Speaker 0 00:00:03 <inaudible>
Speaker 1 00:00:08 Hey friends, this is the workflow show media production, technology stories, discussions about development, deployment, and maintenance of secure media asset management solutions. And of course, one of the tools in your workflow therapy toolbox I'm Jason Whetstone, senior workflow engineer and developer at Chesapeake systems. And I'm Ben Kilburg senior solutions architect. It just speaks systems today on the show, we'll be discussing the news. How does it all get done? What are some of the top workflow priorities and news organizations? What are some of the most important tools that news organizations use and their workflow and what work should would be complete post 2020 without asking how the pandemic has changed, how everything is done. We've invited CBS news, director of technology, Robert Lawson, to talk about these challenges on the show with us today. Robert has over 20 years of experience as a film and television post-production professional, including daily news, television broadcast, independent long form documentary production, and high-end digital finishing for all television networks.
Speaker 1 00:01:12 So thank you for joining us today. Robert Lawson. Thank you for having me. Yeah, absolutely. So let's start off our talk today and just, let's talk a little bit about you. So tell us, tell us about your background. Like how did you get into the field and what's your journey to where you are now at CBS news? Um, well, I've been working in production for quite a long time. Actually. I went to film school in New York, have been looking enough to mostly be involved in production in one way or another. The entire time I used to work in independent production in the nineties, worked for small production companies, long form documentary style, but both were film and broadcast television, mostly industrial and educational sort of things. Gotcha. After that, uh, I moved to post house in that high-end, uh, analog video post house, uh, back in the SD days.
Speaker 1 00:02:09 Okay. So some linear stuff there. Oh yeah. I started, um, funny, my, my first job at the small production company out of college was transcribing interviews. Wow. With a foot pedal and a tape recorder and a WordPerfect for dos going to ask, wow, that's, that's really something. So you must be a fast typer then, you know what, I'm not the only advantage that I had was that I could spell, and this was, these were medical interviews with doctors and things like that. So, uh, I became very good at spelling all the words. Right. Gotcha. So it sounds like you sort of had a proficiency throughout your career towards the more technical sort of parts of the production process. Is that a fair assumption? It is. And the nice thing about going to film school at the time was you don't have to, of course, plenty of people have come up in the industry just by doing and working. It was a great environment to be hands-on and kind of try everything. So I did a little bit of film editing. I did, you know, onsite crew stuff, you know, worked as a PA, got to try a lot of things in, in a very low pressure environment. Like your project might not have turned out so well for your class, but you didn't get fired.
Speaker 1 00:03:25 So it was a really good opportunity to figure out what I wanted to do or what I was interested in towards the end of school. I w I worked as a technical assistant in the department, so I was sort of helping people with their tape to tape analog, video editing, and made friends with the engineers and made friends with the technicians there and kind of gravitated into that kind of field. I never made the great independent movie or anything like that, which is maybe the plan to start with, but I moved away from anything like that. I, I found, I liked working with teams of people rather than myself. I gravitated towards video because there was more stuff to play with. The technical side of the, of the process was more interesting to me. I did dabble in as a freelance editor for a little bit, but I found I couldn't sort of do that and also be like the post supervisor or the technical person helping the other editors in, in the team.
Speaker 1 00:04:21 So you kind of had to pick and choose, or I did anyway. I said, okay, if I can't really do both well, so I'll do the one thing and not the other, was that a matter of focus or more a matter of time, a little bit of both. Um, I also found that my interest in editing was very dependent on who I was working with. I'm not sure that I had the temperament necessarily to work with everybody. And we all know it's, I mean, it's, it's a more social career than, than one would think, right? You're not just sitting in a dark room, right. You do have to work with a producer and director and things like that. Right. Which I, I did enjoy, but it was very much personality based and I don't freelancing. You maybe don't have that choice. You've got to take all the work that comes your way.
Speaker 2 00:05:08 I think we both had a similar epiphany at one point that, uh, being a Jack of all trades master of none is a little bit more of a painful life, as well as a life. Working with the tech specifically might be a little bit more lucrative and steady than the artistic side of things.
Speaker 1 00:05:25 More interesting to me. And I did enjoy sort of the macro view of it. The thing that I remember is, I mean, some of the documentary long form style things that I did were, you know, shooting ratio of, I think we ended up with like 75 to one with analog video tape, and this was a three quarter inch in beta SP delivering it all though, you know, year and a half edit schedule and delivering everything into a linear conform and audio sweetening and the whole thing. Um, and don't lose that tape, right.
Speaker 3 00:05:58 You need to have a bachelor's degree in library science. This is at that point to manage all of this.
Speaker 1 00:06:04 Well, I didn't have that either, but you sort of figure out a good workflow in terms of things like that. And that's also sort of where I became involved in sort of dealing and interacting with linear conform houses and post-production houses and things like that.
Speaker 3 00:06:20 Yeah. Does that conform is that it's a pretty technical process, right.
Speaker 1 00:06:24 You know, and, uh, it was a linear conform session was, you know, couple of hundred dollars an hour. And I did that about the time when I started at the post house because they had these million dollar plus edit suites, you know, linear conform, edit suites, and, uh, a very nice audio department with quiet rooms, sand in the ceiling to deaden the sound and a fantastic year and really professional people. And then a couple of non-linear edit systems over in the corner. It's like, okay, well, you can be in charge of those. And well know, that's really not most of our day. So you can also be in charge of the phones
Speaker 3 00:07:04 And things like that. So w what did these linear suites look like? I personally have never seen one. So
Speaker 1 00:07:10 It's, uh, then at the time, right, the, the aesthetic of the room was basically the, uh, the bridge and the death star. Everything was very dark. You know, there was a whole crew of people and online editor, no, this was back the distinction between online and offline editing, right? So these are the online editors and you brought them, all the things, all the tapes, all the elements, and hopefully an edit decision list on a desk. Right. Gotcha. The post house I worked at was, uh, pretty much top to bottom Sony equipment, uh, Sony switcher, Sony edit controller, digital beta cam, and then the effects, which were usually a whole other piece of gear. Right? Sure. The post house, I have had a graphics department as well. So there was another floor where the flame artist was and the Inferno system and, and all of that stuff, but really the, what people were, you know, the clients were coming in to pay for was the expertise of those people.
