Post production is one of the sections of our industry most easily integratable into cloud production standards, adaptable to remote collaborative techniques and able to implement tasks based on artiﬁcial intelligence. We wanted to take a closer look at this area to ﬁnd out what advances and bets are being taken by two of the UK’s major post houses. We talked to The Finish Line and Evolutions. Inside this magazine, you will discover how important is the adoption of cutting-edge technology for them; both to evolve in the possibilities of content creation, as well as to take care of their employees.
Within this interest in content creators in the UK, we show you in this issue of TM Broadcast International the particular case of Second Home Studios, an animation studio that has specialized in the creation of content through stopmotion techniques. This method, highly based on the creation of content, scenes and characters manually in a fully artisanal way, also has a lot to evolve thanks to technology. In our tour of the UK, we have traveled to Scotland
to ﬁnd out ﬁrst-hand what has brought Kelvin Hall to the attention of the international broadcast industry. The latest of the production centers developed by BBC Studioworks has been built on the most solid broadcast technology in the Scottish city of Glasgow. Don’t miss out on all its features, it has a lot to oﬀer.
In an amazing geographical leap, we travel to New Zealand to meet Aaron Morton, one of the members of the prominent cinematography team involved in the ﬁrst season of “The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power.” This is, to date, the most expensive series in history. We spoke to this professional to ﬁnd out why, as well as to provide you with all the details and technical challenges of its visual production.
The productions we have already mentioned in this editorial, both ﬁlm and television, are still based on workﬂows over traditional connections. Why do people still choose to renovate and build on these techniques? How can companies that oﬀer solutions to the industry help to speed up this transition? Pebble and Zixi answer us.
Post Production Workﬂows with The Finish Line
The Finish Line is a post-production company that has recently been awarded as the best TVrelated site to work at in the whole of the UK.
Evolutions is a British post-production company that has reached third place in the TV Producers Poll in Televisuals Top UK Post Houses ranking.
The constant changes in the possibilities of content creation, as well as the new media needs to properly manage them throughout the various stages of the creation process, are key aspects in our audiovisual environment.
Technology inside Kelvin Hall 46
PlayBox Technology integrates its solutions for OTT environments into Grass Valley’s AMPP ecosystem
Grass Valley recently announced a new member to the Grass Valley Alliance. It is PlayBox Technology, a specialist in building OTT solutions for broadcasters and content owners. The company has agreed to join the alliance by making its OTT Stream CMS products and AVOD solutions available on the Agile Media Processing Platform (AMPP).
AMPP is a live production, management, and distribution SaaS platform that connects the entire content production and distribution chain designed by Grass Valley.
“By including the PlayBox OTT Stream CMS as part of the GV Alliance, we can oﬀer our clients the best in cloud-based solutions for their OTT and Ad Server workﬂows,” said Phillip Neighbour, PlayBox Technology’s COO.
“OTT systems provide broadcasters and content owners with numerous beneﬁts, including wider reach, greater ﬂexibility and control, personalized experiences, valuable insights, and cost savings. We are excited to oﬀer our customers this opportunity to expand their operations and enhance their audiences’ viewing experiences.”
“As the Media and Entertainment industry transitions to more ﬂexible, cost-eﬀective workﬂows,
we need well-integrated solutions across the production chain,” said Chris Merrill Director of Strategic Marketing for Grass Valley. “By bringing PlayBox into the GV Alliance, we’re removing the expense and work of integrating systems from diﬀerent vendors. Grass Valley and PlayBox are doing all the system validation so that our joint customers can be conﬁdent of getting a pre-vetted system that works from day one.”
AJA integrates Nobe OmniScope solution into its applications
AJA has recently announced that its Developer Partner, Time in Pixels, has delivered Nobe OmniScope support for the company’s desktop and mobile products.
Time in Pixels is specialized in bring information into the color workﬂow on
any production. Founder Tomasz Huczek developed Nobe OmniScope, a software-based suite of scopes that help creative professionals analyze a broad range of video sources and imagery with standard post production tools.
The AJA products that already are compatible with the Nobe OmniScope capacities are KONA 4, Io XT, U-TAP and T-TAP Pro. KONA 5 and Io X3 integrations are planned to support future customer demand.
Blackmagic Design releases the Studio Camera
6K Pro: prepared for remote transmission
Blackmagic Design announces the release of the Studio Camera 6K Pro. The camera solution features an EF lens mount, a larger 6K sensor for improved colorimetry and ﬁne detail handling, ND ﬁlters and built in live streaming via Ethernet or mobile data. Advanced features include talkback, tally, camera control, built in color corrector, Blackmagic RAW recording to USB disks.
Simultaneously, the Australian company has announced the release of Blackmagic Studio Camera 4K Pro G2.
The 6K Pro camera is designed in a carbon ﬁber reinforced polycarbonate body which includes a 7″ HDR viewﬁnder. Advanced features include talkback, tally, camera control, built in color corrector, Blackmagic RAW recording to USB disks, and live streaming.
At a location outside the studio, the camera generates an H.264 HD live
stream that is sent over the internet back to the studio. Only an Internet connection via ﬁber or 4G or 5G networks is needed. No modem is needed, users of this camera would only need to connect their smartphone to the camera to give it a connection.
The sensors included in these cameras are combined with Blackmagic’s proprietary color technology. The color corrector can be controlled from the switcher. It can perform 13 stops of dynamic range. The sensor features an ISO up to 25,600. All models support 23.98 to 60 fps.
With the addition of EF or MFT lens mounts support, now the products can be integrated with a wide range of photographic lenses.
The Blackmagic Studio Camera 4K Pro G2 and 6K Pro models have SDI connections that include talkback. The connector is built into the side of the camera and supports standard 5 pin XLR broadcast headsets. Other inputs and outputs are 12G-SDI, 10GBASE-T Ethernet, talkback and balanced XLR audio inputs. The 10G Ethernet allows all video, tally, talkback and camera power via a single connection.
Ateme integrates its 5G solutions with AWS to provide streaming and monitoring of content over 5G networks
Ateme announces that its 5G media streaming solution is now integrated into Amazon Web Services’
AWS Wavelength 5G Mobile-Access Edge Computing (MEC) infrastructure.
AWS Wavelength embeds AWS compute and storage services within 5G networks, providing
mobile edge computing infrastructure for developing, deploying, and scaling ultra-low-latency applications.
5G MEC (Multi-access Edge Computing), is a network architecture that enables the deployment of applications at the edges of a 5G cellular network.
The integration was tested in a Wavelength zone within a tier-one operator’s network. This development enables the deployment of a complete 5G streaming and monetization platform including encoding, packaging, CDN and dynamic ad insertion (DAI) in a 5G MEC architecture.
