The Digital Production BuZZ podcast with Larry Jordan covers filmmaking, video production, post-production, and distribution world-wide from the people creating the gear, to the people using it to create cutting-edge film and video projects. MediaSilo CEO and Founder Kai Pradel appeared on The Buzz last week to discuss the post-production technology landscape and where MediaSilo fits in.
Either listen to the audio or read the transcript of Kai's interview below.
Larry Jordan: Kai Pradel is the CEO and Founder of MediaSilo, which is a cloud based video sharing and media asset management platform which he started in 2008. Kai also founded College Publisher Inc and was the Past President of Productorials, a marketing services firm specializing in video marketing and interactive media. Hello, Kai, welcome.
Kai Pradel: Hi Larry, thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: It is a delight having you on. We are really curious about what MediaSilo is up to, but before we get to the news, tell us what MediaSilo is.
Kai Pradel: Sure, sure. MediaSilo, as you said it very well in the introduction, is an asset management and collaboration solution that’s cloud based, which means there’s very little software to install and it’s really a tool that’s taken a creative first approach in terms of providing a toolset to editors, producers and anybody who’s part of the media supply chain who is looking for tools to cut down on steps and time that it takes to bring a post production project forward.
Larry Jordan: But why the combination of both video sharing and asset management?
Kai Pradel: Well, they really kind of go hand in hand and that’s a great question, because asset management as we’ve known it so far, I would argue, has really been relegated to a four walled approach. It’s not been a very democratic toolset so far. In most cases, asset management means you’re storing media on the server… where it’s clearly only accessible to a few people in the organization, archivists or people that really have intimate knowledge with the tool. But what MediaSilo’s really doing is democratizing this access to media and making it really simple to interact with your media library across geographical boundaries but also within an organization that’s maybe just in one building. Collaboration goes hand in hand with that, because once you have access to media, you have access to sharing tools… approval tools and it opens up the collaboration and the communication between the different stakeholders in a totally new way.
Larry Jordan: Well, I want to come back to media asset management a little later, because one of things we’re doing here at the studio is implementing a media asset system and it’s driving us nuts from a conceptual point of view and I want to chat with you about that. But before we do, I want to focus more on some of the new stuff you’ve been talking about, one of which is Edit Companion. Tell us about that.
Kai Pradel: We started working on Edit Companion, which is a panel extension for the Adobe trader suite about a year ago and we showed it for the first time at NAB in 2014. I’m going to tell you, since we started working on this, it’s definitely evident that people are very excited about what Adobe’s doing and what they’re seeing in terms of the Adobe world of tools bridging with tools like MediaSilo. Edit Companion is essentially a really simple panel that lives inside of Premiere – right now it’s primarily a Premiere plug-in but we’ll soon be releasing a version for After Effects as well – and they’ll ask the editor to access media stored in MediaSilo from Premiere itself, so there’s no more opening a browser, searching for files, downloading them and then importing them into a project. All that happens, by just dragging a project directly into Premiere and cloning it. The other thing that’s really exciting is…
Larry Jordan: Wait, wait, wait, wait. Hold on, hold on. Hold on one second, let’s just take this one step at a time. How do you differentiate between the media browser, which does exactly what you described, and the MediaSilo panel?
Kai Pradel: The panels are loaded in by selecting an extension and it’s just in a drop down bar, and then you can put the panel itself anywhere in the interface, so you can dock the panel anywhere you like. You can dock it right next to the projects tab, you can dock it really against any panel, so it allows for a great deal of customization, and that’s to Adobe’s credit – they’ve made this very, very easy.
Larry Jordan: Ok. But again, I understand the docking and the customization, but what do you get from the MediaSilo panel that you don’t get from the media browser? Because the media browser allows you to see all your files before you bring them in.
Kai Pradel: Yes, absolutely, another good question. What the panel does is it opens up to a world of media that may not be local. If you’re working within your office, you have access to your 20 terabyte array, you have all the media you want, that’s great. You probably wouldn’t need MediaSilo in that case. But if you’re on the road and you’re collecting footage or you’re in a hotel room and you need to put together rough cuts and you don’t have access to your 20 terabyte array, that’s when MediaSilo comes in. The media is ingested in MediaSilo, you have it available and then it’s acceptable anywhere with a very simple and quick import into Premiere.
Larry Jordan: Ok, so then let’s look at it a different way. How do you differentiate between what we get in MediaSilo and what Adobe gives in Adobe Anywhere?
