files can then be viewed in the Box folder structure and the Core meta-structure.

Additionally, the ALE importer is a new feature for post workflows. Users will be able to import any format ALE into Core and map the files to any tag in the system. This allows complete flexibility when building playlists and importing meta tags.

Core’s mobile, Apple TV and TV screeners apps have also been further enhanced. Mobile now supports Face ID and has streamlined offline downloads, while the Apple TV offers multi-user login to streamline conference room usage. As with all builds, 5th Kind has also made a range of performance and stability improvements across the Core platform and its device-based apps.

Hulu’s The Great: Creator and showrunner Tony McNamara

By Iain Blair

Aussie writer/director Tony McNamara is the creator, showrunner and executive producer of Hulu’s The Great, the new 10-episode series starring Elle Fanning as Catherine the Great and Nicholas Hoult as Russian Emperor Peter III. The Great is a comedy-drama about the rise of Catherine the Great — from German outsider to the longest reigning female ruler in Russia’s history (from 1762 until 1796).

Season 1 is a fictionalized and anachronistic story of an idealistic, romantic young girl who arrives in Russia for an arranged marriage to Emperor Peter. Hoping for love and sunshine, she finds instead a dangerous, depraved, backward world that she resolves to change. All she has to do is kill her husband, beat the church, baffle the military and get the court on her side. A very modern story about the past, which incorporates historical facts occasionally, it encompasses the many roles she played over her lifetime — as lover, teacher, ruler, friend and fighter.

L-R: Tony McNamara and cinematographer John Brawley

McNamara most recently wrote the Oscar-winning film The Favourite, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. His other feature film credits include The Rage in Placid Lake, which he wrote and directed, and Ashby.

McNamara has writen some Australia’s most memorable television series, including The Secret Life of Us, Love My Way, Doctor Doctor and Spirited. He also served as showrunner of the popular series Puberty Blues.

I recently spoke with McNamara, who was deep in post, about making the show and his love of editing and post.

When you wrote the stage play this is based on, did you also envision it as a future TV series?
Not at all. I was just a playwright and I’d worked a bit in TV but I never thought of adapting it. But then Marian Macgowan, my co-producer on this, saw it and suggested making a movie of it, and I began thinking about that

What did the stage version teach you?
That it worked for an audience, that the characters were funny, and that it was just too big a story for a play or a film.

It’s like a Dickensian novel with so many periods and great characters and multiple storylines.
Exactly, and as I worked more and more in TV, it seemed like the perfect medium for this massive story with so many periods and great characters. So once the penny dropped about TV, it all went very fast. I wrote the pilot and off we went.

I hear you’re not a fan of period pieces, despite this and all the success you had with The Favourite. So what was the appeal of Catherine and what sort of show did you set out to make?
I love period films like Amadeus and Barry Lyndon, but I don’t like the dry, polite, historically accurate, by-the-numbers ones. So I write my things thinking, “What would I want to watch?” And Catherine’s life and story are so amazing, and anything but polite.

What did Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult bring to their roles?
They’re both great actors and really funny, and that was important. The show’s a drama in terms of narrative, but it also feels like a comedy, but then it also gets very dark in places. So they had to be able to do both — bring a comic force to it but also be able to put emotional boots on the ground… and move between the two very easily, and they can do that. They just got it and knew the show I wanted to make before we even got going. I spent time with them discussing it all, and they were great partners.

Where do you shoot?
We did a lot of it on stages at 3 Mills Studios in London and shot some exteriors around London. We then went to this amazing palace near Naples, Italy, where we shot exteriors and interiors for a couple of weeks. We really tried to give the show a bit more of a cinematic feel and look than most TV shows, and I think the production design is really strong. We all worked very hard to not make it feel at all like sets. We planned it out so we could move between a lot of rooms so you didn’t feel trapped by four walls in just one set. So even though it’s a very character-driven story, we also wanted to give it that big epic sweep and scope.

Do you like being a showrunner?
(Laughs) It depends what day it is. It’s a massive job and very demanding.

What are the best parts of the job and the worst?
I love the writing and working with the actors and the director. Then I love all the editing and all the post — that’s really my favorite thing in the whole process after the writing. I’ve always loved editing, as it’s just another version of writing. And I love editors, and ours are fun to hang out with, and it’s fun to try and solve problems. The worst parts are having to deal with all the scheduling and the nuts and bolts of production. That’s not much fun.

Where do you post?
We do it all in London, with all the editing at Hireworks and all the sound at Encore. When we’re shooting at the studios we set up an edit suite on site, so we start working on it all right away. You have to really, as the TV schedule doesn’t allow much time for post compared with film.

Talk about editing. You have several editors, I assume because of the time factor. How does that work?
We had three editors, who are all so creative and inventive. I love getting all the material and then editing and tweaking things, particularly in comedy. There’s often a very fine line in how you make something funny and how you give the audience permission to laugh.

I think the main editing challenges were usually the actual storytelling, as we tell a lot of stories really fast, so it’s managing how much story you tell and how quickly. It’s a 10-hour story; you’re also picking off moments in an early episode that will pay off far later in the series. Plus you’re dealing with the comedy factor, which can take a while to get up and running in terms of tone and pace. And if there’s a darker episode, you still want to keep some comedy to warm it up a bit.

But I don’t micro-manage the editors. I watch cuts, give some notes and we’ll chat if there are big issues. That way I keep fresh with the material. And the editors don’t like coming on set, so they keep fresh too.

How involved are you with the sound?
I’m pretty involved, especially with the pre-mix. We’ll do a couple of sessions with our sound designer, Joe Fletcher, and Marian will come in and listen, and we’ll discuss stuff and then they do the fixes. The sound team really knows the style of the soundscape we want, and they’ll try various things, like using tones instead of anything naturalistic. They’re very creative.

Tony McNamara and Elle Fanning on set

There’s quite a lot of VFX. 
BlueBolt and Dneg did them all — and there are a lot, as period pieces always need a ton of small fixes. Then in the second half, we had a lot of stuff like dogs getting thrown off roofs, carriages in studios that had to be running through forests, and we have a lot of animals — bears, butterflies and so on. There’s also a fair whack of violence, and all of it needed VFX.

Where do you do the DI?
We did the grading at Encore, and we spent a lot of time with DP John Brawley setting the basic look early on when we did the pilot, so everyone got it. We had the macro look early, and then we’d work on specific scenes and the micro stuff.

Are you already planning Season 2?
I have a few ideas and a rough arc worked out, but with the pandemic we’re not sure when we’ll even be able to shoot again.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Posting Michael Jordan’s The Last Dance — before and during lockdown

By Craig Ellenport

One thing viewers learned from watching The Last Dance — ESPN’s 10-part documentary series about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls — is that Jordan might be the most competitive person on the planet. Even the slightest challenge led him to raise his game to new heights.

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Jordan’s competitive nature may have rubbed off on Sim NY, the post facility that worked on the docuseries. Since they were only able to post the first three of the 10 episodes at Sim before the COVID-19 shutdown, the post house had to manage a work-from-home plan in addition to dealing with an accelerated timeline that pushed up the deadline a full two months.

The Last Dance, which chronicles Jordan’s rise to superstardom and the Bulls’ six NBA title runs in the 1990s, was originally set to air on ESPN after this year’s NBA Finals ended in June. With the sports world starved for content during the pandemic, ESPN made the decision to begin the show on April 19 — airing two episodes a night on five consecutive Sunday nights.

Sim’s New York facility offers edit rooms, edit systems and finishing services. Projects that rent these rooms will then rely on Sim’s artists for color correction and sound editing, ADR and mixing. Sim was involved with The Last Dance for two years, with ESPN’s editors working on Avid Media Composer systems at Sim.

When it became known that the 1997-98 season was going to be Jordan’s last, the NBA gave a film crew unprecedented access to the team. They compiled 500 hours of 16mm film from the ‘97-’98 season, which was scanned at 2K for mastering. The Last Dance used a combination of the rescanned 16mm footage, other archival footage and interviews shot with Red and Sony cameras.

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

“The primary challenge posed in working with different video formats is conforming the older standard definition picture to the high definition 16:9 frame,” says editor Chad Beck. “The mixing of formats required us to resize and reposition the older footage so that it fit the frame in the ideal composition.”

One of the issues with positioning the archival game footage was making sure that viewers could focus when shifting their attention between the ball and the score graphics.

“While cutting the scenes, we would carefully play through each piece of standard definition game action to find the ideal frame composition. We would find the best position to crop broadcast game graphics, recreate our own game graphics in creative ways, and occasionally create motion effects within the frame to make sure the audience was catching all the details and flow of the play,” says Beck. “We discovered that tracking the position of the backboard and keeping it as consistent as possible became important to ensuring the audience was able to quickly orient themselves with all the fast-moving game footage.”

From a color standpoint, the trick was taking all that footage, which was shot over a span of decades, and creating a cohesive look.

Rob Sciarratta

“One of main goals was to create a filmic, dramatic natural look that would blend well with all the various sources,” says Sim colorist Rob Sciarratta, who worked with Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 15. “We went with a rich, slightly warm feeling. One of the more challenging events in color correction was blending the archival work into the interview and film scans. The older video footage tended to have various quality resolutions and would often have very little black detail existing from all the transcoding throughout the years. We would add a filmic texture and soften the blacks so it would blend into the 16mm film scans and interviews seamlessly. … We wanted everything to feel cohesive and flow so the viewer could immerse themselves in the story and characters.”

On the sound side, senior re-recording mixer/supervising sound editor Keith Hodne used Avid Pro Tools. “The challenge was to create a seamless woven sonic landscape from 100-plus interviews and locations, 500 hours of unseen raw behind-the-scenes footage, classic hip-hop tracks, beautifully scored instrumentation and crowd effects, along with the prerecorded live broadcasts,” he says. “Director Jason Hehir and I wanted to create a cinematic blanket of a basketball game wrapped around those broadcasts. What it sounds like to be at the basketball game, feel the game, feel the crowd — the suspense. To feel the weight of the action — not just what it sounds like to watch the game on TV. We tried to capture nostalgia.”

When ESPN made the call to air the first two episodes on April 19, Sim’s crew still had the final seven episodes to finish while dealing with a work-from-home environment. Expectations were only heightened after the first two episodes of The Last Dance averaged more than 6 million viewers. Sim was now charged with finishing what would become the most watched sports documentary in ESPN’s history — and they had to do this during a pandemic.

Stacy Chaet

When the shutdown began in mid-March, Sim’s staff needed to figure out the best way to finish the project remotely.

“I feel like we started the discussions of possible work from home before we knew it was pushed up,” says Stacy Chaet, Sim’s supervising workflow producer. “That’s when our engineering team and I started testing different hardware and software and figuring out what we thought would be the best for the colorist, what’s the best for the online team, what’s the best for the audio team.”

Sim ended up using Teradici to get Sciarratta connected to a machine at the facility. “Teradici has become a widely used solution for remote at home work,” says Chaet. “We were easily able to acquire and install it.”

A Sony X300 monitor was hand-delivered to Sciarratta’s apartment in lower Manhattan, which was also connected to Sciarratta’s machine at Sim through an Evercast stream. Sim shipped him other computer monitors, a Mac mini and Resolve panels. Sciarratta’s living room became a makeshift color bay.

“It was during work on the promos that Jason and Rob started working together, and they locked in pretty quickly,” says David Feldman, Sim’s senior VP, film and television, East Coast. “Jason knows what he wants, and Rob was able to quickly show him a few color looks to give him options.

David Feldman

“So when Sim transitioned to a remote workflow, Sciarratta was already in sync with what the director, Jason Hehir, was looking for. Rob graded each of the remaining seven episodes from his apartment on his X300 unsupervised. Sim then created watermarked QTs with final color and audio. Rob reviewed each QT to make sure his grade translated perfectly when reviewed on Jason’s retina display MacBook. At that point, Sim provided the director and editorial team access for final review.”

The biggest remote challenge, according to producer Matt Maxson, was that the rest of the team couldn’t see Sciarratta’s work on the X300 monitor.

“You moved from a facility with incredible 4K grading monitors and scopes to the more casual consumer-style monitors we all worked with at home,” says Maxson. “In a way, it provided a benefit because you were watching it the way millions of people were going to experience it. The challenge was matching everyone’s experience — Jason’s, Rob’s and our editors’ — to make sure they were all seeing the same thing.”

Keth Hodne

For his part, Hodne had enough gear in his house in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Using Pro Tools with Mac Pro computers at Sim, he had to work with a pared-down version of that in his home studio. It was a challenge, but he got the job done.

Hodne says he actually had more back-and-forth with Hehir on the final episode than any of the previous nine. They wanted to capture Jordan’s moments of reflection.

“This episode contains wildly loud, intense crowd and music moments, but we counterbalance those with haunting quiet,” says Hodne. “We were trying to achieve what it feels like to be a global superstar with all eyes on Jordan, all expectations on Jordan. Just moments on the clock to write history. The buildup of that final play. What does that feel and sound like? Throughout the episode, we stress that one of his main strengths is the ability to be present. Jason and I made a conscious decision to strip all sound out to create the feeling of being present and in the moment. As someone whose main job it is to add sound, sometimes there is more power in having the restraint to pull back on sound.”

ESPN Films_Netflix_Mandalay Sports Media_NBA Entertainment

Even when they were working remotely, the creatives were able to communicate in real time via phone, text or Zoom sessions. Still, as Chaet points out, “you’re not getting the body language from that newly official feedback.”

From a remote post production technology standpoint, Chaet and Feldman both say one of the biggest challenges the industry faces is sufficient and consistent Internet bandwidth. Residential ISPs often do not guarantee speeds needed for flawless functionality. “We were able to get ahead of the situation and put systems in place that made things just as smooth as they could be,” says Chaet. “Some things may have taken a bit longer due to the remote situation, but it all got done.”

One thing they didn’t have to worry about was their team’s dedication to the project.

“Whatever challenges we faced after the shutdown, we benefitted from having lived together at the facility for so long,” says Feldman. “There was this trust that, somehow, we were going to figure out a way to get it done.”


Craig Ellenport is a veteran sports writer who also covers the world of post production. 

Dell intros redesigned Precision mobile workstation line

Dell Technologies has introduced new mobile workstations in its Precision line, which targets professional content creators. The Precisions feature the Dell Optimizer, an automated AI-based optimization technology that learns how each person works and adapts to their behavior. It is designed to improve overall application performance; enable faster log-in and secure lock outs; eliminate echoes and reduce background noise on conference calls; and extend battery run time.

The reengineered  Precision workstation portfolio is designed to handle demanding workloads, such as intensive graphics processing, data analysis and CAD modeling. With smaller footprints and thermal innovations, the new Precision mobile workstations offer increased performance and ISV certifications with professional graphics from Nvidia and the latest 10th Gen Intel Core vPro and Xeon processors.

Designed for creators and pros, the Dell Precision 5550 and 5750 are small and thin 15-inch and 17-inch mobile workstations, respectively, and offer a 16:10, four-sided InfinityEdge (up to HDR 400) display.

The new Precision 5750 is also VR/AR and AI-ready to handle fast rendering, detailed visualizations and complex simulations. Targeting media and entertainment pros, the 5750 comes with the option of an Nvida Quadro RTX 3000 GPU, weighing in at only 4.7 pounds. It is available with a UHD+ (3840 x 2400) HDR400 screen, dual Thunderbolt (four ports total) and up to two M.2 NVMe drives.

The Dell Precision 5550 is available now starting at $1,999. The Dell Precision 5750 is available in early June starting at $2,399.

The Precisions are designed for sustainability with recycled materials, sustainable packaging, energy efficient designs and EPEAT Gold registrations.

 

AMD’s new Radeon Pro VII graphics card for 8K workflows

AMD has introduced the AMD Radeon Pro VII workstation graphics card designed for those working in broadcast and media in addition to CAE and HPC applications. According to AMD, the Radeon Pro VII graphics card offers 16GB of extreme speed HBM2 (high bandwidth memory) and support for six synchronized displays and high-bandwidth PCIe 4.0 interconnect technology.

AMD says the new card considerably speeds up 8K image processing performance in Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve in addition to performance speed updates in Adobe’s After Effects and Photoshop and Foundry’s Nuke.

The AMD Radeon Pro VII introduces AMD Infinity Fabric Link technology to the workstation market, which speeds application data throughput by enabling high-speed GPU-to-GPU communications in multi-GPU system configurations. The new workstation graphics card provides the high performance and advanced features that enable post teams and broadcasters to visualize, review and interact with 8K content.

The AMD Radeon Pro VII graphics card is expected to be available beginning mid-June for $1,899. AMD Radeon Pro VII-equipped workstations are expected to be available in the second half of 2020 from OEM partners.

Key features include:
– 16GB of HBM2 with 1TB/s memory bandwidth and full ECC capability to handle large and complex models and datasets smoothly with low latency.
– A high-bandwidth, low-latency connection that allows memory sharing between two AMD Radeon Pro VII GPUs, enabling users to increase project workload size and scale, develop more complex designs and run larger simulations to drive scientific discovery. AMD Infinity Fabric Link delivers up to 5.25x PCIe 3.0 x16 bandwidth with a communication speed of up to 168GB/s peer-to-peer between GPUs.
– Users can access their physical workstation from virtually anywhere with the remote workstation IP built into AMD Radeon Pro Software for Enterprise driver.
– PCIe 4.0 delivers double the bandwidth of PCIe 3.0 to enable smooth performance for 8K, multichannel image interaction.
– Enables precise synchronized output for display walls, digital signage and other visual displays (AMD FirePro S400 synchronization module required).
– Supports up to six synchronized display panels, full HDR and 8K screen resolution (single display) combined with ultra-fast encode and decode support for enhanced multi-stream workflows.
– Optimized and certified with pro applications for stability and reliability. The list of Radeon Pro Software-certified ISV applications can be found here.
– ROCm open ecosystem, an open software platform for accelerated compute, provides an easy GPU programming model with support for OpenMP, HIP and OpenCL and for ML and HPC frameworks.

AMD Radeon Pro workstation graphics cards are supported by the Radeon Pro Software for Enterprise driver, offering enterprise-grade stability, performance, security, image quality and other features, including high-resolution screen capture, recording and video streaming. The company says the latest release offers up to a 14 percent year-over-year performance improvement for current-generation AMD Radeon Pro graphics cards. The new software driver is now available for download from AMD.com.

AMD also released updates for AMD Radeon ProRender, a physically-based rendering engine built on industry standards that enables accelerated rendering on any GPU, any CPU and any OS. The updates include new plugins for Side Effects Houdini and Unreal Engine and updated plugins for Autodesk Maya and Blender.

For developers, an updated AMD Radeon ProRender SDK is now available on the redesigned GPUOopen.com site and is now easier to implement with an Apache License 2.0. AMD also released a beta SDK of the next-generation Radeon ProRender 2.0 rendering engine with enhanced CPU and GPU rendering support with open-source versions of the plugins.

Production begins again on New Zealand’s Shortland Street series

By Katie Hinsen

The current global pandemic has shut down production all over the world. Those who can have moved to working from home, and there’s speculation about how and when we’ll get back to work again.

New Zealand, a country with a significant production economy, has announced that it will soon reopen for shoots. The most popular local television show, Shortland Street, was the first to resume production after an almost six-week break. It’s produced by Auckland’s South Pacific Pictures.

Dylan Reeve

I am a native New Zealander who has worked in post there on and off over the years. Currently I live in Los Angeles, where I am an EP for dailies and DI at Nice Shoes, so taking a look at how New Zealand is rolling things out interests me. With that in mind, I reached out to Dylan Reeve, head of post production at Shortland Street, to find out how it looked the week they went back to work under Level 3 social distancing restrictions.

Shortland Street is a half-hour soap that runs five nights a week on prime-time television. It has been on air for around 28 years and has been consistently among the highest-rated shows in the nation. It’s a cultural phenomenon. While the cast and crew take a single three-week annual break from production during the Christmas holiday season, the show has never really stopped production … until the pandemic hit.

Shortland Street’s production crew is typically made up of about 100 people; the post department consists of two editors, two assistants, a composer and Reeve, who is also the online editor. Sound mixes and complex VFX are done elsewhere, but everything else for the production is done at the studio.

