Ten years is a long time and 100 editions is a major milestone. I happily look back to the spring of 2005 as this was the start of my second life, much as it was for the team at tv-bay – a coincidence of dates which is probably why we have had such a long writing partnership. Matt and Simon were starting out on their journalistic lives, both from the broadcast industry but neither from publishing, and I had just started my new life as Azule.
The two businesses – tv-bay and Azule – were fledgling companies looking to take on the establishment in our respective markets: broadcast publishing and broadcast finance. What’s the story now, 10 years on? First of all, both businesses are still here and both seem to have flourished. Secondly, although things have changed (not least a rebranding of tv-bay to KitPlus) the message is the same: both businesses continue to try to provide a good and honest service to the broadcast industry.
A tale of two eras
When I look back at my experience in broadcast, I see two eras: the first when I started in the industry 25 years ago and the second when we started Azule 10 years ago.
Let’s start 25 years ago, co-incidentally not long before I first met at least one of the two editors of this magazine. The industry was a very different beast. Sony was by far the dominant player as it had just won the Betacam war (this turned out to be the first battle in what now seems to be a perpetual format war). The Betacam Sp format remained, almost exclusively, the market leader for six or seven years; kit prices also remained almost constant. In the mid-1990s Betacam Sp was superseded by Digital Betacam and that became the de facto format, for a further 10 years or so, until around the mid 2000s when the second era began.
The last 10 years have been the exact opposite. Instead of 15 years of stability, there has been an endless change of formats and manufacturer battles – and ever-decreasing kit prices. It is as if today is a completely different market from that of 10 years ago – not to mention the striking difference from 25 years ago.
Let’s take some for instances. In 1988 CVP did not exist. In fact Visual Impact barely existed. The main players were TeleTape and Metro (both no longer exist). The market was tape-based and analogue. Channel 4 was just about getting its feet under the table and, it’s hard to believe, Sky TV did not exist. Yes, it did not exist – cable and satellite had not yet launched in the UK.
If you wanted to build a Soho post-production facility you needed £1m to open one suite, let alone five, and non-linear editing was years away. Since then, and it is not even as long ago as one generation’s working life (as I know … because I still am working), the market has moved to 4K non-linear cameras that are now single figure thousands in price. You can edit footage shot on these cameras through the back of your Apple Mac on a subscription-based software package that costs almost nothing relatively. The market is almost unrecognisable. Or is It?
And now… Now, formats, equipment and pricing have all changed but, as I see it, the basics of the industry haven’t. The market still needs talent and the UK is still a great place to make programmes and films – arguably even more so now than at any time during the last 25 years, thanks to current tax breaks for production. I recently went to LA to look at the industry and everyone there was saying that their film industry was stagnating and that Canada, and especially the UK, were the places to work at the moment.
All change and no change
Which neatly leads me on to NAB – something in our industry that hasn’t changed over the last 25 years. The industry, or at least the US side of it, will congregate in Las Vegas ready to demonstrate to the world that this is the show where new industry ideas are launched. However, my prediction is that this year’s show won’t bring any new defining twists. Yes, there will be more new cameras and new developments but I believe that the US has lost the stranglehold it had over the launch of new equipment. The industry is now so genuinely global that new cameras can be launched anywhere in the world, at any of the industry’s trade shows.
What do I want from NAB?
So, what do I expect to get out of NAB this year? I hope it will bring a degree of certainty that the industry is in good shape; that the UK industry will continue to be healthy; and that there is still a sense of optimism. Mainly, and importantly, I’m hoping for confirmation that talent still pays – and that, in my view, is the principal way in which the UK betters the rest of the world.
If you would like to know more about how we can help broadcast companies do contact me at [email protected] and/or write to the tv-bay editor. To read more of these articles, see our website: www.azule.co.uk.