We're the technology providers behind the creatives

Bryan Malone

Bryan Malone and Declan Hogan join us to talk about the content explosion, the demise of audio hardware and predicting the future of media production.

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Daryl Moorhouse:         It’s the Tinpod, the Tinpod Productions Podcast, and today we have Bryan Malone and Declan Hogan from Tyrell, and the reason we wanted to talk to them today is because, as I see it, technology is, I suppose, a key part of the production process. It always has been. Now, I think the fact that technology is changing so quickly and evolving so quickly, and in a way enabling so much more creativity.

Daryl Moorhouse:         I supposed, what I’m interested maybe start with is, some of the people listening to this podcast will know exactly who Tyrell are and what it is that you do; some of the people who are listening may not be in the sector that you’re in. So, I guess what it’d be interesting in the first place is specifically what are the areas that you guys work in?

Bryan Malone:              There’ll be two different answers from two different people, Declan having the technical landscape, and myself having the sales. I suppose, the very high level in terms of what Tyrell does, is we navigate the technology for content creators. We’re that in-between where we go to trade shows and understand the nuances of the different product offerings to deliver a solution to a content creator, whether that’s in automation, in audio live, audio post, or video production. That’s the high level.

Bryan Malone:              In terms of your question, or your statement about the content producers, I think what we’re seeing is we’re definitely seeing an explosion of content production in the market, in the world, prevalent by YouTube, etc, the online services. I think that there’s two things that are driving that. I think it’s the commoditization of the technology, first and foremost. The technology is being made cheaper and marketed better, and distributed to the consumers, or marketed to the consumers.

Bryan Malone:              Then there’s the technology core, itself, in terms of that becoming more efficient and higher speed. It’s down to processors, it’s down to RAM. You look at your phone, simply in the last five years, and you can pretty much create a very interesting program out of it. We grew up in the world where broadcast quality was a requirement of the technology. That’s a debatable statement now. What is broadcast quality? It’s as good as the people who want to watch it.

Daryl Moorhouse:         And there’s so many … I mean broadcast is a smaller slice of the overall pie whereas broadcast, it was the benchmark. That’s not necessarily the case anymore.

Bryan Malone:              My oldest war story is I was responsible for selling the first [Avid 00:02:42] nine gigabyte drive in Ireland for $5.5 thousand dollars. That’s show’s it’s scale. You can get that for, what? Two cents on a USB stick now?

Daryl Moorhouse:         In terms of your business, then, is it a post-production house that has 50 people? Is it a colorist? Is it a free-lancing sound editor? Or is it all of the above?

Bryan Malone:              We’re the guys that supply … I suppose understand what the post-production house requires, or the audio studio requires, and take it from the concept or the initial idea, in terms of what they believe they need, and trying to put context and equipment around that. We’re the technology providers behind the creatives.

Bryan Malone:              Not in front of the camera. We’re not cameras, lights, action. We’re responsible for the file, or the audio clip. As soon as it’s recorded, all the way to the time the consumer hears it.

Daryl Moorhouse:         So it’s the infrastructure almost, is it? Or …

Declan Hogan:              More or less the infrastructure. It’s more to the solution, really. A lot of people come to us, creatively, they know exactly what they want to do. They have no idea what underpins it. They walk in the door and they say, “I want to make beautiful pictures.” We say, “Well, don’t we all.” Then we say, “Are you shooting HD or 4K?” They go, “Oh, um, oh, 4K.” “Would that be interlaced or progressive?” “Oh, uh …” “So what’s your target market?” “Well, uh …” “Is it the web?” “Yeah, yeah. It’s the web. Yes sir.” “Oh, so you will be progressive, then?” “Oh, yeah, yeah, we’ll be aggressive.” “You’ll be shooting how many cameras?” “One.” “Okay, and is this an interview type thing?” “No, no, no. We’ll be just shooting one camera.” “Okay.” “Then when you get it back in your editing, how are you going to edit?” “Oh, um, yeah.” “What are you going to store it on? If you tell anybody what you’re going to do in the future, are you going to re-edit that? Are you going to store it? Are you going to … What are you going to …” And then suddenly suddenly you sign the …

Declan Hogan:              What we try to do is to be the people that the technologies … Most creatives think technology’s a given. And in a lot of cases we’re actually trying to guide people away from things. So we say, “Oh, we really like that technology, that’s really, really good technology,” and we say to people, “please don’t go near that.” And they go, “Ah, but it’s really good.” And we say, “Look, we’re giving you free advice, right? Don’t chicken out of it.”

