Archive for the 'high definition' Category

24
Nov
12

Why does my project look different on every screen I watch it on?

The age old question, asked by so many people who’ve come through my suite:

“I’ve downloaded it to my laptop and it looks different?”

Then there is the inevitable panic:

“Thomas, how can we make sure that everyone who watches it, watches it ‘properly’?”

This issue recently came to light here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19650769

As a colourist, I’ve spent a great deal of time learning to understand colour science, thanks to years of discussions and teachings with friends like Martin Parsons @ Image Eyes and Steve Shaw @ Light Illusion.  We’ve had many chats over different screens and different technologies, and discussed the question asked by Producers, Directors and DPs the world over: “Why does my work look different on every screen?”

I’m going to set out why it does, a brief note on the technology and finally, why it doesn’t matter as much as you think.

A visit to my company’s website will quickly tell you that colour is very important to our business revenue, we are predominantly a colour grading company, and clients from all sectors of the industry use us to make their work look as special as it can, in real terms, adding value to what was shot and hopefully taking the image beyond what the client ever thought possible.  In a world where software colour grading tools, like editing and desktop publishing, is pretty much free, anyone can be a colourist now – just like they can be a graphic designer or editor.

The difference is how quickly you get to the absolute best result, your understanding of your profession, your client skills, the client experience, delivering on time and knowing that your screens are calibrated…….

A lot of people think that there isn’t a standard for colour on screens, but there is.

We have a lot of screens at The Look, all of them using different panel technologies inside – we have LCD, LED, Plasma and projection.  They have varying price points, various issues inherent with their design, and they have varying controls over their calibration.  But this blog isn’t about the intricacies of different panels and the complicated world of colour science.

The current standard of HD TV screens and content delivery, the world over, is known as Rec. 709 and you might be surprised to learn, that most panels inside the TVs you buy are roughly calibrated to this standard.  The problem arises when TV manufacturers add special ‘features’ to the TV itself (rather than the actual panel) so that it appears sharper and more impressive on a shop floor against its competitors.  The ones that drive us colour specialists mad is anything with the word ‘dynamic’ in it.  Dynamic Contrast, Smooth Motion, Noise Reduction and various settings like ‘Game’, ‘Dynamic’, ‘Sports’ etc. all play havoc with the image displayed, heightening colours and increasing the contrast, usually causing any detail in the image which is in the darker or lighter areas to disappear completely as the panel is worked hard to make the image more intense – any subtlety is gone – its like turning up the bass and treble on your amp and wondering why certain songs sound terrible, while others seem to sound more ‘epic’.

If you actually turn off everything, and set the TV to standard you might be surprised to know, and this is in my experience true even with consumer sets, that they aren’t that far off the Rec. 709 standard.  At The Look we measure the black level (to make sure picture information isn’t being cut off, or isn’t too ‘lifted’) and we also measure, using a special probe and specialist software, how bright the TV is when a pure white image is put in to it.  We then measure pure Red, pure Green and pure Blue to see if its close to the Rec. 709 standard.  We then check a grey scale to confirm that their isn’t a strange colour cast or tint to the panel.

Interestingly, with most HD panels from decent manufacturers, you can get them pretty close to the standard, certainly for home viewing.

Why bother with any of this?

Because you should want to watch programmes, feature films and commercials as they were colour graded by people like me and the Directors and Cinematographers I work with, and my other fellow Colourists the world over who’ve calibrated our screens.  Thankfully, digital cinema now means that when you go to your local cinema, it should be pretty accurate to what we saw – well, if its properly maintained that is.

The chances are you won’t be able to do much more than going to ‘standard’ on your TV, turning off all the extra stuff I mentioned above, and doing a visual calibration with your own eyes on a film you trust – which may sound crazy, but in my experience, my eyes are as good as any probe I’ve used.

Even after this, its not going to be perfect by any means, and even in a professional environment we struggle to get every colour at every point in the colour and brightness scale to be accurate to the Rec. 709 standard.

