Southeast Creative Summit

September 10, 2013 — Leave a comment

In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a pretty exciting users group happening down in Atlanta. Atlanta Cutters has been kicking it for some time now. In a lot of ways I think that success comes down to leadership. They are led by a crack team of talent: Walter Biscardi, Dan Daube, Kris Merkel and TJ Jaglinski.

But now they are taking it to a whole ‘nother level. A major industry conference featuring over 56 presentations from many of the foremost leaders in Editorial, Post production, finishing, and yes – the production side as well. This is a really great mix in a conference, sure to pack a punch in ways I feel other conferences have been lacking.

The Southeast Creative Summit

Southeast Creative Summit

I am very excited to attend this conference where I’ll get to participate in sessions with great industry talent such as The Diamond Brothers, Scott Simmons, Robbie Carman, Patrick Inhofer, Jesse Averna, Oliver Peters, Gary Adcock and many more. I’m certain I’ll come back stuffed with knowledge and ideas, to say nothing of the tremendous networking opportunities. This humble author will be also be presenting at the Southeast Creative Summit. I will be presenting two sessions, one featuring tips, experiences and hard lessons I’ve learned by running a one-man post production business (hint: being a one man business does not equate to ‘going it alone’), the other session is on creating and integrating powerful and effective motion graphics when your time budget is slim and deadline pressures are high.

Go on…click the banner above and check out the site. I’ll wait…

Now that you are back, I have two very important things to tell you about:

Early Bird pricing

The Early Bird ticket sales will end on Sept 25th, just 15 days from now. That is $300 savings over the regular pricing. I’d love for as many folks as possible to take advantage of the savings. The discount code BMD2013 gives you all three days at $495 through Sept. 25th. It’ll be $695 starting Sept. 26th.

They are also offering bulk purchase discounts. A 5 ticket purchase is the first tier bulk discount and then 10 or more is a larger discount. Folks can contact me directly walter@atlantacutters.com for more details.

Atlanta Creative Ball

Walter came to me shortly after NAB to discuss the summit and mentioned how he really loved the vibe of the MediaMotion Ball and how he wanted to talk to me about capturing that spirit for an event he wanted to create to coincide with the summit. Several lengthy conversations later (LOL) I had sort of completed a massive brain dump on him about it. The event will feature a hybrid design: networking, dinner but will also add in presentations from sponsors. There will also be prize giveaways thanks to generous sponsors.

Note that the Atlanta Creative Ball is a separate ticket from the summit. Summit attendees get a big discount, but the event is open to everyone, whether you are attending the full summit or not.

I could go on and on, but really…just go sign up already! This is shaping up to be a major learning and networking opportunity for post professionals. See you in Atlanta!

Register Here!

 

Quick note: This post (and this entire blog) is targeted at an audience of post-production pros. Within that, this post is targeted more at Mac users considering their options than those already on Windows. For me, this decision has been building behind the scenes for awhile, but I’m starting to get more serious about it. Also, please note that everything in the post below is my present opinion and outlook. There are factors I may not have considered and I have much to learn about the road ahead. If I’m wrong about something, break it to me gently, and I’ll update the post.

Current state of affairs in Mac post land: I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown weary of Apple’s lack of attention to the needs of production professionals (on the hardware side…the software side is still an open question-sort of-but let’s not open an FCP-X debate in a post about hardware). It should come as news to no one that video post-production has ever-increasing demands in computing power, and the greatest performance gains have been seen in recent years by modern software that leverages more CPU cores/threads, GPU, more RAM, fast bulk video storage, and even faster, separate,  storage caching techniques. Of course, having software that can take full advantage of that hardware grunt is the other required component. I will, however, concede that while we have reached the point where basic video editing is now possible on lower-performing hardware, a full-on, high-performance, high-productivity soup-to-nuts post production system is the goal here.

