With Blackmagic’s stunning announcement at NAB that daVinci Resolve will sell for $995.00 on the Mac platform, the post world prepares for another another paradigm shift. While it will be empowering for some, it will be deadly for others. How will different folks weather this earthquake? I am have some theories based on recent history. But first, the time machine… (insert eerie scifi music here).
Back in the late 90s, when Avid introduced the Symphony for finishing uncompressed SD video, I had a scary realization. Once you could put uncompressed video in the computer, then following Moore’s law, it would just keep getting less expensive every year. Eventually anyone would be editing video on their home computer. This initially struck a chord of terror through me as I envisioned the future of my career slipping away. That is when I began to pay very close attention to our business and looked for historical similarities in other business models. This took me back to the early 80s when a similar thing happened to the printing business.
It used to be that there were mom and pop print shops in every town. If you wanted to make a flyer for your business, you went to a print shop, described what you wanted, then paid their artist to do a mockup. If you liked it, then you paid them to create a master and then you paid for the actual printed flyers. Then along came desktop publishing on the Mac, and boom, there are very few print shops left. But what really happened back then? Suddenly, everyone was a “graphic artist” on their home computer. And we had a plethora of poorly laid out pages laden with Franken-Fonts thrown in, just because someone could do that. Flash forward to today, and we live in a world where creating a cool invite for your child’s birthday party is a breeze on your computer. However, if you want to create a pamphlet for your business, you would be smart to hire a graphic designer. So the true professional still works, but the print shop owner is out of business.
So that is what I assumed would happen to our industry. If everyone could own the edit system, then post houses were doomed. However I, as an editor or colorist, would continue to be hired for my experienced skill-set. This is what led eventually to the creation of Alpha Dogs which has always been focused on talent, not gear.
If we apply this same logic to high end Color Correction, we see a similar model. Stefan Sonnenfeld is always going to be able to charge whatever rate he wants. But he won’t be able to charge as much for his daVinci suite if the client has the same software on his home computer. So this is really going to impact medium to high end post houses the most. The ones who are still paying of their half million dollar plus daVinci suites. I imagine there are quite a few Grant Petty dart boards being created in those places right now.
There is still a substantial investment in making a proper color correction suite. The monitoring alone can go as high as Dolby’s new 40K monitor. A fully functioning Tektronix scope will set you back 20K. Yes that can be done cheaper, but not as well. Then there is the matter of proper room color, lighting, furniture, etc. The daVinci Resolve for $ 995.00 is slightly misleading as you need a panel to run it and the cheapest one is about $1,600. In reality, you can scale the daVinci up to $ 100K at which point you will have what others are selling for close to $500K. So what this means is that the kid in his parent’s garage isn’t a threat… yet.
So who are the winners and losers? A place like mine is perfectly situated to capitalize on this. We can put in the $30K model and with our seasoned colorists immediately compete with larger post houses that were previously out of our league due to investments in high end gear. Students will now come out of college with daVinci experience. DPs will be able to tweak their own footage instead eliminating the need to develop a relationship with a colorist. And hopefully, more folks will begin to realize the importance of good color correction.
Which leads me to the biggest challenge we face in our industry. Anyone on the planet can afford a pen and a piece of paper. So out of 6.5 billion people on the planet, why do we have so few good authors? The catch here is that from our earliest education, we are learning what makes a good writer. In our industry (post production for the purpose of this article), we have failed to educate the public to discern the difference between good editing and bad. Between good color correction, and the lack thereof. Between great sound mixing, and just acceptable sound. A lot of this was probably caused by trying to protect our jobs, I know in the case of colorists this is true as it was a “black art”. But now we are going to pay the price as the cost of the toolsets won’t protect us anymore. And all the years of experience and perfecting our crafts won’t matter , if the public doesn’t see the difference.
This is why I see Blackmagic’s announcement as the biggest news coming out of NAB this year. In the small enclave of professional colorists, it could be called the shot heard around the world.