Most companies wait for NAB to arrive before they roll out their announcements, but Kanen Flowers and his THAT Studio team got a jump on the news cycle by releasing info about their Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects integration the week before the exhibit floor opened. The release highlighted the high-quality tools that creatives can now access within their Adobe applications, which has made editors, VFX artists, and independent filmmakers very happy.
Scott Simmons stopped by the THAT Studio booth to talk through some of these details at NAB, but we wanted to find out more. So we tracked down Kanen to get his impressions about NAB 2015, ask about the reorganization of THAT Studio, find out what sort of 4K content he’s made available and plenty more.
ProVideo Coalition: NAB 2015 just wrapped up and you were literally all over the show. What stood out to you the most about this year’s event?
Kanen Flowers: It was big. Surprisingly so. I heard a rumor that there were over 110,000 people attending the show this year. I know the halls were full and the conversations were flowing. I felt like a tiny particle being propelled through a universe of people, vendor badges and products.
Any personal or professional highlights?
NAB this year was hopeful. It has been a long while since I’ve heard so many people talking so positively about creating content, trying products and generally making things. The tone of the conference was much brighter and more positive. I feel like we are stepping into a new era of production, where people are excited about using products, creating content and embracing new mediums. For a show like NAB, which has largely ignored small productions on the internet, this year was the opposite.
What topic or subject did you find yourself talking about most with your colleagues and with attendees?
Integration and collaboration were on everyone’s agenda this year. I spoke about global collaboration during several of my classes at PostProduction World, but I also spent time with Wipster and other companies and really dug into the collaborative aspects of the new way of creating content.
Last year you went through a bit of change where you pulled your various products and enterprises under the “THAT Studio” umbrella, which included the transition of “THAT Post Show”. Was that about what made sense for the brand or to give your customers a better sense of what you had to offer?
For the last 7 years, we’ve experimented with a lot of different mediums and products. I started That Post Show in 2007, then I created That Media Show (a short-lived video podcast, similar to the very awesome and far better made “Film Riot” by Ryan Connolly). I traveled the world from 2009-2011, then returned and started Scruffy.TV and made a lot of (often not-so-great) content, trying to understand workflow, collaboration, building a global workforce, film production and visual effects. We experimented for two years, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding. We build products and technologies. We made films and television shows. We collaborated and created visual effects for dozens of feature and indie films.
In 2013, along with Alan E Bell, we decided to build a real company and stop experimenting. This was the beginning of THAT Studio. It made perfect sense to rebrand everything as “THAT Studio” in some way or another; Indie Essentials (our budget visual effects library for indie filmmakers) became THAT Studio Effects HD. That Post Show became THAT Studio Show. Several other projects merged and became something new, with a “THAT Studio” name.
Seriously though…how do you keep track of all the different projects you have going on?
I have a fantastic team of talented people who work their asses off and continue to make me look great. If not for my team, none of this would ever work and the whole of THAT Studio would still be a napkin sketch from a few dinners at Fogo de Chão.
Speaking of your many different projects, you showcased THAT Studio Effects at NAB, which offers over 100 GB of royalty-free assets. Based on the feedback you’ve gotten, how have these things practically impacted users and projects as a whole?
THAT Studio Effects is actually a small part of what we released and it’s really been about the THAT Studio Panel for Premiere Pro and After Effects (CC 2014). We’ve worked for 10 months and spent a lot of time with Adobe to embrace and use their new API for their CC 2014 (and beyond) products. As a technologist turned filmmaker, I have been excited about the idea of an iTunes for Post Production for years and we are finally seeing the first release of this idea.
From the beginning, we — like many artists — agonized over existing licenses. I like companies such as PremiumBeat and I certainly use their music, but their licensing is dictated by their artist agreements and their corporate licensing. A track isn’t really $49 if you use it in a film, it’s more like $500 and up. The same is true for “build your own” products like Sonicfire Pro and others. And, for video, it’s even worse. You can pay $10,000 for a single clip if you use it in a commercial project or on a feature film or in television.
We hated all that nonsense and worked for the last year to create an agreement that works for the artist. If you buy from us, you — the artist — own the content. You own it Royalty-Free and in perpetuity. Simply put, this means you can buy everything from us and use it however you want and in all your projects (commercial film and beyond) and never have to worry about violating our license.