Where I think Apple is going: Despite Tim Cook’s carrot-dangling (which probably references Intel Haswell), I am not convinced whatsoever that Apple is going to be building machines that support multiple GPUs, storage, etc. in a high performance configuration. I think they have a different vision. I believe Apple is on a trend toward increasing miniaturization and modularization of computing hardware. This is a mass market approach, and perhaps what is right for Apple. The mass market has reached a point where more mainstream, modest hardware satisfies their needs. Apple knows this, and is leveraging Thunderbolt to get a lot of that stuff outside the box, where it is an optional accessory only for those that need it. That is a fine strategy and opens up exciting possibilities for me and other video professionals. I envision a number of exciting configuration options for specific production purposes, especially mobile ones, where the priority is portability over peak performance.

Where I get stuck: The point where all this falls apart for me (and other post pros I’ve had this conversation with) is my “Big System”, the main editing/animating/coloring/mastering suite. You know that place…a place where you happily trade tiny screens and mobility for a clean, comfortable space, big screens, big sound and high performance hardware…a place where you can sit and do client-driven work without issue. That kind of system is driven by powerful hardware. Its exact configuration can take many forms, but high capability and performance are the priorities in this environment. You want power, and the ability to handle all sorts of work. This is where I do most of my work, and certainly my BEST work.

A system like this- built today- would utilize two or more GPUs, video RAID, other storage, video capture/display card and GUI Display bandwidth. Thunderbolt can handle one or two of those functions, but in total, the sheer volume of storage and PCI-E bandwidth a high performance system is capable of using will present substantially higher bandwidth load than today’s Thunderbolt can support. This problem will exist for quite awhile: It will still be true when Thunderbolt moves to PCI-E 3.0 speeds,  which could almost double data throughput (that’s better, but still not enough for all of the above). Beyond that, there are faster Thunderbolt implementations on the roadmap, but they are YEARS away, 100gbps end of decade. So, while I think we will get to that point someday, the reality of today precludes a big, highly capable system built entirely around Thunderbolt.

Now add to this the fact that Apple are woefully behind the times in building machines with high performance CPUs…both at the “enthusiast” level (where is the 6-core i7 machine?), and of course the enterprise level (where are Sandy Bridge-E Xeons?).

Quick point on iMac: I actually like the higher-end iMac as a nicely configured cutting and basic utility station. A nice package for a slightly premium price. A lot of contributions to a project can be made from a machine like this, and in larger facilities I could see some cutting stations being configured this way, but due to the limitations of hardware I’ve noted above, do not think the iMac can serve as the basis of a fully capable “Big System”.

Forcing my hand: So (on the Mac)…CPU grunt isn’t there, and bandwidth isn’t there to add all the GPUs and other necessary hardware to build a robust modern system. This situation has gone from bad to worse as the hardware and software marketplace are marching forward, further enlarging the delta between the power and capabilities of the Mac platform vs. the equivalent Windows-based counterparts. I have held on to my current Mac Pro tower longer than any other before it. Part of this delay was driven by leaner economic times, but also by lack of a compelling business case to purchase newer Mac hardware as the performance gains of the available options didn’t seem high enough to justify the cost of re-tooling. Meanwhile, I have absolutely maxed the upgrade possibilities of this system and am pretty much at the end of that road, needing to move forward soon before this thing totally ages out. I’ll just come right out and say it: For a post professional in my situation (I know a lot of them), there is simply no compelling Macintosh option to move forward that would provide that substantial bang-for-buck performance boost that is required of any major upgrade. Those options DO exist in hardware, you just can’t run a supported Mac OS configuration on it. You can, however, run a supported Windows 7 platform on it. I’m setting aside the Hackintosh issue right now, because, while people get it to work, I’m not comfortable putting my production business in that precarious support position.

Me: mac-centric, but not a complete stranger to Windows: Having some familiarity with the Windows platform, and already experienced in building several custom PCs, I’m not exactly a stranger to Windows. Having said that, I have long-preferred the Mac platform for production work, and I vowed to stay as long as Macintosh computing hardware kept reasonable pace with the rest of the world. Look around my office and amongst the 14 computers and devices in daily use, 12 are from Apple.  With one exception, all primary post-production since I opened the doors on my own facility in 1997 has been done on the Mac.

