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New York, New York

Business Is Up (The Battery’s Still Down)

There’s no shortage of optimism among New Yorkers involved in productionand postproduction. Shifts in technology have only made things better, ashas the overflow of business from the West Coast. Many of the New Yorkfacilities are reporting gains as high as 20 percent in revenues for thepast year, compared with a year earlier.

A common thread is the awareness among clients of the capabilities ofcomputer-based systems. Post houses are being asked for the formerlyimpossible and are happily complying. Thanks to these systems, editors arebecoming more multifaceted, and the economical start-up of boutiqueoperations has been facilitated.

Component digital editing and mastering also has become more common.Meanwhile, some of the facilities are gearing up for a high-definitionfuture, with network production in the medium now appearing likely in acouple of years.

While studio space has been opened up by a shakeout in talk shows, studiossee Cosbyand Spin City as only the beginning of renewed sitcom productionin New York. The overflow of production from the West Coast, some reason,may dictate the best possible use of the smaller New York stages.

“It’s an exciting time,” asserts Owen Plotkin, vice president and editor atEditing Concepts. “Since editing has moved to computer-based systems, theeditor has become more of a part of the creative process and has developeda wider range of expertise. Clients are becoming aware that we can do morein the edit, such as adding graphics, type design, animation, and sounddesign.”

Editing Concepts recently added a sound design division called corncob.Full-time sound designer Peter Lopez, with a music composition background,is assisted by an Avid Audiovision disk-based recording and editing systemand a MIDI studio. The facility recently did sound design for commercialsfor Aerosoles, via Jerry and Ketchum; Ikea, out of Deutsch Advertising; andMajor League Soccer, via McCann-Erickson.

Upgraded software is allowing better response to a wide range of clientideas, reports Joey Princz, graphic designer at PrinczCo Productions. Forexample, he notes, Alias Power Animator software has made it possible toreplicate hair and give it a flowing quality. PrinczCo also is combiningsoftware packages from different computer platforms to accomplish suchresults as those in a commercial for Pampers. Here a title was flownthrough a pore of a magnified swatch using Adobe After Effects and aMetatools Flo-Motion plug-in. Meanwhile, title animation was composited inHal Express.

Princz notes his facility has added a ColorVision Copernicus colorcorrector to its telecine bay. This will allow PrinczCo to do tape-to-tape,as well as film-to-tape, color correction.

Robert Weisgerber, president of Metropolis Studios, points out thatboutiques with six or seven persons have multiplied as a result ofinexpensive technology. Although they use a wide range of format choicesand still deliver an acceptable product, he notes, “you can’t force thetechnology on the client.”

Equipped with CCIR 601 serial digital switchers and distribution system andPhilips LDK-10 switchable cameras, Metropolis is still doing less than fivepercent of its work in 16:9 aspect ratio, Weisgerber says, but he expects amajor upsurge in this work in the next two years. Along with music andvariety programming in the format for Japan’s NHK network, Metropolis hasalso done corporate 16:9 productions for clients like AT&T.

Mark Polyocan, vice president of Tape House, also expects to see anear-term upsurge in 16:9 high-definition work. His company is ready with aPhilips Spirit datacine, which transfers in HDTV as well as in NTSC andPAL. He reports doing HDTV transfers for Rebo’s corporate presentations andfor CBS and PBS showpieces, aimed partly at acquainting advertisers withthe medium.

Tape House did film-to-tape transfer in HDTV on the Robert Altman film ThePlayer for New Line Cinema. This is one of the first New Line films to gointo the DVD format. Meanwhile, the facility continues to stress digitalwork and has ordered a Quantel Editbox. With everything working off aserver in this nonlinear, digital editing room, Polyocan says, this willmake for a faster, more self-contained operation.

Producers and art directors at advertising agencies are becoming morecreative in availing themselves of the latest graphic tools, asserts DavidBinstock, president of Rhinoceros Editorial & Post. Enhanced graphicscapabilities were a significant factor in the recent $3 million,12,000-square-foot expansion onto an additional floor and a half.

While accomodating a business overflow, Binstock notes, the expansion hasincluded acquisition of a Discreet Logic Flame, upgrading of the Macintoshdepartment, a new Alias/Wavefront for 3-D graphics, and two additional Avidoffline suites for a total of five. He was contemplating acquisition ofeither a Quantel Henry or Discreet Logic Fire.

Commercials, teasers and opens have been calling for an edgier, grittierkind of animation, relates Andrew Kaplan, coordinating producer at GTGroup. This “urban” feel recently was applied by GT on an open for CBS’s 48Hours, which included light flares and quick movement. Also, an open forYankees baseball games on MSG Network includes fast cuts, layering,textures and fast-moving type.

GT recently was testing Scitex’s Stratasphere offline/online editingsystem, which it has been using for rough cuts as well as finished masterconforms. Kaplan explains, “We’ve been in effect a short-format animation,special effects, and design facility, but Stratasphere will allow us to dolong-format pieces and function as a true post editing facility.”

At Post Perfect, Kory Diskin, executive vice president of sales, commentsthat clients are demanding editors who can work in a variety of digitalenvironments and “who can smoothly transition from the edit suite to theInferno without missing a beat.”

