Episode 5: Content Innovation in the Digital Age with Matthew Cooksey
Content innovation in the digital age comes down to pushing the boundaries of what's possible.
As audiences become more discerning and platforms become more crowded, it's more important than ever to create content that stands out and demands attention. From exploring new formats, and experimenting with emerging technologies to finding unique ways to tell stories that resonate with audiences.
One person who has extensive experience in this field is Matthew Cooksey, Director of Content Innovation for QA and Circus Street. Bringing his expertise in emerging technologies and creative approaches to content, Cooksey has helped an abundance of companies stay ahead of the curve and create engaging, impactful content that resonates with their target audience.
In this episode, we will be discussing the latest trends and developments in content innovation and how businesses can stay ahead of the curve.
Let's dive in.
Learn more about Matthew via LinkedIn.
Transcribed by Otter.ai
Hi, today I'm joined by Matthew Cooksey, who is Director of Content innovation for QA and Circus Street Matthew Cooksey is referred to as Cooksey. So throughout this interview, that's what I call him.
How's it going? Thanks for having me.
Good. How are you? Yeah, I'm great. Great. Now I know you've listened to some of these podcasts. And some of these podcasts have been with marketing leaders in very, very large companies. This is slightly different because we're talking about content and innovation and production of which you've been a part of for a number of years now. Do you want to tell us a bit about your role?
Yeah, absolutely. I think without being too lofty, I'm hoping that I can sort of represent content and sort of production across as an industry, perhaps not everyone. But like, I like to think I keep abreast of all of the sort of changes and things that have happened. And they've certainly influenced what we've done. Circus street over the last, well, the last 10 years that I've worked a Circus street. So that kind of brings me to my new role. I was head of production for quite a few years straight. And now as this kind of innovation role, it's my job to bring new types of content, new ways of making content to
education. Yeah, and you've been in this for a while. And what we tend to focus on in these podcasts is how technology has changed roles and businesses and functions. Over the years. You've been in production now. For what since 2013, I think you joined Circus Street, is that right?
Yeah. Yeah. And I was working a couple years before that, in a TV production house as well. So yeah, a lot has changed. I mean, I've changed quite a lot. But in a nutshell, I guess, I guess the biggest thing that I've seen, or especially people that I've spoken to may have been in the industry longer than I have is that there was a period at which, if you wanted to work in production, especially post production, you needed time in a studio or time in a place that had equipment, because it was very expensive and very hard to get your hands on. So either that just wasn't possible if you are a student or someone who didn't work in industry, or you had to sort of beg borrow and steal to kind of get time to learn the thing in order to get the job in the first place. And then around the time that I started working, really a lot of that stuff was software that started to become available not cheaply, but definitely available for use on laptops and devices that weren't possible before.
Right. So it's become a little more democratized, more accessible?
Yeah, I think so there's, there's this kind of urban legend that Adobe, who made Photoshop and Premiere and After Effects after they made Photoshop, it was expensive. But like, right now, if you want to use Adobe products, you spend 50 quid and you just have access for a month, like it doesn't last very long, but you have access, and then that's fairly achievable. But before they switched to that subscription model, they had a, you just bought it, and it was two or $3,000, or whatever, which is a lot of money. But there was this kind of urban legend that they would release downloads online, so students would get using it. And then once those students were ready for work in the industry, they would then demand to use that software, and then companies would have to buy it because they wouldn't be able to take on that risk. And whether that's true or not, I don't know. But it's certainly true that if you are a company who is working in the industry, or in production or in content at this point, you're paying a lot every month for all of your artists to use Adobe like more than you would have if you had been buying the software. Right.
So let's talk about what that means. When you talk about some of the software and you talk about Adobe and you talk about what production is and people coming into production. Typically, what are you doing with production? And how is technology impacting what you're doing? How much of it is technology and how much of its creativity? How much of it is scrolling on bits of paper, and how much of it is just pure technology?
I think technology drives the innovation in content in that it makes Well, I think it allows more people to have access to tools that they might not have otherwise or to do things that they might not have otherwise. So if it takes you have an MVP, go back to kind of hand drawn animation, like that's a that's a real skill and it's still a very valuable skill. But it takes Long time, it takes a long time to learn, it takes a long time to do very expensive because of it. Whereas now, if you can load up some software, well, I say After Effects, that's kind of like an animation piece of animation software. But there's much easier to use stuff now that people could just pick up and use. They can get their ideas down, like really quickly. So I think throughout my career, in my journey, it's all about being able to put a piece of technology in someone's hands to say, you can do this like or you can do more than you previously could have. Or you can get your idea out in a way that wasn't possible before.
Does that change? The types of people who are coming into content and animation?
