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Issue: December 1, 2011

SWOT: The post business

By: Barney Miller
STRENGTHS: Any downward trends we've observed in recent years have reached their level. I believe it can't do anything but get better. Sure, we don't have the budgets of the nineties, but all things considered, creatives, artists, editors and vendors continue to move forward and are finding an equilibrium that is beneficial to making the industry thrive as a whole. With budgets coming down, creative editorial is coming up with ways to be nimble and stay afloat by offering clients more services like packaging and CGI. Being able to do more with less is a strength of our industry today  — and a plus because you get to keep more profits in-house. There’s a fine line, though, between offering more and staying within your capacities and interests, both creatively and financially, so editors must continually position themselves to able pick and choose jobs to stay strong and relevant in the industry. 

WEAKNESSES: Obviously, lower budgets and more work for same time and money is a continuing trend. Nowadays, there are so many more deliverables thrown into the mix. Requests to pull stills for Web content is common and, oftentimes, you even have a photographer on set to provide post with additional assets to integrate into a campaign. The traditional "30-cut-to-15" project isn't necessarily dead, there's just a lot more implemented into the workflow of that particular job. Also, digital dailies are ever-challenging when you're dealing with multiple parties and varying file formats. We have a workflow for every format, but regardless of how prepared we are, and even as production and agencies continue to adapt well, it's an intangible that presents a weakness: time taken away from the creative process. To maintain realistic expectations while creating the best work possible, it's often upon “post” to stay ahead of the curve and work within the technical infrastructure of clients and keep them educated, as well as foresee and mitigate tech issues that may arise. 

OPPORTUNITIES: Understanding the weaknesses and strengths of our industry presents great opportunity. With so many media outlets today, unscripted work is up — clients are always looking to repurpose content, from tabletop pieces to fashion & beauty — that’s a windfall for us. And even as technology evolves and presents its own challenges, it continues to offer new and better opportunities. These days, with a fast, super thin Mac, it's viable to work remotely — post people are more portable than ever. Also, the overall quality of software and cameras continues to improve drastically — digital formats look better; color correction, with software by Resolve, has expanded accessibility; and even compositing, without having a huge Flame system, continues to improve. It’s an exciting time because media is at our fingertips. The 5D looks great and I hear the Red is even coming out with a smaller camera. Technology is really fostering creativity in a new light, that's exciting — on the same portable device I play tic tac toe and email with. I recently shot some lighting elements with an iPhone app that features controlled exposures. Some great lighting happened to be coming through the office window, which was perfect for a spot we were working on. That trick ended up in a national spot — without readily available technology, that idea wouldn't have been possible.

THREATS: As far as threats go, there is a bottoming out of the “old-school” editors and for the past decade, the trend has been agencies going "in-house." I can speak for the post industry as a whole and say that boasting our strength in this conversation isn't just about keeping profit, but sincerely making the product better. Our business is to maintain a prepared, creative team with an adaptive workflow to meet client needs to get the best work. Sure you could just buy Avid and put it in a room — I would if I had my own agency — but it certainly isn't a save-all solution. It does work for some hybrid agencies to handle post internally because there is simply more work and a niche to fill with their business model; but I truly believe there is still a place for an edit house and the traditional agency-production team to coexist. 

Barney Miller is an editor and partner at NYC's Hooligan (www.hooligannyc.com). Miller started his professional career as a teenage musician, opening for acts as diverse as The Clash and Chaka Kahn. After putting down his guitar, Barney attended film school at Parsons, pursuing his passion for film upon years of absorbing the cinema of Truffaut, Hitchcock, Kubrick and Scorsese. Drawing from his musical years, Barney quickly discovered his sense of timing offered a visceral transition into the edit room where his career began with promo cuts for MTV & VH1 networks. Creative relationships with directors and fellow school of Viacom alumni (Pam Thomas, Mark Pellington, Caitlin Felton, Lloyd Stein and others) led him straight into the music video world and, eventually, national spots. Barney has cut videos for a slew of artists, including Fat Boy Slim, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Elvis Costello and Kanye West. Following stints with 89 Green and Ohio Edit, Barney launched his own editorial boutique, Company X Edit, where he spent 8 years cutting award- winning spots for brands such as Olay, Avon, Volkswagen, Verizon, Quaker Oats, American Express, Mercedes and Sprite. Barney’s awards and accolades as an editor include numerous MTV VMA, Chip Shop, London International, ADDY and TELLY awards; Cannes Lion honors for his work on the acclaimed Volkswagen campaign; and two AICE Finalist nods.