Jim Tierney, CEO of Digital Anarchy, and Host Cirina Catania talk about his long history with Burning Man and share information on his company’s plugins for motion graphics, After Effects, animation, and video editing.

In This Episode

  • 00:19 – Cirina introduces Jim Tierney, the founder and president of Digital Anarchy, who has the title Chief Executive Anarchist.
  • 03:37 – Jim talks about his company’s most recent products, like Transcriptive and Flicker Free.
  • 08:12 – Cirina asks Jim about the rumor that he likes to go to Burning Man, a festival that focuses on community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance.
  • 14:30 – Jim shares why he chose Premiere Pro as a platform for transcripts.
  • 19:36 – Cirina and Jim encourage listeners to check out Digital Anarchy’s software, namely Transcriptive, Flicker Free, Beauty Box, Samurai Sharpen, and many more.

Jump to Links and Resources


Hi, we’re at NAB 2019. This is Cirina Catania with OWC Radio, the new creative club. And I’m with Jim Tierney. He’s got a great title. You are the founder of Digital Anarchy and the president. And I love your title of Chief Executive Anarchist. That’s kinda cool. We’re creative. We like anarchy, right?

We get anarchy whether we like it or not, especially at NAB.

Everybody’s anarchist. Let’s go back a little bit because I want people to know you as a person. How did you get started? Where were you raised, and how did you get started with technology?

Where did I start?  

I want him to tell us all his secrets.

Secrets are good. I started off life as a graphic designer, and I got hired on as a QA person at MetaTools, which you might remember with Kai’s Power Tools and Bryce and some of that stuff. And I started working on Final Effects way back in 1995, which is the After Effects plugin set. And did that for a couple of years, worked on a couple of other companies that used the After Effects plugins, and then came up to San Francisco for the whole “.com” craziness. And then that imploded, and I started Digital Anarchy after that.

I'm an okay photographer. I'm an okay graphic designer. I have no business being a video editor, I can muddle my way through, but I love helping other people make better art. Click To Tweet

When did you start Digital Anarchy?

We started in 2001.

Oh, my goodness, it’s been that long.

It’s been a long time.

I actually remember that. So talk to us about some of the products that you have developed over the years, and then we’ll move into what’s new. So what are some of your legacy software?

The first product we ever released was Text Anarchy, which was a particle system for generating text. And it could do the matrix kind of text thing, but you can also do a lot of other like text effects with it. We started off doing motion graphic tools, very After Effects-centric. There was also Psunami, which was for generating realistic water. And this is all back 2001-2003. We did the first kind of script product, I think 3D assistance, which was as far as I knew the first script-based plugin because up to that point, they’re all just c++ things. And this was using the keyframe assistant API and After Effects. Now there are scripts for everything, but back in 2003, there were not. And then, in 2008, I guess we sold most of the video stuff off to Red Giant, so a lot of those products still exist as Red Giant products. And then, we did Photoshop things for a while, and that didn’t go so well. So we went back to doing video things. And that’s going great. So here we are.

So tell us what you’re working on now.

Yeah, so the most recent product is Transcriptive which is a panel that is integrated into Premiere and allows you to pull in AI transcripts. We’ve just added the ability to get human transcripts. Because it’s integrated into Premiere, there’s a lot of interoperability with other aspects of Premiere. Every word has time codes, or every word is clickable and can open up sequences. The clip is right within the source panel within Premiere. So it’s just really nicely integrated. We just launched Transcriptive.com, which is a web-based version of it. So again, if your editor wants to have a producer or client or assistant editor, edit the transcript, clean up or whatever, add comments, they can send it to somebody that does not have Premiere, so they can do all the editing, the commenting all the other stuff within the web browser, and then send it back to the editor in Premiere.

There's a natural filter we have when we're talking to people that isn't there when you see something on the screen
There’s a natural filter we have when we’re talking to people that isn’t there when you see something on the screen

So this is the editing of the text or the editing of the media?

Right now, it’s mainly the text, but pretty soon, we’ll have the ability to pull that into Premiere and create an assembly based on either papercut or whatever they do in the web browser. So just lots of different ways of working with text within a video editing environment. So we’re showing that off a lot. And then also, we’re releasing a new version of Flicker Free, which is our great plugin for doing deflickering. And we’re optimizing that for GPUs. So the big complaint about Flicker Free is it’s slow. So this should dramatically help that situation out. And those are the new things we’re talking about at the show.

So who are most of your clients? Are they independent producers? Are they studios? Who did you build this for?

It’s kind of a range. I would say most of our clients are either freelancers or corporate video departments or smaller studios, dock makers. But we do sell into larger companies, Fox News, Disney, NBC, like the gamut as with most of the software industry for video. The sexy part is Hollywood and feature films and broadcast television. But that really makes up like 5% of the market, and it’s super tiny. And so that’s the sexy bit, and that’s the stuff we like to talk about, but the reality is, most of the people that are doing it are doing sales videos and stuff that’s marketing content for YouTube, and all that stuff. So it’s a lot of people doing corporate work, commercials, that type of thing.

