A workflow is an organized process for completing a task efficiently. The key is “efficiently.” Michael Kammes, Director of Business Development for Bebop Technology, joins us to showcase new ideas we can use to get our work done faster and better.
Excerpt from Digital Production BUZZ Show: Michael Kammes – Better Ideas to Improve Workflow
Larry Jordan: As director of business development for BeBop Technology, Michael Kammes leverages his experience with creative technology and tools providers to accelerate growth and provide strategic perspective across marketing, sales and partnerships. Hello Michael, welcome back.
Michael Kammes: Hello Larry, good to hear your voice.
Larry Jordan: Michael, tonight I want to talk about workflow but first, tell me what you’re doing for BeBop and explain what I said in the intro because I don’t know what you’re doing.
Michael Kammes: BeBop is a newer company that focuses on visual creativeness in the cloud. So BeBop has a platform that you can edit on from the safety of wherever you like to edit and because we’re working with all the major data centers like Google and Microsoft and Amazon, we can put all your media near to where you are, to cut down on latency. So folks can edit from their machine, on a virtual machine in a data center, and harness the power of that virtual machine in the data center.
Larry Jordan: And your role with Bebop is to do what?
Michael Kammes: My role is director of business development, so not only am I coaching technologists on why BeBop is a platform for them, but also evangelizing the BeBop technology to the greater industry.
Larry Jordan: Well let’s evangelize more than just BeBop. Let’s take a look with workflow. Clearly deadlines are not getting any longer. What changes to workflows have you seen recently?
Michael Kammes: What we’re seeing is the media getting to the creatives faster than ever before. While there still is a place for shipping hard drives or in some cases, hand carrying the hard drives on a plane, there are an increasing number of productions which are using devices on set that can convert the media in real time from the camera, to a proxy format and then beam it over 4G or over wifi to an Amazon data center, or a Microsoft, and editors can then pull that down and start working with it. This is especially important with unscripted television, when you’re maybe shooting overseas, or shooting in remote areas, when you may not be able to get the media on the drive transferred, hand carried, that frequently. So being able to beam it wirelessly cuts down on that downtime.
Larry Jordan: Are we giving up too much in terms of being able to see the image if we’re looking at proxies?
Michael Kammes: No, I don’t think so. Ten, 15 years ago when we were still doing the Avid 14 to one, 15 to one, which believe it or not is still being used, I think now that we’re using decent frame size H.264, I think with H.265 kind of on the roadmap and starting to be used, I think we’re getting more quality than we ever have with offline or proxy editing.
Larry Jordan: But we’re shifting codecs. If we’re looking at a ProRes 422 file, which is designed for efficient editing, H.264 is really cumbersome, and requires a whole lot more horsepower. Are we trading off on storage and sacrificing CPU power?
Michael Kammes: We are. I mean there’s always going to be a give and take. By getting the 264s and in the future the 265s to editorial faster, they can start doing the assemblies, and then by the time the high res comes in, they can relink to that. It should also be said that a lot of the cameras that are out there being shot, many of them aren’t doing ProRes anyway. They’re doing XAVC or some other compressed format as well, just in a larger frame size and higher data rate. So whether it’s proxy or high res quite often we’re being stuck with the limited processing power of the computer anyway.
Larry Jordan: You mentioned XAVC and other codecs. What’s your advice for dealing with our continually expanding world of codecs that we need to work with?
Michael Kammes: There’s two different schools of thought. One of them is the mezzanine workflow and I’ll explain what that means. That’s converting all your source footage to a stable robust codec that retains as much fidelity as possible without making your storage bust at the seams, so that would mean taking a 4K XAVC and flipping it to a ProRes 422HQ. Obviously, that’s not the highest res possible because we’re not doing ProRes 4444, but we’re using a fat enough codec with enough latitude that we can still work with it and not lose any quality. So a lot of folks will move to a mezzanine format.