For those curious about the exception, it was in the era between the Power Mac G4 and G5 where Apple fell way behind on hardware performance…meanwhile the Pentium 4 surged. At that time I moved all of my After Effects and video encoding to Windows boxes due to sheer performance advantages, while continuing to edit and master all programs on Macs. The extra hassle of using PC-friendly codecs and moving data between systems was more than offset by computing grunt, but it was a pain. When the G5 was released, performance on Mac returned to levels where staying on the one platform was preferable.

As you probably have already gleaned from reading the above, I have absolutely no patience for platform wars and fanboy-ism from any side. I have my preferences, but I’m a businessman. Being a good businessman requires pragmatism, not platform ideology. These tools are a means to an end. I must satisfy both the creative and technical requirements of my client’s projects. Performance is critical in my world. This is not just about faster render and encoding times. Performance impacts the creative phase of a project substantially more than the tangential benefit of speeding up the creation of deliverables. I have determined that the personal pain of getting comfortable doing post production on a new platform is a lesser evil than the severely limited options the Mac platform currently presents. That has been a huge hurdle for me, one that I’ve resisted a long time and still have a great deal of apprehension about, but at this point I feel my hand is being forced. I know that I am not alone in this, and many will come to this realization after me, so I hope my forthcoming posts on this topic provide value as I work through this process.

Support: While the biggest factor in wanting to stay on the Mac is familiarity, I think it also goes to the issue of support. The more limited choices in the Mac hardware space may have kept prices higher and compromised a few high spec options, but this was offset by generally better support from vendors as well as more common system configs within the user community. Supporting the Mac is generally a simpler affair due to these factors. That’s my humble opinion of course, spoken as a career-long independent operator. The driver of that opinion is this: The tremendous choice in configuration options in the Windows world is both a blessing and a curse. Generally, more options and more competitive pricing are good things, but this typically results in a given users system configuration being totally unique. This complicates both user-to-user and vendor tech support as there are more variables when troubleshooting.

Applications drive hardware choices: This part is relatively easy to figure out. While I run about 20-30 production applications, I have my core post production activities:  Editing, Motion Graphics and Color. Plus encoding…more than ever, I deliver encoded files for broadcast and web. Also, I drive an external SDI Reference monitor and also a plasma client monitor.

Editing: I use Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, Avid Symphony , FCP 7 and X. Of those, Adobe and Avid are on Windows. Adobe Premiere is my primary editor as of this writing. It makes very high utilization of CPU threads for codecs while GPU handles image and effects processing in the course of playing back clips on the timeline. CUDA preferred over OpenCL currently. Fast bulk RAID storage (spinning disks are still the only affordable option for large amounts of video data) .  A quick note about Smoke, just as it’s making it’s big push as a mainstream product, is sadly Mac only. This fact is currently limiting the amount of attention I am dedicating to this product in light of my impending platform shift.

Motion Graphics: Adobe After Effects CS6. I use lots and lots of plugins. GenArts, Red Giant, Trapcode, Digieffects, Digital Anarchy, you name it. CPU utilization high, GPU less so, but Ray-traced rendering is CUDA-powered, and many plugins OpenGL, CUDA and other GPU processing. After Effects now has a great new capability in it’s Global Performance Cache. This is best directed at a very fast disk such as an SSD or better yet a Fusion IO device. For max performance it should be a fast disk that is separate from your video RAID containing your source media. I also use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator extensively in the creation of these elements, but these apps and many other supporting apps are not primary drivers of hardware performance decisions. Pretty much everything in the AE universe is equivalent on Mac and Windows.

Color: DaVinci Resolve 9. With the exception of in-app plugin favorites like Magic Bullet Looks and Colorista, Davinci Resolve is my color grading application of choice. I am watching the progress of Speedgrade with interest-and for that matter other systems too-but Resolve continues to rock my color grading world at this point in time.  Resolve uses a combination of CPU and GPU performance but skews more heavily to GPU. For a nice Resolve setup you are really looking at a minimum of two GPU cards (OpenCL supported but less performance). As with editing and pretty much everything else, Resolve leverages fast video RAID storage for read and write operations. Resolve is available on Windows as well, but I still need to research how well it performs on Windows, and any platform differences.

