Episode 280 — Evercast

 

Episode 280 — Evercast

Evercast combines video conferencing and HD live streaming in one web-based platform allowing for a secure, real-time collaboration — whether your team is across town or around the world.

In this Podcast, Allan McKay talks to Brad Thomas and Roger Barton, two of the Founders of Evercast, about the inception of the company, its journey through challenges — to becoming today’s groundbreaking technology for creatives working remotely.

Evercast Website: https://www.evercast.us

Evercast on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/evercast

Roger Barton on IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0059242/

Brad Thomas in LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vociti

 

HIGHLIGHTS:

[04:02] Brad and Roger Introduce Evercast

[10:21] The Origins of Evercast, Prior to COVID-19

[24:18] Introducing Evercast to Studios

[35:04] Brad and Roger Discuss Some of the Current Features of Evercast

[42:55] Working Remotely in the Post-COVID Industry

[47:47] Addressing the Issues of Security 

 

EPISODE 280 — EVERCAST

Hello, everyone! This is Allan McKay. 

Welcome to Episode 280! Happy New Year!

I’m sitting down with the Founders of Evercast Brad Thomas and Roger Barton to talk about this new platform that allows us to work remotely, as well as collaborate with directors and clients. One area where they’ve been breaking a lot of ground is game development. It’s been helping bring teams together effectively. 

We also talk about how this platform came to be which is also an amazing story and one we can learn a lot from. I love the story of how this came to be, as well as the evolution of Evercast. (This Podcast was also recorded on Evercast.)

There is a lot in here, I’m excited!

Let’s dive in!

 

FIRST THINGS FIRST:

[01:27] 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? 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 The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!

[1:03:10] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!

 

INTERVIEW WITH EVERCAST

[04:02] Allan: Thank you both so much! Do you want to quickly introduce yourselves?

Brad: Sure! I’m Brad Thomas and I am a Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Evercast.

Roger: My name is Roger Barton. I am a Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Evercast.

[04:24] Allan: Could you please mention what Evercast is, for anyone who’s not familiar.

Brad: Evercast is the first cloud-based remote collaboration platform built by creatives, for creatives. It enables any creatives to stream their workflow in high resolution, amazing color and high frame rate with an extremely low latency no matter where you are in the world. It’s like you’re working with someone, as if they were in the same room with you. It makes it feel like you’re all in the same room while you may be 10,000 miles apart from each other. So that’s the core essence of what Evercast is. It enables remote collaboration for creatives that we have never seen done. We’re fortunate to be a place where so many creatives have used the platform that we can now evolve it. With gaming, it’s one of the markets we’re going to hit hard in 2021. We’ve got some of the largest video game engineers using this as we speak. The big asset is that Evercast has been built for and by creatives. We are creatives ourselves and we listen to me. All the new features we’re building are all built within this video conferencing environment. So it becomes so much more than video conferencing. It becomes the ultimate collaboration system.

[07:01] Allan: I’m curious about your backgrounds too. Do you come from a film background?

Brad: My background was technology based. I’ve been an entrepreneur since I’ve graduated high school. I taught a lot of Microsoft classes to executives here, in the Phoenix area. I’ve always been that computer guy. I never got involved in the movie business until the last three years. Until now, it’s been about running my companies and learning a lot. I haven’t had to get a job, which is a good thing.

Roger: Me, on the other hand, I’ve been cutting movies for about 30 years. I came up the more traditional method of being a 2nd assistant editor, 1st assistant editor and then all the runs of the ladder. That’s taken some time! I’ve been fortunate to work with people that approached the craft from different perspectives. Each time, I’ve worked with someone new I would absorb the way they approached it, and I cherry-picked the pieces I felt I could apply in my own work. That served me well to get different perspectives along the way. There was a point in 1996 when I was doing a film called That Darn Cat for Disney and the editor I was working with called me up. He told me that they were looking for someone to be in the cutting room; and the movie was about a ship that sinks in the Atlantic, and the director was James Cameron. I took the meeting. Once I survived Titanic, it put me on this trajectory where I was doing those kinds of movies. After Titanic, I went to work on Armageddon which started my relationship with Michael Bay. I’ve done probably 15 Michael Bay movies.

