Sherri Potter, President, Technicolor
The year has demonstrated how resilient our industry is. On Monday, March 17, the industry shut down. All productions were forced to shut because all countries mandated a safer at home ordinance. As a result, Technicolor went from over 40 sets of dailies to nothing. Like the rest of the industry, we had to react to the magnitude of what was happening and plan how to get people back to work safely.
Even prior to the pandemic, Technicolor was developing a mobile post suite app called TechStream. With all technologies there is always a slight compromise but with TechStream we removed a lot of that compromise. It was something you could watch on iPad so the image a colorist, DP and director sees in remote locations has the closest color calibration. And while other technology might lag by a couple frames, TechStream reduced latency to the minimum.
On the sound side, TechStream allowed us to provide sound services remotely from sound studios in people’s homes. For us, this was a lifesaver. It meant that although dailies stopped, we could set our people up at home to continue to deliver for productions that had already been shot.
We weren’t able to do everything. West Side Story, for instance, had finished shooting on film and it was ready to be scanned and cleaned but [director] Steven Spielberg was insistent that he wanted everybody safe and nobody in the facility. Of course, there are no remote scanning solutions so that show was put on hold.
The pandemic has brought us as an industry closer together. On one side we had the MPAA and the Unions uniting to figure out how are we going to return safely to production. Internally as an organization we were able to hold remote meetings at unprecedented scale. You can get whole departments meeting over Zoom or Teams.
The entire industry has been through a proof of concept for the benefits of remote enabled work/life balance which will last beyond the ramifications of Covid-19. At Technicolor we want to embrace that. There has to be a discipline behind it. There has to be attention to scheduling and there does still need to be physical infrastructure in place.
There are still limits as to what can be done affordably and efficiently in the cloud but the crisis has created an opportunity. Those who seized the opportunity during the crisis are coming out of it a little ahead of the curve.
Leon Silverman, Co-Chair, HPA Recovery Task Force
Amid frenzied uncertainty, real risk and the need to buoy the spirits of billions around the world who craved the comfort of the content we help create, 2020 was postproduction’s finest hour.
As the pandemic hit, we swung into action to iterate, innovate and “MacGyver” our way to getting work finished. We figured out how to work from home, from our facilities—newly steeped in health and safety culture, and from anywhere else our filmmakers needed us. While we will one day return to working together in close physical proximity and in purpose-built creative spaces, one of the lasting changes to our industry will be that creative work will continue being performed in a variety of locations and spaces, which will bring a host of new challenges and creative opportunities.
2021 will be the year in which the pre-pandemic industry trends around camera to cloud to post, collaboration tools and cloud-based tools and services will accelerate. As industry resumption continues, we can expect more contemplative and concerted efforts to harden and further define and refine these workflows, pipelines and tools to make them more secure, more interoperable, cost effective and efficient.
Mike Brodersen, Chief Strategy Officer, FotoKem
Traditional postproduction services have long been viewed as mostly an “after” process—with production sending footage to a facility to process for review and editorial, and then collaborating on the final look. The last decade of innovation has brought post closer to production, and for obvious reasons, 2020 has broadened that connection.
Where we previously provided in-facility services and workflow expertise, we’ve increased collaboration with production companies and studios to enable remote workflows and efficiencies on an infrastructure level, such as network and storage discussions, color pipelines, and multi-project workflow design.
For example, we are excited about the rising application of LED and video wall technology. This new way of shooting is changing the decision-making process for cinematographers in regard to camera technology and problem solving. Additionally, VFX workflows need to be supported from dailies to review and through the color pipeline. An important part of postproduction now is to assist the filmmakers and VFX artists during testing phases to help integrate these new workflows through the finishing and DI process. We expect to see this technique evolve, and consultation with post production to grow.
