Today on the Edge of Innovation, we are talking with Brian Gravel about Media Technology and working with video.


From the Cutting Room Floor: Working with Video

Paul: So early on we talked about you were in your studio and in your video practice really, you shoot everything in 4k. Are you doing drone shots in 4K as well?

Brian: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Paul: Wow. So let’s just talk about that for some of our more geek listeners. You get 4K video. What do you record in? Is it MP4?

Brian: Yeah, yeah. We usually use MP4 format.

Paul: H.264?

Brian: Yeah. That’s the codec but the MP4 file size is—, usually it’s in the sweet spot of you have that quality but the file size itself is not really massive.

Paul: So you’re shooting at the compressed.

Brian: Yeah.

Paul: You, you don’t have the raw.

Brian: Right. We’re not getting that.

Paul: Yeah, because that’s crazy. It’s a lot of space. I mean, what is it? 2 gigs a second or something like that? It’s ridiculous.

Brian: I saw Canon just came out with a DSLR, the Mark V or VII.

Paul: Yeah…

Brian: I don’t know what version it’s on.

Paul: Yeah, the Mark IV, I think it’s called. Yeah.

Brian: And that’s shooting basically uncompressed 4K, and I think we figured it was like 10 minutes of footage was like 100 gigs of storage.

Paul: Wow.

Brian: Which is crazy.

Paul: I mean, it’s a lot of space. So you’re having it in-camera compressed.

Brian: Yeah. Correct. So we already have like a pretty digestible, usable format coming out of that.

Paul: So you take that and what do you do with it? It’s on an SD card or is it…?

Brian: Yep. It shoots the micro SD card.

Paul: Okay. So you got that. You bring it back to your shop and you plug that into a computer, and you copy those files to it. You’re backing it up, I imagine. You’re putting it online, or what are you doing? Just keeping it local in a sand or something?

Brian: Yeah. We have our own internal processes for storage and backing up. And yeah, for the most part, we’re just getting the footage off the drone, digesting it. A lot of clients are taking it raw, just need footage or pictures to use what they want to use of that. And then other times, we’re editing pieces together for them.

Paul: And what do you guys use for editing?

Brian: We use a range of tools. I’ve gone through the whole Avid, Final Cut, Adobe stack. And for me, it’s less about the tool and more about what people are comfortable on. So as we’ve grown as a company, we’ve evolved with those tools and we’re primarily in the Adobe product line.

Paul: It’s a broad suite where, you know, when you have Photoshop…

Brian: When they switched to Creative Cloud, you’re getting all the tools for a monthly cost, it made sense to use them because they really try to create a synergy between the products at that point. Whereas before, you were buying kind of the products piecemeal, which I think works out better when you have a whole array of tools vs. I have my editing tool for this, my color correction tool for this.

Paul: Right. Exactly. So I’m trying to paint a picture for our people at home. Alright. They go out and buy a drone, so now I’ve got to get Adobe Creative Cloud. Okay. I mean, it’s what? $60 a month. So it’s not terrible. But I’ve got to learn Premiere now, Adobe Premiere to edit.

Brian: Yeah. It’s the same thing. You know, there’s different ways to get around it. You can go buy a $400 drone from BestBuy and have something like iMovie and edit on.

Paul: Okay. So that’s fair.

Brian: Yeah. I mean, you can definitely do things. If you’re a budding professional or starting a business or something along those lines, there’s definitely ways you can get in at a low cost and work your tail off too.

Paul: I want to put this together. I’m just trying to give people a window into the process. We’re, not going to teach them how to do it. So, I edit it. I want to put some text in, things like that. Now, it’s never as easy as it seems. It seems, so you just put the text it. But now what do you guys do for that? Is that after effects or…?

Brian: Yeah. We’re using that Adobe product suite. So yeah, we use a ton of tools out of that. It’s really up to our editors. We have three fantastic editors on staff. So I leave it up to them as far as what they would do. If I was to go in and dust off my video production skills and get back into editing a project, I would be caught in a completely different league than our, our lead editor. So it really depends on the comfort level of what you’re using the tools for.

Paul: Right. So now, you bring up a good point. I mean, editing has two aspects. One is cutting it up but actually deciding where those cuts are for what you want the end user to experience. And so you have different people. How variant is that? You know, if you had three editors, are you going to get three different stories? In different subtle…?

Brian: You definitely could. Yeah. For sure. I look at our team as each person has their own kind of strength, and depending on the project is how we divvy up who’s doing what.

Paul: Sure. So you select the right person for the right task.

Brian: Yeah.

