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Adobe Create Now Denver: Jason Lavine on Web Video Tools and Trends

Last month I had the opportunity to catch the Adobe Create Now tour while they were in Denver. My third interview was with Jason Lavine, Principal Worldwide Evangelist for Adobe. Jason travels the globe educating users and promoting Creative Cloud, with a focus on video products. (My other interviews of Paul Trani and Terry White from the event).

At the conference, Jason showed lots of fantastic new features and workflows from Premier and a handy iPad app for tagging content during a live broadcast called Live Logger.

Video Transcript

Brent: I’m Brent Weaver, and you’re watching uGurus TV, the must-watch web series to become a more profitable and in-demand web professional. I’m here in Denver at the Adobe Create Now event.

I’m hanging out with Jason Levine, and we’re just talking about Create Now, Creative Cloud, and what a great presentation you guys put on today.

Jason: Great, thanks. Great to be here, thanks.

Brent: What is your position at Adobe, and what do you do?

Jason: Yeah, I am the principle worldwide evangelist for our video tools and Creative Cloud, and much like my colleagues, Terry and Paul, go around the world and evangelize all the video tools, from Premiere AfterEffects, obviously Photoshop, as well, SpeedGrade, Illustrator, and showcase cool stuff, workflows, broadcast workflows, how you can use any type of camera to cut your footage, how to do motion graphics, how to do sound with our product Audition.

Along the way, I also get to shoot a lot of content, as well, which is really awesome. We often like to showcase the stuff that we shoot while we’re on the road to kind of give it a local feel, if we can.

Weather permitting, of course, time permitting. Of course, we do a lot of work directly with Adobe and Adobe TV to do training tutorials, and now with Creative Cloud training. Terry, Paul, and I all have lots of content up there to, not only demo it, but really show how you do these things, and how you put it all together.

Brent: Very cool. What was your background prior to this? How did you get into this position with Adobe?

Jason: Well, depends how far back you want to go. Basically, just prior to Adobe, I was working for a very small audio company called Syntrillium. We were acquired 11, 12 years ago.

We had a product called Cool Edit Pro, at the time. Our claim to fame was that we were used at the BBC. Every laptop that went out at the BBC had Cool Edit Pro on it, or Cool Edit, we had two versions at the time. Our other claim to fame was that we were the most pirated audio editor out there. This is like 1999.

Brent: Sure.

Jason: Which was great, actually, because it gave us a lot of exposure, and allowed big broadcast companies to start using it. I was their music director, forum wrangler, content creator, and stage presenter.

Ultimately, we were doing a series of shows. Adobe, at the time, this is again, a little over a decade ago, this is pre-Creative Suite. There were no Suites then, per se. They had sort of the collections, but didn’t have a complete package of everything.

They were looking for an audio editing app, and we just happened to be the one that they chose. Cool Edit got rebranded to Audition. Initially, I think I started out just evangelizing audio for about six months.

Then as the Creative Suite, actually we were called the video collection, at the time, started gaining popularity and traction, I had already been doing, I did video editing back in the old U-matic days with three-quarter inch tape. I used to work with some for some local cable companies when I was a teenager, so I kind of got my feet wet in that doing assembly-style editing with Panasonic switcher decks and everything.

Brent: Wow.

Jason: Yeah, it was great. I mean, those were great times.

Brent: We shoot on digital now.

Jason: That’s right, yeah, you don’t know…

Brent: You’re speaking Spanish to me.

Jason: Whatever. Three-quarter U-matic. No one cares. I’d been an audio engineer and was in the music business for about a decade, as well.

Bringing all those things together, finally, at Adobe when it came time to start working with Premiere and AfterEffects just seemed like a logical progression. I’ve never looked back.

Brent: Very cool. With video, you guys presented a lot of cool workflows and tools today. A lot of it was broadcast-level video stuff. What is Adobe doing to support web video and people that, the web pros, that are publishing video regularly to their sites and to all the various social media channels?

Jason: I think, from a really technical side of things, part of what the Creative Cloud is allowing us to do is keep on top of things like codecs, and formats.

Especially with the move into HTML5 a couple years ago, where video was still sort of unknown, and what was the format going to be. People were looking at Ogg Theora, and is it going to go VP8, and what are we going to do, and how is this all going to work?