So TVs may seem like a pain to tweak, with all their options and settings.  But what about your laptop, your iPad, your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy etc.?

The bad news is, most of these devices don’t have a way of tweaking your screen, they don’t even work to the Rec. 709 standard, some say they work to the sRGB standard, but thats unlikely out of the box.  I recently purchased an iPhone 5, restored my old iPhone 4 settings to it, so in effect they were identical, with the same home image.  Put them next to each other and I was gobsmacked at how different the same image looked, the iPhone 5 was significantly warmer in its colour tone.

iPhone 5 on the right has significantly more yellow/warmth in the whites than the iPhone 4 display on the left

Its true to say, if you buy another iPhone 5, put the same image on it, it will probably look different on that one too.

So when clients say, “sorry I couldnt make it to the grade, but I’ve downloaded your link and the product looks a bit yellow to me” I get a little frustrated!

“Thomas, how can we make sure that everyone who watches it, watches it ‘properly’ as we see it on your screen?”

You cant.

But I have an explanation on why you shouldn’t worry too much.

For hundreds, even thousands of years, man has chosen colour by mixing paints and putting this paint on to a canvas, and this canvas would have been lit by both daylight and candle light, and later, by electric lamps of varying colour temperatures, he or she would have carried on working for days and weeks, and just as we cannot change the colour of lamps and sunlight, neither can we accurately control the colour of the screen or the viewing conditions of the millions of people watching our work.

If you visit any gallery in the world, which has natural light as a source, when you visit at 9am and photograph a painting, and return again at 4pm and photograph the same painting with the same settings, the brightness and colour cast could be warmer, or cooler, based on the natural light.  This in itself will have changed the way we see the painting, the colours will have changed to our eye, but one key thing to remember is that our brain interprets the information that our eyes transmit to it.  If someone is wearing a white t-shirt in an image our brain balances the other colours based on that and other known objects and what colour they are.  When someone owns a TV, a laptop and an iPhone, the colour is neutralised by our brain it appears normal (unless you put them next to each other) and its only if we have a reference (a logo with strong colours) that we might spot an issue, otherwise, everything seems fine.  If your TV is set up a bit wacky, that wacky to you is normal.

However, with the gallery example, we don’t see this as devaluing or ruining a painting or piece of art, it is how the colours are used in the painting (or image) that compliment each other perfectly, how the light in the original scene is rendered and controlled, in essence, creating an image that is visually pleasing in whatever environment you watch it in and on.  As the image above shows, the scene that I photographed in Austria is equally beautiful on both screens, and if you were to look at one phone, and then turn it off, and turn the other one on, if you did this with even a few seconds gap, the chances are you’d think they were identical – that is how bad our colour memory is.

There is no excuse for anyone who offers grading services, individual or company, not to understand the complexities of display calibration, it is a known standard that manufacturers do work too, and it allows screens that the work is seen on later to be off in a particular direction without major detriment to the viewer’s experience of the image, particularly if you have set your black and white levels properly.

So if you are panicking about how your project is looking different on YouTube, your Quicktime on your laptop (oh the joy of Quicktime gamma issues), YouTube on your iPhone and then when its broadcast, don’t loose too much sleep – its never going to change, its not as bad as it seems – you just need to make sure you work with people who know why it looks different and how we can counter the issues as much as we can within the controls and knowledge at our disposal.

I leave you with one final thought, years ago I worked on a Channel 4/E4 series here in the UK called ‘Dead Set’.  It was Directed by Yann Demange, DP was Tat Radcliffe and it was Written by Charlie Brooker.  I can remember all of us discussing the issues described in this blog, and how dark we could realistically go with the colour grade without causing issues for anyone watching this zombie horror during bright daylight hours (it was in places graded and lit in a very moody way), and in an unheard of moment of genius Charlie managed to get the announcer to state before the programme: “Now on E4, ‘Dead Set’, which contains graphic scenes and which is best viewed in a darkened environment”.

