Ascent Media is launching a new set of services that allow advertising agencies to work with the world's best post-production talent-without leaving their hometown. UP Sessions enables Ascent Media clients to participate in telecine sessions, and other picture critical finishing work, from remote sites in realtime while interacting with the artists performing the work. UP Sessions encompasses three different products that facilitate virtual collaboration: UP Satellite, UP Fiber and UP Web.
UP Satellite uses a secure satellite connection, provided by Ascent Media Network Services, to transmit broadcast quality digital video to designated client sites in other cities. Agency creatives, directors, editors and others can then collaborate with colorists at Ascent Media's Company 3, R!OT Santa Monica and Encore Hollywood as if they were in the same room. The service allows clients the creative freedom to work with the post-production artists they choose, while saving the time, cost and inconvenience of traveling to the West Coast.
The beauty of the system is its simplicity, according to Bob Solomon, president of Ascent Media Creative Services. "All that's required is a satellite dish and a broadcast quality monitor, a la satellite TV at your home," he said. Ascent Media is establishing a network of affiliated post facilities who will offer the service. Solomon added that Ascent will also offer the service directly to agencies that have a desire for 'in-house' capability.
Among the unique features of UP Satellite is the ability to link multiple parties in different locations around the country. The system is point to multi-point (as opposed to point-to-point fiber), so it can simultaneously broadcast to agency personnel, directors and other parties who wish to collaborate in a session from different locations.
"At a time of streamlined budgets, overburdened schedules, and increasing need for creative excellence, UP Satellite provides essential flexibility," said Company 3 president Stefan Sonnenfeld, who is spearheading the project for Ascent Media. "We can now offer any talent at any time without having to travel. It is a terrific aid to creative collaboration."
Dallas editorial house charlieuniformtango is the first company to serve as an UP Satellite facility. Beta testing of the service has been ongoing there since January. During the testing period, several Dallas area advertising agencies have used the service, including Publicis (BMW), GSD&M (Southwest Airlines) and Dieste Harmel & Partners (Gatorade).
To accommodate the new service, charlieuniformtango has set up a "virtual telecine suite" at its facility. A calibrated monitor installed at the site, and proprietary technology used by Ascent Media Network Services for the satellite transmission, ensure that the image viewed by clients in Dallas is identical to what they would see were they sitting in the colorist's suite in Santa Monica or Hollywood. Clients communicate with their colorist via speaker phone or teleconference.
Aside from not being in the same physical location as the artist, the UP Satellite experience is identical to a normal telecine session. "The most surprising thing about UP Satellite is how similar it is to a normal telecine session," said Francesca Cohn, vp of Strategic Development for Ascent Media Creative Services. "There is no technology to deal with, clients simply sit and watch a monitor while providing direction to the colorist over the phone."
With the cost and inconvenience of travel steadily on the rise, the service removes an obstacle that has separated regional advertising agencies, the source of some of today's best advertising, from the creative talent they desire to work with. "A typical telecine session lasts just four or five hours, making it hard to justify the time and expense of a trip to L.A.," said Jack Waldrip, charlieuniformtango vp and senior editor. "With this new service, we can stay home. The only thing missing is staring at the back of the colorist's head."
In the next few weeks, Ascent Media will be opening UP Satellite sites in several other cities, including Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, Boston, Miami and Atlanta. UP Satellite will also be available soon from Company 3 New York and R!OT Manhattan.
To ensure optimum image quality, UP Satellite employs a digital path from end to end with no NTSC encoding. That avoids the artifacts common to most types of long haul terrestrial transmissions. In addition to digital video transmission, the system could be easily adapted for data transfers as demand for that service grows.
Although Ascent Media is initially targeting telecine work, UP Satellite can also be used to monitor other types of post-production work, including visual effects and finishing. Dailies transfers are another important potential market, not only for commercial work, but also for feature film production. As the service could easily be extended overseas, Ascent Media foresees directors using the service to view dailies while on location.
In addition to UP Satellite, UP Sessions includes UP Fiber and UP Web. UP Fiber connects all the Ascent Media facilities in realtime at broadcast quality via fiber. This allows clients to access, for example, Company 3 New York artists from a bay at Company 3 Santa Monica. UP Web is an Internet-based tool that allows clients to collaborate with sessions in realtime via a computer. This product is review quality only, but can save time and money on voiceover placements and visual effects sessions, among other things.
Ascent Media Group (www.ascentmedia.com) is a provider of services to the media entertainment industry, offering clients effective solutions for the creation, management and distribution of content. A subsidiary of Liberty Media Corp., Ascent Media Group is headquartered in Santa Monica, California, with more than 70 operating facilities.