It’s that time of year again, where we venture to our Mecca in the Big Smoke: the Media Production Show. Every year, our annual pilgrimage provides us with enlightenment from panelists, exhibitors and delegates, all sharing insights into the latest industry developments, debates and tech. Flying solo this year, I went with a view to finding out what’s happening in the world of post production. While there were plenty of toys on show from a production perspective (including several Blackmagic cameras, DJI drones and even buckets of fake snow), I found myself gravitating primarily towards the multiple panel talks. There were several key takeaways for me and the rest of #TeamTanami to chew on. To highlight just a few of these talking points:
From a video production point of view, will Leeds become the new Manchester?
Channel 4 announced at the end of last year that it will move its headquarters to Leeds, opting against Birmingham and Greater Manchester. The decision has sparked debate among industry professionals, and has resulted in up to 90% of staff stating intention to resign rather than relocate. The strategy behind the move is to encourage a more diverse range of talent to enter the industry, including attracting applicants from across the UK rather than only those based in the south. This is a similar strategy to the BBC’s move to MediaCityUK, which proved to be effective in the establishment of other production facilities and, subsequently, jobs and opportunities.
But will Channel 4’s move to Leeds have a similar impact on the local community? The majority of the panelists (including dock10, who are themselves based at MediaCityUK) during the State of the Nation: Post Production discussion were slightly skeptical but willing to be proved wrong. The consensus was that because the workforce is reluctant to move with Channel 4, the broadcaster would have a big task ahead in filling those vacancies again. Logic says that with Leeds being much more central to the wider UK than London, Channel 4 should have no problems with applications from fresh new talent, but this all remains to be seen when the move is completed next year.
Content-led vs commercial-led content
The How we make… Branded content panel talk brought out an interesting discussion on how branded content has evolved from being commercially-led to becoming content-led. This isn’t necessarily new news, however the general observation from panelists was that more brands are getting on board with this modern marketing concept. Directors and creatives are taking the lead by getting to know the client and their brand ethos, then communicating their messages in a captivating way. This is the key to capturing the attention of viewers: content that looks great without forcing you to buy stuff is more effective than a standard sales pitch-style video.
Speaking of capturing the attention of viewers, another observation from the panelists was on the topic of ‘teasers’ on one platform, and the ‘full video’ on another. If a brand has managed to successfully capture the audience’s attention, they should want to keep them there, not ask them to switch to another social media channel or website in order to view the rest of your content. The likelihood is that they’ll switch off rather than switch over. The solution is to share the full video on that same platform, and make it easy to find. This is a lesson that should apply to all brands, big or small, local or international.
“What can the film and television industries learn from game sound?”
Gamers always marvel at the advancements in video game technology, and comparisons are often made in how ‘cinematic’ video games look or how ‘true-to-life’ they look. However, this panel (titled the same as quoted above) looked at the flip-side, and how video production is taking notes from video games in an audio sense.
The specific viewpoint was on building soundscapes. Traditionally film and television content was built around dialogue, with other audio elements being crafted around it. Recently however, dialogue has often come in second to atmospheric audio, sound effects and other elements, taking a leaf out of the book of video game production. The purpose of this is to engross the audience and really make them feel like they’re a part of the story, rather than being a third person listening in on someone else’s story. When we worked on the SAS: Who Dares Wins Gogglebox idents for ScottishPower, director Richard Oliver was very keen to make audio a key element in telling the story through each video; the videos begin with a dark, intimidating and combat-like soundscape, which quickly switches to a much more innocent, everyday-household vibe (for example the dripping of a tap, or the whoosh of a hairdryer).
There was also a short discussion on the growing significance of binaural audio, especially with the increasing commonality of virtual reality in both video games and in video content. We wrote a blog previously about binaural audio being the secret ingredient of effective VR – to read more about it, take a look here.
How is the world of VFX doing?
Broadly speaking, very well! The final talk of the day was titled State of the Nation: VFX, and the panelists were optimistic about how the VFX industry was performing in the UK. The thoughts were that VFX, and post production in general, is being taken more seriously by clients and is playing a much more important role in the pre-production stage. VFX artists and editors are being consulted more often to advise on production logistics to determine the level of VFX or ‘comp work’ requirements (e.g. rotoscoping or shot clean-ups), and to address any concerns or issues in advance of filming.
The main reason? Time and money. It’s often quicker and more cost effective to get things right in the production stage, than to fix problems in the post production stage. At the same time, it’s a way to establish whether it’s quicker and more cost effective to do the work in the post stage than in production. In both of these circumstances, it’s difficult to tell unless a discussion is had with the VFX artists!
Although I only attended the Media Production Show for a single day, I feel like I’ve managed to get a thorough understanding of where things stand in the video production industry. I’m happy to report that the outlook is positive and exciting – happy days! Thanks to the Media Production Show for putting on another great event, we’ll see you next year!