Encoding: This is typically all CPU, the more threads, the more clock speed, the faster the encode at any given spec. Fast video storage plays a role too. As far as I know, not many encoding options currently leverage GPU, although when you export from within Premiere Pro, any effects that leverage CUDA on playback will also be CUDA-accelerated during the encode, but the primary encoding function is all multi-threaded CPU work.

Pulling it all together: This is a starting point of sorts, a certain set of priorities that will drive decisions moving forward. I am open to configured systems as well as a roll-my-own approach. I have a ton of research to do in selecting components, as this applies even to pre-configured systems to a point. Bang for buck is a huge factor as I’m simply a business owner with limited resources and need to maximize ROI and that includes upgrade potential.

But all of that is hardware talk. Hardware does nothing without software. I know I’m good on primary application support, but need to find equivalent procedures and apps for all the little utilities and bits of software that are so essential to making my Mac post production business hum. There is a lot of work to do on this front. I plan on seeking advice here on the blog, the IMUG list and on Twitter as well as sharing what I find as I move forward. In fact, I’m not going to pull the trigger on the hardware until I have reasonable confidence that I have all the software bits sorted.

You read that right…at the end of this, the possibility remains that I will choose to remain on the Mac platform. If so-at that point-I’ll certainly have my reasons! This is going to be quite a journey.

I really hope you’ve stayed with me to this  point, and have something to say or contribute. Leave a comment and let me know what’s on your mind…

 

 

Catching up

June 11, 2012 — Leave a comment

Just a brief update before we get back to business around here. You’ve probably been wondering if I ever made it back from Vegas, given my silence here on the blog. Yes, I’m fine. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

NAB was incredible, as always…but it seems the last several years especially, my personal NAB experience has been topping itself year over year. That is in large part driven by people and relationships. The nexus of that activity is of course the MediaMotion Ball and this was the biggest and best event ever in our 15 year history. I was interviewed by Toolfarm shortly after NAB about the event, it’s history and why we continue to do it.

So what have I been up to since NAB? Well, an interesting mix of things. Some work, and some pockets of business down-time. Work: I have been out of my office a bit in the past month, collaborating with teams on a couple of mograph-heavy projects on site at a couple of different agencies. I don’t take this kind of out-of-house work often, but sometimes it is for the best. Many of the projects I create are for private audiences and can’t be shown online (or at least not right away), but sometimes it’s okay and the companies put stuff up on their own content channels. Here’s a 2D text/messaging mograph project I recently created for an agency. This was to play as a loop in a tradeshow booth. The interesting thing is that I built that in AE onsite at an agency that was still running CS5 everything. Blast from the past! A lot has improved in the past two years.

Speaking of software, I’m running the full CS6 Creative Cloud package now, but have also left CS 5.5 installed side-by-side without issued. CS 5.5 will probably not be re-installed the next time I do a clean install. CS6 is wonderful. The absolute best release of Adobe products ever. Standouts for me of course are Premiere Pro, After Effects and Audition. I’m sure I’ll have much more to say on that subject in the future. This is the software I use in day to day production more than any others at this time. I’m doing paid work faster, and just plain better than ever before.

But, after ripping off my FCP blinders a couple of years ago (my transition off FCP began earlier than most folks and was more gradual), I’m not about to put on Adobe blinders to replace them, so I’m always looking around at what else is going on in the NLE space. Therefore, I also have a shiny new copy of Avid Symphony in-house. But due to other projects and some downtime I spent offline I have yet to really scratch the surface of it. Personally, I have not cut on Avid systems since the late 90′s when I bought Media100 setups and literally did not look back. That makes me an Avid noob. It should be very interesting tracking my experiences as a highly experienced multi-tool-using editor, approaching Avid software essentially for the first time…and finding my way. No doubt I will find things to like and things to…well…not like. But one thing is for certain, I don’t have any Avid “legacy thinking” in my head, nor muscle memory, as is the case with most of Avid’s customer base (most of whom have used Avids for many years) and that will make for a different perspective upon approaching the product as “beginner” today. We’ll just have to see how it goes! Note that I will be baby-stepping with the software and would certainly not sit down with a client to cut a project in it without getting proficient first.