I don’t even know how you do all of this. Do you have software developers that work for you that are doing all this? Are you doing the coding?

I am essentially a product manager. I’m the one that kind of comes up with the ideas. I have enough understanding of the development process that I can look around, see what interesting things are out there and that we have the core capabilities to actually do. There’re a lot of interesting things that we just don’t have the core knowledge to do, but there’s a lot of things that are totally in our bailiwick and work well.

I think it’s pretty awesome. You got all these great ideas. Do you also create content? How do you come up with these ideas?

It’s mostly listening to our customers and paying attention to forums, and seeing what kind of problems people write. I create some content, a little bit, but I’m not a video editor. Like I said, I started off life as a graphic designer, and I still do that for DA a little bit. But it’s obviously not my main job. We’re a team of eight people at this point. We have four people coding and four of us doing marketing and other related things.

Where’s the company based out of? 

We’re in San Francisco.

Oh, awesome. So what do you do when you’re not working with software developers and coders and other marketing people? I heard a rumor that you like to go to Burning Man.

Yeah. So that’s something I’ve been doing for 18 years. And that’s still a cool, interesting place to go, despite some of the rumors you might or might not have heard.

Oh, I have a lot of friends who go, and they keep saying, “You have to go. You have to go,” and I’m always out of the country during Burning Man. I don’t know why. The timing has never been right.

I definitely have a habit of going to Burning Man and then leaving for IBC three days later.

Oh, my gosh, are you crazy? Jim, how do you do that?

Well, you know, Amsterdam, Black Rock City. It’s kind of the same thing. 

Well, that’s a little bit true. But how do you get the sand off of you? I mean, you know. 

It’s not too bad.

So do you actually do art installations?

I volunteered for the art department for a long time. So there’s a department called “The ARTery,” which is the department that helps all the artists build their stuff. So if you need forklifts, or crane, or propane, or firewood, or whatever, we help manage those resources for the artists. And so I did that. I volunteered to do that for 12 years. And I also do an audio art tour for them. And so it’s kind of like a docent-led art tour that you can download from the Burning Man website. You can download it before you go out there. And you can listen to it on your drive-up. And listen to it out there if you want more information about like, what the hell is this crazy thing that I’m looking at?

Okay, but aren’t they building new things every year? So how do you do an art tour?

So Burning Man funds, they spend about a million or two million dollars funding art that people bring out there. And so people have to apply for grants for that. And so we know six to eight months beforehand what Burning Man is going to fund. And so I do the tour for the honorarium pieces. Because a lot of the stuff people just randomly bring out there, and obviously, we have no idea what that’s all about.

I’ve heard about some pretty incredible stuff. Like last year, what would have been your favorite installation?

Last year was actually the second time in 18 years, and I missed it.

Is there one that stands out that you looked at? And you went, “Oh, my god, they created this in the middle of the desert. These people are nuts.”

I mean, there are so many of those. Because you’re two hours past civilization, assuming you think Reno is civilization.

Well, it’s questionable.

Anyway, so you’re two hours past Reno, in the middle of the desert, you can’t just run to Home Depot and get stuff. A lot of this stuff is like major structures, right? So you gotta bring the resources you need out there with you. I mean, it’s a great community too, because like, a lot of times, like, if artists have problems, other artists will help them out. It’s like, “Oh, hey, I need a welder,” “I just had a whole bunch of two by fours light brakes,” like, “I need two-by-fours.” It’s just a really strong community that really helps each other out.

There are many interesting things that we just don't have the core knowledge to do. But there are also a lot of things that are totally our bailiwick and work well. Click To Tweet

People trade. They trade stuff, right?

Yeah. I mean, that’s one of the ethos around it. But it’s a gifting culture, and it’s not really so much trading. There’s no expectation of payment for the things you give.

It’s kind of nice, isn’t it?

Yeah. It’s a great environment. It’s just fun the way people embrace it and how that manifests. Like all the art, people spend like six months of their year building this stuff, and they just bring it out there just to do it. And no one’s making money off of it. It’s just, “I want to build this crazy, amazing thing.” “I want to build this three-storey wooden structure, and then I want to burn it at the end of the week.” It’s fairly spectacular, the art that gets brought out there, and just realize how much work goes into that just because you can.

It’s funny, I’m sitting here, and I’m thinking about the parallel between what you do as a developer and Burning Man in a way, the art that’s made for Burning Man because what you do, you constantly have to burn it when a new technology comes in, right? So it’s almost like you’re starting from scratch. That may be a silly connection.

I would say the stronger connection is actually me volunteering for the art department and helping other people create art. And that’s what we do with Digital Anarchy. It’s like we create tools for artists to make their lives easier, to make it easier to do, to solve problems. So it’s like if you’ve got a shot at the wedding like you didn’t realize there were LED lights behind the bride, then like, suddenly, you’ve got all this flicker going on. That’s not something you can just go reshoot. It’s nice to be able to help people do what they do. I’m an okay photographer, I’m an okay graphic designer, I have no business being a video editor, I can muddle my way through, but I love helping other people make better art. So that’s definitely one of the bits behind Digital Anarchy and the products we make.

