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October 2017
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In the magazine
Only available in print
  • The Facilities 50
    Jon Creamer launches Televisual's 30th exclusive annual Facilities 50 survey featuring the top post production houses in the UK and 52 pages of analysis of the sector
  • Interview: Grant Mansfield
    Hiring top talent and investing heavily in development have been key to growing his Bristol indie Plimsoll Productions, says founder Grant Mansfield
  • The clear view: lenses
    What ever genre you work in, you need to be lens savvy. Here three DoPs guide us through the lens market, picking out the models they like to use in drama and factual
  • Over the top
    The growth of Netflix and Amazon is proving a boon for UK indies, but broadcasters are starting to panic. Tim Dams reports
From the magazine
Available to read online
  • Blue Planet II
    The producers of Blue Planet II tell Tim Dams how tech advances and military planning helped them capture the secrets of the deep
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Reports&
surveys

Facilities 50 2016 Back to Reports & survey Listing

Televisual launched its first ever Facilities 50 survey back in September 1988. Amazingly, many of the names topping the list 28 years ago are exactly the same today.

MPC, the company heading the list back then, is second placed in 2016. But the size and scale of the business was incomparable to today. MPC now employs 2,798 members of staff and turns over £107m, a far cry from the 1988 model with its winning kit list (the sole determining factor for the ranking of our original list) stretching to five edit suites, two Harrys, two Paintboxes, a da Vinci colour corrector and two digital telecines.


Familiar faces
The debut Facilities 50 was welcomed by the industry, but got plenty of stick for being solely reliant on kit. So, the following year, it was rebalanced to include four new criteria including turnover and reputation with producers. Well-known post houses in both the inaugural list and this year’s Facilities 50 include: 1988’s number three Rushes; Molinare, which was number four in 1988; and commercials specialist Framestore, which was number 20 and merged with feature film post house CFC in 2001 and nowadays takes third place on a consistent basis.

The year’s number one post house, The Mill, is a relative newcomer by comparison – it launched in 1990 and made its first appearance in the Facilities 50 a year later in 6th place.

Fourth placed The Farm, meanwhile, was founded in 1998 – 10 years too late for the first Facilities 50.


All change
Looking back over the Facilities 50, the biggest changes since it began have been in technology. Avid introduced the Avid/1, the first in the line of their Media Composer systems, in 1989 – and non-linear editing took off rapidly afterwards. Almost 50% of facilities had gone into the non-linear offline market by 1992 – and it was ubiquitous by 1996.

Cost of technology has also fallen dramatically, meaning that barriers to entry have fallen. Back in 1990, for example, the average planned investment for new kit by a post house was £600k. It’s not far off that today, despite 28 years of inflation.

There are also far more clients to work for. TV moved from the analogue world of four channels to the multichannel, digital era, while the internet has hugely driven up demand for online video content.

It means there is far more work available. This has allowed more companies and people to join the market place – with the competition and improved technology helping to push creative barriers, particularly in areas such as vfx and grading.

But it has also driven down rates as channels, platforms and advertisers want cheaper and cheaper programming. There’s certainly lots more content being made – but it often has to be produced very cheaply. It’s a trend that was exacerbated during the 2000s with the rise of the superindies; consolidation reduced the number of TV production companies, and allowed the bigger groups to get tough on pricing.

Back in the 1980s, being a big post house meant you had a licence to print money – with commercials clients charged rates of £500 an hour. Those days are gone unsurprisingly.

The big post houses still dominate the market though. They are very different kinds of companies though. The Mill and MPC, for example, now have a global reach, with offices in cites such as Los Angeles, New York and Bangalore. But this kind of global spread needs deep pockets; both are owned by French multi-national Technicolor.

The emergence of global players such as Netflix and Amazon, as well as increased investment in British television by US studios, also means that many more international projects are coursing through the UK post sector.

Molinare, for example, provided picture post for Netflix’s The Crown, which is out next month. Back in 1988, even in its wildest dreams, it’s doubtful the post house could have imagined it would work on a £100m series funded by a US based online streaming giant.

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