I had a wonderful vision of millions of people all reaching up to their light switch and turning off their ‘big light’, and there by increasing their enjoyment of the work we had done, and actually seeing some more of the gory detail!

There you have it, problem solved
Thomas Urbye

MD & Senior Colourist

The Look

London

www.thelooklondon.com

17
Dec
11

2011 wasn’t all that bad for TV & Commercials, was it? So what does 2012 hold?

2011 was pretty depressing, reading the paper or watching the news was a miserable experience, and all in all, those who still have a job, or have a business should apparently be chuffed to bits!

Interestingly, a lot of my clients have actually had a pretty good year, not exactly the best ever for most, but many have told me that when they actually worked out the numbers, their figures were actually very good – both freelancers and production companies.

So if this is the case, and for us we had our best year ever (our fifth), what is it that makes us all feel so uncertain about 2012, despite quite a few of us media based companies having surprisingly good revenue?  The big thing for many is “Do we expand premises, get more people, invest in new technology, or just keep capital in the business just in case it gets bad in 2012?”.  Unfortunately I think the tendancy is to opt for the latter, and I’m inclinned to agree with them, which does nothing for getting the economy going, but most people are just too scared to risk loosing it all when everyone is telling you that 2012 is going to be horrible.

This year we worked on ‘South Riding’ for BBC, ‘Monroe’ for ITV, ‘Top Boy’ for Channel 4, ‘The Fades’ for BBC, ‘Whitechapel 3’ for ITV, ‘The Bodyfarm’ for BBC, ‘Bert & Dickie’ for BBC and ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’ for BBC.  This adds up to 29 hours of drama for us, and we’re very proud of all of the work.  ‘Top Boy’ and ‘The Fades’ stood out for this year as youth orientated shows which both received critical acclaim.  With ‘Top Boy’, Channel 4 invested thousands in advertising, which meant that it pulled in a large and very diverse audience.  During its transmission week, it was the second most popular thing (trending) talked about on Twitter in London, Manchester and Birmingham.  Its fantastic when a series pushes the boundaries of storytelling and its craft, and produces something which is more than just ‘ok’, and ‘Top Boy’, though difficult for many to watch, received such great reviews that everyone involved is genuinely proud to have worked on it.  To engage with such a diverse age range from all different walks of life, is a testament to what can be achieved to create great, world leading UK drama – any comparisons to ‘The Wire’ can only be gratifying for those involved.

We were delighted to work on some wonderful TV drama this year, and I genuinely feel like the standard of UK drama is increasing, despite the year on year reduction in budgets from some broadcasters.  Although more drama is being commisioned next year from nearly all the broadcasters, the chances are there will be more drama series but a little bit more money spread across quite a few more of them.  This does have the unfortunate effect that UK drama has: too few shooting days and prep, too few extras and atmosphere, too few truly realistic locations, and too few decent wide shots if anything other than contemporary UK is the subject – all this hinders UK drama when compared to what the US can produce.  The directing, acting and technical craft is so high in the UK, that its a shame that sometimes the budget and subject matter is often so, well, safe.  For UK drama to really get to a world stage then broadcasters need to increase budgets to capture the aforementioned, give writers more time to finesse their work, and increase budgets on those dramas that really need it, only then can we hope to create true ‘brilliance’ for a world stage on more regular occasions.

2011 continued to be a very poor year for independent British films, with many directors not able to find funding to bring their film to the screen.  Despite successes like ‘The King’s Speech’, and despite post production companies becoming investors, it wasn’t enough for many to get their film off the ground.  I cant see this changing in the short-term, but we will continue to actively look out for great scripts and directors for potential investment, if not move in to Production ourselves in 2012.  We have to hope that other investors can return to the industry with the support of EIS schemes and tax benefits for those investors.