Speaker 3 00:08:04 Absolutely. I actually heard just to what you just said, I heard from a fellow voice talent many years ago in response to a producer who said, Oh, we just paid this guy $400 to come in and read something for 15 minutes. And the voice said, no, you paid for the 10 years or 15 years of experience that I had before I came here today. Right.
Speaker 1 00:08:27 I, um, you know, I'll, I'll name drop a little bit, right? The documentary specials I worked on, one of them was for HIV and AIDS education. And it was a broadcast special on ABC because the producer owner of the company had been a producer at, uh, 20, 20 prior to that. So the voiceover was, uh, you know, the, the host of the special was Barbara Walters. Nice. And, uh, her time was extremely valuable, but it was a little bit of a revelation because, you know, we booked the session, she walked in, read all the stuff, did all the stand-ups and things like that. Um, pretty much spot on, you know, the timing was dead on, you know, there were very few retakes and then she walked out and it was done and it was good. I think you have to see that to appreciate that. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:09:13 It's not an easy job. Nope. It's not. And I mean, I, you know, I, from my experience in working in the production field, I would say whatever part of the industry, you're in one of the most valuable times as that is that case capturing the performance, whether you're in, you know, doing voiceover or you're doing a shoot, you're doing documentary films, realities, whatever it is, it seems like the performance is really, that's where a lot of your money goes because you're not gonna get it back. You know, you're never gonna recreate that performance. And usually a lot of your resources are active during that time, cruise your PAs, your producers, your directors are all part of that process, helping to make those decisions. I find that's the other thing that people maybe don't see is like the, the massive number of people who are behind the scenes supporting all that, that online editor who's being paid top dollar has two assistants and an engineer, VTR technician, somewhere in the background who on jams the tape to kind of make things go smoothly so that the hourly rate you're paying, you know, isn't wasted.
Speaker 1 00:10:16 Sure. Yeah, exactly. And then nonlinear kind of threw all that on its ear. Yeah. Right. Yeah. Totally different ballgame. Right. It's almost like the difference between broadcast and IP. You're dealing with completely different schools of thought really, very much so. And I, you know, I've done this for long enough that I think I've survived a couple of those transitions. Right. You know, I did the transition from analog to digital, from SD to HD, from linear to nonlinear and now to the cloud. And now to the cloud, the, the, the thing that I rant about a lot where I work in previously, I, I always think back to when someone brings you the box of tapes from the field and they're all labeled tape one, what do you do? How do you find the thing? I remember a story from years ago, this was a small, independent producer who came to us to do some sort of project. And they had bought a couple boxes of beta SP tape, right. With no labels on them, you know, had some detailed logs and things like that. But wouldn't let us write on any of the tapes, turns out the reason was that they were going to rewind all the tapes and return them to wherever they bought them from BNH photo or something like that and get the money back.
Speaker 1 00:11:38 So this was a very independent production point, understood that the metaphor of the box of tapes coming in from the field still applies how it's shared non-linear world in a digital world. And it's almost worse, right? Because the shooting ratio is so much higher because now you can just shoot forever before you had to run out. When you had to stop, when you ran out of film in the magazine or those, that box of 10 beta tapes that you bought, right. So there was a budget of, this is our media, our media budget. It's, it's this much tape. That's how much it covers. This is how much we got for this project, the shoot. And then you're done, you know, you kind of like, as you're going through the tape, you're like saying, okay, we've got this much tape left. What do we have to get yet?
Speaker 1 00:12:23 You know, now it's just like, whatever we need, you know, we're just going to keep recycling these cards and rewriting to them. And somebody at some point is going to have to figure it out. Hopefully we're doing that as we go. But even the camera cards, it's, it's exactly the same as reloading film magazines. Right. This happened when, when we started deploying beta cam cameras or, or XD cam Sony XD cam was the format of choice. And then all of a sudden people started using pro-sumer digital cameras and like, you know, well, I need that SD card back. So copy the file off and give me the card back. Cause they're expensive, right? To me, it's exactly the same as, you know, here's the camera magazine, put the new spool of film in and give it back so that they can keep shooting, but it's quote unquote digital. Right. You know? Um, but the paradigm is sort of the same in the workflow you figure out is got to take the film out of the magazine and put it in the dark bag and don't drop it or, or shine light on it. It's exactly the same as don't lose all those mini micro SD cards. Yeah, exactly.
Speaker 2 00:13:29 Right. Yeah. And pray that somebody checks something them as they move across the pipe onto somebody's laptop, hard drive. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:13:35 Oh, people cut corners. So often with things like that, you just kind of hope that you squeak by, because we've definitely had situations where something has been lost. The one thing I try to do cause I am in the post side of news, production is just drill into everybody, like make that backup and copy it again. It's an ongoing education process, right. Because there's new folks all the time. You don't really learn that lesson until something bad happens. Right. And we do our best to do data recovery and things like that, but sometimes it doesn't work. So there's, there's the belt and suspenders approach that you have to take. Yeah, for sure. I, I, I definitely feel like it's that, it's, it is that situation of it's never happened to me before, you know, I take care of my stuff and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Speaker 1 00:14:20 And it happened to this person over here maybe because they weren't being quite as careful. I think it's happened to all of us, you know, and the producers don't, you know, I'll say that they're worried about other things. Right? Sure. And you know, they want to shoot the story, interview the person and move on to the next thing. So hopefully again, you know, that we're here to support them and we're here to make sure that there is a safety net for them. They're, they're not mindful of the, you know, they don't know what all horrible things could go wrong.
Speaker 2 00:14:49 Absolutely. Right. Otherwise they'd never sleep at night.
