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Dipping into the archive business

A spate of major anniversaries, the ongoing popularity of ‘list’ shows, as well as the rise of clip-based docs like Senna, have helped to buoy the archive sector. Tim Dams reports on the business of content libraries

Archive libraries are busy preparing for the next wave of anniversaries about to hit TV screens. The 100th anniversary of the 1st World War, particularly last month’s centenary of the Battle of the Somme, has led to strong business for many historical libraries.

British Pathe’s general manager Alastair White says business is booming – up 25% year on year, thanks in part to a spate of big anniversaries. As well as The Somme, 2016 was also the centenary of Ireland’s Easter Rising. And there are plenty of big war anniversaries to come. America joined the 1st World War in 1917. There will also be plenty of docs to mark the end of the war in 1918. The following year, it’s time to mark the start of a new global conflict – the 80th anniversary of the 2nd World War.

Military history is also popular for Bridgeman Images – which represents collections for the likes of The National Army Museum and Imperial War Museum. Bridgeman marketing manager Annabel O’Connor-Fenton also reports a surge of interest ahead of next year’s 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

It’s also the 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in August 2017 – an event sure to spur plenty of inquiries for royalty-related archive.

Royalty is a big seller for archives. Matthew Butson, vice president of Getty Images Archive says royalty has global appeal: “Whether there is a current royal event or not, we see consistent levels of sales year in year out with this type of content.” The Queen’s 90th birthday has been a peg for many royal-themed archive sales this year.



But it’s not just royalty and war that has buoyed business in 2016. ‘Even’ years are traditionally good for archives as they are when major global events tend to take place, spurring demand for old footage. Getty’s Butson cites the European Championships, and the Rio Olympics and US Presidential elections as helping to drive growth at the archive.

The US Presidential election is a particular focus for NBC Universal Archives, which houses the oldest American TV news collection. Clara Fon-Sing, NBC’s vice president and general manager says the company has been working with producers worldwide on major background documentaries that will air this election season.

This includes historical election footage since 1948, rare clips of Donald Trump from the 70s, Hillary Clinton’s iconic soundbites over the years or a look back at Obama’s presidency.

Getty’s strategy is to curate its content – packaging it and pushing it into the market – especially around topical and newsworthy themes. “There are always a wide number of annual ‘evergreens’ we can use to package historical content – the Academy Awards, Cannes, Wimbledon etc. and with the world celebrity obsession, any number of ways we can curate celebrity content,” says Butson.

It’s not just anniversaries that are helping to drive the archive market.  Archives now have a much wider client base to sell to given the rise of digital platforms and online players – and video consumption generally.

Gordon Craig is head of sales at FremantleMedia Archive, which has up to 100,000 hours of content, housing Thames TV’s news, docs and chat show archive, through to US game shows like The Price is Right and Family Feud.

Craig says that TV list shows are still the bread and butter of the archive. He also reports a surge in interest from feature documentaries too, with the archive docs such as Senna reinvigorating the genre.

It’s a point echoed by British Pathe’s White. He says there are key new doc commissioners, including Netflix, Amazon and Sky. “They have upped the game for everyone,” says White. “Big standout feature docs that can go on all platforms are very much in fashion.” White adds that hit archive docs such as Netflix’s Making A Murderer have had a ‘transformational effect’ on the industry. “It has set a trend and others are following in its wake.”

It is tougher for archives to sell into ad agencies. “Your average creative director wants to go and shoot material and will not want to merely sit in a post suite and play around with some dusty content from the 1970s,” says Paul Maidment, director of Kite Media Consultancy and former director of BBC Motion Gallery. 

The big libraries often have ‘sweetheart’ deals with ad agency groups. Some of the new ‘disruptive’ content companies have had success in this field, says Maidment. “A client of mine Brave Bison [formerly Rightster] licenced some fairly straight forward natural history content for a big campaign for Dairy Milk chocolate.”

