Macintosh in Film and TV Production
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TRANSCRIPT OF SEMINAR: "Macintosh in Film and TV Production" MacWorld Expo, San Fransisco, January 17, 1986 (Edited for Clarity and Brevity) PARTICIPANTS: ARTHUR GREENWALD, Moderator, Creative Services Director, KDKA-TV/Pittsburgh RICHARD HART, Co-Host "Evening Magazine", KPIX-TV/San Fransisco STEVE KOTTON, Co-Owner, Pacific Video Resources/San Fransisco ANTHONY REVEAUX, Media Critic, Lecturer in Film History, Sonoma State Univ. GREENWALD: This session came about largely out of my own frustration in calling everybody I could think of at Apple to get some support in marketing the Macintosh to our industry, film, television production, advertising... It seems to me obvious that a graphics oriented machine like the Macintosh has obvious advantages for graphics-oriented industries like ours, but those advantages aren't always obvious to our employers. In commercial television especially where the business side is very often separated from the production or creative side. Business decisions such as bulk purchasing or compatability don't always have a lot to do with how computers are really used on the job. Today we'd like to touch on today is the success we've had in using the Macintosh in our own work, and we've also invited here today some developers of specialty products for our industry. They'll get a chance to say a few words about their product. I'll begin by describing how I use my Macintosh in local television production. I was first attracted to Mac for its graphic potential, but I became a junior Mac Evangelist because it's so easy to use that it occured to me that with the high turnover rate of employees in TV stations and ad agencies that this was a pretty vital characteristic, too. You can actually train a short term employee in a day to actually use the machine. And then because it's so easy to use, it's self-reinforcing, people continue to use it. I immediately started using MacPaint to design print ads and simple storyboards for dramatic scenes and for the simple animation our station producuces. It was invaluable a communications tool. I could take my description of how our logo should move or shimmer or so forth, take that to the station manager and show the proposed animation step by step. Like any storyboard it gave us a common means of discussion, but it was much easier to revise. Since then I've come to use Hayes' Smartcom II software with a Hayes modem which lets you use one picture at a time from the Scrapbook and show it and change it in real time over phone lines. So that's a real godsend to be able to talk to an animator in Los Angles while I sit at my desk in Pittsburgh. That can eliminate unnecessary and costly trips to the west coast. Word processing. I prefer Microsoft Word if only because it can open more windows that MacWrite. Just that ability to change type sizes, which we take for granted as Mac owners, well that's a real advantage when you're trying to indicate the relative size of supers or text in a print ad. I've abandoned our usual art order form because the output of the Macintosh shows what I'm looking for much more clearly. One general observation is that some of the specialty software that I THOUGHT would be terrifically useful--- such as Videoworks and Slideshow Magician, to name two I admire a great deal--- I haven't found much opportunity to use those in my work. We have too many deadlines in local TV for me to take the time to use that software to make polished presentations. Perhaps those of you in advertising who can take more time with each job have found those more useful. I find MacPaint and MacDraw do more or less what I need to do. Finally, since acquiring a modem, I've gotten very involved in telecom- municating. I'm particularly active with CompuServe. I'm an Associate Sysop now for the Broadcast Professionals Forum on CompuServe, which is an exciting new way for us to share ideas and opinions about our industry instantaneously. It's also a good way to upload specific problems or questions to the board and come back a few hours later and get some good professional replies, not merely technical tips, but creative ideas on lighting, promotion, casting and more. Plus a variety of freelancers have begun to upload descriptions of their services and where they work, etc. It could very well become a new way of networking freelance work. Now Steve Kotton will describe how the Macintosh and Lisa have been useful to his independant video work. KOTTON: Yes, I was one of those fortunate or unfortunate souls who got into icons very early. I was a little disappointed with Apple's response to it, but I'm very excited to see the kinds of hardware and applications that are here today. I run a small facility here in San Fransisco, Pacific Video Resources, we function both as a facility, we have three complete edit rooms, but we also do full productions, documentaries and other programming that's on from the commercial networks to syndication, cable, all over the place. I'll just run through some of the software we have and use on a day to day basis and why the Mac has become so essential for a creative small business. First, I'd like to agree with Arthur about how easy it is to use, and to train freelancers... in twenty minutes. They can start real work for