POST PRODUCTION: THE STATE OF THE INDUSTRY ~ discovering new ways to adapt to the pressures and challenges presented by COVID-19
The present economic landscape may be uncertain, but many post production houses are discovering new ways to adapt to the pressures and challenges presented by COVID-19. Shrinking budgets and an emphasis on fiscal caution, along with unprecedented restrictions on physical access to clients and collaborators, have meant that flexibility and innovation have been crucial to the survival of many houses. Campaign Brief speaks to leading figures in the Australian post-production industry to get the low-down on the lock-down.
Fortunately, many post production houses were already relatively accustomed to remote working prior to the health emergency making it a necessity, and to liaising with clients and partners geographically distanced. Those not already doing so have had to adapt swiftly, embracing a range of new technology to stay in touch with clients and on top of briefs.
“We had a bumpy ride at the start. However, we continued to stay focused and productive implementing new systems and ways of working that have enabled us to get back to full speed,” says Heckler co-founder and head of VFX Jamie Watson. “We have a mix of artists and producers coming in every day and a handful still working from home who really enjoy this new found flexibility. We have made WFH optional depending on people’s preference.”
Given Resolution has worked remotely to deliver work with agencies in the U.S. and Asia for over 10 years, the team quickly adapted to the restrictions. In terms of collaboration tools, creative director Tim Dyroff says the technology they are being asked to work with today is essentially the equivalent of fax machines.
“They’re still crude, but they will get better and ultimately expand our talent pool and reach globally,” Dyroff says. The RES team has found communication is more verbal than before, via phone calls and video chats, and less email orientated. Unfortunately, we’re also seeing clients in the studio a lot less, which subsequently means a lot less socialising and wine and cheese… an awful shame.”
According to Dyroff, one major shift has been the ability to become more flexible around budget, with many clients bringing the post shop in earlier to help with ideation in order to align this against deadline and execution.
“With this small but significant change, we’ve been able to increasingly bring ideas to life using a wider range of tools and tricks and use the limitations imposed as a creative springboard to fresh approaches.”
Over at The Editors, managing director and executive producer Nicoletta Rousianos believes the most positive take out of COVID-19 has been the revolution in remote work practices. “We went on to develop our own live streaming platform called The Editors Live, which allows our clients to log in and review their edits live, from wherever they are,” she says, adding: “It connects our clients with our roster interstate and internationally. The restrictions have enhanced our capabilities, and hopefully some of these practices continue into the future.”
With its studios based in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Los Angeles and Tokyo sharing resources and projects, working remotely has not been an issue for Alt.vfx. Explains co-founder Colin Renshaw: “That’s how we set the company up, working with remote artists and freelancers. I’m sure my Head of IT will have a fit when he reads this – he did put in a lot of work to make sure our artists had the right set-ups at home and could all ‘plug into the mainframe’, if you like.”
While the team uses everything from Slack to Zoom to Frankie for collaborative (and remote) sessions, Renshaw thinks in some ways, the VFX and post industry was best suited to adapt to new practices: “We were already using video calls before Zoom, we were already using remote working as standard, but obviously with various national and international lockdowns that has increased a lot.”
With five offices in five cities throughout the world, Fin Design was also well versed in handling remote working, allowing its artists and producers to easily communicate and share resources. Says founder and CEO, Emma Daines: “While the COVID-19 restrictions required our fantastic IT team to update some systems in record time, we were lucky enough to not feel the impact of the remote workflow as others may have been.”
ARC EDIT managing director and co-owner Joseph Perkins also confirms adaptation has been an easy road. “As many of our close collaborators are now overseas, we wanted to give them the option of choosing ARC for their projects, so we invested in the technology and infrastructure (Sohonet ClearView Flex) for remote edit/colour/ online sessions when we opened the doors. This meant we were ready when COVID-19 hit without really knowing it,” he explains.
Perkins says that whilst advertising clients were somewhat reluctant to give ClearView Flex a go, once the decision was somewhat made for them, ARC EDIT had positive feedback all round. “It’s never going to replicate the experience of being with an editor in a room but during these times, we truly believe it’s by far the next best thing.”
Once Melbourne went into Stage Four Lockdown, and ARC EDIT staff was no longer able to be in the office, the remote workflow was challenged even further. This meant increasing internet speeds at staff homes, buying additional hard drives for ferrying media around, and workshopping ever-changing schedules around uploads/downloads, including the supply of master files remotely.
“I am so proud of how the team have handled all this, especially since they are, like everyone, experiencing all aspects of life with COVID-19 hanging over them.”
Over at Cutting Edge, executive producer Trelise Blade explains her technical services team provide post production to projects all over the globe, so setting up remotely in Brisbane was one of the studio’s easier challenges. “Producers, editors, VFX artists, colourists and the audio team were able to continue to collaborate easily despite the physical distance,” she says.
Using Hangouts, Zoom and Slack for internal comms, the Cutting Edge team also rely on Frame IO as a great tool for client feedback.
Back in March 2019, The Post Lounge made the decision to let 80 per cent of its staff work from home. The post shop has slowly introduced more of its people back into the office and the nature of the office setup has made it relatively easy to ‘self isolate’ while in the facilities.
Says managing director and owner Kurt Royan: “We put a business-wide COVID-19 plan in place immediately, including increased sanitising routines and enforced physical distancing. We are working with many clients remotely, including real-time broadcast review over IP.”
Taking to the challenge like many others, Vandal has been remote working, limiting numbers in the studio, bathing in sanitiser, and social distancing. Managing director Brenden Johnson says: “We’re going about our daily routine with the mandatory COVID-19 practices in place, restricting our usual touch points and have developed some efficiencies to our workflow. In general, I think we have been presently surprised at how easily we have all adapted: it’s streamlined the process.”
Local Market In Lock Down
Locally speaking, most of Heckler’s work has been Sydney-based TVC projects, however the post house has seen an increase in scripts coming in from Melbourne since the second wave hit….
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