The real growth in production today is not at Hollywood studios or the creation of new broadcast channels, it's online. Digital studio Kin publishes hundreds of videos yearly. With over 5M followers and 15 million monthly views, Final Cut Pro X is the NLE that's allowed them to achieve such a prolific output.
While TV and digital video race ever closer to singularity, we still currently function in a bifurcated entertainment world, with one half concentrating on an audience over 40 and the other, under 25.
Kin is focusing on creating the best possible content for that underserved 25–40-year-old woman. This positions us in the best of both worlds: creating digitally-native, organic-to-the-platforms content with high production values, while also serving an audience close enough to run on TV as a second window.
By upending the traditional model of television first, then digital, we believe we are creating a more powerful way to leverage owned-and-operated IP over the next five years.
As an entertainment company specializing in women’s lifestyle content, Kin has been producing unscripted content in the digital space for over a decade.
We are currently producing weekly shows with talent such as Tia Mowry, Adrienne Houghton, and Jeannie Mai, which air on both YouTube and Facebook. You can view all of our content on their respective youtube channels as well as on our website www.kincommunity.com.
We aim to create shows that are funny, educational, and emotional. One week may feature a cooking contest, while the next week may just be an opportunity for a host to get real with her fans about struggles she’s had in her life. Between all of our ongoing shows, we have garnered over 5 million followers across social media platforms.
When I first started working at the company over five years ago, Kin was part of the Multi-Channel Network (MCN) wave.
Essentially, MCNs were a combination of management agency and rep firm that “managed” hundreds of social media influencers to garner brand deals. Kin would also produce owned-and-operated shows featuring some of these influencers as hosts.
A couple of years later when Facebook Watch gained popularity, we began producing a lot of “Hands and Pans” videos – sped-up, overhead-shot videos showing a food or DIY tutorial that can be watched in just a few minutes on a smartphone.
As social media trends began to change, the YouTube algorithm began to favor longer videos over the shorter, two-to-seven minute videos that were prevalent when I started working at Kin. In response, we began to produce content in the range of seven-to-twenty minutes in order to capitalize on the search preferences of the YouTube algorithm.
Our content evolved again two years ago when we launched our original show, Tia Mowry’s Quick Fix. Although Tia Mowry was not part of our MCN or even a traditional YouTube influencer, she was an established television star who had a large existing social media following.
We launched Quick Fix in September of 2017 and it was a hit, earning us more views across platforms than we had been able to produce with much of our previous influencer-based content over the years. While the MCN model started to struggle Kin was fortunate to have discovered a unique format – building social-first shows around television personalities.
We currently have five original series in production, each airing one episode a week across multiple social media platforms. We have anywhere from two to six editors working at any one time as well as an assistant editor.
Thanks to the speed, stability, and power of FCPX, we are able to keep up with our tight deadlines on a weekly basis.
So why do we use FCPX? Our switch to FCPX came about organically.
When I first joined the Kin team in 2014, we (like many boutique studios) were clinging to Final Cut 7. After Final Cut 7 was discontinued, we migrated to Adobe Premiere, working exclusively in the Creative Cloud for nearly two years. In 2017, we were in production on a show called Pretty Penny.
Kin’s Head of Development at that time wanted to include animated graphics with a “hand-drawn” quality to them. We initially planned to hire an animator to create these custom graphics for each episode, but soon realized that this would have been very expensive, not to mention very time consuming.
To solve this logistical issue, I suggested a plugin by Motion VFX called “MChalkboard.” Our Head of Development took a look at the plugin and said, “That’s perfect!”
There was only one catch – we were using Premiere for our editorial workflow, but this plugin was exclusive to FCPX.
Because of the money and time the plugin would save us, we decided to switch over to FCPX for Pretty Penny. What we soon discovered was the power, ease-of-use, and flexibility FCPX afforded our post workflow.
We made a decision to slowly move each of our shows over to FCPX, and we’ve never looked back.
At the time we switched to FCPX, Premiere did not allow the ability to directly edit templates that had been created in After Effects (in the time since, this functionality has been added). Because we were now able to create these templates in Motion, our switch to FCPX meant that we could create custom templates for each one of our shows.
This allowed for a uniform way to ensure consistency across all of the graphics from episode to episode without having to use a motion graphics program; any editor could modify these templates, just as they would any other pre-built title inside of FCPX.
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Additionally, although the system is quite robust to begin with, we have found that any time we run into something we’re not able to do directly, we’re able to find a plugin to solve the problem. The ease-of-use in creating templates inside of Motion has encouraged a robust market of plugins to emerge, transforming FCPX into a very modular system.
One of the real advantages of FCPX is that it is optimized to run on Mac hardware. When we switched, renders that used to take an hour in Premiere now took a matter of minutes – and this has only gotten faster over time.
Because we edit two episodes of each show per week, each of which may be up to twenty minutes in length, we need a fast, reliable platform to be able to keep up with our tight turnarounds. There is no NLE on the market that renders as quickly as FCPX.
Another great advantage of FCPX is that our producers, though not editors by trade, are able to edit basic string outs due to FCPX’s user-friendly interface.
I can get most producers up to speed with a half-hour tutorial while it would take me hours to explain just the basics of any other NLE.
In addition to ease-of-use, FCPX has another unique feature that has allowed us to create a workflow that optimizes collaboration between our post team and our producers.
Once we receive the dailies, our assistant editor will backup and prep them. The audio is synced to the multicams and then proxies are generated to improve file size. We used to use Keyflow Pro to create smaller proxies, but recently we’ve been creating built-in proxies and then compressing those to small h.264 proxies using Compressor.