Kai Pradel: Well, Adobe Anywhere is really a different beast on its own. It’s a very high end professional real time editing solution. It’s really aimed at a different market. It’s much more expensive, much more cumbersome to set up, but it does something that MediaSilo certainly doesn’t. MediaSilo is, I’d call it the inter-budget version of Adobe Anywhere in that it gives you access to all of your media and importing it, but you don’t have to stand up a server, you don’t have to provide the type of bandwidth that’s required for Anywhere. I see both of these tools really working hand in hand, especially when your media is coming from different sources and maybe collected in one place that is not an Anywhere server.
Mike Horton: I love this idea, because a lot of us know about Adobe Anywhere until we actually look at the cost and then we go, “It’s not for us,” so to have MediaSilo step in there and help us out, I really appreciate that.
Larry Jordan: I cut you off in the middle, because the very first thing you were talking about is that Edit Companion provides a panel that opens up inside Premiere which allows us to access files that are stored on MediaSilo; whether they’re stored locally or for on the road, it’s giving us essentially proxy files. But then you said there was another big benefit and I didn’t let you go there, so go there.
Kai Pradel: Yes. We’ve worked with a lot of editors over the years and our team is part creative video editors and part software developers, so we’ve witnessed where a lot of time is wasted in post production and especially in the rough cut stage. The first part is collecting all your media and pulling it all together and creating some sort of local organization of files, but the second is sharing out rough cuts with clients. Currently, that is really cumbersome. There are a lot of individual steps going into media encoder and then uploading it to a solution, then sending the link to it and so the other piece in Edit Companion is a direct integration with QuickLinks, which is our media sharing tool, and it’s as simple as two clicks. You essentially select the sequence that you’re working with and then you’re sending that sequence as a QuickLink and between you selecting the sequence and entering email addresses of the people that should get the new cut, there are two clicks and within just a few minutes they have the asset in a browser, remotely viewable in high quality without all the manual steps. The typical let’s shut everything down at five o’clock because we have to export the media and figure out how to get it to the client now becomes a casual click on a button and you know it will be delivered and you don’t have to handle the process. It’s really two tools that are built into Edit Companion that make an editor’s life a lot easier.
Larry Jordan: Over the last year, I’ve heard a lot of announcements of people trying to enable collaboration inside video editing software. What is it that makes collaboration so difficult and why do you think you’ve got the best answer?
Kai Pradel: Well, I think first of all, working with video is always harder. I think drop box and box and many other tools have made collaboration with non-video files very easy. We all know Google docs and how you can edit together at the same time. Video’s really a very different challenge because you’re dealing with a work of art and you’re dealing with creative work that needs to be exposed in a certain way. So it’s very important that you’re not sending low quality proxies that have discoloration or pixilation or just don’t look the way that the creator intended it, so working with video inherently is a lot more challenging.
Larry Jordan: And why do you think you’ve got the best solution?
Kai Pradel: I think there are a lot of good solutions in the industry right now. If you’re a creative editor these days, you’ve got a completely new sea of tools that are available to you. I think what we do very well is we understand the entire process, the entire media supply chain. I’ll give you an example. Often first time customers hear about us because they were sent a QuickLink and they liked the QuickLink and they open it up and they want to get a tool that works just like that. They’re really not thinking about the long term implications of what happens to your media once you’ve uploaded it somewhere and that in three months you want to get that piece of media back and you want to re-send it, or you’ve lost your local copy.
Kai Pradel: What we see is that usually our relationship with a customer starts by solving this ‘now’ problem, which is QuickLinks and then, over time, evolves into this, “Wow, there’s a platform play here, they’ve thought about metadata, they’ve thought about file ingest, they’ve thought about distribution, they’ve thought about review the pool and they’ve thought about how I keep my stuff in a place securely so that I can run my business a lot more efficiently.” I would say that if you look at the whole life cycle of media production and the supply chain – and that’s why we work with small to medium sized production companies all the way to the major networks that have multi-thousand… with us, because the challenge is always the same and I think we understand that whole life cycle very well.
Larry Jordan: Is Edit Companion available or is it to be released at some point in the future?
Kai Pradel: Edit Companion is available now. It is actually one of the very few panels that is available off the shelf today without any customization for Adobe. I can’t stress enough how excited we are about the direction that Adobe’s taken to opening this up to developers like ourselves. But it’s available for free today, you can download it. It’s part of the MediaSilo subscription. There are a lot of other cool details in there that I think are probably best left to exploring, but we’ve looked at source file workloads, we’ve looked at proxy file workloads. Our next version of Edit Companion is also mapping comments as sequence markers on the sequence timeline so that you never have to leave Premiere as part of your rough cut reviewing and improvement process.
