As Sundance Films Race to the Finish, Endcrawl Gets Them to the Final Frame
In the past few weeks, one service most likely saved the collective butts of post supervisors on several lucky Sundance films, desperately trying to make that print traffic deadline. That service is Endcrawl.
Back in October 2013, V wrote about Endcrawl's introduction as a new service to generate end credits in a simple, professional workflow. At the time, Endcrawl was in beta, and technically the service is still in beta, but a lot has changed to make the experience even more user-friendly.
Full disclosure: I'm a recent Endcrawl customer for my feature film CENTS, and I'm quite a happy customer at that. Endcrawl lets filmmakers create unlimited, free 1K renders of their end credits, so even if you're not sure you can pay for the service, you can see how your end credits would look. You will also quickly realize how frequently you need to make changes and corrections to your end credits, and Endcrawl makes this incredibly simple with its integrated Google Sheets credits template and improved layout tools.
Endcrawl lets you customize the speed of your end credits, providing five presets while also allowing filmmakers to set a target time. This was perfect for CENTS so we could match the timing of the final song of the film.
Endcrawl also features virtually all of the major logos you would need, including all state tax incentive logos, union bugs like SAG and IATSE, and technology partners. Can't find the logo you need? Endcrawl will add your specific logo to your end credits through their support services.
I was impressed not only with Endcrawl's ease of use and its render engine, but also the fast turnaround from customer support whenever I had a question or specific request, even before I finally paid the $499 fee for unlimited 2K renders. So I asked Endcrawl co-founder John "Pliny" Eremic a few questions via email to give NFS readers an update on how Endcrawl has evolved since the fall of 2013.
NFS: Is the time between Thanksgiving and the beginning of Sundance the busiest time for Endcrawl as the lucky few race to finish their films?
Pliny: Close. We certainly see a spike in December and January, and it's not just Sundance-bound films. But late summer is actually busier: you have Venice, Toronto.
NFS: Tell us about the genesis of Endcrawl.
Pliny: I was watching my toddler at a playground and pitched the idea to my wife. And I was like, "Yeah, but that's dumb." And she was like, "No, it's awesome." And I was like, "Oh, ok." (True story.)
I used to run post at Offhollywood (we sold it to Light Iron, who were acquired by Panavision last month). We did a ton of feature film post, and end credits were always the bane of our existence. I saw the need for a structured-data approach. Not a plugin, not another video app, but a service that would let you collaborate, preview in real time, and get unlimited re-dos without needing to be a designer yourself.
Then my co-founder Alan Grow and I had one beer too many at a holiday party (I think it was Sound Lounge, hi guys!) and we talked ourselves into doing this.
NFS: We wrote about Endcrawl in Oct. 2013. Can you tell us about any improvements or enhancements to the service since then?
Pliny: Wow. Okay. So in 2013 we didn't have a UI. Another true story. You'd edit in Google Docs, and shoot emails to our "renderbot" with subject lines like "gimme pdf" or "gimme dpx". Render links would come back in minutes. And people loved it!
But yes, about a year ago we launched a web-based interface. Real-time preview, layout control, click to render, all that. Some customers have actually dared to call it fun. (And the renderbot still lives! Which comes in handy sometimes. Technically, I guess you can make Endcrawl renders from a Blackberry.)
NFS: For a $1 million indie feature, $499 to get access to unlimited 2K renders is not much. But to an ultra-low budget indie feature, that's $499! How do you convince those filmmakers that Endcrawl is worth the money?
Pliny: How would you like a few days of your life back? I'm looking at a project right now that started at Sundance last year and is just now requesting render #118. I think it's fair to say that the math works out. And that the filmmaker easily got a week of his life back. There's always "one more revision".
Our lowest-budget customer was a $20K movie. Many of our films are in the $100K/Kickstarter range. About half are SAG Modified Low, Ultra-low, or straight up no-budget shows. But hey, it's free to try.
NFS: Beyond the ease of use, I think I was most impressed with Endcrawl's customer support via email. Whenever I had a question between 9am-9pm ET, I got an incredibly quick response, including when I sent a custom logo to be embedded in the final part of the crawl. How are you handling customer support to ensure fast turnaround times?
Pliny: Thanks! That's really great to hear. The short answer is: we hired.
Alan and I hit a point where we couldn't keep developing the product and do 100% of the customer support. So we decided to become grown-ups and created our first job last year.
But Alan and I still handle a good chunk of the support ourselves. I think it's really the lifeblood of startups. It has to be an obsession, and the startup world is setting new standards that everybody (including Your Least Favorite Cable Company) is going to have to emulate eventually.
NFS: How much can a film customize the end credits using your service?
Pliny: Well, we don't do star wipes.
Building software is a learning process. We've been listening to what customers ask for, and using that data to understand which features actually matter. Endcrawl has to be powerful, but easy enough that even a producer can use it. (Oh snap!) [Ed. note: Producers, that's Pliny's "snap", not mine.]
So we've focused on features that will cover 90%-95% of use cases. For example, if you need to flip your Special Thanks from 2 to 4 columns, or order them vertically instead of horizontally, play with logos, that's all a few clicks. That sort of thing used to mean a designer (or the Poor, Abused Assistant Editor) having to muck around for hours or days.
And yeah, since we're still beta, we also do custom tweaks on the back-end if you present us with some weird edge case.
NFS: Like you said, Endcrawl is still technically in beta, so what are your future plans for the service?
Pliny: We're rolling out a number of big things in 2015, and of course I can't tell you.
Okay, one thing: we'll soon be taking on all short films. We've been turning away most shorts from our beta -- which sucks, I know -- but we can only grow so fast without the quality of our support dropping off. Later this year we'll introduce new pricing and service tiers that will make sense for short films. They've been banging down our door. Can't wait.
We'll also be rolling out support for 2.8K and 4K, both of which are on the rise in post finishing pipelines.
NFS: Who are some of Endcrawl's clients that you can share with our readers?
Pliny: I first need to give a huge shout-out to Short Term 12. We have no idea why, but that film has brought us more referrals than any other movie. We've taken to calling it the "Short Term 12 Effect." Maybe it's just the one film that every filmmaker has seen.
Our biggest repeat customers are assistant editors and post supervisors. Two years ago one post super found us when he had 4 movies in Sundance. Poor guy probably wasn't sleeping or eating, but he got all 4 end credits sequences into his DCP screeners within 3 days. Now he's on his 19th job with us.
Lots of post houses are now using Endcrawl by default. We've also been used on some $100M tentpoles, but we usually can't disclose that. It turns out that title houses like using Endcrawl as a white-label service, which is cool with us.
Some of our movies, off the top of my head:
- A Most Violent Year
- Ain't Them Bodies Saints
- God's Pocket
- I Origins
- Fishing Without Nets
- Black Nativity
- Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine
NFS: I found Endcrawl by watching Short Term 12! So add another project to the "Short Term 12 Effect".
Pliny: Ah, ST12 strikes again! I love it.