Archive for the 'post production' Category

02
Aug
14

Reaching Creative Flow

Many people are aware of the briliant TED (Technology, Education and Design) community at www.ted.com
Some time ago I stumbled across a fascinating talk on this site about the route to happiness from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  It appeared to be routed in the perfect combination of personal challenges meeting perfectly matched personal skills.  We are at our most creative when our own personal skills are challenged at a level that stretches them, creating an equilibrium and harmony. When challenged too little we become bored and depressed, when the challenge is too great and our skills lacking, frustration and self doubt kick in.

flow_diagram
The talk focused on how anyone can meet this personal equilibrium in their daily work or interests. For those of us working in the arts, and in the case of myself and others dedicated to the enhancement of storytelling and emotional engagement through the powerful use of images and in my case specifically colour, these two opposing forces meet when faced with the desire of the filmmakers to transcend that what has been achieved before or that will engage people with its beauty or savageness. My biggest creative challenge of recent months was working with the much acclaimed artist Isaac Julien, whose infamous work in the field of video art has challenged the genre of traditional filmmaking. With his work ‘Playtime‘, which debuted in Times Square in New York, the challenges before me were staggered. The first was to deliver to Isaac a standard of creative colour grading and picture enhancement that would satisfy him and to help to take the work to the next level of aesthetic appreciation for the viewer, this in itself is just the first big step to achieve. Once the road to this goal is set, as the colourist working with an artist of Isaac’s expertise, it requires the ability to move in to the aforementioned ‘flow’. As stated at the top of this article, when an artist’s skills are tested to their extreme, then at that moment you can reach this evasive ‘flow’ sweetspot.  The success of any artistic work in my opinion starts with solid building blocks, the belief in the initial direction, the confidence that this direction is the correct one for the work, and that it is the only direction.  When that is locked in then the challenge moves to delivering that execution across the whole work, to create a cohesion to the work, that compliments the director’s artistic vision, the performance, the composition of framing, the editing and the sound design. When the challenge of cohesion is complete then the final step to ‘flow’ is the hardest, the final grasp to perfection. Where every frame of the work is perfect, where minute details are agonised over. At that point the artist, when free from outside pressures, can hit the sweetspot of ‘flow’, and at that moment aspire to create the perfect work.

Artists have various reasons for creating work.  Some do it for themselves, to satisfy their own need for self belief, a competitive nature with themselves as the ultimate critic. Some do it for the audience, to take the audience themselves to a moment of ‘flow’. When art of any kind can challenge its audience’s concentration skills, artistic perception and thus create total immersion in the work, then the artist has given back to the audience the greatest gift.  As artists we have been successful when all those that have been able to engage in the work have moved to ‘flow’ and for that moment taken them from the trappings of day to day life.
To really achieve peacefulness at the end of our day we need to embrace the challenges to our own skills, push them, and give back to our audiences, whomever they may be.

Thomas Urbye | MD & Senior Colourist, The Look, London

playtime_panoramic


I am a colourist working across all genres. From feature films, television drama, documentary, commercial content and video art.

Isaac Julien’s ‘Playtime’ is a seven screen work currently exhibiting around the world. It is 70 minutes in duration and was mastered in ultra high definition at The Look.
For more information you can read more at The Look’s site or at Isaac Julien‘s site.

You can see a short trailer for the work here

The inspiring TED talk referenced in this article can be found here:
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Flow, the secret to happiness

The Flow diagram is copyright of Milhaly Csikszentmihalyi 

20
Jul
14

What is the future of media creation, salaries and content distribution across all sectors?

Often this very question is debated by experts in our industry, but many have their own agenda, whether that be advertising creation, media buying, low budget film-making, publicly funded television, subscription based services and beyond. But what is the real future for our viewing habits, those of us working in this industry and who will succeed and who will fail in the next five years as technology and human behaviour changes faster than in the last 75 years?

Let’s start with video advertising. Netflix currently accounts for 34% of Internet traffic in the United States.  There are no adverts on Netflix. iTunes is becoming the latest standard for new on demand movie and series releases, rental or ownership – no adverts. Sky has huge rights ownership of major US series, but people record and skip the adverts. BBC iPlayer, no adverts. This leaves ITV and Channel 4 and other smaller channels. ITV will continue to show adverts for its mainstream audience, in the main these are supermarket and grocery brands. Channel 4 will continue to be part funded by adverts but who will watch them, unless forced by 4OD?
YouTube currently has adverts, most of which you can skip after five seconds, and now they have decided to introduce a subscription model to avoid advertising, that is a further loss to the advertising community.
The reality is that TV advertising has, in the main, become less adventurous and lower budget, and brands prefer their money spent online across safe measurable clicking. This in my opinion will drive spending towards Branded Sharable Factual/Fictional Content and destroy the traditional video advertising industry, programmes and short films that subtlety promote the brands featured will triumph. It could be an online cookery series sponsored and featuring Morphy Richards or Russell Hobbs or a drama/comedy series centred around a road trip using a BMW Mini or Range Rover. At that point you can remove advertising breaks, which audiences, especially younger ones, no longer want.

