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June 2019

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  • Televisual Bulldog Awards - the winners
    The votes have been counted and the results are in. See the winners of this year's Televisual Bulldog Awards
  • The Art of Noise
    Special 15 page report on audio post for movies, TV & commercials
  • Making the Cut
    Top editors behind Spectre, Inception, A Very English Scandal and Bros: After The Screaming Stops on sculpting the story
  • Live Action
    From concerts to cup finals: how broadcasters are using live events to stand out from the streamers
  • Machine Learning
    Televisual’s Technology Survey uncovers the industry’s favourite kit
  • Breathing Space
    Studios dash to make room for an influx of movies and drama
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Facilities 50 2018 Back to Reports & survey Listing

4K delivery is now commonplace for many, and HDR is getting that way too. The prospects of remote working, speedier rendering and the possibilities of AI are also seen as major advances for the post world

Each year in the Facilities 50 survey, we ask post houses about the dominant technology trends that are affecting them now, and will do in the future.

4K acquisition has been commonplace for a long time now. In years gone past though, not quite so many post houses have reported that they are delivering in 4K. Even less have been delivering in HDR. But many of the post houses in the survey are now reporting that 4K and HDR delivery are firmly established.

Halo says that “4k / HDR is an everyday part of the production scenery now. Robust workflows are now pretty well nailed down and far better understood.” Lola similarly reports that “4K / HDR post is pretty much the norm these days.” Gorilla says that “UHD and HDR is happening right now and it’s busy.”

The Farm states that the demand for 4K and HDR delivery is “significant! Nearly all of the drama projects we work on are now captured UHD (with a high dynamic range). Roughly 70% of this then goes on to be mastered and delivered UHD with 50% of this having an HDR (Dolby Vision, HDR10) deliverable.” Evolutions similarly says that “most productions” it works on now have 4K involvement and “we anticipate all TV will be delivered 4K and higher over the next two years.”

Alongside this, IMF delivery is front of mind for many in the survey. “We think there will be dramatic changes in delivery and distribution with the adoption of IMF, enabling streamlining of versioning and multi territory delivery,” says Fifty Fifty. Splice says that it is “intrigued to see whether IMF file delivery will be picked up by more broadcasters.”

Whether facilities are delivering in 4K and HDR still very much depends on their client base. Those post producing for Netflix and the SVODs certainly are. But if they are post producing for traditional broadcasters, especially outside the realm of drama, then they are not doing so quite as much.

Storm HD says that while “current trends easily point to a migration towards 4K delivery, our 4K clients are not requesting HDR delivery just yet.” Rapid too, says that “4K has been a moderate part of our workload year on year for the last 3-4 years” but while “4K and HDR work is significant, at this point we don’t see that it will take over from traditional HD production in the general broadcast market. Whilst some broadcasters will request masters in 4k for future proofing, it is not necessary or creatively needed for every production. Same goes for HDR. The associated cost of producing HDR is high which doesn’t make sense for all programme budgets.“ For the time being, says Serious Facilities, HDR ”will be based on delivery to the likes of Netflix. Until the major UK broadcasters require HDR that is.”

Many commercials houses too are not likely to see much demand for HDR as yet. “As commercials are rarely (if ever) broadcast in HDR we are more or less insulated from that development,” says Freefolk. Time Based Arts similarly says “it’s not yet a commercial deliverable.” But then most if not all commercials houses are, to one extent or another, dipping their toes into long form TV content and so no one is immune.

Especially as, in the realms of drama, UK broadcasters are now more often co-producing alongside an SVOD, and that means that “4K and HDR has now become more of the norm for us and the market,’ says Technicolor. “There is an increase in co-productions between traditional broadcasters and the streaming providers, and this trend will continue over the next year.”

Demand for UHD and HDR won’t be limited to streamers soon. Sport is already racing ahead in UHD and HDR broadcasting and the spread across other genres looks set to continue. Dock 10 says: “We see this expanding quickly into other genres as we are already being asked to quote on 4K and HDR delivery for documentaries and entertainment shows via our studios business.”

And even for those clients that don’t need 4K and HDR deliverables right now, many are “looking to future proof current productions by adopting these technologies, even if there’s not  an immediate delivery requirement,” says Encore. And that’s because it’s not just Netflix and Amazon that require these deliverables. “Now there is a second phase coming in the form of YouTube Red, Hulu and Facebook all commissioning original content,” says Encore

And as quality increases, and audience expectations rise, producers will want to emulate that quality even if they’re not required to deliver it. “You can see the influence of services like Netflix with more indies looking to deliver stylised 4K content,” says Directors Cut.

The push towards ever higher quality impacts on sound too. Theatrical Dolby Atmos has already made its mark and Dolby Atmos for the home is becoming more prevalent. The Farm says that “Dolby Atmos will become more widely adopted for home delivery.” Halo too says that “Dolby Atmos continues to have a big impact” and Twickenham studios too picks out “Dolby Home Atmos for TV drama deliverables” as a growing technology trend. “I wouldn’t be surprised if demand ramped up significantly,” says West Digital.

The cloud is also the other great technology hope for the post production world, especially with its promise to make the process cheaper. Glassworks is looking towards the “continued advancement and affordability of cloud services.” BBC Studioworks too is looking towards “an expansion in post-production providers embracing cloud, virtualisation and remote working to deliver services and avoid the capital cost of expensive facilities.” Lola believes “a move towards more cloud-based technology” could “potentially reduce the need for hardware and software purchases.”

As cloud-based working becomes cheaper and more viable, it will open up new creative opportunities according to many respondents. It “will open new opportunities to offer more efficient ways for production to work in the post production environment,” says Rapid. And it will “streamline the processes between on-set and post,” argues Technicolor. More cloud-based working will also open up new creative opportunities for teams, says Jam VFX: “We will also see a change in working pattern with a group of collective artists, directors and producers patched in remotely via a shared workspace.”

Many post houses, particularly those at the sharp end of vfx and animation, like Glassworks, pick out the “continued increased performance of GPU” rendering as a big advance in the post world. MPC too points to “realtime render engines and GPU render for visualisation, quicker review cycles and interactive projects.” The Mill says that “real-time rendering is a key driver in enabling us to create more agile and efficient ways of working. Whilst the fidelity is not yet comparable to that which can be achieved through a traditional pipeline, the quality is improving daily and will continue to do so.” Freefolk says that “render free workflows will become more commonplace. Filmlight and Autodesk (following on from the Foundry) have collaborated so that we don’t have to ‘bake in’ our grades until the end of a given post process. This gives colourists and vfx artists more freedom to work with the raw plates at the same time as viewing work in the context of a grade.”

The other big tech advance across the post world  is AI. Cinelab says that it expects to see “more good applications of AI in the content creation and discovery process.” The Farm also reports a ”growing interest in the development of AI tools for the automatic logging and tagging of rushes content.”  Outpost says it can see “AI continuing its slow yet inexorable rise as larger R&D budgets are assigned to it.” But the real impact may not come just yet, says Lipsync: “Artificial intelligence may offer interesting solutions, perhaps further down the road than 2019. Very significant.” One to watch for next time then.

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