We had to both own our own content, create our own music and make deals with companies so Royalty-Free actually meant something. It was daunting and we nearly didn’t make it happen for NAB this year…
How important was it for you to deliver a workflow and not simply give users a bunchy of files?
All the important. We wanted people to be able to preview audio, video and other content while offline, then — when online — grab whatever they needed. That way, you don’t have to carry a large hard drive with you and worry about storage for both your “library” and your current project. You can be at home, in the office, on the road or in a coffee shop and you have the same content.
We also found the media management in our favorite NLE to be irritating and slow, especially with large collections of content (we use over 5TB of standard content at THAT Studio). We wanted our entire team to have access to all the same content whether they were in Los Angeles or Warsaw, Poland. This required radical rethinking about what it means to use Cloud-based media and assets.
To accomplish this, we designed THAT Studio Panel for Premiere Pro and After Effects.
You brought six other products to NAB as well, including THAT Studio Color and Conform Studio, among others. Generally speaking, are these tools about making things easier on users, or giving them more power to be creative?
THAT Studio Panel is an extension for Premiere Pro and After Effects which provides offline previews of both video and audio (and other) content. It works very well and people are loving it. I’ve heard phrases like “this has made my life a thousand times easier” and “I can stay in the zone without leaving the NLE, I love you guys.” It’s great stuff and we are very pleased by the reaction to our first real product.
Our content is really interesting right now and designed for everyone.
THAT Studio Effects HD — hundreds of gigabytes of 2k content for film and television.
THAT Studio Atmospheres — custom music “beds” with pre-built content and stems, so you can create your own music or stingers.
THAT Studio Colour — hand-crafted looks, which are designed to be stackable and work together, not alone.
Conform Studio and Trim N Collect are After Effects scripts which do some amazing media management, batch renaming, trimming and much more. We needed Conform Studio for several feature films and television projects, where we had to share conformed media with our vfx artists and editors. We couldn’t believe people were still doing these conforms manually and we realized we were spending hundreds (or thousands) of hours conforming footage. It drove us crazy, as artists ourselves, so we created a product to solve the problem.
And, we are launching THAT Studio Effects Ultra HD, which provides 4k and higher content for film and television (or commercials or internet).
Our current library of content is over 300 gigabytes and growing rapidly.
What else can you tell us about the 3K, 4K, and 5K content that you’ve made available?
We seeded the THAT Studio Panel with a large amount of 2.5k content, which was mostly a result of our partnership last year with Rampant Design Tools.
This year, we continue to add amazing new, high resolution content, starting with our own Film Grain and Organic Lights. On May 8, 2015, we added Explosions Ultra HD! Our Explosions are high quality, ProRes 4444 Quicktime Explosions with alpha channels! This is part of our commitment to bring higher quality and higher resolution content into the THAT Studio Panel. We have another 4 Explosion bundles planned and each one is 10 Explosions at 4k resolution for only $99 (or, for free if you purchased the THAT Studio Production Bundle for $549 in May).
You can watch a short overview on Vimeo to find out more about Explosions Ultra HD — https://vimeo.com/127299210.
We have much more coming this year. We have new Ultra HD content, new Sound Effects, new Atmospheres and much more.
What do you tell people who aren’t sure how these packages would or can impact their projects?
THAT Studio Panel is free at www.THATStudio.com. I’d encourage anyone using Premiere Pro or After Effects CC 2014 to download it and install it (using the Adobe Extension Manager). From there, you can freely preview everything — from music to visual effects to wounds and creature effects and much more. If you like a category, you can buy most collections (such as Smoke, Fire, Flames, Music and more) for $59 on average. Some bundles are more and some are less.
There’s nothing better than being able to move between computers and have access to hundreds of gigabytes of amazing content. We’ve seen teams of people start standardizing on our Cloud-based content and use our THAT Studio Panel. It’s been very rewarding and we can’t wait to make it even better and reach more people.
I’m very excited about the future and love hearing feedback. We have a kind of informal deal with our customers; if our customer suggests a category we do not have, we will go shoot that category of effects and they will get that category of effects for free. We love hearing what our customers want and we love even more providing the tools to deliver that content to our customers.