The death of post-production

When fxguide was established there were two mainstays of our industry in Australia, as there were in many other countries. Broadcast and post-production were the cornerstones of our industry. At NAB these were the two camps that brought major equipment and employed the most staff.  In Sydney there were three major post houses and three big commercial TV networks.

Twenty years later, the broadcasters still exist, but are now fragmented and vastly less dominant.  Today, Deluxe Australia announced that it would shut down local post production services with the closure of DDP Studios and Stage One Sound. Deluxe is not leaving the market it is going to focus on the “growing demand for OTT/Broadcast Services and Visual Effects.”

On its web site, Deluxe explained that the company is focusing on growing its presence in Australia around its “cloud-based playout, media asset management and media delivery services for film, television and broadcast, and its visual effects services.”

In other words: post is dead, broadcast is increasingly moving to the cloud, and the only area left from the once proud area called ‘post’ is visual effects. Of course this did not happen overnight, but it does highlight the move from edit suites and telecines, with million dollar grading rooms and rock star colourists to PCs and Macs with free versions of DaVinci.

It also highlights how common visual effects are, and how every show and film now needs visual effects. Once upon a time, VFX was the domain of big budget effects films Now the VFX of an indie self funded film can be remarkable and every TV show requires set extensions, wire removal and digital effects. It also highlights the lack of sense in calling what we do ‘post- anything’. Visual effects, design and even dailies and grading have all moved to be key aspects of production and postproduction.

Interestingly Deluxe’s own blog post on the closure points to this. Deluxe will continue to provide world class “on-the-ground support for large international and local productions shooting in Australia with on-set and location-based dailies and colour management (DI) services now provided remotely by its global network of creative brands including Company 3 and EFILM.” Deluxe is underlining the global nature of the industry, facilitated by the internet and high speed private networks such as Sohonet that allow production in Australia to be serviced by DI perhaps in LA.

Deluxe Australia’s Managing Director, Alaric McAusland explained, “The globalization and enormous changes in the entertainment and broadcast industries are driving demand for services like localization, IP-based delivery, and world-class visual effects on a global scale. At the same time, we are experiencing reduced demand for post-production services in the domestic market. Maintaining Deluxe’s world-class quality in post-production requires a pipeline of projects that today the local Australian industry isn’t able to deliver, and regrettably, we’re discontinuing some of our services. It is of course, very difficult to make changes that impact people who have served the company admirably for so many years. We are encouraging those individuals to apply for openings within growth areas of Deluxe.”

Their press release went on to say that Deluxe recently invested in the development of a new facility in Sydney, expected to open next month. This studio, which will service clients across Asia, with services such as “a MediaCloud Broadcast Delivery Network which provides an IP-based playout, media asset management and delivery platform for local and regional broadcasters.”

Regarding VFX specifically, the company continues with its very successful animation and VFX team in Iloura (Ted, Game of Thrones etc) along with sister brand, Method Studios.

DDP Studios in Melbourne will close at the end of September 2016 and DDP and StageOne Sound in Sydney will wind down over the first half of 2017 as the team completes their current slate of film and television projects.

Change is the only constant, but it is worth reflecting on just how the industry has changed and continues to evolve with the cocktail of globalization, technological innovation and democratisation of the tools.