2014 saw a number of shakeups across media & entertainment. AJA’s announcement of the CION at NAB grabbed a lot of attention and headlines, but the FS7 from Sony and the VariCams from Panasonic proved various manufactures had something to show off this year. Updates that Adobe rolls out on a frequent basis are just as noteworthily, if not as newsworthy, in 2014 as they used to be, but we might remember this as the year Avid made a significant commitment to Avid Everywhere and their subscription model, although it remains to be seen what that will mean for them and for their customers. 2014 was also the year that we got 512GB SD Cards, so we have officially increased the SD card capacity by 1,000 times in just over a decade. The year as a whole clearly illustrated that technology continues to grow by leaps and bounds, and nowhere was that more evident than in the drone/UAV space, as you only have to take a quick glance at what’s available now to realize the opportunities that are out there.
That’s just a quick and very high-level look at 2014 though, and doesn’t begin to get into or explain what the year meant and will mean to professionals at every level. What stood out and really made this year different? Or not so different? Were there any products or services that really surprised you in 2014? Anything you can look back on as a catalyst for 2015? Or for the industry as a whole?
A few highlights for me. I’m not sure what, collectively, they mean, but it’s been an interesting year:
- The Sony A7s – an amazingly sensitive, mirrorless camera that brings you 4K at an amazing price point without the awkward ergonomics of the BMCC.
- The admission by artists working in pretty much all mediums (musicians, filmmakers, novelists, nonfiction writers) that it’s sucking worse than ever in terms of making a living. The devaluation of digital content thanks to Amazon/iTunes/Netflix/Spotify/Pandora/etc., piracy, the continued rapaciousness of distributors, the lack of any kind of real trade union among independent producers (sorry, the PGA is cool but they’re not a union) are all cited as reasons. No easy solution is apparent right now. While I’ve heard peeps and complaints for years now, this year I saw articles popping up just about everywhere about the importance of paying artists/writers/musicians/filmmakers.
- This is the year I watched more hours of TV than films (last year was pretty close). Don’t know what that portends long-term.
- This is also the year I kept seeing movies being made for 5 figures going on to decent distribution (whereas before they’d be just getting shuttled straight to Vimeo). 5 figures! This year I had more people approaching me to do budgets for these types of films than for any other budget category. Looks like $50k-$75K is the new $200K. Oy.
- DVD has refused to die and is doing well for smaller films and filmmakers.
From the perspective of a guy that has worked for 33 years in broadcasting, the #1 story of 2014 for me is the stunning acceleration of over-the-top delivery of content, to the point where the coming re-repacking of over-the-air transmission of television might be pretty meaningless. The irony of this is that it is OTT that is making it possible for people to comfortably ditch their cable or satellite providers for slimmer, much less expensive programming packages, with local and network programming delivered by – gasp! – antennas. It's “The Gift Of The Magi” in electronic terms, if you need a holiday hook.
Going hand-in-hand with this trend is the desertion of big TVs in favor of mobile devices. For a decade I have been preaching that people will always have homes, with couches, with TV's across the family room that they will consume media from. Observing my two teenage daughters and their friends has totally schooled me about that – and I don't care how big someone can build a screen, the kids are getting quite used to being happy watching on their phones. And the really surprising part is new data showing that this trend is migrating upwards, to older demographics.
I am having a real hard time imaging the next “gotta-have-it” tool. What would I really, really like? More intelligent scripts and fewer superheros, but hey! It's Christmas, I get a wish. Right?
Oh yeah, one last thing – the elephant in the room: 2014 was the year people finally saw the results of not taking data security seriously.
Stunning Good Looks
I think the biggest elephant in the room is where do ad dollars go now. I shoot spots and high-end marketing and branding projects, and I can't remember the last time I shot something that ended up on broadcast TV. All my work now ends up on websites and mobile phones.
While living room TV screens are getting bigger, I'm not sure that the content they display is going to come through traditional broadcast channels, at least not immediately. On-demand services such as HBO Go, Netflix and Showtime On-Demand have trained us that we don't really need to watch commercials if we don't want to, and if there's an amazing TV series we want to watch without breaks all we have to do is wait a year or two until it hits Netflix. (I came late to Breaking Bad, for example, and I think we watched the entire series in three weeks. We had a much different experience to those who watched it over the course of five years with commercial interruptions.)
I'm guessing as I don't have the technical chops to say this definitively, but I'd guess that streaming services would be able to implement 4K sooner than cable companies would.
