Digital Production News; Production Services on the Web

Digital Production News; Production Services on the WebIt has always seemed clear that the Internet would eventually facilitate collaboration. The Internet is, after all, a network, and the production and post communities have been trying to get networked for a long time.

At NAB 2000 Avid announced an online working community built around its servers and tools. At the Avid Production Network (AvidProNet.com), users can check job postings, chat, post messages, read industry news, and get concise information on how to exchange files and optimize workflow among Avid products. But the most important aspects of the site are the services, which allow users to buy stock footage and audio elements, download applications, store clips, and execute approval processes. Editors can post clips to the site for a director's approval. Directors can then log on and write notes, and editors simply download the clip-notes and all-back onto their Avids. AvidProNet.com also features information and news from several sources including iSyndicate-an Internet wire service that offers a variety of news, features, and columnists-and Creative Planet, which provides news, features, and user stories.

Like Avid, Creative Planet (CreativePlanet.com) understands that information is not enough-online communities must be places to execute or get work. A self-described "portal for media businesses and professionals," Creative Planet began its development by creating a group of specialized online communities for directors, editors, cinematographers, visual-effects artists, animators, and graphic designers. Initially, the site offered access to industry press releases, job postings, and original feature stories. But that was just the beginning, says founder Allen DeBevoise. Creative Planet's business plan is to expand from an information-driven site into a business-to-business provider of services-especially the kind of data-intensive and collaborative services that the Internet provides best.

With a board that includes Jack Valenti, Frank Biondi, Ted Leonsis, Alan Meckler, Brett Markinson, and Stuart Wolff, Creative Planet has input from veterans of film and television production, publishing, and Web development. Now the company has input from its users. "Our users told us that their number one, two, and three priorities were to find work," DeBevoise says. That need prioritizes the next phase of development as Creative Planet attempts to become an end-to-end, Internet-based, production-management solution and marketplace.

To realize that goal, Creative Planet bought several popular production-management tools including Movie Magic Budget and Scheduling, Columbus InfoNet (a report-distribution, travel, and deal memo resource), Studio System (a film and television contact and credit database), and Source Maytheni (a commercial industry contact and credit database). These tools, DeBevoise says, needed to be optimized and updated for Internet use. "They were already software, database-intensive, and digital," he notes. "We've added value by adding features and integrating the tools to operate together and in realtime. And because they are Internet-based, they can be updated daily, even hourly."

At Show Biz Expo West this month, Creative Planet will unveil its new online Movie Magic budgeting and scheduling tools. New features include a "wireless AD" tablet that will remotely update timecards, callsheets, and production reports. In the months following Show Biz Expo, DeBevoise says that Creative Planet will deploy the remaining tools, tying them together to offer comprehensive support for development and production. For example, producers can search the Studio System and Maytheni databases for sequences or commercials, see vendor credits and contact information, link to vendor reels, and initiate contact. The chosen vendor will even appear as a line item on the Movie Magic budgeting and scheduling software.

"Having these tools online will improve efficiencies and lower costs for the development and production process. It will also bring producers and artists together," DeBevoise says, noting that artists can be difficult to track down and usually market themselves through fragmented outlets. "Producers will be able to choose from the widest range of talent and artists will have a better way of marketing themselves to those producers."