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November 2018

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  • The Facilities 50
    Jon Creamer launches Televisual's 31st exclusive annual Facilities 50 survey featuring the top post production houses in the UK and 48 pages of analysis of the sector
  • The Commercials 30
    Jon Creamer introduces Televisual’s exclusive Commercial 30 survey, reporting on a year of highs and lows for commercials producers.
  • The Drama Genre Report
    With competition from streamers intensifying, UK broadcasters are exploring new drama strategies. Tim Dams reports
  • Primary Colours
    Five leading movie colourists tell Michael Burns the secrets of their craft, and explain the techniques they use to grade movies like The Danish Girl, Peterloo and Baby Driver
  • Up, up and away!
    Thanks to advances in camera technology, the possibilities of aerial filming are greater than ever before. Pippa Considine reports on some of the year’s standout aerial projects
  • OB: Which Way Now
    The OB industry is embracing major change as it adapts to the worlds of UHD, HDR and IP. Michael Burns reports
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Facilities 50 2009 Back to Reports & survey Listing

Kit investments

Post production houses spend millions each year on new kit investments. Here is a breakdown of what was on many shopping lists last year and what’s been pencilled in for potential purchase in the coming year

The post production business evolves around unavoidable heavy investments in kit, services and buildings. For the large post houses, with hundreds of vfx workstations and editing suites, and numerous plush, expensively equipped grading and audio suites, the amount of money set aside for keeping on top of new technological developments runs well into the millions.

With emerging technology, including stereo 3d and tapeless working methods, catching on fast, and increasing demand in areas such as vfx to work with very high resolution images, there’s no option for post houses at the leading edge to stand still. To find out which kit is top of the shopping list at the moment, we asked the post houses in the Facilities 50 to list the main kit purchases they made over the last year and what they are planning to buy in the coming year. We also asked how much they had spent last year and what’s been reserved for kit purchases this year. Half say they are spending less next year, with only a quarter planning to spend more on kit investment next year than this.

There are a dozen or so post houses earmarking £1m or more forkit investments next year (which is similar to previous years), but the typical proposed spend by post houses is rather more modest at only around £125k. The typical investment last year was a little more, at £150k. But whatever the size of post house, kit purchases represent a significant proportion of turnover, and not an investment you want to get wrong. Overleaf is what the Facilities 50 post houses have earmarked for investment.

A typical post house in 2009
A typical post house in 2009 offers an increasingly broad range of services to an increasingly disparate set of clients. It is able to post produce 5.1 surround sound in one or two audio suites, and may offer specialist audio services such as ADR. It has two dedicated grading suites capable of colour grading up to 2k images. It doesn’t have expensive scanners so can’t offer telecine services. Its vfx services can cope with 2d and 3d work on five vfx workstations. The post house designs and authors DVDs and is likely to now also do Blu-ray discs too. 18 staff are on its payroll, of which half are creative staff, including editors, vfx artists, colourists and dubbing mixers. It typically employs five freelancers to work on projects. The post house’s turnover is £1.7m, which is around about what it was the previous year. It invested £150k in new kit and services last year and intends to spend slightly less (around £125k) over the coming 12 months.

2008/09 Investments
1    technicolor                     £8m   
2    molinare                        £3m       
3    the mill                          £2.75m   
4    ascent 142                     £2.5m   
5    envy                              £2.4m   
6    smoke & Mirrors             £2m   
7    the farm group               £1.9m   
8    soho film lab                  £1.2m   
9    prime focus                    £1.16m   
10=films@59, framestore      £1.1m   

2009/10 Investments
1=    molinare                      £4m   
1=    the farm group             £4m   
3    mpc                               £2.5m    
4    smoke & mirrors             £2m   
5    evolutions                      £1.5m   
6=    technicolor                   £1m   
6=    ascent 142                   £1m   
6=    envy                            £1m   
6=    prime focus                  £1m   
6=    films@59, framestore    £1m   

Top 10 buys last year
1. Infrastructure/storage
Post houses spend a great deal every year on technology that clients never see and don’t have to think about. A lot of this is storage, with ever more terabytes being required year on year. And then there are systems to manage the sharing of stored content between different suites, tools to convert content from SD to HD, bits and bobs of kit for machine rooms, and so on. It all mounts up.

2. Upgrades
The second most frequently listed kit post houses spent their money on last year was upgrades. There were software upgrades, to editing and vfx suites, as well as hardware, including Flame suites, edit workstations and audio/dubbing theatres.

3. Editing
The most significant area of creative post, in terms of kit investment last year, was in HD editing kit. Avid’s editing options (including Symphony, Media Composers, DS Nitris and Symphony Nitris) were the most frequently purchased, followed by Apple FCP.

4. DI/grading
There was a great deal of investment in grading kit last year. Systems bought include Baselight suites, Pandora Revos, a Da Vinci Resolve and a Digital Vision Nucoda.

5. Vfx
Many post houses bolstered their vfx/cg services with kit investments last year. Vfx kit purchased included Flame HD, Smoke HD, Nuke licenses and Maya licences.

6. Tape storage
There’s been much talk lately about the death of tape but, looking at last year’s investments, it’s far from dead and buried, with post houses in plentiful supply snapping up HDCAM SR decks.

7. DVD/Blu-ray
Many made investments in Blu-ray authoring last year, gearing themselves up for the growing Blu-ray market and for providing clients with HD content on disc.

8. Audio
Audio is one of the services production companies with inhouse post kit still use  post houses for. As such, there was considerable investment in audio kit last year, including Protools systems and 5.1 facilities.

9. Cameras
Post houses are increasingly buying cameras to hire out to clients as part of a broader service offering. A number of facilities reported part of their spend last year went on purchasing new models.

10. Stereoscopic 3d
The technology that’s created the biggest buzz over the last year is stereo 3d. Manufacturers are clamouring over each other to announce they can do stereo 3d and a handful of post houses invested in kit to aid stereo 3d post last year.

Top 10 buys this year

1. Infrastructure/storage
Once again at the top of proposed spends for post houses next year is infrastructure and additional storage capacity. Amongst the essential nuts and bolts of technology mentioned are automated encoding systems, scheduling software and data and media management systems.

2. Editing
Editing takes an even higher position on the shopping list next year, with a sizeable number of post houses budgeting for more Avids and FCP edit suites in equal measure.

3. General HD investments
A good proportion of post production houses have a wide variety of non-specific high definition kit on the shopping list for next year, preparing for what’s predicted to be a much busier year for HD productions.

4. Upgrades
As with every year, post houses can do little to avoid spending money on a plethora of software and hardware upgrades.

5. Audio
At least 10 post houses in our survey are looking to invest in additional audio suites, ProTools and general audio kit in the coming year

6. Vfx
Post houses are continuing to bolster their cg and vfx facilities next year, with Nuke and Flame systems again both singled out for purchase.

7. DI/grading
Grading remains a key area for post houses and no longer the reserve of the high-end facility. Most post houses looking to invest haven’t listed the specific system they are after, though at least one is opting for a Baselight and another is looking to buy Tangent panels.

8. Tape storage
It seems tape will be around for some years to come as there are plenty of post houses still setting aside cash to pay for vtrs, with HDCAM SR decks once again on many a shopping list.

9. Stereo 3d
Stereo 3d will be gaining more and more of a presence over the coming year with a steadily increasing number of facilities saying they will be making investments in 3d technology in 2010.

10. DVD/Blu-ray
With so many companies having already made the move to kit up for Blu-ray over the last year there are far fewer post houses planning to spend on high def disc authoring over the coming year.

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