The future of post
I would like to hear comments on the following. Discreet/Autodesk is proposing a new business model for the post business.
The interview with a discreet regional sales manager for an international post webzine. He stated that discreet is changing its way of conducting business because:
1-Todays clients don't give a damn on what system their projects are done.
2. The charge per hour is a fading reality due to the falling prices of systems.
3. The emerging way is to charge by project.
4. The client willl rarley sit next to you, he will keep in touch via internet or by scedueled visits.
5. Post house will not need to buy permanent licenses for apps. they will be able download from discreet temporary licenses on a per project need. These could be editing, compositing, 3d, apps and any new thing that might come up.
6. Discreet will be making a new line of products that will be in tune with tha new business realities, but will be compatible with prior products.
This sound interesting maybe they will sell a special hardware compatible only with their new business model.
To quote the Beau Brummels (a great mid-60's band from San Francisco if ever there was one): "Laugh, laugh, I thought I'd die -- it seemed so funny to me..."
This is "thinking outside the box" taken into insanity...
Because no plug-in vendor in the After Effects marketspace has *ever* been able to make that business model work. Everyone knows that *someday* streaming will be the Next Big Thing. But when is *someday*??? That's the question...
I don't doubt that *someday* people are going to buy online and that stores will be a quaint memory like the soda fountain from the early 1900's and the malt shop of the 1940's and 50's.
Today, people *still* want to hold something in their hands. Buying intangible assets has always been a tough sell no matter the market and the "Just pay us BIG money and download your new app from the Net" model has never worked. I can't name a single company for whom that model has been successful.
And with Discreet's batting record of late, I don't expect them to hit the first home run out of the park.
Just my two cents.
(who's looking through his collection for his Beau Brummels CD now)
It's forward looking, but at an oblique angle...
I for one can tell you that clients MOST CERTAINLY DO care what system their project is cut on... When I walk a client through the door and into the Avid suite, their relief is palpable... particularly the ad folks. FCP is starting to get alot of street cred too, but it's not quite up there... Now when I walk a client into either of our Digisuite rooms, I have to do a BUNCH of explaining about how versatile Premiere or Edit (Touche, Discreet) is when powered by the Matrox hardware, "You'll never know the difference..." is received with doubt and concern... a few hours later, granted, they aren't thinking about it so much, but it's always there, especially when Discreet hiccups and has to do a little render of some motion graphics or something...
As far as charging by the project, well, sometimes we do it... most often on the bigger theatrical type things that we get into. But Discreet can say whatever they want regarding this, post facility owners aren't about to give up billable hours. The tools may becoming cheaper, but my big clients are still going to come to the big post house, not to billy-joe-bob's house of post with their super cool vegas video setup... why ? Not because Vegas isn't wicked cool (It is), or because Billy-Joe-Bob might not be good, but because a client wants to KNOW that their deadline project is going to happen. They want to KNOW that if the suite that's dedicated to their project fails, it's moving into the FCP suite next door. They want to KNOW that no matter what, their project will be done efficiently, utilizing the highest standards, and with proffesional grade finishing...
I've spent alot of time shouting on these forums about how the technology is leveling the playing field, it is, but I haven't witnessed some explosion in talent to go with it. I have pals who are using their FCP setups to edit cool home movies and travelogues, and I have been gratified to see opportunity extend itself to a few talented folks who weren't able to knock the door down at the local Mega-Post-House. The future of business DOES seem to be about convergence, and I believe that most of the individual markets (broadcast, feature, corporate, etc) will continue to be dominated by several really big players each, and a nice selection of middle ground companies. An army of Discreet Edit wielding individuals is not going to sweep these players away... There's only so much work, and true profit is found in getting alot of it. There's so much more than just the cost of the software, there's the cost of the people, the marketing, the facilities, the decks, the other hardware, the accountants, Marketing, the lawyers, and, and, and...
As to renting my app on a project by project basis, I'd have to say that your Discreet guy is smoking asbestos, cause' it ain't gonna happen... Maybe Microsoft will pull it off with Word, but if software NLE's are going to be so cheap, why should I keep paying for it again and again. And what happens that one time I need to edit and Discreet's servers are down. NO WAY.
MY 25 cents...
"Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it."
In the case of computer history it is quite tragic not to know the history, because there is so little of it and it happend a very short time ago.
Is it even worth listing the "well thought out", looks good on paper, utter failures that followed this model?
Didn't Circuit city come up with some sort of ultra cheep DVD that required paying a nominal fee to take the disk home (about what you would pay for a rental) and then an even more nominal fee every time you wanted to re-watch it? Now that makes a lot of sence. It is way cheeper then renting and even cheeper then owning unless you watch your movies a LOT.
But it didn't work. There is a certain, fundemental soundness in owning something. Now, given their track record it is likely that future discrete coustomers might wish to limit their liabilaty and dependence on discrete by never commiting to their products more then a month or so at a time. That would be understandable. However this is a limited phenominon and not a market ideal.