Recent equipment acquisitions at Post Perfect include, for colorcorrection, a Rank Cintel Ursa Diamond telecine and a daVinci Renaissance8:8:8 for color correction; for offline, two Avid Media Composer 8000s withAVR 77 and DVE; for 3-D, an Infinite Reality Board and an SGI MaximumImpact; and for 2-D, a Quantel Hal Express.

In studio facilities, New York operations are looking for ways to attractmore sitcom production from the West Coast overflow. Lifetime Studios hasfound a way to overcome the usual requirement of more than 20,000 squarefeet, according to Mitchell Brill, director of studio operations. Lifetimehas three stages at the Kaufman-Astoria complex in Queens, but one is fullydedicated to its own production. Meanwhile, Kaufman’s 26,000-square-footstage is dedicated to Cosby.

So Lifetime and Kaufman have connected two stages electronically for a20,000-square-foot total, with the Kaufman stage run out of Lifetime’scontrol room. “While we shoot in our Studio One,” Brill says, “they can bebuilding on the Kaufman Stage H.” This approach was used for the unsold FoxTelevision pilot 13 Bourbon Street.

Part of the Kaufman-Lifetime setup, left intact for future productions, isan Avid editing facility owned by Moving Pictures. With Lifetime Studiosreportedly negotiating for four more sitcoms, Ron Honsa, president andexecutive producer at Moving Pictures, expects to continue this facility asa satellite operation, noting he also can bid independently for work.

The satellite facility has two suites with Film Composers and one with anonline Avid 8000, plus a sound room with a ProTools 4.0 workstation. Honsawas negotiating independently with Henson Productions and MTV for use ofthose facilities.

Rosemarie Russell, business development executive at CBS, Inc., reports nowhaving space for another talk show along with some other availableinventory among its nine studios. While accomodating outside clients in itsown facilities by taking down and rebuilding sets within a day, CBS is alsoproviding expertise for off-site work. This includes work at the EdSullivan Theater when The Late Show With David Letterman is on hiatus andmanaging Martha Stewart Living Television’s Westport, Connecticut, studioand production facility.

HBO Studio Productions is nearly finished with the expansion of itsnonlinear capacity, according to Judy Glassman, director of marketing. Thisincludes, most recently, four new online rooms with Avid Media Composer8000s with component digital input and output and built-in Pinnacle DVEs.The operation recently opened its Audio A voiceover booth to complement thethree mix rooms already online.

Glassman reports repeated corporate requests to capture Internet materialand transfer it for inclusion in 525-line presentations. One such requestfor a recent 90-second corporate presentation also involved Henrycompositing and typesetting on the Macintosh.

Sitcom work has added to a growing marketplace already heightened by cableproduction and promotion work for a new New York independent TV station,WBIS, says National Video executive vice president Andrew Lustig. With SpinCity being shot at New York’s Silver Screen Studios, National is doing theaudio mixing and laugh track for the DreamWorks show. Lustig notespostproduction talent is following the work from Los Angeles to New York.

With a facility already in Boston, National has its newest operation inWestport, Connecticut. The all-component-digital facility offers audio andvideo postproduction and graphics. Although most of its work comes from NewEngland, Lustig notes, some New York advertising executives use it in orderto work close to their homes.

Along with their video counterparts, New York audio facilities are lookingfor new ways to increase creativity and efficiency. For SuperdupeRecording, this recently meant addition of Fairlight’s F.A.M.E. system,reports general manager Jesse P. Mell.

“It provides us with a totally integrated audio postproduction system,”Mell says. “It combines all the functions of a 24-track recorder, a digitalaudio workstation with full graphical editing, and a totally automateddigital mixer capable of being configured for most surround sound andstereo mixing applications.”

Jackie Sparks, general manager of East Side Audio, reports an increasingnumber of West Coast creative editorial shops are developing a bi-coastalpresence and/or working relationships with New York directors. This hassupplemented an East Side client base heavily composed of ad agencies andeditors.

“The newest and most requested piece of gear at East Side,” she notes, “isthe Sony DVR2100. Since it went online in November of 1996, it has been inconstant use. Clients are able to walk in with their D-1 masters and leavewith those masters relayed.”

The influx of series work into New York has been a boon to ManhattanTransfer, according to president Dan Rosen. Manhattan has worked both onCosby and on Homicide. Rosen reports growth in film-to-tape transfer andediting but says the greatest gains in the past year have been in graphicsand visual effects.

“In visual effects,” he asserts, “we’re not wedded to specific tools. Ourartists are adept in Flame and Inferno as well as in Henry and Editbox.”

“Our major appeal to clients is that we have an international reach,” saysEarl Adams, marketing manager, Worldwide Television News Productions, NewYork. “We are able to provide people with facilities abroad, and we canutilize our infrastructure to take care of our clients’ crewing needsaround the world.” In business for 10 years, Worldwide Television NewsProductions has recently completed production and satellite transmissionfrom CeBit, the world’s largest computer trade show, for Ray BlockProductions and their client, Seaman’s.

Digital Universe opened its doors in July of ’96 as a result of purchasingEdefx, New York, and equipment from Editel, New York. The facility recentlyupgraded its equipment to include Avid’s Illusion, running on SGI’s Onyxworkstations; Softimage, and ColorVision’s Copernicus. “This systemseperates colors much cleaner than other systems,” says president WalterLefler. “It gives us more control over color seperation.” Clients includead agencies, long- and short-format films, and they also have a strongduplication and conversion market for which they recently installed anAlchemist standard converter.