I don't think the big monitor in the living room is going to remain hooked up to an antenna or a cable box much longer, and at the same time content created specifically for that monitor is qualitatively better than ever with no advertising attached. Broadcast spots might have an expiration date that's not too far in the future. 4K content, no commercials… I can't see why that wouldn't be popular.
Meanwhile, a ton of advertising has gone to the small screen. There's a generation of Youtube stars, most of them in their teens and twenties, who have achieved world class stardom amongst their peers. I would never have heard of these kids if I didn't have relatives that age, or if I hadn't recently been to New York where every subway station has ads bought and paid for by Youtube marketing their own celebrity talent pool. All of their videos are self-shot in HD on low cost equipment, with decent (but not great) audio quality and flat lighting. It's all about personality and looks.
Youtube is selling plenty of advertising to go along with this programming, and these kids are far from starving. Several of them broadcast from the homes and condos they bought with their Youtube proceeds. And, just in case the spots aren't working, the kids themselves have become salespeople. I've watched a few of these videos just to see how trends are developing and it's amazing the number of times they casually mention the manufactured boy-band “One Direction.”
I think there's still a place for the living room TV as a destination for high quality programming, but I also see smaller screens taking on greater importance. I'm told that younger generations live quite happily watching movies at home on their laptops, but there's a reason the theatrical experience is so alluring: it's different, it's semi-social and it's immersive. I think the living room TV is going to gradually replace the theatrical experience, and cell phones and tablets will become the new living room TV. I expect we'll see a lot less advertising on TV and a lot more on our phones.
Streaming TV has taught us that we can watch TV for enjoyment alone, without annoying commercial interruptions. I love shooting spots, but can't stand watching most of them. Commercial content has to become as entertaining as the material that surrounds it or it will lose all of its effectiveness. I'm hoping this means my career is about to become a lot more interesting.
On a related note, 2014 continued the “race to the bottom.” This was previously known as “the democratizing of the film industry,” but it's pretty clear now that we're simply moving toward a lower standard of professionalism.
The good news is that gear is getting better and cheaper. The Sony FS7, for example, is a hell of a camera for the price. It has some weaknesses (the flimsy E-mount lens mount being the biggest one, plus the inability to adjust back focus) but that's clearly meant to keep sales of the more expensive and upper scale F5 and F55 humming along. It's about 2/3s the camera that an F5 is while costing about half the price. Sony has set a new bar, and everyone else is going to have to follow suit.
Also, I think we're approaching saturation when it comes to new cameras and new camera companies. Based on early sample reels, the AJA Cion is too little, too late and too expensive compared to what its competition can do. Unless AJA can pull several rabbits out of its hat the Cion is likely to be a non-starter. This is not only an example of what happens when a company decides to make a camera but doesn't seem to realize how complex that is, but also an example of a company jumping into the camera market just because it can—not because it offers anything different. Between Arri, Sony, Canon, RED, Blackmagic, Panasonic and GoPro I don't see a lot of room for a new mass market camera unless it is is somehow unique in design and feature set. (And, honestly, I don't see a lot of room for the new Panasonic 4K camera: it looks great, but those who shop in that price range have already bought a 4K camera that looks great, and often for less money.)
The bad news is that anyone can now afford to buy a camera that makes reasonably good pictures, and as a result very few newbies are bothering to work their way up the industry production ladder anymore. The prevailing style in spots and corporate is the same that I see in student films: everything is shot handheld, in a documentary style, often with a touch of slow motion added, and it's just eye candy. Cinematography is slowly becoming a branch of documentary filmmaking, where a cameraperson is a still photographer with a moving picture camera trying to grab little moments and figuring it all out later.
The art and craft of constructing a scene and a look that serves and enhances a story seems to be disappearing amongst the current generation of young filmmakers. It used to be that filmmaking was a bit of a mystery, and it took a long while to learn enough craft knowledge and demonstrate enough skill before someone trusted you behind a camera. Film costs money, the results aren't immediately visible, and the last thing any producer or director wants to do is sit in dailies and see that yesterday's work is unusable for photographic reasons. Now, simply because we can see a live image on set, we think that what we're doing is good enough, or we second guess those whose visual skills we used to trust. We seem think that because anyone can buy a camera we can skip those intermediate learning steps, because it's more important to start making images than it is to study those who went before us.
