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The future of post — one man’s vision, part II

By Lucas Wilson

Tremors lead to earthquakes, and the industry has felt a few… the shelves are starting to rattle. And the Big One is not far away.

There is a fundamental change happening in the minds of creators right now. It is possibly the biggest shift since the dawn of film and the ability to make still pictures appear to move.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at YouTube Space LA. They have an open house every Friday, and I like to go. Every time I go, I meet more people who are passionate about creation and distribution.

YouTube Space is a nice studio. Its stages function as broadcast or film-style, with cameras, lenses, grids, hard and soft cycs, a sophisticated master control room, audio post, video post and finishing, graphics, animation, compositing, and more. Cameras are everything from HD-level broadcast gear up to Red Epics and the glass available range from ENG to well-known cine lenses. It is always busy — alive with content, creation, and the overall feel of a creative space.

While there, I talked to two different creators of large YouTube channels. Each channel has well over 10 million total views, and over 1 million subscribers. We spent a long time  talking about different aspects of their process, and I let them lead the conversation.

Here is what they did not talk about:

1) editing
2) color
3) compositing
4) audio
5) finishing
6) Avid, Final Cut, or Adobe.

Here is what they did talk about:

1) Second-screen strategy
2) YouTube monetization structure – how it worked, what they did/did not like
3) Ad network tie-ins
4) The nature of programmatic buying
5) How to tie a YouTube property to alternate streaming and monetization structures
6) Facebook Insights, the news feed, and video tie-ins from FB campaigns.

(That’s the first tremor.)

The content on their channels looks great. I asked them, out of curiosity, how they did the post on their shows. One of them said, “Adobe.” That was it.

This doesn’t mean that production and post production are not important. They clearly are. These channels look very good, and these guys have put a lot of production and post effort into their content. But the tools for doing all that have become so inexpensive and prevalent that not only is it commoditized in the industry, but it is also commoditized in their thinking.

(That’s a bigger tremor.)

Most visual artists want their work to be seen. They have a vision and a message and want to communicate that message. The barriers in that path have traditionally been production/post cost and distribution. Once someone got over those hurdles, getting it noticed and seen was taken care of by other people and the industries behind them.

Up until pretty recently, most post tools were bottlenecked by the price of those systems. Only businesses with access to capital could find the dollars necessary to outfit post gear. I worked for Avid in 2001 when the first DS|HD system was sold in Los Angeles… at a list price of US $300,000. For compositing and visual effects, it really wasn’t that long ago when an Inferno was more than a million dollars. Audio editing? I worked on a Studer Dyaxis when it was close to $200,000.

And once a project was complete, where would it be seen? There were broadcast shows and theatrical releases. Those distribution outlets were so narrow and rarified that you had to be in a major market and then within a studio system in that market just to be considered. (There was the wild west of public access, but that usually started and ended with wild-eyed crackpots and awkward musicians.)

This has been the case for 100 years. The cost of technology and extremely narrow distribution outlets forced creators to focus on those problems and how to overcome them.

That is no longer a problem. (That’s a tremor big enough to knock a few things down…)

I have all the tools for completing a movie on my laptop — editing, effects, audio, color, publish. Including the laptop, the grand total I’ve spent for those tools is under $3,000. I may have to go buy some storage for another couple thousand… or maybe I’ll just let Adobe Anywhere take care of that. And I can distribute that movie via any one of a dozen outlets. That movie is then instantly available on screens worldwide by typing a few characters into a free piece of software — the browser.

The problem now is not tools or distribution — it is “getting noticed.” That is a  fundamental shift. And the mindset shift that accompanies it is an earthquake that could level the post industry.

That is what is on the mind of online creators I talk to. It starts with, “Well, I’ll put up a Website.” And it ends with the kinds of conversations I’ve been having at YouTube.

If you read my last post (, this will sound like a broken record (anachronistic reference, anyone?), but post facilities and the post infrastructure are missing this shift. And in missing that shift, they no longer appeal to most creators.

I used to hear people say they are mixing at a big audio post studio, or that they are going to a large VFX house. Those were badges of honor. That said you had crossed some unspoken line. You had money. You were going to hang with the big dogs and get cookies at PoP or cake at SnackFrame. You may have even been able to utter the magic phrase, “Studio backing.”

Now, I hear, “I’ve got 1,000 likes” and “My channel’s got 10,000 subscribers” as the badges of honor. People aren’t wondering “How’d you get that effect?,” or “Where’d you go for the mix?” They tune in to see how you got that many subscribers and how you got ads and advertisers tied into your Website, and what you do for SEO/SEM, and who has the best Twitter outreach system.

Those are the new walls, and that is where creators need help. The facilities that realize this and can serve those needs won’t have to look hard for new revenue. The creators I meet would flock to a rate card that included things like “Ad Network Setup,” “Channel Optimization,” and “App Store Publishing.” And for the clients you already have in-house, that’s yet another set of services to be offered that keep them in the building.

This is not going to change or go away. The tools will only get easier, and distribution will only get cheaper. But getting noticed will only get harder. And there are very few good services for that right now. And at the end of the day, that is still the root desire for creators — get it done, get it out there and get it seen. Getting it done and out there — not hard anymore. Get it seen — hard. Serve that need, and the money will follow.

And if you don’t think that’s “post production,” meet me at YouTube Space… or Maker… or Machinima… or PopSugar… or…

(But don’t stop with the cookies… people like that…)

Lucas Wilson is currently VP of Business Development at Assimilate, makers of Scratch, and President/CEO of Revelens, Inc., a slightly stealthy start-up in the area of in-stream content monetization, with a first customer launch within 60 days. You can follow Lucas on Twitter @lucasgw.

3 thoughts on “The future of post — one man’s vision, part II

  1. Kristin Petrovich Kennedy

    Lucas – Well done! Right on the nose.
    I would also add that there is much “transition” in movie distribution world as well. The old guard companies need to wake up to the fact that it is building awareness for a movie and essentially 3.0 marketing that is their role. It all goes back to building community in my eyes.

  2. greg le duc

    Another insightful article. Read the first, now this. Look forward to the next. Learning about the YOUTUBE present & the possibly predictable future. Thanks, Greg Le Duc


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