Williams Tovar, 5G Media Streaming Solutions Director, Ateme, said, “After all the talk about 5G, the reality is even more exciting as it opens up innovative opportunities such as immersive content delivery in venues, and AR and VR content oﬀerings that will be game-changing for service and content providers. AWS has an excellent solution with a global footprint, so we are excited to integrate our media streaming solutions into the AWS Wavelength 5G MEC architecture to create the ﬁrst complete, low-latency streaming solution at the edge.”
Next Milano Cortina 2026 Winter Olympic Games: more remote and in the cloud broadcast than ever before
OBS, (Olympic Broadcasting Services), has held during these ﬁrst days of March its usual meeting with the Media Rights-Holders (MRHs) for the Olympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026. This was an opportunity for the attendees to meet in person, visit selected competition venues and the International Broadcast Center (IBC), while discussing the progress of preparations for the Games and the development of the broadcast operations and coverage plan.
The Milano Cortina 2026 Winter Olympic Games, after 20 years, are returning to Italy and will be held over an area of more than 22,000 square kilometers. This project involves two cities, Milan and Cortina, working in collaboration with the support of two regions, Lombardy and Veneto, as well as two autonomous provinces, Trento and Bolzano, to create an unforgettable event.
The broadcasters, in addition to visiting the facilities where some of the events will be held, will also visit the Milano Convention Centre, which will be transformed into the Main Media Centre (MMC) for the upcoming Games. During the Games, it will house the International Broadcast Centre (IBC), which will oﬀer the OBS and the MRHs access to technical and production facilities, as well as various oﬃces and services.
“The International Broadcast Centre for the Olympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026 will ﬁnd its home in the MiCo exhibition complex, which stands out as one of the ﬁnest venues ever selected for this purpose,” explained Sotiris Salamouris, OBS Chief Technical Oﬃcer. “As the host broadcaster of the Games, OBS is thrilled to establish its base of operations there, and the Media Rights-Holders
share our enthusiasm. A venue of such high quality is an essential component for ensuring the absolute success of the event.
Broadcasters and content creators will have access to the best facilities for producing exceptional coverage of the Milano Cortina 2026 Olympics.”
OBS updated the broadcasters on their plans to showcase world’s top athletes. The organization intends to provide MRHs with greater access to the athletes, including more behind-the-scenes content pre- and post-competition to enhance their multiplatform coverage of the Games. Furthermore, OBS provided them with a detailed technical framework that aims to facilitate their operations on-site and for their remote teams. As part of this framework, broadcasters will be able to rely on an extended range of cloudbased solutions.
Caton technology helps Culture Club take its music around the world
Culture Club celebrated the 40th anniversary of the triple platinum album Colour by Numbers with a one-oﬀ concert in California on February 25. However, the band’s fans were able to enjoy it all over the world because it was streamed thanks to Caton Live Stage solution.
Monogram Media and Entertainment captured the entire show in 4K Ultra HD, including a short set by Berlin before Culture Club performed for close to two hours. Live Stage ensured distribution of the show from the production output to every venue around the world. Many markets, including Japan, received the feed live, while others, like Europe, had a timedelayed stream.
“We are really excited that the technology has ﬁnally arrived which allows us to live stream our music around the world, giving our fans a great experience
– nearly as good as being there in person,” said Boy George, Culture Club’s singer.
The tool allows to live stream the event with digital cinema quality and low latency. This performance is obtained with AI-based intelligent routing from Caton. The cloud architecture known as C3 uses smart traﬃc engineered algorithms to generate multiple routes with self-optimising capabilities between the source and destination.
“With Caton Live Stage, we’re changing the paradigm for digital cinema, broadcast, and OTT. Our AI
smart traﬃc technology and completely autonomous switching ensure users are guaranteed complete reliability and real theatrical quality over commodity business broadband,” said Gerald Wong, Senior Vice President at Caton Technology. “The system is easy for the cinema or venue to deploy, with the decoder conﬁgured remotely, making it a simple plug-and-play solution. This is a game-changer for the entertainment industry, providing venues with a new way to oﬀer highquality music and sports to audiences and operators with valuable sources of revenue.”
V-Nova collaborates with Globo Mediatech Lab to develop an LCEVC stream of the Brazilian Carnival
V-Nova has announced the collaboration with Globo Mediatech Lab in the delivery of an LCEVCenhanced stream for the 2023 Carnival in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The live stream was conﬁgured in conjunction with existing AVC/H.264 transmission to demonstrate the beneﬁts of MPEG-5 LCEVC in live streaming applications.
The streaming trial featured a MainConcept LCEVCenhanced H.264 live encoder creating a ladder of 6 proﬁles peaking at 1080p29.97 @ 4500kbps. This was compared to the incumbent AVC/H.264only channel of 8 proﬁles, where the top proﬁle was 1080p29.97 @ 5500kbps.
The streaming employed HLS in 6 second TS segments and delivered via AWS CloudFront. Playback was available on
a demonstration website using Shaka Player v4.3 which natively includes an LCEVC decoding option.
The LCEVC-enhanced H.264 delivered a high quality output with a ~40% bandwidth saving compared to the existing H.264-only stream.
Guido Meardi, CEO at V-Nova said, “The Carnival is as beautiful to watch as it is challenging to compress at high quality. We are proud of our collaboration with Globo, which proves the tangible beneﬁts of LCEVC for enhancing resolution and picture quality in largescale live events while
improving eﬃciency in both the CDN and backend. Critically, these real-life trials demonstrate that this new technology can be deployed today with broad encoder and decoder support available.”
Deacon Johnson, SVP & General Manager at MainConcept said, “We are pleased to continue the work we started in 2022 with V-Nova and Globo. MainConcept values our partnerships with industry leaders, such as V-Nova and Globo, who share our commitment to the quality, reliability, and performance we demand in our products.”
ATG Danmon shares details of its latest technical renovation in the studios of a U.K. university
ATG Danmon has recently shared one of its TV and radio system modernisation project for a London based university.
The company has partnered with the university’s management in selecting new elements of the system and advising on how best to integrate these into the creative workﬂow. In this University, students can learn about ﬁlm, ﬁne art and media, digital arts and communications, games design and animation, music, theatre and dance, creative writing, cultural and heritage studies, journalism, advertising and performing arts.
Among new additions to the video infrastructure are a UHD video production switcher with NDI IP connectivity as well as 6G-SDI and HDMI interfaces. The system is capable of supporting up to 10 wired or wireless cameras plus three graphics tracks. It also incorporates storage for up to 20 hours of broadcast quality video and audio. Creative facilities include live switching, chroma key compositing and text management plus the ability to perform live streaming.
Also integrated are UHD monitors plus an IP-
interfaced 40 input digital audio production console. This is augmented by intercoms between studio and production gallery plus wireless microphones and wireless in-ear monitors.
