Episode 167 — Rory McGregor, CEO of cineSync

 

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Episode 167 — Rory McGregor, CEO of cineSync

Hey, everyone!

This is Allan McKay. Welcome to Episode 167! I’m speaking with Rory McGregor, the CEO of Cospective, the company that created cineSync which is a platform that’s a backbone of how directors and supervisors in the film and game industry are able to communicate. This is a fun Episode!

Every studio now uses cineSync. I loved that at ILM, they would record the cineSync session. You wouldn’t be sitting down with the director; but you could be the fly on the wall, and watch the director and the supervisor talk. It’s cool to talk with Rory about his product that’s pretty much the glue of the industry.

Let’s dive in!

 

FIRST THINGS FIRST:

[00:45] Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Here is the thing: Most of us think that we can put our latest work on our reel, add some music — and get the job. A lot of us aren’t aware that the majority of reels sent to a studio are skipped through and sometimes never even watched in the first place.

Everything we’re taught about being an artist is wrong! Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write a book from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. I want to:

  • Give you the formula to be the obvious candidate for the job;
  • Tell you how to build a reel and put it up on YouTube — that brings studios to you!

You can get this book for free right now! Whether you’re in design, film, tv or games, go to www.allanmckay.com/myreel!

 

INTERVIEW WITH RORY MCGREGOR

The Academy Award®-winning cineSync is the world’s most trusted remote review and approval system. Used by film and television productions worldwide, cineSync guarantees that everyone sees exactly the same frame at the same time.

cineSync integrates with industry-leading tools such as Shotgun, Ftrack and Aspera, ensuring a fast, synchronized and streamlined remote collaboration experience.

In this Podcast, Cospective’s CEO Rory McGregor talks about cineSync, the platform that’s a backbone of how Directors, VFX Artists and Supervisors in the film and game industry are able to communicate in real time.

[03:56] Allan: Thanks for taking the time to chat! Do you want to quickly introduce yourself?

Rory: My name is Rory McGregor. I’m the CEO of Cospective, the maker of cineSync as well as Frankie.

[04:08] Allan: Just for anyone living under a rock, do you want to give a brief explanation of what cineSync is?

Rory: Sure. So, cineSync is a remote review and approval application. It’s for reviewing video over the internet, in as many locations as you like. It’s real time, interactive and you can play it, make notes in the session and everyone can see what you’re doing. It was really developed for visual effects productions, to be able to review work anywhere in the world because it’s everywhere these days. Everyone can get notes without have to wait for emails to come back. So it’s live and interactive.

[04:54] Allan: I think I was reading some comments and someone mentioned it’s like Googling these days. It’s that common. Everyone knows what that is. I was curious what the history behind it. Could you talk about its early days?

Rory: Absolutely! The first bit was that I myself started in sound, in post-production, in film here in South Australia. I have a bunch of friends who were working in visual effect. They had just built this test software because they were working Harry Potter and Superman Returns at the same time. And they were trying to review stuff with people in the U.S. and in the U.K. They were sending each other QuickTimes and realizing they wouldn’t be watching the same cut or the same clip. There’s got to be a better way to do this!

A couple of guys meshed together a QuickTime chat room and they made this extremely dodgy synchronized video plan and it allowed them to play and replay it and watch the same things. They told me about. I got excited about it. Soon after that, I came in to help commercialize and build a product. That required completely rebuilding it. It took another two years to make a solid product. That was 2015. Because it’s an interactive software, you’re always using it with someone else. ILM started using it. Steven Spielberg was using it on War of the Worlds. We didn’t even know he was using it. We found out when it came out in the press. It was kind of amazing how it took off! It was so user friendly.

[07:45] Allan: I still have guys tell me to check it out. And hearing the description of it, it totally makes sense. I’ve had a few meetings where all the problems you mentioned were happening. People were looking at dailies that were a week old and were communicating about wrong things. It’s such a critical thing!

