New York City's production boom could mean a color correction

Rebates might bring the productions, and the productions might bring posting

Thanks to its rebates, the city of New York has been experiencing an upsurge in production that breaks all records -- from the number of shooting days to the number of pilots shot. But when it comes to posting in New York, that's a different story.

According to a recent New York Production Alliance study, California still holds more than half of all of the country's post jobs, while New York has about 15%. Television productions love shooting in the Big Apple, but they don't always like biting into the posting scene, which is primarily shared by Technicolor Content Services, which offers a lab and post facility, and PostWorks New York, which also offers lab services via its Lab at PostWorks. A third key lab is DuArt.

But changes are afoot. Early in 2007, Deluxe Entertainment Services Group Inc. announced plans to open a full-service facility in downtown Manhattan -- a vote of confidence that New York is open to opportunity. "We've wanted to be a part of the vibrant New York film community for a long time," Deluxe president and CEO Cyril Drabinsky says. "We're committed to the success of this new facility."

That facility is set to include a motion-picture laboratory, high-definition telecine and editorial and media-management services; it also will house a digital intermediate postproduction center under Deluxe's Efilm brand. Deluxe New York plans to target theatrical releases and TV and commercial work, and the hope is that the company will have some services up and running by October and will be fully operational in early 2008, with a roughly 40,000-square-foot custom-finished space.

The city also is pleased about having its production rebates affect the post sector. "Deluxe's expansion here is the latest endorsement of the booming film and television economy under Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg, and its attractive package of postproduction services will ensure that New York film crews have access to the best facilities the industry has to offer," says Katherine Oliver, commissioner of the New York City Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting. "The 'Made in NY' film tax credit covers postproduction costs for qualifying projects, making postproduction in the city affordable."

The rebate program is commonly viewed as the principal driver for the developments in the post community, but there is more to the story, says Irene Burns, co-producer responsible for postproduction for NBC's "30 Rock," which is handled in New York City. "The incentives will only get you so far," she notes. "First, it has to be the story, and you have to know that you have talented crews of people available. Then the incentives make sense. Historically, New York has been underestimated in terms of our ability to deliver quality production and postproduction. Each year, we are seeing more pilots and more series staying here for postproduction. That delights me to no end. There is more confidence."

"30 Rock" shoots on film and posts in high definition and standard definition for broadcast; lab and post are handled at PostWorks. The Soho-based facility also handles post on series work for ABC's "The Knights of Prosperity." PostWorks was responsible for lab and dailies for the 2007 pilot for NBC's "Lipstick Jungle," as well as dailies-selects mastering for the CW's "Gossip Girl," which was lensed with Panavision's digital cinematography camera Genesis.

Carol Jazwinski, PostWorks' senior vp sales, agrees that the tax incentives have helped increase the volume of TV postproduction in the Big Apple. She also notes that technically, the majority of the finishing is in HD, so the company maintains a substantial infrastructure. That includes Spirit 2K with da Vinci 2K and Pandora Pogle color-corrections systems, as well as Avid DS Nitris for finishing.

Dan Pane, executive vp and general manager of TCS' New York facility, agrees that maintaining the latest technology is critical to keeping work in New York. "If we didn't have this, they would go to other alternatives," he says.

TCS' downtown facility includes a digital-intermediate theater centered on Autodesk's Incinerator technology and offers five telecine bays. The company's Technicolor Production Network is a private network that allows the company to send and receive work among Technicolor operations in other cities, including Los Angeles and Toronto.

This pilot season, Technicolor's fare includes Fox's "New Amsterdam" and HBO's planned 2008 miniseries "John Adams," both of which were shot on film. Processing, dailies and delivery dubs were handled at the company's New York location, but final grading and finishing went back to Los Angeles.

And that remains an issue for New York: Rebates might bring the productions, and the productions might bring posting, but unless shows and their executives relocate, there's always a reason to go west. "It depends on where the editorial is and where the producers and director are," Pane says. "If it's a pilot, the studio tends to take ownership because they have so much vested in it."

Still, changes in New York's state of mind about posting don't exactly have Los Angeles houses shaking in their edit suites.

"I won't anticipate any major shifts," says Burbank-based Matchframe Video COO Barry Nulman. "We are always conscious of different market development, but I think the strongest part of the talent base is still in Los Angeles. Hollywood still probably has the most concentrated group of experienced high-end talent."

Nevertheless, all of this production activity has caught the eye of leading commercial houses like Nice Shoes. "You see more and more production in New York, and it's a healthy sign," says principal/director of engineering Joe Bottazzi. "There will be four labs (when Deluxe opens); that's a good indication that coming in the future is more TV and DI."

So, is the time right to move into episodic series work? "In due time -- that's always been part of our game place, to expand into other areas," says Dominic Pandolfino, Nice Shoes partner and managing director. "If the trends continue, it would be foolish not to go after that work. I'm hoping it does turn into a new revenue stream for New York."

Meanwhile, Ron Honsa, president of Soho HD, a boutique-sized HD editorial and finishing house whose recent work has included post on the 2005 HBO documentary "Hard as Nails," points out that TV series are increasing relying on their Web presence, which is creating new work, as series often require additional materials. "The Web is a big driver in terms of deliverables," he says.

"TV in the late '90s was very big here, but the age of the reality show hurt TV in New York," Pane says. "It's nice to see that TV series are doing a reappearance in New York. These incentives really motivated a lot of studio filmmakers to relocate and bring (work) to New York," he said. "But New York never had to be cheaper, it (only) had to provide the justification to be here."   
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