Lighting skills, in particular, seem to be less important to young filmmakers. We have cameras that can deliver acceptable images at very low light levels, so it has become okay to put one's entire focus on moving the camera rather than lighting for mood or story. Just because one can shoot under available light and get a decent-looking image doesn't mean that image is right for the story. Cinematography is about crafting images, not simply capturing them.
In a way I can't blame this new generation of filmmakers: if cameras and film were cheap enough when I started out I probably would have done the same thing. It's horrifying, though, that so many consider DSLRs as perfectly adequate filmmaking tools and see cameras like Alexa and Epic as distant dreams. It used to be that shopping for lighting equipment at Home Depot was considered resourceful and clever, but now it's just normal. That's depressing.
My hope is that we reach a point where artistic aspirations exceed craft knowledge, and the next generation realizes that they don't have to completely reinvent the cinematic wheel. When I started out in the industry I thought I knew a lot more than I really did, and working on professional crews showed me that there was so much out there I didn't know about, and needed to know, in order to be competitive, but also necessary to know just to be able to achieve the kind of looks that I wanted to create. I see a lot of young companies start out by buying a Mac and a camera and doing motion graphics work, but getting stuck when it comes to shooting live action because they don't have any real experience doing it. They are starting from scratch, with the same kind of lighting knowledge that early filmmakers had in the 1890s.
I'm hoping that, in the next few years, the cycle of learning will start again, where young filmmakers realize that cheap equipment alone isn't enough to do ground-breaking work, and there's a century of knowledge that they must tap before they can hope of moving the art and craft of cinematography forward.
The Pixel Painter
The 4K elephant in the room dictates that we move quickly to adopt the workflow or risk be crushed under his weight.
While even the GoPros now offer 4K/24-30p I need to seriously update all my hardware to edit it. And since NONE of my current work sees broadcast TV or even the big screen – I can't even use the full capabilities of the footage I shoot or are given to work with – other than cropping or downscaling.
The last feature film that I was given 4K sequences for I worked on doing VFX all in 4K (mostly roto/paint, so it was literally frame-by-frame) but they were editing the entire piece in 2K as the theaters it was going to show in were all 2K projectors. I know things have changed a lot in theaters in the past 24 months as well, but I'm sitting here wondering if I REALLY need to up my hardware now to be a player in the 4K game when 100% of my finished product ends up on YouTube?
My look back on 2014 isn't quite there yet, but my year has been filled with a ton of product reviews – ranging from studio lights for both photography and videography, camera gear for the studio and shooters on the go, new camera tech and of course UAVs/Drones. I've been following the whole UAV/Drone/Quadcopter thing from the very beginning with the first DJI Phantom review on ProVideo Coalition and the new technology I've seen this past year is mind-numbing… especially how fast the developments are actually coming to market!
A lot of activity revolved around the announcements at NAB in April, but so much has happened since… Everything from new LED lights, to new tripods, jibs and gimbals, to the new GoPro HERO4 and a multitude of new aerial products from DJI, 3DR and other manufacturers like Parrot and SteadiDrone.
And as others here have mentioned, the issues of UAVs/Drones in the air and the FAA, my response/rebuttal to the media's misinterpretation and speculation of the new FAA rules was published here on PVC and gained widespread interest. We have much more work to do in educating not only the new fliers who take to the skies with these “toys”, but more importantly, the public who listens to the harpies in the media who will take every rogue quadcopter incident or careless knucklehead's actions as the gospel and spread fear and panic for ratings/clicks. I could go on, of course, but I've already written my thoughts extensively on PVC. ; )
Beyond all the product testing, reviews and articles for ProVideo Coalition, I managed to crank out several live video workshops for CreativeLIVE, including the first-ever live streaming two-day Drone Workshop shot on remote location at Treasure Island in San Francisco. I also did a complete After Effects CC 2014 Learn by Video training title for Peachpit and updated The Green Screen Handbook, 2nd Edition with my new publisher Focal Press which was just released a couple weeks ago.
Oh, and I've also somehow managed to squeeze in a permanent part-time gig as an editor and motion graphics animator at Bio-Rad here in the East Bay, where I get to not only test a lot of the new products in our video production studio, but also keep challenging my production skills on real-world projects every week.
And I'm in the middle of editing a documentary I've been working on for over 4 years now – because I really don't think I have enough on my plate, apparently.
Just wait until you see what 2015 looks like!
