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Full-service video production firm realizes efficiencies and plans for the future with Adobe Creative Cloud
Walter Biscardi Jr. has worked with nearly every NLE during his long and successful career. He started editing in 1990 at CNN and was one of the network’s first Avid editors. In 1995, he moved to Foxwoods Resort Casino, designed a new production facility around Media 100, and then started his first company back in Atlanta, Georgia in 1998. After working with Final Cut Pro for 11 years, he found his way to Adobe Premiere Pro, an integrated solution that could speed his workflow and evolve with his needs. At Biscardi Creative Media, he now actively works with Adobe Creative Cloud, cutting a new series and planning to launch his own television network with his faithful companion, Molly the Wonder Dog, by his side.
Adobe: Tell us about some of your best known projects.
Biscardi: I worked on four seasons of Good Eats with Alton Brown doing post-production, editing, animation, and color grading. I’ve also done some long form documentary work. I was co-producer and editor on Foul Water Fiery Serpent, a documentary that aired on PBS about President Carter’s 25-year fight to eradicate guinea worm. Next, I worked on another documentary, Dark Forest Black Fly, which also aired on PBS. Both took four years to cut. Most recently our company has completed four seasons of This American Land, a PBS series about preserving America’s wildlife, waters, and landscape.
Adobe: How has your business evolved?
Biscardi: I’ve gone from working in the bedroom of my house to building a brand new, 6,000 square foot production facility with five edit suites, a 5.1 surround sound mixing theater, a color grading suite, production offices, and 1,400 square feet of studio space. For years we did all post-production work, primarily broadcast episodics, documentaries, and corporate projects. Two or three years ago we started getting serious about full-service, turnkey productions.
Adobe: What led you to switch to Adobe Premiere Pro?
Biscardi: The launch of Final Cut X drove me back to Avid 6, which I used when I started work on the second season of This American Land. I had never touched Premiere Pro and honestly didn’t think it was useful in a professional workflow. But working with Avid on This American Land was a fiasco and by the third episode into the edit we switched to Premiere Pro and haven’t looked back. Three of the four seasons have been edited with Premiere Pro.
Adobe: What do you think of Adobe Creative Cloud and the integrated video workflow?
Biscardi: There’s nothing on the market that works as cohesively as Adobe Creative Cloud. I also love the subscription concept of Creative Cloud and how Adobe continuously rolls out new features. I’ve used After Effects since it was CoSA. All of the animation for Good Eats was done with After Effects and Photoshop. Three of the animations were well over 2,000 layers; it was so much fun doing those. The integrated video workflow between Premiere Pro and After Effects can’t be beat.
Adobe: Are there features in Premiere Pro that are particularly useful in your work?
Biscardi: The software just works. When you transition from one piece of software to another it isn’t going to work the same. You have to adapt your workflow to the tool. Nothing is perfect, but Premiere Pro is as close to perfect as I’ve seen out there right now. This American Land can have 10 camera formats in the same episode, on the same timeline, and it doesn’t choke, it just plays. It’s great to not have to think about cameras, formats, frame rates, or frame size. We haven’t come across anything we’ve thrown on the timeline it can’t handle.
The multi-cam integration with audio is also simple; as long as you have a good audio reference it’s unbelievable how easy auto sync by waveform works. The pancake timeline, where all raw elements are in the timelines above the master timeline, is easy to use and I recently discovered the new marker window with the marker notes and that is now a big part of our workflow. I love making those types of discoveries.
Adobe: How has working with Adobe Creative Cloud helped your business?
Biscardi: We’ve cut 300 to 400 projects on Premiere Pro in the past few years and it’s a rock solid tool. We were 12 days behind on This American Land when we switched from Avid to Premiere Pro and we not only caught up but we got ahead. When we cut the first season on Final Cut Pro 7 we had to convert all camera formats to Pro Res and it took 1.2 – 2TB to archive the episodes.
It took three or four episodes cutting in Premiere Pro to trust that it would cut native. We switched to an all native workflow and reduced the backup to 350GB to 500GB, which saved us money on the archive. We were also able to cut the same amount of material in 50% of the time because there was no waiting to transcode. Foul Water Fiery Serpent was all shot on Panasonic P2 and we had 250 hours of footage that we converted to Pro Res before editing, which took a couple of weeks. In Premiere Pro we would have been able to start editing on day one.
Adobe: How did you get started working on Arson Dogs?
