Remote Audio Post-Production Future
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the world. The terrible economic fallout alone represents an unprecedented tragedy for people and businesses alike that will leave the world reeling for years. So much will never be the same. And within this crisis, each sector of the economy and countless industries are facing their own individual challenges. Many organizations have been forced to shut down their operations, and the entertainment industry is not, and won’t be the exception.
Several film productions have been rescheduled due to this crisis. Other projects, initially developed for the big screen, moved to digital release instead. And many TV shows have been put on hold, to the point that there’s a lot of uncertainty as to whether they’ll finally see the light or not.
With theatres closed, there’s no way to project movies. With travel and lockdown regulatory restrictions, there’s no way to film or produce movies, and with only essential employees allowed into studios and production offices, film production, and everything under its umbrella, is waiting for the miracle. Even a giant as massive as Hollywood is struggling to keep up.
Delays and impact
It would have been impossible to envision something capable of stopping the success of the film industry. If you think of today’s most profitable franchises like Marvel, a year ago it would have been reckless to even suggest that its success would be at stake in 2020. Be that as it may, Marvel has pushed back the release of Black Widow to November, changing their entire Phase-4 schedule.
The next James Bond movie, No Time to Die, has also been moved to a November release. The next Mission Impossible also pushed back, and the next installment of Fast & Furious won’t be released until 2021.
TV shows are also facing a similar scenario. New seasons releases have been pushed back and rescheduled, while many other indie projects are on the verge of disappearing.
The creative workaround
Is there a way to get past this situation? In some cases, it is indeed possible. Live TV shows, for example, starting testing their “at home” episodes. Saturday Night Live, for instance, did it last April, and while the reception was mixed, there were some high notes.
Other live shows tested other modifications, like filming without an audience and having contestants or guests perform or attend directly from their homes.
A new business model
Since theatres have been heavily hit due to the pandemic, some analysts feared most production houses could face bankruptcy due to the massive blend of debt, lockdown, restrictions, and social distancing protocols. So far, the vast majority of them have managed to maintain a healthy flow of liquidity.
But these companies have made more headlines during the pandemic for their strict stance against other major companies like Universal: rather than accepting further delays, studios are pushing to turn yet-to-be-released movies into digital releases, allowing viewers to stream films on in-home platforms for a fee.
In fact, Universal did try this with the movie Trolls World Tour, bringing in around $100 million, which was less than the first Trolls box office of more than $120 million, but this distribution method allowed the company to earn nearly the same sum in about one-fifth of the time.
It also set a new record for digital release earnings, which proves the concept for streaming debuts, making theaters consider a new existential threat.
The remote post-production future
Aside from cinemas v.s streaming, many other industries and many more people in film production and TV shows are now telecommuting. Saturday Night Live and other similar shows showed how Zoom-related technologies allow for on-air collaboration. But, as mentioned in other articles, this is just scratching the surface.
Actors in scripted shows, films, and videos may always need to physically visit sets and other locations to film and shoot. The industry seems to be realizing, nonetheless, that it can definitely shift other stages of the workflow to remote post-production. Some barriers remain untouched, especially for advanced special effects and sound work. It’s definitely another challenge to get cutting-edge computing power and internet speed into the average home office, but post-production crews, audio included, with high-end devices, this is certainly feasible.
We will likely see a surge in the tools that will help the post-production industry adapt to this “new normal”. From cloud-based solutions to collaboration platforms, workflows will certainly change and adapt to the new necessities, ensuring that the final product is developed under high-quality standards. Many stages, like closed captions and subtitles, sound, and even some ADR, can be done remotely, but it still requires some tuning before we can all celebrate. Be that as it may, this new reality has brought a whole lot of challenges, but the industry will slowly get past them.