There is a large segment of the market that looks at things quite differently. Every piece of equipment I own was paid for off the procedes of a single production. Once I paid for it, I owned it. From that point on, I could charge for using it and either take the profit to live on, or plow it into other equipment. After a couple of years of modist projects and modist living, I had quite a stack of resources to bring to bear on a clients production. At no further cost to me. What I realized was that as long as I was renting time from post houses and cameras from rental houses, I was making 10-15 percent of the budget. Once I owned the equipment, I was making something more like 70-80 percent of the budget. Now, why would I want to move back to a buisness structure where I go back to renting again?
Now let's look at the other side of the equation. I now work for a large company. If the money is available to purchase equipment I will still go out of my way to make do with what I have simply because the PROCESS of getting a purchase order cut getting bids, explaining why I want brand x instead of brand y, is such a hassle that I really don't want to do it. Now WHY would I ever put myself in a position where I have to do this for every project. This is lunacy.
Now, let's look at the bigist problem with this ignorance from discrete. They totaly fail to realize the impact their product and others has had on the market. They have long boasted about how they have changed the post production industry but they clearly don't believe their own marketing hype, even though in this case it is true.
I have writen before in other venues on the following thesis. "Those who simply replace there linier, tape based editing suites, on a one for one basis, with new non linier editing suites, then step back and say "look, we have joined the digital age" fail totaly to understand the impact or the promise of the age they are futaly attempting to join."
NLEs do not change the way you edit so much as they change the way you do your entire job.
Consider the following analogy. Long ago, men did not type. Executives had their secretaries who typed for them and middle management had their secretary pools that typed for them. Into this work environment we introduce the computer. All the "exceptionaly bright" forward thinking people instantly understand the full impact of this technology and replaced, on a one for one basis every typwriter with a computer word processor. And business continues on exactly as before. (appologies for the sexist nature of the history lesson, but lets face it, history was sexist)
Is there anyone who doen't see, in retrospect, how limited the vision was?
I would submit to you, the way discrete, and many of us, think of the editing an post industry, post NLE is exactly as myopic.
Perhaps this is the strength of FCP. It seems FCP users "get it" they understand that FCP doesn't just change the way the edit. It changes the way they write, the way they shoot, even the way the pitch their projects.
This industry has built a tradition around the post production phase of the production process that was largly the result of cost. Because of the excessive cost of editing equipment and therefore the excessive cost per hour of sitting in an online suite certain practices grew in popularity because they were efficient. I recall MANY nights sitting up checking my paper EDLs for color framing accuracy to save time the next day in the online session.
How silly would I be to do that same job today when I have a full function editor sitting on my desktop. The shear ECONOMY of cheap NLEs has made the offline process an anacronysim. Today you can begin to edit your show while you draw your story boards, cut them together see how they flow. You can edit while you write, if you work from stock footage or interviews that have already been shot, why not see how it cuts together while you are writing. It doen't cost you anything now. Just open another app and go to town. You can edit while you shoot. Instead of hitting the craft service table during setups, just sit in your chair with your laptop and see how that last shot matches up with all the others. This is the future of the NLE.
Here is where the Discrete business plan disintegrates. With discrete we can't just open up another app. OUR APP. Suddenly we once again have to think about cost. And that is unacceptable.
I think the other hole in the "Rent-an-App" plan is that we as technicians and artists have to get comfortable with our tools to be efficient with them. If I was changing edit or composite apps every week and a half, I'd be all thumbs...all the time (as opposed to now, when I've successfully contained it to only half the time).
If you've ever witnessed someone who can truly make AE sing or a Symphony chew up footage and effects like it was crepe paper...it's obvious those guys didn't download their software this morning.
Experience with your tools allow you to create. Otherwise you're wasting lots of time just looking for the right button.
The Beau Brummels?! They were fantastic in "Village of the Giants"!
By far, Ronny Howard's best work as an actor.
And how can you forget the Beau Brummels cranking out "Woman" while 9 foot tall ducks shake there tail feathers! Awesome stuff!
No successful business model?
Who do you know that owns a Panavision film camera?
No one. You can only rent from them. That way they make sure that EVERY camera is at latest hardware, software level. (No finger pointing about problems either).
At the highER end of post I believe this model will work.
Let discreet worry about keeping the hardware and software up to date. If they do not serve me well, I'll stop my monthly payments.
Here's another successful business model close to home: The entire Avid offline system rental market. People rent what they need for as long as it is needed.
True rental costs are to high to sustain a Normal post host, but if both sides of the equation (owner & discreet like entity) "think different" then a new model could emerge.
I think it works for Panavision because their camera solutions are fairly ubiquitous... If you're shooting a feature (or most high end commercials or broadcast shows) on 35mm in North America, then you're using a Panavision. When you have that kind of a market choke hold you can do that... But let me point at another version of that where the house of cards failed:
As recently as 7 years ago the only SERIOUS provider of moving lights for concerts or other live events was Vari*Lite. They would only rent their gear. This way they assured themselves and their clients of quality, but more importantly they controlled every step of the financial path. At the time they were almost the only game in town so to speak. Then along came High End Systems and Martin with their movers. Both companies sold their lights freely. Their technology was solid, and they could afford to sell and make good margin because they didn't have to support enormous tech staffs to constantly recondition their existing inventory, equally big staffs to support the end users in the field (you had to get a certified 'tech' from Vari*lite with one of their packages), as well as storage and inventory control. These lean mean competitors almost put Vari*lite out of busines... Until they dumped the leasing/rental model, put all their assets into R&D, and started selling their lights.
