To listen to the Terence and Philip Show episode #66 where Terence Curren and Philip Hodgetts talk about the challenges of being a mid-sized post-production facility, click the player below. A partial transcript of the episode itself is below the player.
Philip: If you want to smooth out your workflow, translate between Final Cut Pro X and Premiere Pro or even legacy Final Cut Pro, or do the sort of reporting that everyone has to do, then head over to assistedediting.com or intelligent assistance.com
Announcer: When we last left our heroes, they were locked into a terribly important discussion. Let’s drop in on them again as they plot the future. Now, from the Top Dogs kennel in beautiful downtown Burbank, it’s the Terence and Philip Show!
Terence: Thank you so much Gary. I’m Terence Curren.
Philip: And I’m Philip Hodgetts
Terence: Welcome to another Terence & Philip Show.
Philip: In which we ask, why does nobody care about Terry Curren? (Laughs)
Terence: Oh, thanks!
Philip: By which I mean, why is there no vendor focused on the size business that Alpha Dogs is.
Terence: That’s a good point.
Philip: You bill it as a boutique business. I mean, in Australia it would be a big post-production house, but in this context it’s more boutique. And certainly, we know that on one side, if you’re a big media enterprise, then Avid has got your back. That’s their focused market and I think it’s wise to say they are focused on that market. On the other hand, the other major vendors, Adobe and Apple, are focused more on individual users and very small groups. So there’s nobody that is really focused on the Terry Curren sized business.
Terence: Tell me about it! (Laughs)
Philip: How do you deal with that? Does that mean all of the value you would have gotten out of a value-added reseller you have to add yourself? Or the support you have to provide yourself?
Terence: Yeah, that’s a good point. Traditionally, a value-added reseller like a Keycode Media type company, is the one who made enough off of the sales to give you that kind of service. With software selling for $300 a pop and not as much hardware anymore, those days are over. I’m probably not a good test case because I’m more technically inclined so I’ve always done my own engineering, so to speak, so I haven’t needed theVAR as much. But for someone running a post house that’s basically my size and doesn’t know how to do it all themselves, where do you turn? Who do you go to? It’s tough. Avid doesn’t care. Apple doesn’t care. Adobe doesn’t care. It’s interesting. But again, that’s another reason I’m probably not an appropriate test case because I have a public voice so I do get attention because of Editor’s Lounge, etc. I get attention from manufacturers that I wouldn’t get as Alpha Dogs, so it makes it a little harder for me to look at it from that point of view. But I do know other people who have smaller post houses like mine and there’s nobody for them. You’re kind of on your own. It’s the Wild West out there. And nobody develops for that market, probably because it’s not really that big of a market, I gather. Yeah, it’s a good question. A painful one, thanks! (Laughs) Way to make me feel unimportant!
Philip: It’s part of the transition though, isn’t it? Into this sort of flat and more democratized industry. You came out of a bigger post house that ultimately didn’t survive. Not necessarily because of support issues but because of…
Terence: …bad management.
Philip: Unwise investment I was going to go with, but you can be more specific.
Terence: Bad management.
Philip: Clearly, once you get to a certain size, when you want to spend a certain amount of money with Avid every year, they’re really happy to support you, and as long as you’ve got a pretty much all Avid plan they’ll be very good support.
Terence: Well, okay. There’s tiers to this. And I have to tell you, because I’ve had different experiences and contact with people. Yes, if you’re NBC, you have an actual Avid tech. There’s an Avid guy assigned to you. Like out here at NBC, if they have any kind of problem, there is an Avid guy who comes to the place and he’s there. But NBC pays a lot of money for that with the huge support contracts they have. Beyond that, what was really interesting is that we have to go back to the Avid Customer Association. Last year, they had their first meeting at NAB, and it was to kind of set the whole thing up. Steve Cohen, who is an editor friend of mine, was put on the Avid executive board to oversee the whole thing, and he couldn’t make it so he asked me to stand in for him. So I went up there and I played Steve Cohen in this executive board meeting, and of course none of us knew what the heck was going on. But everybody else on the executive board was VP of Post at Disney…VP of Post at Fox…all of these high end companies that represent big dollar sales to Avid-type people.
Philip: And you were representing everybody else.
Terence: Basically. But there’s really nobody representing someone like me. They had Steve Cohen on there because he’s a film editor, and he represented a lot of editors in a group that Avid disbanded called the Editor’s Advisory Committee that Steve actually started. That group had a lot of featured editors on it, so I think that is why Steve is on this executive board. So there is Steve representing that element, and then there’s a bunch of people representing studios and networks, and there’s even somebody representing music schools, because they use a lot of Pro Tools type stuff, but there’s nobody representing post houses. There is nobody there on the board. So my questions were, if this board is going to make the decisions about where money is going to be spent or what’s going to be done, who’s representing me? My concerns have got to be addressed, but there was nobody there. That’s all an aside.
