How is production evolving in the Film & TV industry?

The market for virtual production is growing at a phenomenal rate.

Estimated to be worth around $2.4 billion in 2021, the industry is progressing towards an expected value of approximately $5.4 billion by 2026, with a CAGR of 17.6%.

The production market for film and television has been growing at a relatively consistent rate for several years. This is empowered by the healthy development of the entertainment sector. Virtual production takes this landscape to its next level, introducing a new world of innovation through the use of virtual reality and computer software in production.

While it’s difficult to say for sure what the future of any specific industry might hold, we can respond to the trends in the marketplace and learn from the reports created by other industry-leading publications.

We’ll be discussing some of the findings revealed by the 2021 Film and Video Production Survey conducted by Altman Solon, and exploring what the future of production might look like.

Production in a Post-Pandemic Era

As the Altman Solon survey reveals, many of the trends and changes we see in today’s production industry are influenced by the impact of the pandemic. During 2020 and some of 2021, the pandemic brought the production sector almost completely to a stop, as companies struggled to keep crews as safe as possible.

As production activity has again begun to accelerate, we’re seeing the implementation of new strategies intended to keep professionals safe and minimise travel demand. Like many industries affected by the pandemic, the production landscape’s primary focus has been digitisation and the use of technology to boost safety and efficiency at scale.

Demand for virtual production capabilities is on the rise, with the adoption of cloud-based post-production tools and reliance on remote solutions for workforce management and collaboration. These trends have emerged as a critical part of keeping production in motion, and they’re also having a meaningful impact on the way movies and television shows are made.

The Major Trends in Post-Pandemic Production

The survey produced by Altman Solon in August 2021 looked at significant changes and changes in the production landscape since the pandemic, considering emerging and new technologies and the major challenges facing the industry.

The study looked at responses from more than 100 industry executives and experts from production companies, film and TV studies, advertising brands, etc. Survey responses were captured across over 30 countries.

Perhaps the most significant trends mentioned by the survey look at the following activities designed to create a more resilient, adaptable, and efficient video production landscape. These trends included:

  • The rise of soundstage constraints leads to increases in virtual production.
  • Increasing hybrid remote/virtual production and on-set processes for most production teams.
  • The demand for long-term virtual production to reduce costs and cycle times.
  • Transitions from implementing point solutions to using end-to-end platforms to unify every production phase.

Soundstage Constraints and Virtual Production

Though the pandemic’s impact on the production industry is beginning to ease, opening new doors for creating new films and episodic TV series, the backlog created by COVID-19 is still causing problems. Specifically, these backlogs are having a significant impact on soundstage capacity constraints.

Altman Solon analysts found only 8% of the projects on hold in 2020 were delivered in 2021. The remaining 30% of projects were set in idle mode during the survey. This backlog is creating a snowball effect for upcoming and existing productions.

While it’s likely traditional production centres will continue to be crucial to meeting the needs of future productions. The backlog and content production explosion on a broader scale has pushed an increased demand for Virtual Production strategies, allowing for greater efficiency and speed.

Virtual Production means filmmakers can reduce the production length through real-time editing. And decrease logistical challenges caused by the demand for full on-set crews. According to the survey, 42% of companies with over $100 million in revenue are now considering using Virtual Production tools in the next 2 years.

Increasing this demand for virtual production is the higher demand for global content. According to Altman Solon, global content spending will increase to $330 billion in the next five years. We’re seeing a growing demand for content for movie studies, streamers, and even broadcast networks. The industry is unable to sustain this level of production, particularly with the additional backlog to consider.

Virtual solutions could be the only way to accelerate production and drive results effectively.

The Rise of On-Set and Virtual/Hybrid Shoots

The pandemic promoted countless companies from different industries to explore the potential of new and improved modes of work. With the help of virtual reality and video conferencing, remote working is more popular than ever. We’re even seeing a rise in the number of people discussing the potential of future jobs in a digital “metaverse” environment.

The production landscape is just one of the many industries seeing a shift in the way teams and employees work. Remote post-production strategies are becoming increasingly popular, replacing standard practices requiring team members to be on-set at any given time. Altman Solon believes several changes will continue to appear in the working processes of production companies in the years ahead.

Over the last couple of years, on-set production procedures and processes naturally adapted to fit with new national and local guidelines, prompting a greater reliance on digital tools and cloud-based technologies. Now, content shot on-set can be transported to a new location over the web with minimal disruption. Virtual and remote workstations require fewer members of the production to be physically present in a space.