[10:06] Allan: And you’ve survived! I’ve worked with Bay and I’ve sat during the awards ceremonies with Cameron employees who’ve survived being screamed by him.

Roger: Yeah, I’ve been screamed at by the best of them! 

[10:21] Allan: Do you want to describe what Evercast is and how you got to the point of building it?

Roger: It was already built when I found it. But to go back in time, Brad, do you want to describe why you built it?

Brad: Our third Co-Founder Alex and I were making marketing videos at my previous company. He was actually an advisor to my company at the time. All the lessons of being an entrepreneur that I’ve learned along the way have been hard lessons. The business wasn’t doing well; and what we’ve encountered was that our team was working remotely. It was always such a pain to upload files and wait for feedback. Then you get the feedback and it wouldn’t make sense. These back-and-forth processes felt really disconnected. We were thinking there had to be a better way to do this. Skype [was around] and Zoom was starting at the time, but none of them could generate the quality we needed. Then I came to a crossroads of: I could continue funding this company or move to a different one. We tried to create this software that allowed for, basically, video sharing on steroids. You can stream with a high resolution and a high frame rate. It was harder than we thought. It was also more expensive and took more time than we thought. Time went by and we were struggling. Three years into it, we finally pulled it off. Alex is an entrepreneur that started a successful company and one of the people he knew was living next to Roger. This is where the action begins. Roger was going to go to Atlanta at that time, to work on Godzilla.

Roger: To give a little context, having done this for so long, I found myself living in a guest house, separated from my wife and my 13-year-old. I was aware of the sacrifices that this industry forces us to make. Over the past 20 years, I would travel to location for work. Which meant that a third of each year I’d be gone. And if I was in town, I wouldn’t be at home. Any tool that pushes against the infringements of this lifestyle, I’m all about! In that context, this person that Brad was referencing was looking me up on IMDb. He didn’t realize I’d done all these movies and told me to meet his friends: Brad and Alex. 

At the time, I was supposed to travel to Atlanta. I was wrestling with whether to do that or to stay near my 13-year-old who was dealing with newly separated parents. Along comes this tool that would allow me to take the job but do it remotely. I’d done it for years with other tools. Some of them would be high tech. What Brad had done with Evercast was put all the essential components under one umbrella. The fact that it didn’t require any hardware made it really easy for me to set it up. It didn’t require a team of engineers. They did a demo for me and started streaming to me immediately. I was wireless in my house. I could not believe how good the image looked, and it had no lagging. And it had built in video conferencing at the same time. It benefited the production as well because they didn’t have to travel me or my team. Once I felt comfortable, I pitched it to Legendary and Warner Bros. They vetted it from a security perspective which is a big thing. It’s a billion dollar IP. Michael Doherty was already in Atlanta. By that time, I was already on the movie and had some footage. I suggested that Michael join me on Evercast. At the least I was hoping I could go back and forth. When we connected, it turned into a working session. Three hours later, we were done. It was productive and efficient. I said, “Michael, do you want me to come out there?” And he said, “Why on earth?! Stay there!” That was so profound for me! What surprised me was how efficient it made me as an editor. Evercast allowed me to have more facetime with a director that I have had, even when they sent me on location. Michael would simply pick up his laptop and we would connect throughout the day. Sometimes, I needed new material to be shot. I would stream from my laptop while Michael and DP were on set — and they’d pick up that footage right then! That meant that they could strike the set earlier once we had everything we needed.

One of the features that was really helpful was the recording of each session. A few hours later or the next day, I could run the sesion back and watch the video of the director watching the footage. Every note was being addressed. It made me look like a rockstar because my next cut would have every change he asked for. That’s what I mean that it pushed the process forward. It allowed me to have an editor’s cut. 