I think so. Yeah. It's always like, whenever new people come in sort of every couple of years, I think you find that if you're working in the industry, or I noticed that people have worked in the industry for a while they stick, they kind of get stuck, like where they came in a bit sometimes, which can hold them back, like some people don't they move with the times and everything. But at the moment, we're working a lot with, like real time rendering and game engines and virtual production, which is like a whole new thing, which I can sort of get into a bit more at some point. But it's like a really, really different way of thinking. And there's a lot of people coming at it with a sort of a different paradigm where you did have to wait like a long time to kind of see your results like this, this stuff is instant now. And I think it's a struggle sometimes for people to be like, Okay, I want to put my notes in, and then you'll do the revisions, and then I'll get the next render back. And now we're like, Okay, we've done it, like you said the thing and it's right there on the screen, like we made the change, and it's there already. And it's quite difficult for people to get their heads into what essentially it's sometimes like a really different workflow.
But it's difficult for them to get their heads into it, because it's changing, or it's difficult for them to get their heads into it. Because it's counterintuitive. How how do you mean,
but I think a lot of people, like they have gotten used to a workflow or a way that makes them money, or maybe not even makes them money, like allows them to provide value in some way. And they've got really good at that. So when you do change something fundamentally, when it's sort of technology based, it can take people a bit of time to be like, oh, one, the thing I did before maybe isn't relevant anymore. So they sort of feel like they might have lost some value there. Or it's like, maybe, and they have to spend time learning the new stuff, like like, like, a lot of the kind of AI image generation stuff at the moment, or maybe not, that's kind of like the forefront. But a step below that which is kind of has been snuck in and people sort of realized about is maybe with like, Photoshop, within Photoshop, there's like a ton of AI tools now. And there are really established practices of how you might cut out one image or do some retouching or whatever. And you can still do that that's still available. But there's a whole other set of tools in there that are AI powered that like massively increase your speed in how you do it. But you got to learn that like you're not just going to automatically get the new stuff. So I think that there's there's always this inherent like friction between people that have done a thing for a long time and a very good at it versus this new thing that does it arguably as good or similarly or better, but in a different way.
So what you're describing there is typical of what we see in all other areas of business, in that technology, and more. More frequently, more modern technology and technology releases fundamentally change what it is that you do in your particular role. And the pace of that change is ever accelerating. And therefore, you find yourself in a position as everybody does in every area of business, where you're constantly having to learn to keep up with the art of the possible. You're constantly having to learn to do kind of what you've always been doing, but just in a different, more efficient, more productive, quicker, more interesting way, as a result of the technology coming into your field. And so you have this weird juxtaposition of having to do what you do and wanting to do what you do, but also having to balance that and learn how to do things differently.
Yeah, and it's like that can't that can't carry on forever. Like there's this curve of like, if things change, they change twice as fast every every month or whatever. At some point like you just can't keep up like humans have a paceline we got to sleep at some point, right. And there's unless there's some kind of singularity in which one person is just running the entire globe is like, there's only so much sort of efficiency that can be that can be had. But I do think there's always a chase to like the new that I think the new and the kind of exciting and the things that are being sort of touted are always they're so full of possibility because they haven't really been used yet, or action. I think, a good example maybe of how, like, my job now is more like an r&d role. And the thing that was six in mind is like NASA missions, right? So when NASA are doing a mission, whether it's Voyager or anything up until now that it takes a long time to kind of research, create, and then launch that mission. But all throughout that time, there are technologies and software and things that could make the process easier, like they could just speed things up massively, but every component of that mission, whether it's software, hardware, whatever, has to work together like really well and be completely stable, it can't have bugs, because you're not gonna go out to Neptune and fix spacecraft, right? So they have to basically just choose a time. So like, lock off like this is it like we're not taking on any new stuff, this is development like we are, this is what we're using. And no matter what gets developed over the next 248 years before this mission, even launches, like we can't use that. And I think there's a similar thing when it comes to like actually using new tech in a business, it's not as long. But I would say, as much as I'm kind of developing things for use in production at Circus Street or QA. What I'm working on right now is probably six months out from what is currently being used six months to a year of what is currently being used in the studio to actually make the content that will then be seen in like, two months or whatever it finally gets released. So there's there's always going to be that kind of inherent lag in in the new stuff. But it's doesn't stop coming, though. So that kind of you've got to keep up some way, I guess.
A NASA example is quite interesting. I did speak to somebody, many, many years ago who was involved in space for one of a bit of arrays. And he told me that actually the the technology that organizations like NASA use is it's a little it's quite far behind the cutting edge, because the cutting edge, as you said, hasn't quite been worked out yet. Yeah, it's actually really don't want to send people millions of miles outside of interspace. Without you know, as you say, with bugs in
Yeah, you can't. There's unknowns to it. So yeah, and the same with any, like, I talked about production, but like if you're onset, like filming something, and you're using all this new technology, and it breaks down, like that's expensive. Like that's however many people 1020 people's time, times how much you're paying them. It's like, oh, okay, we're waiting for this computer to restart in the corner. Because we trying out the new thing that's supposed to save us time. It's like, you've got to be careful with that stuff. So the bet, like the benefits and downsides are to technology are always going to be there.