Well, we’re staying on top of all that so that users can very simply and easily build content that can be delivered to any kind of device, but also still maintain delivery to screens, and to browsers, and everything else. A lot of it has to do with codecs, obviously sort of the standards today when we’re working with H.264 and working with mp4 files. Even if you’re not in video, you’ve probably heard those terms. You’re sort of familiar with them. The next evolution of that, H.265, which is coming, and we’re sort of intimately involved with conversations over that.

I actually did a seminar at Max, our big Adobe Max conference last year and the previous year, talking about encoding for web and tablets, and showed at the time how a lot of these other codecs, which we didn’t simply have natively, can still be used inside the application. I did a whole presentation on here’s how you would export VP8 from Photoshop video, or through Premiere via the Media Encoder, or here’s how you can get something like Ogg Theora, which is a free downloadable codec from some site that I found and gave information, and specs, and caveats, as well.

I think that’s it. As these things continue to develop, and as it gets, a good example of where things have gotten very complex is in cameras and codecs, right. So many new formats. I talked today about moving to UltraHD, to 4K, which isn’t really going to apply in the web space.

It’s this idea that all of these things are changing so rapidly, so we need to be able to, not just react to that, but really move in the right direction with those things, and lead the way. Creative Cloud lets us do that because we can be developing in the background, and when things are ready, we can deploy them to people.

That, ultimately, will make the process of making web video easier, making video for tablets easier, making content that will play anywhere without the worry that I don’t have the right player, or the right codec, or what have you. We’re working very closely with all these companies to make that stuff happen.

Brent: Got you. On the publishing side, something that I’ve always been intrigued about is, you finish a video, the idea of having render, and then direct publish to, let’s say YouTube. Is that something that you guys are thinking about, just to expedite the publishing process with video?

Jason: It’s interesting, because, actually, we have some of that in apps like Lightroom where you can publish directly, your catalogs, to things like Flickr, and to Behance. Today, where you can publish to Behance from Photoshop and Lightroom, we have a SoundCloud publishing option in Audition. While we don’t have direct publishing to YouTube, or say, Vimeo, today out of media encoder, we do have presets to conform your video to the right format, size, frame rate.

Again, trying to make it a little easier. My colleague Terry always says,
“Any time you see presets, that just means goodness.” Even if you’re just doing a conversion of something, so you’ll take this footage off your camera today. If you’re a web pro, you’ve never done video, you don’t necessarily need to edit, you just need to convert it so that it’s in a format suitable for YouTube, or what have you. Right in the Media Encoder, you can drop it in.

We have everything organized by destination. There’s web destination, and if you twirl down web, you’ll see Vimeo, YouTube, Hulu, and all these various preset options. Which just makes it a little bit easier to get there.

I think, over time, yeah, you may see something like that. For us, I think the first step was Behance, and we’ve already done that. Even out of Creative Cloud, in your Creative Cloud files online you can publish to Behance directly. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility.

Brent: You know, the presets were a lifesaver to me. I’m a web native guy, and I started doing video more as a requirement because my clients needed us to do more and more video stuff. For me to learn, I would end up getting this three-minute video, and it’d be like 1.6G…

Jason: Right. I was going to say gigs. Yeah. Right.

Brent: …or something. It’d be huge. Right. All of a sudden, these presets, it’s like 300MB, it’s, like, better quality. I’m like, “What the heck was I doing?”

Jason: Right.

Brent: It’s so hard to understand that stuff.

Jason: Well, that’s the thing. I talked a lot about this. We do a lot of, often, aside from just the all-in-one seminars, we’ll often do breakouts afterwards, and do training on codecs, and things like that.

You’re right, I mean the most common thing I hear is, “How come when I exported my 5D MarkIII video, the original file was 200MB, I export, and it’s 4G. Where did I go wrong?”

Then you start talking about codecs, and you start talking about bit rates. Like anything, there’s a severe level of unnecessary complexity with those things just because by nature, it’s not too long ago that I can recall having guys who are really focused in the video world, just on encoding. You had the encoding department. That’s not so long ago I knew guys who did just that. They were experts in knowing what various flavors of whether it was reel, right, early web days, or again, before H.264, what did people use.

There was always an issue of bit rate, because while broadband is the norm today, it’s not really a standard. You don’t see broadband everywhere. Not every household has 50Mb downloads. That was ultimately a lot of the problems people were facing. They’re like, “Well, I know that the higher the bit rate, the better the quality, so I’m going to use 50.” Not realizing that six years ago, no one could stream 50Mb, let alone full HD 720p video, speeds, and services didn’t really supply the ability to do that then. Not to the home, anyway. Maybe in a business environment.