New Zealand responded to COVID-19 early, instituting one of the harshest lockdowns in the world. Reeve told me that they went from alert Level 1 — basic social distancing, more frequent handwashing — to Level 3 as soon as the first signs of community transmission were detected. They stayed at this level for just two days before going to Level 4: complete lockdown. New Zealanders had 48 hours to get home to their families, shop for supplies and make sure they were ready.

“On a Monday afternoon at about 1:30pm, the studio emptied out,” explains Reeve. “We were shut down, but we were still on air, and we had about five or six weeks’ worth of episodes in various stages of production and post. I then had two days to figure out and prepare for how we were going to finish all of those and make sure they got delivered so that the show could continue to be on air.”

Shortland Street’s main production building dressed as the exterior of the hospital where the show is set, with COVID workplace safety materials on the doors.

The nature of the show’s existing workflow meant that Reeve had to copy all the media to drives and send Avids and drives home with the editors. The assistant editors logged in remotely for any work they needed to do, and Reeve took what he needed home as well to finish onlining, prepping and delivering those already-shot episodes to the broadcaster. They used Frame.io for review and approval with the audio team and with the directors, producers and network.

“Once we knew we were coming back into Level 3, and the government put out more refined guidelines about what that required, we had a number of HoD meetings — figuring out how we could produce the show while maintaining the restrictions necessary.”

I asked Reeve whether he and his crew felt safe going back to work. He reminded me that New Zealand only went back down to Level 3 once there had been a period with no remaining evidence of community transmission. Infection rates in New Zealand had spent two weeks in single digits, including two days when no new cases had been reported.

Starting Up With Restrictions
My conversation with Reeve took place on May 4, right after his first few days back at work. I asked him to explain some of the conditions under which the production was working while the rest of the country was still in isolation. Level 3 in New Zealand is almost identical to the lockdown restrictions put in place in US cities like New York and Los Angeles.

“One of the key things that has changed in terms of how we’re producing the show is that we physically have way less crew in the building. We’re working slower, and everyone’s having to do a bit more, maybe, than they would normally.

Shortland Street director Ian Hughes and camera operator Connagh Heath discussing blocking with a one-metre guide.

“When crew are in a controlled workspace where we know who everyone is,” he continues, “that allows us to keep track of them properly — they’re allowed to work within a meter of one another physically (three feet). Our policy is that we want staff to stay two meters (six feet) apart from one another as much as possible. But when we’re shooting, when it’s necessary, they can be a meter from one another.”

Reeve says the virus has certainly changed the nature of what can be shot. There are no love scenes, no kissing and no hugs. “We’re shooting to compensate for that; staging people to make them seem closer than they are.

Additionally, everything stays within the production environment. Parts of our office have been dressed; parts of our building have been dressed. We’ll do a very low-profile exterior shoot for scenes that take place outside, but we’re not leaving the lot.”

Under Level 3, everyone is still under isolation at home. This is why, explains Reeve, social distancing has to continue at work. That way any infection that comes into the team can be easily traced and contained and affect as few others as possible. Every department maintains what they call a “bubble,” and very few individuals are allowed to cross between them.

Actors are doing their own hair and makeup, and there are no kitchen or craft services available. The production is using and reusing a small number of regular extras, with crew stepping in occasionally as well. Reeve noted that Australia was also resuming production on Neighbours, with crew members acting as extras.

“Right now in our studio, our full technical complement consists of three camera operators at the moment, just one boom operator and one multi-skilled person who can be the camera assist, the lighting assist and the second boom op if necessary. I don’t know how a US production would get away with that. There’s no chance that someone who touches lights on a union production can also touch a boom.”

Post Production
Shortland Street’s post department is still working from home. Now that they are back in production, they are starting to look at more efficient ways to work remotely. While there are a lot of great tools out there for remote post workflows, Reeve notes that for them it’s not that easy, especially when hardware and support are halfway across the world, borders are closed and supply chains are disrupted.

There are collaboration tools that exist, but they haven’t been used “simply because the pace and volume of our production means it’s often hard to adapt for those kinds of products,” he says. “Every time we roll camera, we’re rolling four streams of DNxHD 185, so nearly 800Mb/s each time we roll. We record that media directly into the server to be edited within hours, so putting that in the cloud or doing anything like that was never the best workflow solution. When we wanted feedback, we just grabbed people from the building and dragged them into the edit suite when we wanted them to look at something.”

Ideally, he says, they would have tested and invested in these tools six months ago. “We are in what I call a duct tape stage. We’re taking things that exist, that look useful, and we’re trying to tape them together to make a solution that works for us. Coming out of this, I’m going to have to look at the things we’ve learned and the opportunities that exist and decide whether or not there might be some ways we can change our future production. But at the moment, we’re just trying to make it through.”

Because Shortland Street has only just resumed shooting, they haven’t reached the point yet where they need to do what Reeve calls “the first collaborative director/editor thing” from start to finish. “But there are two plans that we’re working toward. The easy, we-know-it-works plan is that we do an output, we stick it on Frame.io, the director watches it, puts notes on it, sends it back to us. We know that works, and we do that sometimes with directors anyway.

“The more exciting idea is that we have the directors join us on a remote link and watch the episodes as they would if they were in the room. We’ve experimented with a few things and haven’t found a solution that makes us super-happy. It’s tricky because we don’t have an existing hardware solution in place that’s designed specifically for streaming a broadcast output signal over an internet connection. We can do a screen-share, and we’ve experimented with Zoom and AnyDesk, but in both those cases, I’ve found that sometimes the picture will break up unacceptably, or sync will drift — especially using desktop-sharing software that’s not really designed to share full-screen video.”

Reeve and crew are just about to experiment with a tool used for gaming called Parsec. It’s designed to share low-latency, in-sync, high-frame-rate video. “This would allow us to share an entire desktop at, theoretically, 60fps with half-second latency or less. Very brief tests looked good. Plan A is to get the directors to join us on Parsec and screen-share a full-screen output off Avid. They can watch it down and discuss with the editor in real time or just make their own notes and work through it interactively. If that experience isn’t great, or if the directors aren’t enjoying it, or if it’s just not working for some reason, we’ll fall back to outputting a video, uploading it to Frame.io and waiting for notes.

What’s Next?
What are the next steps for other productions returning to work? Shortland Street is the only production that chose to resume under Level 3. The New Zealand Film Commission has said that filming will resume eventually under Level 2, which is being rolled out in several stages beginning this week. Shortland Street’s production company has several other shows, but none have plans to resume yet.

“I think it’s a lot harder for them to stay contained because they can’t shoot everything in the studio,” explains Reeve. “Our production has an added advantage because it is constantly shooting and the core cast and crew are mostly the same every day. I think these types of productions will find it easiest to come back.”

Reeve says that anyone coming into their building has to sign in and deliver a health declaration — recent travel, contact with any sick person, other work they’ve been engaged in. “I think if you can do some of that reasonable contact tracing with the people in your production, it will be easier to start again. The more contained you can keep it, the better. It’s going to be hard for productions that are on location, have high turnover or a large number of extras — anything where they can’t keep within a bubble.

“From a post point of view, I think we’re going to get a lot more comfortable working remotely,” he continues. “And there are lots of editors who already do that, especially in New Zealand. If that can become the norm, and if there are tools and workflows that are well established to support that, it could be really good for post production. It offers a lot of great opportunities for people to essentially broaden their client essentially or the geographic regions in which they can work.

Productions are going to have to make their own sort of health and safety liability decisions, according to Reeve. “All of the things we are doing are effectively responding to New Zealand government regulation, but that won’t be the case for everyone else.”

He sees some types of production finding an equilibrium. “Love Island might be the sort of reality show you can make. You can quarantine everyone going into that show for 14 days, make sure they’re all healthy, and then shoot the show because you’re basically isolated from the world. Survivor as well, things like that. But a reality show where people are running around the streets isn’t happening anymore. There’s no Amazing Race, that’s for sure.”


After a 20-year career talent-side, Katie Hinsen turned her attention to building, developing and running post facilities with a focus on talent, unique business structures and innovative use of technology. She has worked on over 90 major feature and episodic productions, founded the Blue Collar Post Collective, and currently leads the dailies & DI department at Nice Shoes.

Chimney Group: Adapting workflows in a time of crisis

By Dana Bonomo

In early March, Chimney delivered a piece for TED, created to honor women on International Women’s Day featuring Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code. This was in the early days of coronavirus taking hold in the United States. We had little comprehension at that point of the true extent to which we would be impacted as a country and as an industry. As the situation grew and awareness around the severity of the COVID-19 health crisis sunk in, we started to realize that it would be animated projects like this one that we would come to rely upon.

TED & Ultimate Software: International Women’s Day

This film showcases the use of other creative solutions when live-action projects can’t be shot. But the real function of work like this is that, on an emotional level, it feels good to make something with a socially actionable message.

In just the last few weeks, platforms have been saturated with COVID-19-related content: salutes to healthcare workers, PSAs from federal, state and local authorities and brands sharing messages of unity. Finding opportunities that can include some form of social purpose help provide hope to our communities while also raising the spirits of those creating it. We are currently in production on two of these projects and they help us feel like we’re contributing in some small way with the resources we have.

As a global company, Chimney is always highlighting our worldwide service capabilities, with 12 offices on four continents, and our abilities to work together. We’ve routinely used portals such as Zoho and Slack in the past, yet now I’m enjoying the shift in how we’re communicating with each other in a more connected and familiar way. Just a short time ago we might have used a typical workflow, and today we’re sharing and exchanging ideas and information at an exponential rate.

As a whole, we prefer to video chat, have more follow-ups and create more opportunities to work on internal company goals in addition to just project pipelines and calendars. There’s efficiency in brainstorming and solving creative challenges in real time, either as a virtual brainstorm or idea exchange in PM software and project communication channels. So at the end of a meeting, internal review or present, current project kick off, we have action items in place and ready to facilitate on a global scale.

Our company’s headquarters is in Stockholm, Sweden. You may have heard that Sweden’s health officials have taken a different approach to handling COVID-19 than most countries, and it is resulting in less drastic social distancing and isolation measures while still being quite mindful of safety. Small shoots are still possible with crews of 10 or less — so we can shoot in Sweden with a fully protected crew, executing safe and sanitary protocols —and we can livestream to clients worldwide from set.

This is Chimney editor Sam O’Hare’s work-from-home setup.

Our CEO North America Marcelo Gandola is encouraging us individually to schedule personal development time, whether it’s for health and wellness, master classes on subjects that interest us, certifications for our field of expertise, or purely creative and expressive outlets. Since many of us used our commute time for that before the pandemic, we can still use that time for emotional recharging in different ways. By setting aside time for this, we regain some control of our situation. It lifts our morale and it can be very self-affirming, personally and professionally.

While most everyone has remote work capabilities these days, there’s a level of creative energy in the air, driven by the need to employ different tactics — either by working with what you have (optimizing existing creative assets, produced content, captured content from the confines of home) or replacing what was intended to be live-action with some form of animation or graphics. For example, Chimney’s Creative Asset Optimization has been around for some time now. Using Edisen, our customization platform, we can scale brands’ creative content on any platform, in any market at any time, without spending more. From title changes to language versioning and adding incremental design elements, clients get bigger volumes of content with high-quality creative for all channels and platforms. So a campaign that might have had a more limited shelf life on one platform can now stretch to an umbrella campaign with a variety of applications depending on its distribution.

Dana Bonomo

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and it’s exciting to see how brands and makers are creatively solving current challenges. Our visual effects team recently worked on a campaign (sorry we can’t name this yet) that took existing archival footage and — with the help of VFX — generated content that resonated with audiences today. We’re also helping clients figure out remote content capture solutions in lieu of their live events getting canceled.

I was recently on a Zoom call with students at my alma mater, SUNY Oneonta, in conversation with songwriter and producer John Mayer. He said he really feels for students and younger people during this time, because there’s no point of reference for them to approach this situation. The way the younger generation is adapting — reacting by living so fully despite so many limitations — they are the ones building that point of reference for the future. I think that holds true for all generations… there will always be something to be learned. We don’t fully know what the extent of our learning will be, but we’re working creatively to make the most of it.

Main Image: Editor Zach Moore’s cat is helping him edit


Dana Bonomo is managing director at Chimney Group in NYC.

Posting Everest VR: Journey to the Top of the World

While preparing to climb both Mount Everest and Mount Lhotse without the use of bottled oxygen, renowned climber Ueli Steck fell to his death in late April of 2017. VR director and alpine photographer Jonathan Griffith and mountain guide Tenji Sherpa, both friends of Steck, picked up the climber’s torch, and the result was the 8K 3D documentary Everest VR: Journey to the Top of the World, produced by Facebook’s Oculus.

Over the course of three years, Griffith shot footage following Tenji and some of the world’s most accomplished climbers in some of the world’s most extreme locations. The series also includes footage that lets viewers witness what it is like to be engulfed in a Himalayan avalanche, cross a crevasse and staring deep in its depths, take a huge rock-climbing fall, camp under the stars and soak in the view from the top of the world.

For the post part of the doc, Griffith called on veteran VR post pro Matthew DeJohn for editing and color correction, VR stitching expert Keith Kolod and Brendan Hogan for sound design.

“It really was amazing how a small crew was able to get all of this done,” says Griffith. “The collaboration between myself as the cameraman and Matt and Keith was a huge part of being able to get this series done — and done at such as a high quality.

“Matt and Keith would give suggestions on how to capture for VR, how camera wobbling impacted stitching, how to be aware of the nadir and zenith in each frame and to think about proximity issues. The efficient post process helped in letting us focus on what was needed, and I am incredibly happy with the end result.”

DeJohn was tasked with bringing together a huge amount of footage from a number of different high-end camera systems, including the Yi Halo and Z Cam V1 Pro.

DeJohn called on Blackmagic Resolve for this part of the project, saying that using one tool for all helped speed up the process.“A VR project usually has different teams of multiple people for editing, grading and stitching, but with Resolve, Keith and I handled everything,” he explains.

Within Resolve, DeJohncut the series at 2Kx2K, relinked to 8Kx8K source and then change the timeline resolution to 8Kx8K for final color and rendering. He used the Fairlight audio editing tab to make fine adjustments, manage different narration takes with audio layers, and manage varied source files such as mono-narration, stereo music and four-channel ambisonic spatial audio.

In terms of color grading, DeJohn says, “I colored the project from the very first edit so when it came to finalize the color it was just a process of touching things up.”

Fusion Studio was used for stereoscopic alignment fixes, motion graphics, rig removal, nadir patches, stabilization, stereo correction of the initial stitch, re-orienting 360 imagery, viewing the 360 scenes in a VR headset and controlling focal areas. More intense stitching work was done by Kolod using Fusion Studio.

Footage of such an extreme environment, as well as the closeness of climbers to the cameras, provided unique challenges for Kolod who had to rebuild portions of images from individual cameras. He also had to manually ramp down the stereo on the images north and south poles to ensure easy viewing, fix stereo misalignment and distance issues between the foreground and background and calm excessive movement in images.

“A regular fix I had to make was adjusting incorrect vertical alignments, which create huge problems for viewing. Even if a camera is a little bit off, the viewer can tell,” says Kolod. “The project used a lot of locked-off tripod cameras, and you would think that the images coming from them would be completely steady. But a little bit of wind or slight movement in what is usually a calm frame makes a scene unwatchable in VR. So I used Fusion for stabilization on a lot of shots.”

“High-quality VR work should always be done with manual stitching with an artist making sure there are no rough areas. The reason why this series looks so amazing is that there was an artist involved in every part of the process — shooting, editing, grading and stitching,” concludes Kolod.

RuckSackNY: Branding, targeted videos and high-quality masks

By Randi Altman

Fred Ruckel got his start in post at New York’s Post Perfect in the ‘90s. From there he grew his skills and experience before opening his own shop, Stitch. While spending his days as a Flame artist, in his spare time Ruckel and his wife Natasha invented something called the Ripple Rug. They’ve since moved to upstate New York, where they built an extensive post suite and studio under the name RuckSackNY.

Fred Ruckel at work.

What is the Ripple Rug, you ask? It’s essentially a cat playground in a rug, but their site describes it as “a multifunction pet enrichment system mainly geared toward house cats.”

Fred and Natasha (whose own career includes stints at creative agencies as well as Autodesk) felt strongly about manufacturing the Ripple Rug in the US, and they wanted to use recycled materials. After a bit of research, they found a factory in Georgia and used recycled plastic water bottles in the process. To date they have recycled over 3 million bottles.

To help promote the Ripple Rug, the Ruckels leveraged their creative capabilities from years of working in advertising and post to create a brand from scratch.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, the Ruckels realized they were in a unique position — they could repurpose the Georgia factory to make masks and face shields for health workers and the general population. While reformatting the factory to this type of manufacturing is still ongoing, the Ruckels wanted to make sure that, in the meantime, people would have access to high-quality face masks. So they sourced masks via their textile production partners, had them tested in a US lab, and have already sold over 40,000 masks under their new brand, SnugglyMask.

Many have taken to making their own masks, so the factory will also be making filters to help beef up that protection, which will allow people to buy filter packs for their homemade masks. Check out their video showing people how to make their own masks.  “We should have that part functional this week or next. Our mask supplier is quickly trying to put together the production pipeline so we can make masks here, but those machines are automated and take a bit of engineering to make them work properly.”

These materials will be both sold to the general public and donated to those on the frontlines. The Ruckels have once again used their creative backgrounds to build a brand and tell a story. Let’s find out more from Fred…

With the recent COVID-19 crisis, you realized that your factory could be used to make masks — both for civilians and for medical professionals and those on the frontline. How did you come to that realization, and what were your first steps?
When the pandemic broke out, we immediately took action to help the cause. Our factory makes many textile products, and we knew we could set up an assembly line to make masks, shields and gowns, and with some funding, we could pretty much make anything. We have the know-how and ability, as well as 60,000 square feet of space, which we are cutting a chunk out of to make a clean room to handle the process in as sterile an environment as possible.

I reached out to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office, our local congressman and Empire State Development. At the same time, I was communicating with Georgia (we are a registered business in both states) and worked with the Department of Economic Development and the National Association of Manufacturers. That led us to the Global Center for Medical Innovation.

Natasha Ruckel

So while that was happening, you decided to sell and donate masks?
Yes. While waiting for responses to help us retool our factory, we had to do something to be an immediate help. We did not want to wait on the sidelines for red tape to be cut; we had to come up with Plan B while waiting for government help.

Plan B meant using our resources to allow us to purchase masks without several levels of middlemen raising the prices. We still ended up with two levels of middlemen, but it’s better than five! In manufacturing, it is all about pennies. This is a lesson I learned from a mentor early on with our Ripple Rug project. Middlemen make pennies, a nickel becomes $50,000 in profit on 1 million units, so pennies add up, and middlemen capitalize on that. My goal is to remove middlemen and get directly sourced goods to people in need at the best price possible.

Can you describe both masks and the materials used?
In our PSA, we demonstrate the use of a cloth bandana versus a basic medical mask. We are looking to filter particulate matter down to the micron level, smaller than the human eye can see. For reference, the human eye can only see particles as small as 50 to 60 microns (think about a fleck of dust caught in sunlight). The particles we are looking to “arrest” are down to .3 microns, smaller than red blood cells.

The mechanical weaving of cloth masks makes them porous. This allows particulate matter to pass right through, as the holes are enormous in scale. The key component is the middle layer is called “melt-blown.” The outer layer is a polypropylene spun-bond fiber, and the inside layer is an acrylic spun-bond fiber. Sandwiched between is the melt -blown layer, which is the fine particulate catcher. Each layer captures a different size particle. Think of it as a video production — it would be like adding multiple scrims to lights to block light, except we are blocking particles in this case.

You recently created a PSA detailing the differences in the masks people are using to protect themselves. What did you use to shoot and post?
The PSA was shot using a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. We have some great Fiilex LED lighting kits with a ring light and a 7-foot white shooting tent. My intent wasn’t to make a full-on video. I was shooting elements to make animating gifs to show the testing process. When I loaded the footage into Adobe Premiere and made a selects reel, I realized we had the elements of a PSA … and so a spot was born.

Natasha looked at my selects and quickly switched into producer mode and pieced together a storyline. We then had to shoot more elements. Fortunately, our shooting studio is in our home, so there were no delays. I shot an element, loaded it, shot another and so on until we had the pieces to make it work.

