Hungary is considered to be the leading country in international filmmaking in Europe, which is not only noticeable by the increase in the number of foreign crews in the studios, but also in post-production workload. Some of the most popular streaming and studio projects of today, even if they are not filmed in the country, are edited in Hungarian Studios. ORIGO Studios, where sci-fi blockbusters like Dune, Blade Runner 2049 and many more have been filmed in the past 6 years, operates one of the busiest post-production departments in Central Europe.
László Hargittai, also known as “Pamacs” in Hungarian film circles, is the Head of Post-Production at ORIGO Studios, making sure that the studio’s clients see their every need met in the editing room and beyond. We asked the editor about what the constant flow of international productions means to the Hungarian film industry, and how they are dealing with it at ORIGO Studios:
BPR: The numbers of international productions in Hungary saw a spike in growth around 2017. You’ve had really strong years since then – how did it all start?
L. Hargittai: ORIGO Studios has been around for 12 years now, operating with a professional post-production team and high-grade equipment from the beginning. However, it wasn’t easy to gain the trust of the leading studios on the market. You have to remember that these American films that are made here cost billions of forints, which means hundreds of thousands in dollars. Post-production is a pretty sensitive area, since this is where you see the result of every dollar you have spent on production design, costumes, wages and so on. It makes sense that studios would only entrust this work to someone they have absolute confidence in.
For a long time, it was difficult to find work and gain recognition. We even took on projects for a lower price just to get our name out there. The trick is, we were always there, even if just a little bit. After a while, those producers, directors or editors, who returned to Berlin or London from Hungary, started talking about us, recommending us to each other. Soon, they kept coming back to us, and we slowly started to make a name for ourselves.
Of course, we had to be careful not to make any mistakes, because one misstep could easily ruin everything, even now. But I’m proud to say that we’re the go-to studio for many film productions, both American and European. I think our post-production workflow is very professional, and we gained a lot of experience in different fields over the years.
BPR: Do you receive post-production requests for projects, that are not filmed here in Hungary?
L. Hargittai: Yes, we do. We are sought after for our post-production services both locally and internationally. Our studio complex is comprised of various divisions, with the post-production department operating as a separate division. We have the freedom to work on projects as we see fit, but with that comes a great deal of responsibility. We have to ensure that we meet the required standards and expectations of our clients.
BPR: Can you tell us about some projects you’re currently working on?
L. Hargittai: I recently worked on a Hungarian film called “Hat hét” (Six Weeks), which won the award for Best Film and Best Actress at the Hungarian Film Critics’ Awards. This is a typical project that supports the Hungarian film industry at the post-production level while enhancing the studio’s reputation, without generating significant profit. We always have several Hungarian projects underway.
On an international level, we’ve worked on a wide array of projects, such as “Dune” and its upcoming sequel, “Blade Runner 2049”, “Die Hard”, “47 Ronin” and many others. These movies were all filmed at ORIGO Studios, but we also help in on outside projects. More recently, we started working on the post-production of the third season of FBI: International, which is currently shooting in Hungary.
BPR: Does your post-production and restoration process include AI technologies?
L. Hargittai: We often scan films, which is exciting because the studio has two high-quality film scanners, an ARRISCAN XT and DFT’s Scanity. We also work on certain footage using AI-based systems that can upscale low-resolution footage to 4k or higher. This is a complex and challenging task, and there are films where we need to adjust parameters for each individual frame. It’s great that we have experience in this field, too.
In my opinion, AI has the potential to be very useful in many areas, but people misunderstand it. If you give it a specific task, it can perform it faster and better than a human being. Personally, I find this a bit frustrating, but there are tremendous opportunities in this field, such as facial recognition and colorizing black and white films based on predetermined data. However, we are still far from the point where I can give it a film’s raw footage, and have it edit the film. I cannot say when that time will come, but seeing the current pace of technological developments, I also can’t say it won’t.
BPR: Are you expecting an increase in international projects in the following years?
L. Hargittai: There are no signs indicating that they should stop coming. The pandemic has proven that content consumption habits can change. Obviously, movie theaters are not dead, but the streaming market that flourished during COVID saw new players entering the market. The platforms offer a wide selection of original content, but this can only be sustained by constant production. It’s also obvious that a weak content will not do in the current market. Good quality content must be provided, at an increasing rate. I definitely think there is a place for the Hungarian film industry in all this, as we are the largest service providers in the EU.
There is plenty of work for now, and as long as the market is hungry for content, there will be more. If demand was to decrease for some reason, then a big battle would ensue, which would be decided in terms of prices and quality. I can safely say that Hungarian quality on the international market is hard to match.
BPR: Do you notice a higher interest towards the industry among beginner filmmakers, due to these large-scale incoming projects?
L. Hargittai: There is an increasing interest, sure, but there is also serious turning point: when the actual work starts. When these newcomers try themselves on the market, it’s a little different to what they have learned before. When you start doing night shifts and overtime, many people just give up. In the end, the number of professionals does not increase, but there is a much bigger pool of new workforce, so it’s easier to find those truly talented.
The film industry in Hungary always had a strong group of talented filmmakers, but due to the lack of funding and access to technology, they had to rely on low-budget solutions to make good films. However, with the advancement of technology and increased expertise, we now have access to the latest techniques and tools, which has led to a highly skilled workforce in the region. This expertise has also spilled over into Hungarian films, as those who work on American films often bring their skills to local productions, resulting in high-quality films despite financial differences.
BPR: What’s it like when a high-profile production team like Dune’s arrives at your studio?
L. Hargittai: It’s an incredible feeling, but a lot of it has to do with Joe Walker‘s personality. When and Oscar-winning editor like Joe is running around in his socks and having lunch with us, it brings us all to the same level, in a sense. He is an editor, I am an editor, and there’s no longer a gap between us. They don’t come here and tell us what to do, they treat us as colleagues. They view us as equal partners, even though a Hungarian editor wouldn’t have much chance at being the lead editor on a high-grossing project like Dune.
When I was editing Zoltán Török’s film “Lemming” in 2017, which is a small nature documentary, Joe came in and watched what I was doing, asking me about lemmings. When he brings it up nowadays, he laughs and says, “How can you make a film about lemmings? That is crazy.” I had a film premiere when he was working here on Dune, I invited him, and he came. He brought a level of collegiality unimaginable to us, which means a lot because in Central Europe, there’s always this feeling in the back of our minds that we’re too small for all of this. These moments highlight that this isn’t true at all.