Biscardi: Arson Dogs is a new web series for world-renowned dog trainer Victoria Stilwell and her Positively website. The series follows Victoria to southern Maine, where State Farm’s Arson Dog Training Program is conducted to train handlers and working dogs together to sniff out accelerants like gasoline and propane at potential arson sites.
Victoria and her crew spent five days at the school documenting many hours of raw material on up to five different cameras. We then taught her team how to organize and log the project in Premiere Pro, so when we opened it up it was in bins with notes and we could just get started editing. Our first task was to create a three minute sizzle reel from 3,500 clips in just one week. Without Premiere Pro and the Small Tree Shared Storage, which let us all work with the same media simultaneously, it wouldn’t have happened. I worked collaboratively with our editors R. John Becker and Kylee Wall to meet the deadline.
Since then, we’ve been working on editing the first 8 episodes, and anticipate there will be 6 to 10 more. Kylee has a one sentence overview of each 5- to 10-minute episode and she cuts based on that description. We’re known as storytellers, and Adobe gets all of the technology out of the way so we can just tell a story. The best part is being able to work on the project with my own Molly the Wonder Dog in the edit suite with the team.
Adobe: What’s next for you?
Biscardi: We’re currently seeking investment to launch a new 4k UHD Contemporary Living Network, which will include multiple channels and an all Adobe workflow. We’re looking at producing at least 20 original series in the first season alone, all on lifestyle topics such as food, travel, entertaining, pets, home and garden, and more. It will be our own network, with direct digital delivery.
We recently took delivery of our first Blackmagic 4K Production Camera and Teranex Express. We’ll be shooting the first four episodes of Ice Cream Nation and two episodes of Fork U in 4K UHD using that and the Panasonic GH4 cameras for Contemporary Living Network. Fork U features Simon Majumdar from Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen as one of our hosts.
Adobe: Are there any new Adobe Premiere Pro features that you’re looking forward to incorporating into your workflow?
Biscardi: The new Consolidate and Transcode feature in Premiere Pro CC will come into play very heavily as we launch Contemporary Living Network. It will enable us to create archive versions of the master cut of each and every episode in a single format. That will help us easily re-open the project at a later date to make changes to graphics, re-export into a different format, or whatever else the situation warrants without the need to reopen all of the original media.
We’ll certainly keep all the original native media for future re-use, but having the finished episode in a single format is something we’ve been waiting for. It will come into play across the board at Biscardi Creative Media. So thankful to the Adobe team for getting that feature in there!
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Last weekend marked the first annual Premiere Pro World Conference ably organized by Adobe training partner – Future Media Concepts. Although Premiere Pro Product Manager Al Mooney jokingly referred to it as a “1.0 beta” event, we all thought it was a great success, both for attendees and for the Premiere Pro team.
The conference kicked off on Friday, July 11th at Adobe headquarters in San Jose, CA. The Premiere Pro management, engineering and quality engineering teams were all there, along with support team members from social media, customer care, documentation, Creative Cloud Learn, marketing and even engineers from After Effects and Adobe Anywhere.
“Adobe Day” began with the history of Premiere Pro, presented by Senior Engineering Manager Dave McGavran. First launched in 1991, our favourite editing application has seen approximately 50 releases over the past 23 years, and today comprises a whopping 30 million lines of code. A highlight of the presentation was when Senior Solutions Consulting Manager Dave Helmly launched the Adobe Premiere 1.0 on an old PowerMac G3 running Mac OS 7. Talk about blast from the past!
Al Mooney then spoke about the future of Premiere Pro (in general terms, anyway) and attendees were introduced to different members of the Premiere Pro management team. The managers explained a bit about how the software is developed and what role each part of the team plays in the process.
A hot topic of discussion was how decisions are made about which features we develop. Al explained that several years ago the team decided to focus strongly on the broadcast market, for one simple reason: “because it’s really, really hard.” The rationale being that if in the end we can make it work for broadcast, we can make it work for other users (but not necessary the other way around). Today, while Premiere Pro continues to score big in broadcast (a recent international sporting event held in Brazil comes to mind), we’re also working with top Hollywood filmmakers, such as David Fincher, the Coen Brothers, and others. Heck, even Sharknado 2 was cut in Premiere Pro!
Of course, along with big name users, development is guided by the feedback of all users including web content producers, music video creators and corporate and wedding videographers. The moral of the story being this: if you have a great idea for a new feature or functionality, submit a feature request!