you almost immediately. I have colleagues who have owned IBM's and they still don't use them. For scheduling edit rooms and production equipment, Front Desk is a wonderful piece of software. It can schedule different times, months, plus it does reporting functions for billing. Check it out, it's really a very good program. Overvue. We checked out about ten databases. We're using Overvue for a couple of specialized functions. For equipment rosters, serial numbers, for insurance companies, and to log maintenance. MacDraft. We have our entire facility diagrammed. All the special equipment we've made up is all totally documented on MacDraft. Being able to just pop in a disk and just check out an area where a wire may be bad, for engineering it's just amazing. Our three edit suites were designed on MacDraft. I designed a production truck this summer using MacDraft. It's really an amazing tool. MacPaint is wonderful for storyboards, especially for effects work where you can get into detail and show how that effect is going to look and when and where it takes place on the screen. I have used Videoworks for a certain bit of animation and while it is more tedious than just MacPaint it certainly is a nice little package. Using Excel. I find Excel to be one of the best spreadsheets that I've seen coming down the pike. I put my form of the AICP bidding form into Excel and it's really a great spreadsheet for that. Glenn Przyborski in Pittsburgh has placed the entire bidding form into Excel and it's extremely useful. It's great that you can get on the phone and within 5 minutes have at least a good start of a bid that used to take hours and hours to do. There's another program you out to check out it's called Document Modeler by the Model Office company. If you do a lot of correspondance which we do when we're doing bids or talking to clients, it's sort of a form letter generator but much more personalized. You can input a number of different responses and then pick and choose among them to fit the job that you've got. It really puts out a letter that is very personal and yet is a form letter that gets those responses out quickly to clients. Finally, we also use Pagemaker a lot. We try to do our own publicity in house and we do a newsletter once a month, all on the Mac, all on Pagemaker and the Laserprinter. We also use MacDraw and the Laserprinter to design shooting schedules, editing forms, logging forms, character generator forms... The Macintosh still has a ways to go in terms of specific pieces of software for our needs, but it's still far ahead of any other computer out there. With its graphics capabilities and the variety of software, it's really ideal for our industry. HART: The show I do here in San Fransisco on KPIX, Channel 5 is Evening Magazine. In most markets around the country it's called PM Magazine. The distinction is that those stations owned by Westinghouse Broadcasting call the show "Evening" and anybody who buys the show from us calls it "PM." We shoot 100% of our show on location. We shoot nothing in the studio.Our kind of work is different from what a television newsroom might do. I worked in the first broadcast newsroom -- radio or TV -- that was computerized. That was KCBS, the CBS-owned radio station here in San Fransisco. It's about 11 years ago that they first brought in terminals. That, of course, met great resistance from the old-time reporters at 'CBS who had covered Pearl Harbor. Their favorite was the old Olympia manual typewriter. And they scurried and hid them away under their desks so when they had to do "news" they'd haul out the Olympias. This is true! The NEW hot setup is one designed by a guy who used to work for Colorgraphics. Imagine a guy working on a live newscast for radio who wants to constantly monitor Associated Press, United Press for bulletins. Now those services code their stuff "Level 1..2..3" alerts. Audio feeds, too. It would be nice if you were delivering a newscast and on the radio or something and sudddenly the corner of your screen would flash and alert you to a "Level 1" situation, you'd hit a key combination and be reading what's available. The guy who left Colorgraphics has developed a very Mac-like system now. But he's not allowed to compete with his old company for another two years in this country so he can only do it in Australia, Japan, and in some countries in Europe. And I'm on my way to see it next week, but they tell me it uses a mouse and the whole system such as we dreamed of ten years ago, very well. He's done this on an IBM PC system and he's having a lot of problems with resolution because among other things, he uses it for editing tape too. He has a little image on the screen of two reels. When you're splicing audio tape, the tape is literally spliced. The system uses speech digitization that is so good that you can actually edit audio on the screen with the mouse. I'm convinced there IS a way to do all of that on the Macintosh. He began in the IBM world, and he strictly used IBM terminals, I don't think he's explored the Macintosh. I'm going to talk to him next week about that, to see whether his company wants to do something of that nature on Macintosh. The ideal newsroom situation would be to read right off the screen the entire newscast and as the news changed or new news came in, instead of someone handing you