Brad: And I remember that day! There were moments when technology had to work. Roger was putting his reputation on the line. It was Sunday afternoon, and Roger texted, “I’m going in!” He went into the meeting and finally, three hours later, he asked us to come into our Evercast room. I was waiting in that pre-room. We went live and Roger had this look on his face and he wasn’t happy. He goes, “Guys! It was a homerun!” I recorded that moment!

Roger: I became the first user. I used it throughout that show. I would connect with Michael every morning. Before he would come in, I would churn his notes. 

[24:18] Allan: During that 3-year development cycle, what was it like, Brad, to not know where it’s all headed?

Brad: It’s like living in a constant nightmare. Just the amount of testing! I’d like to know how many hours of life went into it. There were so many things that weren’t working. You’re relying on developers, when you’re also the one raising the money. It was grueling. You can’t force it to happen faster. Eventually, it does work. I wouldn’t call it luck because there was a lot of time and energy put into that. You have no paying customers. Part of my thesis was the reason this software would disrupt (and we thought Hollywood would just be top of the pyramid), there would be an economic downturn. There would have to be a recession where studios would have to cut costs, especially with travel. I never planned for a pandemic to come along. Those first few years were agonizing. That first session that Roger did with MIchael was the longest three hours of my life. It led to everything that happened once COVID-19 hit.

Roger: And part of that was, because of the impact, giving back. I was so busy with my career, I never had a chance to give back. I really felt that because of the lifestyle benefits, it’s a full-on commitment. I wanted to make a positive change.

Brad: That’s an important point to make. For most people, if you are not involved with making professional video content, they can consume content on Netflix or wherever. But the amount of effort that goes into making that content is insane! It takes so much time and energy. So like Roger said, if we could contribute to the lifestyles of our colleagues to make their lives better!

Roger: So after I finished Godzilla, I told Brad and Alex that I wanted to be a part of it. I took a 9-month sabbatical from cutting and I just leveraged all of my relationships with studios. Like a salesman, I walked Evercast to the studios and post-production offices, content security, VFX offices. And we would do demos all day long. Brad and Alex would stream to me from Arizona and I would have my laptop with me, introducing these skeptical people to this new technology. I never knew what kind of people I would find in those offices. Let’s face it: Evercast runs on the internet. If you don’t have a great connection, they’ll blame the technology. Thankfully, Evercast doesn’t require the best connection (and I don’t know how Brad did it). The requirement to stream a 1080 / 60 frames is so low, after a while I got more confident. After 9 months, we were approved by every single studio, including Disney and Netflix. And not long after that, I got my dream job on Disney. They brought me on as an editorial consultant, on staff for the first time in my career. Having that new job allowed me to do my day job while also jumping into Evercast to do demos.

Brad: How I did it was with — a few talented programmers — and Alex demanding perfection. In three years!

[32:18] Allan: What were the metics you were going by? 

Brad: Low latency was a huge part of it. In the early days, I would stream a Netflix show to myself through Evercast. If I could watch a full hour and it was a solid stream, that was our target. At night, I would use it to watch tv shows. After a point, I would be able to watch Braveheart and it was perfect.

Roger: I remember when Joel Silver wanted to screen one of his movies from the editing room, while he was in the Carolinas. 

Brad: I think he had his assistant stream it from the laptop and airplaying it through an Apple TV. We were all holding our breath. When you start seeing your platform get used in a way you haven’t thought of before. 

Roger: I think they can also get creative [because of] the lack of proprietary hardware required for it. Once COVID hit, we had a lot of people streaming from set to whoever needs to see the live feed, just to keep people decentralized. It’s been great to see these uses!

[35:04] Allan: I was talking to some DP’s. They are in LA but directing people in Florida. It’s pretty phenomenal that we’re at this point! In terms of features, when were they implemented?