The radio hub is equipped with an HD-SDI production switcher including 4 SDI and 10 NDI inputs. The switcher sources from 16 1080p NDI-interfaced remote pan/tilt/zoom cameras. Audio is handled through a 12-channel digital mixer with 16 audio-over-IP channels accessible via two Ethernet ports or 64 MADI inputs via ﬁbre.
Red Bee Media and Dotscreen revamp RTBF’s Auvio OTT platform with new capabilities and features
platforms and applications, including web browsers, iOS mobile, Android mobile, Tizen, and soon Android TV, LG smart TVs, Sony Playstation and Apple TV. Using Red Bee Media’s Software Development Kit (SDK), Dotscreen refreshed all Auvio user interfaces across end-user devices.
Red Bee Media has recently made public that the media services provider has signed a multi-year agreement with Radio-télévision Belge de la Communauté Française (RTBF), the public broadcaster for the Frenchspeaking community in Belgium.
The objective is to power its recently re-launched Auvio platform through Red Bee Media’s managed OTT services with live TV and radio, Audio on Demand (AOD), and Video on Demand (VOD) capabilities.
As a part of the project, Red Bee Media partners with Dotscreen, a multiscreen
User Interface, app design and development agency, to improve Auvio’s user experience with UI solutions.
RTFB was looking to revamp their streaming platform and to deliver new capabilities while ensuring integration with its existing technology infrastructure, RTBF needed a partner to provide a managed solution with end-to-end responsibility for delivery, storage, and management.
Harnessing a range of OTT capabilities via the Red Bee Pulse service, RTBF delivers live and on-demand content to Auvio users on a wide variety of online
“Live streaming and topquality video and audio content are at the core of our digital oﬀering. With Red Bee Media, we achieved record-breaking audience levels on our streaming service during the 2022 FIFA World Cup,” says Cecile Gonfroid, Technology Director, RTBF.
“Red Bee Media’s proven broadcast-grade solution for live and on-demand streaming, combined with Dotscreen’s intuitive and user-centric frontend design proposition, perfectly aligned with what we were looking for. We’re excited to continue innovating and have the right partners to implement our vision.”
Ad Insertion Platform and Tiledmedia announce joint product to monetize content on online platforms
Ad Insertion Platform (AIP) and Tiledmedia announced a partnership agreement to provide overlay ads into the video content of video-ondemand (AVOD) and free, ad supported streaming TV (FAST) streams.
The idea is not to sacriﬁce monetization by reducing the number of traditional ad breaks and replacing them with overlay ads. Users can keep watching their content while a suitable ad appears in a corner of the screen or on a conﬁgurable customer location thanks to Tiledmedia’s Multiview technology.
The insertion workﬂow is automated via the Ad Insertion Platform’s SSAI technology, both for ondemand and live video. Ad overlay inventory is inserted automatically into the tech stack.
“Personalised Multiview Advertising is a gamechanger in the video streaming industry,” said Frits Klok, CEO of Tiledmedia. “Our partnership with AIP has resulted in an innovative solution that combines the power of Tiledmedia’s Multiview streaming with AIP personalised advertising expertise. This advanced
advertising solution provides a new revenue stream for service providers while oﬀering a more engaging and interactive experience to customers.”
Laurent Potesta, CEO, Ad Insertion Platform, added: “Automated noninterruptive advertising creates a great complementary option for brands to connect with audiences nowadays with a high level of viewer acceptance. Without interrupting the viewer experience, an advertiser can contextually target its audience in an innovative and non-intrusive way.”
Showmax revitalized in Africa thanks to agreement between MultiChoice and NBCUniversal
MultiChoice Group owns Showmax. This is a streaming service in Africa that has a footprint in 50 markets in sub-Saharan Africa. Recently, the group has reached an agreement for what they will relaunch the platform, powered by NBCUniversal’s Peacock technology, along with world-class content from NBCUniversal and Sky. It will build on Showmax’s success to date and aim to create the leading streaming service in Africa.
Showmax subscribers will have access to a premium content portfolio, bringing African audiences the best
of British and international programming.
The service will combine MultiChoice’s accelerating investment in local content, content licensed from NBCUniversal and Sky, third party content from HBO, Warner Brothers International, Sony and others, as well as live English Premier League (EPL) football.
“We launched Showmax as the ﬁrst African streaming service in 2015 and are extremely proud of its success to date. This agreement represents a great opportunity for our Showmax team to scale
even greater heights by working with a leading global player in Comcast and its subsidiaries,” said Calvo Mawela, Chief Executive Oﬃcer of MultiChoice. “The new business venture deepens an already strong relationship and builds on the Sky Glass technology partnership that we announced in September last year. We believe we are extremely well positioned to create a winning platform going forward.”
Matt Strauss, Chairman, Direct-to-Consumer & International, NBCUniversal, added, “This partnership is an incredible opportunity to further scale the global presence of Peacock’s world-class streaming technology, as well as to introduce millions of new customers to extensive premium content from NBCUniversal and Sky’s stellar entertainment brands.”
or the Soul
and KC Global Media join forces to grow internationally
Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment Inc. is an US-based content provider and KC Global Media is multichannel and network entertainment operator from Asia. Both companies recently entered into an agreement with the goal of expanding internationally. They will do so with adsupported free streaming TV (FAST) and ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD). The companies plan to launch additional FAST channels and license AVOD rights in 2023.
This strategic agreement strengthens Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment’s international presence as it joins KC Global Media’s portfolio, through AVOD licensing and the launch of FAST Channels in Asia.Andy Kaplan, Co-Founder
and Chairman of KC Global Media, said, “As we head into 2023, one of our key strategic goals is to increase our volume and diversity of premiums content in our current portfolio. Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment is one of the largest content providers, and this strategic partnership gives us an edge as we provide more value to our partners and aﬃliates in the region. This, in turn, will also enable us to reach out to new audiences and new territories and create more opportunities around the world as we continue to grow our business with our
aﬃliates and streaming platforms.“
“One of our areas of focus in 2023 is to grow the availability of our owned content globally – and monetize it in every way possible,” said Elana Sofko, Chief Strategy Oﬃcer of Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment. “We always seek to work with prominent media companies already successful in the markets we are entering. KC Global Media is a company with deep relationships throughout Asia, and we know we can continue to scale our international business together.”
Post-production technology for worker care
The Finish Line
How was The Finish Line born?
I was working at a large London post-production company when I suﬀered from a mental breakdown. What led me there had to do with the fact that budgets were getting tighter and tighter and that meant doing the same tasks in less time. In addition, as we were cutting back on investment, we were also cutting back on the tools we had at our disposal to get the job done. No time or training was ever invested in our development as creatives, we were just ordered to get the job done. I worked a minimum of 14 hours sometimes, and very often 17 or more hours a day.
