When we set up Timeline North in 2012 in Salford, we knew that offline editing would be well catered for in MediaCity. 

There were going to be dozens of FCP suites scattered everywhere. But while we predicted high end finishing would be in demand, we realized that no one was planning online suites, grading suites or dubbing theatres, which helped us concentrate on ‘finishing’.

The first lesson I learned was that the world wasn’t ready for a post house that didn’t do offline editing.

Three years on and I’m starting to see that fact change as the idea of editing anywhere is becoming a reality.

Of course we’ve been editing on hillsides and in offices for years but the falling costs of edit systems and the rise of connected communities are making people seriously consider leaving the post house so they can edit wherever they like.

The rise of the ‘in-house’ post facility was inevitable. Post production technology is becoming more and more accessible and production budgets are constantly tightening so the logical conclusion was for productions to set up their own in-house post.

Terrifying prospect

For the post facility, this was a terrifying prospect – the customer had learned how to do post production themselves.

The two biggest problems for productions setting up their own in house post facility are media management and finishing. You need technically competent people to ensure your media is managed correctly.

If you get this wrong your in-house system won’t last very long. As for VFX, grading, dubbing, onlining and editing, these processes are much more complicated than offline editing, not to mention expensive.

They require skilled craft staff who are highly trained and expensive. To make the most of finishing, you have to do a lot of finishing work and this makes it unaffordable to many productions.

The trend I’m seeing now is for post houses to retaliate by offering production office space (sometimes for free) in return for using their facility.

A growing number of production companies in MediaCity are tied in to deals with their landlords. This is great if you’ve got the free space but with commercial property prices on the rise, this isn’t really a viable option.

Boutique post or boutique hotel?

I’ve often likened the post production facility business to the hotel business. At the end of the day it’s about selling rooms and many facilities houses are becoming indistinguishable from boutique hotels in an effort to sell more rooms.

The clients demand for a suite with a window, a sofa and a runner on the hour, has certainly fueled this, but ever-decreasing budgets are making that model less and less profitable.

Post production isn’t about property though, it’s about creativity. Every editor wants time and space to create, every production wants the most out of their footage but they want it as cheap as possible. So something is going to give.

With remote editing becoming a viable option, I can see a future where the post production facility is concentrating on the ‘ins and outs’ of post production.

Media will be gathered, either remotely or in the facility – backed up, managed and then accessed by craft edits wherever they are.

Some ‘offline’ edits will be in the facility (people always need a place to work) but some will be in an editor’s house, production offices, hillsides or coffee shops –  anywhere where the team has time and space to create.

And it will be done cheaply.

Once the edit is beautifully crafted, the facilities house will be back in action, making the most of the highly skilled finishing teams, concentrating on the tiniest details and delivering the perfectly polished content.

The facilities house will ultimately concentrate on the technically challenging and expensive processes of post production and free up the low yield part of the process allowing some welcome breathing space for creativity to flourish.

Who knows – those boutique edit suites could always be re-purposed as real hotel rooms and earn their keep in down time.

Eben Clancy is post production director at Timeline Television


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