The Insider's Guide to Production: Post-Production - Small is beautiful

It pays to be a facilities company that is small enough to foster close relationships with clients yet big enough to offer the technical expertise needed to tackle the most demanding campaigns.

The post-production world is now more about people than it has ever has been. Technology is moving at such a pace that it is hard for us, let alone our clients, to keep up. What would take weeks or months to do only a year ago can now be achieved in a fraction of the time.

These continuing advances mean that the roles of the post-producer and artist have changed enormously. The post-production process has become far more integrated and it is the synergy that exists between the clients, the kit and the editors and artists that is key to the success of a project.

This synergy does not occur by accident but results from hard work and a willingness to embrace new ways of working. Having a client in a suite with an artist for a day, a week or even a month is one thing. Letting them move in lock, stock and barrel (or, more precisely, desk, computer and mobile phone) and allowing them to get their hands dirty on the elements of the project is quite another.

When this way of working was first suggested to us, all we could see were the potential pitfalls. Would we ever be able to get anything done with people breathing down our necks, changing their minds every five minutes and generally getting in the way? In fact, it has opened up an opportunity for us to punch above our weight and compete with the larger "factory-style" post-production facilities.

More often than not, directors are very familiar with the latest technology.

They may not be able to operate an Inferno machine, but they know its capabilities and they are happy to work alongside us on After Effects and Photoshop, setting up key frames or refining the look.

The first project we undertook on this collaborative basis was a fully computer-generated animated commercial for Pier One through Deutsch in New York.

The directors Tim Hope and Gaelle Denis, from Passion Pictures, came to us to create the three-dimensional sequence and literally moved into Golden Square, working alongside our team.

Despite our initial misgivings, this approach was a success and we now encourage our clients on similarly complex projects to consider this team-based framework. So much so, in fact, that in the six months that followed the Pier One job, several projects involving heavy design and CG requirements have been completed this way, including two Nike films for Danny and Ezra through Hanrahan.

Looking back, the reasons why this approach was so effective were not hard to find. The first, and most important, is our people (both producers and artists) and their willingness to build relationships with clients and understand their needs. Creating an environment where the clients and the artists work together as one team means there are no misunderstandings or miscommunications, time is saved because ideas can be actioned almost as soon as they are born, and there is no long and drawn-out approvals process.

The second factor is size - we are small enough to ensure that clients are properly looked after, but large enough to have the technical expertise and capacity for even long-running and fast-turnaround retail campaigns.

Instead of having separate departments to deal with different stages of a project, one producer will oversee everything, from quoting through to billing. Nothing can slip through the net and clients can be safe in the knowledge that their job, regardless of its size, will be looked after.

Surely a small synergist company is more likely to achieve better end results and build more loyalty with a client than a larger company that is restricted by numerous departments.

The last reason for success is that by using tools such as After Effects and Photoshop, in conjunction with Fire and Inferno, we have been able to approach work in a different way and allocate the platform best suited to the client's budget and time constraints.

While our Flames and Fires will always be our mainstay, other platforms, together with the right people, enable us to provide solutions that are tailored to every project.

Building on this, we then looked at whether we could use a similar approach for some of our regular accounts such as Sky, B&Q and the Daily Mail.

The insight we have gained from close working relationships with our clients has enabled us to propose solutions that previously would have been too time-consuming to contemplate.

One of our most important clients over the years has been B&Q through JWT. B&Q, as a major UK retailer, demands that its suppliers turn around special offers and deals within days. This means always having to react with speed, and so we had always shied away from suggesting 3D or other complex effects.

However, as the B&Q cube logo has become more central to its branding, both agency and client have wanted it to do increasingly complicated things.

Again, 3D was avoided, despite it being the perfect medium in which to animate the cube. Using the experience of working with B&Q and our understanding of its requirements, we looked at various ways to make the 3D approach work. After a few trial runs, we are now completing full CG animations and even CG fluid dynamics within the existing schedules.

In today's post-production world, technology is the vehicle that enables us to create increasingly stunning visuals. But it is driven by the relationships that exist between us and our clients. The job of a facilities company is to create an environment that encourages collaboration and discussion while making available the very best tools for the job.

- Ewan MacLeod is the marketing director of Golden Square.

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