Paul: Yeah. Cool. So if you had one that was more of let’s say a school project. You know, you’re doing a university or something, you’d choose one of your editors over maybe a corporate project.

Brian: It’s even within projects.

Paul: Really?

Brian: Yeah. You lay out the rough cut, and the other person will finish the color correction and the titling and all that stuff. And while one person may be working aftereffects, creating templates for the assets, and the other person may be implementing them.

Paul: Yeah, and as you’re listening to this, don’t let what Brian said go by too quickly. The color correction. That’s probably one of the most under, or unknown, aspects for a normal consumer. You take a picture inside and you take a picture outside and then you come back and take it a different day. The color of the scene changes dramatically in all of those. And somebody has to make those all look good together. And that’s a lot of work.

Brian: It is. It’s very time consuming. We get budgets and projects that range quite dramatically. So, you know, I would say that’s probably one of the first things to go on a on smaller budget project, just because the general nature of time to put together even like a rough cut and eventually a final product is very time consuming. And then when you’re short on how much time you can actually put into the project because of the budget, you have to look at ways like, “Okay. You know, what can we do here to get the project done at what the customer can afford, essentially?”

Paul: Right. Now were you ever involved in film or tape editing?

Brian: Yes.

Paul: So we’ve seen a dramatic reduction in the amount of work it is to do that. So hopefully, you know, as things go on, it will be easier and easier.

Brian: Yeah, it’s definitely happening with tools and things like that. But, you know, there’s just so many…video is a very hard final product to convey to a person who’s never done anything with video or photos before because you’re so used to seeing it in media, TV, online.

Paul: And we’re very sophisticated consumers because we see good production.

Brian: Yeah. A lot of lead-ins are like, okay, we’ll shoot it in 4K video. Well, I can shoot 4K video on my iPhone.

Paul: That’s right. Exactly.

Brian: And you can. But it’s a whole different process once you start putting together a story. And it takes time to do that. And that’s where I think people see these final products, and if they’ve never edited a video before, they don’t understand a lot of times how much time goes into that product. So that’s one of the challenges of my aspect of doing sales and business development is to kind of convey, what a person could do at different levels of budget. It’s like, well I’m comfortable in this budget area. Well here’s some examples of different things you could do with this. So you’re like, let’s get creative with what you want to do and how could we tone it back a little bit so that we get that effect but don’t have hundreds and hundreds of hours into it.

Paul: So let, let me ask you. You sort of touched on something there, that there’s probably multiple aspects but there’s two aspects. There’s the technical —getting the pictures, getting the video, editing it, all that kind of stuff, color grading it. But then there’s the story. And which one do you think is more important? How do they mix? Is it 50/50? Is it 10…?

Brian: Yeah. I don’t know if there’s like a percentage balance. I mean, both are equally important. It’s kind of like you could shoot beautiful video, but if you have crappy sound, it could ruin a project. I think the technical aspect is: if you have people who are good technically capturing video and audio, then editing becomes a lot easier. You can dedicate more time to the story. Versus, if you are spending a lot of time in editing, cleaning up what, what should have, could have, been better onsite when you were doing production.
So the story part is important because you could have the greatest footage in the world. If you don’t have somebody who can tell the storyline and explain… You know, we ran into this with, a lot of profile pieces that we were doing a few years back. And we were shooting hours of footage and trying to reduce it to a five-minute snapshot of a company’s 100-year history and rolling it in a package with two other videos that were doing the same thing. How do you successfully recognize someone’s accolades and tell a company’s story of their innovation and their 100-year history in a 5-minute piece, you know?

Paul: The story becomes critical.

Brian: Yeah. So, you know, it depends on the project. And then we run into that too with customer testimonials. Like grabbing those parts that really encapsulate and excite people versus somebody just getting on camera and saying, “Well, I really like this company because…”

Paul: Right. Right. Right. So, you had also touched on something there. Sound. It seems like people are willing to sacrifice video quality — I mean, they consume YouTube. They do all these different things, and they sort of give it a pass. I mean, obviously, if you can have a high-quality image, it’s great to see that. But people aren’t going to stop watching something just because it’s not a high quality. But if the sound is bad, I’ve seen people won’t even engage. So, what’s with that? I mean, how do you talk about that at all? Is that true? Do you find that?

Brian: Yeah. I’ve found that because of things like the iPhone and us being a very camera-centric world, that getting quality video is not as difficult as getting quality sound and knowing how to get quality sound.

Paul: Yeah, that’s an art. I mean, it seems like, “Well, no, just put a microphone in front of somebody.” But it’s just not that.