Mike Horton: Yes, this is a really exciting thing for MediaSilo, I’m sure, to get right there inside… ok, hold on, we’re on video. My headphones fell off, excuse me. No, but this is a pretty big deal. Now, MediaSilo is a great company but it’s not a huge company. What happens if this is a hit? What are you going to do for support? I mean, there’s got to be some support questions here.
Kai Pradel: Absolutely, absolutely. I think first and foremost you have to develop a product that is self-explanatory. We see this today more than ever that creatives are driving the decision making in organizations as far as toolsets are concerned, and creatives are the same people that use… tools like DropBox or tools like Gmail. It just has to work. So our mindset behind developing tools is to develop tools for the same audience that would be considered a consumer audience and many of the support questions, you would have with more technical products just… But for those who do, we take support very seriously and we have a three person support team that is standing by and does a great job at answering questions.
Mike Horton: Great.
Larry Jordan: Which gets me to another thought. One of the things that we’re wrestling with in our company here is asset management. We’re struggling to implement an asset management system and personally I’m finding it hard to figure out how best to organize all our media. Regardless of the software, it seems like the job itself is so big that it’s overwhelming just to start.
Mike Horton: Oh, I could do it, Larry.
Larry Jordan: I’ve seen you spell, Michael. Anyway, what’s the best way to start getting organized that avoids that feeling of being overwhelmed?
Kai Pradel: Yes, that’s a great question. What I think is most important is that you make an asset management some part of your daily workflow. As an example with MediaSilo again, you would start using QuickLinks as a product to send files to each other and to maybe upload files and get your feedback in terms of how the toolset works. I’m generally not a huge fan of planning things too far ahead because too much changes. I think the same applies to how you tag assets and how you handle metadata. There are companies that sit down and create… and I think there’s a place for that, but ultimately I feel the most successful way to jump into a toolset, and especially if you jump into asset management, is to start using the tools and the features that make you productive right away and that help you in your daily workflow, without really being relevant to asset management.
Kai Pradel: That could simply be let’s store a few things so I don’t have to worry about putting them on my hard drive, or let’s store them here so I can make them accessible to my editor or so I can work from home, and start with that and then over time build a way to categorize content. I would start by categorizing into top layers… projects and everything is contained within a project, so that helps you think about scopes of media, of projects, of customers. Below that many people find it comforting to use folders, but I think really what makes more sense is to look at describing your media, and that’s probably the biggest challenge, is being diligent about describing the media and adding tags to it. We thought about this feature a few years ago where you can batch tag multiple assets, so if you just uploaded ten or 15 clips that were all about one project, you batch all those clips and then you tag them as… project day. That’s all you have to do to get started on the right path and over time you become more diligent in adding metadata that then helps you later on discover files.
Kai Pradel: Another thing that many asset management solutions have are safe searches or smug searches. Those can be really helpful too because you don’t have to think about putting content in particular projects, you can put tag content and smart search it and it will then you create these ad hoc organizational layers where everything that’s tagged Client A, everything that’s tagged Project A becomes accessible through those smart searches.
Larry Jordan: Is this a job that editors are really competent at? Or should we look just at hiring a librarian who’s focused on this kind of organization?
Mike Horton: Good question, Larry.
Kai Pradel: Well, if you can afford one, certainly. No, I think this is a problem that not only exists in the professional world, but think about how people manage their personal family photos. We’re all… family pictures today, you know…
Larry Jordan: I’m blushing right there, but go ahead.
Kai Pradel: I know, right? Every year in December, you are presented with the same challenge of creating a photo book and then wading through 8,000 pictures.
Mike Horton: Sure, I know.
Kai Pradel: It’s a real challenge and I think that, over time, the toolsets – and we’re definitely working on this seriously – are doing more and more to auto discover context and auto discover the relationship between assets so that it’s easier for you retrieve those. Ultimately, a really good organizational content and plan is valuable, but I would not over think it. I would start managing assets and capturing assets and then have it evolve over time.
Mike Horton: I just want MediaSilo to do all the work for me and that’s it.
Larry Jordan: That will probably be the next version.
Mike Horton: End of story, that’s it.
Larry Jordan: Kai, where can people go on the web to learn more about MediaSilo?
Kai Pradel: Well, just go to mediasilo.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s mediasilo.com and Kai Pradel is the Founder and CEO. Kai, thanks so very much for joining us today.
Mike Horton: Thanks, Kai.
Kai Pradel: Thanks for having me, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Take care, we’ll talk to you soon.