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December 2014
Issue: June 1, 2013

Editor's Letter: The independent post house

By: Randi Altman
It just makes sense that the less encumbered you are, the faster and more flexible you can be. Owners of independent post house appreciate  the ability to grow and evolve at their own pace. But it’s not easy. The economy is still in recovery mode and competition is coming from all angles. 

“Surviving, let alone prospering, in the world of digital content production is a complicated juggling act,” explains Rob Taylor, president/executive producer at San Diego’s Pendulum, which had specialized in 3D animation for games, films and broadcast, but has recently shifted its focus toward mocap-based virtual production services and related content creation, with a heavy lean toward previs/techvis/postvis. 

“For one thing, just defining the space in which you’re playing is often difficult and constantly changing — digital media, animation, film and TV production, entertainment, technology development, etc. Where does a company focus its resources, and how does it predict where it should be tomorrow, or what technologies, methodologies and personnel to invest in… and when do you change those investments?” 

Taylor says Pendulum is constantly trying to balance creative gratification and “fiscal pragmatism,” but that there are no set guidelines. “Over the past year, the evolution of our storytelling methods and tools have allowed us to react to the industry’s growing reliance on competitive international production studios by shifting our focus from resource-heavy turnkey production to a few focused niche service areas driven by unique expertise and proprietary tech.” 

But there must be a love of the finished product, he says, “Enough that the stresses and frustrations of the process are overshadowed by the thrill and pride of seeing your creative efforts come to fruition.”

Growing for the right reasons and at a chosen pace has helped many a studio. When managing director Jon Adelman arrived at NYC’s Nutmeg Post 13 years ago, the studio had 17 employees and 10,000 square feet. They just added an additional 6,200 square feet and have a total of 36 employees. That number is set to grow by the end of the year. 

“Our clients wanted the ability to do everything under one roof, so we added more services — editorial, color grading, graphics, production,” he explains. “Being independently owned gives us the ability to expand as quickly as our business has required. I don’t have to submit budgets to a parent company and wait until the next fiscal year for funding.”

Another key to success? Treating employees well. “As I see it, no matter what industry you work in, the best way to deliver a quality product is to keep your employees happy. Treat them with respect, create a great work environment, provide them with the tools they need, and everything else will take care of itself.”