Speaker 1 00:14:55 So let's, let's shift a little bit and talk about what makes a, an environment like Viacom, CBS news, what makes that environment different than say film production or television episodic, television production or something like that. Um, what are some of the considerations that make that a little bit different and how did you make the, uh, the transition and wind up at CBS news? Just the post house I worked at was unfortunately going the way of all things right. In the, in the late nineties, early two thousands, the cost just, you know, when you can do the thing on your laptop now that you used to be able to only do in a million dollar edit room, uh, it becomes very difficult to support that kind of workflow or that kind of facility. They still exist. But my impression, because I'm out of that world, my impression is, again, that it's very much centered on the creative artist.
Speaker 1 00:15:49 Sure. You don't go to a boutique place like that, except that you're, you want to work with that person, whether they're working on a, on Autodesk Inferno system or on their laptop in Adobe, after effects, maybe you don't care about that or you shouldn't care. Right. Um, so it's less about the tool and, you know, well, they've got the new tool, not the old tool, it's more about the person, but what happened was at the post house, one of the focuses of that post house was sports production. And all of the broadcasters were clients as, as that work was declining and specifically CBS sports was, uh, pulling a lot of their work in house. And at the same time, there was a huge transition in, at CBS news to move to a centralized digital nonlinear workflow. Gotcha. And, uh, I was sort of chipped off that there was an opportunity there.
Speaker 1 00:16:44 So I, I pursued that and found myself pretty much the, the same week that the, the main news production broadcast center was, was, uh, installing their centralized shared storage, which at the time was an early version of the avid ISIS, 7,000 storage. Got it. Um, so I showed up there the same week that it was being installed into the racks. There were all these edit bays with a raid chassis of storage and a linear tape deck. And, uh, they were still outputting the finished edited stories onto videotape putting a barcode on it, running it down the hall into the automated playback system that would, you know, at such and such a time during the live broadcast, play this barcode tape, you know, starting at this time code number. Right. And then, you know, and then switch back to the anchor, switch back to the satellite feed. So on and so forth. So was that, was that shared storage implementation there, uh, part retiring
Speaker 3 00:17:50 That system? Or was it more just to reach them more just to sort of unify the non-line?
Speaker 1 00:17:54 It was, I mean, it was a transition, right. So instead of everybody working on, you know, their own storage and their edit Bay, we would centralize all that. But the other part of the transition was moving from videotape based production output and, you know, ingest to Sony XD cam digital file based formats. Right. Okay. So we were, we were changing a lot of things in midstream, you know, and keeping the broadcast on the air every day. Right.
Speaker 3 00:18:21 Yeah. So that, that's a big, you just mentioned right there. That's a big thing to mention is that never really stops because, because you're doing an upgrade or you're tearing out this technology and replacing it with this one, it's got to keep going.
Speaker 1 00:18:32 Right. It does. The only other thing that I think worth mentioning is when I started there, it was all familiar tools, right. There was, it was an avid editor and it was, uh, you know, avid storage B prior to ISO 7,000 was unity media net. Right. Which I had familiarity with right at the post house, you know, and they even had a basic asset management, which was called, you know, avid media manager at the time. If you remember that one, you know, so here I land in a new daily news broadcast environment, we're using all the same tools in a completely different way. I'll remember distinctly one of the editors at the time said to me, you know, I need to find X, Y or Z, like on the tape. Right. I said, well, what's the time code? And he said, Oh, I don't use time code.
Speaker 1 00:19:18 And my, my brain kind of short-circuited for a moment, how can you not, you know, it's, it's all built around time code. And what he meant is that everything is time of day and he just hits roll record and then winds back. And he doesn't really ever think about logging notes or something, you know, that, that was recorded the day before or anything like that. We just read that voiceover and it was 10 minutes ago. So we winded. Right. So from that standpoint, yeah, he never even thinks about the timecode on the tape, but it was a little bit of a culture shock maybe, or just a readjustment, like where we're using all the same tools in a completely different way. They, they were not in the habit of saving their projects at the end of the night. They just assumed it would be there the next day.
Speaker 1 00:20:04 And they were moved on to the next thing. Gotcha. Gotcha. You know, yesterday's story is, is gone. And I came from a world where, you know, you better make a backup on, uh, a floppy disc or a zip drive or, or something because when your hard drive dies, you know, your system drive dies, you have your project file and all your tapes. So you can just, we digitize everything and, you know, you've lost a bunch of time, but you haven't lost your work. Right. And, uh, they just didn't think about that. Like, you know, they made their final story output, handed it off to the, the playback automation system and moved on to the next thing.
Speaker 3 00:20:42 Sounds like a great job for somebody with ADHD.
Speaker 1 00:20:47 I only say that
Speaker 3 00:20:48 Because that's, yeah. That's something that I think I struggled with on a regular basis. It's that it's that, Oh, you know, the next day is like nothing, nothing that happened yesterday. Can I remember, so we just, we just start over again with whatever it is we need to work on and yeah.
Speaker 1 00:21:03 You know, and it's a team effort. I mean, that's the other thing is there's so many people involved with supporting all that. Yeah, sure. And, uh, and that was the other part that took a lot of education on my part. Like I had to learn about this whole new part of the workflow that is just simply very different than, you know, long form documentary or something like that. Sure. So once I got to CBS news, you know, the transition, the, the changes never stopped. Right? So we, we implemented shared storage and then we implemented the asset management. Then we implemented digital archives and digital ingest through. And a lot of it was a, it was really an end to end avid solution. So gotcha. We we've for a long time, I've had, you know, pretty much one of almost everything that avid, uh, offer
Speaker 3 00:21:51 That was a solution. And I'm sure they appreciate that. So, yeah. Yeah. For sure. Let me ask you about the media asset management. You mentioned a minute ago, um, was that implementing, uh, ma'am into, into a work group can be a pretty daunting task because it, it tends to introduce some, you know, potential workflow changes, how we get from our ingest to our archive, you know, through our, our work in progress and our delivery and all that, it can tend to change that a little bit. Did you have some resistance internally from, from users with that from, from editors? What was that process like?
