Rising to the challenge of this year’s tightening budgets and finding new ways to integrate AI and emerging technologies into their workflows, Australia’s top post production companies have also welcomed a slate of new talent and creative briefs from all corners of the country. Campaign Brief catches up with the industry’s leading post houses for a behind-the-scenes look.


Whilst budgets have always posed a challenge in post production, this year Manimal Post noted a drop off in overall spend and could sense a squeeze at production level that trickled down to post.

However, Manimal Post owner and operator Ryan Brett confirms the studio was fortunate to have regular clients that didn’t seem too affected by the economic pressures of late.

Says Brett: “The majority of our work has always come from production companies and agencies, but we do work directly with some clients. It’s a real mix between local Melbourne and interstate, although we’ve had a few global campaigns that mostly come from local contacts, primarily through the directors we’ve built ongoing relationships with.”

Whilst most of Heckler Sydney’s work also arrived through local agencies and production companies, the studio landed a few big projects out of the US, and Heckler Singapore saw more scripts hailing from Europe and MENA along with increasing boardflow and bigger budgets from Southeast Asia.

Speaking of the year’s challenges, Heckler co-founder and executive producer Will Alexander says: “A lot more post-production was done in-house this year, and in uncertain economic times the global holding companies mandate this model. This year we also saw smaller agencies and production companies completing projects internally.”

Cutting Edge executive producer Trelise Blade agrees budgets have been tight for some time now but that it hasn’t stopped the studio from working with clients to ensure the best outcome from both a value and creative perspective.

Says Blade: “While the majority of our work is domestic, this year we’ve been lucky to have participated in some brilliant international collaborations, particularly through our VFX team, Squeak, whose work has been featured in Time Square, Singapore, Thailand and Australia. We have a great balance of both agency and direct to client originated briefs.”

With its global footprint, Alt+ also welcomed a mixed bag of briefs between Australia, Asia and the US. Says Alt+ director and founder Colin Renshaw: “More recently, there’s been a real focus on Japan and the opportunities over there. This has been exciting especially as we break down the barriers and progressively move more into the technical sphere.”

Speaking to the year’s challenges, he adds: “The industry is changing dramatically year on year, with TVC and post production budgets diminishing as agency campaigns are driven towards a more digital and experiential reach. Service companies learn and adapt to help facilitate that.”

Along with the usual agency work, Studio Pancho is receiving more direct from client work. And, whilst budgets haven’t fared too badly, the year itself has been a lumpy one. Studio Pancho managing director Patrick Salter explains: “Following the big after post lockdown push, we’ve had some crazy busy months coupled with one or two not so busy ones – so it’s been a little hard to predict. We’ve definitely seen a rise in doing opening titles this year, and in the past, this normally happened in a recession and is often a precursor to a recession.”



Citing a strong increase in global and national projects, thanks to its efforts developing remote workflows and tools, Crayon senior colourist Daniel Stonehouse has sensed a broader business mood of caution against a background buzz of a potential recession. However, he has found budgets consistent with a dip in the volume of work. He adds: “We’ve balanced this by developing our ability to deliver our services flexibly beyond the traditional geographic boundaries of our industry.”

With a loyal client base in Brisbane, 3P Studio welcomed work from both agencies and clients directs; this year citing an influx of interest from interstate agencies.

3P Studio founder and CEO Haley McDonald notes budgets have been tough, stating: “Budgets are definitely tighter than they have ever been, however 3P has always thrived in hard economic times and prides itself on its ability to work closely with our clients. We go above and beyond to craft our clients the very best creative solutions, as well as keep abreast of their budget challenges. We are renowned for this, and the majority of our work comes to us via referrals.”

To coincide with the launch of its new post facility in July, 3P Studio jumped on board to be the major sponsor for the Brisbane Advertising and Design Club, welcoming the local Brisbane advertising scene into its suites to support local work.

For VANDAL managing director Brenden Johnson, the biggest challenge his studio has faced is the number of required outputs on every project, increasing tenfold for the same spend.

Says Johnson: “You could say that more is being squeezed in the budgets than the figure being reduced.”

Over at Post Lab, managing director Darius Family says speaking with business owners and freelancers, he can report there has been a sharp decline in work over the past month (at the time of writing).

Says Family: “Things are very quiet and everyone is hopeful they will pick up again in the lead up to Christmas, so fingers crossed!”

