STRENGTHS: “Talent and technology are the industry’s current strengths. More than ever, technology advances in everything from image capture devices to computer-based hardware and software have eased the process and made handling images and sound more ubiquitous across a wide range of platforms. These technology advances have allowed us unlimited artistic expression, and that’s very gratifying.
“The quality and versatility of the tools have sparked an interest in young people entering our industry. We have a greater pool of talent to choose from in all areas. Many young people have taught themselves on low-cost toolsets and gained a lot of experience; they come in more highly skilled than ever before.”
WEAKNESSES: “Not unlike the rest of the business world, our industry locally, nationally and internationally has suffered from a depressed marketplace the last few years. That has led clients to have lower budgets; they’ve been unable to seek quality service providers and, unfortunately, have gotten poor results. That [situation] enables and stabilizes unqualified competition.
“There’s always a tendency to avoid change, and there are still old-school ways of shooting and producing content which slow the process and don’t allow us to explore all the creative options. Some people are unwilling to explore and take risks. These residual ways of doing things bring quality standards down.
“On a daily basis I’m concerned with current media storage options. We’ve evolved away from tape, but hard drives are not a dependable long-term solution and solid-state storage is too expensive for large projects or jobs with a long shelf life.
“There really aren’t good, reasonably-priced video monitoring options either. LCDs, LEDs, OLEDs are replacing tube sets but high-quality reference monitors are too expensive for most facilities to have in quantity, so video monitoring standards are not being followed.”
OPPORTUNITIES: “Delivery options for content are numerous — they’ve grown exponentially from videowalls in Madison Square Garden and electronic highway billboards to personal screens on your cell phone and tablet. This has driven an interest in content, and we’ve seen new customers requesting content, such as makers of luxury products who want to target a limited customer base. They’re not looking for the mass audience of a Super Bowl and had been limited to direct mail and static images on the web. Now, they’re delivery moving images on these platforms and emailing videos to preferred customers.
“Clients are finding the cost of delivering content to these platforms to be much less. Distribution used to be a major portion of their budget; now, they can put almost all their money into producing content and distribution may not cost them anything.
“We’ve seen an opportunity in better integrating the services we provide. We can create an image once and use it across many channels of delivery, creating value for the customer and generating greater income for us.”
THREATS: “Threats are always around every corner, and sometimes you don’t even recognize them until they hit you over the head. That’s the risk of being in business.
“Post facilities are being challenged more by their clients: We’ve seen private television services brought in-house by former clients for years, although agencies have been somewhat resistant to that because of the technical quality and artistic nature of their requirements. But now, due to the lower cost barrier to entry, agencies are producing some messages utilizing the resources they’ve been building inside their own organizations.
“I think industry opinion is that top artistic talent will always remain independent though, so they can be exposed to constantly changing and more challenging technology and projects.
“There seems to be trend that’s less about quality and more about cost containment and quantity: If a message is cheaper to produce you can deliver more impressions of it. It’s harder to define the value of our resources as customers view the industry as more of a commodity than a unique artistic investment.”
OUTLOOK FOR 2013: “In the Midwest, we’ve seen an uptick in business across the board the past two years. However, there’s still great pressure on budgets, and revenues have to be made up in volume [of work]. Overall, we’re optimistic but we’re still concerned with what economic conditions may lie ahead that we have no control over. Fingers crossed, 2013 will be a successful year that builds on the economy’s slow growth and better trending.”
Steve Wild is the CEO of RingSide Creative (www.ringsidecreative.com) in Oak Park, MI. RingSide Creative is an Integrated Media Studio providing production, post production and delivery services through its divisions RingSide Finish (color, finish editorial, design and motion graphics, audio post); Cutters (creative editorial); Picnic (interactive development); and Moonlink Studios (sound stages, production equipment and crews). Through a partnership with CuttersStudios, headquartered in Chicago, RingSide is able to provide resources and solutions nationwide. Recent projects include assisting Team Detroit to introduce Ford Motor Company to the South Korean market with a fully-integrated global brand campaign and broadcast spots for Dewey Square Group informing voters of a successful local ballot initiative funding the Detroit Institute of Arts.