I mentioned some downtime earlier. I’ve had a couple of slower pockets in my work schedule, which has afforded me the opportunity to spend time offline with my wife and kids, enjoying our first taste of glorious MN summer weather the past month or so. For me, family time suffers quite a bit during the 3 months prior to NAB due to the exceedingly high load of regular work coupled with all the volunteer time put in to the IMUG and MediaMotion Ball prep, so call this “re-balancing”. Looking back, it seems I always tend to have a post-NAB lull. The industry-wide news lull coincides nicely with this.

Bouncing off that now, I’m looking to get busy again and resume more frequent posting. A few things I’m looking forward to right now: The release of the Smoke 2013 public beta, Following Philip Hodgetts and crew on The Solar Odyssey, and what happens at WWDC. Take care and I promise not to be such a stranger around here going forward!

Attending NAB 2012

April 14, 2012 — 2 Comments

For the 16th straight year, I will be attending the National Association of Broadcasters show (better known as NAB). I’ll be in Vegas all this week.

I could go on at great length about the reasons I go to NAB, which have not changed in all this time, but the short version is: PEOPLE.

That’s right. PEOPLE. Information seeking is not a primary reason why I make the trip. If information about new equipment, software, etc. is all you seek…you can stay home and get it on the web. Sure, the trade show lets you touch-and-feel the stuff, but honestly, it’s really all about PEOPLE. Skipping NAB because you don’t want to purchase new stuff is, in my opinion, completely missing the point. Behind every product, service or new technology are REAL PEOPLE.

Rarely does a day go by where I am not interacting with people in the production community via the internet. Whether on the IMUG or AE-List, Twitter, Facebook, Skype or good old telephone, I have relationships with other professionals in this business, some on the “vendor” side, some on the “user” side, that keep me going. They also fuel my passions for this business.

Going to NAB provides an opportunity for face-to-face interaction with all those wonderful REAL LIVE PEOPLE who make up this crazy business. I discovered years ago how powerful these encounters are, and how positively they impact the online relationships that continue year-round. That is where the real power of our community is fully realized. NAB is the single largest gathering of people “like us” all year.

 

Events like the MediaMotion Ball are the culmination of that wonderful community. In the end, it is the entirety of the reason why I, and the entirely volunteer team behind it continue to do it. Other events that provide opportunities for users to meet and mix, like the Supermeet and other meet-ups also advance the community.

At some level, we’re all gear-heads, we love the latest software, hardware, toys and tips. We also like to talk shop with each other…that’s all in the mix, but that stuff is fleeting, it will all be old news in a short time, but PEOPLE and RELATIONSHIPS? They last forever.

I look forward to sharing time, face to face with as many wonderful colleagues as possible. You guys and gals all make me BETTER. Here’s to a great week!

Adobe CS6 is Announced

April 12, 2012 — 2 Comments

Hey Everyone, the rush of prep for all things MediaMotion Ball combined with one last pre-NAB project that just took forever to complete…. has left me with precious little time to write up an extensive report in time for today’s big Adobe CS6 announcements. Of course I will have my own things to say about various features of this comprehensive suite in the future. Just can’t get it done before NAB.

Fortunately, some good friends have written up fantastic articles/created videos, etc. on the matter and I am recommending them to all of my readers/viewers.

I may add links to this post later as well so check back!

After Effects CS6 (P)Review

Chris and Trish Meyer

 

My top 5 (or so) Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 features

Scott Simmons

 

Adobe CS6 Is Announced

Steve Oakley

 

After Effects CS6: New Features Workshop

Learn What’s New and How It Affects You

Todd Kopriva

 

Adobe “What’s new in CS6 Production Premium?” video page

Jason Levine

 

After Effects: New 3D Features in CS6

John Dickinson of Motionworks

 

After Effects New Feature Highlights (video)

Angie Taylor

Flanders Scientific, Inc. is a direct-sales provider of professional broadcast and post production monitors. I have just spent about 1 month with their top-of-the-line LM-2461W reference monitor while preparing this video review. Part of this video is educational regarding the need reference monitoring, and then my impressions of this specific monitor. Along the way I offer a few opinions.

