21 November 2007

The Rendering Times, They Are a-Changin'

Seems like a bit of change is in the air.

First up, Mike Curtis of hdforindies.com has a new additional blogging gig over at boxoffice.com. In a recent post, he waxes philosophic about the digital transition in the printing world, and how it portends to emerging trends in media post-production. Snip:
So I think that the the post house industry is heading the same way that service bureaus did in the nineties. To me, this means:

-as bread and butter tasks are stripped away because they can be done by the clients themselves due to falling costs and simplified technology, there will be a smaller revenue base available.

As software comes out that enables more to be done in-house, that will hasten this process. Statistically, virtually nobody can do serious color correction on their own outside of a post house right now. But look at how Photoshop has become an economy of its own. The same way their were Photoshop kids doing great work for $50/hr 10 years ago, there will be Apple Color whizzes doing quality stuff for $100/hr within a year or two I'll bet.

Video post houses will shrink and/or consolidate and/or go out of business - it'll be a tough time for them. But with fewer places where they can justify their existence, how can it be any other way?

The remaining post houses will have three areas to stay competitive in - knowledge, service, and high end capabilities.

Also, check out this press release from Avid, concerning a shift in their 2008 strategy. Snip:

Based on extensive market research, Avid plans to announce a series of customer-focused initiatives in 2008 – all of which will be designed to make it easier for customers, prospects and the media to interact with the company...The company also announced that it will not have an exhibition booth at the 2008 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Convention, but plans to be in Las Vegas next April to meet with customers.

So, no big booth at NAB, but a more customer-focused presence. Facing the onslaught of Apple's marketeers (really, the Apple booth I remember from NAB 2004 was almost like a Disney ride), it makes sense to spend that money elsewhere, but exactly where will be interesting to see, especially in light of this thread over at avid.com's boards:

A bunch of us were invited to a conference call with Graham Sharp (he's the V.P of the Video Division) this morning and he outlined Avid's strategy for the next year. I have to tell you that he talked big. Real big. He said that Avid had gone quiet for the last year in order to do one thing; get its collective act together. He said that they have spent time and effort to get their products back to the relative stability that the company once offered with Meridian.

Now that they are on the road to achieving THAT goal, Graham said that 2008 will be the year that they take the fight to the competition.

As well as this quote from Sharp himself, via creativecow.net:
"We found much better results by going directly to our customers,” he told us. “We took the money we would have spent on a tradeshow stand and visited many times more customers, with a much more personal experience."

So why am I yammering about video editing software in an audio blog? Two reasons: First, post is converging upon itself. Eventually, there will only be one post program, rather than separate applications for picture, sound, VFX, etc. You will ingest your raw material, open the post app, and select the picture cutting mode (or pane, or whatever). The app will only show you picture editing-related menu items and functionality.

Once you've gotten close to a picture lock, you switch to audio mode; video controls and filters switch to sound manipulation tools, and you go to work on your mix.

And so on, through VFX compositing, color grading, and finally compression/ media authoring, all different functions of the same app.

We're taking the first steps already, with tighter integration between applications in the three major post bundles from Apple, Adobe and Avid. Closer still is Sony's Vegas, which features 5.1 surround mixing and editing right in the main video timeline.

Which brings me to reason 2: The only reason any of us involved with production ever get out of bed and stumble onto set is to create raw material for post, full stop.

Films and documentaries and shorts and television are not made in the field, they are made in the edit suite. Production is merely one-albeit crucial (and expensive)-stage in the entire process, and not an end in itself.

Field production folks need to pay attention to these sea changes. Post is becoming more of an IT animal, which is already affecting the way that we shoot (witness edit-ready solid state media in the form of Panasonic's P2 cards, and the plethora of CF and hard-drive recorders for field audio). The same market forces that make computers a commodity will continue to influence post in both cost and accessibility.

And when a company like Avid, with its legacy of being a fore-runner in non-linear editing and being firmly entrenched in both broadcast and feature worlds says that it's got major changes in mind for the next year, we should all pay attention.

Link to Mike's post at boxoffice.com.
Link to Mike's post about Avid.
Link to Avid's press release.
Link to avid.com's forum.
Link to Studio Daily Blog's post.
Link to Creative Cow post.
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