So here’s this board with all these people, and they did the dog and pony with us in the morning, and then we had lunch, and in the afternoon we were welcome to go off and watch the other groups. So they had a group that was supposed to be working on what future products they need, and another group about community, and another group about marketing, etc. But we, the executive board people all said we weren’t sure what it was that we were supposed to be doing or what this was all about, so we decided to have our own meeting just to sit down and try to figure out what’s going on. So here I am in the meeting with all these people, and eventually, it comes around to, Annie Chang, she’s VP of Post at Disney. She said, “one of the things that’s always been the big problem we have with Avid, is that they sell us or promise us something, and then they deliver about 80% of it, and then they never finish it. It never gets done.”
And then it goes around the table. They’re all doing this. The guy from Fox is saying this. A guy from German television is going, “you’ve been waiting six months, we’ve been waiting two years.” I just said, wow. All these years, I had assumed that the big customers got the attention from Avid and got the special treatment, and here I find out that no, they’re in pretty much the same boat as we are. Long story to get down to the reality that we’re not held out exclusively as the people that don’t get attention. It’s sort of attributed to the limited resources that Avid has. They’re always trying to balance a bunch of plates basically, but it sounds like everyone is disappointed, and nobody feels like they’re getting the entire service that they should.
Philip: Which could mean they’re treating everyone fairly and equally. But surely I would have thought that having one group of happy, excited customers was at least part of the goal. You can afford to say, “those people hate us,” but as long as you’re making someone happy.
Terence: Exactly. As long as I’ve used the product, I’ve always assumed, NBC gets what they want. But here we are finding out, no, it’s kind of across the board. The flip side being that I guarantee you, they didn’t develop 3D because Alpha Dogs asked for it. It’s because Discovery, and all these other networks say they’re going to put in a 3D channel, so Avid says okay, they’ve got to do that. 4K was a big push for Avid because some network or the studios probably said they want to go into 4K so Avid had to get there. If I said, “hey it would be really good if you guys improved the color correction tools in the Symphony…” oh wait, I’ve been saying that since the 90’s. So basically, I don’t get what I ask for. Maybe if NBC asked for the color corrector to be improved it might actually happen. I don’t know.
Philip: Now interestingly, other companies, who have situations where they have to work a little bit harder because they’re the underdog on a feature film, were providing side builds and some on-site support. No names will be mentioned, but in both cases that Intelligent Assistance are involve with, both companies…
Terence: I know publically, that Adobe had guys there for Gone Girl, helping them.
Philip: And there was the feature release that came out after that was clearly touted as “a lot of the features in this release are from the experience that we had working with the editorial team for Gone Girl. So I’m sure that similar messages filter through, and similar side builds get made with other apps as well.
Terence: I would guess, yeah, that’s probably the case. As opposed to the first time for Final Cut with Murch. Apparently he didn’t get any special support from Apple.
Philip: The book made it clear that at that point, Apple did not consider Final Cut Pro 3, as it was, to be ready for a feature film. I think that was a moment of honest insight for the people involved. It was DigitalFilm Tree that gave Murch the confidence that they could do it. And as it turns out they really did need a beta of version 4 with its improved multi-channel sound output in order to finish the film. I believe they were accurate in saying it wasn’t ready. I think this time it wasn’t the first feature film that was done in Final Cut. There’s been quite a lot of European feature films…
Terence: Oh, on X?
Philip: On X, yeah. There’s enough feature films going around on X that we are selling some copies of Change List X, the very niche tool. You only need it if you’re working on a feature film or the very highest standard of television. Having provided the Change List tool for both Premiere Pro and for Final Cut Pro X, it gives us some insight into how much they’re being used. And there are certainly people still using those tools. But they got a lot of support. They couldn’t have used those tools without abnormal support levels from the companies manufacturing the tools. I think that’s the honest thing to say. Neither app was really ready for a feature film workflow at the time they started on the feature film workflow, but somebody had to be first in a studio system. Because there are lots of additional requirements that studios have that independent feature filmmakers don’t have. There’s not as many hoops to jump through if you don’t work for a studio, and they wouldn’t have gotten there without that extra level of support.
That’s just a preview of what Terence and Philip discussed during the podcast. Hear the rest about what the guys have to say by downloading the podcast.