Natasha created graphic elements in Adobe Illustrator while I worked on the edit in Premiere. We also took product pics in raw mode for the packaging and demos, which we developed in camera raw within Photoshop. We shot the video portion in 4K, which allowed us to punch in for closeups and pull back to reframe as if it were a multi-cam shoot.

We filmed on a stainless steel table to give it a clinical feel while blowing it out a little bit to feel ethereal and hazy. My favorite shot is the water dripping on the table; the lighting and table make it feel like mercury.

Why was it so important for you to turn your business into the mask business?
There are so many reasons that it is hard to pinpoint. I knew we had the capability, and our pipeline was efficient enough to pull it off from start to finish. As an inventor I’ve seen people take advantage of situations for financial gain — like knocking off products — and that means making fake masks, which cause more harm than good.

I saw an opportunity to protect everyone I know by supplying quality masks they can trust. On internet sites, fake masks can look identical. In fact, the pics might be of the real mask, but they ship you a cheap version that’s missing some key elements.

I do not cut corners. As a Flame artist, I continually dealt with clients saying, ‘It’s good enough, let’s move to the next shot.” Good enough is not what I do; I do not have a halfway button. I’d look like a bad Flame artist if I didn’t go all the way.

Knowing that we can play an active part in protecting my friends and family and colleagues in the post community by taking on this single effort made me pull the trigger. With that, SnugglyMask.com was born.

Are you guys selling and donating masks? How is that working?
We are both selling and donating masks. One of our RuckSackNY clients is a philanthropist named Josh Malone. As his marketing agency, we created a mask donation program. The first hospitals we shipped to were Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and Westchester Medical Center. We will be donating to hospitals nationwide and also selling masks to hospitals and the public via our site, https://www.snugglymask.com/. This is a place people can go for a mask they can trust and that has been lab tested. We built a brand in just a week, and sales simply exploded due to our honest content and demand.

Why is it important for you to make sure your products are being made in the US?
We make the Ripple Rug in the US to provide jobs for US workers. There are more than 100 people working at 10 companies in five states for Ripple Rug. I order carpet 100,000 square feet at a time and cannot imagine shipping it from overseas with the demand we must meet. Shipping from China takes weeks, if not months.

Making it in the USA means continual production to meet demand while reinvesting to grow along the way. Sure, I could produce my products in China and make a lot more money, but I am proud to say American workers put food on the table and children go to school because we make our products in the USA. That alone makes it worth it to me.

Do you feel the videos you create help get more people to pay attention to the product?
We feel effective videos engage viewers and build intrigue about our product. We create a range of videos, not just the regular polished spots. Consumers appreciate the feeling of user-generated content, as it adds to the authenticity of the product. If every spot is beautiful, it feels staged.

We have a series called “Cats Gone Wild” in which all of the videos are made solely of user-generated content sourced from YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. I edit them to a stock music track and create a theme for each video. We add titles to call out the social media names to give credit to the person who posted the video and to give them a little spotlight on our show reel. This, in turn, creates engagement, as it encourages them to share the video on their social media channels.

I keep my edits to around a minute for this series to “get in and get out” before losing the viewer’s attention. The original content is cut to a whimsical track and is fun to watch — who doesn’t love cute cat videos? We share these on social media, and that helps grow our sales. Our customers love it, they get acknowledgement, our brand grows, and we are able to show our product in action.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

Hecho Studios: Mobilizing talent and pipeline to keep working

By Ryan Curtis

When Hecho first learned of the possibility of a shutdown due to COVID-19, we started putting together a game plan to maintain the level of production quality and collaboration that we are all used to, but this time remotely. Working closely with our chief content officer Tom Dunlap, our post production workflow manager Nathan Fleming and senior editor Stevo Chang, we first identified the editors, animators, colorists, Flame artists, footage researchers and other post-related talent who work with us regularly. We then built a standing army of remote talent who were ready to embrace the new normal and get to work.

Ryan Curtis

It was a formidable challenge to get the remote editorial stations up and running. We had a relatively short notice that we were going to have to finalize and enact a WFH game plan in LA. In order to keep productions running smoothly, we teamed with our equipment vendor, VFX Technologies, to give our IT team the ability to remote in and fully outfit each work station with software. They also scheduled a driver to make contact-free drop offs at the homes of our artists. We’ve deployed over 15 iMacs for editorial, animation and finishing needs. We can scale as needed, and only need two to three days’ notice to get a new artist fully set up at home with the appropriate tools. Our remote edit bay workstations are mainly iMac Pros, running the Adobe suite of tools, Maxon Cinema 4D, Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve and Autodesk Flame.

We have outfitted each member of our team with Signiant, which allows for rapid speed file transfers for larger files. If an artist’s home internet is not up to snuff for their project, we have been boosting their internet speeds. To maintain file integrity, we are rolling out the same file structure as you would find on our server, allowing us to archive projects back to the server remotely once delivered. We’ve also designated key people who can access the in-office stations and server virtually, retrieve assets and migrate them to remote teams to refresh existing campaigns.

The need to review during each phase of production has never been stronger. We tested a wide variety of review solutions, and have currently settled on the following:

• For Animation/Design-Based Projects:
Frankie – Export-based interactive reviews
• For Editorial Projects:
Evercast – Live plug and play sessions
Wiredrive (often times paired with Google Hangouts or Zoom)
• For Finishing:
Vimeo Review – Export-based color reviews
Streambox – Live color collaboration (paired with Google Hangouts or Zoom)
Frankie – Export-based interactive reviews
Wiredrive for deliverables (often times paired with Google Hangouts or Zoom)

Our collective of talent remains our contracted veteran Hecho crew, well over 50 people who know our shorthand and in-office workflows and can easily be onboarded to our new remote workflow. If needed to satisfy a specific creative challenge, we bring in new talent and quickly onboard them into the Hecho family.

In terms of how we deal with approvals, it depends on the team and the project. If you have a dedicated team to a project it can be even more efficient than working in the office. Overcommunication is key, and transparency with feedback and workflows is paramount to a successful project. However, in many cases, efficiencies can be lost and projects currently move about 20 percent slower than if we were in the office. To combat this, some teams have structured a little differently as it can be hard to wrangle busy individuals with fast deadlines remotely. So having approved backup approvers on board has been immensely helpful to keep projects moving along on time. And without clients in the bay, we lean even more on our post producers to funnel all questions and feedback from clients, ensuring clear back and forth with artists.

NFL #stayhomestaystrong

Challenges Solved
Aside from the lack of in-person interaction and the efficiencies of quick catch ups in the hall or in the bay, the biggest challenge has been home internet speeds. This affects everything else that’s involved with a WFH set up. In some cases we had to actually upgrade current ISP contracts in order to reach an acceptable baseline for getting work done: streaming reviews, file sharing, etc.

The other challenge was quickly testing/evaluating new tools and then getting everybody up to speed on how to use them. Evercast was probably the trickiest new product because it involves live streaming from an editor’s machine (using Adobe Premiere) while multiple “reviewers” watch them work in real time. As you can imagine, there are many factors that can affect live streaming: CPU of the streaming computer, bitrate you’re streaming, etc. Luckily, once we had gone through a couple setups and reviews (trial and error) things got much easier. Also the team at Evercast (thanks Brad, Tyrel, and Robert!) were great in helping us figure out some of the issues we ran into early on.

Our First WFH Projects
For our first COVID-19 response project, we worked with agency 72andSunny and the NFL to share the uplifting message #Stayhomestaystrong. Behind the scenes, our post team produced a complete offline to online workflow in record time and went from brief to live in six days while everyone transitioned to working entirely remotely. #Stayhomestaystrong also helped bring in $35 million in donations toward COVID relief groups. Credits include editors Amanda Tuttle, Andrew Leggett, assistant editors: Max Pankow, Stephen Shirk, animator Lawrence Wyatt, Flame artists Rachel Moorer, Gurvand Tanneau and Paul Song and post producer Song Cho.

Stay INspired

Another project we worked with 72andSunny on was COVID-19 response ad, Pinterest Stay INspired, involving heavy motion graphics and a large number of assets, which ranged from stock photos, raw video files from remote shoots and licensed UGC assets. The designers, motion graphics artists, writers and clients used a Google Slides deck to link thumbnail images directly to the stock photo or UGC asset. Notes were sent directly to their emails via tags in the comments section of the slides.

Our team shared storyboards, frequently jumped on video conference calls and even sent recorded hand gestures to indicate the kind of motion graphic movement they were looking for. Credits for this one include editor/motion designer: Stevo Chang, motion designer Sierra Hunkins, associate editor Josh Copeland and post producer Cho, once again.

What We Learned
WFH reinforced the need for the utmost transparency in team structures and the need for super-clear communication. Each and every member of our team has needed to embrace the change and take on new challenges and responsibilities. What worked before in office, doesn’t necessarily work in a remote situation.

The shutdown also forced us to discover new technologies, like Evercast, and we likely wouldn’t have signed up for Signiant for a while. Moving forward, these tools have both been great additions to what we can offer our clients. These new technologies also open up future opportunities for us to work with clients we didn’t have access to before (out of state and overseas). We can do live remote sessions without the client having to physically be in a bay which is a game changer.


Ryan Curtis is head of post production at two-time Emmy-nominated Hecho Studios, part of MDC’s Constellation collective of companies.

Eizo intros HDR reference monitor with built-in calibration

Eizo is now shipping the ColorEdge Prominence CG3146, a 31.1-inch, DCI-4K (4096×2160) HDR reference monitor for post and color grading workflows. It is the successor model to Eizo’s flagship HDR reference monitor, the ColorEdge Prominence CG3145, and is the first to incorporate a built-in calibration sensor. Hardware calibration ensures the screen stays color-accurate over time and streamlines color management.

Like its predecessor, the ColorEdge Prominence CG3146 correctly shows both very bright and very dark areas on the screen without sacrificing the integrity of either. The monitor achieves 1000 cd/m2 (typical) high brightness and 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio for true HDR display.

The ColorEdge Prominence CG3146 supports HLG (hybrid log-gamma) and the PQ (perceptual quantization) curve for displaying and editing broadcast, film and other video content in HDR. The optimized gamma curves render images to appear truer to how the human eye perceives the real world compared to SDR.

The color and brightness of an LCD monitor can shift due to changes in ambient temperature and the temperature of the monitor itself. The ColorEdge Prominence CG3146 is equipped with a temperature sensor for accurately measuring the temperature inside the monitor and for estimating the temperature of the surrounding environment. With this temperature-sensing and estimation technology, the monitor adjusts in real time, so gradations, color, brightness and other characteristics continue to be displayed accurately.

Eizo uses artificial intelligence in the monitor’s estimation algorithm so it can distinguish between various temperature-changing patterns to calculate even more accurate correction. Eizo’s patented digital uniformity equalizer technology also counterbalances the influence that a fluctuating temperature might have on color temperature and brightness for stable image display across the screen.

Details
• Single-Link 12G/6G/3G/HD-SDI and Dual- or Quad-Link 3G/HD-SDI
• VPID support for SDI connections
• HDMI and DisplayPort inputs
• 99% reproduction of DCI-P3
• 3D LUT for individual color adjustment on an RGB cubic table
• 10-bit simultaneous display from a 24-bit LUT for smooth color gradations
• Quick adjustment of monitor settings via front bezel dial
• Light-shielding hood included
• Five-year manufacturer’s warranty

 

Atomos Ninja V to record 5.9K raw from Panasonic S1H

Atomos and Panasonic are making updates to the Ninja V HDR monitor-recorder and Panasonic Lumix S1H mirrorless digital camera that will make it possible to record 5.9K Apple ProRes raw files directly from the camera’s sensor. The free updates will be available May 25.

The Ninja V captures highly detailed 12-bit raw files from the S1H over HDMI at up to 5.9K/29.97p in full frame or 4K/59.94p in Super35. These clean, unprocessed files preserve the maximum dynamic range, color accuracy and detail from the S1H. The resulting ProRes raw files offer perfect skin tones and easily matched colors ideal for both HDR and SDR (Rec. 709) workflows.

With the new 3.5K Super35 Anamorphic 4:3 raw mode, the Ninja V and S1H combination caters to cinematographers who shoot with anamorphic lenses. The Ninja V and S1H can now be used as an A camera or a smaller B camera on an anamorphic raw production.

Each frame recorded in ProRes raw has metadata supplied by the S1H. Apple’s Final Cut Pro X and other NLEs will automatically recognize ProRes raw files as coming from the S1H and set them up for editing and display in either SDR or HDR projects automatically. Additional information will also allow other software to perform extensive parameter adjustments.

Dolores McGinley heads Goldcrest London’s VFX division

London’s Goldcrest Post, a picture and audio post studio, has launched a visual effects division at its Lexington Street location. It will be led by VFX vet Dolores McGinley, whose first task is to assemble a team of artists that will provide services for both new and existing clients.

During the COVID-19 crisis, all Goldcrest staff is working from home except the colorists, who are coming in as needed and working alone in the grading suites. McGinley and her team will move into the Goldcrest facility when lockdown has ended.

“Having been immersed in such a diverse range of projects over the past five years, we identified the need to expand into VFX some time ago,” explains Goldcrest MD Patrick Malone. “We know how essential an integrated VFX service is to our continued success as a leading supplier of creative post solutions to the film and broadcast community.

“As a successful VFX artist in her own right, Dolores is positioned to interpret the client’s brief and offer constructive creative input throughout the production process. She will also draw upon her considerable experience working with colorists to streamline the inclusion of VFX into the grade and guarantee we are able to meet the specific creative requirements of our clients.”

With over two decades of creative experience, McGinley joins Goldcrest having held various senior roles within the London VFX community. Recent examples of her work include The Crown, Giri/Haji and Good Omens.

More words of wisdom from editor Jesse Averna, ACE

We are all living in a world we’ve never had to navigate before. People’s jobs are in flux, others are working from home, and anxiety is a regular part of our lives. Through all the chaos, Jesse Averna has been a calming voice on social media, so postPerspective reached out to ask him once again to address our readership directly. You can see his last column here.

Jesse is a five-time Emmy-winning ACE editor living in LA and working in the animation feature world.


Hey,

How are you holding up? I just wanted to check in and offer a few more words.

This sucks. It isn’t good for anyone. And it’s okay to admit that. It’s healthy. This isn’t an opportunity you’ve been given. It’s a crisis. Sure, you’re at home, if you’re one of the lucky ones, but your life has been rocked.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is simply survive. In case no one else in your life is telling you this: Give yourself a break. Please take a pause before you carve new ruts to fall into, and realize that your mental health is of the upmost importance.

How are you? Are you adapting? Are you alone and lonely? Are you having live video meetings and editing from home while juggling kids? No matter your personal situation, it’s uncomfortable, full of unexpected challenges and likely wearing you out.

If you need a hand, ask for it. If you need to talk to someone, reach out. If you need a moment of peace, go jump in the shower. Do whatever you need to do to find peace in your day. You deserve that. While you’re setting these new patterns to fall into, please keep yourself a priority. Because here’s the truth: You are very important to the other people in the home you’re now in all the time.

You’re important to your friends and family. You’re important to your coworkers. You are a wonderful, one-of-a-kind jewel that’s under pressure at the moment. This moment will pass. You will go on. This is a horrible tragedy. There is no downplaying that. Nor should we. Just know that we need you. We need you next month. We need you next year. Please take good care of yourself. You are looked up to. You are loved. You are missed. You are valued. You are the only “you” we are going to get. So, please, check in with yourself. Prioritize yourself. Be kind to yourself. You’re doing great. Hang in there.

Jesse
@dr0id


Jesse Averna, who was co-founder of the popular Twitter chat and Facebook group @PostChat, works at Disney Animation Studio and is a member of the American Cinema Editors.He recently edited is a primetime special for Sesame Street, which first aired on April 14. If you missed the special’s debut, you can catch Sesame Street’s “Elmo’s Playdate” on HBO and PBS streaming apps.

Signiant expands Latin American efforts, hires JP Garza

Signiant has hired JP Garza to lead its expansion in Latin America. As a 25-year veteran of the media and entertainment industry, Garza has worked at building the presence of companies like Sony, HP, Harris, Omneon and Ooyala across the region. He will be based Miami which will serve as Signiant’s hub into all corners of Latin America.

Signiant offers intelligent file transfer software and its own cloud-native SaaS platform. Customers include studios, broadcasters, sports leagues and teams, gaming companies, streaming providers as well as folks working in post production and media distribution. With more companies finding ways to work remotely, Signiant expects business to expand not only in Latin America, but globally as well.

XenData intros Multi-Site Sync service for cloud object storage

XenData, which provides data storage solutions, has announced its new Multi-Site Sync service for cloud object storage targeting media applications. The service creates a global file system accessible worldwide via XenData Cloud File Gateways. The XenData gateways are optimized for video files, supporting partial file restore and streaming.

Each gateway manages a local disk volume that caches frequently accessed files. The solution scales to 2 billion files, unlimited cloud storage and up to 256TB of local disk cache at each location. It can optimize a company’s productivity by providing global file sharing across multiple facilities combined with reliable local performance through local disk caching.

Each instance of the synchronized gateway runs on a physical or virtual Windows machine and allows access to the global file system on each local network as a standard share using SMB, NFS and FTP network protocols. When a file is written to the cloud object storage via one of the gateways, it immediately appears as a stub file within the global file system on all other gateways.

The Multi-Site Sync solution currently supports the following cloud object storage services: Amazon Web Services S3, Hot and Cool tiers of Azure Blob Storage and Wasabi S3. It also works with multiple cloud storage accounts, allowing simultaneous use of multiple cloud storage providers within the global file system.

According to XenData, each gateway uses multi-part HTTPS with checksum verification for a fast, reliable and secure connection to the cloud storage. The gateways adhere to the Microsoft security model based on Active Directory, allowing easy installation into existing domains. The Cloud File Gateway software can be installed on Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2019 and Windows 10 machines.

XenData also offers two optimized edge appliances that include the XenData gateway software: the CX-10, a 1RU rack-mount appliance with a 10TB disk cache, and the X1, a compact unit that includes a 1.92TB SSD cache..

The solution uses cost-effective object storage and is priced from $150 per month for a system that manages up to 10TB of cloud storage and has two gateways. The cost of the cloud object storage is in addition. Multi-Site Sync is scheduled to be available in May.

My Top Five Ergonomic Workstation Accessories

By Brady Betzel

Instead of writing up my normal “Top Five Workstation Accessories” column this year, I wanted to take a slightly different route and focus on products that might lessen pain and maybe even improve your creative workflow — whether you are working at a studio or, more likely these days, working from home.

As an editor, I sit in a chair for most of my day, and that is on top of my three- to four-hour round-trip commute to work. As aches and pains build up (I’m 36, and I’m sure it doesn’t just get better), I had to start looking for solutions to alleviate the pain I can see coming in the future. In the past I have mentioned products like the Wacom Intuos Pro Pen tablet, which is great and helped me lessen wrist pain. Or color correction panels such as theLoupedeck, which helps creative workflows but also prevents you from solely using the mouse, also lessening wrist pain.

This year I wanted to look at how the actual setup of a workstation environment that might prevent pain or alleviate it. So get out of your seat and move around a little, take a walk around the block, and when you get back, maybe rethink how your workstation environment could become more conducive to a creativity-inspiring flow.

Autonomous SmartDesk 2 
One of the most useful things in my search for flexibility in the edit bay is the standup desk. Originally, I went to Ikea and found a clearance tabletop in the “dents” section and then found a kitchen island stand that was standing height. It has worked great for over 10 years; the only issue is that it isn’t easily adjustable, and sometimes I need to sit to really get my editing “flow” going.

Many companies offer standing desk solutions, including manual options like the classic VariDesk desk riser. If you have been in the offline editing game over the past five to 10 years, then you have definitely seen these come and go. But at almost $400, you might as well look for a robotic standing desk. This is where the Autonomous SmartDesk 2 comes into play. Depending on whether you want the Home Office version, which stands between 29.5 inches and 48 inches, or the Business Office version, which stands between 26 inches and 52 inches, you are looking to spend $379 or $479, respectively (with free shipping included).