Declan Hogan:              We actually do a lot of due diligence to make sure that we know when we’re selling the stuff, we’re not –

Bryan Malone:              It’s a firm opinion, based on commercial reality and experience, because we’ve been doing this for a while. 25 years. And that’s, it needs sort of the sales angle and the technical angle.

Declan Hogan:              [inaudible 00:05:11] he’s the [inaudible 00:05:15] and I’m the knickers.

Bryan Malone:              I’d debate that with you right now.

Daryl Moorhouse:         As soon as I saw the two of you, I knew that. Didn’t even need to be said. [crosstalk 00:05:23] moot. In terms of the products or the services that Tyrell are selling now, are they different to what you were selling ten years ago. So, we spoke to [inaudible 00:05:33] Brady from [inaudible 00:05:34] earlier today, and I was asking him, how many pieces of hardware, outside of computer do you have? And there’s none. Everything is in the box.

Bryan Malone:              It’s absolutely scary.

Daryl Moorhouse:         So have all of those Focus-Rite units, are they all mothballed? Is that gone, gone, gone?

Declan Hogan:              It’s gone.

Daryl Moorhouse:         It’s gone.

Bryan Malone:              So there were appliances brought in to plug in an [inaudible 00:05:56] or modify the signal on valves and transistors, and somebody’s come up with the algorithm to how to modify that and create an actual piece of mathematics that sits on a chip, the chips are responsible enough to take the code and do it in real time.

Daryl Moorhouse:         So are you saying that there isn’t a piece of hardware kit that can’t be mimicked or that can’t be accurately reproduced through an algorithm?

Declan Hogan:              The technology is actually the protocols … or the technology that underlines our industry is now completely shifted away from standard boxes. Standard hardware appliances into applications.

Bryan Malone:              I can put my hands on about 25 digi[inaudible 00:06:35] in this country alone that are just acting as doorstops, and they used to be £55,000 not ten years ago, so there’s a huge … but I suppose I’ve seen a very interesting diagram where it basically shows you the camera and glass piece will always retain. You cannot digitize glass in terms of the optics, or the microphones in terms of being able to record the audio, so those two ingest capture pieces cannot be put into applications or code. Absolutely everything behind that acquisition piece can be software or apped, and that sort of blows the mind a bit because the migration of people doing different productions, the requirement of the people going to the events or going to the Olympics and stuff like that has now nearly stopped. There’s a big transition of not sending 300 people to Rio to house them.

Daryl Moorhouse:         You mean from a broadcaster’s point-of-view?

Bryan Malone:              From a broadcasters point-of-view. What I’m trying to do is give you an understanding of the scale and how that might reduce down to a production or a live music event.

Declan Hogan:              The youth Olympics in Buenos Aires was managed from Barcelona. So all of the editing and all of the production around that came out of Barcelona.

Bryan Malone:              So if you were coming into the industry maybe 10 or 20 years ago, and you were coming into audio, you needed to know protos, probably, because that was industry standard.

Daryl Moorhouse:         Nowadays, is a different skillset or a different mindset? In other words, not to be locked to a piece of software but to have the understanding of what the industry is or to have a much more –

Declan Hogan:              Yeah, I want to answer your question Daryl, sorry, before … is the skillset there? I think the creative are becoming more creative and less technical. Years ago, even the name sound engineer, like a sound engineer had to understand [inaudible 00:08:42] and wiring, and that stuff is quite complex. Tracks and layers and video and routing. Whereas nowadays, it’s a drop of a pen and you’re doing it graphically in your protos. You’re not probably getting an understanding of how complex it actually is. The technology is actually making it much easier to be more creative, but the distance between you and the technology that underpins it is growing.