copy, it would be scrolling on the prompter off of a computer screen. Nobody's doing that yet. It's possible now, but everyone's afraid to take the first step just as they were with the rest of the equipment. When it comes to using electronic equipment for typing news, our newsroom at KPIX is as backward as any in the country. They still type manually and scroll taped sheets of paper through the machine. (SYMPATHETIC LAUGHTER) I mean, it's 1986 and my station is still hand typing with the big typewriters that have the big letters on them. And the last two news directors have this GREAT reason why they haven't switched over: "Well, we're waiting for the price to come down." (LAUGHTER) "Or until they build a better system." So figure by the year 2012 we ought to get electronics in there. Typically what we at Evening Magazine do in a day is shoot a daily half-hour show which is divided into 3 or 4 feature stories, each of which is scripted and edited -- then the introductions, the "Good evenings," etc. which are wrapped around that. Obviously we do a lot of writing for the show, but not on a deadline basis as the newsroom does. If we want we can do our typing in the field. Typically, if we shoot a story -- say a 5 minute feature that's going to air in 2 weeks (We shoot about 30:1, about 30 minutes of tape for every 1 minute of story)-- there's a producer charged with pre-editing that story, doing a cut sheet (edit plan) for the editor, which contains the incues and outcues of cuts he wants to use from the interview. It also has the voiceover script for me or my co-host to record. Basically it's a sheet of paper that maps out the order of all the pieces of audio and video that make up the story. This process may take two or three days so we have the opportunity to trade ideas. A lot of conferencing and changes take place before video editing. Usually that means a lot of pencil editing, but obviously it's better and easier to make those changes electronically, on disk, or better yet, by leaving drafts for each other on a system like CompuServe. (Incidentally, although Art and I work for the same company, we MET on CompuServe.) For the past year, several of the producers and I do just that. One of the producers will upload his script to CompuServe. Then at my leisure the next day at home or even at my desk at work, I can download his script. I can edit it electronically and if he's happy with my changes, either of us can print it out to be recorded in the booth. We do this for about two or three scripts a week. The nice part about storing it on CompuServe is we don't have to both be online at the same time. We travel a lot and this system allows us to download scripts anywhere there's a phone. If I have to re-record a line while I'm out of town, I'll sometimes record the new script onto a videocassette in a hotel room or wherever, and ship it back by air. The next area is graphics. Now a Macintosh graphic can be uploaded for me to download so that the editor can get an idea of how the pictures should go together. Now a cut sheet with incues and outcues is nice but we can actually give an idea of how the picture flow ought to go in the piece. What we're aiming for is for the producers to upload a kind of storyboard to guide me and the editors. I think the Macintosh is the only thing that will allow us to do that kind of thing efficiently and on a regular basis. The funny thing is that KPIX has about 300 employees and all the Macintoshes are coming in the back door. Because the official word from our computer headquarters on the east coast is the company will support only certain Burroughs and IBM equipment. So that's all we can buy. Some people have hidden Macs in their operating budget instead of their capital budget and other tricks. There'a guy at our station responsible for commercial production who's been experimenting with Concertware and many other programs trying to find one to provide musical accompaniment for the jingles and commercials produced at KPIX. There's a freelancer who will do a complete transcript of a videotaped interview for a producer and put them on a disk. So when our producer writes the script, he can for instance, in Word, put up two windows. In one display the actual transcript of what was shot on tape and in the other window write his voiceovers and how it will be cut together. There are some other uses which are more esoteric, but that's the basics of how we're using the Mac right now. REVEAUX: We've talked about film and television. I also work in multi- image slide prodution. That's an area where the Mac's pixels are only being scratched, but which has a lot of application to film and TV. Right now it's only terms of doing scripts. When I did the cover story for Macworld, I made a list of all the ways people had scrounged trying to come up with a way to process two-columns of text for scripts, even in MacProject. We don't really have that ability yet. What we're going to need eventually is some sort of integrated script format that chains your two columns together shot by shot. So that even 30 pages in if you make a change in a shot, it will always keep the shot number, the sound and picture, chained together. I hope we see that in our lifetimes. One nice thing is when you're doing scripts for clients is that with MacPaint and Clip Art you can have a nice