The SmartDesk 2 desktop itself is made of MDF (medium-density fibreboard) material, which helps to lower the overall cost but is still sturdy and will hold up to 300 pounds. From black to white oak, there are multiple color options that not only help alleviate pains but can also be a conversation piece in the edit bay. I have the Business version in black along with a matching black chair, and I love that it looks clean and modern. The SmartDesk 2 is operated using a front-facing switch plate complete with up, down and four height-level presets. It operates smoothly and, to be honest, impressively. It gives a touch of class to any environment. Setup took about half an hour, and it came with easy-to-follow instructions, screws/washers and tools.

Keep an eye out for my full review of the Autonomous SmartDesk 2 and ErgoChair 2, but for now think about how a standup desk will at least alleviate some of the sitting you do all day while adding some class and conversation to the edit bay.

Autonomous ErgoChair 2 
Along with a standup desk — and more important in, my opinion — is a good chair. Most offline editors and assistant editors work at a company that either values their posture and buys Herman Miller Aeron chairs, or cheaps out and buys the $49 special at Office Depot. I never quite understood the benefit of saving a few bucks on a chair, especially if a company pays for health insurance — because in the end, they will be paying for it. Not everyone likes or can afford the $1,395 Aeron chairs, but there are options that don’t involve ruining your posture.

Along with the Autonomous SmartDesk 2, you should consider buying the ErgoChair 2, which costs $349 — a similar price to other chairs, like the Secretlab Omega series gaming chair that retails for $359. But the ErgoChair 2 has the best of both worlds: an Aeron chair-feeling mesh back and neck support plus a super-comfortable seat cushion with all the adjustments you could want. Even though I have only had the Autonomous products for a few weeks now, I can already feel the difference when working at home. It seems like a small issue in the grand scheme of things, but being comfortable allows my creativity to flow. The chair took under 30 minutes to build and came with easy-to-follow instructions and good tools, just like the SmartDesk 2.

A Footrest
When I first started in the industry, as soon as I began a freelance job, I would look for an old Sony IMX tape packing box. (Yes, the green tapes. Yes, I worked with tape. And yes, I can operate an MSW-2000 tape deck.) Typically, the boxes would be full of tapes because companies bought hundreds and never used them, and they made great footrests! I would line up a couple boxes under my feet, and it made a huge difference for me. Having a footrest relieves lower back pressure that I find hard to relieve any other way.

As I continue my career into my senior years, I finally discovered that there are actual footstools! Not just old boxes. One of my favorites is on Amazon. It is technically an adjustable nursing footstool but works great for use under a desk. And if you have a baby on the way, it’s a two-for-one deal. Either way, check out the “My Brest Friend” on Amazon. It goes for about $25 with free one-day Amazon Prime shipping. Or if you are a woodworker, you might be able to make your own.

GoFit Muscle Hook 
After sitting in an edit bay for multiple hours, multiple days in a row, I really like to stretch and use a massager to un-stuff my back. One of the best massagers I have seen in multiple edit bays is called the GoFit Muscle Hook.

Luckily for us it’s available at almost any Target or on the Target website for about $25. It’s an alien-looking device that can dig deep into your shoulder blades, neck and back. You can use it a few different ways — large hook for middle-of-the-back issues, smaller hook that I like to use on the neck and upper back, and the neck massage on the bar (that one feels a little weird to me).

There are other massage devices similar to the Muscle Hook, but in my opinion the GoFit Muscle Hook is the best. The plastic-composite seems indestructible and almost feels like it could double as a self-defense tool. But it can work out almost any knots you have worked up after a long day. If you don’t buy anything else for self-care, buy the Muscle Hook. You will be glad you did. Anyone who gets one has that look of pain and relief when they use it for the first time.

Foam Roller
Another item that I just started using was a foam roller. You can find them anywhere for the most part, but I found one on Amazon for $13.95 plus free Amazon Prime one-day shipping. It’s also available on the manufacturer’s website for about $23. Simply, it’s a high-density foam cylinder that you roll on top of. It sounds a little silly, but once you get one, you will really wonder how you lived without one. I purchased an 18-inch version, but they range from 12 inches to 36 inches. And if you have three young sons at home, they can double as fat lightsabers (but they hurt, so keep an eye out).

Summing Up
In the end, there are so many ways to try keeping a flexible editing lifestyle, from kettlebells to stand-up desks. I’ve found that just getting over the mental hurdle of not wanting to move is the biggest catalyst. There are so many great tech accessories for workstations, but we hardly mention ones that can keep our bodies moving and our creativity flowing. Hopefully, some of these ergonomic accessories for your workstation will spark an idea to move around and get your blood flowing.

For some workout inspiration, Onnit has some great free workouts featuring weird stuff like maces, steel clubs and sandbags, but also kettlebells. The site also has nutritional advice. For foam roller stretches, I would check out the same Onnit Academy site.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on shows like Life Below Zero and The Shop. He is also a member of the Producers Guild of America. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

Seagate’s new IronWolf 510 M.2 NVMe SSD

Seagate Technology has beefed up its high-performance solutions for multi-user NAS environments by adding to its IronWolf SSD product line. IronWolf 510 is an M.2 NVMe SSD with caching speeds of up to 3GB/s for NVMe-compatible systems and is designed for creative pros and businesses that need 24/7 multi-user storage that is cache-enabled.

The IronWolf 510 SSD meets NAS manufacturer requirements of one drive write per day (DWPD), allowing multi-user NAS environments to do more with their data with lasting performance. According to Seagate, IronWolf 510 SSD is reliable with 1.8 million hours mean time between failures (MTBF) in a PCIe form factor, two years of Rescue Data Recovery Services, and a five-year limited warranty. IronWolf Health Management helps analyze drive health and will soon be available on compatible NAS systems.

“We are the first to provide a purpose-built M.2 NVMe for NAS that not only goes beyond SATA performance metrics but also provides three times the endurance when compared to the competition. This meets the required endurance spec of one DWPD which our NAS partners expect for their customers,” says Matt Rutledge, senior VP, devices. “Because of such high endurance, our customers are getting a tough SSD for small business and creative professional NAS environments.”

The IronWolf 510 SSD PCIe Gen3 x4, NVMe 1.3 is available in 240GB ($119.99), 480GB ($169.99), 960GB ($319.99) and 1.92TB ($539.99) capacities and is compatible with leading NAS vendors.

With NAB 2020 canceled, what’s next?

By Randi Altman

After weeks of will they or won’t they, and many companies announcing they won’t be exhibiting, NAB announced Wednesday it has canceled its Las Vegas show.

NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith released a statement yesterday that included this bit about what might be next: “We are still weighing the best potential path forward, and we ask you for your patience as we do so. We are committed to exploring all possible alternatives so that we can provide a productive setting where the industry can engage with the latest technology, hear from industry thought leaders and make the game-changing connections that drive our industry forward.”

Some think NAB will be rescheduled, but even the NAB isn’t sure what’s next. They sent this in response to my question about their plans: “We’re in the process of engaging with exhibitors and attendees to gauge their interest in what will be the best path forward for the show. Options under consideration include an event later this year or expanding NAB Show New York in the fall. All of this is, of course, premised on COVID 19 fears being alleviated. We will be in touch with the NAB Show community as decisions are made.”

What is certain is that product makers were prepared to introduce new tools at NAB 2020, and while some might choose to push back their announcements, others are scrambling to find different ways to get their message out. The easy solution is to take everything online — demos, live streaming, etc.

For our part, postPerspective will be covering news from NAB, without there actually being at NAB. Our NAB video interviews and special Video Newsletters will happen, but instead of being from the show floor, we will be conducting them online. And as news comes in, we’ll be reporting it. So check our site for the latest innovations from what we’re now calling “NAB season.” And we’re trying to think outside the box, so if there’s a way we can help you get your message out, just let us know.

I think everyone will admit that trade shows have been evolving, and traditional trade shows have realized that as well. This year even NAB was set to start on a Sunday for the very first time in an effort to expand access to the show floor.

I, for one, am excited to see what’s next. As Plato said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Sometimes something bad has to happen to get us to the next step… sooner than we were planning on it.

HPA Tech Retreat: Cloud workflows in the desert

By Tom Coughlin

At the 2020 HPA Retreat, attendees witnessed an active production of the short The Lost Lederhosen. This film used the Unreal gaming engine to provide impressive graphical details, along with several cameras and an ACES workflow, with much production work done in the cloud. Many of the companies and studios participating in the retreat played a role in the film’s production, and the shooting and post were part of the ongoing presentations and panels on the first official day of the conference. Tuesday’s sessions ended with Joachim Zell from Efilm and Josh Pines from Technicolor showing the completed video.

Shooting The Lost Lederhosen – director Steve Shaw is at the far right.

As you can imagine, several digital storage products were needed for The Lost Lederhosen. In checking out the production rig in the back of the conference room, I saw some G-Tech modular storage units and was told that there was an Isilon storage system on the other side of the wall — a giveaway because of the noise from the fans in the system. In one of the sessions on that first day, it was reported that 5TB of total footage was shot with 500GB left after conforming using Avid Media Composer with AAF. Editing was done in the cloud with Avid Nexis 30TB storage online. During dailies AWS CLI was used to push files to S3 for a common storage location. Pixmover from Pixspan was used to move data to and from LA, along with AWS S3 storage in the San Francisco Bay area.

Colorfront supported the cloud-based live production of the HPA video and did a demonstration of its 2020 Express Dailies that was used to do all the dailies and deliverables, as well as Transkoder which was used to do all the VFX pulls. Frame.io, which was used to move content from cameras to the cloud. A Mac Pro was feeding dual Apple 32-inch Retina Pro XDR displays showing 6K HDR content. Colorfront was displaying Transkoder 2020 running on a Supermicro workstation with four Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti GPUs and an AJA Kona 5 video card outputting to an 85-inch Sony Z9G HDR monitor and an AJA HDR Image Analyzer 12G for video analytic monitoring.

Metadata for video content was an important element in the HPA presentations, which included the ASC MHL (media hash list) that hashes files and folders in a standardized way, with essential file metadata in an XML human-readable format. The ASC MHL is used from data capture and offloading through backup and archiving, and it is an important element in restoring content as shown below. The ASC HML is available on github (https://github.com/ascmitc/mhl) and is still a work in progress.

The following day, Tech Retreat main conference producer Mark Schubin said that film hasn’t died yet and that Kodak had received orders from Disney, NBCUniversal, Paramount, Sony and Warner Bros. for motion picture film stock. He talked about what might be the world’s smallest camera, a small endoscopy image chip with 200×200 resolution. And he mentioned Microsoft’s Project Silica proof of concept — a 7.5cm x 7.5cm glass plate storing the 75.6GB Superman movie — as a possible long-term storage media.

MovieLabs

MovieLabs
The MovieLabs white paper released in August 2019, “The Evolution of Media Creation,” was referenced in several talks during the HPA retreat. The paper, created in cooperation with the major film studios, suggests a path to the future of moviemaking, and that path is in the cloud. You can read it here: https://movielabs.com/production-technology

During the SMPTE 2110 IP update, it was said that most new video trucks for the UK’s NEP are built for 2110 IP compliance. There are a total of 12 IP-enabled trucks, six IP control rooms and multiple IP flypacks (backpack IP video gear). In a panel organized by the Digital Production Partnership, the DPP’s Mark Harrison gave a presentation that included information on on-side and cloud storage for M&E applications. He spoke about the 2020 report from the DPP and 10 case studies from the M&E industry of companies that have all adopted cloud-led production for different reasons. We will look at the digital storage needs for three of these case studies.

It was reported that COPA90 is doing high-volume global content management with a cloud production hub and AI using the Veritone Digital Media Hub and IBM Cloud Storage, as shown below.

France TV is doing fast turnaround of high-end drama using cloud-based metadata enrichment with AWS, Azure, a private cloud and local storage before going into Avid Nexis storage, Avid Interplay and Media Composer.

UK’s Jellyfish Pictures is reportedly doing secure distributed high-volume virtualized production using Azure public cloud and a private cloud with PixStor storage.

There are five key principles in the Eluvio content fabric.

Distributed Content Delivery
Eluvio’s Michelle Munson gave an update on the company’s distributed content delivery service, and during a demo at the company’s booth, she told me that Eluvio’s approach keeps the master copy for distribution in cold storage, with the published serviceable content inherently streamable. By reusing distributed parts of content within the network, there is a considerable shrink in requirements for storage. In effect, the fabric replaces a hot storage tier, reducing higher-performance storage and network bandwidth requirements.

In her presentation, Munson said that Eluvio eliminates the need for cloud microservices for content distribution. The blockchain-based network system provides an inherent security model that makes it possible to serve audiences directly over public internet to enable a content fabric. This is not a cloud or a CDN, but rather a data distribution and storage protocol. Rendering is done at the consumer endpoint, allowing consumers to play content just in time with low latency, and monetization happens through secure transactions. MGM is deploying Eluvio’s technology for worldwide content distribution, and some other major media players are also working with the technology.

Renard Jenkins

There are five key principles in the Eluvio content fabric. First, there is no movement of the master copy; a mezzanine copy is used for all servicing. Second, a file-based interface is used for upload and download with underlying objects. Third, streaming and servicing are accomplished from the source in a JIT manner. Fourth, it uses a trustless encryption model over open networks, and fifth, access control and rights management are built in.

Best Practices for Cloud-Based Workflows
MediAnswers’ Chris Lennon and PBS’ Renard Jenkins (who subsequently started work as VP, content transmission, at WarnerMedia) spoke about the right way to do cloud-based workflows, which included local as well as cloud content copies. They gave three principles for survival. First, IT is not IP, and a network should be designed around media use and minimizing packet loss. Second, build or find cloud-native solutions rather than “lift and shift.” Third, linear workflows lead to nonlinear problems.

Universal and the Cloud
Universal’s Annie Chang spoke about tools for the next generation of production, including the use of cloud-based tools such as temporary production storage and an active archive for production assets. She went on to detail future cloud workflows wherein content goes from the camera directly to the cloud (or, if on film, from a digital intermediate post house to the cloud). Editing, dailies distribution and EDL are all done in the cloud, as is final archiving.

Chang said that the move to a mostly cloud-based workflow is already starting at Universal. She reported that DreamWorks Animation (DWA) has built a cloud-native platform that creates workspaces for its artists. Assets are related to each other, and workflows can be kicked off through microservices. She wondered if Universal could repurpose the DWA platform for live-action, VFX assets and workflows.

Universal

Chang discussed an experiment wherein Universal took one shot from Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (including reference photos, LIDAR scans, camera raw) and demonstrated a VFX pull on premises at DWA while also testing in a public cloud. When Universal ran the content from the cloud and showed it to Universal VFX execs and the VFX producer from Hobbs & Shaw, Chang was told that this was something they have wanted for a decade. Developing the platform this year, Universal plans to test it on a full production in 2021. The company has 10 concurrent projects and is coordinating with multiple industry efforts with ACES, USC ETC and MovieLabs.

ACES
There was much discussion on the next developments for ACES (Academy Color Encoding System), particularly the implementation of ACES 1.2 and the development of ACES 2.0. A panel at the retreat suggested that practical problems with image matching with the current version of ACES could be solved by using AMF (ACES Metadata File). But there are some image matching problems that are not ACES-related but rather related to the source of the image and what sort of format is used for comparison. ACES 2.0 development is underway that plans to address these and other issues with the current version of ACES.

Storage
The digital storage exhibitors at the HPA Retreat included Cloudian (local object storage), which demonstrated with AWS, Azure, Google and other cloud storage services. Quantum had an exhibit that focused on its media and storage solutions, such as StorNext Workflow Storage Platform, F-Series NVMe storage, Xcellis high-performance workflow storage appliances and the its object storage and tape archive solutions. (Note that Quantum recently acquired Western Digital’s ActiveScale object storage.)

Racktop was advertising its Brickstor all-flash or hybrid HDD/SSD CyberConverged data storage offering, which supports FIPS 140-2 and AES-256 for encryption and compliance. Rohde & Schwarz was demoing IMF-based workflows with its Spycer Node media storage.

Rohde & Schwarz

Scale Logic featured its Atavium data management and orchestration solution. According to the product literature, data entering Atavium is identified, tagged and classified and can be searched via metadata or tags whether the data is on premises or in the cloud. Also, tasks can be automated using a combination of metadata and tags and a set of APIs and scheduler and application integration determine the placement of data to reflect the needs of the workflow. Local storage includes nearline HDDs as well as NVMe flash, and DRAM is used for read-ahead cache. The system will work with Spectra Logic’s Black Pearl and integrates with asset management systems.

Seagate Technology was showing storage products, including its Lyve Drive Shuttle for physical data delivery using e-ink and protective cases for shipping storage devices. The company had flyers out on its Seagate Exos modular storage for capacity and the Seagate Nytro modular storage for performance. Pixit Media was partnering with Seagate on its software-defined storage solution.

StorageDNA was showing its analytics-driven data management platform (DNAfabric) that provides data visibility services, including storage capacity and cost as well as data mobility services. Tiger Technology was showing its Tiger Bridge and shared an exhibit space with Nexsan NAS products. Western Digital was showing various G-Tech products, including its G-Speed Shuttle storage systems as well as desktop and mobile HDD and SSD storage devices.


Tom Coughlin is a digital storage analyst and business and technology consultant. His Coughlin Associates consults, publishes books and market and technology reports (such as the annual Digital Storage in Media and Entertainment Report ). He is currently working on his 2020 Digital Storage in Media and Entertainment Survey, feel free to participate:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MWXL22N

 

 

Western Digital intros WD Gold NVMe SSDs  

Western Digital has introduced its new enterprise-class WD Gold NVMe SSDs designed to help small- and medium-sized companies transition to NVMe storage. The SSDs offer power loss protection and high performance with low latency.

The WD Gold NVMe SSDs will be available in four capacities — .96TB, 1.92TB, 3.84TB and 7.68TB — in early Q2 of this year. The WD Gold NVMe SSD is designed to be, according to the company, “the primary storage in servers delivering significantly improved application responsiveness, higher throughput and greater scale than existing SATA devices for enterprise applications.”

These new NVMe SSDs complement the recently launched WD Gold HDDs by providing a high-performance storage tier for applications and data sets that require low latency or high throughput.

The WD Gold NVMe SSDs are designed using Western Digital’s silicon-to-system technology, from its 3D TLC NAND SSD media to its purpose-built firmware and own integrated controller. The drives give users peace of mind knowing they’re protected against power loss and that data paths are safe. Secure boot and secure erase provide users with additional data-management protections, and the devices come with an extended five-year limited warranty.

Video Coverage: HPA Tech Retreat’s making of The Lost Lederhosen

By Randi Altman

At the HPA Tech Retreat in Rancho Mirage, California, the Supersession was a little different this year. Under the leadership of Joachim (JZ) Zell — who you might know from his day job as VP of technology at EFILM — the Supersession focused on the making of the short film, The Lost Lederhosen, in “near realtime,” in the desert. And postPerspective was there, camera in hand, to interview a few of the folks involved.

Watch our video coverage here.

While production for the film began a month before the Retreat — with Steve Shaw, ASC, directing and DP Roy H. Wagner Jr., ASC, lending his cinematography talents — some scenes were shot the morning of the session with data transfer taking place during lunch and post production in the afternoon. Peter Moss, ASC, and Sam Nicholson, ASC, also provided their time and expertise. After an active day of production, cloud-based post and extreme collaboration, the Supersession ended with the first-ever screening of The Lost Lederhosen, the story of Helga and her friend Hans making their way to Los Angeles, Zell and the HBA (Hollywood Beer Alliance). Check out HPA’s trailer here.

From acquisition to post (and with the use of multiple camera formats, framefrates and lenses), the film’s crew were volunteers and includes creatives and technologists from companies such as AWS, Colorfront, Frame.io, Avid, Blackmagic, Red, Panavision, Zeiss, FilmLight, SGO, Stargate, Unreal Engine, Sohonet and many more. One of the film’s goals was to use the cloud as much as possible in order to test out that particular workflow. While there were some minor hiccups along the way, the film got made — at the HPA Tech Retreat — and these industry pros got smarter about working in the cloud, something that will be increasingly employed going forward.

While we were were only able to chat with a handful of those pros involved, like any movie, the list of credits and thank you’s are too extensive to mention here — there were dozens of individuals and companies who donated their services and time to make this possible.

Watch our video coverage here.

(A big thank you and shout out to Twain Richardson for editing our videos.)