Speaker 1 00:22:26 It took a while to kind of get everybody used to changing their work habits, asset management, or not like you have a whole bunch of people who are used to working on their own the way they want to work. Yeah. Once you start collaborating at that level and, you know, avid provided the tools to be able to do that, you kind of have to put everybody in a room together and say, okay, look like you're all working together. So that thing that you ingested two weeks ago and named it badly, you know, clip one, clip two, clip three. Right. I know where it is. I don't, you know, I don't need to name it anything else, but that can mess somebody else up. Right. Somebody else has to find that and vice versa, right. You know, next week it's going to be you, that needs to find the thing that some other people did or a freelancer who hasn't worked there in six months, right.
Speaker 1 00:23:17 That education and re-education and review and re reminding everybody, it almost never stops. You know, when a large news organization, there's, there's so much churn of people, the education is ongoing. And what we try to avoid is, you know, well, who told you to do that? I learned from this other person who learns from that other person over there, you know, and well, we've never seen you before and getting a handle on, on just resetting everybody. So like, okay, no, this is our procedure and this is our naming convention. And if we all kind of agree on it, it almost doesn't matter what it is as long as you have a system in place.
Speaker 3 00:23:54 Yep. And getting that system out, I find is challenging for some organizations because of that, especially in organizations that transition from, um, you know, like a smaller size and then start growing very quickly and bringing people on maybe bringing in freelancers, you mentioned freelancers. And I know in my previous role, educating freelancers was a challenge. Just, just because for the staffers, it's a day in day out process. Like we know what to do. We we've had endless meetings about it. And if it's not written down and documented with easy to follow instructions, you, you bring any freelancer under that situation and they're going to do what they always do. They're going to work on their own and get the job done and do a really good job. But you may be encountering some of those issues. You mentioned like naming conventions and where did he park
Speaker 1 00:24:36 The car? It's, it's funny because I I've seen both things. I've seen that, but then I've also seen freelancers who are used to working anywhere. There are folks who work at all the networks and bounce around and, you know, they're the ones you call, if you need somebody on Saturday night because of the other person called in sick or, or they just needed another editor. And some of those folks can adapt to anything. And if they've done that long enough, they asked the questions, walking in the door. It's like, okay, how do you want to do this? And who should I give it to? And things like that.
Speaker 3 00:25:10 Yeah, exactly. Because you person who hired me is going to go away and I might not be able to find you. So give me all the info
Speaker 1 00:25:16 I'm booked to work at 2:00 AM. And there's nobody to call, you know, there there's sort of desktop support for the editors, which is very different than help desk for the people who can't figure out their email or the printer. Right. Yes. Sure. Even though it's all, if everything is a computer now, right. But then we also find that, you know, especially as, as archive has become more integrated there, there used to be silos and those silos are going away. The thing that you, you used to just make a tape and put a barcode on it and send it to the archive department and never think about it again. But now you need that tape back, you know, six months later, or, and maybe it's not a tape anymore. It's a digital file where you used to have to pick up the phone and call an archivist and say, um, I need footage of the moon landing, right? That's the classic example. Now you can just log into an archive portal type in moon landing. Yep. Get everything that, that comes up in a search, select all in restorative production.
Speaker 3 00:26:18 Right. And not only that, hopefully you can use things like Laura's proxies to make the decisions about what you need to restore. Right. There's that sort of age old. I need this project back because I need to use this one, clip, this one piece of footage from this project, you just restore the whole thing and I'll figure it out later.
Speaker 1 00:26:35 I have a co I'm going to steal a colleague's metaphor, which is, um, you know, I'd like to have a salad for lunch today, call up California and have them send me all the lettuce and I'll pick out the lettuce I want, once it gets here.
Speaker 3 00:26:53 I like Robert. That's great. Uh, that's really great. I've never heard that analogy before
Speaker 1 00:26:58 And I love it. And, uh, please don't please don't mind
Speaker 3 00:27:01 If you hear it repeats. I'll definitely credit
Speaker 1 00:27:05 The one who thought of it. That's a good one. Yeah. I'm going to say for our listeners, that is a great analogy. Uh, that is a great analogy. When we're working with archive systems that, you know, sometimes we don't have the tools to be able to make those decisions up front, but hopefully we do,
Speaker 3 00:27:21 But he can do partial file restore either. So there, you might have to get a small bale of lettuce instead of the entire state of California,
Speaker 1 00:27:29 In terms of the ongoing transition of the tools. Uh, something I can say about that is that, you know, we, we always have the production asset management, right. And then there is the true ma'am archive, right? So your library of content versus, uh, the systems that help you get your work done today. Exactly. Right. And we never implemented partial file restore in the Pam archive. Okay. Because we knew that we would have it in the bigger archive, like the true digital archive, so it wasn't worth implementing, but then the way things go, like the ma'am archive implementation and transition took longer than expected. There was a lot of times where really the technical limitation was that you were not doing partial file restore unless you did the avid, the consolidation and archive ahead of time. Ah gotcha. So you would take your final sequence, the air master consolidate that so that you weren't archiving, you know, anything more than you needed for that sequence and then only sending that to archive.
Speaker 1 00:28:35 But then the links break. This is like, this is the, uh, process of the, the NLE sort of takes all of the clips in your project, all the pieces that you used. And maybe there's some handles on there. Like, you know, we start like one or two seconds before the clips starts in the timeline and one or two seconds after, and we rerender those and save those files so that when I, as an editor open, this file up 10 years later, all those files are there. Now I can't go back to the original two hour long piece of media that I'm editing with, but I've at least got, you know, my timeline there so I can add things to it or, you know, maybe massage the handles a little bit if I have to. Right. But at the same token, you're not, um, you're not flattening that final cut into a single piece of media that you can't open up and change when, you know, maybe the voiceover has to be recorded, we recorded or the correspondent changed and they need to revisit the story.
Speaker 1 00:29:24 Right. Yeah. And that's maybe the distinction between production, archives and archive archive archive, or, or now damn, which is the, you know, when, when the marketing department wants the stuff from the news broadcast, along with the stills and fonts and the other things for the web app and whatever, whatever else and the script and the transcript and the legal documents, you know, that gets really much, much more complex. And hopefully, well, thankfully I would say, um, I'm mostly upstream of that, right? We just, we provide content into those other systems and we don't always need to retrieve it. Right. And occasionally a sales person or a legal person calls us up and says, you know, we will, we need this, this and this. Yeah. So this is where the production technology and the, the sort of general, general technology in the organization need to meet somehow and work together.