big copy of your client's logo on your cover page. The library of Clip Art expandeth as we speak. Right now I've been doing more slide shows in terms of projection for performance in the art world. Opera, theatre, dance. Right now I'm working on a full- length avant garde opera By David Ahlstrom the San Fransisco composer based on the writings of e.e. cummings. And for the first time now, instead of doing it all photographically, I'm doing it mostly on the Mac. And here's one thing I've found, to get this kind of vivid neon look, of letters or pictures, you bring it in there and then just select Invert. Then put a colored gel in front of your camera lens of whatever color your want those lines to be. You have no idea what I went through to achieve that same effect photographically. You have to take into account the blue cast of the Mac's tube. Some of the most exciting new technical developments for using the Mac in our industry are the audio digitizers that are now available. Just as video digitizers like MacVision and Thunderscan can transfer external images into MacPaint, you can now do the same thing with sound. You can digitize a sound in a manner similar to the high-end machines like the Kurzweil or Mirage (they cost tens of thousands of dollars.) The Kette Group, The MacNifty people, offer a low-priced digitizer called the Sound Cap. It includes some clever "goodies" including an eerie one called TypeWriter. It mimics the sound of an old Smith Corona manual as you type on your Mac. Now you can have a sound effect or a voice or music in short files, limited only by memory. There's a new utility now in development called Sound to Video which allows you to put these sounds into VideoWorks. It's adds sound effects, or your own voice. I mean, Macintalk is nice but it speaks in "droid." Magnum is about to release Slide Show Magician 1.3 which is really excellent. Not only does it have sequencing but also cinematic wipes, which in multi-imaging you'd need at least a six projector show to do that convincingly. With THEIR sound digitizer called Natural Sound, you can then hook these sounds into Slide Show Magician. VideoWorks can do a splendid slide show also. In fact, with Slide Show Magician and the sound program, you can have it actuate a tape deck, audio or VCR, OR, you can have the tape deck trigger the Mac. It's also coming with a couple of disks of digitized sound effects. I think of it as Clip Art for the ears. I'm sure we'll be seeing developers coming out with "albums" of sounds from nature, space sounds, etc. Some sound files are already available on CompuServe. What's more Slide Show Magician incorporates Macintalk. More and more Mac programs are coming out with digitized speech and sounds. A few other things that our here... Graphics Magician by Penguin Polarity Software, no better or worse than Ann Arbor's animation program. The main thing is that it has full programmability. If you know Basic or C or Pascal, it gives you the program hooks to put animation sequences in your program. Another animation program coming out is MacMovies by BechTech which is full screen 30 frame per second animation to be released in about 2 months, to be used with the Chromatron Color System. Also Easy 3-D really IS easy, I've used it. You really can create shaded solid models within reason. Also coming up is ComicsWorks by Mike Saenz who did SHATTER. Let me tell you, that is going to be one of the hottest things and here's why. You strip away the bug-eyed monsters and rocket ships that Mike has so carefully drawn there and it's one of the best programs for quickly mixing graphics and text that I've ever seen. It allows word processing in captions and balloons. It's ideal for storyboards. This industry is really so funny. Here we have this marvellous program. Now if he called it "Business Comic Works" then it would be respectable (LAUGHTER.) It's due out mid-April by Mindscape. There are a lot of real sleepers out there that maybe we can use in our work. One of them is Fontastic, by Aldus, a wonderful font editor. If you do nothing else from Fontastic but switch things around from fonts, you can customize a font with a lighting grid or camera position markers, you can actually "type" into MacPaint diagrams of dials, lighting grids, etc. It's wonderful for training purposes. Arthur? GREENWALD: Thanks, Tony. In a moment, we'll hear from some of the developers of specialty hardware or software for our industry, but first a word about finding software that will let us process text in columns. It's true that it doesn't exist. I've even resorted to using MacDraw which at least lets you put the text for a short script in columns, but with no word processing ability. But the people from Microsoft, who produce Word, are sympathetic to the problem and have said that if enough people write, they will very seriously consider implementing that in a future version. In fact at one time it was planned as a Word feature. The person you can write to, if you'll please join my letter writing campaign, is Mary Batterson, Public Relations Supervisor, MICROSOFT, 10700 Northup Way, Box 97200, Bellevue, WA 98009. I mentioned before that you could write to me, and send me a blank disk, and I'll duplicate onto it the various software templates we're collecting for film and TV producers. Send the disk to Arthur