The LM-2461W sells for $4995.00 US and is sold direct (they have other models too)

Here is my video review of this monitor:

Summary:
The Flanders Scientific LM-2461W clearly represents excellent decision making in product design. Delivering impressively on all of the fundamentals at a breakthrough price point and yet managing to deliver value-added features well beyond anything else in its class.

Disclosure: I requested a temporary review unit of this item for a few weeks in order to prepare this review. I encourage you to review my general ethics statement.

I’m a featured guest on Digital Production Buzz tonight at 6PM Pacific Time (US).  

I’ll also be in the chat room when I’m not on the air chatting with hosts Larry Jordan and Michael Horton.

We’ll be talking about the MediaMotion Ball, community and whatever else comes up in the production-related conversation.

I hope you can join live, but if not the show is immediately available via podcast.

digitalproductionbuzz.com

The Avid Artist Color is a control surface that works with a lot of applications. My specific interest was in using it with DaVinci Resolve, but it also works with Avid Media Composer, Symphony, Apple Color, Assimilate SCRATCH, Autodesk Smoke for Mac, Baselight, NuCoda Fuse, RedCine-X, Foundry Storm and more.

Find Pricing on Avid Artist Color – Color Grading Control Surface

Here is my video review of this control surface:

Summary: The Avid Artist Color represents a real sweet spot in a color grading control surface. It is well-built, responsive and pretty affordable. The large number of applications it can control is the icing on the cake.

 

Disclosure: I requested a temporary review unit of this item for a few weeks in order to prepare this review. I encourage you to review my general ethics statement.

Update 3/24/2012:

Some folks have asked if I have seen the new Tangent Element controller set. I have not yet had the privilege of trying them out, but I’ve looked at high rez photos and spoken with a couple of folks that saw prototypes and really liked them. Of course that’s no substitute for trying the real thing over an extended review period, but I have to say the more horizontal form factor looks good and early intel on build quality seems quite favorable. The full set of 4 panels is also a fair bit pricier at $3500 so it’s up to the individual user to weigh its benefits against lower cost panels like this $1500 Artist Color. If I can arrange a demo set I will.

I’m very happy to present the final episode of “In Production: DaVinci Resolve”.

In this episode:
Steve and I get down to grading some projects. We each take one of our real world projects and grade it, then hand it off to the other for an alternate grade. This episode is very hands-on, working in Resolve to get the job done.

Note: If you want some great, affordable DaVinci Resolve training, here’s a great recommendation: Alexis Van Hurkman’s brand new release via Ripple Training: DaVinci Resolve Core Training. Definitely check it out!

Episode 6 of 6: Color Grading Sessions

About the show:
“In Production” is a video chat program where hosts Carey Dissmore and Steve Oakley discuss tools and topics related to the video production business from their unique perspective as independent production business owner/operators.

This is the sixth and final episode in our series on DaVinci Resolve.

Carey’s blog is at http://www.careydissmore.com
Steve’s Blog is at http://www.steveoakley.net

Here’s something I’ve been eagerly anticipating for quite awhile. Ripple Training has released “DaVinci Resolve Core Training” featuring instructor Alexis Van Hurkman. I have long been a fan of Alexis from his book “Color Correction Handbook” , his speaking engagements, and the fact that he’s the guy that literally wrote the Resolve manual!

I’m posting this in an excited state – I have only reviewed a portion of the training so far but I have to shoot  straight and tell you that what I’ve seen so far is very good and already worth the price of admission. I’ll be happy to follow up when I’ve seen it all.

The best part? It’s just $79 bucks and is an immediate download…with practice media. That’s “impulse purchase” pricing for something that might just give you a basis to launch a new chapter in your career.

Also, don’t forget to check out “In Production“, my production business chat show where where we have a 6-part series on DaVinci Resolve.

Disclosure: I was advanced a review copy of this training. I encourage you to review my general ethics statement.