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Issue: December 1, 2008

CLEARING THE HURDLES

By: Marc Loftus
Since 2001, Post has been using the SWOT format in its December issue, allowing pros to reflect on the past 12 months and predict the trends that might shape the year ahead.

Meeting with Joe Avallone, president of NYC's Creative Group, lent some insight to the challenges a studio faces, particularly in tough economic times. New York, he says, is a saturated market in terms of competing facilities. Creative Group also has operations in Bristol, Connecticut, Dublin and China. In total, the company has 14 Avids, Flame and Smoke systems, five surround-capable audio suites, C-Reality telecines and da Vinci color correctors. Its Mantra division offers design services via After Effects and Flash tools. And with its Digital Rapids tools they can format content for any number of media outlets.

"Maintaining capital expenditures," is what Avallone says is the biggest challenge he faces, and this comes down to making smart investment decisions. Avallone expressed his frustration with manufacturers that are more concerned with making sales than partnering with studios for long-term business. This includes selling products that vendors know will soon reach the end of their development cycle and are to be replaced with next-generation solutions.

For 2009, Creative Group will upgrade to the 2010 Autodesk releases on all of its systems. The studio is also looking at replacement monitors for its CRTs, and is considering the purchase of another Avid NLE. And with such investments planned, Avallone says it's still tough to recoup costs: "This is the only industry where rates always go down!"
Reading through this issue, you'll see a lot of support for Avallone's comments. Threats and challenges will come in the form of tighter budgets, a struggling economy, and small shops where creatives have invested in low-cost digital tools. You'll hear pros mention "shorter production schedules," and having to "do more with less."

But it's not all bad. Some say opportunities can come from "building on efficiencies," a desire to "keep work in the US," "repeat business," and "offering packaged services."

Here's to the year ahead!