Main Image Caption: AWS’ Jack Wenzinger and EFILM’s Joachim Zell

Sohonet intros ClearView Pivot for 4K remote post

Sohonet is now offering ClearView Pivot, a solution for realtime remote editing, color grading, live screening and finishing reviews at full cinema quality. The new solution will provide connectivity and collaboration services for productions around the world.

ClearView Pivot offers 4K HDR with 12-bit color depth and 4:4:4 chroma sampling for full-color-quality video streaming with ultra-low latency over the Sohonet’s private media network, which avoids the extreme compression required due to contention and latency of public internet connections.

“Studios around the world need a realtime 4K collaboration tool that can process video at lossless color fidelity using the industry-standard JPEG 2000 codec between two locations across a network like ours. Avoiding the headache of the current ‘equipment only’ approach is the only scalable solution,” explains Sohonet CEO Chuck Parker.

Sohonet says its integrated solution is approved by ISE (Independent Security Evaluators) — the industry’s gold standard for security. Sohonet’s solution provides an encrypted stream between each endpoint and provides an auditable usage trail for every solution. The Soho Media Network ( SMN) connection offers ultra-low latency (measured in milliseconds), and the company says that unlike equipment-only solutions that require the user to navigate firewall and security issues and perform a “solution check” before each session, ClearView Pivot works immediately. As a point-to-multipoint solution, the user can also pivot easily from one endpoint to the next to collaborate with multiple people at the click of a button or even to stream to multiple destinations at the same time.

Sohonet has been working closely with productions on lots and on locations over the past few years in the ongoing development of ClearView Pivot. In those real-world settings, ClearView Pivot has been put through its paces with trials across multiple departments, and the color technologies have been fully inspected and approved by experts across the industry.

Post house DigitalFilm Tree names Nancy Jundi COO

DigitalFilm Tree (DFT) has named Nancy Jundi as chief operating officer. She brings a wealth of experience to her new role, after more than 20 years working with entertainment and technology companies.

Jundi has been an outside consultant to DFT since 2014 and will now be based in DFT’s Los Angeles headquarters, where she joins founder and CEO Ramy Katrib in pioneering new offerings for DFT.

Jundi began her career in investment banking and asset protection before segueing into the entertainment industry. Her experience includes leading sales and marketing at Runway during its acquisition by The Post Group (TPG). She then joined that team as director of marketing and communications to unify the end-to-end post facilities into TPG’s singular brand narrative. She later co-founded Mode HQ (acquired by Pacific Post) before transitioning into technology and SaaS companies.

Since 2012, Jundi has served as a consultant to companies in industries as varied as financial technology, healthcare, eCommerce, and entertainment, with brands such as LAbite, Traffic Zoom and GoBoon. Most recently, she served as interim senior management for CareerArc.

“Nancy is simply one of the smartest and most creative thinkers I know,” says Katrib. “She is the rare interdisciplinary – the creative and technological thinker that can exist in both arenas with clarity and tenacity.”

Bill Baggelaar promoted at Sony Pictures, Sony Innovation Studios

Post industry veteran Bill Baggelaar has been promoted to executive VP and CTO, technology development at Sony Pictures and executive VP and general manager of Sony Innovation Studios. Prior to joining Sony Pictures almost nine years ago, he spent 13 years at Warner Bros. as VP of technology/motion picture imaging and head of technology/feature animation. His new role will start in earnest on April 1.

“I am excited for this new challenge that combines roles as both CTO of Sony Pictures and GM of Sony Innovation Studios,” says Baggelaar. “The CTO’s office works both inside the studio and with the industry to develop key standards and technologies that can be adopted across the various lines of business. Sony Innovation Studios is developing groundbreaking tools, methods and techniques for realtime volumetric virtual production — or as we like to say, “the future of movie magic” — with a level of fidelity and quality that is best in class. With the technicians, engineers and artisans at Sony Innovation Studios combined with our studio technology team, we will be able to bring new experiences and technologies to all areas of production and delivery.”

Baggelaar’s promotion is part of a larger announcement by Sony, which involves a new team established within Sony Pictures — the Entertainment Innovation & Technology Group, Sony Pictures Entertainment, which encompasses the following departments: Sony Innovation Studios (SIS), Technology Development, IP Acceleration and Branded Integration.

The group is headed by Yasuhiro Ito, executive VP, Entertainment Innovation & Technology Group. Don Eklund will be leaving his post as EVP /CTO of technology development at the end of March. Eklund has had a long history with SPE and has been in his current role since 2017, establishing the foundation of the studio’s technology development activities.

“This new role combines my years of experience in production, post and VFX; my work with the broader industry and organizations; and my work with Sony companies around the world over the past eight and a half years — along with my more recent endeavors into virtual production — to create a truly unique opportunity for technical innovation that only Sony can provide,” concludes Baggelaar, who will report directly to Ito.

VFX-heavy Skyworth OLED TV spot via The-Artery

The-Artery created a spot for Skyworth’s latest version of its W81|W81 Pro Wallpaper OLED TV, which debuted last month at the “See the Wonder” event at CES 2020.

Created using The-Artery‘s newly opened Resolve-based color room and expanded design capabilities —spearheaded by colorist Stephen Picano and design director Lauren Indovina — the commercial features a couple swimming through space-like waters, children battling origami dragons while floating in a paper boat and a traveler treking through snowy tundras while glowing jellyfish float overhead. Publicis, Skyworth’s agency, wanted the ad to reflect “the wonder” of the company’s newest television model.

“The campaign, helmed by director Eli Sverdlov, was very director-led in a way that I’ve never seen before,” explains The-Artery’s EP/MD, Deborah Sullivan. “Of course, there was still ongoing dialogue with the client and agency, but the level of creative control that was entrusted is almost unheard of. Everything was open from start to finish, including the ideation phase, color grading and design — to name a few. Our team had a lot of fun jumping straight into the edit to develop and launch what we consider as a high-end conceptual throwback to the nineties.”

Sverdlov agrees: “Our flexible creative process was in a condensed schedule and required a very unique collaboration. We were practically creating the ideas and visuals while editing and sourcing footage.”

Due to the production’s long shooting schedule and tight deadlines, the visual effects were designed via Autodesk Flame in realtime, all under one roof, while filming took place in Serbia. Additional footage was carefully curated as well as color graded and cut to fit the tone and flow of the rest of the piece. The creature imagery such as the jellyfish was done via CG.

In addition to Flame and Resolve, The-Artery called on SideFX Houdini, Autodesk Maya, Maxon’s RedShift, Otoy’s Octane, Autodesk’s Arnold, Adobe After Effects and Maxon’s Cinema 4D.

Joce Capper joins Cinelab London as creative director

Film lab and post facility Cinelab London has brought on Joce Capper as creative director/strategic business development. Capper has over 25 years of experience managing and growing post and VFX companies, most notably serving as managing director of Rushes, one of the UK’s most widely admired post houses, for 20 years.

Capper’s open approach in the leadership of talent, staff and new technologies — combined with her resourceful understanding of the scalable processes needed to meet budgets and timescales — has seen her play a huge part in delivering many multi-award-winning projects for leading brands and clients across the advertising, music, entertainment and feature film sectors during her career.

Since the closure of Rushes, Capper has spent the past 18 months in management consulting for Supernova Heights. In this role, she worked across multiple companies in the media industry, including Cinelab London. Now, she will take up her role there full-time.

”I’ve learned a huge amount about myself in the last year,” says Capper. “How much I enjoy the creative industries; and that being involved in productions with creative staff is key to my happiness. I am self-motivated, but I need to be part of a friendly and talented team, be somewhere I can make a difference and believe wholeheartedly in what the company is offering.”

Capper will work with the executive management and sales teams to continue to grow the profile of Cinelab London, its client base and its international reach. Part of her responsibility will also be to help educate the industry and the next generation of filmmakers on the skills and craft needed when shooting on film.

“I have known Joce for many years, previously working with her in operational and corporate roles at Ascent Media and Deluxe Entertainment,” explains Adrian Bull, co-founder/CEO of Cinelab London. “She will help us push the business forward; I am delighted to have her working with us full-time.”

Talking with Franki Ashiruka of Nairobi’s Africa Post Office

By Randi Altman

After two decades of editing award-winning film and television projects for media companies throughout Kenya and around the world, Franki Ashiruka opened Africa Post Office, a standalone, post house in Nairobi, Kenya. The studio provides color grading, animation, visual effects, motion graphics, compositing and more. In addition, they maintain a database of the Kenyan post production community that allows them to ramp up with the right artists when the need arises.

Here she talks about the company, its workflow and being a pioneer in Nairobi’s production industry.

When did you open Africa Post Office, and what was your background prior to starting this studio?
Africa Post Office (APO) opened its doors in February 2017. Prior to starting APO, I was a freelance editor with plenty of experience working with well-established media houses such as Channel 4 (UK), Fox International Channels (UK), 3D Global Leadership (Nigeria), PBS (USA), Touchdown (New Zealand), Greenstone Pictures (New Zealand) and Shadow Films (South Africa).

In terms of Kenya-based projects, I’ve worked with a number of production houses including Quite Bright Films, Fat Rain Films, Film Crew in Africa, Mojo Productions, Multichoice, Zuku, Content House and Ginger Ink Films.

I imagine female-run, independent studios in Africa are rare?
On the contrary, Kenya has reached a point where more and more women are emerging as leaders of their own companies. I actually think there are more women-led film production companies than male-led. The real challenge was that before APO, there was nothing quite like it in Nairobi. Historically, video production here was very vertical — if you shot something, you’d need to also manage post within whatever production house you were working in. There were no standalone post houses until us. That said, with my experience, even though hugely daunting, I never thought twice about starting APO. It is what I have always wanted to do, and if being the first company of our kind didn’t intimidate me, being female was never going to be a hindrance.

L-R: Franki Ashiruka, Kevin Kyalo, Carole Kinyua and Evans Wenani

What is the production and post industry like in Nairobi? 
When APO first opened, the workload was commercial-heavy, but in the last two years that has steadily declined. We’re seeing this gap filled by documentary films, corporate work and television series. Feature films are also slowly gaining traction and becoming the focus of many up-and-coming filmmakers.

What services do you provide, and what types of projects do you work on?
APO has a proven track record of successful delivery on hundreds of film and video projects for a diverse range of clients and collaborators, including major corporate entities, NGOs, advertising and PR agencies, and television stations. We also have plenty of experience mastering according to international delivery standards. We’re proud to house a complete end-to-end post ecosystem of offline and online editing suites.

Most importantly, we maintain a very thorough database of the post production community in Kenya.
This is of great benefit to our clients who come to us for a range of services including color grading, animation, visual effects, motion graphics and compositing. We are always excited to collaborate with the right people and get additional perspectives on the job at hand. One of our most notable collaborators is Ikweta Arts (Avatar, Black Panther, Game of Thrones, Hacksaw Ridge), owned and run by Yvonne Muinde. They specialize in providing VFX services with a focus in quality matte painting/digital environments, art direction, concept and post visual development art. We also collaborate with Keyframe (L’Oréal, BMW and Mitsubishi Malaysia) for motion graphics and animations.

Can you name some recent projects and the work you provided?
We are incredibly fortunate to be able to select projects that align with our beliefs and passions.

Our work on the short film Poacher (directed by Tom Whitworth) won us three global Best Editing Awards from the Short to the Point Online Film Festival (Romania, 2018), Feel the Reel International Film Festival (Glasgow, 2018) and Five Continents International Film Festival (Venezuela, 2019).

Other notable work includes three feature documentaries for the Big Story segment on China Global Television Network, directed by Juan Reina (director of the Netflix Original film Diving Into the Unknown), Lion’s Den (Quite Bright Films) an adaptation of ABC’s Shark Tank and The Great Kenyan Bake Off (Showstopper Media) adopted from the BBC series The Great British Bake Off. We also worked on Disconnect, a feature film produced by Kenya’s Tosh Gitonga (Nairobi Half Life), a director who is passionate about taking Africa’s budding film industry to the next level. We have also worked on a host of television commercials for clients extending across East Africa, including Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda.

What APO is most proud of though, is our clients’ ambitions and determination to contribute toward the growth of the African film industry. This truly resonates with APO’s mantra.

You recently added a MAM and some other gear. Can you talk about the need to upgrade?
Bringing on the EditShare EFS 200 nodes has significantly improved the collaborative possibilities of APO. We reached a point where we were quickly growing, and the old approach just wasn’t going to cut it.

Prior to centralizing our content, projects lived on individual hard disks. This meant that if I was editing and needed my assistant to find me a scene or a clip, or I needed VFX on something, I would have to export individual clips to different workstations. This created workflow redundancies and increased potential for versioning issues, which is something we couldn’t afford to be weighed down with.

The remote capabilities of the EditShare system were very appealing as well. Our color grading collaborator, Nic Apostoli of Comfort and Fame, is based in Cape Town, South Africa. From there, he can access the footage on the server and grade it while the client reviews with us in Nairobi. Flow media asset management also helps in this regard. We’re able to effectively organize and index clips, graphics, versions, etc. into clearly marked folders so there is no confusion about what media should be used. Collaboration among the team members is now seamless regardless of their physical location or tools used, which include the Adobe Creative Suite, Foundry Nuke, Autodesk Maya and Maxon Cinema 4D.

Any advice for others looking to break out on their own and start a post house?
Know what you want to do, and just do it! Thanks Nike …


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

The 71st NATAS Technology & Engineering Emmy Award winners

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) has announced the recipients of the 71st Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards. The event will take place in partnership with the National Association of Broadcasters, during the NAB Show on Sunday, April 19 in Las Vegas.

The Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards are awarded to a living individual, a company or a scientific or technical organization for developments and/or standardization involved in engineering technologies that either represent so extensive an improvement on existing methods or are so innovative in nature that they materially have affected television.

A committee of engineers working in television considers technical developments in the industry and determines which, if any, merit an award.

“The Technology & Engineering Emmy Award was the first Emmy Award issued in 1949, and it laid the groundwork for all the other Emmys to come,” says Adam Sharp, CEO/president of NATAS. “We are especially excited to be honoring Yvette Kanouff with our Lifetime Achievement Award in Technology & Engineering.”

Kanouff has held CTO and president roles at various companies in the cable and media industry. Over the years, she has spearheaded transformational technologies, such as video on demand, cloud DVR, digital and on-demand advertising, streaming security and privacy.

And now the Awards recipients:

Pioneering System for Live Performance-Based Animation Using Facial Recognition
– Adobe

HTML5 Development and Deployment of a Full TV Experience on Any Device
– Apple
– Google
– LG
– Microsoft
– Mozilla
– Opera
– Samsung

Pioneering Public Cloud-Based Linear Media Supply Chains
– AWS
– Discovery
– Evertz
– Fox Neo (Walt Disney Television)
– SDVI

Pioneering Development of Large Scale, Cloud Served, Broadcast Quality,
Linear Channel Transmission to Consumers
– Sling TV
– Sony PlayStation Vue
– Zattoo

Early Development of HSM Systems That Created a Pivotal Improvement in Broadcast Workflows
– Dell (Isilon)
– IBM
– Masstech
– Quantum

Pioneering Development and Deployment of Hybrid Fiber Coax Network Architecture
– Cable Labs

Pioneering Development of the CCD Image Sensor
– Bell Labs
– Michael Tompsett

VoCIP (Video over Bonded Cellular Internet)
– Aviwest
– Dejero
– LiveU
– TVU Networks

Ultra-High Sensitivity HDTV Camera
– Canon
– Flovel

Development of Synchronized Multi-Channel Uncompressed Audio Transport Over IP Networks
– ALC NetworX
– Audinate
– Audio Engineering Society
– Kevin Gross
– QSC
– Telos Alliance
– Wheatstone

Emmy statue image courtesy of ATAS/NATAS

The Mill opens boutique studio in Berlin

Technicolor’s The Mill has officially launched in Berlin. This new boutique studio is located in the heart of Berlin, situated in the creative hub of Mitte, near many of Germany’s agencies, production companies and brands.

The Mill has been working with German clients for years. Recent projects include the Mercedes’ Bertha Benz spot with director Sebastian Strasser; Netto’s The Easter Surprise, directed in-house by The Mill; and BMW The 8 with director Daniel Wolfe. The new studio will bring The Mill’s full range of creative services from color to experiential and interactive, as well as visual effects and design.

The Mill Berlin crew

Creative director Greg Spencer will lead the creative team. He is a multi-award winning creative, having won several VES, Cannes Lions and British Arrow awards. His recent projects include Carlsberg’s The Lake, PlayStation’s This Could Be You and Eve Cuddly Toy. Spencer also played a role in some of Mill Film’s major titles. He was the 2D supervisor for Les Misérables and also worked on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. His resume also includes campaigns for brands such as Nike and Samsung.

Executive producer Justin Stiebel moves from The Mill London, where he has been since early 2014, to manage client relationships and new business. Since joining the company, Stiebel has produced spots such as Audi’s Next Level and the Mini’s “The Faith of a Few” campaign. He has also collaborated with directors such as Sebastian Strasser, Markus Walter and Daniel Wolfe while working on brands like Mercedes, Audi and BMW.

Sean Costelloe is managing director of The Mill London and The Mill Berlin.

Main Image Caption: (L-R) Justin Stiebel and Greg Spencer

Quantum F1000: a lower-cost NVMe storage option

Quantum is now offering the F1000, a lower-priced addition to the Quantum F-Series family of NVMe storage appliances. Using the software-defined architecture introduced with the F2000, the F1000 offers “ultra-fast streaming” performance and response times at a lower entry price. The F-Series can be used to accelerate the capture, edit and finishing of high-definition content and to accelerate VFX and CGI render speeds up to 100 times for developing augmented and virtual reality.

The Quantum F-Series was designed to handle content such as HD video used for movie, TV and sports production, advertising content or image-based workloads that require high-speed processing. Pros are using F-Series NVMe systems as part of Quantum’s StorNext scale-out file storage cluster and leveraging the StorNext data management capabilities to move data between NVMe storage pools and other storage pools. Users can take advantage of the performance boost NVMe provides for workloads that require it, while continuing to use lower-cost storage for data where performance is less critical.

Quantum F-Series NVMe appliances accelerate pro workloads and also help customers move from Fibre Channel networks to less expensive IP-based networks. User feedback has shown that pros need a lower cost of entry into NVMe technology, which is what led Quantum to develop the F1000. According to Quantum, the F1000 offers performance that is five to 10 times faster than an equivalent SAS SSD storage array at a similar price.

The F1000 is available in two capacity points: 39TB and 77TB. It offers the same connectivity options as the F2000 — 32Gb Fibre Channel or iSER/RDMA using 100Gb Ethernet — and is designed to be deployed as part of a StorNext scale out file storage cluster.

Recreating the Vatican and Sistine Chapel for Netflix’s The Two Popes

The Two Popes, directed by Fernando Meirelles, stars Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as current pontiff Pope Francis in a story about one of the most dramatic transitions of power in the Catholic Church’s history. The film follows a frustrated Cardinal Bergoglio (the future Pope Francis) who in 2012 requests permission from Pope Benedict to retire because of his issues with the direction of the church. Instead, facing scandal and self-doubt, the introspective Benedict summons his harshest critic and future successor to Rome to reveal a secret that would shake the foundations of the Catholic Church.

London’s Union was approached in May 2017 and supervised visual effects on location in Argentina and Italy over several months. A large proportion of the film takes place within the walls of Vatican City. The Vatican was not involved in the production and the team had very limited or no access to some of the key locations.

Under the direction of production designer Mark Tildesley, the production replicated parts of the Vatican at Rome’s Cinecitta Studios, including a life-size, open ceiling, Sistine Chapel, which took two months to build.

The team LIDAR-scanned everything available and set about amassing as much reference material as possible — photographing from a permitted distance, scanning the set builds and buying every photographic book they could lay their hands on.

From this material, the team set about building 3D models — created in Autodesk Maya — of St. Peter’s Square, the Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. The environments team was tasked with texturing all of these well-known locations using digital matte painting techniques, including recreating Michelangelo’s masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

The story centers on two key changes of pope in 2005 and 2013. Those events attracted huge attention, filling St. Peter’s Square with people eager to discover the identity of the new pope and celebrate his ascension. News crews from around the world also camp out to provide coverage for the billions of Catholics all over the world.

