The barrier to entry in the post industry continues to decline. Equipment that used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars is now a fraction of that. Powerfully-creative software is available for an affordable monthly subscription. It used to take years to learn the craft of editing on a flatbed. Today, kids learn to edit on their parents’ phones (especially when their parents fall asleep on the couch). Since the equipment is now readily available, the perception has arisen over the past years that anyone can jump on and create great work. But it appears we’ve reached a tipping point where skill and talent are valued again.
As the demand for “faster and cheaper” becomes ubiquitous, having the right experience is essential for creating work that’s also “better.” When something is shot on Friday and airs on Monday, you need to be as efficient as possible in executing a creative vision; just having the right tools won’t get it done the best way.
At the same time, the decreasing cost of equipment has opened up the potential of scale in post. An editor on a Steenbeck needed at least an assistant and a couple of apprentice editors to be able to function, and some youngster would have to run all over town making kinescopes and duping mag tracks. Now, an editor can be even more productive by having one assistant who can serve multiple roles simultaneously. For anyone starting out in the industry today, a fluency with platforms, software and formats is required. At the high-end of the business, there will always be room for artists who are at the top of their game, but the demand for offline-only editors will continue to decline. In the exploding landscape of content, the ability to work in a multidisciplinary environment is essential.
Another trend that will only accelerate is the crowdsourcing of talent. Access to broadband allows for collaboration with artists around the world. Being able to send your roto job out at night and have it waiting for you the next morning is powerful. Utilizing skilled artists in less expensive markets leverages efficiencies. Working with the best people for the task at hand, regardless of location, improves the end result. It’s also liberating for talent to live outside of traditional big city media centers and still be able to work with the best people on the best work.
The most interesting thing to look for in the future is the rise of AI. It’s hard to anticipate how this will impact our industry, but it certainly will. Some roles will go away (remember negative cutters?), and new ones will arise (augmented-reality journey builders?). Color correction, sound mixing, VFX and CGI will become part of a tool kit that everyone will have access to. More complete end-to-end capabilities will be at the creator’s disposal. Productivity will increase and ultimately allow more stories to be told. At its core, our business is still (and will hopefully always be) about storytelling. And that original act of creation is one thing robots can’t replace, at least for now.
Dick Gordon is a senior editor at Carousel (http://carousel.nyc) in New York City. His credtis include work for Amtrak, Heineken, Volkswagen, ESPN and Geico.