The movie industry is polarised around the world between low budget filmmaking, where budgets are so tight that pay is bad for all and suffer distribution difficulties, and big budget tentpole Hollywood movies. Government funded film councils do not tend to support commercial scripts and so investment does not recoup for the benefit of the industry, the focus seems to be awards for worthy but non-commercial films.  Directors and Producers however can now distribute themselves directly to platforms and try to recoup without the help of distributors (who are often struggling themselves) or even a sales agent. The only area in the movie industry making profits is large Hollywood tent pole productions that cost $100 million + but can make sizeable profits. Sadly though being a VFX facility in this market is not as lucrative as it once was as you can’t quantify the cost of constant client changes and competition is high. The consolidation of VFX companies at the highend in to even bigger companies is a given, and movie studios will expand on their own inhouse post services, wiping out many post production companies across the world.
Tax incentives from countries like Belgium and Canada are so high that movie and drama productions follow them around meaning pockets of companies relying on work in traditional areas are struggling, those that do win work have used upfront cash investment and inflated quotes in the films or dramas to increase the tax credit and cashflow production. This happens across the world and is acutely felt in Central London where regional spends outside the M25 motorway also greatly reduces inward investment in London services set up as a centre for creative excellence.
All content making companies will continue to move costs inhouse, with post and other services being ultimately done in the cloud, utilising the computer power available. The adage remains, if it can be done in the cloud, then it will all be done in the cloud.
The budgets on content creation will continue to drop as competition will increase, access to near as free equipment will greatly reduce barrier to entry and revenue in hire and post production rates and pay rates for companies and freelancers will remain static and in real terms will fall against rising inflation.  Anyone in the industry who wishes to remain relevant will need to own their own content and work with companies to help them to produce work that audiences actually want to watch. This will not be adverts, filler programming or dull formats.
My company’s focus is creative excellence and focused on non-biased advice.  Genres include highend drama and features, remote grading for companies with inhouse post or helping those companies to build those services for content creation across any genre, and working with them as consultants on that move to total control and distribution and creatively engaging content. As agencies become production companies, and former post houses become major production companies going to brands directly, media buying companies will struggle as brands and agencies do it themselves.
The media landscape is changing, along with capitalism in the main, and the casualties will be high for those slow to adapt, audiences now control what they watch, when they watch it, anyone can make anything if they have the talent – be sure whatever sector you work in that you make the right decision for yourself.

Further reading: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/nov/07/radical-new-economic-system-will-emerge-from-collapse-of-capitalism

Thomas Urbye
MD, The Look.
I am the owner of a London post production company and industry commentator, I consult and work across all genres of video creation.
Contact:
Blog@thelooklondon.com

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

12
Jun
11

Post production company Pepper finally closes?

After a break in recent ‘bad news’ stories, it was with surprise that Soho learnt on Friday of, what seems to be, just maybe, the final closure of post production company Pepper as it has been put in to liquidation by Future Film Group.

http://www.pepperpost.com/

Its terrible for the staff, who may already have endured rough times with the company before, find themselves again in an all to familiar state.  Knowing some of the people there myself, they were shocked that out of nowhere the doors were locked and they were out, for those dry hiring rooms it must have been a scary arrival at Greek St on Friday 10th June.

Demand most of the year outweighs supply in our industry, and Future have looked at the business and made the right decision in this regard.  When companies continually go in to administration (see http://secure.duedil.com/business#/b/pepper%20post) and on occasion leave their creditors with large outstanding debts it not only hits its creditors and freelancers (if they are left unpaid), but when companies do this, they should, in my opinion, close, and stay closed unless major restructuring and redundancies take place.  By conducting and disposing of debts and liabilities in this way it only increases the cost of credit to other production/post/rental companies as the market becomes more high risk for lenders, which in turn leads to smaller profit margins for the rest of us trying to run a business.  The argument of course is saving jobs, but very long-term I’m not sure it results in this as the industry as a whole suffers through excessive undercutting to increase turnover rather than profit.

Hopefully with demand in TV drama increasing, perhaps some of the other international names that have continued to run their post production services at a loss will now start to  charge proper rates for their services, although their clients may find that a bit of a shock!

I hope all the team at Pepper, who included some talented and friendly people, find work quickly, and that Future Films Group continue their success in film finance, an area which has also struggled in recent years in this recession.

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