To recreate these scenes, the crew shot at a school in Rome (Ponte Mammolo) that has the same pattern on its floor. A cast of 300 extras was shot in blocks in different positions at different times of day, with costume tweaks including the addition of umbrellas to build a library that would provide enough flexibility during post to recreate these moments at different times of day and in different weather conditions.

Union also called on Clear Angle Studios to individually scan 50 extras to provide additional options for the VFX team. This was an ambitious crowd project, so the team couldn’t shoot in the location, and the end result had to stand up at 4K in very close proximity to the camera. Union designed a Houdini-based system to deal with the number of assets and clothing in such a way that the studio could easily art-direct them as individuals, allow the director to choreograph them and deliver a believable result.

Union conducted several motion capture shoots inhouse at Union to provide some specific animation cycles that married with the occasions they were recreating. This provided even more authentic-looking crowds for the post team.

Union worked on a total of 288 VFX shots, including greenscreens, set extensions, window reflections, muzzle flashes, fog and rain and a storm that included a lightning strike on the Basilica.

In addition, the team did a significant amount of de-aging work to accommodate the film’s eight-year main narrative timeline as well as a long period in Pope Francis’ younger years.

Behind the title: Cutters editor Steve Bell

“I’ve always done a fair amount of animation design, music rearranging and other things that aren’t strictly editing, but most editors are expected to play a role in aspects of the post process that aren’t strictly editing.”

Name: Steve Bell

What’s your job title?
Editor

Company: Cutters Editorial

Can you describe your company?
Cutters is part of a global group of companies offering offline editing, audio engineering, VFX and picture finishing, production and design – all of which fall under Cutters Studios. Here in New York, we do traditional broadcast TV advertising and online content, as well as longer format work and social media content for brands, directors and various organizations that hire us to develop a concept, shoot and direct.

Cutters New York

What’s your job title?
Editor

What’s your favorite part of the job?
There’s a stage to pretty much every project where I feel I’ve gotten a good enough grasp of the material that I can connect the storytelling dots and see it come to life. I like problem solving and love the feeling you get when you know you’ve “figured it out.”

Depending on the scale of the project, it can start a few hours in, a few days in or a few weeks in, but once it hits you can’t stop until you see the piece finished. It’s like reading a good page-turner; you can’t put it down. That’s the part of the creative process I love and what I like most about my job.

What’s your least favorite?
It’s those times when it becomes clear that I’ve/we’ve probably looked at something too many times to actually make it better. That certainly doesn’t happen on many jobs, but when it does, it’s probably because too many voices have had a say; too many cooks in the kitchen, as they say.

What is your most productive time of the day?
Early in the morning. I’m most clearheaded at the very beginning of the day, and then sometimes toward the very end of a long day. But those times also happen to be when I’m most likely to be alone with what I’m working on and free from other distractions.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead? 
Baseball player? Astronaut? Joking. But let’s face it, we all fantasize about fulfilling the childhood dreams that are completely different from what we do. To be truthful I’m sure I’d be doing some kind of writing, because it was my desire to be a writer, particularly of film, that indirectly led me to be an editor.

Why did you choose this profession? How early on did you know this would be your path?
Well the simple answer is probably that I had opportunities to edit professionally at a relatively young age, which forced me to get better at editing way before I had a chance to get better at writing. If I keep editing I may never know if I can write!

Stella Artois

Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
The Dwyane Wade Budweiser retirement film, Stella Artois holiday spots, a few films for the Schott/Hamilton watch collaboration. We did some fun work for Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty release. Early in the year I did a bunch of lovely spots for Hallmark Hall of Fame programming.

Do you put on a different hat when cutting for a specific genre?
For sure. There are overlapping tasks, but I do believe it takes a different set of skills to do good dramatic storytelling than it takes to do straight comedy, or doc or beauty. Good “Storytelling” (with a capital ‘S’) is helpful in all of it — I’d probably say crucial. But it comes down to the important element that’s used to create the story: emotion, humor, rhythm, etc. And then you need to know when it needs to be raw versus formal, broad versus subtle and so forth. Different hats are needed to get that exactly right.

What is the project that you are most proud of and why?
I’m still proud of the NHL’s No Words spot I worked on with Cliff Skeete and Bruce Jacobson. We’ve become close friends as we’ve collaborated on a lot of work since then for the NHL and others. I love how effective that spot is, and I’m proud that it continues to be referenced in certain circles.

NHL No Words

In a very different vein, I think I’m equally proud of the work I’ve done for the UN General Assembly meetings, especially the film that accompanied Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s spoken word performance of her poem “Dear Matafele Peinem” during the opening ceremonies of the UN’s first Climate Change conference. That’s an issue that’s very important to me and I’m grateful for the chance to do something that had an impact on those who saw it.

What do you use to edit?
I’m a Media Composer editor, and it probably goes back to the days when I did freelance work for Avid and had to learn it inside out. The interface at least is second nature to me. Also, the media sharing and networking capabilities of Avid make it indispensable. That said, I appreciate that Premiere has some clear advantages in other ways. If I had to start over I’m not sure I wouldn’t start with Premiere.

What is your favorite plugin?
I use a lot of Boris FX plugins for stabilization, color correction and so forth. I used to use After Effects often, and Boris FX offers a way of achieving some of what I once did exclusively in After Effects.

Are you often asked to do more than edit? If so, what else are you asked to do?
I’ve always done a fair amount of animation design, music rearranging and other things that aren’t strictly editing, but most editors are expected to play a role in aspects of the post process that aren’t strictly “film editing.”

Many of my clients know that I have strong opinions about those things, so I do get asked to participate in music and animation quite often. I’m also sometimes asked to help with the write-ups of what we’ve done in the edit because I like talking about the process and clarifying what I’ve done. If you can explain what you’ve done you’re probably that much more confident about the reasons you did it. It can be a good way to call “bullshit” on yourself.

This is a high stress job with deadlines and client expectations. What do you do to de-stress from it all?
Yeah, right?! It can be stressful, especially when you’re occasionally lucky enough to be busy with multiple projects all at once. I take decompressing very seriously. When I can, I spend a lot of time outdoors — hiking, biking, you name it — not just for the cardio and exercise, which is important enough, but also because it’s important to give your eyes a chance to look off into the distance. There are tremendous physical and psychological benefits to looking to the horizon.

Storage for UHD and 4K

By Peter Collins

Over the past few years, we have seen a huge audience uptake of UHD and 4K technologies. The increase in resolution offering more detailed imagery, and the adoption of HDR bringing bigger and brighter colors.

UHD technologies are a significant selling point, and are quickly becoming the “new normal ” for many commissioners. VOD providers, in particular, are behind the wheel and pushing things forward rapidly — it’s not just a creative decision, but one that is now required for delivery. Essentially, something the cinematographers used to have to fight for is now being man-dated by those commissioning the content.

This is all very exciting, but what does this mean for productions in general? There are wide-ranging implications and questions of logistics — timescales for data transfer and processing increase, post production infrastructure and workflows must be adapted, and archiving and retrieval times are extended (to say the least).

With these UHD and 4K productions having storage requirements into the hundreds of terabytes between various stages of the supply chain, the need to store the data in an accessible, secure and affordable manner is critical.

The majority of production, VFX, post and mastering facilities are currently still working the traditional way — from physically on-premise storage (on-prem for those who like to shave off a couple of syllables) such as NAS, local storage, LTO and SANs to distributed data stores spread across different buildings of a facility.

With UHD and 4K projects sometime generating north of half a petabyte of data (which needs to stick around until delivery is complete and beyond), it’s not a simple problem to ensure that large chunks of that data are available and accessible for every-one involved in the project who needs it — at least not in the most time effective way. And as sure as death and taxes, no matter how much storage you have to hand, you will miraculously start running out far sooner than you anticipated. Since this affects all stages of the supply chain, doesn’t it make sense to have some central store of data for everyone to access what they need, when they need it?

Across all areas of the industry, we are seeing the adoption of cloud storage over the traditional on-premises solution and are starting to see opportunities where a cloud-based solution might save money, time or, even better, both! There are numerous cloud “types” out there and below is my overview of the four most widely adopted.

Public: The public cloud can offer large amounts of storage for as long as it’s required (i.e., paid for) and stop charging you for it when it’s not (which is a nice change from having to buy storage with a lengthy support contract). The physical infrastructure of a public cloud is shared with other customers of the cloud provider (this is known as multi-tenancy), however all the resources allocated to you are invisible to other customers. Your data may be spread across several different areas of the data center (or beyond) depending on where the provider’s infrastructure has the most availability.

Private: Private clouds (from a storage perspective) are useful for those needing finer grained control over their data. Private clouds are those in which companies build their own infrastructure to support the services they want to offer and have complete control over where their data physically resides.

The downside to private clouds is cost, as the business is effectively paying to be their own cloud provider and maintaining the systems over their lifetime. With this in mind, many of the bigger public cloud providers offer “virtual private clouds,” in which a chunk of their resources are dedicated solely to a single customer (single-tenancy). This of course comes at a slightly higher cost than the plain public cloud offering, but does allow more finely grained control for those consumers who need it.

Hybrid: Hybrid clouds are, as the name suggests, a mixture of the two cloud approaches outlined above (public and private). This offers the best of both worlds and can be a useful approach when flexibility is required, or when certain data accessing processes are not practical to run from an off-site public cloud (at time of writing, a 50fps realtime stream of uncompressed 4K raw to a grade, for example, is unlikely to happen from a vanilla public cloud agreement without some additional bandwidth discussions — and costs).

Having the flexibility to migrate data between a virtual private cloud and a local private cloud while continuing to work, could help minimize the impact on existing infrastructure locally, and could also enable workflows and interchange between local and “cloud-native” applications. Certain processes that take up a lot of resources locally could be re-located to a virtual private cloud for a lower cost, freeing up local resources for more time-sensitive applications.

Community: Here’s where the cloud could shine as a prospect from a production standpoint. This cloud model is based on businesses and those with a stake in the process pooling their resources and collaborating, coming up with a system and overarching set of processes that they all operate under — in effect offering a completely customized set of cloud services for any given project.

From a storage perspective, this could mean a production company running a virtual private cloud with the cost being distributed across all stakeholders accessing that data. Original camera files, for example, may be transferred to this virtual private cloud during the shoot, with post, VFX, marketing and reversioning houses downloading and uploading their work in turn. As all data transfers are monitored and tracked, the billing from a production standpoint on a per-vendor (or departmental) basis becomes much easier — everyone just pays for what they use.

MovieLabs’ “Envisioning Production in 2030” white paper, goes deeper into production related applications of cloud technologies over the coming decade (among other sharp in-sights), and is well worth absorbing over a cup of coffee or two.

As production technologies progress, we are only ever going to generate more and more data. For storage professionals, those managing systems, or project managers looking to improve timeframes and reduce costs, solutions may not only be financial or center around logistics. They may also factor in how easily it facilitates collaboration, interchange and fostering closer working relationships. To that question, the cloud may well be a clear best fit.

Studio Images: Goldcrest Post Production / Neil Harrison


Peter Collins is a post professional with experience working in film and television globally. He has worked at the forefront of new production technologies and consults on workflows, project management and industry best practices. He can be contacted via twitter via @PCPostPro or email at pcpostpro@icloud.com.

Storage Roundtable

By Randi Altman

Every year in our special Storage Edition, we poll those who use storage and those who make storage. This year is no different. The users we’ve assembled for our latest offering weigh in on how they purchase gear, how they employ storage and cloud-based solutions. Storage makers talk about what’s to come from them, how AI and ML are affecting their tools, NVMe growth and more.

Enjoy…

Periscope Post & Audio, GM, Ben Benedetti

Periscope Post & Audio is a full-service post company with facilities in Hollywood and Chicago’s Cinespace. Both facilities provide a range of sound and picture finishing services for TV, film, spots, video games and other media.

Ben Benedetti

What types of storage are you using for your workflows?
For our video department, we have a large, high-speed Quantum media array supporting three color bays, two online edit suites, a dailies operation, two VFX suites and a data I/O department. The 15 systems in the video department are connected via 16GB fiber.

For our sound department, we are using an Avid Nexis System via 6e Ethernet supporting three Atmos mix stages, two sound design suites, an ADR room and numerous sound-edit bays. All the CPUs in the facility are securely located in two isolated machine rooms (one for video on our second floor and one for audio on the first). All CPUs in the facility are tied via an IHSE KVM system, giving us incredible flexibility to move and deliver assets however our creatives and clients need them. We aren’t interested in being the biggest. We just want to provide the best and most reliable services possible.

Cloud versus on-prem – what are the pros and cons?
We are blessed with a robust pipe into our facility in Hollywood and are actively discussing with our engineering staff about using potential cloud-based storage solutions in the future. We are already using some cloud-based solutions for our building’s security system and CCTV systems as well as the management of our firewall. But the concept of placing client intellectual property in the cloud sparks some interesting conversations.We always need immediate access to the raw footage and sound recordings of our client productions, so I sincerely doubt we will ever completely rely on a cloud-based solution for the storage of our clients’ original footage. We have many redundancy systems in place to avoid slowdowns in production workflows. This is so critical. Any potential interruption in connectivity that is beyond our control gives me great pause.

How often are you adding or upgrading your storage?
Obviously, we need to be as proactive as we can so that we are never caught unready to take on projects of any size. It involves continually ensuring that our archive system is optimized correctly and requires our data management team to constantly analyze available space and resources.

How do you feel about the use of ML/AI for managing assets?
Any AI or ML automated process that helps us monitor our facility is vital. Technology advancements over the past decade have allowed us to achieve amazing efficiencies. As a result, we can give the creative executives and storytellers we service the time they need to realize their visions.

What role might the different tiers of cloud storage play in the lifecycle of an asset?
As we have facilities in both Chicago and Hollywood, our ability to take advantage of Google cloud-based services for administration has been a real godsend. It’s not glamorous, but it’s extremely important to keeping our facilities running at peak performance.

The level of coordination we have achieved in that regard has been tremendous. Those low-tiered storage systems provide simple and direct solutions to our administrative and accounting needs, but when it comes to the high-performance requirements of our facility’s color bays and audio rooms, we still rely on the high-speed on-premises storage solutions.

For simple archiving purposes, a cloud-based solution might work very well, but for active work currently in production … we are just not ready to make that leap … yet. Of course, given Moore’s Law and the exponential advancement of technology, our position could change rapidly. The important thing is to remain open and willing to embrace change as long as it makes practical sense and never puts your client’s property at risk.

Panasas, Storage Systems Engineer, RW Hawkins

RW Hawkins

Panasas offers a scalable high-performance storage solution. Its PanFS parallel file system, delivered on the ActiveStor appliance, accelerates data access for VFX feature production, Linux-based image processing, VR/AR and game development, and multi-petabyte sized active media archives.

What kind of storage are you offering, and will that be changing in the coming year?
We just announced that we are now shipping the next generation of the PanFS parallel file system on the ActiveStor Ultra turnkey appliance, which is already in early deployment with five customers.

This new system offers unlimited performance scaling in 4GB/s building blocks. It uses multi-tier intelligent data placement to maximize storage performance by placing metadata on low-latency NVMe SSDs, small files on high IOPS SSDs and large files on high-bandwidth HDDs. The system’s balanced-node architecture optimizes networking, CPU, memory and storage capacity to prevent hot spots and bottlenecks, ensuring high performance regardless of workload. This new architecture will allow us to adapt PanFS to the ever-changing variety of workloads our customers will face over the next several years.

Are certain storage tiers more suitable for different asset types, workflows, etc.?
Absolutely. However, too many tiers can lead to frustration around complexity, loss of productivity and poor reliability. We take a hybrid approach, whereby each server has multiple types of storage media internal to one server. Using intelligent data placement, we put data on the most appropriate tier automatically. Using this approach, we can often replace a performance tier and a tier two active archive with one cost-effective appliance. Our standard file-based client makes it easy to gateway to an archive tier such as tape or an object store like S3.

What do you see are the big technology trends that can help storage for M&E? ML? AI?
AI/ML is so widespread, it seems to be all encompassing. Media tools will benefit greatly because many of the mundane production tasks will be optimized, allowing for more creative freedom. From a storage perspective, machine learning is really pushing performance in new directions; low latency and metadata performance are becoming more important. Large amounts of unstructured data with rich metadata are the norm, and today’s file systems need to adapt to meet these requirements.

How has NVMe advanced over the past year?
Everyone is taking notice of NVMe; it is easier than ever to build a fast array and connect it to a server. However, there is much more to making a performant storage appliance than just throwing hardware at the problem. My customers are telling me they are excited about this new technology but frustrated by the lack of scalability, the immaturity of the software and the general lack of stability. The proven way to scale is to build a file system on top of these fast boxes and connect them into one large namespace. We will continue to augment our architecture with these new technologies, all the while keeping an eye on maintaining our stability and ease of management.

Do you see NAS overtaking SAN for larger work groups? How about cloud taking on some of what NAS used to do?
Today’s modern NAS can take on all the tasks that historically could only be done with SAN. The main thing holding back traditional NAS has been the client access protocol. With network-attached parallel clients, like Panasas’ DirectFlow, customers get advanced client caching, full POSIX semantics and massive parallelism over standard ethernet.

Regarding cloud, my customers tell me they want all the benefits of cloud (data center consolidation, inexpensive power and cooling, ease of scaling) without the vendor lock-in and metered data access of the “big three” cloud providers. A scalable parallel file system forms the core of a private cloud model that yields the benefits without the drawbacks. File-based access to the namespace will continue to be required for most non-web-based applications.

Goldcrest Post, New York, Technical Director, Ahmed Barbary

Goldcrest Post is an independent post facility, providing solutions for features, episodic TV, docs, and other projects. The company provides editorial offices, on-set dailies, picture finishing, sound editorial, ADR and mixing, and related services.

Ahmed Barbary

What types of storage are you using for your workflows?
Storage performance in the post stage is tremendously demanding. We are using multiple SAN systems in office locations that provide centralized storage and easy access to disk arrays, servers, and other dedicated playout applications to meet storage needs throughout all stages of the workflow.

While backup refers to duplicating the content for peace of mind, short-term retention, and recovery, archival signifies transferring the content from the primary storage location to long-term storage to be preserved for weeks, months, and even years to come. Archival storage needs to offer scalability, flexible and sustainable pricing, as well as accessibility for individual users and asset management solutions for future projects.

LTO has been a popular choice for archival storage for decades because of its affordable, high-capacity solutions with low write/high read workloads that are optimal for cold storage workflows. The increased need for instant access to archived content today, coupled with the slow roll-out of LTO-8, has made tape a less favorable option.

Cloud versus on-prem – what are the pros and cons?
The fact is each option has its positives and negatives, and understanding that and determining how both cloud and on-premises software fit into your organization are vital. So, it’s best to be prepared and create a point-by-point comparison of both choices.

When looking at the pros and cons of cloud vs. on-premises solutions, everything starts with an understanding of how these two models differ. With a cloud deployment, the vendor hosts your information and offers access through a web portal. This enables more mobility and flexibility of use for cloud-based software options. When looking at an on-prem solution, you are committing to local ownership of your data, hardware, and software. Everything is run on machines in your facility with no third-party access.

How often are you adding or upgrading your storage?
We keep track of new technologies and continuously upgrade our systems, but when it comes to storage, it’s a huge expense. When deploying a new system, we do our best to future-proof and ensure that it can be expanded.

How do you feel about the use of ML/AI for managing assets?
For most M&E enterprises, the biggest potential of AI lies in automatic content recognition, which can drive several path-breaking business benefits. For instance, most content owners have thousands of video assets.

Cataloging, managing, processing, and re-purposing this content typically requires extensive manual effort. Advancements in AI and ML algorithms have
now made it possible to drastically cut down the time taken to perform many of these tasks. But there is still a lot of work to be done — especially as ML algorithms need to be trained, using the right kind of data and solutions, to achieve accurate results.

What role might the different tiers of cloud storage play in the lifecycle of an asset?
Data sets have unique lifecycles. Early in the lifecycle, people access some data often, but the need for access drops drastically as the data ages. Some data stays idle in the cloud and is rarely accessed once stored. Some data expires days or months after creation, while other data sets are actively read and modified throughout their lifetimes.

Rohde & Schwarz, Product Manager, Storage Solutions, Dirk Thometzek

Rohde & Schwarz offers broadcast and media solutions to help companies grow in media production, management and delivery in the IP and wireless age.