Education, adds Maidment, is seen as a huge area for video content. Archives such as ITN, BBC and NBC have specialist standalone businesses offering content and news stories to schools and universities. Specialist education businesses – such as Bo Clips and Twig – have also sprung up in the past five years. “The challenge with education content is that it is a real slog and very difficult to get to the decision makers in the ministries of Education in, for example, the Middle East and Asia, where the real money sits.”

Technology has also helped breath new life into archives, with key collections  digitised and easier to access online. Some have also loaded their archive onto dedicated YouTube channels, to boost the visibility of their library. FremantleMedia, for example, runs a Thames TV YouTube channel, where it loads up hand-picked clips to promote. Associated Press also has an active presence on YouTube.

British Pathe’s Alastair White says YouTube is the archive’s biggest shop window. He plays down concerns that its footage might be stolen, citing the ability to track content loaded on to YouTube. “It would be a brave producer indeed to rip our content off YouTube.”

Meanwhile, the archive market is consolidating. Getty Images, the world’s largest commercial picture library, struck a deal in January with its main rival Corbis to distribute and licence the Corbis library. Getty has also been licencing the BBC’s content for the past two and a half years.

Kite Media’s Maidment says: “The big positive with the likes of Getty is that they have a fantastic network of sales people and your content will get maximum exposure. The downside is that content goes into a vast repository – potentially never to be seen again, let alone licenced.”

Maidment says there is still a place for niche libraries offering a dedicated, boutique-style service. He cites Firehorse in Lebanon which positions itself as a one-stop shop for Middle Eastern video content.
The landscape is changing rapidly for all libraries, made all the more complex by the fact that barriers to entry are lower for companies wanting to sell library content.

Many indies are reviewing their assets to see whether they might enable new revenue streams. To do this, says Maidment, it’s essential for content to be digitised and, most importantly, for the metadata to be rich and accurate. Companies can either manage sales themselves or partner with libraries such as Getty, Shutterstock or Pond5.




Posted 19 August 2016 by Tim Dams

Televisual's Production Technology Survey, 2016

From cameras to editing, 4K and VR, Televisual’s annual Production Technology Survey reveals the kit that producers are using to make their shows and what they think of it.

Keeping on top of advances in production technology is one of the big challenges for programme makers today.

New cameras, editing kit and supporting technology are launched into the market each year, promising to enhance creative possibilities, bring down costs or boost productivity.

Televisual’s Production Technology Survey attempts to cut through this hype, asking our readers to tell us what they are using to make their shows –and which kit they rate.

The Survey seeks to establish which are the most popular technology brands and models in production today, as well as highlighting the key technology trends that are driving the market such as 4K, virtual reality and HDR.

As with previous Production Technology Surveys, we have focused on a number of key areas. On the first two pages, we take the temperature of the rapidly evolving camera market, revealing the most popular cameras  and manufacturers.

Once again, Canon’s C300 (pictured above) emerges as the most popular model – although it looks set to be eclipsed by the Sony FS7 next year.

Next we focus on the take on 4K and HDR. Despite all the talk about 4K, only 48% said they 
had shot in the format in the past year. But its uptake looks assured: the majority of respondents think it will be commonplace in the home in 3-4 years.

We also look at virtual reality. Just 13% have produced a VR project, mainly to test the technology. However, 
33% are thinking of producing a VR project, suggesting that there is growing appetite to experiment with the format.

Finally, we look post production. Avid remains the market leader in editing, with Adobe making a strong showing.

The most popular camera models
The Canon C300, used widely across factual shows, is once again the most used camera model, with 25% of respondents saying they worked with it in the past 12 months.

However, the long popularity of the C300 looks to be waning. Sony’s FS7, the second most used model in the past year, is likely to eclipse the C300 next year. It is the camera that most respondents say they hope to use in the next 12 months, with 22% of the vote versus Canon’s 12%. 



The Arri Alexa remains popular with programme makers in drama, film and commercials, with 12% saying it is their most used camera. This is up from 7% last year. It’s popularity looks set to be bolstered by the Alexa Mini next year. The Arri Amira is also making headway, largely in the docs market, with 6% saying it’s the camera they most hope to use next year.