Brad: One of our inspirations for creating this technology was looking at Twitch and seeing gamers stream their game play. Back then, they had a 10-second latency. We leveraged OBS open source technology with a built-in backing engine that allows for low latency. It allowed us to get to those cases quicker.

[36:48] Allan: You support all the way up to 7.1 surround sound, correct?

Brad: We support 5.1. There is a funny story about that! We had a director who lived in Malibu, and he turned his garage into a screening room. His assistant got Evercast up and running. He was streaming and saying, “Get out of there! Stop! Start again!” He yells for his son, “Johnny, I’m never going to have to go back to Burbank — ever!” He became a huge fan. That was a genuine reaction of joy.

Roger: I felt the same way! I’m doing a film called The Tomorrow War. Because of COVID and the safety protocols, I wasn’t allowed on stage when we were doing our previs. Right at that time, Brad was getting 5.1 off its feet. I was able to listen to what they were doing live at Warner Bros. They would put a laptop and I could chime in, as if I was on the couch behind them. 

Brad: A lot of time, we’ll get texts from people in the industry. They’d say, “Here is where I’m editing my movie from” and it would be this shed in the middle of a forest. Because of Evercast, they’re able to do this. One of the biggest composers was dubbing from his bed. That’s what makes us the happiest: To see these creatives leverage the platform and to see it have this positive impact on their lives. 

[40:05] Allan: I love that! The advantage of having to go to the valley, you could use that: “You never have to be on the 405 again.”

Roger: Oh, my God! I was for Disney on The Pirates, Jerry Bruckheimer would have to come from his office in Santa Monica. Of course, having spent 90 minutes on the 405, he was not in a good mood. That’s not when you want to be showing him something. I certain wish Evercast was around then.

Brad: We had entire movies made through the platform, even before COVID, like the HBO show Chernobyl. What a lot of people don’t realize, it was made across 5 continents. No one traveled and they made it remotely. Top Gun was very much the same way. When COVID hit, it was normal business for them because they were already on the platform.

[42:01] Allan: Knowing that the sound quality is so good, do you see people doing ADR remotely.

Brad: It’s already being used in that way. We officially teamed up with this company that does immersive sound, with these headphones. Physically, we can do 5.1 right now. But you can virtually do Atmos level with those headphones. I’m really excited!

[42:55] Allan: I was chatting with Mark Toia. He just released his first feature film. He self financed the whole film. All of his post was done remotely. Do you see that being more of an opportunity now, with people not being based in LA or NY?

Brad: So many people have moved! That’s why regardless of how much normal we go back to — and we don’t want to go back to the same normal — we have so many creatives leaving these cities. The beauty of it is that you can live wherever you’re most happy and leverage this technology, like Evercast, to have a better output. A happier creative gives you a better product!

Roger: I can attest to that! You can look at this through the lens of someone looking for talent. If someone wants to work from Tokyo or London, it doesn’t matter anymore. You don’t need to be in the same room anymore to do this work.

Brad: And that’s a great point! As an entrepreneur, when you first build something, you’re making guesses. But until someone starts paying you for it, you’re not validated. Then the market will tell you how to make your product better and what it should be. We had a bunch of people using Evercast before COVID. Then COVID hit, and old habits die hard. Everyone had heard of the platform and they had to try it. The market started talking. One of the things we’re excited about in 2021 is what we’re building in, for March. There are features that make it a one-stop shop. Our investors are asking us what we’re trying to be. We’re trying to be Zoom for creatives. We know exactly what we’re targeting. All we have to do is listen.

[47:47] Allan: In terms of getting it set up for film, what were the things you had to address (like security)?

Brad: We’ve spent a lot of time and money. We’ve hired outside teams to ethically hack us. We had to prove to the studios that nothing can leak. You have to earn and keep that respect. Early on, one of the major studios helped us with our official audit. They fronted the money. Now we use separate companies to point out what needs to be fixed and we fix it.