Dirk Thometzek

What kind of storage are you offering, and will that be changing in the coming year?
The industry is constantly changing, so we monitor market developments and key demands closely. We will be adding new features to the R&S SpycerNode in the next few months that will enable our customers to get their creative work done without focusing on complex technologies. The R&S SpycerNode will be extended with JBODs, which will allow seamless integration with our erasure coding technology, guaranteeing complete resilience and performance.

Are certain storage tiers more suitable for different asset types, workflows, etc.?
Each workflow is different, so, consequently, there is almost no system alike. The real artistry is to tailor storage systems according to real requirements without over-provisioning hardware or over-stressing budgets. Using different tiers can be very helpful to build effective systems, but they might introduce additional difficulties to the workflows if the system isn’t properly designed.

Rohde & Schwarz has developed R&S SpycerNode in a way that its performance is linear and predictable. Different tiers are aggregated under a single namespace, and our tools allow seamless workflows while complexity remains transparent to the users.

What do you see are the big technology trends that can help storage for M&E? ML? AI?
Machine learning and artificial intelligence can be helpful to automate certain tasks, but they will not replace human intervention in the short term. It might not be helpful to enrich media with too much data because doing so could result in imprecise queries that return far too much content.

However, clearly defined changes in sequences or reoccurring objects — such as bugs and logos — can be used as a trigger to initiate certain automated workflows. Certainly, we will see many interesting advances in the future.

How has NVMe advanced over the past year?
NVMe has very interesting aspects. Data rates and reduced latencies are admittedly quite impressive and are garnering a lot of interest. Unfortunately, we do see a trend inside our industry to be blinded by pure performance figures and exaggerated promises without considering hardware quality, life expectancy or proper implementation. Additionally, if well-designed and proven solutions exist that are efficient enough, then it doesn’t make sense to embrace a technology just because it is available.

R&S is dedicated to bringing high-end devices to the M&E market. We think that reliability and performance build the foundation for user-friendly products. Next year, we will update the market on how NVMe can be used in the most efficient way within our products.

Do you see NAS overtaking SAN for larger work groups? How about cloud taking on some of what NAS used to do?
We definitely see a trend away from classic Fibre Channel to Ethernet infrastructures for various reasons. For many years, NAS systems have been replacing central storage systems based on SAN technology for a lot of workflows. Unfortunately, standard NAS technologies will not support all necessary workflows and applications in our industry. Public and private cloud storage systems play an important role in overall concepts, but they can’t fulfil all necessary media production requirements or ease up workflows by default. Plus, when it comes to subscription models, [sometimes there could be unexpected fees]. In fact, we do see quite a few customers returning to their previous services, including on-premises storage systems such as archives.

When it comes to the very high data rates necessary for high-end media productions, NAS will relatively quickly reach its technical limits. Only block-level access can deliver the reliable performance necessary for uncompressed productions at high frame rates.

That does not necessarily mean Fibre Channel is the only solution. The R&S SpycerNode, for example, features a unified 100Gb/s Ethernet backbone, wherein clients and the redundant storage nodes are attached to the same network. This allows the clients to access the storage over industry-leading NAS technology or native block level while enabling true flexibility using state-of-the-art technology.

MTI Film, CEO, Larry Chernoff

Hollywood’s MTI Film is a full-service post facility, providing dailies, editorial, visual effects, color correction, and assembly for film, television, and commercials.

Larry Chernoff

What types of storage are you using for your workflows?
MTI uses a mix of spinning and SSD disks. Our volumes range from 700TB to 1000TB and are assigned to projects depending on the volume of expected camera files. The SSD volumes are substantially smaller and are used to play back ultra-large-resolution files, where several users are using the file.

Cloud versus on-prem — what are the pros and cons?
MTI only uses on-prem storage at the moment due to the real-time, full-resolution nature of our playback requirements. There is certainly a place for cloud-based storage but, as a finishing house, it does not apply to most of our workflows.

How often are you adding or upgrading your storage?
We are constantly adding storage to our facility. Each year, for the last five, we’ve added or replaced storage annually. We now have approximately 8+ PB, with plans for more in the future.

How do you feel about the use of ML/AI for managing assets?
Sounds like fun!

What role might the different tiers of cloud storage play in the lifecycle of an asset?
For a post house like MTI, we consider cloud storage to be used only for “deep storage” since our bandwidth needs are very high. The amount of Internet connectivity we would require to replicate the workflows we currently have using on-prem storage would be prohibitively expensive for a facility such as MTI. Speed and ease of access is critical to being able to fulfill our customers’ demanding schedules.

OWC,Founder/CEO, Larry O’Connor

Larry O’Connor

OWC offers storage, connectivity, software, and expansion solutions designed to enhance, accelerate, and extend the capabilities of Mac- and PC-based technology. Their products range from the home desktop to the enterprise rack to the audio recording studio to the motion picture set and beyond.

What kind of storage are you offering, and will that be changing in the coming year?
OWC will be expanding our Jupiter line of NAS storage products in 2020 with an all new external flash base array. We will also be launching the OWC ThunderBay Flex 8, a three-in-one Thunderbolt 3 storage, docking, and PCIe expansion solution for digital imaging, VFX, video production, and video editing.

Are certain storage tiers more suitable for different asset types, workflows etc?
Yes. SSD and NVMe are better for on-set storage and editing. Once you are finished and looking to archive, HDD are a better solution for long term storage.

What do you see are the big technology trends that can help storage for M&E? ML? AI?
We see U.2 SSDs as a trend that can help storage in this space. Also, solutions that allow the use of external docking of U.2 across different workflow needs.

How has NvME advanced over the past year?
We have seen NVMe technology become higher in capacity, higher in performance, and substantially lower in power draw. Yet even with all the improving performance, costs are lower today versus 12 months ago. SSD and NVMe are better for on-set storage and editing. Once you are finished and looking to archive, HDD are a better solution for long term storage.

Do you see NAS overtaking SAN for larger work groups? How about cloud taking on some of what NAS used to do?
I see both still having their place — I can’t speak to if one will take over the other. SANs provide other services that typically go hand in hand with M&E needs.

As for cloud, I can see some more cloud coming in, but for M&E on-site needs, it just doesn’t compete anywhere near with what the data rate demand is for editing, etc. Everything independently has its place.

EditShare, VP of Product Management, Sunil Mudholkar

EditShare offers a range of media management solutions, from ingest to archive with a focus on media and entertainment.

Sunil Mudholkar

What kind of storage are you offering and will that be changing in the coming year?
EditShare currently offers RAID and SSD, along with our nearline Sata HDD-based storage. We are on track to deliver NVMe- and cloud-based solutions in the first half of 2020. The latest major upgrade of our file system and management console, EFS2020, enables us to migrate to emerging technologies, including cloud deployment and using NVMe hardware.

EFS can manage and use multiple storage pools, enabling clients to use the most cost-effective tiered storage for their production, all while keeping that single namespace.

Are certain storage tiers more suitable for different asset types, workflows etc?
Absolutely. It’s clearly financially advantageous to have varying performance tiers of storage that are in line with the workflows the business requires. This also extends to the cloud, where we are seeing public cloud-based solutions augment or replace both high-performance and long-term storage needs. Tiered storage enables clients to be at their most cost effective by including parking storage and cloud storage for DR, while keeping SSD and NVME storage ready and primed for their high-end production.

What do you see are the big technology trends that can help storage for M&E? ML? AI?
AI and ML have somewhat of an advantage for storage when it comes to things like algorithms that are designed to automatically move content between storage tiers to optimize costs. This has been commonplace in the distribution side of the ecosystem for a long time with CDNs. ML and AI have a great ability to impact the Opex side of asset management and metadata by helping to automate very manual, repetitive data entry tasks through audio and image recognition, as an example.

AI can also assist by removing mundane human-centric repetitive tasks, such as logging incoming content. AI can assist with the growing issue of unstructured and unmanaged storage pools, enabling the automatic scanning and indexing of every piece of content located on a storage pool.

How has NVMe advanced over the past year?
Like any other storage medium, when it’s first introduced there are limited use cases that make sense financially, and only a certain few can afford to deploy it. As the technology scales and changes in form factor, and pricing becomes more competitive and inline with other storage options, it then can become more mainstream. This is what we are starting to see with NVMe.

Do you see NAS overtaking SAN for larger work groups? How about cloud taking on some of what NAS used to do?
Yes, NAS has overtaken SAN. It’s easier technology to deal with — this is fairly well acknowledged. It’s also easier to find people/talent with experience in NAS. Cloud will start to replace more NAS workflows in 2020, as we are already seeing today. For example, our ACL media spaces project options within our management console were designed for SAN clients migrating to NAS. They liked the granular detail that SAN offered, but wanted to migrate to NAS. EditShare’s ACL enables them to work like a SAN but in a NAS environment.

Zoic Studios CTO Saker Klippsten

Zoic Studios is an Emmy-winning VFX company based in Culver City, California, with sister offices in Vancouver and NYC. It creates computer-generated special effects for commercials, films, television and video games.

Saker Klippsten

What types of projects are you working on?
We work on a range of projects for series, film, commercial and interactive games (VR/AR). Most of the live-action projects are mixed with CG/VFX and some full-CG animated shots. In addition, there is typically some form of particle or fluid effects simulation going on, such as clouds, water, fire, destruction or other surreal effects.

What types of storage are you using for those workflows?
Cryogen – Off-the-shelf tape/disk/chip. Access time > 1 day. Mostly tape-based and completely offline, which requires human intervention to load tapes or restore from drives.
Freezing – Tape robot library. Access time < .5 day. Tape-based and in the robot. This does not require intervention.Cold – Spinning disk. Access time — slow (online). Disaster recovery and long-term archiving.
Warm – Spinning disk. Access time — medium (online). Data that needs to still be accessed promptly and transferred quickly (asset depot).
Hot – Chip-based. Access time — fast (online). SSD generic active production storage.
Blazing – Chip-based. Access time — uber fast (online). NVMe dedicated storage for 4K and 8K playback, databases and specific simulation workflows.

Cloud versus on-prem – what are the pros and cons?
The great debate! I tend to not look at it as pro vs. con, but where you are as a company. Many factors are involved and there is no one size that fits all, as many are led to believe, and neither cloud or on-prem alone can solve all your workflow and business challenges.

Cinemax’s Warrior (Credit: HBO/David Bloomer)

There are workflows that are greatly suited for the cloud and others that are potentially cost prohibitive for a number of reasons, such as the size of the data set being generated. Dynamics Cache Simulations are a good example, which can quickly generate tens of TBs or sometimes hundreds of TBs. If the workflow requires you to transfer this data on premises for review, it could take a very long time. Other workflows such as 3D CG-generated data can take better advantage of the cloud. They typically have small source file payloads that need to be uploaded and then only require final frames to be downloaded, which is much more manageable. Depending on the size of your company and level of technical people on hand, the cloud can be a problem

What triggers buying more storage in your shop?
Storage tends to be one of the largest and most significant purchases at many companies. End users do not have a clear concept of what happens at the other end of the wire from their workstation.

All they know is that there is never enough storage and it’s never fast enough. Not investing in the right storage can not only be detrimental to the delivery and production of a show, but also to the mental focus and health of the end users. If artists are constantly having to stop and clean up/delete, it takes them out of their creative rhythm and slows down task completion.

If the storage is not performing properly and is slow, this will not only have an impact on delivery, but the end user might be afraid they are being perceived as being slow. So what goes into buying more storage? What type of impact will buying more storage have on the various workflows and pipelines? Remember, if you are a mature company you are buying 2TB of storage for every 1TB required for DR purposes, so you have a complete up-to-the-hour backup.

Do you see ML/AI as important to your content strategy?
We have been using various layers of ML and heuristics sprinkled throughout our content workflows and pipelines. As an example, we look at the storage platforms we use to understand what’s on our storage, how and when it’s being used, what it’s being used for and how it’s being accessed. We look at the content to see what it contains and its characteristics. What are the overall costs to create that content? What insights can we learn from it for similarly created content? How can we reuse assets to be more efficient?

Dell Technologies, CTO, Media & Entertainment, Thomas Burns

Thomas Burns

Dell offers technologies across workstations, displays, servers, storage, networking and VMware, and partnerships with key media software vendors to provide media professionals the tools to deliver powerful stories, faster.

What kind of storage are you offering, and will that be changing in the coming year?
Dell Technologies offers a complete range of storage solutions from Isilon all-flash and disk-based scale-out NAS to our object storage, ECS, which is available as an appliance or a software-defined solution on commodity hardware. We have also developed and open-sourced Pravega, a new storage type for streaming data (e.g. IoT and other edge workloads), and continue to innovate in file, object and streaming solutions with software-defined and flexible consumption models.

Are certain storage tiers more suitable for different asset types, workflows etc?
Intelligent tiering is crucial to building a post and VFX pipeline. Today’s global pipelines must include software that distinguishes between hot data on the fastest tier and cold or versioned data on less performant tiers, especially in globally distributed workflows. Bringing applications to the media rather than unnecessarily moving media into a processing silo is the key to an efficient production.

What do you see are the big technology trends that can help storage for M&E? ML? AI?
New developments in storage class memory (SCM) — including the use of carbon nanotubes to create a nonvolatile, standalone memory product with speeds rivaling DRAM without needing battery backup — have the potential to speed up media workflows and eliminate AI/ML bottlenecks. New protocols such as NVMe allow much deeper I/O queues, overcoming today’s bus bandwidth limits.

GPUDirect enables direct paths between GPUs and network storage, bypassing the CPU for lower latency access to GPU compute — desirable for both M&E and AI/ML applications. Ethernet mesh, a.k.a. Leaf/Spine topologies, allow storage networks to scale more flexibly than ever before.

How has NVMe advanced over the past year?
Advances in I/O virtualization make NVMe useful in hyper-converged infrastructure, by allowing different virtual machines (VMs) to share a single PCIe hardware interface. Taking advantage of multi-stream writes, along with vGPUs and vNICs, allows talent to operate more flexibly as creative workstations start to become virtualized.

Do you see NAS overtaking SAN for larger work groups? How about cloud taking on some of what NAS used to do?
IP networks scale much better than any other protocol, so NAS allows on-premises workloads to be managed more efficiently than SAN. Object stores (the basic storage type for cloud services) support elastic workloads extremely well and will continue to be an integral part of public, hybrid and private cloud media workflows.

ATTO, Manager, Products Group, Peter Donnelly

ATTO network and storage connectivity products are purpose-made to support all phases of media production, from ingest to final archiving. ATTO offers an ecosystem of high-performance connectivity adapters, network interface cards and proprietary software.

Peter Donnelly

What kind of storage are you offering, and will that be changing in the coming year?
ATTO designs and manufactures storage connectivity products, and although we don’t manufacture storage, we are a critical part of the storage ecosystem. We regularly work with our customers to find the best solutions to their storage workflow and performance challenges.

ATTO designs products that use a wide variety of storage protocols. SAS, SATA, Fibre Channel, Ethernet and Thunderbolt are all part of our core technology portfolio. We’re starting to see more interest in NVMe solutions. While NVMe has already seen some solid growth as an “inside-the-box” storage solution, scalability, cost and limited management capabilities continue to limit its adoption as an external storage solution.

Data protection is still an important criteria in every data center. We are seeing a shift from traditional hardware RAID and parity RAID to software RAID and parity code implementations. Disk capacity has grown so quickly that it can take days to rebuild a RAID group with hardware controllers. Instead, we see our customers taking advantage of rapidly dropping storage prices and using faster, reliable software RAID implementations with basic HBA hardware.

How has NVMe advanced over the past year?
For inside-the-box storage needs, we have absolutely seen adoption skyrocket. It’s hard to beat the price-to-performance ratio of NVMe drives for system boot, application caching and similar use cases.

ATTO is working independently and with our ecosystem partners to bring those same benefits to shared, networked storage systems. Protocols such as NVMe-oF and FC-NVMe are enabling technologies that are starting to mature, and we see these getting further attention in the coming year.

Do you see NAS overtaking SAN for larger work groups? How about cloud taking on some of what NAS used to do?
We see customers looking for ways to more effectively share storage resources. Acquisition and ongoing support costs, as well as the ability to leverage existing technical skills, seem to be important factors pulling people toward Ethernet-based solutions.
However, there is no free lunch, and these same customers aren’t able to compromise on performance and latency concerns, which are important reasons why they used SANs in the first place. So there’s a lot of uncertainty in the market today. Since we design and market products in both the NAS and SAN spaces, we spend a lot of time talking with our customers about their priorities so that we can help them pick the solutions that best fit their needs.

Masstech, CTO, Mike Palmer

Masstech creates intelligent storage and asset lifecycle management solutions for the media and entertainment industry, focusing on broadcast and video content storage management with IT technologies.

Mike Palmer

What kind of storage are you offering, and will that be changing in the coming year?
Masstech products are used to manage a combination of any or all of these kinds of storage. Masstech allows content to move without friction across and through all of these technologies, most often using automated workflows and unified interfaces that hide the complexity otherwise required to directly manage content across so many different types of storage.

Are certain storage tiers more suitable for different asset types, workflows, etc.?
One of the benefits of having such a wide range of storage technologies to choose from is that we have the flexibility to match application requirements with the optimum performance characteristics of different storage technologies in each step of the lifecycle. Users now expect that content will automatically move to storage with the optimal combination of speed and price as it progresses through workflow.

In the past, HSM was designed to handle this task for on-prem storage. The challenge is much wider now with the addition of a plethora of storage technologies and services. Rather than moving between just two or three tiers of on-prem storage, content now often needs to flow through a hybrid environment of on-prem and cloud storage, often involving multiple cloud services, each with three or four sub-tiers. Making that happen in a seamless way, both to users and to integrated MAMs and PAMs, is what we do.

What do you see are the big technology trends that can help storage for M&E?
Cloud storage pricing that continues to drop along with the advance of storage density in both spinning disk and solid state. All of these are interrelated and have the general effect of lowering costs for the end user. For those who have specific business requirements that drive on-prem storage, the availability of higher density tape and optical disks is enabling petabytes of very efficient cold storage within less space than contained in a single rack.

How has NVMe advanced over the past year?
In addition to the obvious application of making media available more quickly, the greatest value of NVMe within M&E may be found in enabling faster search of both structured and unstructured metadata associated with media. Yes, we need faster access to media, but in many cases we must first find the media before it can be accessed. NVMe can make that search experience, particularly for large libraries, federated data sets and media lakes, lightning quick.

Do you see NAS overtaking SAN for larger workgroups? How about cloud taking on some of what NAS used to do?
Just as AWS, Azure and Wasabi, among other large players, have replaced many instances of on-prem NAS, so have Box, Dropbox, Google Drive and iCloud replaced many (but not all) of the USB drives gathering dust in the bottom of desk drawers. As NAS is built on top of faster and faster performing technologies, it is also beginning to put additional pressure on SAN – particularly for users who are sensitive to price and the amount of administration required.

Backblaze, Director of Product Marketing, M&E, Skip Levens

Backblaze offers easy-to-use cloud backup, archive and storage services. With over 12 years of experience and more than 800 Petabytes of customer data under management, Backblaze has offers cloud storage to anyone looking to create, distribute and preserve their content forever.

What kind of storage are you offering and will that be changing in the coming year?
At Backblaze, we offer a single class, or tier, of storage where everything’s active and immediately available wherever you need it, and it’s protected better than it would be on spinning disk or RAID systems.

Skip Levens

Are certain storage tiers more suitable for different asset types, workflows, etc?
Absolutely. For example, animators need different storage than a team of editors all editing a 4K project at the same time. And keeping your entire content library on your shared storage could get expensive indeed.

We’ve found that users can give up all that unneeded complexity and cost that gets in the way of creating content in two steps:
– Step one is getting off of the “shared storage expansion treadmill” and buying just enough on-site shared storage that fits your team. If you’re delivering a TV show every week and need a SAN, make it just large enough for your work in process and no larger.

– Step two is to get all of your content into active cloud storage. This not only frees up space on your shared storage, but makes all of your content highly protected and highly available at the same time. Since most of your team probably use MAM to find and discover content, the storage that assets actually live on is completely transparent.

Now life gets very simple for creative support teams managing that workflow: your shared storage stays fast and lean, and you can stop paying for storage that doesn’t fit that model. This could include getting rid of LTO, big JBODs or anything with a limited warranty and a maintenance contract.