Rory: Well, I think people tried to build it before, but it either required you to have a new system by the end or having a timecode. So if there were any internet problems at all, the system would fall over. The advantage that cineSync had was that it was really light. It didn’t require specific machines to run on, or specific bandwidth. You just had to have a dialup connection at least and someone who could hit “play”. And that was it. It took a couple of years and cineSync became the default option.

[10:03] Allan: I think that Shotgun and software like that needs to get to a certain level. Whereas I’ve worked on productions where we had thousands of people. At ILM, it was how we would communicate with directors. At the same time, I’ve worked on some features from home and I’m able to communicate via cineSync on my laptop. That tool becomes a pivotal tool. What are some of your biggest clients?

Rory: Well, honestly, there is very few people who aren’t using it.

[10:59] Allan: I know! That’s such a tricky question. It’d be easier to list places that aren’t using it.

Rory: By far, the visual effects market is our biggest segment we have. It’s all the big studios: Anything made by Disney these days, the Marvels, the Pixars, the ILMs; anything that’s going out to vendors. The vendors will have cineSync, productions will have cineSync, the studios have their own account. We’ve had some VFX Producers tell us that they will have cineSync during the bidding process. If they want to show something, they can just do it. Without it, you’re back to sending email attachments; which is clumsy in comparison having a real time interaction.

[12:12] Allan: Absolutely! I guess producers can say Excel and cineSync are the first two parts [they need] in the beginning.

Rory: Sort of! You’ve also mentioned Shotgun. Capturing the notes a big part of it. We actually grew alongside Shotgun and started at the same time. The ability to have all of your notes and comments in Shotgun and then push those out to cineSync and push them back again — has been really important! That’s part of the reason cineSync has had success. These days, Ftrack is also providing that service and we tie in with them. The whole approach we’ve had from the beginning is making it as simple as possible. We never block anyone out. We want to be able to move between all the tools you’re using. We want to make sure our part as well as it possibly can.

[14:01] Allan: It’s kind of funny. Most people aren’t aware how much impact Australia has had on the industry, outside of Australia. Flame and a lot of different tools!

Rory: Going further than that, Australia invented WiFi. CSIRO here has the patent for the original WiFi.

[14:42] Allan: That’s really cool! I’m sure cineSync is the tool that saves everyone’s ass. Do you have any miracle success stories you could share, in which cineSync was a big part of? 

Rory: Well, there is a fun one, not necessarily a pivotal one. We were there when it happened. A few years ago, Jon Favreau was talking to the MTV about Iron Man 2. They asked him about Captain America’s shield Jon said it was not intended. It was put in by ILM as a joke during one of the cineSync review sessions. And Favreau thought it was so funny that it was there, he said, “Let’s just leave it in and see who’d notice.” Of course, everyone noticed and they had to tie the character into Iron Man! That actually happened. That’s kind of amazing!

[16:49] Allan: That’s so cool! What are some of the critical features you’ve developed overtime. You have such a close relationship with your clients, so I assume that [kind of implementation] is a critical part of your process.

Rory: Absolutely! We’ve always been driven to make things better, so we listen to our customers. Depending on who you talk to you in the industry, some want accessibility while others want security. There are often quite competing requests we hear. Most of our requests are driven by supervisors. They’re using this everyday, just reviewing things day and night. [Marvel Supervisor Jake Morrison] has this central war room where he’s plugging away and a screening room. Taika Watiti is a director, he is an artist as well. He can do anything! He would draw what he wanted in cineSync. I think that kind of feedback has been fantastic. We know exactly what we need to do. It’s a really satisfying feedback loop!

[20:34] Allan: Do you want to talk about security? That’s always been such a big factor when you’re communicating on the internet.