Declan Hogan:              So I’ll give you a great example, years ago producers used to know exactly how many shooting days they do, how many digi[inaudible 00:09:07] they’d use, how many DV’s they’d use, how many hours of storage that we’d need to do in an offline edit. And all of that, because the technology moved so slowly, everybody kind of grew up with that. And the all of a sudden we got this explosion of many different camera types, file formats. People are going, “What are you talking about?” The producers are going, “But now our shooting [inaudible 00:09:28] have gone off the scale. We have drives? What are you talking about?” What you find now is that the creatives don’t want to know about any of that. I just want to edit. I just want to make beautiful pictures. Which is good, but the link between what underpins it has kind of been lost.

Bryan Malone:              Adobe and Avid are meeting on Final Cut, I think, in the video editorial space, where they’re making these refined product tools that just fit the content explosion need. Five years ago we wanted the product to advance into a much bigger, wider feature set. And now they’re trimming back down. So there seems to be this movement of application requirement depending on the complexity of the content.

Declan Hogan:              There’s now technology, like for instance Pro Tools and Media Composer and Adobe, where you can go into the program and say I am actually a producer, I don’t want to see all that feature set.

Bryan Malone:              Turn it all off.

Declan Hogan:              And it just switches. So then you get an editor light. It’s the same application, it’s just all the fluff’s gone away –

Bryan Malone:              Darked out.

Declan Hogan:              So the technology’s now enabling people to, again move forward or away from the technology that underpins them. And maybe, yes, that’s a good thing. And in the future, the technology then in another aspect of it is enabling less decisions to be made in the creative space.

Declan Hogan:              I’ll give you a great example. If you do like a Big Brother, like the amount of cameras that they have, and they record them all. So they have sub-sub-sub editors who are picking out, who are tracking one person, and then they have a meeting every day and they say, “Oh, well that’s an interesting development over there,” and then there’s another subset then tracking that. And they have to manage that through meta data. So they’re tagging video, and then they’re gathering that … sub-sub-sub editors pass it on to a sub-sub editor, who passes it on to sub-editor, and the whole thing. So there’s armies of people today doing that, and what’s actually going to happen soon enough is you’ll say to an AI, “I really like the relationship that Daryl and Brian here have, they seem to be staring each other into the eyes, will you just keep an eye on that?” And then it’ll say, “Oh, yeah, look, they keep smiling at each other.”

Bryan Malone:              It’ll get to a particular point, maybe 40 or 50%, but it’s going to remove the requirement for this big triage of eyeballing all this data and having different plots going on just in case, because that type of production, the Big Brother production, can you imagine the amount of sub-plots that are going on in that on any given production day?

Daryl Moorhouse:         Do you need to be crystal ball gazers?

Declan Hogan:              As technical director of Tyrell, that is actually one of the axioms of my position, to make sure that … we have to feed ourselves at the end of the day, and it’s a tough industry to be in, that’s not [inaudible 00:12:15], I don’t know many millionaires in this industry, there’s certainly no billionaires in this industry.

Bryan Malone:              There’s a great, sorry to interject, but there’s a great joke that goes around, how do you be a millionaire in the post-production or broadcast industry? It’s make sure you enter it with 2 million quid.

Declan Hogan:              So it’s definitely true –

Bryan Malone:              It’s a lifestyle choice.

Declan Hogan:              It’s a lifestyle industry. I mean you have to be in it because you enjoy it. And we’re in it because we enjoy it, we discuss this all the time. We do it because, it used to be a very sexy industry, it is a very interesting industry.

Daryl Moorhouse:         I think from the outside, it’s still a sexy industry. For people who look in and maybe don’t understand, it is sexy, but there’s graft as well. Or else there’s no success.

Declan Hogan:              You just put the nail on the head. I mean graft. I’d imagine, I haven’t met anybody in this industry who isn’t a grafter, because if you’re not a grafter, you’re not going to survive. Because someone else will graft over you, and they’ll just literally pin you around.

Daryl Moorhouse:         So, there’s the traditional broadcast model. How much has the likes of Netflix and Amazon changed the industry, if at all?

Declan Hogan:              Can I answer that question, because I’m going to answer it as a propeller head, and I’ll let Bryan jump in in a minute. From my view, Netflix has increased the volume of production in the industry and put money into it, so they’ve effectively made the pie bigger. Facebook and YouTube have actually stolen … stolen is the wrong word, but the revenues that would traditionally into advertising have been moved out of –

Daryl Moorhouse:         Disrupted. And I’ve always found that interesting. I mean my background is working radio, and you would not get Tyrell or anything else mentioned on a radio station without per spot mentions, or whatever it might be, or sponsorship, there’s our package, as it is. But they’re biggest competitors get free advertising all the time, Facebook and Twitter, and all the social media things. It’s free. Now they can’t not do it, but I just think that these are the guys who are eating your lunch and –

Declan Hogan:              And you’re actually probably paying them to eat your lunch.

