Q&A with Ed Tischler, Managing Director Gravity Media

Videstream spoke with Ed Tischler, Managing Director of Gravity Media in EMEA. Gravity Media has a 30-year pedigree in the media industry, formed by the coming together of four established broadcast and production houses: Gearhouse Broadcast, HyperActive Broadcast, Input Media and Chief Entertainment.

Ed Tischler, Managing Director of Gravity Media in EMEA © Image credit: Gravity Media

Hi Ed, how have things been at Gravity Media over the past year? 

Gravity Media has been very fortunate given the circumstances. We’ve got a very diverse range of media services and facilities, whether that’s production teams or production centres, fly-pack solutions or System Integration services; we’ve been able to bring that all together and help clients solve mission critical problems.

Covid has undoubtedly pushed our industry to take braver steps more quickly and businesses have had to find workarounds using a lot of remote production techniques, so I guess the adaptation piece for us was just helping these companies take those steps, so we were fortunate that we had that ability in-house already. 

“We facilitated the US Open in New York last August, when everyone was thinking it wouldn’t be possible to pull off.”

We’ve also had some enormous challenges that have been hugely rewarding : we went and facilitated the US Open in New York last August, when everyone was thinking it wouldn’t be possible to pull off. And fair play to all of the teams, whether it’s production or engineering, US based or European, they went and did it even with very strict on-site regulations, they zoned everything off, did regular testing and kept in the bubble and had to stay in the hotel at night and they managed to put this massive event on.

But of course some things have moved more remotely; ITV, for example, we put their Roland-Garros production in our production centre in Chiswick, whereas normally we’d go on site. For ITV’s I’m a Celebrity, we helped ITV take that from the jungle and put it on in the castle in Wales, and help move their post production workflow to a remote format. 

Behind the scenes at the Roland-Garros production © Image credit: Gravity Media

On the topic of remote production, have you seen a big uptake in client demand for this?

Even though remote does help solve a lot of the challenges, it might not always be the right solution. You have to take into consideration the scale of the production you have, what format do you want to work in, what’s the unilateral base. That means for some people, being venue based will still be the right solution. 

But what you’re also seeing is that, once connectivity increases to venues and there are further advancements in production and post-production tools, you will then see a further migration away from venue based production. 

So I would say Covid has definitely expedited the process. The advancements in remote can bring a lot of benefits, but you need to balance the production value and production needs against cost. Remote production is a very, very diverse field, there are many ways you can go about it, it’s not just the on-site acquisition piece, there’s the post-production element, there’s the archiving, there are several elements that you have to balance, so it’s very case by case. Understanding the individual challenges of each client is key, and this is where our close collaboration and experience give us the edge.

But yes for sure, there’s no doubt we’ve seen an increase in the uptake and an increase in clients who want to evolve their workflow and understand how we can get them there.

 “I do think people will return to venue based production for some of the larger scale productions, I think they’ll have to really.”

Off the back of that – will people stay remote? I think some will, but I do think people will return to venue based production for some of the larger scale productions, I think they’ll have to really. I think some productions will still feel a disconnect if they’re not at the venue.

Gravity Media pulled off one of the biggest events of the sporting calendar, the US Open in August last year © Image credit: Gravity Media

And how about post-Covid? How do you see remote production evolving?

You shouldn’t try and see remote production in isolation (I’m not suggesting people do), but you have to see it as multiple productions occurring at the same time. When you then connect all of these productions around the world together and encourage those contributors to create an ever expanding content community, think what you could do with that. You could transform the way everybody views production and the generation of content. It’s a precursor to something even bigger, it definitely is. Connectivity is everything.

“You don’t want to be the Blockbuster who didn’t buy Netflix.”

If connectivity keeps driving forward, that’s going to keep transforming remote production and advances in virtualised production tools, as we’re able to manage content in the cloud and we’re able to attach unilaterals to that, or store an archive within it. I think it’s quite exciting in that sense and you have to embrace it. You don’t want to be the Blockbuster who didn’t buy Netflix. You’re kicking doors open when you move into remote production and if you can get it into a community where you can even further advance that and you have the connectivity bow to your string, it opens completely different worlds. 

It’s all about being first to market, because people become synonymous with workflows and technology. It was the same when 3D came along, same with 4k, same with IP, as a brand you want to be synonymous with these workflows and be first to market, because you want to build that community of remote production and federations of content, because the more you have the more attractive it becomes. 

That’s the direction we’ll continue to invest in. The remote element of it is what connects our production centres up and starts to create a whole different community. That’s the plan.

Gravity Media is seeing a shift to remote production but believes venue-based production will still play a crucial role © Image credit: Gravity Media

And outside of remote production specifically, what are some other growth areas for Gravity Media?

In terms of what we will be continuing to invest in, that’s obviously an IP infrastructure and how we’ll leverage that workflow, onsite or remote workflows back to our production centres, so we’ll continue our investment around that. Remote editing, so not just remote production, remote editing is a big piece and we have some very high-end post-production clients who use our edit suites in Gravity House in Soho. We’ve had to create quite sophisticated remote editing workflows, not just in terms of hardware but in terms of content security, so we’re definitely going to keep investing in those areas.

We’re going to continue investing in the 4k acquisition piece, the need for the right lenses and cameras, we’re seeing a shift in client needs in what they would like from their 4k cameras. 

“Key for us will be our investment in our production centres and we have quite ambitious plans to transform their core infrastructure.”

But really key for us will be our investment in our production centres and we have quite ambitious plans to transform their core infrastructure even further to increase their capacity and allow for additional formats, 1080p, HDR, UHD and really leverage our position for our clients.  We’re very fortunate we’re able to offer a full IP workflow in production centres across 3 continents, in America, in Europe and Australia, so we’ll keep investing in that, joining up the dots between those production centres and venues and really drive our business into that sector further. That diversity really is why we’ve been able to be quite resilient through Covid and show growth now. So for sure we’re going to keep investing in that direction.

Thanks Ed, and how’s 2021 shaping up for Gravity Media already?

2021 holds a lot of great potential with the Euros and Olympics still scheduled for the summer. But of course we’re continuing to work with our clients to offer options and plan for different scenarios. From either full on-site venue based productions, all the way to back-ending it from our studios or even moving the venue for some productions. The most important thing for our clients right now is flexibility and options and that’s what we’re continuing to deliver. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen and reaction times are quite short, so it’s just about sitting with each individual client discussing various levels of solutions they want.

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