Speaker 1 00:30:18 Exactly. Right. And that's, that's a little bit of a culture clash for sure. It sure is. Or it can be, you know, as, as we find. And I know just, just based on our history at Chesapeake systems, we've, we've worked in many different respects with that, that challenge, I guess I want to call it cause it's, I wouldn't say it's a conflict because more and more, you know, what we finding is that we all really need to work together. It's, it's really everyone's benefit if we work together and stop thinking of these as silos. Yes. Because we're all now having to use the same technology. The expectations in the industry are that, you know, we are doing some data science and things like that, that we haven't had to do in this industry before. So it really is everyone's best interest to work together. And in these, with these solutions, right.
Speaker 1 00:31:03 It's definitely true. Um, the focus is different. Like what the arc of this needs or wants is completely different than what the show producer wants or needs. Um, until that day when they need to, the content needs to swim back upstream. Right. It's like now I really need that thing that I did six months ago. Right. Well, what was it called? I don't know, but I need it now. Right? Yeah. I know. That's, it's that, it's that game of, um, what can you tell me about a thing you need other than, you know, other than it happened, this, can you even tell me what date it happened on? That's a start and to that point, I mean, the, the organization has a huge number of archivists and that's their job, you know, historically you called them up and you said, this is the thing I need. And they would find it for you. Right. And some of those things have changed where now you can do it yourself. You don't have to call a person. So let me ask you this in an environment like you have there, what are some of the really, really critical key pieces of infrastructure that you're working with on a day-to-day basis
Speaker 2 00:32:07 And especially in and around news, right? Because we talk so much about host production, but there's such, such immediacy in that world. So I'm just curious what, from your point of view, Rob, what's the big differences?
Speaker 1 00:32:21 Um, the, the turnaround time is the huge differentiator. I think, because what I see is, you know, there are stories that are edited from beginning to end in 45 minutes before we go on the air. Right. You know, and you know, 6:30 PM, every is, you can't argue with that. Like you're going to be done. It's going to happen. And, uh, their weekly deadlines, you know, their weekly news magazine shows, 60 minutes has a little bit of a different schedule. Um, probably two biggest thing to support that is number one is a workflow where we kind of all agree on a common format, right? Because you can't stop and rerender everything or trans code because something was shot accidentally in, in 10 ADP or, you know, 23.9, whatever, progressive seven, 20:00 PM, something like that. Um, so maybe the biggest thing to support a day of air broadcast, like this is to do all that processing at the beginning.
Speaker 1 00:33:24 So, and, and you don't know what you're getting. So we have a lot of tools in our bag to transcode everything. And Telestream vantage is one, uh, there's other tools, other trans coders, um, Adobe Meehan, media encoder works great for the things you don't quite know what it is, but also a staff to do that work and then do the detective work because you don't always know what it is when they give it to you. Right. The more you can do that ahead of time to homogenize all the content into our broadcast format. Right. Because now there's no sending, you know, barcoding a tape and sending it down the hall, like it's a digital file transfer if you have to stop. And rerender the whole thing, even if it's just a two minute news story, sometimes that time is you don't have that time to do that.
Speaker 1 00:34:10 So yeah. That's, yeah. That's probably the biggest specific thing, you know, under the covers, then you have like all the networking involved in all of the, the infrastructure, um, field acquisition is, is the other big challenge because everything used to be a satellite feed, right? So somebody would feed something in, from a truck. Somebody in the broadcast center would call it up on the router and hit record either on their NLE, like baseband ingest or, or something like that. And that doesn't always happen now. So a lot of things are filed transfer. A lot of things are, are no joke, FTP. We relied on that heavily for a long time. And, you know, we're moving into other sorts of file. Acceleration, you know, corporate it of course is, is, uh, imposing some new rules on that as well. Sure. FTP is not secure right now.
Speaker 1 00:35:01 Now it's not, I was going to say, hopefully it's at least SFTP well for a long time. It wasn't. Um, and you know, we sort of did our own thing and, and the infrastructure, the other thing is that it was always, uh, an Island, right? The broadcast operation was, was disconnected from the internet sure. Disconnected from the outside world. And we, we jumped through some hoops to, you know, you don't want to sneak her in, at a thumb, drive into your system and release, uh, something bad, but a lot of those air gaps serve have gone away because we're, especially now that we're remote working, we have to that environment to the outside world. Of course,
Speaker 2 00:35:40 That's so fascinating to me because living through this age of a pandemic, right. Where everything then is both, we're so aware of how connected we are via technology, but also how connected we are via the bacterium layer as well. It's almost the same thing we're talking about the digital level here. Right. But it's also reflecting on the global level of what we're kind of dealing with. So, um, yeah. Quarantining files as they come in and making sure that we're doing via virus scanning. I mean, we're doing the same thing with each other these days. So
Speaker 1 00:36:19 Yeah. The data
Speaker 2 00:36:21 Pandemic is just coming. It's going to be the next wave of just make myself
Speaker 1 00:36:29 Come, come back to come back to the present. Right. It's not all that bad. 2020 is over. Okay. This is a new year. We have new disasters to welcome and right in 2021. So let's talk a little bit now that we brought the pandemic into the discussion, let's talk a little bit about how things have changed for you and your team, uh, in the last year or so. Um, number one, uh, did you guys see this coming, like how we are working now to like, you know, w we, we talked to, we, we, we talked to some technologists about a year ago and they said, yeah, this cloud stuff is it's a couple of years off. Like, you know, nobody's really too excited about it yet. And then suddenly it was like, bam, everybody wants it now.