He adds another challenge is a fluctuation in demand. “Since coming out of the lockdowns, we’ve experienced on and off seasons, a few months of intense bookings followed by some quiet months. This cycle has repeated several times, so we’re learning to be flexible and pace ourselves.”

The Editors has seen a diverse mix of work from production companies and agencies both locally and globally. The level of remote work has also been consistent due to the use of the studio’s remote-work flow set up established during the pandemic.

The Editors head of marketing Rita Gagliardi says: “Earlier this year, we recently relocated our Melbourne office to a larger space in Collingwood due to a higher demand of work and to accommodate for the shared workflow we have seen for our projects in both our Sydney and Melbourne spaces.”



Rise of New Tech

Creating magic in an industry that constantly embraces new technologies, Blockhead creative director and partner Stefan Coory states new developments in tech have allowed the post world to do more in less time and to expand what’s possible.

Says Coory: “Currently AI is augmenting what we do nicely but we’re in its infancy stage and I think the full impact of it will take some time to reveal itself.”

As AI technology progresses, Blade at Cutting Edge has found ways to integrate it into the studio’s workflow and uses AI like any other creative tool. She says: “At the end of the day, it will never be able to emulate the personability and the creative expression of our wonderful artists, but if it can help them to become better at their craft, we welcome it!”

Brett at Manimal Post agrees AI just adds to the toolkit: “I’ve never relied on computers to do the work, only to make the process more efficient. We see this as a way to eliminate a lot of mundane tasks and to focus more on the creative. Using AI for plate creation, set extensions and some rotoscoping tasks has been great for us and we are watching the developments very closely. Often directors use AI in the treatment phase, which is helping us be clear on visualisation early in the process. We are finding the technology very useful, for now.”

Renshaw at Alt+ admits AI has been incredibly beneficial, especially for T&AD and Steelbridge Studio, the company’s new virtual production space. “We’ve been using AI for everything from design, ideation, coding, generating assets like texture maps and creating unique interactive experiences.”

Additionally, the rise of AI has proved interesting, with everything from creative to final execution. Adds Renshaw: “Even in post and visual effects, we look for ways to incorporate those new tools into our existing pipelines, and again, it’s about having that ability to learn, adapt and evolve that gives innovative companies the ability to rise above any challenges, whether they be financial or technological.”

As a colour focused company, Stonehouse agrees AI is a useful tool, helping the team at Crayon with impressive proof of concept demonstrations. He argues as specialised craftspeople, working at the nexus of art, technique, technology, and human interaction, the robots aren’t coming for his job just yet.

Having just launched its new offering, AI ATELIER, purely focussed on AI, VANDAL sees it as a big growth area. Says Johnson: “We’re seeing lots of interest and it’s only going to be more common across all parts of what we do. And, if it’s harnessed in the right manner, it can be a real game changer and very exciting. I look forward to seeing what comes in the coming months and years.”

Over at Studio Pancho, the team is using AI in its workflows to varying degrees. Salter says: “It’s been a good time-saver so far with some of the more mundane tasks, but at the end of the day, it can’t replace high quality, refined work (at this stage). Being captain obvious here, but if an idea is subpar to begin with, then AI isn’t a magical unicorn that is going to make it any better. Curation is key, But there is no doubt it’s a game-changer. How much or what specifically it’ll fully replace within the post production workflow, only time will tell.”

For many post production roles, AI has reduced the monkey work. Family at Post Lab explains: “For example, Photoshop can create a background plate for sky-replacements or paint outs faster than we can do by hand. Across a campaign, this can lead to massive time savings, which means we can spend more time finessing the grade, and delivering a higher quality outcome at the same budget.”

Although it’s an exciting period for new technologies, Gagliardi at The Editors admits it can impact changes within a traditional industry including staff roles and processes. Says Gagliardi: “Being at the early stages of this exciting new phase, there is a lot to navigate through and learn from, but we look forward on building towards this next stage in the future.”

Noting many in the industry would agree, Gagliardi admits that clients often ignore deadlines, causing workflows to become quite messy. “We often have grade sessions running before offline edits have been approved. This is disruptive not only to the operator, but to the creatives in the room. I think what AI will offer us, is the ability to cross-pollinate between offline, grade and online with higher end outputs. It will also start to challenge operators to be more multi-disciplinary in their tools, which also has its pros and cons.”