We then delete the ProRes proxies and replace them with our newer, smaller h.264 proxies. As long as the file name remains identical, FCPX reads the new files in place of the old ones, and the proxy links stay intact. We then zip these self contained libraries with the proxies stored inside them and send them to our producers via a downloadable Frame.io link.
The producers edit their stringouts and send us back an xml, which we import back into the high-res libraries we have stored on our Jellyfish Mobile. This workflow has saved us hours of time, as we now know exactly which story beats the producer wants to include in the edit.
Having the ability to store the proxies inside the library itself has made this workflow far more intuitive than it would be in traditional NLEs.
Because of FCPX’s robust integration with Frame.io, producers never even have to set foot in our office. Our editors export review cuts directly to Frame.io, and the producers add notes on their end.
Because of the Frame.io extension in FCPX, we can now watch these notes in real time and address them as we go. The editors can even ask questions about the notes without ever leaving their NLE – almost like having a producer directly in the room with them.
Frame.io has been a key platform for our workflow over the last three years. We were very early adopters of this platform and it has become an integral part of our day-to-day workflow.
Each show we create has multiple deliverables every week. We deliver a custom version of each episode to YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.
Each of these versions have unique calls to action (such as “please subscribe” for Youtube or “please follow” for Facebook), custom end cards, and specific branded bugs that work on the various platforms.
Fortunately, roles help with quickly disabling these bugs for each variation of the episode. For a period of time, we also delivered for IGTV in the unusual resolution of 1080x1920, which created a unique challenge as each frame had to be repositioned to accommodate the narrower aspect ratio.
We would often use the Ken Burns effect to quickly pan and scan in order to fit all of our content on screen. Fortunately, IGTV now accepts 16x9 videos which allows us to deliver the same version that we use for Facebook.
Last year we finally made the switch to a 4k workflow. Prior to switching to 4k, we were doing HD acquisition and delivery, working off of hard drives and writing files to a NAS server.
Because we shoot all of our content with multiple cameras, we knew switching over to a 4k workflow would be a real challenge. It’s one thing to playback and edit one stream of 4k with a MacBook Pro, but once you have multiple streams of 4k playing back at once, you need a lot of throughput.
Our NAS was not up to the task, nor were our RAIDs. We decided it was time to invest in a shared storage solution that could handle playback of multiple streams of 4k simultaneously. That’s when we decided to pull the trigger on our Jellyfish Mobile server.
Once we switched to the Jellyfish, we had a centralized storage for all of the dailies, libraries, and other assets needed for our ongoing shows. Once a show has finished production, we can back it up to a hard drive to make room on the Jellyfish. Afterwards, those assets are also backed up to LTO for long-term archival.
Another great tool to help with managing our Jellyfish server is the Library Manager by Arctic Whiteness. This allows us to quickly delete things like render files and proxy media when they are no longer needed. We run this software on a weekly basis and we often are able to free up a terabyte or more of storage just by deleting render files.
One of the things that I think most editors find daunting about FCPX is the fact there are no tracks. FCPX uses roles instead, which are like tracks built on metadata.
Instead of having to manually patch which piece of media goes to which track, you can let FCPX do all of the organization for you as long as you’ve assigned your roles beforehand. This becomes especially handy on projects with a lot of sound effects and music cues.
Roles have made delivering for broadcast much easier as well. We are currently repackaging our shows All Things Adrienne and Heart of the Batter for Cleo TV, and being able to assign the roles to be certain parts of the mix and export the roles in a multitrack QuickTime couldn’t be simpler.
Roles are not only an elegant way of organizing your timeline, but they also make delivering sound mixes a thing of beauty.
Kin’s post-production team is composed of myself, an assistant editor, a lead editor, another full-time editor, and several freelance editors, depending on how many shows are in post at any given time.
Our current editing systems include a top-of-the-line 2018 Mac Mini, a 2017 5k iMac (with 8gb of video memory), a 2015 5k iMac, and two 2015 MacBook Pros, as well as an older 2013 MacPro “trash can.”
All six computers are working off a Jellyfish Mobile with 32 TB of raw storage. Each editing bay is connected via 10 gb ethernet either directly or through a Sonnet TWIN Thunderbolt adapter. We average anywhere from 600 gbps to 900 gbps read/write speeds, which allows us to handle multiple streams of 4k h.264 material.
Because of our shooting style, we end up with long takes that last anywhere from a half hour to an hour for each camera that is rolling, which means our storage needs are quite significant in 4k. To compensate for this, we do all of our acquisition with a compressed, Long GOP codec.
H.264 is by no means an ideal codec for post production as it puts a lot of strain on your processor. This is where the Jellyfish becomes so essential. An intraframe codec such as ProRes would be better optimized for editing, but because we are trying to keep our storage costs low and our shooting ratios high, a compressed codec is essential for acquisition.
Kin is now delivering for social media platforms as well as traditional broadcast outlets. We integrate brand deals in our ongoing shows and we shoot on everything from high-end cameras to iPhones.
Over the last couple of years we have launched shows featuring talent such as Derek Hough, Jordin Sparks, and JoJo Fletcher, and we recently launched new shows with Malika and Kadijah Haqq, and Tori Spelling.
As a studio, we aim to be flexible to keep up with the changing trends and needs of the digital marketplace and the vast audience that consumes short-form content across multiple devices. We’re planning to launch several new shows this year – and having a fast, stable, and powerful tool like FCPX is key to our ongoing success.
Brad Jones is the Director of Production at Kin. He has over twenty years of experience in film and television as an Editor, Producer and Director. To learn more, please visit his website at www.cinester.com
Gwen Miller and Brad Jones of Kin Community appeared on the Lumaforge Faster Together YouTube channel- give them a listen!