I couldn't agree more about how people are getting quite used to being happy watching on their phones as I have also experienced this watching my children and grandchild. This is the future, giant TVs are the past. This is one more reason I don't believe in the 4K push.
That said, this is the year manufacturers doubled down on forcing us all into 4K even though the consumer hasn't asked for it. It is a very clever marketing trick that will have us expend many hundreds of millions of dollars in new infrastructure on something no consumer will ever see. Fortunately some companies, like Dolby, are focusing on better pixels as evidenced by their High Dynamic Range solution. The coming battle (maybe 2018?) will be between better pixels vs. 8K. None of these make a difference to the consumer unless the bandwidth in this country expands tremendously.
The business of providing and monetizing content continues to offer both new opportunities to an expanding group of people, while continuing to vex those already in the business. Where will the professional content creator be making dollars in the future? Will it be possible to maintain a middle class living in this changing industry? Are we seeing the same elimination of the middle class that is happening in so many other industries right now? While 2014 gave us summer blockbusters like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” it also saw attendance at theaters among the 12-24 year olds drop 15%. Tie that together with cord-cutting, YouTube watching, Torrent viewing habits and increased video game playing and you see a trend that is not very hopeful for traditional content creators. Some traditionalists argue that people will always go to theaters for the social experience. That is being replaced by Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. The upcoming generations appear to be happier interacting electronically which facilitates isolated viewing.The success of Vine, (sharing things in 6 seconds or less of video) should give some insight into the future consumer's attention span.
In my market the switch to Avid that occurred with the release of FCPX was fairly large. We still are not seeing any significant inroads by FCPX or Adobe Premiere. Adobe scored a PR bonanza with the release of “Gone Girl” which was edited in Premiere but this isn't the same as FCP's “Cold Mountain” moment. Back then the price difference between FCP and Media Composer was huge. 2014 brought Avid to the low cost subscription model much like Adobe which means price is no longer a real differentiator for NLEs. So it comes down to workflow and familiarity. Avid has the multi-editor workflow market pretty well locked up while Adobe is trying to change that with it's Adobe Anywhere product. However, the amount of content created by collaborating-editor workflows is insignificant in the overall NLE market.
2014 was also the year that Avid introduced their “Avid Everywhere” concept which is an attempt to make their “Platform” the go to place for everyone who creates or uses digital content. The concept mixes a cloud based collaborative working environment with a marketplace to exchange content. It is supposed to be open to all other manufacturers so you would be able to use your favorite creative software on the Platform as long as the manufacturer uses Avid's SDK to tie in. I feel that this places them against competition like Google, Apple, etc. which is not Avid's traditional bailiwick. It will be interesting to watch how this plays out over the next few years.
Avid also released 4K support in Media Composer in the last days of 2014. This levels the playing field when it comes to content creation size on the major NLEs. Their addition of DNx codecs to handle higher resolutions should help them stay in the game against ProRes. This year saw the Indiegogo campaign for MOX which would be a universal standard codec. While that is something many of us have been dreaming of for years, it is highly unlikely to succeed as so many manufacturers want to control of the pipelines.
About the “death of the big screen:” I was teaching at Major League Soccer and all the editors were guys in their 20s. Not one of them had a TV. All of them watched content on their laptops and phones.
And I just watched an interview with “12 years a slave” director, Steve McQueen, who posited that short films would become more and more important as the viewing audience is attuned to watching short stories that are better suited to internet consumption
There's even a rise in the number and popularity of “on demand” theatrical distribution. If you can get enough people at a certain location to want to see a small indie or even a classic film in the theater you can. So for movie creators you can reach a theatrical audience without the big studios. Combine those trends and the film and TV industries may be headed for the same fate as the record companies.
A quarter of a century ago (!) when I worked at Abekas Video Systems building big-iron tools for video post, it was almost a point of pride that most of the engineers (and some of the editors we worked with) didn't have TVs at home. This is not a new thing. And the move from big, heavy TVs to portable devices is likely as much about Generation Rent maintaining a lightweight, mobile footprint as any evolution in preferences for picture size.
There is no “death of the big screen”, there's the death of the one-size-fits-all screen. Theaters, TVs, desktops/laptops, tablets, smartphones, and smartglasses are all viable media-consumption devices (the jury is still out as to whether we'll all be using smartwatches for video, Dick Tracy style).