3D Stereoscopic has been huge for Hollywood, with nearly all children’s movies being in 3D.  Here in the UK though, Sky are left to fly the 3D flag for us with sports and natural history programming.  Sky are commited to 3D and I’m sure we’ll be hearing of some big commisions in 2012.  However, a recent survey discovered over half of people who own 3D televisions don’t actually know they have 3D built in!  Viewing 3D in a cinema is one thing, but wearing glasses at home is another.  However, the Olympics and Euro 2012 along with transmitting Hollywood 3D movies could be what Sky and also BBC (if they commit to 3D) need to push the audience into the third dimension, and its not going to be quick – but we cant give up now.  Fingers crossed Sky and BBC increase the momentum.

Finally, I’d like to thank all those that have supported The Look and the team that work here during 2011, we’ve worked with some of the best UK talent and some really lovely people, and we are very grateful to be chosen to work on some great projects this year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you

Thomas Urbye

MD

The Look

07
May
11

“Who needs an agency/production company/post house anyway?”

What is the biggest single change of the fast moving media world in the last two years?

The dissolving of the traditional structure:

CLIENT > AGENCY > PRODUCTION COMPANY > POST PRODUCTION COMPANY > BROADCASTER / PUBLISHER


And why not?  For so long the traditional route seems so cumbersome and expensive, cutting out one of the processes surely means more money to those left, as technology has moved on, seems only sensible to streamline the process.

Many of the clients we work with, and those that I grade with, have made that decision.  Agencies have bought their own editing systems and installed their own After Effects software, they’ve found good Directors to work with, as Production Companies have shed their own, and with a couple of freelancers in the mix they can take the initiative and remove the Production Companies from the equation, sometimes they don’t even see the need for a Post Production Company for some of the jobs.

Production Companies have become an Agency too.  Makes sense, handling the client can’t be that difficult, and if the Agencies are not going to bring them the work, then it makes sense to seek out the clients and produce the work themselves, they too have got their Final Cut Pros, and more importantly they have the roster of great Directors and Producers.

Finally, there is the Post Production Companies, who see work drying up from both their main suppliers, so they set up their own production arm, approaching new and existing clients and offering to cut out the Production Company, and maybe even the Agency.  The client is winning, the campaign is cheaper, and there is more money for those left in the food chain.

But there are problems.

A short clip from Mad Men demonstrates the fantastic character of Don Draper at work, pitching to Eastman Kodak for a new product, in a time (1960s) when things were done the old way, and have been done that way since now.  Don is a master.  Who then, takes on this role, in a Production Company or Post Production Company?

Here then is the rub.

For those Production Companies that have become Agencies, the shock, the true shock, is the hand holding that clients need.  For years, an Agency has taken all the responsibility for feedback, explaining to the client that now that they’re in the grade that its not possible to put a new pack shot in because it was never shot, the client is educated by their longstanding Agency Manager.  Production Companies now have to handle all of this, chasing down the key people, understanding the client’s brand, what they are doing in their other media campaigns – suddenly, the Production Company instead of just executing the best possible work for the Agency, and taking their guidance, are waiting on emails, Marketing Directors are in meetings, the CEO doesn’t like the edit, but isn’t sure why, the Creative Director thinks the music is wrong but can’t explain what he/she really wants, and no one can get them all in a room or on a conference call at the same time, that was the job of the Agency bigwig, they knew them all and could ‘make the call’ – enter Don Draper.  The end result, a final product that the client isn’t that happy with, the Production Company has wasted literally hours waiting for feedback when they could be looking for new work, they end up reluctantly doing the audio and grade in-house because they have run out of time, even though they had to confirm bookings on audio and pictures suites in Post Production Companies and incur cancellation fees from all angles.  All because the client wasn’t sure if they liked it or not, or if it was what they wanted in the first place.  That then, is what Don Draper and the Agency does.

