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July 2014
Issue: April 1, 2013

Review: AlterMedia’s Studio Suite X

By: TJ Ryan
PRODUCT: AlterMedia’s Studio Suite X

WEBSITE: www.studiosuite.com

PRICE: Single-user starts at $998; $6,188 for a five-seat network; $10,778 for 10 seats. These prices include FileMaker.

- Affordable, customizable, multi-platform
- Integrates with desktop applications
- Keeps everyone on the same page

It starts with yelling, screaming, cursing and finger pointing, followed by occasional chair throwing. No, I’m not talking about my family reunion, but the everyday scene in most post facilities when it comes to scheduling. We know it only too well. “Nate didn’t book the VTR when he booked the room.” Or, “No one told Stephen of the schedule change.”  Or, “Why wasn’t the client billed for the transcode?” Or, “What do you mean you can’t find the media?” It is the all too familiar nightmare of scheduling a production facility.



If you’re an audio or video post facility, you need to keep track of a thousand critical details, including what rooms are booked with who, with what equipment, how much you’re charging, how much it’s costing, where the media assets are, and more. You definitely need some sort of “studio management software” to stay on top of it all.

As a leading systems integrator in Hollywood and former post house owner, I’ve seen every combination of programs used to try and keep it all together. The sales team uses some contact program like Sales Force, the accounting department is on a PC with Quickbooks and Outlook or Google Calendar, and the artists are on their Macs using iCal. No one is synced together, no one is communicating as a group, details (and money) are lost. It’s time for some purpose-built software!

My personal favorite, and one of the most cost-effective, is Studio Suite X by AlterMedia. Studio Suite’s 29 modules address the daily management, scheduling and organization needs of modern media production facilities. The new Studio Suite X includes a host of seriously integrated features that every media production facility needs.

A CLOSER LOOK

Studio Suite runs in FileMaker Pro. Before you start with how much you hate FileMaker Pro, realize this: FileMaker Pro runs in the background and you never have to know it is there. For those who love FileMaker Pro, you know this gives you many advantages over other systems: Studio Suite works on either Mac or PC, and you can easily network Studio Suite on a PC server to a Mac client machine, vice-versa, and in any combination. FileMaker also makes it very easy for users to customize Studio Suite to look and feel the way they want it to. You can modify all the screens and printouts to look however you want, using your own fonts, graphics, etc. — important for you creative types. The Network version adds limited read-only access via browsers, the Internet version adds editable access from most browsers. New in Studio Suite X is access via iPhone and iPad, two-way sync with iCal and Google Calendar.



After downloading, I ran into some installation problems. There may have been a slight issue between the chair and the keyboard. A call to tech support got me an actual person, who quickly set up a remote desktop access and walked me through the error of my ways. To me, this is the most important thing — the tech support department. How long does it take for me to get help? Will I speak to a knowledgeable person? Will I be able to understand what that person is saying? The Studio Suite techs were fast, friendly and helpful.

Once I loaded the software I navigated around quickly. Studio Suite X has buttons that you click on for Contacts, Calendar, Rooms, Equipment, Maintenance, Barcodes, Library, Rates, Invoicing, Communications, Media Inventory and more. What’s key is these modules are all tied together, so from any perspective, you can see all of the related data. For example, from a client’s record in the Contacts module, you can see, and jump to: 1) Every phone call or email they have. 2) Every project or session they’ve done — and all the details. 3) Every digital or physical media asset that belongs to them. 4) Every client-specific rate. 5) Every invoice you’ve sent them.

If you’re a typical studio, you probably have a mix of Macs and PCs. One of the great things about Studio Suite is that you can network this “mission critical data” around your facility, and integrate with other desktop applications.

Even though you can finally share all that data, you may not want some of your staff to see the financial aspects. Studio Suite features a comprehensive security hierarchy that allows you to tailor each user’s visible data and functionality — there are 12 different “Privilege Sets” and over 200 different individual “Permissions” you can grant or deny to users.

Speaking of financial details, Studio Suite talks directly to QuickBooks (Mac and PC), and QuickBooks Online (PC only), so there’s no need for double entry accounting. Just click a button!

FINAL THOUGHTS

Having this kind of detail at your fingertips, (and also at the fingertips of your key staff), with the ability to print it all out in standardized (customizable) forms, suddenly turns your facility into a well-oiled machine that every client will admire. In fact, when your clients see you manage your business details easily and efficiently with Studio Suite, they’ll know you’re on top of things, and feel more comfortable bringing you more business (and there’s a better chance you’ll stay in business).

You can have all the creativity and technical prowess in the world, but you need a framework to track all the details: what’s happening, when, and for how much. 

TJ Ryan is with Digital Factory Inc. (www.digitalfactoryinc.com) in Burbank, CA. He can be reached at: tjryan@digitalfactoryinc.com.