Pain & Solutions for Digital Post

At SIXTEEN19, we consider ourselves pretty good entrepreneurs.  Good entrepreneurs identify a pain and study it day and night, from all angles, devising and offering a solution that has maximum value to those experiencing that pain.

It is always easiest to market a solution to a problem when the problem is easily expressed and understood and the solution is highly specific:  “You need to get that sharp piece of metal with the flat head into that piece of wood?  Here, this is called a hammer…”  The need for a hammer will be greatest amongst those that have spent the last week trying to pound nails in with rocks or their hand. 

Within the Digital Post industry, there are an endless array of solutions for specific problems.  But we at SIXTEEN19 specialize in management of over-arching workflow pipelines.  The truth is that our product is less easy to express or understand than many.

So what is the current pain in Digital Post Production and how are we strategically poised to address it?

As Digital Post solutions go mobile, the pain is the inability to manage quality and consistency across all shows.  Currently, each production has its own challenges and ad hoc solutions that make it nearly impossible to manage content to standard.  The ill effects of operating without standards are felt in both soft and hard costs:  Soft costs being lack of migration of critical creative decisions (such as color) across departments and inability to collaborate fluidly from a central data repository; while hard costs include long, painful conforms and problem archives.

So what is the ideal solution?  We at SIXTEEN19 are developing a platform that allows for all digital elements to be housed in a robust metadata-rich data repository.  This platform will be able to automate ingestion of any element from any camera or recording device, along with all associated metadata created by multiple sources and professionals.  From there, the platform will manage pipelines to process and share each element as it passes through the factory of professionals in varying departments and back again.  An example would be an original camera file debayered and pushed through a secure Internet connection to a VFX house, along with all metadata and LUTs.  As that shot is worked on, the status of that shot along with all versioning and added metadata can be updated in the master database, such that when shots are delivered the shot itself and the current metadata ripple into current cuts.  From there, metadata and original elements can be easily accessed for finish and distribution.

As entrepreneurs, it is vital to understand our own pains in terms of how we market our solution.

It can be frustrating when you know you have the better mouse trap, because it takes time for the industry to come around.  Solutions are subject to the real world, such as learning curves, budgeting conventions, internal politics, sales cycles and more. Most disruptive products go through a chain of adoption from pioneers to the market-at-large.  Pioneers are willing to work with entrepreneurs to customize solutions whereas the market-at-large requires multiple referrals and success stories.  Trying to force the market-at-large to adopt before it is ready is the cause of most startup failures.


Chief amongst the challenges at SIXTEEN19 is the simple fact that most industries must fully experience the pain before the need for an over-arching solution is pressing.

In our case, the better mousetrap requires a retooling of traditional budgets and in some case the inclusion of a new breed of professionals, such as onset colorist and dailies producer.  

Currently, there is a push amongst studios and production companies to look towards smaller picture budgetary savings.  New digital technology is cheap and powerful compared to old iron, and it is natural to seek to maximize the cost benefits – because you can!  Doing so, however, may be penny-wise-pound-foolish.

The truth is, it is an excellent investment to spend money during production to optimize metadata and manage a standardized pipeline. 

The simple fact is that for most productions that are trying to push files quickly from set to editorial, they are creating future problems that not only cost substantially down the road, but can threaten release and make it exceedingly difficult to restore for future use.  It is difficult to quantify these risks during production, because the ill effects are usually not felt for many months as files are passed between departments and conformed.  Arduous, expensive conforms are the norm for productions that dabble with ad hoc set-to-editorial solutions, and lack of platform standards in the increasingly horizontal market for mobile Post make it exceedingly difficult for studios to be proactive about these problems. 

Contrast this to SIXTEEN19’s set-to-finish management of Dreamworks Studio’s Fright Night (in conjunction with Company3.)  Adding a dailies producing layer and custom pipeline and database support made what would have been a difficult 3D show with numerous challenges introduced by multiple camera sources (RED, SI2K, even some consumer 2D HD) into a highly streamlined, easily conformed success with dailies of a quality that rival any lab, anywhere.

We believe that the short-term savings in Post budgets will not offset the long-term costs and risks associated with ad hoc.  We expect early adopting customers to see the value in introducing managed pipelines that optimize workflows and produce maximum collaboration and rock-solid workflows.

As entrepreneurs we realize that our solution may only be considered by most of the market after the full brunt of the pain has been realized.  When the film history books look back on Digital Post in 2011, it may well be labeled “The Era of Pain.”  But – out of that era will emerge the solutions that will serve as the backbone for standardized metadata workflows for the next 100 years. 


~ by postfilm on March 18, 2011.

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