So what is going to happen to content creation this year? We don't know, but we know a man who has more insight than others. Sam Mestman looks into the crystal ball in this new article about the future of media.
Alright, so we finally got all the new toys we’ve been waiting for. A new version of OSX, FCPX, Resolve, XSAN, the Mac Pro, and a new flavor of Thunderbolt. Things are different now. I think the real question is, how is all this going to change the way that we work? Just a couple years ago, Firewire, USB 2.0, and ESATA were the standard. None of those ports even exist on modern Mac hardware for editors anymore (Retina, iMac, or Mac Pro). With all the new gear, features, and processing power, it seems to me that it would also make sense if some new ways of doing things were now available as well. Honestly, I think all of the pieces are in place now for a fundamental change in the way content is created.
Just a few years ago, finishing a theatrical feature film anywhere but a high end post house was highly unusual. You needed expensive decks, color correction software, giant machine rooms, and film prints for theaters if you wanted to screen at a multiplex. You needed a degree in nuclear physics to figure out how all these things worked together to deliver something to an audience in a high end fashion. The average person could simply not afford to make content at high quality. And even if they could afford it, there was no good way for them to figure out how to do it themselves.
Here’s where we are now; it’s now possible to power a higher resolution screening from a FCPX timeline through the HDMI port on a laptop than most high end studio features even shoot in. Most big budgets movies you see on the big screen deliver at a 2K resolution and screen on a 2K projector. With no additional gear whatsoever besides FCPX, you can send out a 4K signal from your laptop to a 4K projector. The game has changed. Here’s some other things you might find interesting:
High end color correction used to be an expensive art that and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to outfit a feature quality suite. Resolve Lite, free, allows you to grade in timelines up to 3840x2160 (Quad HD). For $1000 you can grade at the full theatrical DCI 4K spec of 4096x2160. And this is the very same tool that was six figures to own a few years back.
DCP creation (essential for theatrical exhibition) can be completed for free through Open DCP, and if you need to create DCP securely and play it back, you can do it with plugins right in Compressor or Resolve. Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars on film prints, filmmakers can deliver at the industry standard for a few hundred bucks and deliver the exact same file the studios do.
Your beautiful 1080 HDTV has actually never had a proper HD signal come through it over traditional broadcast cable (not many people know this, but often, it’s a highly compressed 720 HD signal coming through your cable box). With no monthly cable subscription, you can get a far higher quality signal to your TV through an Apple TV or Airplay. On top of that, it won’t be long before 4K downloads, streaming, and content become the standard for online delivery. This is already happening on YouTube and Netflix of all places.
RED workflow used to be much more complex and challenging. Conforming required many steps and different applications. Many producers would shoot RED, convert to 1080 ProRes and never go back to the RAW in order to save time. Now, if you look at this FCP.co article, they were able to play back many streams of RED RAW footage with a whole bunch of effects off a new Mac Pro in real time.
It used to cost thousands of dollars per computer to connect your mac to a SAN. XSAN is now free and comes standard with OSX Mavericks. Collaborative workflow off a San is now totally affordable for small workgroups. What that means is you can evolve an operation from a small group of freelancers to a high-end post house with a minimal change in infrastructure.
Most feature films are created in many different locations. The editor cuts one place, delivers to sound and color in two entirely different places, and VFX is done somewhere else. Files are passed around to all the various places. Revisions are done over email, phone, or through visits to the various facilities. With the affordability of new modern hardware and software, all of this can be done under the same roof. Edit in one room, Sound in another, color next door to that, and VFX in the room across the hall… and with the speeds you can get from XSAN now, all these people can be working from the same centralized media pool simultaneously.
Just a few years ago, film dailies from a day’s shoot were sent to a lab where, if you were lucky, you’d get digitized versions the next day. Now, the labs are post houses working with DIT’s who produce digital dailies from digital footage with slightly faster timelines. In many workflows, the editor will not make his first cut on a day’s footage until nearly 3 days after it has been shot due to the time it takes to ingest and organize. With the ability of modern NLE’s to cut natively from source footage, post can begin to move on set. It’s now possible to have a fully synced, properly renamed FCPX library with searchable script supervisor metadata within 10 minutes of having downloaded your footage from set.
Documentary editing has often been a lesson in finding a needle in a haystack. Hundreds of hours of footage come in resulting in staggering shooting ratios. By using metadata, and converting your NLE into a database, finding the right clip is now just a searchable keyword, favorite, or text search away.
Just a few years ago, I remember being blown away when a friend of mine told me he was using a terabyte of data. This seemed like a huge amount. Trying to transfer a terabytes worth of data could take a day… if you got lucky enough for the transfer to happen uninterrupted. Now, using one of the 8 bay Thunderbolt 2 chassis, transferring a terabyte of footage now feels like uploading a large file to dropbox.
So, what’s my point here? To me, at least, the barriers and excuses to high quality content creation have been removed. Off the shelf gear is now fast and affordable enough where there is no technical barrier stopping the average person from telling a great story other than having a great story to tell. Film used to be an artistic medium where the canvas was more expensive than a struggling artist could realistically afford. There’s always been an indie film world but it often involves some major compromises to be made to get a film done. I believe 2014 will be the year where the world realizes this is no longer the case. We’ll start seeing more amazing films from places we wouldn’t normally expect and from filmmakers who would normally never have been able to deliver at such a high quality. People all over the world are going to be able to start delivering content at the highest levels.
Anyway, the reason I’m writing this article is because I really believe in this stuff. I’ve seen it working firsthand and I just kind of feel like people should know about all of it. And the way we’re going to show it is with a new company we’ve created called FCPWORKS.
We feel like there’s a better way to make content, and that there are new workflows and ways of doing things that will help editors rediscover the art of filmmaking as the technology finally starts to get out of their way. So, if you’re in the LA area on Saturday, January 25th, we’d love to show you all this and more in person at Unici Casa in Culver City. Apple will be doing an official presentation of FCPX 10.1 on the new Mac Pro, and there will also be official presentations from AJA, BMD, Quantum, and others. There’s going to be 4K monitors, 4K projection, and some Dragon footage floating around too. Expect some other surprises and special guests from the FCPX community at the event as well. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s free to attend, and if you come to the evening session, there’s going to be an open bar. For more info, or to RSVP, here’s where to go: FCPWORKS Special Event
Have fun with the new version. I know I am.