Agencies then surely don’t need Production Companies.  They can hire in the staff that know about Production.  They can buy the editing and graphics kit – it is after all as cheap as chips.  Sometimes though, the freelance Line Producer you like to work with isn’t available.  Unfortunately, the in-house Director you have isn’t really cutting the mustard for the client, the work is, a little substandard.  The Agency needs a bit more creative edge, a fresh look, but how can we ask for ideas from Production Companies and their experts because we’ve cut them out of the equation, we need to make the right markup on the job.  Well, the Agency know the brand well enough, and the clients, so surely its not that difficult.  Only problem is, the quality of content goes down, the edit goes wrong because the rushes weren’t supplied right, the Agency Junior Production Manager hired the wrong drives and none of the monitors in the whole building seem to be calibrated right – why does it looks so dark?!  Now everything has been encoded wrong – its not her fault, what does she know about film shoots and camera equipment?  In the end, they fix it, don’t really make any money on the job, but its done, and if a Production Company and Post House had been involved surely they would have made a loss?

Ah, but is producing average content, really the big loss?  Does a good campaign breed another?  Does a failed campaign encourage or discourage further investment for the next?

If Post Production Companies are to try the same ideas, do they not come up against all the same problems as the other two, if not worse?  If, as a Post House, you find yourself winning a job over one of your regular Agency clients, you can’t be surprised if you suddenly loose their whole contract – why hire a competitor?  If a Production Company steals a client away from an Agency or vice versa, don’t expect to have them booking you for work in the future.

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you just to get a nibble on something else.

Sometimes in life, things have been the way they have been since the beginning for a reason.  Sometimes the chain is there because that meant everything got done properly.  Yes there was cost wastages, yes, sometimes the process was over complicated, but most of the time, the process worked because everyone was able to focus on their core abilities.

My predictions?  In a few years, things will start to return to the older route, CLIENT, AGENCY, PRODUCTION COMPANY, POST PRODUCTION COMPANY.  The ‘content’, which to me always sounds a bit like ‘web filler’ will be done by everyone, but great work, great work which clients really see value in, still needs all the right people involved.

Thomas Urbye

MD

The Look

20
Dec
09

Goodbye to the Noughties – Hello the Teenies. Looking back, and forward to the next decade of media production and post….

The year 2000 doesn’t seem that long ago – and what’s for certain is that as you get older ten years is a very short space of time.

A decade is a long time in technology though.

In 1999 most people didn’t have a mobile phone and weren’t even on the internet at home, painfully slow dial-up was the only option for most.  A decade on, the internet is at the core of personal and business transactions – whether it be by email or via some kind of social networking site, and most are using a pretty fast connection at home and certainly at the office.

One thing we can all agree on is that things change faster now than ever before as technology follows Moore’s Law.  So where will we be by 2019, other than ten years older?

How we consume media will be the biggest change, with deals being struck with YouTube and the like for streaming of television series, Spotify, LOVEFILM.com, Virgin and Sky offering music and movies on demand, and in the latter case in HD – it seems natural to assume by the end of the decade the act of buying music and films in a disk form will only apply to a minority of the public.

With the removal of the actual ‘media’ it opens up the chance of ever higher quality content being viewed on laptop screens and LCD’s in the home (a lot of TV’s already ship with internet built-in) as the only limit is the pipe you can send it down rather than the manufacture of goods.  iPlayer and its HD offering has shown that image quality matters yet again – and the argument for DV being good enough does not carry in this HD digital age.  For certain, one thing this decade has shown is that audiences do crave high-quality movies and drama (The Dark Knight, Heroes, Lost, 24, Mad Men, The Wire etc.) and will flock to it in their millions.  Within a short amount of time streaming to mobile phones (iPhone etc) will be a real reality – wherever you are, via wi-fi or 3G.

