Michael Kammes has designed and built thousands of video production and post-production systems, workflows and facility integrations during his nearly 20 years as a technology advisor in the media and entertainment industry.
He’s a well-known public speaker on workflows, a podcaster and director of business development at cloud solutions provider BeBop Technology in Los Angeles. He was director of technology for ten years at systems integrator, Key Code Media; and has served as an Apple certified trainer, an Avid support representative, a dialog editor, SFX editor, ADR recordist and editor, re-recording mixer and supervising sound editor.
Kammes consults with media companies to help them determine their optimum workflow.
Broadcast Beat’s Frank Beacham spoke with Kammes.
Frank Beacham: You consult with media companies on video production and post-production workflows. How do you approach finding the right workflow for a new client?
Michael Kammes: There are a bunch of things. Most are business related, and only a handful are technical considerations. The first one is where does the company see itself in the future? If they see themselves growing a modest amount over a couple of years, we try to engineer a workflow and make recommendations that they can grow into or at least add-on.
If they are anticipating going into different markets — addressing unique client needs — then we need to make sure they can handle the direction of the business. We have to focus on now and what they do down the road. I hate to use the word audit, but we want to see what gear they already have. Replacing gear isn’t always the best thing. We can most likely repurpose or reuse some of the stuff they already have.
You never go in and make someone feel bad about something they’ve previously purchased. You have to determine whether the gear has served its purpose. Normally, companires don’t call consultants immediately. They try to do something internally, because they don’t want to spend money on it. When they’ve gone down a path unsuccessfully, they want to know what you know. I want to be empathic towards that. I like to find out what routes they’ve previously tried.
Frank Beacham: If a new client does not already own or needs a new editing system, how do you recommend a brand and type of technology?
Michael Kammes: There is no flowchart that says what to do. We want to determine the skill set of who’s on the staff. If a company has someone who knows Final Cut Pro, we’ll see if Final Cut does what they need. If they know Adobe, let’s do Adobe. The big thing is they need a target budget. If they aren’t willing to tell me the budget, then I have to offer a good, better, best. The budget really can determine whether they going to buy a low-powered computer and one copy of software, or if they going with shared storage, multiple workstations and enterprise software.
Their business model is important here. Are they working as an island, meaning is everything done in-house? Or are they working with other departments or outside companies? If so, the choice needs to lend itself to working in collaborative environments.
All companies are looking for the easiest route to success. They don’t want things complicated because they don’t know what they’re getting into. So often, the first stop is Adobe. Their Creative Cloud has tools for all types of media production, whether it’s graphics, print, audio, whatever.
Almost any media department is going to need to do graphic work by default. There will probably be some Adobe products involved. They can add Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve for free. Other companies will have someone on staff that knows Final Cut Pro, which you only have to buy once. Normally Final Cut gets brought up if someone already knows it. Clients looking to jump headlong into film and television post usually go with Avid.
Frank Beacham: You’re a proponent of cloud postproduction systems, especially for remote collaboration. At what point do you recommend a client move to the cloud?
Michael Kammes: Brand new facilities that haven’t yet invested in physical real estate are a good candidate for the cloud. Because when people work in the cloud it means they don’t have to come into the office and don’t have to pay big rent bills. There are a lot of pop-up production facilities.
Just putting any user in the cloud doesn’t make a hell of a lot of financial sense. Once you start adding on the costs of third-party services, storage and workstations, the cloud can get expensive. But if you have many users, it becomes a no brainer because you have higher redundancy in the cloud than on premises. A facility can scale up or down as the work comes in.
If you’re using 100 machines one month, you may only need 50 machines the next month. Why buy 100 machines outright, if you’re not going to use them? For example, a production company gets a contract for one season of a series. It makes no sense to buy gear if they don’t know if there will be a second season. In this case it makes a lot of sense not to buy gear without knowing if there will be a second season.
Also, cloud computing is good when a company needs to work with people who are not in the same geographical area. People in LA can hire someone in Arizona. The cloud allows employees to work from anywhere.
Frank Beacham: You sometimes talk about the key myths of post-production. What myth would you like to debunk?
Michael Kammes: I mainly try to align expectations. A big area in cloud computing is cost. It is expensive. There are the three big cloud providers — GCP, which is Google; AWS, which is Amazon; and Azure, which is Microsoft. You’re going to be paying big money just to start with any of them. Add buying high-powered workstations, shared storage and all the third-party services needed for collaboration — you’re looking at eight to nine hundred dollars a month per user.
Frank Beacham: Where do you see this market in five years?
Michael Kammes: A bunch of things are going to happen in five years. Obviously, there will be greater cloud adoption. I think the cost will come down with smaller data centers popping up. With this you will see the big three — Amazon, Google and Microsoft — start to lower their prices.
The big thing that I’m excited about is we’ll begin to see more video editing software and common VFX apps using cloud resources like artificial intelligence and machine learning. You’re going to be able to change voices matching the mouth to words, and eventually face and body swapping. As you can imagine, this is also going to be a nightmare. I can see this technology being used for nefarious purposes.
Frank Beacham: Even today, artificial intelligence allows people to do incredibly realistic fake videos. How do you stop that? And how do you know what’s real and what isn’t?
Michael Kammes: Things like blockchain are going to be important to follow the chain of custody, and ensure that what we’re seeing is the real deal. Media, when it’s created, will have to be stamped by a unique identifier that would then tie into a blockchain. We will know where that media started, where it was acquired, who it went to next and what was done to it. Once we can follow that entire chain, we’ll be able to determine what’s real and what has been altered in bad faith.
Frank Beacham: When is that going to be available?
Michael Kammes: It’s something that’s being worked on. But there is not an ironclad way of doing it yet. It could be deployed on a mass scale, because unless everyone is following the relatively same procedure, there’s not going to be a way of tracking all of this.
Frank Beacham: Thank you, Michael.