Speaker 1 00:37:17 So there's a, you could sort of draw a grid of our entire broadcast operation, right. And put boxes and, you know, the different shows and the ingest, the editing, the storage, the archive, the broadcast. Right. And what started to happen more than a year ago was you could draw a little cloud in any of those boxes. Right. So, well, we're in the cloud now, you know, we started to use Sony C for a review and approval and a little bit of acquisition. And we thought, you know, because again, what we were trying to do at the time a few years ago was stop producers from uploading a, a rough cut to Vimeo or YouTube because the legal people would come after us for them. You know, that's content that's before it's aired and it's, it's gotten out of our control. So, so, you know, you can't really say no to news producer without offering them an alternative.
Speaker 1 00:38:12 You know, it's, it's easy to say, well, no, you can't do that well. Yeah. But I have to do this work. So they're going to work around it. Uh, if you don't provide an alternative, you know, and this was, you know, it's under our control, it's encrypted, it's secure. It gave us what we wanted to do. Right. And it's, cloud-based sure. And then on the, on the far end of the workflow chain, because when we, we, the digital archive, it used to be a warehouse of shelves and videotapes and film and everything else, you'd name it. And if you needed some stuff, like you call the person and they pulled some things off the shelf and brought it to you in a box, right. That turned into a digital archive on the premises, which was an LTO archive library of very large. So then you could search through the archive database and find some stuff and do a restore, but then the notion came down, well, we really need to move that content into something else into the cloud.
Speaker 1 00:39:07 So that's been an ongoing process and that's a lot of material. It doesn't happen overnight. And it doesn't happen once. Cause there's always, the, somebody brings up a question of, well, we'll just wheel in the big, hard drive thing. Right. You'll offload everything and you'll, you'll copy all the stuff on those LTO tapes to that and take it away and we'll copy it into the cloud. That's great. Except we have to do that every day. Yeah. And there's, there's a constant churn of new material coming in. And as material that needs to be offloaded off of the, the tier one ISO 7,000 are now nexus storage to cheaper storage or to the cloud. So we were already moving to the cloud from both ends of the workflow chain. Right. But then there's that middle part that was on premises. Cause that's where our content was in the storage.
Speaker 1 00:40:00 And that's where editors were and where our edit workstations were. There. Wasn't really a notion of working remotely so much. I think we got a little bit of a hint that that was starting to happen or, you know, early and 2020, I think we could have used, I mean, Manhattan was one of the places that got hit sharply. So there was a time in March when they called everybody together and just said, you know, in the broadcast center, which is on the West 57th street in Manhattan then said, uh, everybody go home. Don't come back. You're working remotely now. Yeah. I think we could have used another week or two, a little prep to really get things. So we scrambled and we got it done and we never missed an air date. That's pretty amazing. It was rough to begin with. And, uh, the support people are all remote.
Speaker 1 00:40:52 Uh, for awhile, there was almost no one in the broadcast center. Uh, that's changed now. There's a skeleton crew. That's still goes on site. Uh, there were very strict rules about access to the broadcast center where we work. Uh, who's there. How many people are there at any given time, very strict regulations on, on testing before you get in the building. And the basic directive is if you don't need to go in, don't go in and work remotely. Yeah. Heavily made use of zoom and Slack and things like that for a remote support. Cause I have to support an editor who's remote somewhere else. And then the various remote access tools, we kind of do a mix of people who are working home with edit systems in their house, people who are working from home remotely into the broadcast center. So, uh, HP RGS is really the tool of choice there and we are experimenting and, and you know, there, there is some proof of concepts and things, and we've been doing some work with avid edit on demand cloud-based solution. Okay. That's
Speaker 2 00:41:55 Not cheap though, right. To spin all of that up,
Speaker 1 00:41:58 I'd say it's hard to compare apples to oranges, you know, on the face of it. No, it's not cheap, but at the same time, it's, you know, you spin it down when you're done with it. I was thinking back to my independent production days, you know, we, we, you buy four or five edit systems back when they were really expensive. And then when the production was over, what do you do with them? Right. I rented them out to other independent producers who needed, you know, needed an edit system for a couple months. Yep. So those days are over. Everybody can edit on their laptop now.
Speaker 2 00:42:33 And so the avid on demand system, that's running a media composer inside of virtual desktops in the cloud, as well as a virtualized version of the nexus storage, if I'm remembering correctly,
Speaker 1 00:42:49 That's correct. That gives you the so far, like the basic project sharing and bin locking functionality that, that avid shared storage offers. I have not yet seen the asset management layer on top of that. Although I'm told that it's coming. Yeah. Obviously what we want to see is the entire end to end workflow. Right. Which is a challenge, you know? And then there's the, the tricky part of moving content up and down and how to do that as as few times as possible. Right.
Speaker 2 00:43:23 And where it, where it stays for editorial.
Speaker 1 00:43:25 Yeah. That brings in the question of the buzzword of data gravity. Right? All the content is in the broadcast center, on the storage in there. Right. That's where the, the video feeds are coming in, baseband feeds recorded and dumped into the storage there. Right. So that's where you want to be. And you don't necessarily have the time to move the content you want to the cloud so that you can edit it. Have it had a cloud editing media composer cloud a while back where I think it was very clever, you know, where, where you were sort of in the field streaming the content from that shared storage to your remote workstation. So you were sort of seeing a proxy and editing with it and then sending the full Rez media back to central storage, you know, in the background. And I think that's still, that's still an offering that is available. We never implemented that. Got it.
Speaker 2 00:44:24 Streaming proxies using media composer that would connect to, is that that's where you need the asset management layer to create those proxies. Right. And then VPN back into the central.
Speaker 1 00:44:37 Exactly. Right. And that's, um, avid media central formerly interplay central. Right. And again, the clever thing that's happening there is that if there is no proxy, the server system is generating a proxy and streaming into you on the fly. And that works really well. You do need the asset management because there's a lot of stuff going on in the background to orchestrate that it's not easy to put together. Right.
Speaker 2 00:45:03 Yeah. And the price tag is avid commensurate.
Speaker 1 00:45:06 It's it's for large broadcasters. It's certainly not something a small production would, they'd like to have it, but maybe they don't have the budget for it or, or don't have the staff to support it because this, this thing doesn't run itself. It does require a fair amount of TLC. Sure, sure. As,
Speaker 2 00:45:26 As, as any, as any system does.
