Euro post houses on upswing

Renewed energy was apparent at last week’s opening of the Intl. Broadcasting Convention, the 16th such get-together, and a new era of growth in the European post-production community seems under way, say industry observers.

Started in 1967, the biennial convention this year went annual for the first time, a response to industry demand and the ascendance of multimedia technologies. The show runs through Sept. 18 at the RAI Convention Center in Amsterdam.

With the increased commercialization of Euro TV, post-production houses are finding more and more opportunities in areas such as broadcast graphics – especially opening credit sequences – and special effects.

Growing in Europe

“We’re finding a growing industry in the European community,” says attendee Janet Luhrs, exec director of the New York-based Intl. Teleproduction Society, the post industry’s predominant trade org.

Attendee Kirk Knapp, Silicon Graphics’ marketing manager for film, video and broadcast, confirms that view: “Post-production and the broadcasting industry in Europe are worth billions, as we’re seeing delivery over different types of media. Broadcasters in Europe are becoming much more adventurous with new technologies and much more willing to experiment.” For example, there are more “virtual sets” in Europe than in the U.S., says Knapp, referring to computer-generated environments.

Adds Luhrs, “There are post-production hotbeds all over Europe. Paris is a thriving post center – in fact, 61 French companies just became new members of the ITS.” Hilversum, just outside of Amsterdam, is a busy teleproduction center, he says, “kind of like Burbank on the North Sea. There’s also a lot of activity in Italy, but it’s not concentrated in Rome, just like the German post houses aren’t all concentrated in any one city.”

Although London has long been the European advertising center, and post-production was nurtured there on the commercial work, companies on the continent are beginning to catch up to it. London, however, does enjoy a reputation as the home to especially creative animators and effects artists, some of whom find themselves recruited by Hollywood companies.

“All the post houses in London would like to show clients that they don’t have to take their projects to Hollywood,” says Luhrs. “But everyone in a city like Hamburg would like to show clients that they don’t have to go to London.”

The IBC boasts some 400 post-production and broadcast hardware exhibitors. Organizers said they expected 25,000 attendees from 96 countries.

Exhibiting companies include Silicon Graphics, IBM, Rank Cintel and Avid.

The IBC’s Tony Lawes tells Variety that the convention is no longer “just about technology. Whereas 10 to 20 years ago, engineers made the buying decisions, now creative people – producers and directors – have much more input. This is becoming a user-friendly field.”

Widescreen awards

Perhaps as a reflection of the increased input from creative types, the IBC this year has organized the first Intl. Widescreen Festival-Le Nombre d’Or Awards. The program will consist of 33 films made and exhibited in the widescreen format known as 16×9. The judges’ panel is headed up by Oscar-winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (“Apocalypse Now”).

Not that Europe’s premiere post-production confab has lost its techie edge: Show highlights include presentation of academic papers, panels and workshops focusing on topics such as digital terrestrial TV, MPEG compression and transborder satellite transmission.

Show drawbacks

Attendees grumble, however, about some of the show’s drawbacks: One Hollywood exec who spoke on panels last year, for instance, recalls that some were attended by fewer than a dozen audience members.

Product announcements at this year’s gathering include the Modern Times Group’s unveiling of an Internet browser that allows European consumers to access the Web and other online resources through TV sets with teletext capability. The system will be available for delivery to broadcasters in November.

Software developer Discreet Logic debuted its Fire system for nonlinear random-access editing, and another product called Wire, a network system which allows different pieces of hardware within a post facility to communicate with one another.

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