I think what's sometimes true in business is that there's a seduction from the very, very new, the very, very latest, and people rush towards that seduction, and want to know everything about that thing. without really having all the ducks in a row on some of the things that have led it led up to that, right. So I'm thinking about, you know, the number of people that in marketing is an example the number of people that are now rushing out to try and understand everything that there is to know about AI and chat GBT and all this kind of great stuff, without understanding the fundamentals of social media marketing, or search or data analytics, or data ethics or all of the stuff that's really quite established already. And can help them do their job better. But it isn't quite as sexy as some of the stuff that's that's going around at the moment. You must see the same thing. In the world of production.
Yeah, like it really do. It's especially not always but like, you do get a little bit more with like Junior junior artists is that there's always a new plugin, like there's always a new piece of software, there's always a new thing. And as much as I say like, yeah, people gotta keep up with our stuff. Like if you jump to it, like when it's new every time it's there's so much marketing around it like Adobe redshift, maxeon all these companies that make the software, they make money from selling the software, so they've got to add new features. Otherwise, it's that that's, that's what they do every year, like they've got to keep you subscribed. But you don't have to use those features. Like what you make is fine. like people are still painting things with a paintbrush, people are still sketching things with the pencils, like you can reinvent a stylus or like some plugin that makes things look like a certain style. It's like that might be good for like a specific thing. But don't you don't have a lot of people feel like they have to keep abreast of that stuff and have to learn it to stay relevant, which I don't think is always the
case. How do you figure out where to spend your time then? And what tools to use? Based on everything you've just said so far?
It's just a good question.
Who's informing you? Or are you informing yourself? And does it start with? Does it start with an understanding of the technologies? Or does it really start with the problem that you're trying to solve? And what it is you're trying to do? Everything about what you do? Yeah, ultimately, what you're doing production has to deliver some sort of business benefits. So where do you start in the deciphering of where you should be spending your time,
I don't know if I alone in this, I'm guessing not. But my career thus far, has been very driven by what interests me. And like what I find kind of interesting, which might include new stuff. My eye gets caught by Google Images and videos or other things that other people have done. And I sort of like to know, like how they were done, sometimes to the point of all sort of hang a bit of a career on on figuring that stuff out. So I've have jumped around quite a bit. But it's usually done with some kind of, this is the thing that I really want to learn about. And so I'd say it's not, it's not about necessarily solving a problem. It's more about, here's a new thing that might be interesting. Let's figure it out. It's a big area. So for instance, at the moment, it's kind of like game engines, and real time and interactive experiences is quite a new area for me. But it's a fairly established area games have been around for a long time. And the crossover with kind of video, and using game engines for video is sort of fairly relevant that it seems like quite a good thing to spend some time learning. So yeah, it's a tricky one, it's one that I'm only starting to figure out in this role really is, is working with other people like me, really, who are interested in the same stuff, not the same stuff, specifically, but the same way of learning and the same way of discovering things. Because I do feel like in r&d, you don't know what you're going to stumble across. And if you do try and solve a problem straight away, you might not discover all of some other amazing stuff, that would have been something even better, which is 100%. The case with all of the virtual production stuff that we're using today in the studio. I went into that, because it was kind of looked cool with the Mandalorian. And all these LED screens, I was like, Oh, well, I know how you do that. The tools are free, I thought I'll just spend a bit of time learning that and a year, half later, we've built a virtual production studio that we use, more or less every day, so. But there's a ton of other projects that I've learned about that haven't gone anywhere yet. So we'll see if any of the any of those come to fruition.
But there is ultimately an aim, though, isn't there? I mean, if you were interested in music, and car mechanics, and cooking, and I know that you're interested in a couple of those, at least, those things are interesting. But ultimately, they're not. They're not adding to your career. And you've talked about the fact that you've built a virtual production studio. So there's got to be some sort of goal in mind, even when you're exploring, or some sort
of suppose wouldn't celebrate?
