How to make the grade

Today I visited Ascent Media in Soho. I was there on a tour that was organised as part of the Soho Shorts festival. The festival organisers feel that celebrating the culture of Soho includes visits to the artists who work in the post industry.

On Tuesday I visited St. Annes Post, where we had the opportunity to play in a Da Vinci grading suite (UK: grader / US: colorist), and see Avid DS Nitris in action. Today we had a tour of sound and picture restoration, a big machine room and a new media department.

I suppose that Ascent (which includes Rushes and St. Annes) looks at the post world in a different way from Outpost Digital. Ascent uses ‘the right hardware for the job’. Each room is dedicated to a specific operation. The control surfaces for audio and grading stay in their chosen suites. Outpost Digital uses the flexibility of software to make each suite multi-purpose.

That means betting the business on Apple products. As Apple acquires an example piece of each stage in the post flow, Outpost Digital dumps the competitor product and buys the Apple solution. Apple buys Nothing Real’s Shake, Silcon Color’s Final Touch, Proximity’s Artbox. No need to buy the next expensive version of the high-end compositing, grading or asset management software.

The man from St. Annes says that more and more people are learning DS. The grader knows that Da Vinci is just a tool. People are adding more seats to their Unity networks.

We’ll see who wins out in the end. It makes little difference to me. As Ascent and Outpost Digital say, the most important thing for their business is finding the right people to operate all that technology. I wonder if I should get involved…

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