Bryan Malone:              It’s an extension for their audience, and I have this comment where if you spend the time and effort generating that piece of content, in my world you should keep it closer to yourself, rather than issue it out for free to all these social channels to engage an audience. This find your audience, and I think this is the struggle that broadcasters are having, is first of all identifying their audience and maintaining them, and voicing to them. Because the great thing, but it’s a double-edged, is the metrics and the analytics. The real-time stuff coming back, the likes, the dislikes, the happys, the sads, coming back from social media, is entertaining a narrative that we’re still unsure about whether there’s a commercial reality to that. It might be the red herring of our generation in terms of –

Daryl Moorhouse:         So is anybody outside of Facebook making money out of Facebook? I mean if you –

Bryan Malone:              The social media experts and the digital media experts, etc, are all setting up your profile, up your message, up your voice. But is it actually changing your business by putting all that time and effort into it?

Daryl Moorhouse:         I wonder on the … is there anything coming down the track? One of the things I think about podcasting is the fact that, first of all it’s distributed so that there’s a whole lot of different aggregators for podcasts, there’s no one central database that everybody’s using. Some people are using iTunes, some people are using Spotify, and there’s Acast, and everybody wants a piece of that pie. But it seems to me one of the problems with podcasting is that it’s not searchable. Is there anything where the AI will get that podcast audio can be searched so that a podcast result will come up on Google where I podcast Tyrell and it will come up three minutes into this podcast, Tyrell talk about this.

Bryan Malone:              Or was mentioned, or it was Bryan from Tyrell.

Daryl Moorhouse:         Exactly.

Bryan Malone:              That technology has been around for ages.

Daryl Moorhouse:         Has it?

Bryan Malone:              It’s just a matter of Google analyzing the sample of audio –

Declan Hogan:              Aggregating all the [crosstalk 00:16:10]

Bryan Malone:              And putting that into the metadata, it’s as simple as that. So the technology, and it’s very accurate.

Daryl Moorhouse:         And why is that? I mean it seems that technology isn’t been rolled out?

Bryan Malone:              Because it takes time, and if you think about the amount of input of audio samples that are hitting Google, or hitting the web in terms of it’s search engine, that’ll take an entire country’s electricity to just process all that stuff.

Declan Hogan:              To analyze a hundred thousand hours of video for audio context. So to do speech-to-text of a hundred thousand hours in Azure, in Microsoft Azure, costs about $50,000. So it’s, what, 50 cent an hour. So there’s a commercial cost. There’s a processing cost to do that. And that’s probably why.

Bryan Malone:              Because we’re witnessing future technologies where you’re in your editing bay or suite, or in your Pro Tools, and you type in, you want to search for a keyword that nobody has ever touched, and it will phonetically check the sample and populate your bin with exactly whether it was 78% hit, and put in tags of where that word was said. So it’s your script-to-text thing in terms of that technology’s been around for ages. But it’s there, it’s the commercial reality of how much, we’re back to content again, how much value do you put on your content to light that light on your archive to make it a commercial viable opportunity?

Declan Hogan:              And you’re [inaudible 00:17:40] about how much processing we have. But now we’re talking about how much processing in the cloud.

Bryan Malone:              Yeah, because there is a debate in the broadcast industry from some of the big guns in terms of data farms and storage pools, etc, is that in the future, maybe ten years, cloud connected storage will be free. All of it. And what they’ll be doing is they’ll be charging you for the bits that you use with what computational piece that you want an output from. So it’s like, we’ll hoover it up, we’ll store it, you can touch it and see it, but if you’re going to do anything with it and turn into something else, that’s where we’re going to charge you.

Daryl Moorhouse:         And that really throws up the thing that essentially, really what they’re saying is we own it and you license some part of yourself, which is … well, look there’s [crosstalk 00:18:33]

Bryan Malone:              We’re into ethics.