I sort of think from a business perspective, the kind of rule that I use now is like, is it better? Is the thing that we're doing better than it was before he does it look nicer? Or is it more engaging? Can we make it faster? Is the process to get to it more efficient? And is it cheaper? And it's kind of it has to do all three, like it used to be that I was happy with two of those. But I think nowadays, it's like, if you can do all three, then you know it's a winner. But that's more of like a process for evaluating that. It's not it's not necessarily that helpful for like, exploring, because you never know if something's gonna end up being cheaper or better, until you explore it better. So I think a natural curiosity is kind of the, the special sauce of how you were able to kind of discover these things, and then take it a step further, because it's, there's loads of cool stuff out there and there's websites and blogs and whatever that will just throw new stuff at you and be like, this is cool. Have you seen this new thing, this new AI thing? But then the layer below that, like the last thing is say well how to use it that that's kind of that's where I find the most interesting.
Mm hmm. So there is always that anchor of how can you use it in whatever it is you're doing at the moment.
Yeah, and in an interesting way, like another kind of example that I like to kind of give is, Nintendo are like really good at this. Like, they're really good at taking technology that isn't the newest, and using it in a really interesting way. So the Nintendo Wii, I just thought was the most genius piece of hardware like created. I guess he didn't really like it as a console or anything like that. And the games, sort of fairly interesting, but not not for me. But anyway, the controller for it was unlike any controllers made before. So everyone was used to these kinds of handheld controllers. And Nintendo wants to make something that was usable by people that weren't used to using these kind of controllers with your hands, or two hands, at least. So the Wii Mote thing, you could point it at your TV, and it had this little cursor and people like that, like this is amazing. Like, how have they done this, this is like, sort of the space age technology. And it's so simple, like all it was, was a little camera in the front of the wheel or infrared camera that have existed for like, years and years and years to get used to all sorts of kind of engineering tasks. And then two little infrared LEDs on this, they call it the sensor bar that sits on your TV. It wasn't anything, it was literally two little LEDs, you could make one for pennies. And with just this basic technology, you could do this amazing stuff like all of the software and all of the way of using it was so creative. That that was quite inspiring was like oh, you can do a lot with technology that already exists. If you're willing to kind of think of it outside of a product that's already been created. We're so used to kind of using products around us that have been designed by someone in California or made by someone in Shenzhen, they are like, this is just how the world is. But it doesn't have to be like all of these components are just things that exist in the world that you can choose to use in interesting ways.
Have you got any examples of where you've done that? Or you've used existing technology to do something differently? Yeah, I think
like there's lots of combinations in what we've done in the studio, actually. So with our virtual production studio as a sort of reference, that kind of classic way that you might see on kind of behind the scenes is the big like led walls. And they've got a big camera and the cameras like tracked so what you're seeing on the wall is kind of physically accurate to the camera and everything. That's like super expensive, you can buy that stuff, not off the shelf, but like you can buy that setup, and you'll probably spending a few million on that. And I was like, Well, surely there's a way of doing this without spending all that money, because we've been doing green screen for a while. And that that that works like it's not, it's not real time yet. So like now you can just buy all this stuff. And you can buy the software that sort of does it for you. There's all these packages. But even this was like maybe two, two years ago ish, like, this stuff didn't exist in that form. So I took an HTC Vive system, which is like a gaming gaming headset and like VR system, so you can track your hands, you can track your head, it's a VR system, basically. And attach that to a camera, borrowed off someone we used to work with helmet, he actually held his camera that we filmed our very first lessons ever with as well. And then set up a green screen, green sheet, and then some software that could pull in a live feed, and basically just cobbled it all together into something that was like a demo of what we're now using in the studio, which is essentially the same thing, but just with some, some more parts added to it. So yeah, there's like that is that's sort of one example. That's fairly recent. But yeah, it's always been an interest of mine to kind of bring those things together, I think. And especially when you look at like game design and interaction design, you kind of see these finished amazing games and things. But when you start working on them, you're like, oh, like no one has an established way of doing this. This is just, it just kind of works. And he sort of polished away the books and things like that.
But what's really important is having a really thorough understanding of the different parts. So you can make those choices and you can decide what
I actually don't think so I don't think you need to have that. I think it actually ignorance helps you sometimes, because you're like, well, this does this surely I can do this because you know too much about a thing. You start to only see like how it should be used or could be used. Whereas if you take like a system, and you're like well this phone has a little accelerometer in it that changes the value and I do this surely I could use that value to control this other thing over here. And someone will tell you no, no, you're gonna force them they're like, You can't do that. It's locked off like it's you can't access that via their iOS or whatever. and you're like, Well, surely there's a way like, like in any coding adventure, there's a way of doing something you just haven't figured it out yet.