Brian: No, it’s not at all. Especially when you go out and shooting on location. The studio is pretty simple if you have decent gear and it’s quiet, you’re going to get good sound. You go out and shoot in the city with traffic going by or even just doing an interview outside and a plane going overhead, you don’t realize… That’s where I think you can see the big difference between, if you watch something on TV versus something someone shot homegrown.

Paul: Well it was interesting. We had a video crew here, I think, in January. They were doing something on the Craigslist killer because one of the companies I was with, we helped catch him with the technology.

Brian: Oh, no kidding.

Paul: Yeah. And but what they did is they brought in two high-end Cannon cameras. They were dual. They had the interviewer-interviewee, and we’re in the middle of it, and they had me wired, a lapel mic, and I think the other person had a lapel mic, and they had a sound for the room, and in the middle of it, he said, “Wait.”
I’m like, what?
The water cooler went on.

Brian: Or the AC or something.

Paul: Yeah. And he said, because he says he didn’t care that it was there, but he didn’t want the change. It’s almost like color grading, you know. It’s like, imagine, if you will, in the middle of a shot, you turned on fluorescent lights. The color just changed dramatically, so it’s going to be disturbing to the viewer. But sound, you know, is something that people, I’ve found, just are not tolerant of bad sound because they can’t deal with it. There’s no way to fix it. With an image or a video, I can sort of imagine what it is. And so that’s interesting.

So sound is critical. So do you guys have… Are your editors doing sound as well or do you have different people for sound?

Brian: Yeah. Again, I’m fortunate. I have a lot of talented people in our group. And, they know what a good quality production is, and they know how to get that production value. And we’ve invested in equipment that helps it a lot.

Paul: Yeah. So you’ve got the best advantage. But it’s really taking… I think the critical thing you’re bringing out here is that the person sitting in the seat is what makes good or bad content really sing. You can only do so much with the content. And the person there making it all work together is critical.

Brian: Yeah. And from a business perspective, knowing what, what medium you’re playing to… I mean, most of our stuff is going online. And most of our clients have a finite budget of what they want to spend or can spend. So getting the best quality for that medium, for that project budget, I think, is a tricky thing to refine. You know, going back to your photography days, you know, you could put tons of time into editing photos, but at some point you need to say—

Paul: Print it.

Brian: Exactly. And I think for anyone in the creative space, there’s a perfectionist in them all. And finding the balance of time and how to do things quickly but efficiently, and with high production quality. We’ve gone in and nailed that down. And that’s why I think we’ve been successful.

Paul: Excellent. Now is there anything else you want to talk about, that we haven’t covered? Any areas you want to touch on?

Brian: I’m happy to talk about anything you want, really. I think we did cover a lot about the different pieces, of how we got into drones and, you know, came into this thinking, talking primarily about drones, but what I’ve enjoyed about this conversation is that you can see how the drone piece fits into the whole scope of what we’re doing, but it’s a lot—

Paul: It’s evolutionary.

Brian: Yeah. But there’s a lot of other components that go into creating the products that we’re putting out, one. And two, like, the reason why we’ve engaged in drone stuff is really at the epicenter of our company — technology. It’s a media. It’s all those things wrapped into one. That’s why the space for us is very exciting.

Paul: Yeah. Very cool. And I think that as we — I think we touched on earlier — if you’re using stock photos on your website, don’t do it. Stop. Go take them down. It’d be better to have a blank space, and nowadays, we need to have video. Gotta have good video.

Brian: Agreed. And to that point, we’ve been through an exercise with clients lately where because of the designs of websites now, the photo — or photos, I should say — and video are changing the whole look and feel of it. And we had this interesting project recently where we were tweaking all these style elements, fonts, and this, and colors, and, and really, like we changed a couple of different photos, and all of a sudden, it made sense. And then, then it became, alright, well, you know, the photos are driving the page, so, like this is kind of like the type of photo that you need to fit in. You can switch your photos up whenever you want, but, you know, certain ones are going to work with the other elements of the page a lot better then. And I think that’s a big… It’s not like something that’s just come about. This has been happening for years, but it’s one of those things that it’s changing the course of how you’re designing sites is that imagery is almost becoming… You almost need to put that first and then build around it versus the opposite way, which I think was kind of the way it was being done, which is you built the shell and you pop some photos in. And the photos helped it along but yeah, it’s very different now.

