By Randi Altman
Eighteen-year-old Nice Shoes, an independently owned post house in New York City, has steadily been growing its footprint over the past few years by building a network of remote partnerships with other post houses around the country.
They are currently working with EngineRoomEdit in Boston, Republic Editorial in Dallas, Vapor Post in Miami, Pluto in Detroit, and most recently announced a relationship with Storyville in New Orleans designed to help bring more advertising work to the Big Easy.
Nice Shoes Remote Viewing features a secure HD feed and a display calibrated by the studio’s engineers to match exactly with the monitors in New York. The delay between New York and any of the cities involved is negligible, according to Nice Shoes (measured in milliseconds), so the companies can work together in realtime. A dedicated computer running Google Chromebox for Meetings connects clients, allowing them to collaborate easily.
Says Nice Shoes CTO Robert Keske, “We’ve built our solution around the following objectives: It must be color accurate, secure, low bandwidth and remotely managed. When displaying any image within our industry the image quality is paramount, but we also need to deliver the signal securely in such a way that the image cannot be highjacked when transmitted to Storyville or any of our partners. Secondly, we maintain the service level Nice Shoes is known for by having Nice Shoes technical staff manage and maintain the entire solution.”
For its remote work, Nice Shoes is using Panasonic pro displays calibrated using the Minolta CS-200 luminance and color meter. Nice Shoes artists call on Filmlight’s Baselight for color grading, while the VFX and creative teams use Autodesk Flame, The Foundry’s Nuke and the Adobe Creative Suite.
“We can connect our Remote clients to any artist working at Nice Shoes on any platform,” says Keske.
According to CEO Dominic Pandolfino, “The companies we’ve gotten involved with are all independently owned. They have a resistance to teaming up with conglomerate companies run by billionaires. They have nothing in common with them. We share the same values, the same apprehensions, and the same goals. That’s why I’m excited to be working with Storyville. They come from the same mold as Nice Shoes. Sergio Lopez (founder and executive producer, Storyville) and his team have built a wonderful space for their clients to create, and we’re proud to be partnering with them.”
On the heels of this news, I threw some questions at Pandolfino.
Regarding your latest partnership with Storyville, you mention targeting advertising, but New Orleans, and Louisiana in general, has been a go-to place for film and television production recently. Do you think this collaboration might move to TV or films as well as spots?
I think the industry has been moving away from specialization for a while, which means that everyone is doing what everyone else does. If you are an editorial company, you more than likely have moved into finishing work and more recently, color grading, design and VFX. It doesn’t mean that just because you bought a color grading system you are a color grading company or even proficient at it.
While New Orleans and Storyville, in particular, have been working in feature films, the focus of this partnership is to bring in commercial work. That being said, I do think that it is natural for companies like Nice Shoes to find success in crossing over disciplines from commercial work to episodic or film VFX, although you have to be mindful of the fact that it is a different workflow with different sensibilities, so that it’s not such an easy crossover.
Nice Shoes is 18 years old and independently owned. To be around for so long and remain independent is quite an accomplishment. Can you talk about the benefits of being independent and why it was so important to partner with like-minded studios?
I once ran a post house, Manhattan Transfer, that in its time, was considered one of the best in the business. It was renowned for its attention to detail, excellence of service, quality of work and friendliness toward the clients and the employees alike. At its height, it was sold and almost instantly it changed stripes. It was looked upon as a huge money maker that did great work, whereas we looked at it as a place that did great work and made money. That’s a huge philosophical and cultural difference.
When we started Nice Shoes, we built it to emulate the fine points of our previous home and added a lot of new components that would help propel us. Companies are living, breathing organisms that reflect the character of the people that work there. If a company is bottom-line driven, it will reflect that, eventually. Here at Nice Shoes, we are always mindful of the bottom line but we don’t allow it to drive the work that we take in or the favors that we do for our friends. We don’t have to sneak around to do it. We are built to be there for our clients and only have to answer to ourselves, not a nebulous board of directors.
The companies that we partner with on our remote work are all independently owned companies that believe in the same entrepreneurial spirit of independence and gamesmanship. That’s a huge part of the success of our equation. Small independently owned companies working with a NY independently owned studio allows us to talk the same language because we come from the same culture.
Can you talk a bit about the NYC market at the moment? Are the tax incentives — the post incentives — helping?
There’s no question that the tax incentives have turned NY into a major center. When I moved here, years ago, I was astonished that it was such a weak marketplace. It was part of Nice Shoes’ mission statement to turn NY from an oasis to a mecca. When Mayor Bloomberg was elected, Katherine Oliver, the NYC Film Commissioner came to Nice Shoes for a gathering of AICE members. We were all asked what we thought would be necessary to help build NY into a healthier market. I said tax incentives because nothing talks like saving money.
I was told that there was no way that the mayor would allow for tax incentives since the city was not in good financial shape. Over time, and perhaps as the city became stronger, we got our incentives and the marketplace is booming. To be fair, the episodic marketplace has been bumper-to-bumper for years but that is good for the entire industry, and it is due to the tax incentives.
What’s next for post? Is it 4K?
It seems to me that there is an insatiable desire to continually explore new technical ground. This is partly “geek driven” and partly financially driven. HDTVs have saturated the marketplace and the rush to buy them has ended so the big manufacturers now have to create a new buzz to increase sales.
I think that for many post houses, new workflows that allow you to capture, create, manipulate and produce images is a far more compelling story. Studios with the brightest minds are trying to figure out how to conduct business so that we can work more efficiently, now and in the future. We at Nice Shoes are proud to be a leader in figuring out the ways to best serve our clients. Nothing puts a smile on our clients’ faces more quickly than when we achieve the impossible for them and make it look like it was easy.