Fernanda graduated in 2020 with a degree in Film Production. She spent the next year producing social media content for her mum’s small business. James studied film and media at college but ended up working in kitchens while trying to break into audio editing. Stories like these are common as during the pandemic the development of junior entrants in the post-production industry practically ceased altogether. So, when the sector bounced back and the volume of post-production work increased, the absence of junior talent moving up through the ranks over the last two years contributed to an industry skills shortage, with post houses left scrambling for staff.
With junior tech ops in particularly short supply, Chris Spearman, Head of Operations at Picture Shop in the UK (previously The Farm) recognised the need to develop their own talent at an accelerated pace. “We wanted to feed the operational requirements that the industry was lacking as quickly and efficiently as possible, and also give opportunities to junior talent, ” he explains. “We wanted to put people into positions where they could quickly become operators and help with the backlog.”
Discussions with professional partners and friends at Jigsaw24 Media revealed a shared industry interest and the organisations joined forces to develop a training programme to fast-track the development of future post-production talent - and so the P.O.S.T scheme was launched.
The P.O.S.T scheme
The Post Operators Skills Training scheme is an intensive two-week course designed to give junior operators a comprehensive understanding of the technologies typically used in collaborative post-production workflows. The course is hosted at Jigsaw24 Media’s London premises, presented by their industry-leading instructors, and includes both theoretical and practical elements.
One of the key elements for the hands-on modules was to emulate a real-life working machine room in a post-production facility, without the risk of deleting real, vital pieces of media - so Jigsaw24 Media’s solution architect and lead technical trainer, Neal Kemsley, used the company’s Nutanix platform to set up a training room with virtualised instances of software including Avid Media Composer, NEXIS, Davinci Resolve, Avid Pro Tools and Flame. Strategy director, David Skeggs, describes the setup as “a modern classroom that offers speed to deploy a single desktop with multiple configurations and different versions of software – so one minute trainees could be creating an Adobe workflow and the next they could be working in Media Composer.”
A unique aspect of the training is that a technical supervisor from Picture Shop is present throughout, to provide a common thread and contextualise the theory into real world practice. “Having someone in the room to explain how things are relevant in Picture Shop’s post-production environment was really helpful because abstract things are immediately made concrete,” recalls Patrick who took part in the second scheme in September 2022. But while the course was designed to meet Picture Shop’s needs, Kemsley explains that it is ‘not about Picture Shop’s processes’ and that the aim is to give junior staff an understanding of the full post-production process. Spearman concurs adding, “We’re working on genres that span the industry and the skills are ultimately transferrable.”
The third element of the scheme is all about providing the context of the tech ops’ role in broader post-production workflows – and exposing the different pathways their careers could take. Trainees spend time with key professionals in different areas of Picture Shop, from producers to quality control, mastering, vfx and colour grading. “Learning about workflows and meeting everyone who works on different sections of the pipeline to see how it comes together has been extremely useful,” says Fernanda. “You need to take all that theory and put it into context - then you start to understand how the industry as a whole functions.”
The proof is in the pudding
The P.O.S.T scheme may have been born out of necessity, but Spearman notes “Like all things with the pandemic, it was an opportunity to review how things were done. While it solves a problem for now, ultimately it’s about arming people with skills they can build on and grow with.”
Since taking part in the P.O.S.T scheme, both Will and Anthony have been promoted to positions as Edit Assistants at Picture Shop. For Anthony, the course gave him the confidence and speed he needed to progress, while Will says it gave him a deeper understanding of Avid technologies and processes. But perhaps this feedback from Sonia best sums up the value of the training: “It was a great experience that enforced my passion for post-production, giving me an opportunity to learn more and pursue my goals. After the scheme, I was offered a position of Trainee Edit Assistant at Picture Shop and that was the best news ever!”