By Andrea Keating
President and Founder
So much of the information that we get about the video production industry is about what is new, bigger, and better. But it wasn’t always this way. Since I founded Crews Control nearly a quarter century ago, my team and I have seen a lot of changes in the industry.
Over the last 25 years, we have tracked those changes. It has helped us to navigate our own business, and develop best practices with the thousands of video crews around the world that we book. And, it has also helped us share that information with our clients so that they can be on top of what’s happening in the industry.
For this issue of Be Inkandescent magazine, I asked my trend analyst Rebekah Toth to share that information with readers so that you, too, can learn what has worked for our clients in the past, what is being requested now, and what we forecast for the near future.
Trend Tracker: The Past, Present, and Future of Video
By Rebekah Toth
Trend Analyst, Crews Control
The video production world, like most other industries, is moving forward at lightning speed thanks to new technologies. Just a few short years ago, Crews Control’s clients were using tape—and it was standard definition!
In 2010, however, our most requested format was NTSC, DVCAM, which of course is a standard definition format that shoots to tape.
Remember tape? The biggest hurdle then was making sure the labels were marked correctly. “I’d like a two-person Beta-SP, NTSC crew in London on Tuesday. Please ship the tapes overnight to NYC.” Certainly!
What started the flurry of innovation?
Blame 24p—those 24 harmless little frames per second that achieved the “film look,” but without film processing. Just stick a DV tape into a tape deck and you’re digitizing just like Beta-SP. Przyborski Productions claims it patented 24p video, along with Filmlook. It was showcased in 1991 when Glenn Przyborski directed a Ketchum Advertising spot for Thrift Drug Stores. Panasonic announced the DVX 100 in 2002 as the first 24p DV camera. Producers started to request 24p Mini-DV to change up the static look of video. Since then, every major camera company has been developing digital video technologies that emulate film.
The other innovation that happened in the ’90s was HD. Sony introduced HDCAM in 1997, and consequently, Panasonic ushered in DVC Pro HD and DVC Pro 100. At the time, both of these formats were tape-based. Anytime you have a tape-based format, your post-production facility or in-house media department has to have the correlating deck to digitize the footage.
This means a pretty large buy-in, leaving video teams with the decision to buy Sony or Panasonic. In 2008, when Crews Control started tracking camera formats, 8 percent of our shoots were shot on DVC Pro HD and 1 percent were shot on HDCAM. Fast Forward to 2012: HDCAM still makes up 1 percent of our shoots, with DVC Pro HD at 24 percent.
If you haven’t decided what combination of HD camera/format/manufacturer you should purchase, you might just want to jump to a 4K compatible camera. Sure, you are laughing now, but so far in 2012, 8 percent of our client-requested shoots are still SD. The most popular HD camera formats in 2012 are XDCAM EX (at 46%), DVC Pro HD (at 24%), and XDCAM HD (at 8%). Are you noticing a trend? Our most requested HD formats are tapeless.
The next big shift came in 2005, when Panasonic announced the HVX 200.
This is a tapeless P2 card camera that shoots DVC Pro HD and SD DV to a mini-DV tape for all those reluctant HD digital adapters.
What the heck? HD to a card? How much is the card? Oh, I don’t purchase the card; I get a hard drive. Then, what do I do with the card? I transfer the digital MXF files to a hard drive using a computer or other card reader. So, you are saying I need to download drivers and other software so I can view the files? Let me talk to my editor.
There were some hurdles, to say the least, but tapeless did something very important for video production workflow. It greatly reduced the cost. Post-production facilities could eliminate the need to purchase a deck for each format. Optical discs for XDCAM HD are the exception, and each manufacturer does offer VTRs for their card-based workflows if you choose to go that route.
But the point is you don’t have to. Producers make rough edits on the plane on the way home using a preview/clip-browsing software. The editor gets a hard drive, plugs it into ever-faster inputs (USB 3.0, Firewire 800, E-SATA, Thunderbolt, and so on), and you are only inputting the clips you want to use. This saves time and money from every angle. The tapeless media that is most used on Crews Control shoots in 2012 to date are SxS cards (at 46%) and P2 cards (at 24%), with Optical Discs (at 8%) rounding out the third most-used media, but at a dramatically lower percentage.
The other huge trend is to use video recording devices like the nanoFlash, Pix 240, and AJA Ki Pro Mini to name a few. Crews Control does not yet track the use of these mobile recording devices on our shoots. We do, however, track how many of our represented crews own them. Everyone wants the formats and workflows to be streamlined, although there is no single, long-term, clear leader format/media/workflow.
The video production industry has defined how it likes to work best … give us a high-definition digital file. I’ll take that on a hard drive, please.
The issue that surfaces most in tapeless media is how and what should you archive. Optical Discs are an easy answer to this question. If you already have real estate for your Digi-Beta masters, you’ll just increase that space a little to incorporate optical discs. If you have decided to use a card-based media, then you are looking at redundant storage in at least two locations that can be regularly accessed and maintained.
The next push was for 3-D. The big event was a non-event. I’ll leave it at that.
So where are we today—and where will be tomorrow?
Our data shows that many video teams are using large-sensor digital cinema cameras.
Why? Because Canon changed the direction of video production with the introduction of the EOS 5D Mark II DSLR camera. This wasn’t Canon’s first DSLR, by any stretch, but it seemed to be what sparked the large-sensor revolution for our client base, in conjunction with the RED Digital Cinema Camera company.
Let’s face it, large-sensor cameras like Sony’s PMW-F3, Canon’s C300, and Panasonic’s AF100 look fantastic no matter what you are shooting. Large-sensor cameras are available in all shapes, sizes, and price points. The film world is replacing 35mm with Arri Alexas, Phantoms, and Sony F65s.
New technology raises the level of artistry. It infuses the video world with creative juices as video production and film production fuse into digital cinema.
The worried cries of, “What is going to be the ‘new Beta’?” have died down to a whisper and have been replaced with the excited chatter of, “What is the next camera, format, sensor, and lens that I need to use or buy?”
About Rebekah Toth: Rebekah is Crews Control’s official “social butterfly” as she spends her day fluttering between blogs, tweets, podcasts, and surfing the web. She is also a self-proclaimed video geek who keeps us all up-to-date on technical solutions and new gear. If it’s the latest and greatest, Toth is the first to know about it—and she looks forward to sharing that knowledge with all of our followers and friends. A true multitasker, Toth can even pat her head and rub her belly at the same time. When she isn’t camping, white-water rafting, or trying some new food, she’s reaching for the crown of “podcasting princess.” Check out Toth in action on Crews Control’s Podcast page. Questions? Send Toth an email at email@example.com.
About Andrea Keating, founder, Crews Control: When Andrea Keating founded Crews Control in 1988, it was the first-ever, film-and-video-crew staffing agency. Since then, the company’s focus has been to match each client with the perfect local crew for each specific shoot. “That means we can offer our clients the quickest response time when they need to book a crew, and then provide the most dedicated customer service in the business,” she says. For more information, contact Keating by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.