Daryl Moorhouse:         But there’s already ethical discussion. That’s just really taking the ethics of what they’re doing a little bit further, I suppose, but it’s kind of scary to think that I pay to license.

Bryan Malone:              But Daryl, is anything for free in this world?

Daryl Moorhouse:         No, no, no, I know. We sacrificed all that for convenience about ten years ago, I think.

Bryan Malone:              We really did.

Declan Hogan:              So we’ve all sold ourselves, but we don’t actually know it.

Daryl Moorhouse:         Yeah, well they’re very clever. I have two questions finish up, I’ve got one for you Declan, one for you Bryan. And we ask everybody we speak to about this. The first one is, on the technical side, what would us say is the bit of killer kit that you think, that you’ve experienced over the time working in the area? The one piece of equipment that you think has been the most fundamentally important, or useful, or groundbreaking? It could be something current, or previous, or any time.

Declan Hogan:              And you can’t say the washing machine.

Daryl Moorhouse:         You can if you want.

Bryan Malone:              In the industry.

Daryl Moorhouse:         In the industry, and let’s in the production industry.

Bryan Malone:              You really put me on the spot.

Declan Hogan:              DaVinci Resolve.

Daryl Moorhouse:         DaVinci Resolve.

Declan Hogan:              Is a really piece of groundbreaking technology.

Daryl Moorhouse:         And why, the DaVinci Resolve, over and above Lumetri or other color … is it just?

Declan Hogan:              Number one, it’s the way they’ve actually just developed a piece of software which on an entry level is free, and most people are using it. It enables so much creativity at a very low level, and zero cost. It’s actually a product killer, it’s killed a lot of other grading suites. It’s a brilliant tool.

Daryl Moorhouse:         We spoke to Niall Brady from Ardmore this morning, and he said the colorists are the new rockstars.

Declan Hogan:              They are.

Daryl Moorhouse:         He says they’re the guys, forget about your DOP’s, it’s the colorists who are making these things look [crosstalk 00:20:19]

Declan Hogan:              But I’ve no hair, I know gladly we’re on a podcast, but every time I meet a colorist, I always go, [inaudible 00:20:24], no, they’re the wrong type of colorist. Because outside of the industry when I used to say, “Oh, he’s a colorist,” my wife would go, “What, rinse brigade?” So for those of you not in the industry, a colorist is a video grading colorist.

Daryl Moorhouse:         They released a camera, the one, isn’t there a 4K camera that was supposed to be coming out in September –

Bryan Malone:              Yeah, the one with the back order of 4,000 world-wide.

Daryl Moorhouse:         Yeah.

Bryan Malone:              [crosstalk 00:20:51] Back orders, they just can’t be fulfilled, there’s huge orders on it, yeah.

Daryl Moorhouse:         Is it as good as they had suggested?

Declan Hogan:              Nobody’s seen it.

Bryan Malone:              It’s 4K, they’ve taken a punt in the trade show, and at that price point, we’re into disposable technology now. If you get it wrong, sure, so what?

Speaker 4:                    Tin. Pod. Tinpod.

Daryl Moorhouse:         Final question for you, for Bryan, and so, one thing that we ask everybody is that this is, as we mentioned, the industry is a village, and we’re just interested in connecting with anybody or everybody in that village, and that could be in Ireland, that could be internationally. So who do you think we should interview next? You can suggest anybody, even if you think we can get them or not, just who do you think would be good for the conversation?

Bryan Malone:              From a personal point-of-view, being a Tyrell person, I would nominate Stephen Murnane in Tyrell. Coming from a production background that now is responsible for nearly all the infrastructure within the animation business in Ireland, I think he’d be a very solid candidate that I’d like to put forth.

Daryl Moorhouse:         If you took off your sales hat for a –

Bryan Malone:              Oh, don’t.

Daryl Moorhouse:         Is it glued on?

Bryan Malone:              Is it ever off?

Declan Hogan:              The sales pants.

Daryl Moorhouse:         Just even slide it to the side a bit.

Bryan Malone:              Eugene McCrystal, actually.

Daryl Moorhouse:         Okay, so who’s Eugene McCrystal?

Bryan Malone:              Eugene McCrystal is a long old friend of mine, works in [inaudible 00:22:12] Outer Limits. He’s a facility founder, owner, operator.

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