The big change in cinema will be 3D Stereoscopic.  2010 will see the next big leap since the introduction of colour in the 1940s and 50s.  ‘Avatar’ and ‘Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland’ will mark the first big change in live action movie production, and Sky’s 3D summer of sport will be the catalyst to the slow process of getting 3D to people in pubs and in their homes.  Expect ‘3D at home’ in the latter half of this decade.

It is the 3D Stereoscopic and digital projection standards which will drive film and programme makers to produce high-quality material – and it could mark a wholesale change as the industry shrinks as consumers demand better and switch off if their attention isn’t kept.  If the internet has shown us one thing, its that people will not just watch anything when you can quickly click a link to something better – the sooner companies realise this and start spending money with agencies again to create unique content for internet users the sooner this industry will begin to get back to work.  2009 has been a year of people leaving the industry, its wholesale shrinkage has meant the removing of wheat from the chaff.  Many will not be able to return, and I doubt advertising will ever return to the rates and demand it enjoyed up till the middle of this decade.  While the internet killed live transmitted advertising, it will resurface in a new online form.  While advertisers have already woken up to social networking sites and the power they now control (X-Factor vs. Rage against the machine for example) can only be exploited with content worth watching, and worth forwarding or ‘sharing’.

The gulf we’ve seen between high quality and airwave fillers will get greater, as more focused channels come to air.  As more channels will be introduced, quality will continue to drop across the network of 100s of channels, traditional live advertising revenue will continue to drop with the exception of ad breaks in ‘X-Factor’ and the like, the only advertisers left on TV will be supermarkets and ‘under-the-sink’ brands.  What will replace it is the insertion of ads at the start of on-demand programmes which will help to keep the market from slipping quite so fast – but I predict by the end of this new decade television advertising will not exist in the form it does now.  Content will be viewed online and on-demand – and subscription or pay-per-view will grow for movies and high quality HBO type series, advertising will feature in the form of product placement, ad’s over-layed at the bottom of your YouTube stream, and forced-in commercials which are still used to ‘break’ up long shows.

What was, and what will be, the big change in the art of movie and programme making?  Well in the late 1980s and early 1990s Avid was the big advancement in the world of post-production, along with other digital non-linear systems such as the Quantel Paintbox and Henry, and later the discreet Flame.  Non-linear would have summed up the big change of the 90s, but shooting on film was still the only real option for medium to high-end production.

This decade?  Well its been the advancement of High Definition pictures and digital cameras, and their over-taking of film in general use.  Certainly most high-end commercials are still shot on 35mm, and the same goes for feature films – but its obvious by 2015 the majority of production at the high-end will be digitally acquired as the cameras surpass film quality.

The other big change was Final Cut Pro.  Now available with a comprehensive editing and post production toolset for only £700 it smashes the price of HD post production, along with Adobe it has changed the landscape for good.  Talent will be the only thing left in this industry, without it you’ll find yourself looking for alternative work.  ‘Edit Hire’ rates for Avids and suites is over, unless you’re posting Stereoscopic work at 4k resolution or have a suite which meets the demands of high-end clients, expect your rates to continue to drop unless you’ve got the best creative talent.  The shrinkage is set to continue.

So, how will us creatives make it through to 2020 and make a decent living?  The same two things as always:

If its not on the script its not on the screen.

Be the best, work with the best, make the best.


Happy New Year!

Thomas Urbye

MD, The Look

Soho, London

www.thelooklondon.com

21
Jun
08

Summer 2008 – The Look, Cannes, and the wider industry

It is that time again for an update of whats been happening here at The Look, as well as a brief barometer of the wider industry.

Cannes Lions first off. What a four day ride that was, with all the lunches, meetings and parties its absolutely exhausting. But, it was great to see clients and friends all getting together to enjoy some nice French weather, and to be out of Soho for once!