One of the criticisms of experts is that they've become so myopic, and so wedded to their field. And the way that their field does stuff is that eventually, expertise starts to stifle innovation. Of Yeah, you experienced any of that along your career? Yeah,
I think so. Like, I think people have very established back to what we were saying before, especially as an artist, you have very established ways of doing things. And if you, and I say you're a company you want a video made, you don't know anything about video, you'll go to like a production agency. And they'll say, it's going to cost you this much like a huge amount of money. So make a video of any description at this point. Because they're, they've got people to pay, they've got a whole system set up, and they've got probably a fairly legacy production process, that it's very difficult to change at this point, because that's how they're set up. Whereas I think that not that you get a better result. But like, all the tools exist out there, especially when it comes to learning as well. Like, you can go on YouTube, you can go on any, you can go on YouTube, and find out how to do a thing and how to use the software or how to do things. So you're seeing a lot of people now I think, come through that have that kind of attitude where I can just learn this, if I need to, I can be a bit dangerous as well, because people think think they're experts if they pick up a new piece of software. But chances are, there's a tutorial out there that will teach you how to do a little bit of a thing. And there's some inspiring people out there that will get you inspired to learn it in the first place. So
there's a lot of that. You think that combination of technology, curiosity? In some ways, a lack of expertise in a certain field. Ignorance has blessed it to your point. Do you think those things together are what create or contribute to creating some of the disruptors that we've seen in production recently?
Maybe, yeah, I think that there's there's this hidden back back to the r&d thing, there's, the amount of projects that don't go anywhere, are just staggering. Like, there's so many. And you sort of start to get a little bit of a sense of it, if you if you get really into like one bit of software or whatever, or a service and then you go and start using their API, you start to see all of this documentation of things of like, what is that for? That's amazing. I wish they had that. And it's like a feature that they just didn't do or use or whatever. There's, there's, there's tons of stuff like on the cutting room floor, as it was as to things that could have, could have made a thing. So I think that curiosity is out there, but it gets like, it gets sort of plastered over a bit in the sort of sheen of the product that does make it to market and gets kind of marketed and sold. So I think that if you're, well, there's no accident not doing my role. Now, I think you have to have kind of, in any business that relies on any form of technology, you you're going to need those people who are willing to see what see what's out there and experiment and try and make new stuff. Otherwise, you're sort of going to get left behind a little bit by other companies that put a lot of thought into that it's, it's, it's a bit of a gamble, right? Because a lot of stuff won't pay off. So you don't want to spend everything on r&d and never make anything but at the same time, if you only make one thing, and then you find yourself behind the times and in 510 years time, then that's, that's not somewhere you want to be either.
Let's try and ground it in something tangible. So you talk about virtual production. And obviously, you've seen a lot in in terms of production over the past few years. Give us an example of how virtual production has changed the approach that we take here to production.
So the way that we used to do things was that we would film something against a green screen. And then we would take that footage. And then you'd have your camera person sound person or the on the presenter on a green stage, filming the day and then send it off and then someone somewhere else in the world would get rid of the background layer, they get rid of the green, leave the presenter and then put them on to a 3d background. render that out and send it back to the production team to review and then if it was good, that would then go into the into the final edit, which would take we got it down pretty quick. Actually we could we could do it in about A week or two at one point, and we're using a team out in South Africa to do that. Virtual production, though, is live, it's, it's there in the room, you've, you've done it, like there's no sending it anywhere. It's, you're, you're seeing the result on a screen in the room, which is a really mad kind of feeling to begin with, because they're like, oh, that's, that's there, and you finish the day and you're like, Oh, we've done the comping would have been done, the company is like, that takes a week. It's like, No, we did it, like as we shot it. So just at first, you're like, oh, that's quite efficient, it takes away like a load of work. But what we started discovering was that it actually allowed other people to have creative input in ways that they wouldn't have before. So where previously a camera person or light, a gaffer, or someone on lighting would basically look at a reference image, and then try and match the presenter and try and imagine what they're going to look like in this 3d environment. And frame it up and everything like that, ultimately wouldn't know what it's gonna finally look like, because the compositor is going to go and do that separately. Whereas now they can see on the screen, they can move a light, and it's there, like, they can see what's actually happening. And more than that, they can, we can send that video to like an iPad or something so they can go over. In fact, actually, Leah uses this a lot is got the iPad, so she can see the final playout. So what's being sent to her on the video feed, she can see the program feed, and she can adjust, costume, adjust hair, all of these things and see what it actually looks like, as it's going to be finally played out. And that camera person can move the camera, they can zoom in, they can make all of these creative decisions and see what it's actually going to look like. Which is just not a power they had before. So that's kind of back to the very beginning of all this that's like using the tools to empower people creatively in ways that either wasn't possible before or save some time, I guess.
So that's a little bit like an I'm trying to put this into layman's terms, that's a little bit like the difference between when he used to take a photograph on a film, yeah, hope for the best, and send it away to somebody to develop it, who would then send the thing back. And then you would be able to look at it and say, Okay, that's the photo I took. Versus now you take a photo on your phone, and you can see it in real time, you can then take a different photo, if you want to take it exactly. And and also with new features on phones, you can actually dock to the photo as you've just, there's no, there's no wait time. So what that's done is it's is it's massively reduced the wait time between the production and the final product, right. And well as that what it's also done is allowed you to monitor the final product in real time, and allow to your point, other people who have got these different roles within production to have much more of an influence there. And then rather than to your point, just guessing what something might be, might log. And so that's created a different form of collaboration with the production team, do you think?