Speaker 1 00:45:29 Right. It does. You know, and I think that maybe in years past, and, uh, you know, I've, I've made this presentation to management as well, where you could take our entire workflow now and do a word replace, and let's pretend that we want to rebuild the entire thing only, not without, it's certainly possible now where it might not have been in the past, but it's, it's no simpler than that. Then it becomes a multi multi-vendor engagement and that's a choice that has to be made. I was just going to say, that's the, I would say that's probably the challenge
Speaker 2 00:46:03 There is that you're kind of on your own to build it
Speaker 1 00:46:05 Yourself, uh, with off the shelf parts, I guess it's build or buy. Right. You know, either you, you, the, the, the old, uh, what was the old saying? You know, you'd never, you were never fired for buying IBM, right. Or a, maybe a broadcast. It was Sony, right. You could build an entire Sony music studios. Like, uh, I remember talking to an engineer once upon a time who worked there, who said, when something breaks, you just go into the backend and pull another one off the shelf, you know, until the whole VTR broke, you just unpacked a new one because it was Sony from top to bottom. Sure. Very different environment now. And I think even in a mostly end-to-end avid centric workflow that we have when somebody says, you know, producer has a problem and they say, well, call the avid guys. Right. That includes anything that touches that system. So all of the third-party stuff that accesses that storage or has to communicate with that asset management system, even a complete avid solution has third parties integrated into it. They do, they don't make the LTO library that I use. Right. They don't make the middleware that connects the LTO library to the avid asset management. Right. They don't make the transcoder
Speaker 2 00:47:21 Or the switching or the, or the edit workstations or the servers,
Speaker 1 00:47:25 You know, but they are my first phone call. And I will definitely say an favor. I'm
Speaker 2 00:47:30 A former ACS or myself. So it's definitely a cohesive system. Right. They've got all the spots in place. And if you do need to call and run a code blue and talk to one of the engineers, you can you'll pay for it, but you can, which is fantastic.
Speaker 1 00:47:47 Yes. And I think maybe part of the sales pitch for the avid on demand solution is that you are, the support is rolled up. And even with the subscriptions now, right. Ben productions incorporated working in your room, there, your subscription includes the support. Yeah. And when you're done, you stop paying or whatever, and then it's all kind of self. Maybe the, the all-in-one solution now is the convenience, right? More so than you buy an avid media composer 4,000, then it comes with the hard drives and the speakers and the keyboard and the computer and the monitors, and you put it all together. That's, that's my back in the day story. There, there was a box that said open me first. Here's how you hope it all up together. You know, even they don't want to support like the server that I bought from HP. Right. Yeah. Right. I'm going to call HP when I have a server problem,
Speaker 2 00:48:45 Bless them. They will write up a technical document to say that these four machines from HP will work doing this at this resolution and
Speaker 1 00:48:56 Go to town with it. And what I've always said about that, as you know, in my day to day work, I practice Orthodox avid. We follow those guidelines because, you know, it's, it's not Rob's news. Right. And, uh, sure. I could build an interplay server out of parts and pieces, but I don't want to be dependent on that at 6:25 PM every night
Speaker 2 00:49:23 For a redundant one, you want to know if you need to order one, because you're redundant one failed, you can do. So
Speaker 1 00:49:28 Definitely lots of that, lots of big value there. So
Speaker 2 00:49:31 The one thing I'm wondering about is this big transition for Viacom, CBS into the cloud. How has that impacted you so far? And what are you excited about? What terrifies you?
Speaker 1 00:49:42 There are so many things changing all at once. I can imagine there was a merger a few years ago, right. So, um, and that's complete now. I worked at CBS news and now it's part of Viacom, CBS on a larger organization. And, uh, a lot of that consolidation and is, is starting to happen. So I'm doing my best to get to know the people who are doing my job in other parts of the organization. Yep. Sure. And we all have the same problems and we all have the same, uh, that kind of knowledge sharing is, is always fun and interesting. Yeah, definitely. And that's, that's the part, the tricky part is, is figuring out who those people are sometimes. Sure. So
Speaker 3 00:50:28 You're, you're doing some workflow therapy in your organization now with your new, uh, with your, with your new colleagues.
Speaker 1 00:50:34 And sometimes you run into people, you already knew. I'm sure there's some folks who work in the, you know, what we have referred to as legacy via. So they were Viacom people before the merger. I knew them from post production rental in New York years before that. So it's always fun to kind of get reacquainted.
Speaker 3 00:50:55 So what are, what are some of the challenges that, or you said so much is changing? What are some things that are, what are some of the things that are really exciting to you?
Speaker 1 00:51:02 The thing that happens now, you know, now that everything is a computer, right. I've been aware of a long time that, you know, there's a lot of new stuff to learn and you kind of have to pick and choose maybe what you want to focus on. I compare it to, you know, way back when I did make a conscious decision to kind of focus on film and video, not so much audio. So that, that was never really my, uh, my focus. And now we're at a point where I went to film school. I don't have a computer science background in particular, except that everything has now a computer. Yes. I never really learned programming coding, but it sure seems like that's something that it would be worthwhile focusing on some of that. Um,
Speaker 3 00:51:47 Sometimes I wonder how people do their jobs without knowing if computer program these days. I mean, so much of what we do. There's just code behind everything, you know, and all of this workflow orchestration that happens with some of these media asset management platforms. If you understand basic programming, they make so much more sense to just even the basics
Speaker 1 00:52:08 For me. I find I really, I need the thing to do right. Years ago, I, you know, I found an old computer and I installed Linux on it. And I said, okay, now what? Right, right. And it didn't really become anything that stuck in my brain until here. Again, some of the avid server product started to become Linux-based sure. And I was like, okay, now this is something I need to, I need to be able to understand for my day-to-day work. That's when it really started to stick in my brain. You know, I feel the same way about, um, a lot of these, this cloud stuff, right? Yeah. I, I don't want to be dismissive about it, but it hasn't really touched me professionally until now. And I have to pick and choose what I focus on my plan for the year is to take some basic AWS courses and things like that.