Greenwald, KDKA-TV, One Gate Gateway Center, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. So if the developers would now raise your hands, we'll invite you up one at a time. MAN: I'm from Stanford University and we've developed a blocking simulation for the theatre students. We hadn't really thought about it in terms of film when we started, but some people have expressed interest in using it. We've developed an interface which the students can learn in 15 minutes and block a scene in about 2 to 3 hours. You can have the characters turn--their heads turn independant of the body-- you can have them standing up sitting down, lying or kneeling. We picked these as major body positions that represent life. REVEAUX: I think you're being much too modest about this. GREENWALD: I agree. HART: This is my favorite program of the entire show here. Some of you have seen it. It's in the University Consortium corner. This is what impressed me about it. If you're blocking out a scene, you've got a library --- is it a library yet or is it a MacPaint document? MAN: It's a library (of backgrounds) but any MacPaint document is a stage. HART: Shakespeare said that (LAUGHTER).You've three elements, you've got characters, you've got movements on the stage, and the stage. The amazing thing is you've got a stage you can make in MacPaint then a menu of characters. Maidens, uh... AUDIENCE: Swains! HART: Thank you! Swains, swainettes. If you want to populate your stage with characters you click on them. And you not only click on them as designated players, but you can click on a subcategory of "Extras" then from that menu you can choose potted plants and balconies and things. (LAUGHTER) I'm serious, and you can plan out the entire scene. GREENWALD: In short, if you haven't seen it, you owe it to yourself. It's called The Theatre Game. STEVE GREENFIELD: I'm Steve Greenfield from Screenplay Systems. We've developed something called Scriptor. We've just released the Macintosh version with a full Mac interface. And it's actually a little bit more powerful than the our IBM version. We're also the developers of a program called Movie Magic which is a budgeting, schedule and breakdown program for the IBM PC. We hope that it will be available by late Spring. Scriptor is for writing features, TV movies, and one hour dramatic shows, and shortly, theatre. We don't deal with left side, right side, but I can tell you the people from Microsoft are more than just listening, give them a chance and they'll probably come up with something you'll like. STEVE BECK: (of Beck Tech) I'm the guy who made page 73 of Macworld this month where they're showing our color Macintosh. I know in a room like this I can address video and television professionals who can appreciate not only are we getting color from the Macintosh, but we're converting to an NTSC broadcast standard signal. It's fully interlaid, fully equalized, all the widgets that let you take the signal from your Mac and mix it in with your production. So some of these products you've been describing effect what goes on BEHIND the screen but with our Chromatron, everything you see on the Mac is converted in real time to video. We also have a genlock overlay module coming out so you'll be able to genlock the Mac onto a videotape playback and then overlay Macintosh (key) graphics. The other product we have is our MacMovies software animation package and it's a little different from a program like VideoWorks because this program does in fact let you playback full screens of Macintosh displays at rates of up to 30 frames per second. We have a demonstration of Olivia Newton John singing on the Mac. At Siggraph people walked up and said, "Oh I didn't know the Macintosh had gray scale" or "What'd you do, put a little television set inside there?" No, what we've done is develop a tool kit for working with images on the Mac that is sort of like the Basic language. We have a picture interpreter so you can build a little movie with MacPaint or MacVision documents and see it run as you build it with the interpreter. Then when you get the movie the way you want it, you compile it with the Movie Compiler. Then you can put it on a release disc with a program called the Projector. Now all of this relies on a compression technique where we can squeeze as much as four megabytes of pictures down to five to seven hundred kilobytes and play them back. So with our 1 mg in the new Mac Plus or with our 2.5 Mg upgrade it's possible to put a full 30 second length movie in the Mac and play it back at full speed with color. So you're talking about roughly a 5 to 6000 dollar desktop color video animation tool based on the Mac and we think that's very important. GREENWALD: Those of us who've had to worry how to find the budget money for a $125,000 color graphics machine can appreciate the fact that something even EXISTS in the 5 to $7,000 range. It's nice to hear. JOHN WEYGANDT: I'm John Weygandt, college professor of theatre design at Pomona College in Clairmont, California. I'm using Business Filevision in my lighting design work. I find it amazing that Business Filevision thinks EXACTLY the way a lighting deisgner works. It makes a ground plan view of all the lighting instrument symbols, and then underneath that view, stores pertinent data. You can then pull out that data to make all sorts of lists