This caused me to start to think more about how post production was done and if there was potentially a healthier and better way to do it. I never stopped loving post, but the approach was making it impossible to do work to my standards and to have a life outside of work. I should be able to be a passionate creative person, but also have friends, a family and other
The Finish Line is a post-production company that has recently been awarded as the best TV-related site to work at in the whole of the UK. Despite what we might traditionally think, the company does not provide entertainment spaces in the ofﬁce, nor does it have luxurious and comfortable post-production facilities in its work center. This company, made up of almost 30 professional high proﬁle creatives, deserves this title because it cares for the worker above all else.
In an industry where times (and budgets) are getting smaller and smaller, and workloads bigger and bigger, The Finish Line, led by Zeb Chadﬁeld, our interviewee; has managed to ensure that the people in their charge are not overwhelmed by 12-hour workdays, can enjoy their private lives and, at the same time, get a high-level job done. Read on to discover that technology has played a big part in this ability.By Javier Tena
things that give my life value. This was the idea.
With a lot of thought, I realized that apart from talent, the only thing a creative like me needs is to have the best software and hardware available. The ﬁrst thing to invest in was a high quality grade one reference monitor and with that I started my career again, by myself, because that was The Finish Line at the beginning: me trying to get my health back while trying to limit my work load.
How has the company grown from what it was to what it
It was just me and now, nearly 12 years on, it’s just under 30 people. We are well known for our healthy approach to post production, putting our talent ﬁrst and looking after them so they can do their best work. We have been recognised as the best place to work in TV in the UK in 2023 and also received other awards for leadership.
We handle end to end post production services but our main services are picture ﬁnishing and delivery. We have the largest team of Finishing Artists in the country and work to deliver to the highest standards so we are very focused on technology like HDR with Dolby Vision and high end mastering monitors like our favourites from Flanders Scientiﬁc allowing us to
deliver up to 4000nit HDR masters.
On the side of the tools we use, the truth is that everything has slowly evolved to make Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve the most complete tool in picture ﬁnishing. So we don’t jump from one software to another as much anymore. Resolve, in its development, became
more accessible and they have continued to add more features to make it much more useful.
The combination of highend color management tools, with capabilities accelerated by neural engines and integrated with Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos and all the best mastering formats, oﬀers the best solutions for us at this
very moment. Being able to work with end-to-end camera originals and devise intelligent workﬂows with Dolby Vision has allowed us to make a big name for ourselves in the HDR ﬁnishing and delivery space.
How much added value does technology bring to The Finish Line?
Technology is very important to us, but we look at it through a diﬀerent lens. We look for technologies that make life easier for our employees
so they can spend more time with their loved ones, or that allow us to improve the quality of the images we produce. It’s often both: the tools and technology that allow us to have a better, more balanced life also allow us to do higher quality work.
Is it really possible to get the best results in your work and, at the same time, promote a healthy way of working among employees? Because, it really seems impossible!
Yes, it is. We decided to start planning the projects
around 8 hour workdays, more shorter days rather than a few excessively long ones. That was the ﬁrst thing we did. It’s hard to believe, but the truth is that grading shifts are often around 12 hours. And that’s really ineﬃcient. Because with so many hours spent in the suite, there comes a point where you don’t think clearly and you end up needing even more hours than 12 and then you come in the next day and have to do it again, that can only last so long.
Sometimes the shorter workdays are diﬃcult to maintain. In fact, more than once with certain projects, we suddenly see that the time planned was not enough to get the job done, often due to assets coming in late from one place or another. When we see that happening we sit down with the team and rework the costs and schedule to keep things moving forward in a healthy way. If we are up against a broadcast date or time that can mean throwing a lot more resources at it to get it on air, and then we need to look at what could have been done diﬀerently. This
is a management failure and we need to be sure to learn from it so it can be avoided in future.
In addition to time management and organization, we have also devoted special attention to technology. We have observed its evolution and have adopted new technology always keeping in mind how we can make it possible for our employees to spend more time with their loved ones while improving the quality of the work.
Going deeper into this topic of technology and its evolution, do you think that the evolution of technology has taken into account this very human factor?
I think for the most part yes. The question is whether companies will decide to use it to improve the lives of the people they work with or for proﬁt. Probably the majority of businesses will favor proﬁt.
But it’s very important to look at technical evolution with a people-centric lens. Because no matter how
smart the tools are, you will always need to combine them with creative talent to get the most out of them. I’m of the opinion that an AI can get the job done for you, but if you really want to get the best result, you’ll need a person as well as the AI.
So, technology is allowing us to do more with less eﬀort. For example, Resolve has an AI-based depth tool. It will create a depth map based on an algorithm. You can use it to change the focus of the image or even to make a text appear behind someone, or use the object recognition to select a person or a car and use it to blur or obscure something. Before these tools we could spend a day or two rotoscoping. Now, all of a sudden, it’s done. In fact, in addition to the way technology gives us the ability to do more things with less eﬀort, it also frees up talent, because it is no longer necessary for one of our artists to spend three days doing those minor jobs. They can focus on adding more value to the project and really harnessing their creativity.
are the technological challenges you usually face in your projects?
The main challenge for us with the kind of projects we are involved in, especially with UHD and HDR, where everything revolves around the speed of storage and computers. Also, it doesn’t help getting stuck waiting on master deliveries for ﬁnal GFX or archive. However, these are things that are beyond our control. Regarding the former, as long as the equipment is up to par, higher resolutions are less important so we invest a lot in fast storage and systems.
Developing workﬂows in which we don’t have to convert ﬁles to lots of diﬀerent formats or move them between diﬀerent tools is essential to be able to work eﬃciently. Equally important is working with camera originals and having them available at all times. For example, our editorial team can conform all media through DaVinci Resolve, whether they are working in Final Cut, Resolve, Avid, Premiere, Lightworks or any other program. Our conforming process,
regardless of how you edit, takes between 10 and 15 minutes which is a huge diﬀerence when compared to the alternatives.
In our case, instead of having to generate diﬀerent ﬁles in diﬀerent phases, we can work with a nested version of the timeline, i.e. work with a reduced version of the timeline, but still containing everything within it. That means we can do reversioning, remastering or international versioning at the same time. In fact, we do quality control and ﬁxes on that original timeline,
so everything we correct is corrected automatically within all the other versions.
You mentioned that you develop your content in HDR, how do you manage the diﬀerent copies in diﬀerent color standards?
