A business born along with the talking era of the cinema, audio post-production has continuously branched out over the intervening years, applying itself to television, video, new optical formats like DVD, and now the Internet. At each stage of its development, it has also added new pratctices and techniques, from ADR and Foley recording to sound design - and streaming-real-time post is not a self-canceling phrase.
Not surprisingly, audio post is also undergoing a radical shift in its business model. Just like the many media clients they serve, audio post facilities are undergoing consolidation, with mega-media companies such as Liberty Media and Pacifica Media acquiring various independent boutique post facilities. Many of those independents had already evolved into highly specialized facilities to meet the ever-broader client needs. The result has been that the smaller components become part of larger, vertically integrated organisms as a strategy to meet the economic and technological demands of an entirely new landscape in multimedia entertainment.
Still, consolidation in the high end has made room for a new generation of post facility - the mid-level specialist. Thus, the future of audio post-production, like that of the media industry in general, will be one in which an ecological balance between facilities large and small, independent and corporate, highly specialized and broadly comprehensive, will continue to be the norm.
The model is really no different than what happened in the music recording industry over the past decade. There is likely to be an extended period in which audio post facilities will flourish at all levels of the spectrum, from the mega-facility that takes in raw footage at one end and outputs a polished product at the other, to the video editing facility in a spare bedroom in Encino...or Prague or Lagos. The same affordable technology that fueled the growth of music project studios will bring its evolutionary fire to the sound-for-picture business.
This process is natural, inescapable and probably necessary in the long run, as the media landscape becomes truly a democratic habitat. No longer will creatives be dependent on the availability of huge amounts of capitalization and access to "out-of-my-price-range" equipment.
However, those facilities with that combination of leading-edge technology, razor-sharp technical talent and a willingness to push into new territories will always be regarded as the elite. And they will set the standards by which projects are judged and progress is measured.
This special edition of Mix magazine's "Audio Post Production's Finest" is dedicated to those facilities and individuals who choose to take that chance and set the standards for the entire industry. Contained within these pages are some of the best the industry has to offer, those whose dedication to excellence ensures that they will remain at the top of their market for years to come. It is facilities such as these, and the talent they employ, that will set the tone for the evolution of audio post-production in the decades to come.