January has arrived…and the New Year promises great opportunities for those prepared to seek them out, with the one certainty that change is constant.
Let’s start with London studio space, and the lack thereof. The issue is finally being addressed with fortuitous timing (or maybe some expert planning) as Riverside Studios in Hammersmith opens its shiny new doors this summer following a 4 year, multi-million pound reincarnation that will see it vying to be the leading studio space in Central London. They will certainly be on many a producer’s speed-dial with the recent or imminent losses of ITV’s The London Studios, Fountain Studios and BBC studios, since the old Riverside closed its doors for the last time. Also opening this year are the Procam-owned Mountview Studios in Peckham, but London studio space still seems to be at a premium. The proposed new mega-studio complex in Dagenham is a while off yet, and will need an enormous investment to make it a desirable destination to compete with Pinewood.
Trends in production suggest that the On-Demand services Netflix and Amazon continue to offer healthy budgets for first class programme-making. Comments from the hire companies I speak with indicate an encouraging trend for these productions to demand the best kit and crew but with a budget that makes it commercially viable. It seems increasingly novel for a production to have champagne funding to go with its champagne taste, which enables the hire companies to give world class support and service.
On a business level, the MBO of CVP in December is big news, and good luck to the guys who have taken that exciting step. Selling kit is a tough business, and finding differentiators that keep existing customers coming back whilst attracting new ones is the ongoing challenge.
When I joined this industry in 2000, many of the key manufacturers were selling directly to end-users, and the dealers were almost an unnecessary, margin-sapping after-thought. Fast forward 18 years and the manufacturers have trimmed their salesforces so much that a good reseller is key to their success, and the size and influence of the resellers has grown considerably as a consequence.
The same “mid-size business” issues have always been the principal challenge of the post production world where the mid-size Rushes closed late last year, whilst other “boutique” post-houses like The Look are expanding under strong management. As with most things, it’s the people that count. When was the last time you bought anything from someone that you didn’t like? Good sales and support staff can make or break any business, and a can-do attitude will always remain the fundamental bedrock of a successful business.
Is this finally the year when Arri announces a new camera? I’ve been saying that before every trade show for the past 3 years, but with the technical requirements of the OTT commissioners requiring genuine 4K+ resolution it has to be this year, doesn’t it? With Sony bringing their Venice to market in the Spring, it will be fascinating to see how that plays out.
2017 was a big year for educational spend as tertiary education establishments recognised that they needed the latest equipment to attract student numbers. Salford & Sheffield Hallam, to name just a couple, have invested heavily in new technology this past year. National Film School Digital Village project saw investment from Channel 4 and Sky, and the University of the Arts is planning a state of the art new premises in South London.
4K is pretty much established, and HDR adoption is close behind. To my mind, this was really the wrong way round. With so much content viewed on small screens now, trying to spot the difference between 4K and HD on all but the largest screens is impossible, whilst the SDR – HDR jump is evident on any size device.
The momentum of IP adoption in studios and the OB market seems not to be as fast as most had expected. The technology will no doubt get there, but the demands of instantaneous transportation and switching of a 4K, HDR, HFR signal with Dolby Sound is proving a challenge. In time, the technology advances should allow for cloud-based remote production from multiple locations. This seems to be the current holy grail for broadcast visionaries. Let’s see how close we get before someone proposes a different one.
It’s generally the two global sporting events - the football World Cup and the Olympics - that are the catalyst for major advancements. This year’s World Cup in Russia will be the first major sporting event to be covered in its entirety in 4K/UHD, and who knows how many K’s the Tokyo Olympics will be covered in, in 2020.
Brexit is the gift that just keeps on taking, and the VFX sector seems to be the most concerned, as freedom of movement issues are scaring talent away from the UK. And post-land generally has concerns over Brexit with the major players voicing worries over big business moving their offices, and their decision-makers, to mainland Europe. However there have been some short-term wins as the falling pound has encouraged overseas productions to spend their Euros and Dollars here.