about it: gel cutting schedule, dimmer hookup, instrument schedule, all that kind of stuff. That's exactly how Business Filevision works and I've developed a template that uses symbols. I've created a font called "Blocks" that has 125 different lights so that the light can be a front light, backlight, sidelight from either side. And just paste it right into the document, then format your gels, dimmers, all that stuff. For example, probably the most amazing one is my gel cutting schedule. When it's time to cut gels, it'll start with the lowest number, say, a Roscoe Lux 04. And it'll tell me the location: "Electric Number 1" and then say "Instrument Type: 6" Ellipsoidal" 5 cuts, then a 6 by 12 ellipsoidal, 6 by 16, etc. And it'll total all those cuts at THAT LOCATION. Then it'll go on to the next location, say, "Electric Number 2" and then it'll go on to Roscoe Lux 05. So it's a great tool. JODY BARAM: I've created the Video Production Planner System. I've taken several different modules, a staff and equipment module to track your people and equipment. You can track them on a map or however you'd like to. I've also got a production module where you create electronic storyboards. And I just want to say that I can (inaudible) in columns. I also have a Scheduler, a Studio Production Board, and also a live studio work scheduler including a calendar to keep track of all the activities and your coworkers. And I also have an edit lister which will keep track of shots to be edited and you can use that along with your storyboarding module to keep track of specific shots. GREENWALD: Indcidentally, one product that's useful but certainly not as elaborate as Jody's template is Daykeeper by Dreams of the Phoenix. It's a simple appointment calendar that can be easily modified to track your production schedule. It allows you to assign priorities. If you need a simple deadline list tied to a calendar, I've found that to be easy to update. MICHAEL EDWARDS: I'm Michael Edwards and I've just released a line animation system called DYNAMO. Most of you are familiar with VideoWorks where you build a picture by MacPaint and build a number of these pictures and display them rapidly. This is how television works. Another way of doing it is to allow the entry of a structured piece of information with that picture and another structured picture, and then perform a mathematical interpolation to aid in the smooth transformation from one picture to the next. In real time so you get smooth motion. This reduces a lot of the work required because you only have to enter the initial data and not the later changes. By incorporating a structure inside the program, you basically build structures representing the body. So you want to move the upper torso for example, you move the chest and the whole upper body moves with it because it's all tied together mathematically. The product is a simple line drawing system that allows you to enter thousands of frames depending on the size of the memory and allows enter line drawings. It's a shareware product, and it's getting up slowly on the various bulletin boards. You can also buy a registered version. MAN: I'm representing a friend from ABC Software. What he's come up with is a disk for MacPaint documents. 27 production forms basically just to provide well-designed breakdown sheets, casting information, commercial call sheets, daily production reports, deal memos, group releases, independant contractor invoices, petty cash, storyboards, minor releases, and much more. It's called Mac Movie Forms and all of them can be modified in MacPaint. DANIEL SABSAY: My name is Daniel Sabsay and I'm a software engineer. I'm about to release a program called MacPrompter, which allows you to use the Mac itself or an external monitor as a teleprompter. We'll be increasing the product eventually so it can network and the display can be controlled, and the text edited, from another Macintosh. Right now it will only handle ASCII files. However, you have the ability to drop right into the middle of the document somewhere with the selection menus provided. So if you're speaking in an interactive way, and you're asked a question, you can jump to a portion of the prepared text that answers the question. There are several other features. You can adjust the scrolling speed as you read, and even record minute speed changes as you rehearse. MacPrompter will play back the text with all the same speed changes. You can go back through and modify any section of the script as you go. I'd also like to mention a product by a company called Comtrex has a camera for $480.00. It's a very high resolution monchrome video camera. And it can look at any part of a Mac screen and it synchs automatically to the Mac's frame rate so you don't get a roll. And you point the camera at the Mac and it gives an NTSC video output with beautiful quality. It cleans up the signal. A marvelous little gadget. GREENWALD: (Repeats address for free disk) Please put your name and address on your disk label as well as your envelope. We're going to set up some Macs now to demonstrate some of the products you've just heard about. This ends the formal part of our presentation. I'd like to thank my fellow panelists for sharing their expertise. Thanks also to the developers who took time to be with us today. And of course, thanks to all of you.