By Randi Altman
Many of you might know John “Pliny” Eremic, a fixture in New York post. When I first met Pliny he was CTO and director of post production at Offhollywood. His post division was later spun off and sold to Light Iron, which was in turn acquired by Panavision.
After Offhollywood, Pliny moved to HBO as a workflow specialist, but he is also the co-founder— with long-time collaborator Alan Grow — of Endcrawl.com, a cloud-based tool for creating end titles for film and television.
Endcrawl has grown significantly over the last year and counts both modest indies and some pretty high-end titles as customers. I figured it was a good time to dig a bit deeper.
How did Endcrawl come about?
End titles were always a huge thorn in my side when I was running the post boutique. The endless, manual revision process is so time intensive that a number of major post houses flat-out refuse to offer this service any more. So, I started hacking on Endcrawl to scratch my own itch.
Both you and your co-founder Alan are working media professionals. Can you talk about how this affected the tool and its evolution?
Most filmmakers aren’t hackers; most coders never made a movie. As a result, many of this industry’s tools are built by folks who are incredibly smart but may lack first-hand post and filmmaking experience. I’ve felt that pain a lot.
Endcrawl is built by filmmakers for filmmakers. We have deep, first-hand experience with file-based specs and formats (DCI, IMF, AS-02), so our renders are targeted at these industry-standard delivery specifications. Occasionally we’re even able to steer customers away from a bad workflow decision.
How is this different than other end credit tools in the world?
For starters we offer unlimited renders.
Why unlimited renders?
This was a mantra from day one. There’s always “one last fix.” A typical indie feature with Endcrawl will keep making revisions six to 12 months after calling it final. That’s where a flat rate with unlimited do-overs comes in very handy. I’ve seen productions start with a $2-3k quote from a designer, and end up with a $6-10k bill. That’s just for the end credits. We’re not interested in dinging you for overages. It’s a flat rate, so render away.
What else differentiates Endcrawl?
Endcrawl is a cloud tool that’s designed to manage the end titles process only — that is its reason for being. So speed, affordability and removing workflow hassles is our goal.
How do people do traditionally do end titles?
Typically there are three options. One is using a title designer. This option costs a lot and they might want to charge you overages after your 89th revision.
There are also do-it-yourself options using products from Adobe or Autodesk, and while these are great tools, the process is extremely time consuming for this use — I’d estimate 40-plus hours of human labor.
Finally, there are affordable plug-ins, but they deliver, in my opinion, cheap-looking results.
Do you need to be a designer to use Endcrawl?
No. We’ve made it so our typography is good-looking right out of the box. After hundreds of projects, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what does and does not work typographically.
Do you have tips for these non-deisgners regarding typography?
I could write a book. In fact, we are about to publish a series of articles on this topic, but I’ll give you a few:
• Don’t rely on “classic” typefaces like Helvetica and Futura. Nice on large posters, but lousy on screen in small point sizes.
• Lean toward typefaces with an upright stress — meaning more condensed fonts — which will allow you to make better use of horizontal space. This in turn preserves vertical space, resulting in a smoother scroll.
• Avoid “light” and “ultralight” fonts, or typefaces with a high stroke contrast. Those tend to shimmer quite a bit when in motion. Pick a typeface that has a large variety of designed weights and stick to medium, semibold and bold.
• Make sure your font has strong glyph support for those grips named Bjørn Sæther Løvås and Hansína Þórðardóttir.
Do people have to download the product?
Endcrawl runs right in your web browser. There is nothing to download or install.
What about compatibility?
Our render engine outputs uncompressed DPX, all the standard QuickTime formats, H.264 and PDFs. By far the most common final deliverable is 10-bit DPX, which we typically turn around inside of one hour. The preview renders come in minutes. And the render engine is on-demand, 24/7.
How has the product evolved since you first came to market?
Our “lean startup” was a script attached to a Google Doc. We did our first 20 to 30 projects that way. We saw a lot of validation, especially around the speed and ease of the service.
Year one, we had a customer with four films at Sundance. He completed all of his end titles in three days, with many revisions and renders in between. He’s finished over 20 projects with us now.
Since then, Alan has architected a highly optimized cloud render engine. Endcrawl still integrates with Google Docs for collaboration, but that is now connected to a powerful Web UI controlling layout and realtime preview.
How do people pay for Endcrawl?
On the free tier, we provide free and unlimited 1K preview renders in H.264. For $499, a project can upgrade to unlimited, uncompressed DPX renders. We are currently targeting feature films, but we will be deploying more pricing tiers for other types of projects — think episodic and shorts — in 2016.
What films have used the tool?
Some recent titles include Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq and Oliver Stone’s Snowden. Our customers run the gamut from $50K Kickstarter movies to $100 million studio franchises. (I can’t name most of those studio features because several title houses run all of their end credits through us as a white-label service.)
Some 2016 Sundance movies this year include Spa Night, Swiss Army Man, Tallulah and The Bad Kids. Some of my personal favorites are Beasts of No Nation, A Most Violent Year, The Family Fang, Meadowland, The Adderall Diaries and Video Game High School.
What haven’t I asked that is important?
We’re about to roll out 4K. We’ve “unofficially” supported 4K on a few pilot projects like Beasts of No Nation and War Room, but it’s about to be available to everyone.
Also, we have a pretty cool Twitter account @Endcrawl, which you should definitely follow.