It's not physical size that's the real story, it's the pixel size: we already have 2560 x 1440 smartphone screens and Qualcomm expects we'll have 3840 x 2160 ones in 2015 or 2016. Whether or not you find this a useful thing or a waste of pixels (my own experience aligns with Qualcomm's assertion that it's vernier acuity rather than visual acuity that determines when the point of diminishing returns is reached), it really doesn't matter: the video analog of Parkinson's Law is that pixel counts expand to fill the screen space available. When it costs about the same to mass-produce a 4K screen as an HD screen, after a while 4K screens will be the only screens you can get. You can fill those pixels with upscaling, or with native content. What we've seen with DVDs and HD sets over the past decade or so is that, even with the common bottleneck of an SD DVD, material originated on film or as HD looks better than material originated as SD. I find that some of the best-looking HD I've ever produced starts as clips acquired with a 4K camera, whether it's a high-end F55 or a lowly $1700 GH4, and others have had the same experience.
The availability of 4K as a viable acquisition, production, and display format doesn't mean that, starting tomorrow, you have to shoot, edit, and view 4K, any more than the arrival of HD in the mid-'80s suddenly killed SD. Indeed, I spent some time this week helping to troubleshoot roundtripping a show between 480-line DV and 486-line SD timelines in Avid and After Effects.
But ignoring it, or downplaying its viability – in an uncanny replay of the arguments made against HD fifteen years ago – is shortsighted. The move from SD to HD required a massive reworking of every part of the production and distribution chain (analog recording and broadcast! Tape formats! Linear editing! Expensive storage and slow processors!). Switching from HD to 4K, by comparison, isn't much more painful than changing a menu setting in your camera or the timeline dimensions in your NLE. Yes, you need more storage than you did before, but it's not like you have to dump your Digibeta decks for HDCAM ones: just buy more drives. The 4K transition will happen – is happening – far faster and more painlessly than the HD transition did, and perhaps more invisibly as a result. Just be aware of it, that's all.
Looking at 2014 as a whole, this was the year that 4K went mainstream in every part of the production chain, from acquisition (Panasonic Varicam35 at the high end down to the Panasonic GH4 and Sony A7s at the low end; even 4K GoPros, and too many 4K-capable smartphones to count) through switchers to distribution (Netflix, Amazon Prime) to displays. Producers are starting to require 4K origination. 4K is the new HD; HD is the new SD. Whether “the average user can't tell the difference” is true or not isn't the point: the juggernaut is on a roll regardless.
2014 was also the year when we really started to discuss better pixels, not just more pixels, not just as academic exercises but as serious investigations into production, encoding, and transmission standards. The Dolby / MovieLabs Perceptual Quantization coding proposal lets producers target both high-dynamic-range displays as well as our antiquated, 100-nit, 6-stop display standard, a standard that's long been exceeded by 400-nit consumer LCDs. Tessive's Time Shaper lets you take high-frame-rate footage and derive “normal” frame rates from it without the usual compromises and tradeoffs. It's early days yet, but HDR and HFR imaging are starting to look like viable techniques, not just in acquisition, but throughout the production process and on out to the viewers.
Both Autodesk and Avid have embraced subscription models, but – unlike Adobe – they've given customers the choice of pay-as-you-go subs or the traditional buy-it-and-own-it model. It's… it's almost like these two companies understand that their users have differing needs. What's more, their websites explain the tradeoffs (for example, for Media Composer and 3ds Max) with a refreshing clarity long absent from any of Adobe's turgid now-how-much-will-I-have-to-pay communications. More power, then, to Avid and Autodesk!
Finally, I can't ignore the Rise of the Drones (pun intended), as plummeting costs make 'em affordable, and onboard stabilization controls make 'em flyable by almost anyone. It's not the rise that bothers me so much as the plummeting – not of the cost, but of the drones themselves, when they wander out of range or their batteries or systems fail (did you know that drone flyaway videos now form a genre? And yes, I have seen “lost drone” notices in my neighborhood). Drones are spreading far faster than society has been able to adapt to them. The FAA's laggard attempts to integrate the buzzy li'l things into the national airspace system are only a minor part of the problem; it's more the way these flying slicers 'n' dicers have escaped the training-oriented and safety-first cultures of both model aviation and manned aircraft. As an airplane nut, licensed private pilot (instrument rated, of course), and incurable camera geek, I love the idea – but I'm appalled at the cavalier way many drone operators fly without due and appropriate regard for people and property, and how lacking the affordable devices are in terms of redundancy, failsafes, and general safety-of-flight design philosophies, return-to-home subsystems notwithstanding. If 2014 saw the Rise of the Drones, the way things are going 2015 will see the Rise of Drone Liability Lawsuits. Let's all be careful out there.
