Editor’s Note: Philip Hodgetts is hard to pin down. He has an unusual blend of technical, creative and business skills that he applies to the worlds of digital production, post production and distribution.
A serial entrepreneur Philip started his first business while still a high school sophomore: a theater lighting rental, setup and design company. In part that was to support a Church-oriented stage musical performing group, and partly as theater lighting was of particular interest. When he went to Japan for a year as an Exchange Student the business was managed by friends from that same church group, but upon return started lighting in the main theater in the city, ultimately taking on the inaugural Head Technician position for five years. Having achieved his goals in that position both at a technical and aesthetic level having designed the lighting for dozens of stage plays and musical, he started his own video production business in 1979. Philip’s clients were impressed with his creativity and innovation, creating many “odd” but effective videos over his 21 years.
Over that time, he realized that docu-drama and training/educational video was the area he enjoyed best, so that is where he applied his skills in writing, directing, editing and (ultimately) motion graphic design. He avoided being the cameraman because “he liked editing beautiful pictures”. Work varied from training for the national coal industry, to independently funded and sold training in metal trades training, to motion graphic design for national (budget) TV commercials. In parallel he was managing two of his own companies full time; shared management of a third company and managing a company for his parents. He was elected to the Board of the University Coop Bookshop - a then $67 million a year campus bookselling business - which, along with the other directorships, had him invited to join the Australian Institute of Company Directors as a Fellow, the highest level of membership then available and reserved for those with significant business expertise.
He was a very early adopter of digital video editing, adding a Media 100 to his facility in late 1994. The ability to manipulate images digitally, with broadcast quality pictures led to his company - now renamed to reflect the new digital focus as Charisma Digital - ended up being the defacto effects house for others in the local production market. The Media 100 purchase led to the purchase of a modem in early 1995 in order to join the Media 100 User group and get to AOL’s After Effects group! This purchase ultimately led to his first book: the highly innovative Media 100 Editor’s Companion: a two volume knowledge base focused on the “Get it done” methodology Philip developed with partners Dr Greg Clarke, and John Collett (BSc), an educational psychologist.
Early exposure to what became Final Cut Pro at NAB 1998 led to the development of the DV Companion for Final Cut Pro: an innovative electronic coach that not only explained how to create in Final Cut Pro, but adapted to the depth of knowledge and showed how to with follow along movies in a floating palette. That concept became the Intelligent Assistant series for Final Cut Pro (to version 4); After Effects, Cleaner, Media 100 and Boris RED, FX and Graffiti. (The IA for Boris RED was bundled with RED 2 and 3.)
Upon arrival in the US in early 2001, he was invited to cohost the nearly year-old DV Guys streaming show, and took over management of the show in Jan 2002. That show concluded its run at NAB 2005. Two weeks late Philip started the more focused Digital Production BuZZ, which he grew to success and ultimately sold to Larry Jordan and Associates. The Intelligent Assistant business had grown into the innovative Pro Apps Hub, but ultimately that business could not move forward and was closed in late 2007.
In 2007 Philip and his partner in Intelligent Assistance, Dr. Greg Clarke previewed their first piece of Assisted Editing software at NAB, then known as The Assistant Editor but released later that year as First Cuts. Subsequently there have been 12 other software tools released designed to “take the boring out of post production” by applying innovative solutions to the process of post production, although not without controversy.
He is now primarily a writer, presenter and software developer, speaking and writing on topics from creativity to the future of QuickTime and Final Cut Pro. He continues to focus on the business of production and distribution, attempting to crack the code of how we fund quality entertainment in the future, and speed up the process of post. He continues to contribute to The Digital Production Buzz, has a new irreverent podcast with Terence Curren called The Terence and Philip Show, continues to be CEO and President of both Intelligent Assistance and The Open TV Network, for whom he and his partner developed a simple, commercial RSS sales system. He has a highly regarded blog at PhilipHodgetts.com where he points to the important data points happening, and where he does his “thinking out loud”, which sometimes becomes controversial.
Through his Big Brains for Rent consultancy he has worked on A Musical Journey with Richard Sherman for the 40th (and 45th) Anniversary releases of Mary Poppins on DVD; Post Supervised for the restoration of the Cinerama releases of Windjammer and This is Cinerama and for the non Cinerama Paradise Texas. He has presented Keynotes for the New York DV Show, NAB Podcast summit and Academy of TV Arts and Sciences “NEXT TV Symposium” and professional development for the TV Academy. He has consulted with most of the makers of the tools editors and post production folk use every day.