Dolby Vision is the best for that. If you treat your HDR Master as primary, you can generate any version, even a theatrical version with Dolby Vision. It’s fantastic. We just have to ﬁnish a piece of content in the correct HDR standard and
then we can output it into any deliverable format. It’s an automated process, really, where you just have to do minor manual adjustments to make sure everything comes out as intended. If you’ve done a good HDR ﬁnishing, the treatment you’ll have to give to the SDR version will be minimal. However, if the HDR ﬁnishing was not good, the automatic conversion process will not produce a great result. We do a visual pass to see if there are any strange ﬂashes or cuts, correct what needs to be corrected and that’s
it. As mentioned earlier, using this Dolby technique, we don’t have to generate diﬀerent grade passes for each version. It is enough to do the primary version and use the metadata method to generate what’s needed for the diﬀerent formats; the quality it produces is very good, I think aesthetically it’s even better than if we did each pass manually — though this is a personal opinion.
Remote production techniques, as well as post-production, have changed the landscape of our industry. They became commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. What workﬂows did you modify then? How did the technology help you adapt them? Which workﬂows have remained today?
We were developed and started running virtual edit suites back in 2014 so we were well positioned fortunately for the remote working approach. The main thing that changed over the past three years is that the client understanding about
this shifted and it’s more common for production companies to take us up on lower rates for remote work because they know it can be done and trust us to deliver to the highest standards.
Regarding tools, which ones do you use to solve the challenges associated with remote post-production?
We rely in LucidLink. It works like a shared storage system within a traditional facility, but it’s cloud-based, and it’s very capable. You can even insert a change into a ﬁle, and it will only
upload the changed bit of data inside the ﬁle.
On the other hand, regarding shared editing, our team members can work in shared timelines. To do this, we use the features provided by DaVinci Resolve. To give you an idea of its capabilities, if one of our colorists is working on a clip, it locks that clip for everyone else so you can have multiple colorists on the same timeline.
In addition, Blackmagic has now released cloud libraries with Blackmagic IDs. It gives us the ability to work from multiple locations on a shared project and timeline.
We can divide up the tasks as much as required. One person can be subtitling, others working on color, etc. It allows us to be much quicker when required on a fast turnaround project.
How do you see the industry evolving?
I think we’re in a space right now where there are not going to be big technology leaps. AI and ML-based tools will continue to enable more functionality, but ultimately the revolutions are inspired by users and consumer product demands. The next big thing may be just around
To conclude, will we come to rely solely on machine learning and artiﬁcial intelligence for post-production?
I am a bit of an optimist. I do think it will just create more content rather than reducing jobs. And I believe this because I maintain that the best content is created by the best talent and the best technology when combined. AI can write a perfect text, a text that gives you what you are looking for, but it doesn’t give that text your personality based on your life experience. That’s the gold dust you need to sprinkle on top and that’s why cooperation between these tools and human talent will always be necessary to elevate the creative output to the highest level.
the corner, but there is nothing obvious that is going to be a systemic change in the way things are done in the short term.
However, I do think the industry is going to change. A lot of creatives are now in a pretty strong position to say what they want to do. In that sense, what you see is that there’s little interest in going back to big facilities, in fact, we all proved that you can do the same work from home. So they’re in the position of saying “I’m going to do it from home. If you don’t want me to do it at home, then I’ll work another job.”
The question here is clear, then, will the traditional facilities vanish? I think they probably won’t. There will be a need for creative hubs where the diﬀerent parts of the production teams come together from time to time. But the viability of traditional facilities, which are based on providing as many services as possible under one roof might become more of a wework type model, you can hirer the right sort of creative space but all the resources are virtualised. This is already changing to a scenario where more and more professionals are working in a distributed way and you will get a better result by working with specialists in each ﬁeld. Producers choose who they would like to work with at any given time and it won’t matter where they are. Even in the highest level productions, which always prefer that everyone works from the same systems for security reasons, they can already make that system adapt to the distributed production models we are talking about so hypothetically a large steaming service would just give limited access to speciﬁc tools for various creatives wherever they may be to do their bit of the job and then revoke access when that bit is done. Componentized talent services, perhaps?
Actually, the only thing holding back all this development is the mindset of the people making the decisions.
One hundred percent. When I set up the company, it was designed exactly the way it works now, but no one was willing to work that way when we tried to sell it to them. We ended up pretending that we were doing everything the same as everyone else, but in the background we were relying on all the virtualized systems like edit suites, cloud technology and glacier storage.
Post-production with an eye on the future
Evolutions is a British post-production company that has reached third place in the TV Producers Poll in Televisuals Top UK Post Houses ranking. We spoke with Will Blanchard, Head of Engineering at Evolutions Bristol, to ﬁnd out what this post house is focusing on in terms of the technologies that are currently being developed in the industry. With detailed opinions, you will learn about what this company is emphasizing in terms of investment and infrastructure for remote post production workﬂows, cloud or artiﬁcial intelligence.
How was Evolutions born? How has the company grown from what it was to what it is today?
Evolutions launched following a management buyout from ITN in 1994. With a broadcaster’s attitude to technical standards and an independent facility’s approach to client care, Evolutions quickly became one of the most popular and successful post production companies in London.
Another management buyout in 2004 was the precursor to a period of growth and expansion, leading, in March 2006, to the acquisition of Nats Post Production, another of Soho’s most popular fullservice post houses. 2008 saw continued growth with the opening of a further Soho facility in Great Pulteney Street, and in June 2013 Evolutions opened its ﬁrst regional facility in the UK in the heart of Bristol’s media district.
In April 2014, a brand-new, purpose-built, facility in
Sheraton Street, in central Soho was opened. Further expansion in September 2015 lead to the opening of Berwick Street, a beautiful 30-suite facility in the heart of Soho.
Evolutions is now one of the largest independent,
full-service post production companies in the UK across it two-city sites. Evolutions Bristol has now been part of the South West’s production and postproduction community for ten years, and has grown from a small facility with one Colourist, one Dubbing Mixer and a handful of oﬄine suites to one of the regions most respected HETV facilities oﬀering creative talent. We have a credit list ranging from blue chip natural history, to drama and animation.
In 2023 Evolutions were ranked 3rd in the TV Producers Poll in Televisuals Top UK Post Houses.
Their services encompass workﬂow consultancy including complex VFX work, in-facility, remote and hybrid oﬄines, UHD HDR Baselight grading, Flame Online suites and Dolby Atmos Audio.
How much added value does technology bring to Evolutions?
This is a tricky question to answer. In terms of value speciﬁc to Evolutions we don’t believe we will stand out because of our technology. We believe that it is assumed that every
post production facility can gain the same technology, so the way we stand out is being operationally and creatively excellent. That said obviously we wouldn’t be able to function without technology. It’s diﬃcult to put a value it though.
What are the house specialties?
High end television (HETV) post-production in natural history, documentary, drama, etc.
What recent projects has the company been involved in?
I would highlight some contents such as “Epic adventures” (Wildstar, Disney); “Serengeti S1,2,3” (John Downer, BBC/ Discovery); “Lloyd of the ﬁles” (Ardman/CITV); “The Doghouse” (FiveMile Films, ch4); and “Gangs of baboons” (True to Nature, Sky Nature).
