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Cinedeck on Digital Production Buzz

Interview Date: April 18, 2019

Larry Jordan: John Harris is the Director of Business Development for Cinedeck. This is a company that seeks to make the video industry more efficient. Hello John, welcome.

John Harris: Good evening Larry, welcome to you.

Larry Jordan: John, how would you describe Cinedeck?

John Harris: I think Cinedeck has been around for this millennium, which is great; so we’ve got a lot of history. But the amazing approach that Cinedeck is, as a company, is they haven’t ever restrained themselves to the traditional concept of video. Every time they look at a workflow problem, etc. They throw away the traditions. They say, well okay, let’s just go to this in binary; can we approach this, you know, in a very different way, but it’ll give out those media type workflow results that goes on?

John Harris: I would describe Cinedeck as a character; somebody who’s really challenged, very versed in out of the box thinking and, you know, how to approach workflows in a very different way; which is all about some very interesting solutions to the marketplace.

Larry Jordan: Would you describe Cinedeck as principally a hardware company, or a software company? Of course, all hardware requires software, but how would you think of the company?

John Harris: I’d very much describe the company as a software company. I think, you’re absolutely right, there is need for hardware but, you know, typically that hardware is your standard Windows, Macintosh computer system and other traditional hardware elements. It’s really our ability to use that hardware, you know, through our software and our toolsets; to get the very best out of it and the best workflows. We would definitely say that we are a software company.

Larry Jordan: Your title is Director of Business Development, how do you see your role with the company?

John Harris: It comes about in many ways. Throughout my long career, I went through early days of the digital electronic specialists, with a company called Abacus, I grew on and went to Ampex, carried on to Avid. I then set up with my own company with Route Six and then, finally, I have now ended up here at Cinedeck.

John Harris: I think, the heart of that career has always been about the excitement and enthusiasm of taking on all of those products. You know, at every one of those stages, I can absolutely say, you know, there was a real excitement about that product as it is and where it fits into the marketplace.

John Harris:  I see my role as, to evangelize and present the technology; use the knowledge and experience I have of the industry, about the workflows. I am involved very heavily from the first concept of digital videos in the early days of Ampex, to compression with Ampex and DC2 to the move to desktop computers with Avid, to the front of the coalface with Route Six; which is a reseller in developing technology.

John Harris: It’s part of the evangelization of understand the product and workflows in our marketplace; but then, also understanding how that business model works.

Larry Jordan: On your website, Cinedeck describes itself as a company that’s focused on making the video industry more efficient and, in your description, you said that it’s a company that thinks outside the box. How would you describe your most popular products, if those are your goals?

John Harris: What we’ve done is, we’ve challenged what has become an accepted way of working in the marketplace. With our move to file based workflows, you know, we are eradicating the baseband tape style workflows that we used to have. But the problem is, our move to file based workflows means, we created all these efficiencies but we were still delivering on tape. Now that delivery mechanism is very much strongly oriented to files.

John Harris: The big issue we had we dealing with media files is, they’re very closed, structured systems; so the problem is, every time we wanted to make a change, it was a very painful, time-consuming process, because we would have to re-render that whole file again.

John Harris: We were challenged to look at that and, I think, when you first look at that from a media only head, you look at that file structure and say, yes, I completely understand why we can’t change that workflow and you accept that. We’ve seen that all the manufacturers and all of the codec developers have worked in this way for 20-25 years and we just said, this is crazy, why are we having to re-render, in most scenarios, the same data time and time again, when we only want to make a short change?

John Harris: You can imagine, firstly, the cost of re-rendering that material and secondly, if you’ve got a close to air production, there’s a lot of times you just can’t make that deliverable; you either have to go with the air, or you have to revert back to tape to do that.

John Harris: When we looked at this, we actually approached the whole filing system much more on a binary data basis and we’ve developed tools that mean we can access those files at binary level. That means, although we have a finished rendered file, we can still go into that file and change the binary data for every essence layer; whether it’s video, audio, close captions, metadata, etc.

John Harris: I think that’s one of the core elements of our technology that we present across all of our products, is the way that we can enter a broadcast file format, means that we don’t have to re-render it again. That’s very significant and time and cost saving for everyone involved in creating programs for broadcast.

Larry Jordan: Are you making a copy of the program at the binary level; or are you physically changing the source master?

John Harris: We’re physically changing the source master. You know, that concept of destructive approach could terrify some people.

Larry Jordan: I’m terrified, yes

John Harris: It’s always a good conversation and I think, you know, in most scenarios, people would typically have a clone of the master, if they really are […]. But the reality is, you know, when we worked with tape, how many times did we do a destructive insert directly into that tape, in using physical […] system and accepted that way of working?

John Harris: It comes down to confidence and I think, a lot of people have bad experiences, etc. So their confidence levels are low. But, what we’ve been discovering, as we move further and further forward is that, people start to use us, they’re like, okay I’m going to make a copy first before I do this and then the more and more they use us, their confidence level raises and they think, actually, I really don’t need to do this; this works perfectly.

John Harris: The beauty is, you know, if I want to get back to my original position, I can go back and re-insert that material from my timeline, or the previous file, or whatever I want to do.

John Harris: For me, it’s just a confidence thing. I do demos of our products every day and I actually use the same file. My main demo file now has probably been inserted, re-conformed back to itself, re-inserted again several thousand times and with no issues. I definitely could even do that with tape.

Larry Jordan: I should mention that, this ability to do an insert edit is part of your software called cineXtools. Is that correct?

John Harris: Yes.

Larry Jordan: Well, let’s talk about the new stuff. What did you announce at NAB?

John Harris: I think it’s worth first of all saying, what we talk about with the insert editing, this is something that goes across all of our products. Really what our products are about is about, how we approach that insert.

John Harris: Our new launches for NAB, we have our cineX plug-in. that means now that we can do an insert edit into a rendered file, directly from the timeline of Adobe Premiere, or Avid Media Composer, run on Mac or Windows and we can actually now highlight the section on the timeline and say, I want you to take this section and insert it into this rendered file, without re rendering the file. There is no operational training required and it just works. That was a great feature that was shown, for the first time, at NAB this year.

John Harris: CineXtools is our file to file editor and it’s our own application; so our own interface. It means we can expand what we can look at. I mentioned earlier on that we can go to every essence layer; so with our cineXtools we can expand our interface to not only do video and audio inserts, but we can also manage rewrapping and remapping of the audio. There’s a constant need for, you know, language changes, or different audio mapping selections, according to deliverables, etc; which we can all do within the rendered file.

John Harris: We can even, you know, go in and edit closed captions. That’s been a significant time-saver through some really good core systems.

John Harris: Newly launched for the show, we’re also exposing the metadata elements on the file. This can relate to the labelling for the audio, it could relate to the naming for the audio tracks and it can also relate to some specific issues with regards to the metadata being stamped incorrectly.

John Harris: One of the big demands that we’ve had is, there’s all this wonderful HDR material and these beautiful images and they’re rendered into this beautiful file and someone has stamped the file with the wrong metadata that says this is a 709 colorspace; which completely destroys it. You can imagine, that few bites of information destroys everything that’s gone on and a re-render of a HDR file, just to correct that, is a very painful process. Therefore, we can get into that metadata now and change that. That was something that was newly launched as a new feature for cineXtools at the show.

Larry Jordan: Some very exciting announcements. For people that want to learn more about the tools that Cinedeck makes available, where do they go on the web?

John Harris: The main place to go onto the web is our website, which is simply

Larry Jordan: That website is all one word, and, I should mention, free trials are available. John Harris is the Director of Business Development for Cinedeck. John, thanks for joining us today.