In my first posting on this diary-like entry I covered my initial reactions to being asked to join the Black Magic team for NAB 2013 and my first impressions of Las Vegas. Leaving my family for a week was difficult enough, but now I was about to experience the training portion of NAB. Let the games begin…
NAB Impressions Saturday, April 13th 2013
The next morning I strolled into the convention center with a sense of purpose. With my badge and lanyard dangling around my neck I walked up to the Black Magic Design booth, only to realize that I had gone to the wrong location. My signed NDA kept me from revealing anything that I knew about the upcoming show, but the issue was, I didn’t know anything about the upcoming show! I had zero information, except the fact that I would be demoing version 10 of Resolve. I had accidentally stumbled onto the main show floor where there was an incredible amount of secrecy. Two days later I found out why, when Black Magic unveiled their pocket camera and 4K camera and once again stole the show. I was instantly ushered out of the secretive location and lead to the back conference room where I was introduced to Peter Chamberland.
My only interaction with Peter had been over several emails. Of course I recognized him from online forums and blogs such as Creative Cow, but I had never actually met him. From our communication back and forth over email I could tell that he was a very nice person. He was incredibly cordial and inviting and as I shook his hand we officially introduced ourselves.
I was the first to arrive. I’m that guy who shows up to a job interview annoyingly early. Almost to a fault. Peter and I struck up conversation as he prepared me for the craziness that was about to unfold. He knew what was about to happen and I didn’t. As the creaky conference room door opened, one by one more people came in. First was Catherine Pantazopoulos. A colorist who lived in Toronto and had worked all around the world. Next came in Michael Sandness from Minnesota. Follow by Giles Livesey and Dan Moran. Colorists from all over the world sitting in one room. All with different experiences and career paths. I felt like a part of one hell of a team.
At this point I thought we were about to begin our training. Take a head first dive into the new version of Resolve that everyone had been so eagerly anticipating. But I then realized that there was another team about to join our ranks. Peter then marched in the engineering team from Singapore. Rohidt, Vivek, Anish, and Kay. I don’t have a ton of experience with software developers, so I wasn’t really quite sure what to expect. But I was quickly at ease when I realized that these technical minds were 100% on our side. In fact, they were relying on us to provide valuable feedback that would make the product better.
So here we go. Peter printed out several sheets and passed them out. What are these? Contracts? More NDAs? Schedules? Nope. The new features list of Reoslve 10. 3 pages long of 12 sized font Courrier Neue. Holy shit. I have to learn all this and present it to hundreds, if not thousands of people in 48 hours? How am I going to be able to pull this one off? I felt a little relieved when I looked around the room and every colorist seemed to have the same look on their face. I generally try to have a good poker face and keep my emotions to myself, but I couldn’t help but be a little shocked when I saw this list. The jump from version 8 to version 9 was so huge, how could they possibly come up with this many more changes in just one year?
Peter then says, “Gather round. Pull up and chair and get comfortable, because there is a lot to see here.” Quickly, Peter rattled off the first 10 new features. Wait, wait, wait. How am I supposed to follow along with this? So I stopped him and asked a question. The answer was a fairly simple one. I thought, “Oh, well, that makes sense”. So I let him continue on his way. Down the list he went. Feature after feature. Some new functionality drew oohs and ahhs, but everyone in the back of their mind was wondering how in the hell were they going to pull this off.
Lunch break. Woah. So I’m really doing this. I’m going to show off a brand new software in less than 48 hours. Granted, I work regularly in version 9. But this was a completely different beast. I was expected to know every nuance, every nook and cranny. From the new LUT features, to the DCP render. A whole lot of information to take in over the course of a weekend.
The remainder of Saturday went about as planned. 5 colorists all from different backgrounds sitting in front of computers and trying to make their way through a list that was thrown at them. Not to mention trying to become familiar with a newly developed interface that relocated some of our commonly used features. Nothing major, but enough to make us question what else had changed and whether or not will we look like idiots come Monday. We worked our way through the list and quickly realized that we were all in this together. Catherine, Michael, and Dan teamed up on one iMac, Giles and I on the other. I let Giles use the machine as I watched him work his way down the list. It was quickly obvious that he was good. Really good. I later found out that Giles has worked all around the world. From London to Bombay. We collaborated and asked each other questions. “Where is this feature? Oh here. Got it. Thanks”. On and on we went. “Wouldn’t this be great if I could do this?” The engineering team quickly perked up and came over to our iMac. “What did you want to see” asked Rohid. Giles and I then explained the features that we thought would be helpful to have implemented.
The thing that I was most impressed with about this engineering team was how respectful and responsive they were. Not once was there a stupid question or a dumb request. All of our queries were met with respect and sincerity. Even if they were stupid ones. Which I was guilty of a couple myself. There really was something special going on in that room. I know it sounds cheesy, but the interaction between the colorists and the engineers was fantastic. If a bug was found, they quickly and efficiently addressed the problems on their MacBooks, put a USB into our iMacs, installed the newest version and viola, fixed. All in a matter of minutes. “Ohhhh” I thought. “This is why Black Magic has taken the color world by storm. They have an unbelievable engineering staff. And this is just 4 of them!”
5:00 quickly approached and our time to leave the convention center had come. We felt a little better, but not completely better. There was still a lot of work to do. We hadn’t even gotten in front of the panels that we would be working on. In fact, all the panels that we were intended to use, I had never used before! The Avid Artist, JL Cooper Eclipse, and Tangent Element were all on our list of panels, and I had never used any of them. A colorists workflow and speed are easily enhanced by the use of panels, but there is nothing worse than knowing what you want to do, but not knowing how to do it. With color correction your physical reactions have to keep up with your mental decisions. And if they can’t, you can easily look like you don’t know what you’re doing. Muscle memory is everything when working with panels. And there is only one way that you can get that: practice. Practice which I obviously did not have. Tomorrow should be interesting.