Now the flip side, is that I don't think your physical equipment analogy holds here (and therefore nor does mine)... Software per use rental would not demand such physically large infrastructure as Panavision or Vari*Lite had to keep in place... But let me draw you a picture:
I use my NLE EVERY day. I use my compositing apps EVERY day. I am not going to engage in a full time rental from anybody when I can get totally competitive products upfront for a one time cost. I already grind my teeth at night because I have to pay Avid yearly service contract fees. I don't know any post house personality who doesn't complain mightily over these ongoing payments. Discreet is in BIG trouble in my opinion anyway, their tools are lagging, their attitude towards their customers sucks (you couldn't even seem to get anybodies attention at their booth at last years NAB, even if you were already an owner), and they have SERIOUS competition these days. Edit is almost a dead app... Flame and inferno are feeling the market incursions of DS, 5D Cyborg, Shake/Tremor, not to mention the constant steady solid prersence of After Effects. And by the way, what dope smoking brain trust at Discreet came up with the name Toxic for a product... Jeez-Louise, WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY THINKING UP THERE ???? For media sharing between Flames and Infernos how about Fuel ? Or Kindling ? MY GOD...
So no, I don't think Discreets pay per use is going to work. It has yet to work for Microsoft and they have a virtual monopoly. Discreet is FAR from that. I think Discreet's management is going straight off the deep end, and at this particular time in our marketplace, I think that could prove to be fatal.
But... most film cameras are quite similar to operate. The buttons are usually in different places when you are talking about NLEs.
Most people who rent cameras are experienced operators. (Or you rent the camera & it's owner at the same time.)
With a software package, the interface is likely to change at a much quicker pace. This could be seen as a positive thing, but it also cuts out the time that users are able to get comfortable with thier equipment, therefore the edit sessions take longer to get the same results than it would if the editors had already been able to put that "time in" with their equipment.
I would venture to guess that most editors would rather spend their time pushing the limits of a system, instead of learning new features when they are in front of the client.
The down time is when editors who own their own systems can "play around" with the equipment and expand their knowledge base. People who rent a camera usually know how to get what they want out of the camera already, because they have experience with it already. (Or else they are spending a lot of money to learn the basics!)
The only way that I would pay to rent an edit system is:
A. I rent an editor with the system who already knows the system very well. or
B. The costs to rent are so low that I can afford to rent the machine when I don't have clients sitting beside me while I learn new features & updates (unless they are willing to pay for that rental time). Most clients don't seem to be willing to do that.
Once again, it comes down to money, but most editors probably wouldn't want to sit down before every session to see if they will get a return on their investment (of time & money).
I would rather my accountant and administrative assistant handle that money calculations, while I handle the editing, during most of the year. Then when I'm not in the middle of a bunch of projects, I can take a hard comprehensive look at my own business model and see if it still reflects my goals.
Panavision is a terrible example for successful rent-only operations. Their business caters to those who only occasionally use the product; those who use cameras daily very often don't rent, they buy from Arriflex. By the way, Arriflex has a much, much larger share of production than Panavision. Which company do you think has the brighter future?
I can see a successful rent-only model for Discreet, but it would involve much longer lease periods, say a year, maybe 6 months, but certainly not a per-use scheme. The technology just isn't there to support that kind of deal, and the economics don't make sense.
I would think a yearly lease would be attractive to many facing an unpredictable future. As I've said before, we buy very little we believe takes longer than a year or two to return it's investment. It's the new reality; you don't want to sink hundreds of thousands of dollars into something your competitor can buy next year for half the price!
Exactly. A year or six month lease would be o.k...It may even be preferable... but a per use fee (if that is even what they are talking about, & I'm not sure that it is) would be foolish.
The "rental" scheme discussed on the flame / smoke user groups has been one of a base software package where one can incrementally "rent" modules as needed. This was NOT a model discussed by discreet reps. but by users who did not want to pay for certain features they would use only rarely. It is some of the user base requesting this approach.
But only if works both ways.
The problem is that flame users want smoke features and smoke users want flame features. But few want to pay for both.
The problem is classic one. A company needs a constant inflow of cash. If you are discreet, you will ultimately sell all the flames that people will buy - at ANY price. Since it is software, it does not break, does not need to be replaced. Soon, no cash coming in. You don't make as much money on upgrades. You reduce staff, your product goes stale. You are gone.
If you are a product buyer - a post house - you want to spend the least money for the greatest return. You want to spend as little money with discreet as possible.
How can this relationship work for both sides? I am always reading about how we (as post professionals) need to be good partners with our clients. It seems that this is not the case when it comes to our vendors.