“Big Ideas”

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Tongai Furusa

Is it big productions that bring small ideas? Or is it small productions that bring big ideas. The concept of the big productions creating big ideas is fast becoming a thing of the past.

Back in 2003, when 14 10th started, it took a G4 Mac computer and FCP7 software to start this process of change. The world was beginning to change in itself. The move from the now nostalgic film to digital was slow and met with trepidation.

Editors were digitising HDV Cams and editing (Offline, Online and Grade) on one computer…all in one room. Our first project was the full post-production of an entire 48 part series for SABC all done on a Mac with FCP7: shot on digital cameras with a crew of about four people? Big idea…Small production that was The Pure Monate Show.

This allowed for the dramatic change of the editor and edit suite to use one machine to offline, online and grade – all to broadcast quality. This was the beginning for 14 10th.

Workflow became an easier beast to manage – the industry was changing. The idea of working with new technologies to achieve big results is what has driven 14 10th then and certainly what is driving 14 10th today.

There is a new breed or a new generation of filmmakers who are able to break the ‘quality barrier’ and produce quality content at a more affordable cost and by affordable it does not mean that they lose out financially. What it means, is that this generation is more skilled and more creative and more in touch with their production as their equipment is allowing them to be more in sync with their subject matter.

The biggest fear of our industry is not transformation whether it will work or not work. The biggest fear is that in a continuous arc, the convention of what is a production will change and we will be left in the battle with big swords and muscles only to be slayed by a boy called a millennial with a sling and a stone. Specialisation might be the cry of the old guard, Jack of all trades and master of nothing – no! “An expert of every facet of this ever changing world…” Look around you people! Look around you! Millennials are setting the pace of how life is. The great thing about innovation is that it makes execution more affordable and puts the skill back into the hands of the artists.

How many people do you need to take a shot? Well, in today’s ‘advertising-budget-orientated-commercial-filmmaking-world’ it can be anywhere in the range of R4 million down to pro-bono – it all depends on your budget. But theoretically if your mobile phone can film 4K and you can rig it to a Rhode radio mic with an Osmo stabiliser, you can achieve pretty much the same thing…and oh, did I mention the iPhone films at 60fps? Did I also mention there’s a 4K GoPro? No, this does not mean that we can film everything on a mobile phone but like we say to most of our clients if the shoe fits, wear it.

It all depends on your final format. Ads, trailers, and series are now being viewed across television screens, mobile phones, laptops, iPads and more recently VR glasses.

The ability to survive and adapt to the ever-changing world is what kept 14 10th on a growth trajectory. It is all too often that people in our industry keep using the same model to execute their productions and all too often they come out with the same result, from one job to the other. Consistency is great but how will you ever know if it can be better? Faster? To get results you constantly need to be in touch with new ways of doing things and that’s why as a business, we are always looking for the next best technology to drive our productions.

This is what makes my job so interesting, keeping up with the ever changing production and post-production world. It was mind blowing the first time we opened up our FCPX suite and found that there was no digitising, just import. This made sense as all the cameras were recording to drives. The introduction of the Canon 5D was the beginning of the one-man crew, producing quality products equivalent to a 10-man crew. Things change all the time and we need to adapt. The benefit of working in both post-production and the production world has allowed me to see how technology has influenced the speed of productions for example; post-production has always crept into production from a preparation point of view, but now with the introduction of the D.I.T post-production has already begun on set. With metadata you can now organise your shots for the edit and ultimately you can lay down the look of the grade as early as digitising phase. The lines between production and post-production are becoming more compressed, this can be seen even more by the business model of Blackmagic with their cameras that shoot for post grade; it is no wonder that they have extended their DaVinci Resolve grading software into a full offline and online system.

Red cameras come with Red digital cinema software, full grading, organising and transcoding software. It’s crazy to think that the look of your film is sorted before you even start editing.

The time between processes has become compressed. Machines have faster processors and bigger graphics cards which means faster rendering. Software keeps improving and making operations such as tracking easier and more efficient.

The Adobe Creative Cloud package that allows all the essential graphics and motion graphics tools to come together, is a good example of finishing through one machine and on thought process from edit to grade.

This all means that in today’s commercial production world, we must move beyond the question that is often posed to our generation, “can you do the job.” The big question that seems to keep transformation at bay. The good news is that the question has now shifted to “what more can you do?” It’s not the look of your vehicle that matters it’s the flexibility and responsiveness of the vehicle that will ultimately win the race. 14 10th has realised that the post-production and production phase are now one thing, certainly they are both digital so they both communicate in the same language: How deep is your post-production? How flexible is your production? These are the questions that will create great work.

By Tongai Furusa, Editor/Director, 14 10th

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