Roger: And that includes 24-hour monitoring. 

Brad: Absolutely! We have a company monitoring us. We consider ourselves a security company first and streaming is just a product that we offer. Outside of security, we’re working on improving the quality. We want to get into the finishing aspects too.

[50:21] Allan: Are you able to export frames afterward? 

Brad: I will say that [we will soon]!

Roger: We’re taking that idea and pushing it 10 layers above that. Imagine a meeting you couldn’t attend. We can put you into that meeting after the fact, if you have the security credentials to access it.

Brad: Whether you’re live or not in the Evercast room, the best feedback is when you can see and listen. We have 3 huge features we’re releasing in 2021.

[52:00] Allan: I was curious about device support.

Brad: I just got our native iOS app. I also have a tv iOS app in development. I cannot talk about that yet. I wish I could tell you more. 

[53:02] Allan: Just to talk about a couple of features that are impressive, you’re able to bring the 4K signal res down to 2K. Do you see that being able to do on set, to throw into the editing room?

Brad: I don’t know if we’ll be able to go that route. Never say never but it’s not our focus right now. But Frame.io has had some success with that. So props to them! 

Roger: From a content security point, it really can make a lot of people nervous. We’ve had to prove to the studios that it’s not possible to do. It’s problematic.

Brad: It might change in the future. Just like with recording, it records the session and each participant separately. There are a lot of things we need to get through next year.

[55:30] Allan: Do you think that down the line you might look into a less secure connection?

Brad: In terms of offering that, absolutely! I’ve been an independent creator all my life. We’re teaming up with a YouTube influencer and he will be introducing it to the market.

[56:49] Allan: Having put this out, you can see where the market is taking Evercast. Do you want to talk about how this has affected streaming?

Brad: I don’t think we impacted Twitch users. We don’t plan on that. It’s more about live rooms. We’ve rebuilt the platform from the ground up. All the learning we’ve done, we started from scratch. We just now started releasing the beta version.

Roger: And in the world of content creation — be it advertisers or YouTubers — 50 people seems more than enough. 

Brad: Once you have 50 collaborators in the room, it gets to be a lot. Everyone has an opinion! We do have a breakup feature. I wish I could talk about it. 

[59:05] Allan: I love this! I appreciate you sharing all this, including the headway you’ve had. It’s amazing! One of the positive outcomes of COVID has been how quickly places like Pixar and ILM pivoted to this way of working. Things are starting to roll back into action, but it has proven that we can do things virtually. The resistance has gone out of the window. Now, you can tap into so much world wide talent. 

Brad: And I can’t tell you how many users have told us, “Why haven’t we been using this before?” It makes so much sense.

[1:01:14] Allan: It’s a pattern interrupt. Whenever there is that thing that happens, you have to look for a better way. 

Brad: And back to being an entrepreneur, you’re always looking for those little wins. Roger you remember: A director reached out and said, “Because of Evercast, I was able to take my kid to school.” When something like that comes up, it’s like fuel. And now we’re getting more of these. That’s been the most rewarding thing!

Roger: And during COVID, I had so many people reach out and say, “Thank you! This enabled me to keep getting a paycheck.” That means more to me than any statue I could’ve won!

[1:02:54] Allan: Love it! Thank you so much, guys! Where can people go to find out about Evercast?

Brad: Evercast.us.

[1:03:03] Allan: Thanks so much, guys! I appreciate your time.

Brad and Roger: Thanks, Allan!

 

I hope you enjoyed this Episode. I want to thank both Roger and Brad for joining my Podcast. Please check out Evercast: Evercast.us. 

Also, please take a moment to share it with others. I’ll be back next week with David Tanaka who’s worked at Pixar and ILM. David gives a lot of industry advice.

Welcome to 2021! I hope this is a good year! 

Rock on! 

 

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