Along with larger roadmap development work, the Premiere Pro engineering team also deliver “Just Do It” (JDI) features whenever they can. Engineering Manager Steve Hoeg previewed an example of such a feature – simple, practical enhancements to the application that are a part of every new release. Attendees then split into breakout sessions together with various Premiere Pro engineers and quality engineers (QEs) to discuss the JDI process and different JDIs that are currently on “the list.” Attendees were able to provide feedback on how they thought certain JDIs should be executed and, even offer ideas for new JDIs that would address pain points in their workflows.
The final sessions for Adobe Day were four breakout groups focused on audio, color, effects and integrated workflows. Engineers and QEs shared thoughts on each of these areas and asked for feedback from attendees as to how they believe we should be addressing each topic, where they think Premiere Pro should be going and what they would love to see in the future. Customer Experience Designer David Kuspa said, “Receiving comments and feedback from users face-to-face reminds all of us who we’re working for and how large an impact our work can have on the creative output of these professionals.” The whole day left the Premiere Pro team with plenty of notes to take back to our engineering work and planning.
For the Premiere Pro team one of the best parts of the “Adobe Day”, as well as Premiere Pro World Conference as a whole, was the opportunity it provided us to not only get feedback and input from attendees, but to interact with Premiere Pro users on a personal level. Everyone was just hanging out and mingling during breaks, and meals through out the weekend as well as at an evening mixer on Friday where some of our top partners joined in and showed off some their gear.
The rest of the conference was comprised of sessions guided by various industry experts. It’s not often that you have so many top Premiere gurus in one place, but that’s what the attendees (and Adobe staff) were treated to. In fact, the only problem for many people was choosing which sessions to join – in most time slots four sessions were presented concurrently, so whatever you picked meant missing three other awesome sessions. Presenters included luminaries like Rich Harrington, Christine Steele, Robbie Carman, Kanen Flowers, Gary Adcock, Luisa Winters, Jeff Greenberg, Maxim Jago, Eran Stern and Liran Golan. Jerle Leirpoll travelled all the way from Norway to be here!
Attendees were able to attend sessions to develop core editing skills, advanced editing techniques, broadcast specific workflows, deep dives into encoding, publishing and distribution, and get answers to burning questions about hardware, workflows, and the art of editing.
Another highlight of the weekend were the keynote presentations. On Saturday Adam Epstein spoke of the unbelievably fast turnaround for the work he does with the Saturday Night Film Unit.Attendees and trainers alike were impressed withwhat Adam and his team accomplish every week – and talk about tight timelines: generally their shorts are not completely finished until minutes before they air. In one case a piece aired directly from the Premiere Pro timeline. “If someone had pressed the space bar, we’d have been screwed,” laughed Adam. In addition to the sheer entertainment value, attendees walked away from the session inspired – and with some really cool tips for how to structure their own workflows for maximum efficiency.
If you missed the Premiere Pro World Conference, or just want to see Adam again, you might just be able to do that! He is doing The Cutting Edge Tour this summer in 32 cities throughout the US and Canada.
Sunday evening’s keynote focused on the demands of broadcast and how Adobe has become a key player in that world. Turner Broadcasting’sBryan Pearson showed how Premiere Pro, Adobe Anywhere and Creative Cloud workflows are used at CNN. He shared how the team at CNN has worked closely with Adobe on the development of the Adobe Prelude and Premiere Pro workflows for broadcast. In many ways, this presentation provided an apt bookend to Al Mooney’s introductory keynote and gave concrete examples of how Adobe’s work in broadcast has helped improve Premiere Pro and the Creative Cloud video tools for everyone. Bryan also spoke at length about Adobe Anywhere, which is fast becoming integral to meeting the future needs of CNN’s international collaborative infrastructure. CNN creates approximately 3,000 assets each day from 44 different locations around the world and the broadcaster’s input has helped Adobe define Adobe Anywhere as a workflow platform that allows distributed users to access content and projects across standard networks, wherever the users may be located.
All told, it was a fantastic event packed with learning, insights, and inspiration. We heard amazing feedback from many attendees during the conference and the sentiments seem to be echoed across the web.
The first annual Premiere Pro World Conference was a meaningful experience for the Premiere Pro team, too.
We work so hard on this product and it was wonderful to see the passion, and meet so many people who care about it as much as we do.
Hope to see everyone at Premiere Pro World Conference in 2015!
See more photos from the first annual Premiere Pro World Conference here
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