New People in Post

Considering how small the pool, securing talented people in post can be tricky. This hasn’t stopped Alt+ from finding some gems, ranging from junior to senior and expanding its teams across the whole Alt Group. Hayley Gibson came in as new global talent & culture manager, focusing on local and overseas recruitment, as well as building the relationships with educational institutions and student pathways, and Rhys Turner is T&DA’s newest member.

Blockhead made several appointments over the past few months including Alex Pattison as lead VFX artist, Al McKay as senior producer, and welcomed back Meg Strange as bidding producer. The studio also bolstered the CG and Houdini team with several people.

Manimal Post added a couple of new additions to the team, securing Denzil Heeger from Sandbox in WA. Heeger is a talented editor and colourist who builds strong relationships with directors due to his speed, attention to detail and collaborative working style. The studio also hired new junior producer Rachael Vowles. She previously worked at Apple for the past five years. Says Brett: “We have always been busy with jobs that require visual effects and narrative, but since increasing our in-house talent, we’ve had more jobs come through that we see from start to finish. With three editors and two colourists as well as a VFX-savvy producer and a team of trusted artists, there has been a noticeable increase in the complexity of jobs as our technical capacity has increased. On set VFX supervision is also now commonplace and is absolutely a requirement in challenging VFX jobs. Having staff at hand who we can send to shoots makes the whole process run so much smoother for everyone.”

Crayon has brought Sam McCarthy on as a colourist, and Stonehouse says the team has been impressed with his dedication to craft and growth. He adds: “In the world of colour, the rush to an almost exclusively freelance colourist model has de-emphasised an important role – that of the specialised colour producer. We’re excited to grow our producer team and also proud to structure the position with clear boundaries in aid of work and life balance.”

New additions to VANDAL include Rosano Lepri, who joins as senior comp artist having spent almost 10 years in broadcast, along with new creative director Chris Scott. A multi-disciplinary storyteller and creative director with 16 years of experience in Australia, the Netherlands and the UK, Scott’s storytelling has been awarded at every international show, including a coveted Cannes Gold Lion and a D&AD Yellow Pencil.

Studio Pancho opened the doors to a couple of new team members and Salter says it’s somewhat easier than it was to find new talent with more freelancers available in the pool to draw upon.

Says Salter: “Houdini based artists seems to be a thing we need more of and rely upon these days. Another big one has been Unreal Engine – we are using this fairly heavily in the pipeline these days. We are impressed at what it can handle and will be using it more and more going forward. Its advances in motion graphics and Realtime 3D is an exciting space for us.”

Julian Ford has joined the Heckler team as its lead flame artist / VFX supervisor. Ford previously worked at The Mill in Los Angeles. Jess Walley also joined as producer, coming from previous roles at BBH London and Dentsu Creative. Jordan Sykes joined the motion design team after taking top honours at D&AD Shift, and Mayank Doshi has taken over as Heckler’s head of IT and joins from Digital Domain.

Says Alexander: “We are using Unreal Engine a lot more this year and finding artists that aren’t already attached to major film projects is challenging.”

Another specific role more in demand at Post Lab is the finished artist. Family says: “Smooch a colourist and an online editor together, and voila! As the tools evolve, the roles have started to merge, and that’s a good thing as it provides the client with a better experience.”

McDonald at 3P Studio is finding a greater need for specialist collaborations is areas such as sound, colour and editorial.

Says McDonald: “We foster an open creative door policy in that we love to pull together the best creative teams across the country for each project we tackle, and we love to collaborate and create beautiful work, and meet new talented artists.

She adds: “I surprisingly enough started this business years ago on forced shortened maternity leave. We started predominantly as an editorial company and have grown from three artists in 2016 into one of the largest independently artist owned full-service post production companies in Southeast Queens-land with a very strong portfolio in animation.”

The Editors had some great additions to the team this year. Editor Brendan Jenkins joined the roster after working in the UK for 10 years at ten three. Editor Joe Morris is another exciting addition to the team, after working for years in the studio’s space as a freelancer. In the online department, Stu Cadzow joined full time and Grace O’Connell joined the editorial roster after starting off as a runner to become an edit assistant. Gagliardi says: “The Editors has always worked on the model of encouraging our younger staff to pursue their career aspirations whether it being editing, producing or other aspects of post production. Grace is a perfect example of this.”