What have been the most challenging and why? What has technology brought you to solve these challenges?
“Gangs of Baboons” was our ﬁrst UHD HDR delivery that included sound in Dolby Atmos. We upgraded one of our 5.1 audio suites to accommodate 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos. The most challenging aspect of this was to meet the Dolby speciﬁcation for speaker placement. We already had 5.1 but some of those speakers needed to move slightly and we needed to move the listening position. Then, obviously, adding more speakers. Once the monitoring was all in place we upgraded the audio IO to an AVID MTRX with
suitable option cards to connected to a Dolby RMU to be able to process and render out Dolby Atmos content.
We have also bought in Auto Desk’s Flame product to overcome some of the colour pipeline issues we were having in picture ﬁnishing.
Technology is evolving very fast. Postproduction techniques are not far behind. What are the evolving trends in technology that Evolutions has identiﬁed and is betting on?
In general, everyone seems to be centralising compute power. Whether or not it’s cloud, data centre or on premise MCR, moving everything centrally solves a few challenges and opens up other technology opportunities. Having all the compute in one place can make some of the remote solutions easier to manage. It also helps if you want to start virtualizing workstations and servers. We have embraced virtualization. For us, the main advantage is security, backup and recovery.
In terms of production, we are seeing increasing engagement with VFX. This is often handled by outside companies, as the production company usually has a preferred supplier (although Earth is our in-house visual eﬀects arm). The challenge is that, with UHD HDR, even sending small clips/plates to a visual eﬀects studio can increase the amount of data that needs to be transferred. Along with the ﬁles being bigger, the amount of VFX work per episode has increased. We have expanded our ﬁnishing support department and increased the number of workstations
and network speed to enable them to process plates and shape visual eﬀects more eﬃciently.
HDR and UHD (4K), or later (such as 8K), have already become a production standard. How has Evolutions adapted to the demands of these new formats?
There are a few aspects that are challenging when moving to the high-end workﬂows.
The obvious being, everything needs to be bigger and faster. Storage needs to be bigger and faster, networks need more
bandwidth, workstations need more power. These are all the obvious challenges anyone needs to overcome. In the natural history space we have a fairly unique challenge as the amount of footage captured by a production is massive. Due to the nature of the production stage it is not easy to predict how much footage will come to us. But with an average or around 400:1 shooting ratio we end up with a lot of data. In the region of 1-2PB per series. The time from receiving the ﬁrst rushes to delivering the ﬁnal programme can sometimes be measured in years so we need to take that into consideration when specifying storage and workﬂow.
We have put in data centre grade storage with a 100G network backbone, which should future proof us for a time. We are also in R&D on the next generation of storage infrastructure, looking to make things more eﬃcient, cost eﬀective and faster.
Archive is another issue we face. When creating
multiple copies for archive, 1PB of source material can quickly become 3PB of data to write, which is a huge. We have had to double our LTO capacity as well as move up a generation in drives/tapes to accommodate faster speeds and higher capacity.
The HDR colour pipeline is inﬁnitely more detailed than SDR. Even at delivery stage there are many choices of speciﬁcation. This is dictated by the delivery platform. Therefore we must be geared up to deal with every possible iteration. It’s fairly standard for delivery versions to enter the 10s (per episode) including; HD SDR, UHD SDR, UHD HDR and within the HDR deliveries sometimes multiple diﬀerent colour spaces for each delivery. Gone are the days when rec709 was the only ﬂavour you had to worry about. From a workﬂow perspective, we work with a master version of a programme that can deliver all the diﬀerent ‘ﬂavours’ at the end of the creative process. This has meant we don’t have to
repeat work in diﬀerent colour spaces. Along with the workﬂow we have also had to accommodate a lot more HDR monitoring so more people can be involved in the process along the way. We now accommodate UHD HDR monitoring in all ﬁnishing stages, grade, online and audio (Dolby Atmos) as well as the technical support teams that assist all these processes.
We have added Autodesk Flame to our picture ﬁnishing tools. This enables us to utilise a completely native workﬂow throughout, allowing us to preserve the highest quality images.
We have also added MTI’s Cortex platform which does a number of things but helps us with QC and delivery of UHD HDR content.
Remote production techniques,
have changed the landscape of our industry. They became commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. What workﬂows did you
as well as post-production,
modify then? How did the technology help you adapt them? Which workﬂows have remained today?
We have decided to move a lot of infrastructure to a data centre. This not only gives us some beneﬁts in terms of scale, but allows us to share work eﬃciently between our physical sites in Bristol and London. Clients have become used to working from home, which has meant that anyone’s geographical location is fairly irrelevant. That’s such a good thing allowing production to put together really strong teams, using talent they might not have used before as they might have been too far away from the rest of the production. Even though a lot of people are ‘back in the oﬃce’ the requirement for remote technology is still very much needed. I think a real positive to come out of the pandemic is we are now setup to facilitate this ﬂexible working, which allows production to draw on talent they might not have been able to use
previously. Not only can clients work from home a Bristol based production can have editors working on the same project, in our London facility, and vice versa. So we can accommodate distributed production teams in a way that suits them. We manage to do this by our high speed network infrastructure between sites, as well as equipment in our data centre.
We also have systems to be able to review and sign oﬀ content remotely, again from home or sit in an edit suite in London reviewing work (live) that is happening in Bristol. This helps clients with distributed teams be more eﬃcient with time, and reduce carbon footprint due to limiting the amount of travel needed.
What capabilities does the introduction of the cloud bring to your workﬂows, and do you see it as an advantage?
Cloud technologies are interesting from a technology point of view. Obviously the most attractive thing is the fast
scale and de-scale allowing companies to accept work beyond their physical technology infrastructure. The challenge we face is the cost. Dealing with the amount of data we do, the ingress, egress and storage charges make the cost prohibitive. Each project we work on now commonly goes into PB of storage, with a project lifespan of 1-3 years, making the bill for storage alone into the millions. Where as to buy the physical storage is a tenth of that. Even when you take into consideration power and space, it’s still not attractive in that domain.
If we do manage to get over the cost hurdle, we also have to consider getting uncompressed video at 12bit 4:4:4 into monitors in our ﬁnishing suites. To make best use of cloud infrastructure we have to put the compute element of our system in with the storage to give us the best eﬃciencies and performance. While lots of software manufactures are doing a lot to make their products work well in the
What are the next steps Evolutions will take and what technology will it rely on to take them?
