Small post houses can only survive if they stop stabbing each other in the back and start collaborating, says Paul Ingvarsson.
Small post houses can only survive if they stop stabbing each other in the back and start collaborating, says Paul Ingvarsson.

When I was cutting my teeth as an editor, Skaramoosh was the post-production company that I wanted to work for 'when I grew up'. I finally got my chance after making the leap from employee to freelancer and the experience more than lived up to expectations. So the demise of this well-regarded boutique facility, as exclusively reported in Broadcast, filled me with horror - especially given that I'd helped set up a similar company just eight months ago. Those snipers who'd told me that I was crazy to invest in post-production suddenly sounded a lot more sensible.

Add the news that Resolution has closed its City facility ( Broadcast, 15.12.06) and it's clear that the post sector is changing fast. Middle-sized post houses are being absorbed by larger companies and smaller boutiques are finding it increasingly tough to survive. It's not just a matter of lower rates: the boutiques just haven't got the resources to offer the kind of all-inclusive deals that larger operations can use to snap up those lucrative big series left, right and centre.

What's more, we're all aware that the biggest growth areas of post-production, such as HD, need serious investment. I dread to think of the investment that tapeless delivery will require.

Small businesses in any industry need a strong strategy to survive. In post-production, small facilities normally come with fantastic owner-operators who take pride in creating high-quality work - but this can come at the price of workflow, leaving us struggling to meet a commission efficiently and at the right price.

The answer is to forge alliances with other small companies, where the crossover of work is minimal. My own company, StormHD, which operates two facilities in London, collaborates with companies including graphics house Ghost Design and offline specialist CineContact. It works because we enhance each other's potential without stepping on any toes. Our collaboration with HD-ready International Broadcast Facilities (IBF) is another good example, because it has led to our winning work that neither of us would have won on our own.

This strategy of 'ganging up' engenders confidence in small post companies and in our clients, who get all the services they need, delivered by a winning combination of the best small companies in the business.

For those of us who don't want to sell out and become part of the fast-emerging 'super-facilities', it's clear that 2007 is sink-or-swim time. Creative collaboration will allow smaller companies to compete against the consolidated giants, so it's the ideal tactic in these tricky times - but it does mean that Soho's post houses will have to start working together and get past the habit of stabbing each other in the back.
Paul Ingvarsson is co-founder of the post-production company StormHD