The most popular camera brands
Sony has overtaken Canon as the most used camera brand in the 2016 Production Technology Survey.

38% of respondents said Sony is the camera brand they have used most in the past 12 months - up from 31% last year.

This 7% surge has helped the manufacturer move past Canon, which took 35% of the vote - down from last year’s 38%.


The growth in popularity of the FS7 and F5/55 has helped push Sony up the rankings. Sony also offers a wider range of cameras in the professional market, with cameas such as the PMW200 and PMW700 also popular choices.

Next year, Sony looks set to increase its lead, while Canon falls back further. 40% say Sony is the brand they most hope to use, against 17% for Canon - which is pushed back into third place by Arri on 24%.

Arri’s performance is bolstered by its popular and growing range of cameras, including the Alexa, Amira and Alexa Mini. 

In the past year, Arri has pushed ahead of Red – a manufacturer it tied with in popularity in last year’s survey.  Last year both received 7% of the vote in the most used camera brand category; now Arri is ahead on 17% while Red remains about steady with 6%.

4K/HDR
Shooting in 4K is starting to pick up now. 48% of respondents said they had shot in the format over the past 12 months, up from 30% in last year’s survey.

Many are filming in 4K to future-proof their productions or because they want to achieve the best quality visuals possible for a high-end doc, drama, commercial or film.  Other reasons given for shooting in 4K are the greater flexibility it gives in the edit in terms of cropping, re-framing, grading and vfx.



Fewer have mastered in 4K though, choosing to downconvert to HD for post production. Only 22% say they have mastered in 4K this year.

The 4K era also seems to be getting closer. The majority think it will be 3-4 years before 4K is commonplace in the home; last year, most respondents said it would be 5-6 years. Many commentators say that HDR is more likely to take off than 4K, given the smaller bandwidth required to deliver an enhanced quality of picture.



But despite all the talk about HDR, many (42%) have not even seen it. In fact, only 7% of repsondents have been asked to deliver in HDR. Those who have worked in the format, though, are big fans and believe that it is more likely to take off in the home than 4K.



Virtual reality
Virtual reality is still very much a fledgling business, yet a surprising number of respondents (13%) say they have produced VR content.

Most, however, have done so to test the technology, particularly with short films to experiment with workflow. Real VR projects included a UN film for the Paris Climate Summit, an immersive experience for a museum and a film for Google.



An impressive 33% say they are thinking of producing in VR, with many describing it as an exciting format. Others dismiss it as a ‘fad’.

It’s important to distinguish here between true virtual reality and 360 degree shooting. Many say they have shot 360 projects, using GoPros, rather than full immersive viritual reality.

Editing
Once again, Avid emerges as the most popular editing system in production. 60% of respondents saying that Media Composer is their primary editing system - up on last year’s 48%.

Avid of course has a strong legacy of support in post production. “The best editors use this and refuse to work on any other systems,” says one. “It is the most widely available in the post houses I use,” adds another respondent.



(Note: respondents could vote for more than one editing system, so the combined totals equal more than 100%).

One of the startling aspects of last year’s survey was the rise of Adobe Premiere. Its growth seems to have levelled off, dropping back to 27% from 31% last year. However, the editing software has developed a strong market in the corporate, digital and commercials world.

Adobe Premiere’s integration with Creative Suite and After Effects is important to many, and it has now become standard at many indies.

It’s rated for its value for money and ease of workflow. One corporate producer says: “It has wide compatibility with video files and most editors now use it which makes moving projects around between freelancers easier.” Apple’s editing software, meanwhile, is used by many for short edits and home use.

The ability to edit remotely is becoming ever more possible, yet very few programme makers have either done it or even plan to. Some 44% said they had no plans to edit remotely.

However, 36% said they had not yet opted for remote editing, yet planned to in the next 12 months. Of the technologies available, the most popular to date is Adobe Anywhere, followed by Forbidden Technologies’s Forscene.

Grading
DaVinci Resolve emerges as the most used standalone grading system with 36% saying they employed it, while FilmLight Baselight followed with 25% - signficantly up on last year’s 14%.
Many respondents say they grade using plug-ins or tools within their editing systems, reflecting the move by manufacturers to add more grading tools to their editing systems.