OCS: You do so many things, what is the best way to describe what you do?
Philip: I primarily identify myself as a technologist. Largely my interest is in the work flows and business side of production, post production and distribution. I’m more interested in the ways technology affects the business and how we can use technologies to make workflows more automatic and take the boring parts out of them, leaving, particularly editors, more time to be creative and to focus on things only a human editor can do. Professionally I have two interests, one is in via my Intelligent Assistance company addressing assisted editing where we make software to take the boring out of post and the other is through klickTab Corporation which is a way to sell directly into the iTunes interface without having to deal with Apple.
Philip: I think my parents knew I was going to be a technical guy when I pulled about a transistor radio at about the age of eight. I continued with this curiosity throughout my teen years. I did start my first business around the age of 21. I’ve always been the technology guy, always questioned the status quo.
OCS: What was your formal education?
Philip: I’m pretty well self taught. High school was a boring tedium. The only thing that made high school worthwhile was when I went to Japan between my junior and senior years as an exchange student. It really made my life in that I realized that so much of what we think as absolutes are really only culturally based. It made me realize I needed to be a lot more understanding and accepting of thoughts and people that were different from those that I grew up with. That changed my thinking and philosophy that has served me well since then,
OCS: Tell us some of the jobs you’ve had.
Philip: I’ve been my own boss for most of my professional adult life. I had one employer when right out of high school I got the plum role of head technician at the local council theater, a 1640 seat auditorium. I stayed there for about four or five years, refitting of its electrics bringing it into the modern era. Then around 1980 I started my first video production company, doing all that you would imagine for a variety of clients. It was during this time that I realized that owning my own content and software that I could sell over and over again was an important factor in my sustaining a viable living in good and difficult times. . .
I was an early adopter of digital, non-linear. Around 1994 I took delivery of my first Media 100. That also caused me to get online and I finally realized that I wasn’t the only “weird, outsider”, a guy in Newcastle (Australia) but there were other people in the world who thought like me. I saw the beta of Final Cut at Macromedia in 1998 and immediately saw this is something I wanted to get on to. I was able to get into the first beta of Final Cut Pro From the mid 1990s through to about 2001 I did a lot of training on Media 100 and then Final Cut. We moved to the US to be closer to our distribution and customers and as more and more opportunities kept coming we decided to stay and continue to expand our business here.
By 2005 we started the Digital Production Buzz Internet Radio show and eventually sold that to Larry Jordon who continues to be quite successful, making it his own show. With the sale of the Buzz, it gave us the opportunity to investing in some of the ideas to help automate the editing process.
One item we played with became First Cuts Studio for FCP http://assistedediting.intelligentassistance.com/FirstCuts/ which is a new way to explore long form documentaries as stories, not as clips. It takes log notes in Final Cut and generates stories very, very quickly. Think of it as “assisted editing.” In many ways it’s the first real jump in editing since the introduction of NLE some 20 years ago.
OCS: You use the pronoun we a lot. Who is the “we?”
Philip: The we is myself and my partner Greg Clarke.
OCS: Another thing I also find fascinating about you is that you do a tremendous amount of public speaking, much of it for free.
Philip: The public speaking has almost been from day one. I have a strong desire to share with people who are interested in learning. Initially I shared in emails and blog but ultimately, by 1998 I started getting invited to speak to people what I had been writing about. Now it is becoming a bit of an income stream as I am writing books and speaking on the same topics.
OCS: Of all the things you have done in your working career, can you give us one or two illustrations of things that gave you a great deal of satisfaction?
Philip: Its always the thing I am currently working on that gives me the most satisfaction. Probably the most satisfaction of a product we designed, the first DV companion. It broke ground with a just in time learning tool. It was a great runaway success. Also, what we are doing with assisted editing is ground breaking and will be our crowning achievement.
OCS: You obviously have a unusual job. You’re not an editor, a filmmaker . . . you’re a technologist. Any advice you want to offer to similar minded people?
Philip: I think you need to know where you have a unique selling proposition, why someone should pay you for what you know. You need to bring together the technology, creative, and business side and keep focus on them all simultaneously. The business side is quite important. Back in Australia I was a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors which was their highest level of membership as I was the director of more than five companies.