That’s awesome. So why did you choose Premiere Pro as a platform for Transcriptive?

Because at the time, they were really the only platform that had an HTML interface. And so we could actually build a web app within Premiere. And that just gives us all this great nice integration. Since then, FCP has added workflow extensions, which are not exactly the same thing but have some of the same capabilities. I think, Resolve just announced they have some sort of HTML thing. So you know, we’ll look at other video editors and see if there’s a way we can do what we did with Premiere in those editing programs. 

How do you feel about the ongoing conversation about should I go with Avid, should I go with Premiere, should I go with Final Cut? Are you kind of tired of that conversation, or is it going to continue in the future?

I mean, that’s the conversation that’s been going on for like 20 years.

We create tools for artists to make their lives easier in solving problems.
We create tools for artists to make their lives easier in solving problems.

However many years. I know.

Since I started in the industry, it’s like people have been arguing with that. They’re tools, right? I mean, who cares? If you find one that you like using, they’re all capable. Some do some things a little bit better than others. But just depending on exactly the type of work you do, one is, maybe a little bit better. But at the end of the day, it’s like, whatever you know well, it’s like the MacWindows argument. With the Mac, you know all the little workarounds, and then you switch to Windows. You don’t know any of that stuff. And it’s like, “Oh, my god, this is horrible.” Maybe, but if you spend the same amount of time learning Windows that you did with Mac. You’d get it. This is not to say Windows is better than Mac. They’re both great. We develop for both of them, and they’re both fabulous. I love them, and I hate them at the same time.

So you’re here at NAB. Have you had a chance to walk around?

No. This is the first time I’ve gotten out of the South hall and out of beyond just the walk from the entrance to my booth? 

So what’s happening over at South hall? 

Don’t ask me. I don’t know.

Are you going to Faster Together tonight? 

I am not. Well, I mean, I might stop by briefly. 

I think it’s gonna be a historical evening. After 18 years of the SuperMeet, now Faster Together, it’s kind of a new incarnation. And Michael Horton is still hosting. 

It’s kind of a LumaForge marketing event, though.

You think? Oh, I don’t know.

SuperMeet was like this great coming together of a bunch of user groups. It was like this great community event. And it just feels like that’s shifted into just like LumaForge.

Our ideas came from listening to our customers and paying attention to forums to know the problems people write about. Click To Tweet

You know what, though, I’m really grateful to them for carrying the torch because, for so many years, SuperMeet was so important to all of us. We’re a community. And that’s what this show is supposed to be about, the community and creativity and the marriage of what you do, and your creative side with the people like me who were using it had I not had Beauty Box in those interstitial for NatGeo days in the middle of trying to get a one-hour network show delivered. I know it sounds like a small thing to you, but I’m not a full-time editor, and it helped me. The thing that you did with that software helped me get through making people look good when some of the interviews weren’t necessarily filmed all that well.

That’s the great thing about Beauty Box is that most people don’t look good under video lighting at 4K on an HD screen.

Oh yeah, we were talking about that with Todd Fisher this morning. And there’s a big difference between the old glass and these new digital. But you know, you have to move forward, do something new.

But you know, it just causes a lot of skin imperfections to pop out that you just don’t see in real life. When you’re passively viewing a television thing, you’re like, and you have the mental ability to stare at the screen and go like, “Oh, my god, it’s horrible.” Like when you’re having a conversation, you’re not staring at my face analyzing my pore structure. You’re hopefully listening to what I’m saying and thinking about what you’re gonna say and all that. And there’s just a natural filter I think we have when we’re talking to people that just isn’t there when you see something on the screen, especially under bright video lights.

All tools are capable. Some do some things a little bit better than others. But you need to find the tool that fits you depending on the type of work you do.
All tools are capable. Some do some things a little bit better than others. But you need to find the tool that fits you depending on the type of work you do.

Beauty Box came in handy. Thank you.

Especially as these resolutions keep going up, and we’re like, keep doing it.

Wow. So Transcriptive and Flicker Free and Beauty Box and Samurai Sharpen and all this other stuff, this is great. You’ve been doing really good work. Thank you for taking the time to walk over here. I really appreciate it. It’s nice to see you. 

Thanks for getting me out of South hall. 

There you go. You’re welcome anytime. So this is Cirina Catania with OWC Radio Creative Club. I’m here at NAB 2019 with Jim Tierney of Digital Anarchy. Thank you for your time. And remember what I always tell you guys, get up off your chair and go do something wonderful today.

Thanks, Cirina.

Thank you.


  1. Create ideas for your products by listening to your customers and paying attention to forums to know the problems people have. 
  2. Find tools that fit precisely with your needs. Don’t be confused with all of the tools that you can use. Some may be better than others but choose the best tool for the work you’re doing.
  3. Check out Transcriptive, Digital Anarchy’s latest software, a panel integrated into Premiere that allows you to pull in AI transcripts. 
  4. Also, check out Digital Anarchy’s new version of Flicker Free, a plugin that removes flickering from your video. 
  5. Go to Digital Anarchy’s website to know more about their other software, like Beauty Box and Samurai Sharpen.

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