I think it’s just a matter of really educating people to understand that, again, these things are continuing to develop. I think part of, presets and stuff gets you there. There is some education involved, too. Also, you could use a native H.264 mp4 codec, or you could use a QuickTime wrapped version, or you could use some other third party’s version of mp4, which is a bit smaller. There is some education involved to really getting behind the best way to do it. There’s more than one way to do it. I think that’s part of the excitement/frustration of getting into this, which is you have so many options.

Brent: Yeah, for sure. When you open up even the preset panel, there’s so many options.

Jason: There’s dozens, and dozens, and dozens of them. Those are specific just to maybe YouTube. Then there’s another three dozen for Vimeo. If you’re publishing to Tivo, or something like that, we’ve even got presets based around that that would be ideal.

Part of what I try and do is showcase best practices, because again, when you’re dealing with video on the web in particular, especially at lower bit rates, you’re also dealing with things that, I actually used this reference recently, which may fall a little flat here, too. I was saying, you know, with vinyl, when we used to make records, and I mean vinyl records, kids. As you approach the inner grooves, mastering cutters, engineers, back in the day, you would actually have to start rolling off high frequency.

You’re dealing with duration limitation. You’re dealing with amplitude limitations, dynamic range. The really good records were mastered by guys who understood exactly how much to roll off, and based on the length, and they had to do all these calculations to make it right. The last track on side one or two always had a little less high end by nature. You actually had to cut it that way with vinyl.

In video, with color, if you’ve got extreme whites, like blown out highlights, and extreme reds, and you’re using something like a constant bit rate codec, ultimately, that could hurt you in terms of your export, because it’s not going to display right. It’s using a lot of data to try and deliver this overblown white, and it’s not going to be visually appealing. It’s not going to be what we would call broadcast-safe. It’s probably, unnecessarily, in some ways, potentially inflating your file size.

There’s all these other elements to actually delivering content for web video, which ought to be considered to get the best of both worlds. Yes, you might be slightly less quality, but the file sizes will be smaller, but it will play on more devices, at lower speeds, and still look great.

The truth is, today, the sources in general, potentially, can be so much better. Yes, you can still shoot not-so-great video on a camera phone or something. People who are looking to do more than just a on-the-street YouTube of someone falling off a skateboard, might be using a slightly better source.

Even if it’s shot today on an iPhone, and some of these new Nokia phones, the output is amazing. When your source is good, ultimately, even at lower bit rates, your output can be equally as good, especially if people know, I’m watching this on a mobile device, on a very small screen, I think this will suffice.

Brent: Got you. Now, one of the things that I think about with video in Creative Cloud is how you guys are to leverage the cloud to potentially enhance video in ways we can’t even imagine today. One of the things I think about is rendering. You’ve got this really complex, long video. It’s HD. I’m sitting here pumping it out on my individual computer. Especially in the freelance world, that means I’ve got to stop work.

I can, with Media Encoder, go and do other stuff, or still work on the computer. It’s still usable, whereas, two years ago, computer’s shot. It’s done for the next six hours. Where is video with cloud headed? Are you guys doing that kind of server side stuff, or thinking about it?

Jason: Right. Today, you’re not rendering in the Cloud just yet, and that’s a question that I get a lot. Again, this is something that we’re looking into.

Now, we have another product, which is, today, it was launched at NAB back in April, and officially started being delivered in July of this year. Something called Adobe Anywhere, which is collaborative editing from anywhere. Basically, it uses a combination of cloud and server storage for people to work collaboratively. The media is all stored someplace else, offsite.

What it means, is that you can be on a Macbook Air, editing full HD in your bedroom, and working with all this really intense content, without needing the horsepower, because it’s all being done on the server side, leveraging a technology that we developed, called the Mercury Streaming Engine. While this isn’t exactly Cloud rendering per se, there is an element of the Cloud with that. While that’s currently more targeted toward our broadcast markets, it’s definitely a step in that direction.

We’ve even got some apps on the app store today, in fact, one called Adobe Video Presenter, that allows you to leverage the Cloud a bit more. You’re starting to see other services that are, oh, we’ll render stabilization effects in the Cloud, and then deliver them to YouTube, and stuff like that.

Again, not out of the realm of possibility. I think as the community for Creative Cloud continues to grow, and as we talked about today, over a million paid users in less…

Brent: It’s getting big.