Media recorders
Love them or loathe them, third-party media recorders have been a fact of life for professional camera users since tapeless workflows became the norm.

24% of our survey respondents said they used media recorders with their cameras.

A range of recorders are now available to support professional digital cameras. Many of these were cited, from manufacturers including Atomos (Samurai, Shogun, Ninja)  AJA, Convergent Design (Odyssey 7Q), Video Devices (PIX-E).

How it works
Televisual asked senior programme makers – executive producers, series producers, producers, heads of production, line producers and directors – for their thoughts and opinions on the technology they use to make their programmes.

We had 116 in depth responses in total.  The majority – 53% - worked in factual TV production. 15% worked in entertainment TV, 9% in drama and 5% in TV sports and events. Meanwhile, 26% were employed in corporate production, 17% in commercials and 6% in film.

All worked in senior roles in production companies. Over 50% told us they had full control over choice of technology workflows and budgets.

Posted 18 August 2016 by Tim Dams

Producers plan for life beyond Brexit

A month since Britain backed Brexit, the mood among the creative industries has moved on from the profound shock of the days after the vote.

Many producers had loudly and vociferously called for the UK to Remain in Europe (85% of TV producers association Pact said they planned to vote Remain). They feared that leaving Europe would lead to a swift downturn in production levels – for film, TV, commercials or corporate production.

With the immediate post-Brexit shock now over, the mood has morphed into one of uncertainty about what the impact of the leave vote will really have on production companies.

Most believe that Brexit will make business more challenging. But, entrepreneurial by nature, producers also say they are determined to adapt to the new landscape and make a success of it.

The industry is already starting to face up to the challenges of Brexit. Early in July, a new Creative Industries Council working group was set up to assess the impact of Brexit on the UK TV and media sector.

John McVay, CEO of Pact, is chairing the group, which will identify the challenges and opportunities arising from Brexit. The group will report its findings to government.

“This is a key moment for the creative industries to create concrete proposals that can bring benefits to the UK’s creative industries and ensure that one of the UK’s most successful sectors remains at the top table,” said McVay.

Very little is expected to change in the next two years, the time period that Britain has to negotiate its exit from the EU after triggering Article 50.  However, this long period of uncertainty is not helpful for the creative industries, which relies on strong investor confidence to back projects. 

“As producers we need to be incredibly vocal and, through Pact, make sure the DCMS doesn’t allow the industry to fall into the English Channel,” says Laurence Bowen, CEO of drama indie Dancing Ledge Productions.

The big immediate fear is that Brexit will spark an economic downturn that will hill hit production levels; only last week ITV said it will need to cut costs by £25m in 2017 to prepare for economic uncertainty sparked by the UK's decision to quit the EU.

Beyond worries about a Brexit recession, though, the concerns – and opportunities – about Brexit centre on five key areas:

1. Loss of EU Funding: The UK receives a share of funding from the EU’s Creative Europe programme, which has Euros 1.46bn to invest between 2014-2020.  For example, seven UK film producers – including See-Saw, Origin Pictures and Recorded Picture Company – recently shared £1.2m in slate funding from Creative Europe. Creative Europe Desk UK says there would be no change for those who have applied or are planning to apply for Creative Europe funding in 2016 and 2017. If UK indies can no longer access Creative Europe funding, the UK government will be under enormous pressure to replace it.

2. Quotas British films and TV shows have, until now, qualified as European works. This is important as some EU countries have quotas on the amount of European content their broadcasters must show.   This has helped to boost the demand for UK films and television shows as well as making UK / US co-productions more attractive.

“Brexit will not in itself change the status of UK productions as ‘European works’, but co-productions will be affected,” says Jeremy Roberts, a senior partner in the TV team at law firm Sheridans. UK productions will still be classified as European because the UK is party to the European Convention on Transfrontier Television of the Council of Europe, which is separate from EU membership.