DSLR Moving Pictures
I guess I’ll have to agree with Adam, and add my own experience as a father and someone that plays videogames (I wrote professionally about the industry for over two decades). My two sons – 24 and 21 years old – have big display smartphones and they do watch a lot of things there, but the first thing my younger son does when he comes home to visit us is sit in front of the TV – a 50 inch model bought some years ago and still in good working order – to watch everything. Yes, he still has the smartphone besides him, and he uses it as a kind of Electronic Flying Bag, to check everything he needs/wants, but watching films is done on the TV, and he goes to see movies a lot because the big screen fascinates him. I should say it fascinates them, as my older son is also a movie-goer. So, they use what they have.
Having written recently about a lot of big screens with 4K resolution that are coming to the market at lower prices, I see that the revolution is really going on. There are already games being made to work on 8K and beyond, so a generation of gamers will want big screens. And it is probably through many of them that the first 4K screens – not TV’s, but monitors that, after all, are usable to work or fun – are being bought. Committed gamers want to have not one but multiple big displays. People are setting 5 Full HD dispalys together to use as the view outside of the cockpit of a massive multiplayer space adventure game. We're not creating this gaming content, but it's good to have an idea about what people are looking at on their screens.
Others are going for superwide sizes, to have an almost cinematic view. I am guilty of this myself, as I used one of the first HP 30 inch professional models for many years, and when it broke could not do without the real estate of so much space, so I bought a second monitor with the same size 30 inch. After a few days on a 27 inch I felt I really needed the extra 3 inches. I may not be an example, but from what I see around, a generation that plays games – and we’re not just talking about kids – will use the biggest screen they can buy. Maybe not just to watch TV. Different ones, for different tasks, but many times bigger is better and preferable.
When I look back on 2014 I think the year was more of a “yawn” than a “shout.” It seemed much more like an evolutionary year that a revolutionary one when things didn't really evolve all that much. Maybe I had my head buried too deep in a dark edit suite or maybe my area of concentration didn’t have me cross paths with any game changers so nothing really seemed to move the radar all that much.
4K certainly grew in popularity both in terms of ease of acquisition and ease of post-production but I didn’t deliver a single 4K project in 2014. Part of that is due to my place in the market which sees me doing a lot of offline “craft” editing but even those projects I finished were all acquired and delivered at 1080. Part of that is due to discussions with producers to determine that these productions were best suited for 1080 but mainly it is because these producers have investments in 1080 gear that gets the job done very, very well (and very, very efficiently). They weren’t willing to spend the extra money to just to shoot 4K *because we can*. And while I would have been happy to do a full 4K post-production pipeline for their jobs we just didn’t need to. And I don’t have a 4K monitor nor did I want to go out and buy one.
The subscription software model certainly continued to rise in popularity with both Avid and Autodesk moving to subscriptions as an option. Red Giant even got into the subscription game with Universe. Adobe continued make their Creative Cloud apps better and better. I don’t understand the intricacies of accounting in a publicly traded company but this subscription-type model is giving us fast and furious upgrades coming from both Adobe and Avid at a pace we haven’t seen before.
Drones were all the rage this year (though there weren’t new) as they got cheaper and cheaper but their awareness in the public came about more as a result of the FAA concerns and evening news horror stories than it did from amazing new footage (though we did get that too). I certainly saw more footage come through my edit suite that utilized a gimbal than I have before but the amazing MōVI came along in 2013. It’s only natural that revolutionary technology continues to evolve and get cheaper in the following year.
That leaves me with the one thing that surprised me more than any other when I look back on 2014: It was, surprisingly, a very good year. When I look back on my work from 2014 it was a very busy year and my billing reflects that. I live in a crowded post-production market but between my local clients and out of town clients (thank you Internet and UPS) I was much busier when looking back on the year than I think I thought I would be when looking forward to the year. Of course that may be the freelancer mindset as I remember just that from my first round of freelancing many years ago. Since 2015 is just days away I'll probably be looking forward to the year with excitement, anxiety and a bit of fear by the time you read this. Forget 8K, color grading and codecs … I'm much more worried about what will happen to heath insurance costs than what NLE I'll be using.