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April 2014
Issue: November 1, 2012

Technicolor - Postworks overcomes Superstorm Sandy

NEW YORK — As it did to countless thousands of businesses in New York City and along the East Coast, Superstorm Sandy exacted a toll on Technicolor – PostWorks New York (www.technicolorpwny.com) and PostWorks, which operate three large post facilities in Manhattan. Although the companies suffered only minor direct physical damage, their facilities on Leroy Street and in SoHo were left without power in the aftermath of the storm. 

At the time the storm hit, the three facilities were operating on all cylinders, providing editorial facilities and supplying post production services for dozens of episodic and reality television shows, and film productions. As most of those productions were shooting in the New York area, they, too, were impacted by the storm. All, naturally, were curtailed as the storm passed through, but many, spurred by deadline pressures, needed to get back up and running as quickly as possible once the immediate danger passed. 

To resume operations, productions needed access to post services. Their dailies would need to pass through established workflows. Post teams that had lost several days’ work to the storm needed to get back into editing rooms and color grading suites.

The staffs of Technicolor – PostWorks and PostWorks wanted to accommodate their clients, but faced daunting challenges. With the subway system out of operation and emergency traffic restrictions in place, simply getting to and from the facilities was difficult. 

Communication was also problematic. Technicolor - PostWorks executive VP Domenic Rom took to texting staff as that proved more reliable than voice communication. Obviously, no work could proceed at the Leroy and SoHo locations until power was restored. Even then, servers and other critical systems would have to go through engineering checks to ensure they were operating correctly and no data was lost.

Sales and project managers worked tirelessly through this period, communicating with clients through any means possible. Conference calls, held twice a day, became a lifeline for the facilities, providing management, sales and operational staff with the opportunity to get updates, discuss issues and plan recovery. Some staff used a Facebook page set up during the storm to communicate with fellow employees. 

On Wednesday, less than two days after Sandy passed, Rom learned that three television productions served by the facilities were planning to go back into production the next day. Rom arranged a conference call with members of his staff to discuss options. With power out at Leroy and SoHo, it appeared that dailies for the shows would have to be shipped to Los Angeles. However, Dana Bloder, director of operations at Technicolor – PostWorks, recalled that the facility had supplied a Technicolor Frame Logic location dailies processing system to a production in Brooklyn that had recently shut down. If that system could be retrieved and set up at the Midtown facility, perhaps it could be used to process dailies for the three shows.

“It was a crazy idea, but the more we thought about it, the more we thought we had to give it a try,” recalls Rom. “We have a guy, George Love, who does deliveries for us. I texted him asking if he was available to go to Brooklyn the next morning. Then, I contacted Tim Hedden, the colorist for one of the shows, asking if he was available to do the work. We then contacted Frame Logic engineers at Technicolor in Los Angeles to ask for their help in configuring the system to do three sets of dailies in one night.”

When Love arrived in Brooklyn the following morning, he found that the Frame Logic system was still powered up and configured to process dailies for the previous production. That required him to get on the phone with Corey Stewart, chief engineer at Technicolor – PostWorks, who talked him through shut down and disassembly procedures. Still, by late afternoon, the system was up and running at the Midtown facility. 

“The first show came in a short while later followed by a second,” Rom says. “At 8:15 the following morning I was handing a drive with dailies to a PA. Two hours later, we delivered the second set of dailies.”

Power was restored to the Leroy and Soho facilities by early Saturday. Clients were clamoring to get back into their edit suites, but technical checks needed to be completed first. By Saturday afternoon, the Leroy facility had checked out and it resumed limited operation by 5pm.  At 10 am the following morning, an online editing session was conducted at the Leroy facility. Online editor Samantha Uber, who came in for that session, had been forced to evacuate her apartment on the New Jersey shore and was living with relatives.

Meanwhile, Film Lab New York, a film laboratory managed by PostWorks and Deluxe, was also brought back on line after a part was flown in to fix a broken power supply. By the following evening, its crew had managed to process 36,000 feet of film dailies for a feature. 

The situation at the SoHo facility was more complicated. “The SoHo facility fills five-and-a-half floors, most of which are Avid suites,” Rom notes. “Engineers Graham Baquie and Matt Schneider were there most of Sunday night going through every Unity and ISIS server. They did spot checks on edit rooms to look at the files and make sure systems checked out.”

By Monday, all three facilities were back up and running, more or less, normally. With some shows having missed the better part of a week, there was a serious backlog, but with most crews working overtime, it seemed they were more than up to the task. “Our people did an incredible job under very trying circumstances,” says Rom. “This storm kicked our teeth out both on a professional and on a personal level, but we came back. We’re here and we’re working.”