Moving into the future we are looking at our infrastructure and how we best plan for change. The only thing certain in technology is that it will change. The goal posts our clients will continue to change. So whatever you plan for today may become redundant tomorrow. We want to create a ﬂexible infrastructure that can be scaled and accommodate a number of scenarios. More speciﬁcally we’re investigating technologies to centralise compute power. This helps solve a lot of challenges.
cloud there are still some challenges to overcome in the video monitoring side. Lots of people are using NDI successfully but we want to aim for the highest quality possible. Currently we are viewing UHD HDR 12bit 4:4:4 in our ﬁnishing suites, to move to a compressed video format like NDI would be a step back in my opinion. While we have adopted NDI elsewhere, in our ﬁnishing suite I don’t think it’s appropriate. SMPTE 2110 may provide the answer but along with the storage costs and other technical challenges has leaded us to keep an eye on the cloud technology space, but has stopped us jumping in with both feet at this stage.
We use the cloud in other ways, often with 3rd party SaaS platforms for some data transfers into and out of our on premis infrastructure.
We also (being Albert aﬃliate) consider our environmental impact of using cloud infrastructure. All of this and the above come into our decision making when deciding on how to deploy technology, including cloud infrastructure.
What do you think could be the next big technological revolution in the post-production industry?
We are starting to use more and more AI tools. I think there is a space for AI to add value to post production in providing higher quality conversion and manipulation. We deal with a lot of upscaling and standards conversion for archive footage, sometimes creatively trying to sit amongst newly shot UHR HDR footage. We already have some high end software tools and hardware for this. Last year we started using AMDs Threadripper platform for noise reduction (in picture) which increased the speed of processing around x8. So we have really powerful hardware. The next step for us is to see what value content based AI can give us. We occasionally come across footage that will cause a traditional algorithm based process to fall over and create unwanted artifacts. I’m really excited to see what will happen when the process moves over to content based processing.
Because there is more than just disks and memories for storage
The constant changes in the possibili es of content crea on, as well as the new media needs to properly manage them throughout the various stages of the crea on process, are key aspects in our audiovisual environment.
We are now used to handling virtually all of our information in digital media: from a simple text or voice message to large volumes of information required by quality images require, especially when it comes to audiovisual content.
From the standpoint of a generic user, disregarding everything that is behind such storage is the usual thing. But from a professional point of view, it is part of our responsibility to know as much as possible in regard to everything that is related to our tools so as to make, as always, the most of them.
When discussing “media storage” or more speciﬁcally in our sector “audiovisual content storage”, we do not intend to delve into brands or models, but into the qualities and features of said storage, highlighting those that are critical for our creation process, from camera capture to broadcasting and long-term archiving.
It is not an exact ﬁgure, but at the beginning of this 21st century it was already
estimated that in a little more than a decade of digital photography more photos had been lost due to technical or human failures of any kind than all the photos that had been created for more than a century since the invention of chemical photography. This is something that cannot happen to us.
But it is not simply about not losing information, it is about being able to record
and retrieve it in the most eﬃcient and reliable way at each and every one of the diﬀerent stages and situations through the creation process. So, let’s review what are the most important aspects for each of those stages, hoping that no one will be surprised by the large diﬀerences that exist regarding the needs to handle the same content throughout the whole process.
Let’s start by clearly setting our scenario by establishing the large sections, because we must not limit ourselves exclusively to the media, but also consider “what”, “when” and “where” for our contents. Naturally, other questions such as “depends”, “what for”, etc. will arise later on, and this will lead us to make the right decisions.
Dealing with “what” is very simple; what are
we going to save?: given our audiovisual creation environment we are going to focus only on the aspects related to our AV contents, that is: the ﬁle (or set of coherent ﬁles) that save the image, the sound and the associated metadata that allow us to correctly manage our recordings.
As for “when”, we will consider four major stages in the creation process: registration, while recording is taking place; handling, which normally involves all processes related to ingestion-editingpostproduction; broadcast, when it is made available to our viewers; and archiving, when it is saved for later use. Because each particular stage involves very diﬀerent needs.
“Where” is precisely the medium that will store our contents, not in all cases will it be a physical medium.
“Depends” will almost invariably be the right answer to all the “what for’s” that we will be facing. These “what for’s” will be the goals, the purposes for which the recording and/or
archiving and/or broadcast is made. Diﬀerent “what for’s” of the same content will determine very diﬀerent storage needs.
We will begin by explaining the two main features of storage systems, since these will be what will most frequently determine the ideal media in each particular circumstance.
The ﬁrst and most signiﬁcant feature is capacity, measured in terms of Giga-Tera- or Petabytes, and it is the easiest one to grasp: it is the size of the warehouse and determines the amount of information that will be possible to save, their respective factors being of the order of 109, 1012 and 1015. It is important to remember that if we refer to an order of 103 in computer terms (1 kilobyte) we are really talking about 1,024 bits, 106 (1 Mega-byte) in the same terms = 10242 = 1,048,576 bits, and so on.
Next comes speed. But let’s slow down now because there is more than one speed or rate of transfer. Usually, we talk about
speed ﬁgures of the order of MB/s (Mega means 106). In addition, we must take into account that writing speed is usually lower than reading speed, that these speeds are not the same for a small block of data as for a continuous ﬂow (precisely that is our need!). We must also take into account access speed or time it takes to ﬁnd the data sought, and the most delicate task: make sure if we are handling data in MB/s (megabyte) or Mb/s (megabit): 1 MB/s = 8 Mb/s!
In our case, the speed that really interests us will always be the sustained speed, whether for reading or writing. But be careful not to confuse bit rate (transfer rate) with frame rate (the frame rate or fps in our recordings), although a higher frame rate will always require higher bit rates and storage space.
Having explained all this beforehand, it is now possible to start exploring possibilities.
The capture stage seems relatively simple, since the internal media is always
conditional to the camera. While today there are a lot of cameras that already use memory cards of standardized formats such as SD, XQD or the new CF extreme (types A and B), there are still in service a good amount of equipment that only support proprietary media such as Panasonic P2, Sony SxS and even optical disks. Not to forget that it is common to use external recorders such as those from Atomos or Blackmagic among others.
The necessary storage capacity will be based on resolution, frame rate and codec chosen, but do not need a calculator: manufacturers usually oﬀer quite reliable ﬁgures for the various recording times possible in each combination, as well as the minimum writing speed necessary to ensure correct recording. In fact, it is often the case that the cameras themselves do not allow you to select formats that are not supported by the internal card.
That is where external recorders come into play, which in turn also use cards and/or disks that must also meet the necessary capacity and speed requirements for our shooting needs. But pay a lot of attention here, because under the same physical card shape, especially in SD media, it is possible to ﬁnd a huge variety of speeds, a factor that is usually directly related to the enormous range of prices for the same capacity. Categories C (class) U (UHS) and V (video) give an idea of performance.