On the beach at Cannes, left to right, Me, Paul Evans DoP, Andrew Naylor from United Agents & Alexis Haggar from DEAD
On the beach at Cannes, left to right, Me, Paul Evans DoP, Alexis Haggar Visual Effects Supervisor & Andrew Naylor from United Agents

Work wise? To sum up the last three months: DIGITAL

Over 50% of our revenue is coming from working with agencies (both traditional, and digital) finishing their video content for the web. Clients have included Mercedes, Guiness, HP, Barclays & Nivea.

My predictions for the RED ONE camera are also coming true. We’ve been getting a lot of calls about handling the workflow, often in collaboration with 4kLondon who supply their own RED ONE, on-set gear and editing systems. On a previous blog, I talked about the fact that shooting on RED ONE was unlikely to mean more money for other areas of production, this premonition is also coming true. There is one thing that the RED does not do cheaply, and that is proper post production, so while some clients have embraced the change, and understand the cost of finishing it properly, some underestimate/underbudget what it takes to post RED material – which mean that they grade it in FCP on their laptop.

On a side note, here in ‘post world’ the demise of The Sanctuary, M2 and redundancies across the post industry, is due to squeezed budgets, market saturation & and too much undercutting. Major facilities are currently charging out their hero grading and vfx suites for barely 20% of their ratecard during daylight hours. As with all these things, a highly saturated market, with price driven clients will enviably lead to further businesses (production and post production) going into administration.

Its not all doom and gloom though, here at The Look we’re working with our regular clients and have a fully booked Summer which will see us working on commercials, features & television drama – it doesn’t get more wide ranging, and that’s what keeps everything fresh. If we were just working in one area of the industry things wouldn’t be anywhere near as interesting.

So, lets see where the industry is when the Autumn comes, quite possibly a few more casualties of the credit and budget crunch.

Enjoy the grey British Summer! Am booking next year’s Cannes right now……..

Thomas Urbye
MD, The Look

24
Dec
07

Post production 2007-2008

Its been well publicised that 2007 was a bit of an annis horribilis for many areas of the industry, including post production. We made it through, and were profitable at that, but 2008 I fear will see even more casualties as production companies bring more and more television work in-house on their own FCP & Avid suites, and there will probably be a rise in advertising agencies doing the same thing. A couple of people asked me at our Christmas party why on earth I started The Look in such a bad year – I didn’t really have a constructive answer other than “When really is a good time?”.

One thing is for certain though, well paying television work is unfortunately disappearing, with only high-end drama still getting reasonable budgets thrown at it – but nothing near the figures dished out five years ago (possibly upto 30-40% less) as I understand it.  However, it does mean if you can keep your costs down and quality & service up you can compete with anybody else in the market.

One comment that has come up from some of the MDs of large facilities is that boutique houses such as mine cannot compete in the same arenas as their own facilities, one comment from an MD was that if you wanted to post a feature, you cant expect a boutique to be able to handle the project to such a high standard. I have to take exception at this, having completed two features in the last few months at The Look I feel strongly that both were finished to a very high standard with equal quality of service to our clients. However, it it worth noting, that I did learn a great deal from my four years at MPC working alongside some very experienced people, but as with all these things, regardless of the size of a facility it comes down to the quality of the people working there, not just in their expertise but in their sheer dedication to the service to their clients – something that boutiques can often have over larger facilities due to better training and the diminished responsibility attitudes larger facility’s employees often have.

Having just completed the 35mm grade on a project for Fox Searchlight I know the production are extremely pleased with the results, certainly there were some very long hours worked, but there is something about features, particularly when they are something that you can be very proud to have worked on as in this case, that tend to drive you to put twelve or more hours of work into a day. Being the MD of the company as well means I go the extra mile to deliver something that I can be very proud of as well, it is after all a piece of work which represents both the company’s output as well as me as an operator/colourist, MD, technical supervisor and senior producer!