Speaker 3 00:53:02 What I hear you saying is that you, you trust in members of your team members of your organization to, to really be the experts in what they are doing and form you as a decision maker, as a key decision maker on, on what, where you need to go
Speaker 1 00:53:15 And why it's a large broadcast organizations are, let's say very conservative and they're slow to move, um, for good reason. Right? So in one sense, we, we can, we can see stuff coming a long way away, and it's going to take a long time to make the transition. And it can't be, you know, it's never a Greenfield deployment, right? So, so we're constantly in a state of flux and constantly in a state of change. And we just kind of have to be aware of what's out there. Good example is, is actually the HP RGS technology. I was telling people about it for a while before, you know, it's been around for a little while. I sorta thought it would be fun to take the workstations out of the edit rooms and put them all in the machine room, you know, uh, just to make the room quieter. RGS was great for that. Nobody was really that interested. And then in March of 2020, all of a sudden, they became very interested in that,
Speaker 3 00:54:21 Hey, that thing that you were talking about about the machines being somewhere else and the users being somewhere else, we need that now, like everywhere
Speaker 1 00:54:29 Suddenly became very important. And that was a little unpredictable. I do try to keep a little bit of an ear to the ground in terms of what other people are doing and what, what other companies that are not avid are up to, you know, how they might integrate, because, you know, again, somebody somewhere is going to come up with something that needs to connect to the avid asset management system. Right. And hopefully it works kind of out of the box, but that's never, it's never seamless. Right.
Speaker 3 00:55:01 So is this the kind of, um, where, when you find these solutions that are non avid, are you kind of approaching them and saying, Hey, there's this thing over here. We need you, we need you guys to get on board with it.
Speaker 1 00:55:10 Yes. So much of it as a question of timing, right? Sure. There's a cool thing that we don't really need, or don't see where it fits. And then something changes. And all of a sudden that solution becomes, uh, ideal. I like to think that I have a perspective where I can see the larger picture and, and communicate that to the people who are coding as well as the end users, the editors and the producers who need the thing, what I've found sometimes when you ask for something to be coded custom coding, you get exactly the thing you asked for and nothing more, which is not necessarily what you want it. Right. And you weren't clear in communicating that and maybe the other person doesn't have your perspective. So didn't realize, Oh, gee, you know, if you, you know, if I move this file from file orchestration, right? We put a file here. We have to move it to there. You didn't say that you needed to delete the file from the original location. And you don't learn that until the, that original storage fills up and falls over.
Speaker 1 00:56:22 We don't know anything about, do we Ben? Not at all, but there's a big assumption that was made at some point, I thought you would just know that yeah. You as the coder, maybe you don't know that you didn't, I did what you told me to do. That's right. Yeah. I find that it's a little bit of a dance, uh, between, you know, on the coding side or on the implementation side, communicating what we can do. And on the side of the user, the client, the stakeholder it's, it's, it's really, what can we do? Well, we can do that. What do you want to do? Well, what can we do? Well, what do you want to do? It's this like dance back and forth of, you know, we, every time we ask these questions, we re reveal a little bit more about the capabilities, the needs and how those meetup, it, it comes to the forefront with asset management.
Speaker 1 00:57:12 Absolutely. Right. Because there's always the presentation upfront where someone says, you know, we're going to build one asset management system for everything. Yeah. And if we did that, we would still be building it and we would never be finished. Yep. That's right. The feature creep involved with things like that is a challenge. Well, just to sort of be a little bit specific about what I hear you saying. We have experience with this too, and that, you know, a lot of times that the man is being brought into it is supposed to be the one solution for media, but it's got to interact with all of these other systems we're talking, you know, any kind of systems that manage any kind of data about that media. And let's say you have a metadata field that is a pick list of, I don't know, formats, or maybe it's a pick list of titles or something like that from another system.
Speaker 1 00:58:07 And if this ma'am system doesn't have the ability to say, reach out to that system and build a list on the fly, based on, you know, what that system has, it's tough. I mean, it's, it's then it's this push pull, you know, sort of situation where they constantly have to be talking to each other to see, you know, what the systems have. And that's not always even doable. Yeah. That can be a real challenge with this sort of one system to rule them all approach again, because, uh, specifically asset management is such a long-term engagement. It's just a toolbox and you have to build the one. My man is going to be different than yours. I know you've talked about it on previous podcasts. Every change is a support engagement, or professional services or something like that. Or you learn how to do it yourself. Yeah, exactly.
Speaker 2 00:58:51 Then if you've got a support organization too, you have to have clear communication. There it is because they need to support you. So you need to say, Hey, I changed this. Oh, go good. Thanks for telling us not six months later, Hey, what the heck is this?
Speaker 1 00:59:04 Right? Or at three in the morning, my phone rings. This thing didn't work. Oh yeah. But I needed to, I mean, there's an analog equivalent to that too. You find that somebody ran a patch cord across the machine room to send a video feed from one place to another and cord labeled. Right. And nobody told anybody who did that. Right. Right. But don't unplug it. We don't know what it does and we pray don't trip over it. Right. So again, just because everything is a computer, doesn't, doesn't make that problem go away. Now, usually that makes it worse because it's, it's up to you scape. It's not hiding in plain sight. You're also not limited to the patch Bay. Right? Exactly. Well, Robert Lawson director of technology for CBS news. Thank you so much for joining us today. We really appreciate your time. Earlier in the episode, during our recording with Robert, I thanked him for his time and joke that I couldn't imagine there was anything going on in the world on January 6th, 2021. That would be newsworthy. Now that was before we learned that a mob had stormed the Capitol building just 50 miles away in Washington, DC. I imagine Robert stay got a bit more interesting after we cut them loose. That's our show. We want to thank you for listening. The workflow show is a production of Chesapeake systems and more banana productions with original music created and produced by Ben Kilburg. Please subscribe to the workflow show and shout out to [email protected]
or at workflow show on Twitter. Thanks for listening. I'm Jason
Speaker 0 01:00:41 <inaudible>.