Yeah, yeah, hugely, like, they've just been able to be involved. Like, there's so many instances before where it was like, oh, we can't quite imagine how this is gonna pull out. So I will probably I'll fix that later, like, well, we'll just get it, we'll get it on the set. And we'll fix it in post, which is kind of a meme at this point. But it's just so pervasive, it kind of hurts. Whereas this is like, now you that's it, it's on the monitor, like look, look in front of you to like that monitor right there. That's literally what you're going to what we're what we're playing out. So if it's wrong, like it's kind of on everyone as well to say like, oh, that's not framed up correctly, or that's not. You know, that's not right. So there are still things you can change later. And we're sort of working on some new features to be able to, like, add more value. But that's kind of another thing that's quite important to me is like, with these tools, you can very quickly quickly get into this place of like, replacing like an old way of doing it. Or kind of just incrementally upping the quality. Whereas what I'm quite interested in is this, how do these tools or how the new tools add value to what we're already doing? Like how does the fact that our compositing team like at what Andy doesn't have to spend two weeks comping a lesson, he can spend that two weeks adding value to the lesson in other ways or learning new techniques or being better at the craft. So it's all of these kind of benefits that you start to see when you switch to these other sort of paradigms, like you said, with the film and the digital camera sort of revolution. Suddenly, so many more people could be photographers, because it didn't cost loads of money to to get your film developed or it wasn't a load of effort. So That's good, for some reasons, bad for others. But I think democratization is always going to be a part of
that. But that's a really interesting approach that you've talked about. Because if you think about the compositor, who, you know, just for reference would be the person who would spend the two weeks taking the presenter off the green screen and putting them into this other environment that you'd created and making sure that it was seamless and looked as though they'd actually been felled in that environment, prior to virtual production. And so there could be a temptation to say, well, actually, if we don't need to do that two weeks of compositing, we can get rid of the person that would normally do the compositing because that role is effectively redundant. But what you were talking about there was that that role isn't effectively redundant. It's just morphed into something different, which is, to your point around adding value, so that you don't actually remove that function. But you change that function to create a different outcome. Right?
Yeah, I mean, we have removed some of it, like we did have a team that we would use to outsource some of this stuff, because it was labor intensive. We don't even work with those that team anymore, we work them for a long time. So it's gone down from a team of three or four people over two weeks to one guiding in a day. So again, you can't you've got to there's a minimum amount of people there that you got to be able to do the job. But but you're right with certain roles, and especially certain people actually like Andy is one of these people who can think of things in a different way. Whereas I would say a lot of the composite has worked with in the past, they they wouldn't have been able to take that on, it's like a different world, it's a different way of thinking. So having the right people in the functions in the roles that you're expecting to innovate within, and this probably applies to a lot of companies, is going to be the way that you're able to make best use and be effective with new technologies.
How many composites is do you think saw this coming? How many composites is were caught completely off guard by this, and hadn't been curious enough to think about what the future might look like, and how they could then contribute and are effectively now just no longer needed?
I don't know it's a good, I think there'll be because that people are still needed, like compositors are still needed, there's still enough productions that are using more high end, or needing more high end results than we do like TV and film, essentially, where there is still a lot of doing the work and getting through it. And that you do need sort of big teams to composites for that. But I think what we'll see more, and what they won't see coming is the kind of advent of AI, or the more representative, more repetitive tasks, especially background removal, we're using green screen, because green screen is a fairly established process. It's, it's a sort of, it's a numerical way of getting rid of a background because green is a very different tone to like skin tone. So you can with a computer, you can tell it, that's green, don't show me the green stuff, but keep the stuff that's not green. AI will be able to do that with anything, it will know what is a person and what's the background. So I think that that skill of getting rid of green screen and putting people into an environment to make them look realistic will change at the moment is just sped up a lot like, like Andy has what he would have spent a day sort of tweaking now he's got to do in like a minute before each shot, which is a real skill. But yeah, he like newer tools can kind of help with that. But there's still a little bit that that's needed.
As it changed all of that the actual practice of the production itself. So you talked about being in a studio. And it used to work in a certain way. And it now works in a in a different way. And much of that different way of working is around shortening the wait time between the starting the product and finishing the product. But even in that first instance of doing filming on a green screen, has it also changed the way that you do that.