Shooting on 35mm is certainly not going to go away in the short-term, and 2007 was meant to be the year of the RED camera – but its only just started to get firm delivery dates – but I think this year will be the explosion, and then the inevitable “its good, but is it really That good?” argument by the end of the year. If someone can make money out of this camera, and that is likely to the be production only – not anyone on my side of the playing field, then thats great – but it will naturally attract low budget productions who will want to use the money saved to shoot two features at a time, rather than put all the money into one. I’m not grumbling, as so many are doing round town, its unfortunate, but it makes it even more important to build relationships with good productions and clients who pay on time, support their suppliers and produce great quality work. Even in my eleven months of business, I have become tired of productions that often say they really need a good price and that it will be much appreciated, only to pay very late. Low budgets seem to equal poor management and experience, and overly juggled figures and cashflow problems something we can all do without.

Our partner companies The Difference visual effects and Rocket Group are going from strength to strength, which is great not only for Alexis Haggar and Chris Eades their MDs, but also for myself and the other suppliers we work with. The latter is working over the Christmas break on a very high profile campaign for a major technology manufacturer, while the former has struck a very good relationship working with well known and brilliant film titles designer Matt Curtis, all helping us to broaden our reach to new exciting clients with good projects and healthy budgets to aid our expansion and enjoyment of our work.

We could well be heading for a recession in 2008, its seems almost inevitable now, if 2007 was choppy, I think this next year will be bordering on stormy – at least till the Summer,

See you on the other side……….

Yours,

Thomas Urbye

Company Director

The Look

20
Sep
07

IBC & Autumn 2007

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Having just arrived back from an eventful IBC, it is now a good time to put down a bit of information from the show as well as talk about the upcoming activities leading up to Christmas.

Firstly, IBC (which I assume stands for something like the International Broadcast Conference), runs every year in Amsterdam. Its an opportunity for manufacturers from all areas of the media industry to showcase their latest products and innovations. As you can imagine, this year’s show was dominated by the RED camera, and other low priced but high specced products (SI 2K and FCP Studio 2 as example).

Seeing the RED camera on the stand was interesting enough, and the image I saw was certainly fine – sharp enough, bit of noise in the blacks – but hey, at the price mark you cant really complain. Its the usual story though, are commercials and features (high-end) really going to move away from film for this? 4K is one thing, beautiful images is another, I’d love it to be as good as 35mm but we won’t know till November when we have it at one of The Look’s Shoot ‘n’ Post days (in conjunction with High Definition magazine).

Other highlights was the show’s focus on 3D this year.  Many of us have had the IMAX ‘experience’, but the truth is the content just hasn’t been there –  you can only stomach so many 3D CGI tigers or turtles till the novelty wears off.  However, some of the work being done in this area now utilises just normal HD cameras on special rigs, and the image quality was fantastic.  I have to say I found some of the demonstrations extremely exciting.

Having been invited by Quantel to give a 30 minute presentation on their stand about whatever I liked (within reason!), I thought I’d talk about the change in the DI and grading market over the last five years, as well as discuss the future of post (which followed the lines of one of my previous blogs) and how technology and personnel had to change dramatically to keep up – training and technology has to go hand in hand if clients are going to be able to still deliver the best quality to the viewer, whether that be via terrestrial broadcast, satellite or online.

This Autumn things are certainly ramping up, and even though certain markets (banking, property and certain areas of TV) may be feeling more nervous than they have during the last five years, the commercials market seems to be going crazy. On the flip side, talking to a friend who does a lot of location work in the features market, he’s positive that productions will be returning to the London studios (Shepperton, Pinewood etc.) for next year’s features because it’s not as cheap to shoot in Eastern Europe as it was.

We look forward to the continued growth of the commercials market, across the massive spectrum that it now covers – embracing online advertising, and making sure that YouTube quality (Flash 9) is surpassed by H264 and the like.  HD can then be delivered to people’s desktops, even though most people don’t realise they have HD until you tell them the screen they’re reading this blog off is already HD.

Here’s to good quality leading up to 2008, log on to http://www.thelooklondon.com to see what’s happening……

Yours,

Thomas Urbye

Company Director, The Look