The Highlights Reel

Getting stuck into a number of standout campaigns this year, Cutting Edge cites Bourke Street Billboards as a highlight, seeing the VFX and production teams creating engaging 3D content for MasterChef and Bubly. Then there was the recent Caltex campaign ‘The Servo You Deserve’ via VML with Paul Middleditch as director. Cutting Edge also crafted beautiful visuals for Tourism Queensland’s ‘A Beautiful Way to Be’ alongside director Rob Garwood. Blade says: “It was certainly a great reminder of how lucky we are to work and live in the beautiful state of Queensland.”

Heckler points to Menulog ‘Dolla Dolla Deals’ TVC featuring C.R.E.A.M. by the legendary 90s hip-hop crew Wu-Tang Clan and starring Inspectah Deck. Other standouts include the Toyota ‘Metalmorphosis’ TVC’s mind bending in-camera special effects and the Belong ‘Thumbit’ TVC starring a CG thumb that overcomes adversity to reach the summit on Mount Everest. The studio also worked on Black Wing, a short film created entirely in Unreal Engine with numerous film festival selections and awards including this year’s St Kilda Film Festival. Speaking of other interesting partnerships, Alexander adds: “Heckler is currently in development on an exciting film project with Garuwa Creative Agency, and our senior creative producer Coralie Tapper is once again working as a mentor with the D&AD Shift programme in Sydney to help educate and launch prosperous commercial careers for upcoming creatives.”

Heckler also produced Super Maxi, a documentary that followed the winning team during the 2022 Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, currently in post-production.

Post Lab colourist Niklas Malkin enjoyed working on Scandia ‘Fire Places’ commercial via production house Eric, Tom & Bruce.

Says Family: “We had a blast experimenting with a funky stylistic colour grade for a lifestyle spot about… fireplaces! Director Hamish MacGregor cooked up a visually stimulating narrative, while DOP Michael Lincoln blessed us with stunning footage. We cranked up the hues and played with mixed-coloured lighting to create a moody yet cosy representation of the Scandia Fireplace experience. It’s pure!”

Another standout for Post Lab was senior colourist Nicholas Hower’s work on ‘GO BIG!’ for Big4 Holiday Parks via Magnetizer.

Family adds: “Three weary individuals find solace in booking their dream holiday and ‘Going Big’ in this hilarious campaign. Working with Charlie Ward from Magnetizer is always a pleasure. He infused his unique and endearing humour into every spot, and we were quoting lines from these spots for a month after the grade!”

For Blockhead, highlights included Budget Direct 6.0 with Danny Kleinman at Goodoil. Says Coory: “The ongoing adventure with Budget Direct and Goodoil is always fun for our team. They have good technical challenges like CG bath foam invading an entire house and tornados spouting from leaf blowers.” Aldi ‘Emotions’ with Christopher Riggert at FINCH was another exercise in crafting tricky live action with CG to create the illusion of rain inside an Aldi store.

Crayon got busy introducing Australia to a new generation of happy little Vegemites in campaign ‘100 Mitey Years’. Campaign Politix ‘The Gentleman’ was a Crayon hybrid workflow classic, with a mix of international and interstate collaboration to polish a stylish piece featuring Australian actor Dacre Montgomery. Another standout included Shaqnosis ‘Reebok/Braindead’. Stonehouse quips: “While certainly not a man who is shy about lending his name to a commercial campaign, it was a pleasure getting weird (and black and white) with the big man of basketball.” Lastly, Coopers ‘Roll On’ was a quirky campaign highlight.

Over at VANDAL, The Iconic was a project that touched on all facets of the studio – the concept was brought to life by large-scale ‘metamirror’ screens, choreographed models and their dancing avatars, known as ‘metamodels’. It was also The Iconic’s most inclusive runway show yet, in a night that celebrated diversity in all its forms, real and virtual. As part of the event, VANDAL created and minted The Iconic’s first NFT, which was auctioned on the night, raising money for Thread Together, an organisation with a mission to improve sustainability in the world of fashion. Koala ‘Kloudcell’ was a project that saw VANDAL emulate the feeling of the Koala mattress. Says Johnson: “Once experienced by our team, we accepted the challenge to depict how Kloudcell transports you to a blissful solitude where you are cradled in an oasis of pure comfort, surrendering to a place of rest and tranquillity. With a combination of shoot and post, it was a project that showcased our broad offering.”

Finally, a high-end design project saw the studio creating various idents for BBC First. “We were tasked with creating five idents – Tempt Fate, Plot Twist, British Drama, Web of Lies and Dark Side – showing script threads that entwine, unravel, twist, turn and weave much like the premium drama shows found on BBC First.”

