When Blackmagic Design Singapore took the plunge one year ago and became the first postproduction house on the island republic to offer HD post services, many questioned whether the local market was ready for such high-end work—and whether it would be able to stave off competition from stronger players in the region.The doubts were not entirely unfounded, given that post houses in neighboring Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand are already ahead of the game. It does not help that local advertising and production budgets have been shrinking over the years.Yet, it was precisely these reasons that led Peter Barber, the facility’s director of creative services, and his partner Grant Petty, to set up the post outfit. “We knew that HD is absolutely going to happen, like TV going from black-and-white to color,” said Barber. “We will be too far behind to catch up if we don’t start now. And we knew HD post services would differentiate us from the rest of the players in Singapore.” (Barber and Petty are partners in Melbourne-based technology company Blackmagic Design, the parent of Blackmagic Design Singapore.)They equipped the post house with all HD and SD formats and installed 42 terabytes of storage, allowing artists to access data from anywhere in the office and work collaboratively. Blackmagic Design Singapore says it has now surpassed existing players like VHQ Singapore and Digipost and is neck-and-neck with Infinite Frameworks, the largest post house in the city-state that also offers HD post services (see sidebar).Now nearly 80 percent of the jobs that the facility undertakes are finished on HD. As a result of the surge in work volume, its staff has also grown to 18 from three and is still expanding.But Barber conceded that offering HD services during the first year was challenging. “Initially our clients were slow to adopt HD. We had to really push HD along and we did a lot of tests in the first year to prove the technology. But now it is not such a hard sell anymore.”Barber believes his company can help generate demand for HD work and has been pushing directors and producers seeking high production value and international standards to finish their projects on HD. “We especially encourage young, up-and-coming film directors to shoot in HD format right from the start. The difference in cost between shooting on mini DV and HD is worth it. It’s heartbreaking to see a lot of works of art being shot on mini DV because of a lack of budget,” he said.But Barber is wary about promoting Blackmagic Design Singapore based solely on its HD machines and does not charge a premium for its services. “To assume that our clients have more money is a formula for failure,” he said. “The budgets for TV commercials and longform programs have not increased these past years but the industry is moving from SD to HD. Anything that steps in the way of that is not right.”Instead, Blackmagic has chosen to position itself differently, charging for creative services by offering a workflow that puts an emphasis on brainstorming and creative inputs. This is contrary to the traditional suite-for-hire approach adopted by most post houses. The reason for this, said Barber, is that the market has matured. “The question of what machines we use never came up. We show our demo reel and the quality we can achieve. When our clients realize that it is not as expensive as they thought to do post in HD, they will embrace it.”When it comes to capturing market share, Singapore post house Infinite Frameworks operates differently from Blackmagic Design Singapore. Instead of just offering HD post services, it is looking for opportunities to co-produce feature films shot on HD with local production companies. Its first such collaboration is with Zhao Wei Films on the movie Be With Me, shot last year. Frameworks will have some ownership of the film, according to Freddie Yeo, general manager of Frameworks.Frameworks started offering HD post services in December, 2004 after acquiring several HD systems, including a da Vinci 2K color corrector. This month it is installing Singapore’s first HD telecine.Like Blackmagic co-founder Peter Barber, Yeo is upbeat about the HD post market in Singapore and beyond. In addition to longform programming, demand for HD post services is expected to come from several co-production deals signed between the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) and overseas production companies.An agreement between Rainbow HD Holdings, Singapore production house Mega Media, and MDA signed last October will see US$20 million worth of HD programs or over 100 hours of content being produced over the next three years. The programs will be aired on Rainbow’s VOOM HD Networks, a suite of HD channels.
Written by Patricia Lee