Jason: …than five months. It’s huge. It’s a big deal. Another million and a half unpaid users, as well, I believe, who are just using the free accounts. It’s just a very exciting time, I think. To see really where this is all going, and how it’s going to be leveraged.

For the moment, I think a lot of what’s nice about the way we’re leveraging the Cloud, just specifically on the video side, is with things like simple sharing and commenting, which people are used to with other services, too.

The difference being that now, when you add community to that, you add Behance, now it’s like, oh, oky, I can take the videos that I’ve published to all these sites, Vimeo, YouTube, et cetera, bring them into my Behance project, and now I’ve got another million and a half people that I can share it with and properly tagged, you really start to build up your community very quickly. I, myself, I’m a landscape photographer, as well. When I joined Behance, I thought, well I just want to put video and music up here, and I didn’t really know how much of the community was into that on Behance.

I knew it was an option. I just wasn’t sure. Amazingly, it’s huge.

The thing about Behance is when people are looking for something specific, while before, they might have go to YouTube or Vimeo to try and find a particular type of editor or cinematographer, now companies, post houses, are actually going to Behance and searching for cinematography, searching for drawing, line art, illustration, music, ’70s disco funk, whatever, and finding people’s projects that relate to that, and thus finding new blood for their organization, for people to actually create this content.

It’s just one more way to kind of expand what, you know, video was in some ways, closed off from the web, sacred to streaming for a while. We used to talk about metadata a lot. I talked about it today, but again, years ago, when you would put metadata in a video file, it kind of just, it didn’t do anything, right. It’s not like exit data in an image that, again, photographers and web people really understood. It was sort of lost in the shuffle.

What we’re doing now is trying to showcase new ways to leverage metadata to not only improve the editing process, but to make it easier for when you actually go to publish it to these places to have things like tags, and such, ready so that you can, okay, that’s what this is. This is how it should be tagged. This is how people will find it, and this is how I’ll get to showcase it to more people than ever before.

Brent: Very nice. Yeah, we loved the logging stuff with the iPad today. That was sweet. We were even thinking, we do a lot of video educational content, so even when we shoot, being able to quickly tag stuff, like this take was good, that take was bad, versus doing it in post-production, just doing it right there when we shoot it.

Jason: That’s it. It’s not rocket science, to some degree. I mean, maybe it is, in terms of development. Right.

The concept of doing it live where you have this portal to go directly to your media, seems obvious, but no one’s really, prior to Live Logger, really developed that solution, because no one has as many integrated pieces of the puzzle.

We do. We have the [ingest] solution. We have the logging solution, which all ties to the Cloud, which ties to Premiere, which is all embedded in your clips, which ties to AfterEffects, and all of this stuff stays live until you push it out. It’s all there. It’s all searchable.

It’s new ways of doing old things, and really trying to, I hate saying streamline, but it’s just kind of the best way. It really just streamlines it. As you said yourself, you could imagine just logging.

I talk about the highlight reel. That’s kind of the best way to really illustrate that process. If you were writing it, or even typing it into a Word doc, maybe with time code, but how do you now get it into those clips?
How do you find the stuff? This way, it’s as fast as you saw me do it. We logged.

I uploaded to the Cloud. I downloaded the media from the Cloud. I assigned it to my clips, and there it was.

Brent: Yeah, the templating was beautiful. Being able to have those as quick punch buttons to…

Jason: Punch buttons, yep.

Brent: …be like, that was great.

Jason: Exactly, and they’re easy to make. That doesn’t require any coding ability. It’s just very simple. They can get as complex as you want them to be, but ultimately, it’s simple and really solves a common issue that people face.

Brent: Very nice. Well, Jason, we appreciate you hanging out with us today.

Jason: Thanks.

Brent: Are you getting a chance to enjoy Denver while you’re here? Or, is this it? This is it?

Jason: Yeah, aside from the seminar, this is the best time I’ll have today, so thank you.

Brent: Very nice.

Jason: Yeah. Then we’re off to a couple more cities, and I’ll be hitting Europe in a week and a half to do another series of Create Now over there, starting in Vienna, on October 29th…

Brent: Not too bad.

Jason: …with some of my colleagues.

Brent: Hopefully you’ll get to a little bit more R and R when you’re in Europe and stuff.

Jason: Yeah. Perhaps. We’ll see. We’ll see.

Brent: Very nice. All right, well, Jason, we appreciate you hanging out with us today, and stay tuned for more great content from uGurus.com.

Jason: Thank you.

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