Furthermore, in a time where innovation and creativity are moving at a lightning pace, production technology continues its rapid progression as more sophisticated tools come to market. This includes acquisition, editing, visual effects, grading, monitoring, and data management. Standards for color processing and file-based workflows will help to simplify global production. Over the next few years, we expect to see these standards and best practices develop to enhance the collaborative experience. Storytellers, now more than ever, weave technology and artistry throughout the production pipeline, and an equal response is required on the post and finishing side to meet those demands.
Brian Hardman, Head of Post Production Broadcast Operations, dock10
Without stating the obvious, this has been a year of rapid change in all things related to remote working. The necessities have ushered through pragmatic— and ground-breaking—solutions for all types of projects to be managed remotely. The short-term effect was a quasi-excitement about the possibilities for life/work balance, but the longer term impacts are now starting to focus people’s mind across production, creative and tech. This will result in a ‘mixed economy’ of remote and on-premise working but, in turn, this will very much depend on the individuals working on each project.
Overall, I expect a much more flexible and accommodating working environment going forward. This includes reliance on less dedicated physical hardware for client use within postproduction. Typically, clients would have their own dedicated Mac or PC workstation tied to the room they’re working in. With remote access, the room is largely irrelevant and has led to the use of monitor-less workstations installed within our equipment bays.
The logical next phase is the virtualization of edit client systems using blade servers. This allows us to greatly increase the density of edit systems and to more flexibly provision edit systems depending on performance and software requirements. We’re expecting that 2021 will be the breakout year for this to become commonplace.
Dave Cadle, CEO, Envy
The impact of the pandemic was so sudden it was a tall order for us get our heads around what was required. Our early plan was to get about 30 of our edit rooms out into remote connected locations but to my amazement it quickly became clear we had to get all our rooms out. By the end of the first month of lockdown we had in excess of 200 rooms remote working.
Up to this point the industry focus has been, either have your project completely local, or completely remote through a data center. The reality is that our clients need a hybrid solution, that allows them to have some edits locally, some remote and others splitting their week between the facility and home. Working remotely is here to stay and this period gave us the idea of creating something truly progressive for production teams and editors by enhancing the collaborative process regardless if you are working at Envy or working from home.
This is why our new platform, Envy Remote, offers a whole suite of production, planning and communication tools to bring everyone closer together wherever you are. It was a huge challenge integrating so many different systems with a mixture of public and private cloud technologies. As well as the app’s front-end, we have built a whole back-end orchestration portal to manage it.
The future of post, or at least a good portion of it, is going to be maintained remotely but the need for face to face collaborative editing and craft finishing will never go away. That’s why I believe the need for real estate at our central London facilities remains important.
Craig German, Co-Chair, HPA Industry Recovery Task Force
Even as production resumes across the world, unfortunately we’ve yet to see the full the impact of the crisis on our industry. Production and post will survive of course and indeed I see no slowing in the amount of content needed to fuel the global need for high quality entertainment. But it won’t be easy.
The scale of the fallout in our sector—production and post and every related component of that—requires the intervention and leadership at state, regional or national government level. Whether we will see that in every territory is not clear but funding such as insurance schemes for film and TV productions underwritten by state actors is one positive we can cheer.
It’s an oft-used but nonetheless true analogy that in the same way the tsunami of 2011 pushed us into migrating away from tape toward file workflows, Covid has accelerated the move to cloud in a more holistic and integrated fashion. Cloud is already changing the nature of how we do post and I’m excited for what that means in terms of tapping previously inaccessible talent around the world. I don’t think we should look upon cloud as a savior but it is an enabler of great new innovations and has the flexibility to enable business continuity in future.
I recall working for Paramount and being so focussed on features that I thought TV was dead. Now we have the world’s greatest talent in front of and behind the camera creating for OTT services.
That teaches me that our industry continues to reinvent itself. For that reason, I believe in the survival of the theatrical experience. It may be that this period of extreme risk to the theatrical side of our business will reinvigorate the experience to be bigger, better, more luxurious, more immersive than ever before.