Rory: From its conception, cineSync just sort of floated by the MPAA because we don’t access the media. Media happens at one or both ends of a conversation. Our service syncs the communication, but the files themselves are transferred by each facility. They aren’t transferred through us or a third party. So everything is a controlled information. We don’t have any information about the media. So it’s secured by design. As productions have more and more media to move, we’ve had to find ways to maintain that paradigm but allow facilities to access things simply. That means things like tying into Ftrack or Shotgun. If they’re using media that’s completely behind a firewall, we’re still able to communicate through it, but all the media stays locked down. We’re constantly making it easy to get to the media and post their information back to the project management systems; but never exposing the files to any party outside of the production bubble. We’ve had a couple of auditors and [we always pass] with flying colors because it’s about hosting files. It’s not about losing them. It’s great! It’s always a really easy discussion. It’s very safe.

[23:58] Allan: The industry has grown all over over the last few years. Have you found that cineSync’s [reach has become] more international?

Rory: Without sounding ridiculous, that’s what has allowed studios to work in multiple locations at the same time because of affectively communicate about the files. We aren’t the only part of it, but we’re an important part of it. We also have facilities that sub-contract out to facilities in other countries. The great thing about cineSync is that because it’s visual, it can often bypass any language or cultural issues. If you send an email to someone in China, you may not always have clarity around what you expect. But if you can show it to them — in front of them — it eliminates all misinterpretation.

That’s going to be a big push for us in the next few years. We’ve talked about before: What we used to think as post-production is now just production. And television is not longer just television: There are visual effects. Even shows that you don’t think of as big on visual effects, like Madam Secretary! They can’t shoot that in Washington, so they have to constantly replace the backgrounds. And they need a quick turnaround, so effective communication is important. The shots are [often] due the next day. That’s where we’re seeing our growth: television, games, cinematics. It’s expanding to various countries with different tax incentives. For us, it’s great! There is a always a new territory. For a tool that was created a specific problem at a specific time, it’s amazing it’s had the longevity it’s had. The core of the product remained the same, but there are new features.

[28:52] Allan: The globalization is really cool! The rest of the world gets to do what used to be done in LA or New York.

Rory: It’s given rise to virtual studios. You have a paid office of 3-4 people but you have artists spread all over the world. There are more and more people who are doing it. People can work from home and now you have the tools to do it from home. It’s starting to take some pressure off to have to move, in order to keep working. Once you have a family, it gets harder to move. If you have tools that allow you to engage with productions remotely, I think that’s a brilliant thing.

[31:01] Allan: In terms of mobile solutions, does cineSync allow to draw on screen?

Rory: Yeah, we do have customers who use cineSync on their iPad or iPhone. A lot of customers use it while they’re commuting to a meeting. Once they get to a meeting, they prefer to use a computer version of cineSync because of the data file size. [Otherwise,] you’ll fill up your phone pretty fast. We still give people the option. It’s a fundamental way to tap into people’s desire to stay connected at all times.

[32:51] Allan: Some people are moving into VR space, even to have meeting. Have you looked into that platform?

Rory: Yes, we have. We’ve actually built a VR player in cineSync. We haven’t released that version yet. More accurately, it’s a 360 player. Reviews in VR are a bit tricky. If you follow someone’s viewpoint in VR, but another guy walks in, your head can explode. But you could have at least one person on a monitor reviewing what everyone else is seeing. There are some tools that are doing that. I myself remain unconvinced that VR is an ongoing platform. There is something there, but I’m not sure people have found the right way to do it. I’m interested to see where that goes.

[03:46] Allan: I agree with that. To wrap things up, are there any feature announcements?

Rory: To be honest, we’re [just] continuing to build out the tools that we have. We’re continuing to build out with Ftrack and Shotgun and various tools and platforms. It’s really just about staying the course. It’s a mature software. We’re weary of changing things too much.

[36:39] Allan: Where can people go to find out more about cineSync?

Rory: [Our website is] www.cospective.com. Frankie is on there and it’s a simpler way to review things. cineSync gives you use options.

[37:29] Allan: Thank you for taking the time to chat! It’s been really cool.

Rory: Excellent! Thanks, Allan!

 

This was such a great chat! Apologies for the slight lag in the sound. If you find this Episode useful, please review it on iTunes or share it on social media. This Podcast is completely non-profit. Take a moment to share it around.

I’ll be back next Episode.

Rock on!

 

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