And approach that task. Yeah, yeah, a lot. Like it's, it's, there's still the basics of it like a duck, it's physics at the end of it, like you've still got a light someone and you've still got to have a background that's going to be removed. But seeing what's going to happen and seeing how things affect things, again, like allows other people to get involved in the process either to make life easier or or to make a better result. I think the biggest change and we haven't quite seen this happen. Yeah, I'm sort of bit surprised, but maybe we will soon is that these new technologies are or have been being used and are being used in very big budget productions at the moment like Netflix productions and some TV ads and things like that, like very high end stuff like really expensive time. I'm on set, like, I've been to a couple of proper led stages where they've spent five 10 million on equipment and space. And it's, it's very slow, it's just as slow as any other production process, they're sort of doing one shot every hour or so. Whereas what we're doing as we did 200 shots in a day, the other day, which is probably a bit too many, but it's a hell of a lot from what we used to do when I was on set a bit more, which was like 50, or 100. And I think that what these tools and technologies, whether it's green screen, virtual production, or some of the new stuff that's coming out in post production, will allow people to do will be companies or people that have much lower budgets will be able to make like very professional results, and realize their kind of creative visions in ways that they just wouldn't have before. Because it's just too expensive or too time consuming. So I think I think we'll see a bit more of that. And there'll be some pretty shrewd companies or people that pop up to kind of corner, that little bit of the market, the kind of corporate and lower budget areas of the market that don't need or want that kind of like high end really glossy results, because you need that sometimes, but like, you really don't need that, for everything. And you've got to, you've got to appreciate that.
What do you think that will do to the market, the production market and the players that are already in it?
I think that we might see some high end studios. With that, we have already seen it. So what happened was a lot of this stuff came out there were a lot of studios that started up, they got massive investment, based on because a lot of marketing around this stuff because like the Mandalorian, especially, and some other productions with like big led volumes, I don't know the specific numbers, so won't won't kind of try and make anything up. But basically across the globe, and a lot in the UK as well, because we have a really good film and TV kind of tax system here. New studios opened up like big led volume studios. And we're like, right, you don't have to go to locations to do this stuff, you can just film it with our big volume thing. But they targeted high end stuff. And they had to get high end clients to support what they were paying for this high end equipment, these like hefty leases on some of this stuff. And the technology does go out a day quite quickly. And a lot of them shut down pretty quickly. Because they were like, Okay, there's actually only so many. There's so many clients that we can get in, it still takes a lot of time to set up and, and do this stuff. Whereas I think if if I were building a studio today, like outside of outside of this more like a commercial studio, my the type of clients I'd be aiming at, and the marketing I've been putting out would be more towards? Yeah, like corporate clients like low budget ads, that kind of thing. The kind of stuff where you would previously have almost nothing at all, because the budgets are so small. Whereas if you can do other note, like 10, low budget ads in a day or a bunch of corporate like presentations and you've got like a really slick pipeline for doing that. There's there's
a lot of work to be heard, I think the technology is moving quite fast. And you're very curious. And you've kept abreast of it and kept up with it and are using a lot of this in the work that you do if you took the Cooksey from 2013. And were able to snatch him out of that particular date and time and just put him straight into a studio today. So you didn't have that iterative, build on the curiosity that you've naturally gone. Is it so far removed from what you were doing, but then that you would understand how it kind of works, but just wouldn't be able to pick it up?
Yeah, I don't think so. I think there'll be a way because there's so many other factors to it. It's not just technology. It's like a big, I got really into lean Lean thinking a couple of years ago, and that's kind of influenced a lot of how I approach things as well, of like, how does this new thing? Like? Is it valuable? Does it add value? Does it does it make life harder? Whatever it is? I think Kirksey of 2013 would have a lot of questions of like, why don't you just do it like this, like this would work? And I'd be like, Well, yeah, it would work but it doesn't actually help because then this other thing, like down the pipeline wouldn't be would be more work or whatever. Or this person would be super stressed and we don't want people stressed because then we can get a better result because people are comfortable and creative. So this there's so many like factors around it. Especially like the human factors are the people actually using this technology that I think I would struggle with that is me from 10 years ago,
that's not a long time. It seems like a long time 10 years ago, but it isn't that long to say that technology and approaches have virtually changed the face of a of a business. Right? Yeah,
I guess so. But it does it so well, with some things, some things are the same like, and more recently I did, I started doing a bit of personal some personal projects using After Effects, which is what I came into next week to do actually was was after effects work. And I picked it up again, it all worked this new tools, I grabbed those sweet and that's, that's something I could probably do from 10 years ago. But the difference was, I was using AI generated imagery, which is a very different way of thinking, like, I could probably get my head around that from 10 years ago. But that this idea of, oh, I don't need to learn how to paint or I don't need to learn how to draw this thing. I do need to learn how to write the prompts to get the imagery that I want to then do the thing with it. That's like a different that's like a different way of thinking. So I think we'll see more of that with with all of the AI stuff, as well. But But yeah, like how we use this stuff? What are the reasons we use it for that that stuff is, is changing all the
time? So there's a lot about AI throughout this, is that the main thing that you think is going to change production over the next couple of years? Or are there other things waiting in the wings that you're excited about?