The Altman study found most survey respondents are optimistic that virtual capabilities and working technologies will positively impact production. 75% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that studios would need to accelerate their investment in remote and virtual production capabilities.

Another 74% of respondents aid the use of virtual production capabilities will likely become integrated into production cycles to reduce both cycle times and costs.

Future Cost Benefits from Virtual Production

Like most sectors adapting to the demands and challenges of the pandemic, the production landscape first turned to virtual methods out of necessity. However, many companies have quickly discovered that cloud, hybrid, and remote solutions have been highly beneficial from a cost perspective.

The rise of these new, flexible technologies has allowed professionals to collaborate more effectively, reducing travel and risk for individuals. The virtual and cloud-based solutions enabling virtual production today are creating a streamlined and efficient way for more professionals to come together rapidly and complete essential steps in the production process.

These effective and straightforward tools mean that various parts of the production process will be started and completed earlier in the process, reducing review cycles and improving productivity on a significant level. Going forward, production companies will likely continue to increase their investment in remote working opportunities, just like many other business leaders.

Virtual workstations allow for the least physical presence required on set and provide instant editing capabilities, which saves time on travel and equipment requirements.

According to Altman Solon, around 48% of companies said they were likely to adopt and use new virtual production tools in the next 24 months, and 48% also said they were likely to adopt and use new cloud-based post-production tools simultaneously time. 44% agreed they were likely to use and adopt remote collaboration tools in 24 months. Though virtual production options deliver a lot of potential benefits, respondents in Altman’s study also said there are many challenges to overcome first. Only around 60% of respondents are currently open to new technology overall, leading to problems with adoption. There’s also a significant lack of process standards and a fragmented market of production solutions to consider.

What Will Carry on, Post-Pandemic?

Altman’s survey considered the evolution of production tools with the development of the virtual production landscape and found that hybrid-virtual solutions will likely foster demand for more end-to-end solutions. Companies will want to avoid fragmentation across different technology and apps, which can lead to data loss and complexity for teams.

We’re seeing several companies in the landscape adapting to these new requirements already. For instance, Adobe acquired Frame.io in 2021 to support pre-production and production processes. In 2020, AVS also acquired Axon, enabling the creation of more well-rounded solutions for production teams.

Altman also found many respondents anticipate they will continue to expand their virtual production (67.1%) and collaboration tools in support of remote workflows and cloud technologies going forward.

Around 48% of respondents said their organisation plans to upgrade or expand video editing tools, and 41% say their company will be looking at remote collaboration/production tools. When asked about the key decision criteria for choosing new tools and technologies, the respondents cited budget constraints, quality of service, and tool compatibility as the most important factors to guide their decision making.

What We Can Learn from This Report?

Looking at the Altman Solon report, it’s easy to see that the production landscape, like many industries in a post-pandemic world, is in flux.

We’re progressing through an age of digital transformation, accelerated by the challenges of the pandemic, which placed a greater demand for and focus on the digital world. This means we’re likely to see a more comprehensive number of digital initiatives going forward, from an increase spend on digital collaboration tools, to a higher focus on virtual systems, which allow for stronger post-production and production experiences on the cloud.

Altman Solon also shared some other key takeaways from its report, including:

  • Content spending will only increase: The majority of spend in the years ahead is likely to move towards original content production. The topmost popular media groups are already planning to spend more than $115 billion on new television shows and movies by the end of 2022.
  • New technology demand will grow: This increase in demand will pressure production teams to leverage new technologies and virtual solutions for production. Altman believes there will be a rapid increase in the number of companies spending on collaborative tools and cloud technologies capable of guiding and empowering the production process in a digital world.
  • Limited technical resources will ease: Budget constraints and lack of familiarity with new technology are two of the most significant hurdles currently preventing some companies from embracing virtual production tools. However, Altman believes these issues will ease over time as technology becomes more available and new training initiatives are delivered to help teams develop new skills.
  • End-to-end solutions will thrive: Production companies evolving to suit the demands of this new digital landscape will need to increase their spending on end-to-end platforms for better alignment and cohesion between teams. Point solutions will transform into end-to-end platforms, which will spur acquisitions and mergers.

Looking Ahead…..

If one thing is sure, the production industry will continue to change at a consistently rapid pace in the future. The landscape is one of rapid and dynamic movement, and it’s constantly adapting to suit new technologies and ways of working.

Although it can be challenging to make a sudden transition into new production technologies and strategies, most experts agree a shift to a diverse digital environment will be crucial for production companies in the years ahead. The survey from Altman is just one insight into how the production landscape is growing increasingly flexible and virtual.

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