What do you see are the big technology trends that can help storage for M&E?
For shooters and on-set data wranglers, the new class of ultra-fast flash drives dramatically speeds up collecting massive files with extremely high resolution. Of course, raw content isn’t safe until it’s ingested, so even after moving shots to two sets of external drives or a RAID cart, we’re seeing cloud archive on ingest. Uploading files from a remote location, before you get all the way back to the editing suite, unlocks a lot of speed and collaboration advantages — the content is protected faster, and your ingest tools can start making proxy versions that everyone can start working on, such as grading, commenting, even rough cuts.

We’re also seeing cloud-delivered workflow applications. The days of buying and maintaining a server and storage in your shop to run an application may seem old-fashioned. Especially when that entire experience can now be delivered from the cloud and on-demand.

Iconik, for example, is a complete, personalized deployment of a project collaboration, asset review and management tool – but it lives entirely in the cloud. When you log in, your app springs to life instantly in the cloud, so you only pay for the application when you actually use it. Users just want to get their creative work done and can’t tell it isn’t a traditional asset manager.

How has NVMe advanced over the past year?
NVMe means flash storage can completely ditch legacy storage controllers like the ones on traditional SATA hard drives. When you can fit 2TB of storage on a stick thats only 22 millimeters by 80 millimeters — not much larger than a stick of gum — and it’s 20 times faster than an external spinning hard drive and draws only 3.5V, that’s a game changer for data wrangling and camera cart offload right now.

And that’s on PCIe 3. The PCI Express standard is evolving faster and faster too. PCIe 4 motherboards are starting to come online now, PCIe 5 was finalized in May, and PCIe 6 is already in development. When every generation doubles the available bandwidth that can feed that NVMEe storage, the future is very, very bright for NVMe.

Do you see NAS overtaking SAN for larger workgroups? How about cloud taking on some of what NAS used to do?
For users who work in widely distributed teams, the cloud is absolutely eating NAS. When the solution driving your team’s projects and collaboration is the dashboard and focus of the team — and active cloud storage seamlessly supports all of the content underneath — it no longer needs to be on a NAS.

But for large teams that do fast-paced editing and creation, the answer to “what is the best shared storage for our team” is still usually a SAN, or tightly-coupled, high-performance NAS.

Either way, by moving content and project archives to the cloud, you can keep SAN and NAS costs in check and have a more productive workflow, and more opportunities to use all that content for new projects.

postPerspective’s ‘SMPTE 2019 Live’ interview coverage

postPerspective was the official production team for SMPTE during its most recent conference in downtown Los Angeles this year. Taking place once again at the Bonaventure Hotel, the conference featured events and sessions all week. (You can watch those interviews here.)

These sessions ranged from “Machine Learning & AI in Content Creation” to “UHD, HDR, 4K, High Frame Rate” to “Mission Critical: Project Artemis, Imaging from the Moon and Deep Space Imaging.” The latter featured two NASA employees and a live talk with astronauts on the International Space Station. It was very cool.

postPerspective’s coverage was also cool and included many sit-down interviews with those presenting at the show (including former astronaut and One More Orbit director Terry Virts as well as Todd Douglas Miller, the director of the Apollo 11 doc), SMPTE executives and long-standing members of the organization.

In addition to the sessions, manufacturers had the opportunity to show their tools on the exhibit floor, where one of our crews roamed with camera and mic in hand reporting on the newest tech.

Whether you missed the conference or experienced it firsthand, these exclusive interviews will provide a ton of information about SMPTE, standards, and the future of our industry, as well as just incredibly smart people talking about the merger of technology and creativity.

Enjoy our coverage!

Abu Dhabi’s twofour54 is now Dolby Vision certified

Abu Dhabi’s twofour54 has become Dolby Vision certified in an effort to meet the demand for color grading and mastering Dolby Vision HDR content. twofour54 is the first certified Dolby Vision facility in the UAE, providing work in both Arabic and English.

“The way we consume content has been transformed by connectivity and digitalization, with consumers able to choose not only what they watch but where, when and how,” says Katrina Anderson, director of commercial services at twofour54. “This means it is essential that content creators have access to technology such as Dolby Vision in order to ensure their content reaches as wide an audience as possible around the world.”

With Netflix, Amazon Prime and others now competing with existing broadcasters, there is a big demand around the world for high-quality production facilities. According to twofour54, Netflix’s expenditure on content creation soared from $4.6 billion in 2015 to $12 billion last year, while other platforms — such as Amazon Prime, Apple TV and YouTube — are also seeking to create more unique content. Consequently, the global demand for production facilities such as those offered by twofour54 is outstripping supply.

“We have seen an increased interest for Dolby Vision in home entertainment due to growing popularity of digital streaming services in Middle East, and we are now able to support studios and content creators with leading-edge tools that are deployed at twofour54 world-class post facility,” explains Pankaj Kedia, managing director of emerging markets for Dolby Laboratories. “Dolby Vision is the preferred HDR mastering workflow for leading studios and a growing number of content creators, and hence this latest offering demonstrates twofour54 commitment to make Abu Dhabi a preferred location for film and TV production.”

Why is this important? For color grading of movies and episodic content, Dolby has created a workflow that generates shot-by-shot dynamic metadata that allows filmmakers to see how their content will look on consumer devices. The colorist can then add “trims” to adjust how the mapping looks and to deliver a better-looking SDR version for content providers serving early Ultra HD (UHD) televisions that are capable only of SDR reproduction.

The colorists at twofour54 use both Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve and FilmLight Baselight systems.

Main Image: Engineer Noura Al Ali

Blog: Making post deliverables simple and secure

By Morgan Swift

Post producers don’t have it easy. With an ever-increasing number of platforms for distribution and target languages to cater to, getting one’s content to the global market can be challenging to say the least. To top it all, given the current competitive landscape, producers are always under pressure to reduce costs and meet tight deadlines.

Having been in the creative services business for two decades, we’ve all seen it before — post coordinators and supervisors getting burnt out working late nights, often juggling multiple projects and being pushed to the breaking point. You can see it in their eyes. What adds to the stress is dealing with multiple vendors to get various kinds of post finishing work done — from color grading to master QC to localization.

Morgan Swift

Localization is not the least of these challenges. Different platforms specify different deliverables, including access services like closed captions (CC) and audio description (AD); along with as-broadcast scripts (ABS) and combined continuity spotting lists (CCSL). Each of these deliverables requires specialized teams and tools to execute. Needless to say, they also have a significant impact on the budget — usually at least tens of thousands of dollars (much more for a major release).

It is therefore extremely critical to plan post deliverables well in advance to ensure that you are in complete control of turnaround time (TAT), expected spend and potential cost saving opportunities. Let’s look at a few ways of streamlining the process of creating access services deliverables. To do this, we need to understand the various factors at play.

First of all, we need to consider the amount of effort involved in creating these deliverables. There is typically a lot of overlap, as deliverables like as-broadcast scripts and combined continuity spotting lists are often required for creating closed captions and audio description. This means that it is cheaper to combine the creation of all these deliverables instead of getting them done separately.

The second factor to think about is security. Given that pre-release content is extremely vulnerable to piracy, the days of getting an extra DVD with visible timecode for closed captions should be over. Even the days of sending a non-studio-approved link just to create the deliverables should be over.
Why? Because today, there exist tailor-made solutions that have been designed to facilitate secure localization operations. They enable easy creation of a folder that can be used to send and receive files securely, even by external vendors. One such solution is Clear Media ERP, which was built ground-up by Prime Focus Technologies in order to address these challenges.

There is no additional cost to send and receive videos or post deliverable files if you already have a system like this set up for a show. You can keep your pre-release content completely safe, leveraging the software’s advanced security features which include multi-factor authentication, Okta integration, bulk watermarking, burnt-in watermarks for downloads, secure script and document distribution and more.

With the right tech stack, you can get one beautifully organized and secure location to store all of your Access Services deliverables. Which means your team can finally sit back and focus on what matters the most — creating incredible content.


Morgan Swift  is director of account management at Prime Focus Technologies in Los Angeles.

Production and post boutique Destro opens in LA

Industry veterans Drew Neujahr, Sean McAllen, and Shane McAllen have partnered to form Destro, a live-action and post production boutique based in Los Angeles. Destro has already developed and produced an original documentary series, Seed, which profiles artists and innovators across a range of disciplines. In addition, the team has recently worked on projects for Google, Nintendo and Michelin.

Destro’s primary focus will be producing, directing, and post on live-action projects. However, with the partners’ extensive background in motion and VFX, the team is adept at executing mixed-media pipelines when the occasion calls.

With the launch of original studio projects like Seed, Destro sees an opportunity not only to showcase its own voice but to present a case study to forge symbiotic relationships with brands that have real stories to tell about their teams, products, users, and core values.

“Great ideas don’t always happen at conception,” says Neujahr. “When the weather changes during production or the client rethinks the concept in post, being able to improvise and adjust brings about the best work.”

Neujahr and the McAllen brothers bring a combined 45 years of experience spanning commercial and film production, post production and entertainment branding/marketing.

Neujahr’s experience includes features and marketing as both a producer and a creative. He has directed short films, commercials and the documentary series Western State. As a producer, head of production and executive producer at top motion graphics and visual effects studios in LA, he oversaw spots for Ford, Burger King, Walmart, Nickelodeon, FX and History.

Sean McAllen is a seasoned film and commercial editor who has crafted both short-form and long-form work for Ford, Chevy, Nissan, Toyota, Red Bull, Google and Samsung. He also co-wrote and edited the Emmy-nominated documentary feature Houston We Have a Problem. McAllen got his start co-founding a Tokyo/Los Angeles-based production company, where he directed commercials, broadcast documentaries and entertainment marketing content.

Shane McAllen is a veteran of the film and commercial industry. His feature editing credits include contributions to Iron Man 3 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. On the commercial side, he has worked on campaigns for BMW, Apple and Nintendo. He is also an accomplished writer, producer and director who has worked on a bevy of projects for Google AR and two product reveals for the Nintendo Switch.

“We all got into this crazy world because we love telling stories,” concludes Sean McAllen. “And we share a mutual respect for each other’s craft. Ultimately, our strength is our approachability. We’re the ones who pick up the phone, answer the emails, make the coffee, and do the work.”

Main Image: (L-R) Sean McAllen, Drew Neujahr, and Shane McAllen

Bonfire adds Jason Mayo as managing director/partner

Jason Mayo has joined digital production company Bonfire in New York as managing director and partner. Industry veteran Mayo will be working with Bonfire’s new leadership lineup, which includes founder/Flame artist Brendan O’Neil, CD Aron Baxter, executive producer Dave Dimeola and partner Peter Corbett. Bonfire’s offerings include VFX, design, CG, animation, color, finishing and live action.

Mayo comes to Bonfire after several years building Postal, the digital arm of the production company Humble. Prior to that he spent 14 years at Click 3X, where he worked closely with Corbett as his partner. While there he also worked with Dimeola, who cut his teeth at Click as a young designer/compositor. Dimeola later went on to create The Brigade, where he developed the network and technology that now forms the remote, cloud-based backbone referred to as the Bonfire Platform.

Mayo says a number of factors convinced him that Bonfire was the right fit for him. “This really was what I’d been looking for,” he says. “The chance to be part of a creative and innovative operation like Bonfire in an ownership role gets me excited, as it allows me to make a real difference and genuinely effect change. And when you’re working closely with a tight group of people who are focused on a single vision, it’s much easier for that vision to be fully aligned. That’s harder to do in a larger company.”

O’Neil says that having Mayo join as partner/MD is a major move for the company. “Jason’s arrival is the missing link for us at Bonfire,” he says. “While each of us has specific areas to focus on, we needed someone who could both handle the day to day of running the company while keeping an eye on our brand and our mission and introducing our model to new opportunities. And that’s exactly his strong suit.”

For the most part, Mayo’s familiarity with his new partners means he’s arriving with a head start. Indeed, his connection to Dimeola, who built the Bonfire Platform — the company’s proprietary remote talent network, nicknamed the “secret sauce” — continued as Mayo tapped Dimeola’s network for overflow and outsourced work while at Postal. Their relationship, he says, was founded on trust.

“Dave came from the artist side, so I knew the work I’d be getting would be top quality and done right,” Mayo explains. “I never actually questioned how it was done, but now that he’s pulled back the curtain, I was blown away by the capabilities of the Platform and how it dramatically differentiates us.

“What separates our system is that we can go to top-level people around the world but have them working on the Bonfire Platform, which gives us total control over the process,” he continues. “They work on our cloud servers with our licenses and use our cloud rendering. The Platform lets us know everything they’re doing, so it’s much easier to track costs and make sure you’re only paying for the work you actually need. More importantly, it’s a way for us to feel connected – it’s like they’re working in a suite down the hall, except they could be anywhere in the world.”

Mayo stresses that while the cloud-based Platform is a huge advantage for Bonfire, it’s just one part of its profile. “We’re not a company riding on the backs of freelancers,” he points out. “We have great, proven talent in our core team who work directly with clients. What I’ve been telling my longtime client contacts is that Bonfire represents a huge step forward in terms of the services and level of work I can offer them.”

Corbett believes he and Mayo will continue to explore new ways of working now that he’s at Bonfire. “In the 14 years Jason and I built Click 3X, we were constantly innovating across both video and digital, integrating live action, post production, VFX and digital engagements in unique ways,” he observes. “I’m greatly looking forward to continuing on that path with him here.”

Technicolor Post opens in Wales 

Technicolor has opened a new facility in Cardiff, Wales, within Wolf Studios. This expansion of the company’s post production footprint in the UK is a result of the growing demand for more high-quality content across streaming platforms and the need to post these projects, as well as the growth of production in Wales.

The facility is connected to all of Technicolor’s locations worldwide through the Technicolor Production Network, giving creatives easy access and to their projects no matter where they are shooting or posting.

The facility, an extension of Technicolor’s London operations, supports all Welsh productions and features a multi-purpose, state-of-the-art suite as well as space for VFX and front-end services including dailies. Technicolor Wales is working on Bad Wolf Production’s upcoming fantasy epic His Dark Materials, providing picture and sound services for the BBC/HBO show. Technicolor London’s recent credits include The Two Popes, The Souvenir, Chernobyl, Black Mirror, Gentleman Jack and The Spanish Princess.

Within this new Cardiff facility, Technicolor is offering 2K digital cinema projection, FilmLight Baselight color grading, realtime 4K HDR remote review, 4K OLED video monitoring, 5.1/7.1 sound, ADR recording/source connect, Avid Pro Tools sound mixing, dailies processing and Pulse cloud storage.

Bad Wolf Studios in Cardiff offers 125,000 square feet of stage space with five stages. There is flexible office space, as well as auxiliary rooms and costume and props storage. Its within

Behind the Title: C&I Studios founder Joshua Miller

While he might run the company, founder/CEO Joshua Miller is happiest creating. He also says there is no job too small: “Nothing is beneath you.”

NAME: Joshua Otis Miller

COMPANY: C&I Studios

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
C&I Studios is a production company and advertising agency. We are located in New York City, Los Angeles, and Fort Lauderdale.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Founder and CEO

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Well, my job is a little weird. While I own and run the company, my passion has always been filmmaking… since I was four years old. I also run the video and film team at the studio, so my job means a lot of things. One day, I can be shooting on a mountain and the next day writing scripts and concepts, or editing, creating feature films or TV shows or managing post production. Since I’m the CEO, I spend a ton of time bringing in new business and adding technology to the company. Every day feels brand new to me, and that is the best part.

Black Violin

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I think the thing that surprises most people is that when I’m on set working, I’m not sitting back drinking a mojito. I’m carrying the tripods and the sandbags and setting up the shots. I’m also the one signing everyone’s checks. One of our core beliefs at our company is “nothing is beneath you,” and that means you can do anything — including cleaning toilets —that helps the company grow, and it requires you to drop your ego. In the creative industry that’s a big deal.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
My favorite part of the job is working with my team. I got so sick of the freelance game — it’s so individualized, and everyone is out for themselves. I wanted to start C&I to work with people consistently, dream together, build together and create together. That is by far better than anything else.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
My least favorite part of the job is firing people. That just sucks.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
Between 4am and 5am. If you aren’t waking up earlier than everyone else, you aren’t doing it right.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I would be doing the exact same thing. I could be working at McDonald’s, but I’d be filming with my iPhone or Razer phone and editing. It’s not about the money; you can’t take this thing from me. It’s a part of me, and something I certainly didn’t choose. So, no matter where you put me, this is what will come out. And since Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve is free, this is something I could actually do… I could be working at McDonald’s and shooting for fun on my phone and editing in Resolve’s new cut page, which is magic. That actually sounds awesome. Well, except the McDonald’s part (laughs).

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
Again, I don’t feel like I chose it. It’s something that I always felt drawn to. I was interested in cameras since I was very young… tearing apart my parents VHS tapes to see how they worked. I was completely perplexed by the idea that a camera does something and then it goes on this tape, and I see what’s on that tape in this VHS player and on TV. That was something I had to learn and figure out. But the main reason I wanted to really dig into this field is because I remember being in my grandmother’s house watching those VHS tapes with my brothers and my family and everyone is just sitting around, laughing watching old memories. I can’t shake that feeling. People feel warm, vulnerable, close… that is the power you have with a camera and the ability to tell a story. It’s absolutely incredible.

Black Violin

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Right now, I’m working on an incredible music video with Black Violin. We are shooting it in Los Angeles and Miami, and I’m really excited about it.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Probably something I’m most proud of is our latest film Christmas Eve. We just poured everything into that film. It’s just magic. We have done a lot of amazing stuff, but that one is really close to me right now.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Camera, computer, speakers (for music — I can’t live without music). Those three things are a must for me to breathe.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I’m not really into social media, not a big fan of what it has turned us into (off of my soapbox now), but I do follow a ton of film companies and directors. I love following Shane Hurlbut, Blackmagic Design, SmallHD, Red Digital Cinema and Panavision, to name a view.

YOU MENTIONED LOVING MUSIC. DO YOU LISTEN WHILE YOU WORK?
Music is everything. It’s the oil to my car. Without that, I’m toast. Of course, I don’t listen to music when I’m editing, but when I’m on set I love to listen to music. Love the new Chance record. When I’m writing, it’s always either Bon Iver or Michael Giacchino. I love scores and composers.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
To distress, I love the moments in the studio when the staff and I just sit around and get to laugh and just hang out. I have a beautiful family and two wonderful kids, so when I’m not stressing about work I’m giving horsey-back rides to my son, while my daughter tries to explain TikTok to me.

Quick Chat: Element’s Matthew O’Rourke on Vivian partnership

Recently, Boston-based production and post company Element  launched Element Austin — a partnership with production studio Vivian. Element now represents a select directorial roster out of Austin.

We recently reached out to Element executive producer Matthew O’Rourke, who led the charge to get this partnership off the ground.

Can you talk a bit about your partnership with Vivian? How did that come about, and why was this important for Element to do?
I’ve had a relationship with Vivian’s co-owner, Buttons Pham, for almost 10 years. She was my go-to Texas-based resource while I was an executive producer at MMB working on Toyota. She is incredibly resourceful and a great human being. When I joined Element, she became a valued production service partner for our projects in the south (mostly based out of Texas and Atlanta). Our relationship with Vivian was always important to Element since it expands the production support we can offer for our directors and our clients.

Blue Cross Blue Shield

Expanding on that thought. What does Vivian offer that you guys don’t?
They let us have boots on the ground in Austin. They have a strong reputation there and deep resources to handle all levels of work.

How will this partnership work?
Buttons and her business partner Tim Hoppock have become additional executive producers for Element and lead the Element Austin office.

How does the Boston market differ from Austin?
Austin is a growing, vibrant market with tons of amazingly creative people and companies. Lots of production resources are coming in from Los Angeles, but are also developing locally.

Can you point to any recent jobs that resulted from this partnership?
Vivian has been a production services partner for several years, helping us with campaigns for Blue Cross Blue Shield, Subway and more. Since our launch a few weeks ago, we have entered into discussions with several agencies on upcoming work out of the Austin market.

What trends are you seeing overall for this part of the market?
Creative agencies are looking for reliable resources. Having a physical presence in Austin allows us to better support local clients, but also bring in projects from outside that market and produce efficient, quality work.