I do it will have an effects. I don't know what that effect is yet. I mean, there's there's sort of two sides to AI at the moment, you've got the sort of large language models and chat TPT and all that stuff, which is going to be super powerful. And then you've got images and image generation video generation. A think it kind of goes back to the NASA example where like, every day, there's like a new thing. And you're like, that's cool, that's cool. How do I use it, what's going to be the way I do this? What's going to be my job in how many years. But what you sort of forget about you don't see is that, again, like the six months previous or past or whatever the stuff that's in the software now is what was being developed. So we'll start seeing things just in the way we work anyway, whether it's in Microsoft like Bing thing, or every, every piece of software will have an AI element to it. It'll sort of be in the hands of those developers and those kind of companies to not not decide like how it's used, but it will just start being a part of other things. And then again, it'll be down to kind of creative people to say, that's okay, but what if we used it in this new way that no one thought of? So? I don't know what that is yet. But yeah, it will come?
What would be your advice, then to people in production, and even outside of production? As regards keeping pace with all this stuff? And knowing which bits to use? And how to go about finding this stuff out? Is it just to stay curious? And
yeah, he would say? Well, first and foremost, it's none of that. I would say that, and this this advice has never changed really is, is that if you can develop your sense of aesthetics, your sense of quality, what you're happy with things that you enjoy watching, doing, not doing, actually the things you enjoy, to consume, whether it's games or films, TV, education, content, whatever, if you can kind of understand like, why you like it. And what's good about it. The way you make it, there's any number of ways of making it, the virtual production thing, like it's a video that we're making, at the end of the day, it could have been made any way no one no one cares, like how we made it, it matters to us, because it allows us to do it more creatively and quickly and cheaply. So it sort of doesn't matter what the tools are, it's good to just stay abreast of them and just see what is there and out there and try things out. But either you've got to decide to not use things and that's okay. And you you stick with one thing and be okay, that that might not be part of the sort of future paradigm. Or you say, Okay, I'm going to try this out. I'm going to see what see what this thing is how it works, how it can be useful. But I think you'd be stuck in the middle somewhere and be like, oh, there's this new thing coming. I don't know what it is, and I'm worried worried about it. That's not really helpful at all. So I think you've got to make some kind of decision about your engagement with these things.
What do you think we should be talking about that we aren't
in terms of making content or
not in terms of setting the world right. But in terms of your field in particular?
The question I I wonder on where this all kind of ends or not, not ends, but there's so much media, so much content that it feels like. Either things are going well, it's great because things get to be more like targeted at people and more specific to what people are into. But it feels at some point, there's gonna be these budgets that kind of have to get slashed for these like huge multimillion Netflix series and Amazon Prime stuff you're like, there's so much of it. So many channels, there's so many ways of watching things that you're like. Like, where's that gonna end up? Like, where's it, we can't just keep having more services and more and more things to watch? It's like, eventually, we're gonna have to go and do something.
With our lives in the real world, yeah, it's
like, we're just making a lot of content. Like, it's just content content content. And as much as I'm in that world, it's sort of quite pleased to be in it for a reason that is learning rather than, like, I love entertainment, and I love kind of, I love games, and I love love stuff. But there's just so much that creative people alone might might struggle to actually get paid for their work, because it all sort of gets a bit devalued at some point.
Is there anything we didn't cover today that you really wanted to cover any kind of burning issues that you wanted to bring up in the last few minutes?
Not I could think of this covered quite a lot. We got a bit philosophical at moment. So happy there.
Well, it's been great talking to you. And I hope it's given people listening and insight into the world that you're in. Maybe it's a different world to them. Maybe they're in it already. But it's been fascinating. And I've always been fascinated, I think contents an amazing thing to be involved in. But all the technology around it is just incredible, and very, very visible as well, because people can see the output of it ultimately.
Yeah. And there's, you know, there's tons of other stuff like It's like VR and AR and mobile, kind of interactive, real world stuff that there's so much like out there in so many modalities that you can't be a master of it all and you can't kind of the amount of stuff I get sent. I'd be like, Oh, should we do something with this? And I'm like, maybe? I don't know. Like it's I'll put on the pile of things to think about possibly maybe looking at in the future.
So a good way to end well listen, it's been great talking to you Cozzi, and thanks for your insight. It's been fantastic confusing at some times, but generally incredibly interesting.
Colors, but thanks for sharing that. Thanks.
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