Post-Brexit, Roberts says that because the UK will nolonger benefit from co-production treaties between the EU and third countries, UK co-productions that do not fulfill the requirement of “originating in the UK” will no longer qualify.

To be deemed to have ‘originated’ in a state, a production must be mainly made with authors and workers residing in one or more of the states that are a party to the Convention. Says Roberts: “So, under the Convention alone it is still possible for a UK-US co-production to come within the definition of a ‘European work’, but it will be much harder in practice.”

However, Roberts says it is important for the UK industry not to overreact.  “Until the formal cessation of the UK’s membership of the EU, the existing regime remains in place.  Thereafter, the most likely outcome is that the UK will negotiate some form of status akin to what we have now as part of any new deal with the EU.  Finally, while the ‘European work’ designation is undoubtedly important, it is not the be-all and end-all.  European broadcasters did not acquire The Night Manager just because it is a ‘European work’; they acquired it because it was a great show.”

3. Tax credits Tax credits for film, drama, kids and animation programming are a vital subsidy for UK producers. If the government no longer has to adhere to EU state aide rules, there is the possibility that the UK could offer more generous subsidies to shore up production.

4. Exchange rate The fall in the value of the pound is likely to make the UK more attractive as a base for international shoots. Pinewood Shepperton said last month that it expected to host a greater number of film and TV projects as a result of the favourable exchange rate. Chief executive Ivan Dunleavy called it “undoubtedly positive for our international customers.” However, the weaker pounds makes it more expensive for UK producers filming abroad, such as Sid Gentle Films. The drama indie is currently in pre-production for the second series of The Durrells, which is filmed in Greece.

5. Talent The UK is a magnet for international talent, in front of and behind the camera. The free movement of European cast and crew as well as production kit throughout Europe has helped to underpin the success of the UK creative industries. Production companies will fight hard to retain free movement protections the creative industries have so far enjoyed.

Throughout the industry, there is a desire for a positive Brexit deal with the EU. Camilla Deakin, joint md of Lupus Films, says: “We’ve co-produced with France, Germany, Denmark, Ireland and Luxembourg as well as with territories outside the EU, so we’ve learned to collaborate and co-operate with producers from other countries to get the best talent combined with the maximum financing. So it seems completely counter-intuitive to turn our backs on Europe and try to pull up the drawbridge.”

Producers and studios on the impact of leaving the EU


“A lot of false allegations were made by the Leave campaign about businesses like mine being forced to go through lots of paper work due to our being part of the EU.  In fact the reverse is true – we had less paperwork as part of the EU and now we have left, we are likely to have to get carnets whenever we film in Europe.”
Cat Lewis, CEO, Nine Lives Media
 
 “Having recently filmed one drama in Lithuania and Malta [The Eichmann Show] with financing tax schemes in place in both countries that were critical to our budget, any step away from Europe feels like a huge mistake. The MEDIA programme invested almost Euros100m in the UK audio-visual industry from 2018-13.  Will that investment continue at the same level?  Unlikely.”
Laurence Bowen, CEO of Dancing Ledge

“The immediate challenge for independent producers like Sid Gentle Films is coping with the volatility of exchange rates. The fall of the pound against the euro has come at a particularly bad time for us as we are in pre-production for the second series of The Durrells which is of course filmed in Greece. Ultimately, it is just another production variable. It will have an impact but we will find a way around it and still deliver the ambitious series that we had planned to.”
Lee Morris, md, Sid Gentle Films

“In the context of our business, the decline in the pound sterling exchange rate is undoubtedly positive for our international customers.”
Ivan Dunleavy, CEO, Pinewood Shepperton

“There is still a lot of uncertainty about what will happen next and it could affect the ability of the US based children’s channels (Disney, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon) to produce series in the UK that would then count as EU content in the rest of Europe, which would definitely hit our business hard. However, as a producer it’s my job to find solutions in difficult situations, so I am optimistic that whatever happens we will adapt and survive” 
Camilla Deakin, Joint MD, Lupus Films

Posted 01 August 2016 by Tim Dams
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    Tim Dams is editor of Televisual magazine....
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