Michael Kammes: The other workflow is to continue the tried and true method of offline, online or proxy formats, so that would be cutting with either a proxy that the camera generates, or creating a proxy from your high res, doing your creative cut with that, your creative editorial, and then reconforming back to the original on a high performance machine.
Larry Jordan: That also says that proxies are shifting to the camera rather than creating a proxy after the fact, is that true?
Michael Kammes: In that instance, yes. And it all comes down to how long the editors have to work on the project. If the post production cycle is that short, like a reality or news, they need that real quick. If it’s something more creative, like maybe an Amazon Original or a Netflix Original where you have a little bit more latitude in terms of time, then you can go the tried and true method of capturing high res and then creating proxies after the fact and working with that.
Larry Jordan: Thinking also of codecs, brings me to mind that Apple is discontinuing support for its Legacy 32 bit codecs in the next version of the MacOS. What’s your opinion on this?
Michael Kammes: That’s a really good question and those who are listening probably heard about the kerfuffle a month or so ago which I think you spearheaded part of Apple rectifying that kerfuffle. Developers were alerted to this a while ago, that QuickTime was being deprecated and that 32 bit codecs were on their way out. But what wasn’t really publicized is that Adobe knew about it, Avid knew about it, they just didn’t publicize the details of it, so everyone was scared that maybe this was catching Apple, Adobe and everyone else off guard. But the fact is that aside from the paltry bit of information that Apple initially had on their website, it’s not a big deal. Avid and Adobe have been planning for this for quite a while, and already have engines under the hood to handle playing back those old codecs and Larry, I got to tell you, I’m so very happy that you put up that blog post and were able to get Apple to fully flesh out the blog post on the 32 bit codecs going away because without that we’d really all be lost.
Larry Jordan: Well I will confess when I first read that warning from Apple, I was afraid that all of our Legacy media was going to disappear, so I’m glad that everybody has got a handle on it and was finally able to talk about it.
Michael Kammes: Agreed. I think it put a lot of people’s minds at ease. I think there was a concern that “Hey we can’t use any of our Avid codecs. We can’t use any of our Legacy codecs for other systems.” And the fact that Apple fleshed that out and that Avid responded to it and Adobe responded to it, I think you have that on your blog, I think put a lot of people’s minds at ease.
Larry Jordan: You know, thinking of technology changing which it seems to do on an hourly basis, reminds me that we’re just a couple of months away from NAB and right now we’re in the middle of a quiet time as everybody’s got their heads down coding. What are your thoughts for what to expect at the show? What trends are you thinking are going to happen based upon what you’re seeing here?
Michael Kammes: I think you’ve probably seen that it seems to be every other year there’s something big at NAB, whether it was 3D, VR, 4K and then HDR. So this year I honestly think it’s going to be kind of an off year. I haven’t seen anything revolutionary come down the pipe or even in whispers over the last year or so. I think companies are going to continue to refine what they’ve already promised, so we’re talking about applications that are running in a data center, in a cloud. I think we’re going to be seeing more machine learning being applied to tasks in post production. I think obviously there’s going to be more 265 encoders, but none of this is, dare I say, new. This is stuff that’s been talked about for years, we’ve seen other companies come out with in the past two years, and I think we’re just going to see more of a proliferation in the industry of that at NAB this year.
Larry Jordan: Well you realize as soon as you say that, the entire industry is going to say “We’re going to make Michael Kammes wrong and create all kinds of new stuff.” So we’ll just have to actually see what happens come April.
Michael Kammes: I love being wrong Larry. I’m sure you know that real well.
Larry Jordan: Michael, for people that want to keep track of what you’re doing and thinking, where can they go on the web?
Michael Kammes: A couple of different places. You can go to michaelkammes.com or you can check out my web series on technology, at 5thingsseries.com.
Larry Jordan: Let’s go to michaelkammes.com, all one word, and Michael is the director of business development for BeBop and Michael, as always, thanks for joining us today.
Michael Kammes: Thank you so much for the time Larry.