3P Studio’s most successful piece of work was its animation for ‘Tales from the Track’ via VMLY&R, earning the studio an Animation Film Craft nomination at this year’s Cannes Lion Awards. 3P artists illustrated, animated and sound mixed the entire piece. The studio also ramped up its VFX capabilities with projects such as Ladbrokes ‘Spring’ via The Monkeys, where the team populated the rolling hills of New Zealand with hundreds of CGI flowers, along with creating a mixture of Illustration and 3D fantasy worlds for Bond Universities ‘Stand Out’ campaign. CGI work in the global release of the new One Plus 11 phone via Sweetshop was another highlight. McDonald adds: “A personal favourite of mine is our recent work on the Australia Post campaign via Carbon Creative to promote the use of Traditional Indigenous place names in addresses – that one was pretty special.”

For Studio Pancho, standouts included idents for the full suite of Hoyts Cinemas in Australia and New Zealand, and the team also had fun on a Melrose cosmetics campaign. Says Pancho: “It allowed the team to flex their love for all things fluid and Houdini, and the client was open to us trying new things.” Another reel highlight included the opening titles for Binge / Paramount+ & Free to Airs. “We have been doing a heap of opening titles over the past year, with a lot of them soon to be out in the wild.”

Manimal Post enjoyed a diverse line up of projects including Hertz ‘Let’s Go’, a super fun edit featuring talent Hamish Blake, along with Dabble ‘The Real Human Person’, a kooky concept and a challenging brief with a lot of technical requirements. It featured a robot who desperately wanted to be seen as a real human so there was a lot of paint-out work to remove puppeteers and rigs. Aussie Broadband ‘The Actual Aussie Way’ was another fun job with a good narrative flow, seamless transitions and a nice aesthetic. Brett says: “We don’t see many jobs with full studio sets anymore, and although these ones were relatively simple, the lighting and grade really made them pop.”

Alt+’s diverse projects included its Primo Ad where instead of traditional multiple locations, the team embraced a revolutionary ‘virtual studio’ concept in its own virtual production space. Renshaw says: “By creating three separate environments and skilfully blending foregrounds and backgrounds through forced perspective, we achieved stunning visual effects. We used oversized Primo products for miniature characters who were filmed and seamlessly composited into the other shots.”

He says practical art departments and photogrammetry scans played a crucial role in creating virtual spaces like the skate park, elevating the overall realism. Alt+ also took advantage of motion capture technology to secure skateboard tricks on a half-pipe, enabling the team to generate multiple digital double skateboarders in the background. This innovative approach allowed the team to deliver an immersive cinematic experience.

In a feat for Telstra, Alt+ accomplished the creation of an impressive CG helicopter within a mere two-week turnaround from the edit lock. “By pre-visualizing the shots, we efficiently streamlined the post-production process, significantly reducing the time needed. We seamlessly integrated sim trav into the car interior shots, adding a seamless touch of realism and immersion.”

Another standout was its storm chase for Lexus. Guided by Alt+’s VFX supervisor, who had extensive experience with storm chasers and knew of a vast collection of incredible time-lapse footage, the studio adopted this approach for the best results.

“To transform flat supercell images into captivating 3D objects, we projected storm footage onto matching shapes using Nuke. We also created CG rain elements to enhance the impact of the supercells. For wide drone shots with the car and approaching supercells, we projected the storm onto a shape that seamlessly integrated it as a dynamic 3D object, ensuring realism during camera movement. To complete the project, we crafted a hero storm with detailed matte painting, adding lightning, back-scattered flashes, and movements for a vibrant and lifelike final shot.”

This year, The Editors worked on RM Williams ‘Crafted for Life’ directed by Justin Kurzel through Revolver, along with Tourism Australia ‘G’Day’, directed by Michael Gracey through FINCH. Another notable project was The Royal Australian Navy ‘Live a Story Worth Telling’, directed by Division’s Jason Bock. The team also worked on Budget Direct with Good Oil’s Daniel Kleinman.

Says Gagliardi: “These campaigns and several others which concluded earlier in the year played a significant role in earning us the titles of #1 Editing Company of the Year in Asia Pacific and Australia and #5 Edit Company globally for the 2022 Immortal Awards. Additionally, we were honoured with the prestigious Shots Gold Editing House of the Year 2022 award.”

Read the full article and more in the latest print edition of Campaign Brief, out this week…