Post production is main growth area for tape houses
Enterprise Colorvideo Productions is Sydney‚s biggest independent video tape
production house and its general manager, Steve Priest, believes the current increase
in film being finished on videotape will accelerate. Priest also sees a growing
trend for specialization by Australia‚s tape houses, but believes video will
never replace film as a shoot medium.
What hardware developments in the last twelve months, such as digital video equipment, stand to have the biggest impact in Australian video productions in the next couple of years?
The latest hardware developments have been in the area of digital effects, such as Squeezoom by Vital Industries. This piece of equipment in the last four months of installation at ECV has put video tape production on a new and exciting level. It allows the producer using this facility to take s standard frame (shot either on film or videotape) and manipulate it anywhere within a frame, pan up or down, zoom from infinity to eight times its size, spin, turn it inside out and more than 400 effects. There is no loss of resolution or quality during these transitions. Another exciting development is the introduction of scanamation by Image East. This machine is imported from the US and involves the manipulation of the graphics. An example of this is the ATN logo.
I should also mention here the latest developments in cameras and portable videotape equipment such as the RCA TH50, the RCA TK76 and the Thompson CFS camera, which enable on location recording on video tape to be done with a minimum technical crew. The only ancillary piece of equipment is the colour monitor, which is totally portable. This eq2uipment will totally revolutionise all productions originating on videotape. Rank Cintel has introduced Topsy, which is a fully computerised memory for controlling colour grading and all other control functions in telecine.
Another area which is not discussed very often, but will become a reality, is the latest Ampex and Chryon graphic generators. Ampex is developing a machine that can take a normal video frame, freeze it and the artist with a computer pen can, with the use of a special monitor, draw over this frame and reproduce a simulated animated drawing. Chyron has developed a generator that can store any form of artwork on a floppy disc, without the use of artwork.
How up-to-date -is the equipment if Australian tape houses, compared with US production houses?
We are more advanced in some areas, especially in the area of film-to-tape transfers. In the area of computer editing and post production Australia has kept pretty close to the US standards. It is my opinion that videotape production houses in Australia compare admirably as those in the US.
Are the skills/expertise of equipment operators/technicians keeping pace with the introduction of sophisticated new equipment into the country?
Suppliers of the latest trends in updating of equipment constantly inform all videotape production house engineers and technical directors. Technical staff attend training and maintenance programs at NAB in the US for NTSC equipment, Montreux in Switzerland for PAL equipment, and visit videotape production companies and television networks. Generally speaking I feel that our technical staff are more diversified than those in other countries.
Do you foresee the development of specialities in production houses in Sydney or elsewhere in Australia?
Yes. It is happening now. ECV, AAV and VTC have always been the complete videotape production houses. Videolab has specialised in film. TPF has concentrated on originating on videotape. Custom video presumably will be cocentrating on ATN programme productions. Television makers is looking after video trade films and non-broadcast educational films. This list goes on.
Do technological developments in video make it closer to film as a shoot medium? Is the time near when video will replace film?
No, defiantly not. Video will never replace film. It does not matter how small or portable they make videotape, it will never produce the feel and atmosphere that are possible to achieve with 35mm. With the consistent upgrading of telecine and digital video effects, where the client can do his opticals on tape, film has become a very competitive form of originating.
In Sydney, what are the biggest growth areas for production houses? Do you see production houses moving into the area of home video and feature films or other programme material?
The biggest area for videotape production houses has been in the area of post production. Mainly due to the different formats, post production has become in heavy demand. With the introduction of Squeezoom, more and more film is being finished on videotape. In the area of home video, because there are four formats available (U-matic, Betamax, VHS and Philips format) I feel that it would be uneconomical for a company such as ECV to get involved in the distribution of programme material for home viewing. Our only involvement would be in the area of transferring in telecine and mastering for a distribution company.
I predict that when, and if, companies such as Universal, United Artists, Warner Bros, release their major films, this material will arrive in Australia in the form of cassettes ready for distribution.