Paul: Yeah. I agree. You have the creative director of a magazine or even a video shoot, and they’re thinking of holistically how it works. And that’s magic in a lot of ways. And I think because of the ability now for just the average person to produce a website, they aren’t used to having to take all those things into account. And then they don’t know why. Why does mine not look as good as theirs? Well, because they’re taking in all these subtleties into account. And I think you’re absolutely spot on. And I think the same thing’s happening with video, but I think people are a lot more tolerate with video than they are with photos. Because a bad photo, just sitting there, not moving is a bad photo, and it just yells that at the top of its lungs. But a video, you know, boy, you get a connection with that person, and, it’d be nice to have it high quality, but even if it’s not, it’s better than not having it.

Brian: Yeah. Even in video, like video use as assets in sites versus just a click play video, you know. Like how it’s presented, how it’s formatted, and how it renders on a phone or a browser. We have people, believe it or not, who are still on things like Internet Explorer 9 or 8. And you…

Paul: They should have their internet taken away.

Brian: Amen to that. I should say the same thing, but you know, the whole experience changes if you can’t… If that video is not loading, and it’s your whole background to your page, yeah, it looks cool on that Mac that the 17 year old has on running Chrome or Safari, but to someone who’s making a decision about whether or not to engage your services or not, and is on an older browser or something that it’s not playing, they’re like why is this big black screen?

Paul: Reflects badly.

Brian: Yeah. It’s always part art, part function. Right?

Paul: Yeah. Absolutely. So anything else you want to cover? Any particular topics?

Brian: No. Thank you very much for having me.

Paul: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

Brian: Any time you want to geek out, I’m happy to have a conversation.

Paul: It is a lot of fun. It is a lot of fun, and we’re also open. If you come up with something you want to talk about, we’ll put it out and talk about it and we tend to be a little eclectic, you know, and not just when we’re talking about this part of business or whatever. We love technology and it just sounds like just like you guys do. It’s a great time to be alive. I mean, 30 years ago… Well, let’s say 50 years ago, you couldn’t do all these things. You know, you had to be in a dark room. You had to do all these different things. You couldn’t even buy a video camera, you know. So, it’s a wonderful time to be alive.

Brian: Yeah. And I’ve been fortunate enough over my lifetime and my career to really go through these unique set of stages with technology. You know, I filmed on VHS tapes and eventually mini DV and then I was like, why are we recapturing DV tape when we could shoot the SD card? And so from a video standpoint, I’ve seen, even my freshman year of college, which I don’t want to date myself, but back in early 2000s, the cameras alone, like what you could do, with shooting on little Canon Elura that were shooting standard definition, and now, even like six years, seven years later, people are shooting high def video on their phones.

Paul: I know. It’s amazing. Isn’t it?

Brian: Crazy.

Paul: You couldn’t have predicted it. I just like wow. Just the storage needs of YouTube. It’s just incredible.

Brian: I remember we built this site. It was called Boston Nocturnal. It was a nightlife site, and the whole premise was we’d deliver a weekly video about bars and nightclubs and events going on in Boston. This was 2005, ’06 timeframe. So YouTube was just coming along, and we made a very conscious decision at the time that we did not want to put our videos on YouTube. We wanted to embed them in flash player on the site because it was more professional.

And I think about a decision like that at the time, not knowing, you know, where YouTube would go. And it’s eventual acquisition by Google and things like that is to, how different your mindset goes in just a short amount of time. And now if a client asks how we’re going to put it on our site, I’m like, “You’re going to put it on YouTube, and you’re going to embed it on your site because you’re getting more bang for your buck as far as getting it found and sharing it and so on.” So yeah. You’re right. It’s a neat time to be in technology and the creative space. And I’m just amazed by young people coming out of school and even, you know, stories of like 11-year-olds who are hacking and things.

Paul: No barrier. They’ve never seen a world where they didn’t have these tools.

Brian: Or even my two-and-a-half-year-old who, you know, consistently asks me for “his” iPad. I said…

Paul: Well, he has it right.

Brian: Yeah. It was like, okay. And he wants to watch his videos, and he can go through YouTube kids. And that’s just, to me, amazing. And I think the people who embrace technology and realize that it’s not everything but it is the way of the world, you know, those are the people who will end up having that good balance.

Paul: That’s right. I agree. Well, we’re here with Brian Gravel, and he’s with GraVoc in Peabody, Massachusetts. He’s the vice president of creative technology. And we’ve had a great talk. I think this will end up being a couple of different podcasts. So if you’re hearing this, go back and listen to the other episodes as well. So, Brian, thank you for coming. Really appreciate it.

Brian: Thank you for having me, Paul.

Paul: Absolutely. Thank you.

Also published on Medium.