Although we have used the word disks, at this stage mechanical hard disks are no longer normally used, but SSD type, that is solid state hard disks. They are actually large memory cards that for all intents and purposes behave like a hard disk, but with the advantages of being much faster, not having moving parts and consuming much less energy. And they also exist with a very wide range of speeds.
The impact of each of the factors that aﬀect the volume of information generated is very diﬀerent, which is normally referred to as “the weight” of a ﬁle: quite proportional and predictable if we consider resolution (HD vs UHD), frame rate (24/25/29.97 vs 48/50/59.94) and color space (4:2:0 vs 4:4:4). But enormous among very diverse codecs (AVCHD vs H.265 vs RAW).
Let us get a little closer to the extremes to illustrate the breadth of ranges that can be handled nowadays: from about 16 Gb per hour for a HD 4:2:0 in compression media formats suitable for editing (AVCHD type), to more than 18 Gb per minute for a 4K RAW 4:4:4:4 (ARRI Alexa) with the maximum possible information for the most delicate and demanding tasks.
And as if the possibilities were not wide enough, we start with the “depends”. Because in addition to the original record, if it depends on the criticality of the work, we will need a backup as soon as possible, it
depends on the immediacy that content must be available in another place almost simultaneously, and if it depends on the type of project we will have to approach its treatment in very diﬀerent ways.
Which leads us to stage two -the so-called handling- that encompasses everything related to ingestion, editing, composition, color grading, audio mixing, mastering, etc., where needs begin to multiply and diversify.
We start from the simplest end where the same person ﬁlms and edits, connecting the original media to the computer. With the necessary caution to start by transferring the content to a ﬁrst medium such as the computer disk, and then make another copy on external disk or cloud service before proceeding to edit. Because we already know what can happen when we rush with editing on the original media from the camera or recorder…
In addition to the computer in general, especially the disk must meet the
necessary requirements so that all the ﬁlmed material ﬂows with the necessary smoothness in its original quality.
As the project grows, either due to volume or complexity, it will be necessary to have a NAS storage system capable of responding to all our needs. And these will no longer just be those of running an AV content, but it may be necessary instead to move several streams of diﬀerent AV content simultaneously. Again, both capacity and speed of the relevant medium will be the key factors to take into account, with diﬀerent manufacturers oﬀering diﬀerent solutions in terms of speed, performance, scalability, etc.
As our project continues to grow or becomes sophisticated, the shared storage system will need to be sized proportionately to maintain suﬃcient capacity and speed to provide performance for a growing team of people working simultaneously on the same project or in the same organization, both by ingesting new content and by using existing content. At this point we must already add the concurrency factor, that is, how many simultaneous accesses we will need to provide support to.
Regardless of the size of the equipment and depending on the criticality of the materials it may be advisable to adopt a RAID conﬁguration for our shared media that allows to increase capacity, improve access times, and above all, save and recover any potential data losses. The various possible conﬁgurations for RAID
systems allow these diﬀerent functionalities by combining diﬀerent techniques.
It must also be considered at this stage, although it always “depends” on the project, that not all processes will be linked or sequential. Thus, stages such as color grading, soundtrack or so many others, may have their own needs for access to storage on the same materials.
There will be a turning point in growth, diﬀerent for each organization, where it becomes more interesting to have media storage -or part of it- managed by a cloud service. In this case, the decision will not be given simply for reasons of capacity or speed. Factors such as equipment scattering, security, accessibility, conﬁdentiality, and proﬁtability, among others, will be the real keys for the ﬁnal decision.
In short, in this handling stage is where we will normally ﬁnd the highest demands around capacity and speed requirements simultaneously, in addition to reading/writing concurrency to properly manage our AV contents.
This stage ends when we have already composed the ﬁnal piece, which almost always becomes a single ﬁle ready to be enjoyed. And this brings us to our third stage: broadcast.
Nowadays we must take into account the very diﬀerent broadcast possibilities: from a sequential broadcast grid in traditional broadcast channels, to on-demand content. In any case, by this stage the volume of information to be handled has been considerably
reduced. We no longer have dozens of materials to compose for which we need the highest possible quality to handle them in the best conditions.
The codecs available enable to handle signiﬁcant compressions without loss of quality, since the material will not undergo subsequent modiﬁcations, so the ﬁles have a much lighter weight and will be easy to handle. Even so, a suﬃcient storage volume is needed to keep all of our contents. And with the right
access speed to serve them on demand if we oﬀer such service.
In this case, we must bear in mind that we may be required to send the same ﬁle at diﬀerent times to multiple destinations and do so through networks over which we have hardly any control, so it will be important to size up the ﬁle to ensure that transfer is carried out as smoothly as possible.
In short, in this stage it will be necessary to take
special care of the ability to access and read, while capacity will only be conditioned by the amount of contents available in our catalog, or simply by the grid to broadcast if we are only considering linear
broadcasting. And just by using a bit of sense, it will be a diﬀerent platform to the one used in the manipulation phase. In this case, at present NaaS (Network as a Service) formats prevail, as they have suﬃcient capacity to be the most proﬁtable investment for a good number of content broadcasters. Although proﬁtability will not always be the decisive factor, and in other circumstances or for certain organizations, internal management of these contents will be preferred.
Already reaching the next stage, long-term storage, requirement types are the other way around. It will be capacity rather than speed the decisive factor, since now a few seconds
to ﬁnd the content will not be critical, but it will to have enough space. And the criterion of a new platform that is separate from the previous ones for this storage still holds. Making an analogy, this would be the library in the basement.
But all of this leads to yet another “depends”. Because, what do we want to store on this occasion? all the shooting raw ﬁles with maximum quality for future reediting. Only the ﬁnal piece? Even if it is only the ﬁnal piece, we must preserve our master ﬁle with the highest possible quality, and not only a version that will be enough for broadcasting. Because we know from experience that the capabilities of all systems increase exponentially over time.
There is no single solution that will cater to all our needs, being instead “scalability”, “ﬂexibility” and “adaptability” the most important notions to take into account when designing and managing our storage system. Going back to the beginning: “What for?” may be the key factor to always keep in mind in each of the stages.
Technology inside Kelvin Hall
BBC Studioworks’ latest step to create a complete TV production ecosystem in the UK
BBC Studioworks is one of the UK’s leading providers of television studio infrastructure and services. As part of its ambitions to create a nationwide television production ecosystem, it opened the Kelvin Hall studio in Glasgow in mid-2022.
This facility built on the pillars of sustainability and the best production technology available has been the talk of the industry for the past six months. Has it been developed on IP infrastructure? Can it accommodate virtual production techniques? What picture standard does it work on? We asked David Simms, Communications Manager, and Stuart Guinea, Studio Manager, of BBC Studioworks, all these questions. Here are all the details.
What are the functions of BBC Studioworks?
David Simms: BBC Studioworks is a commercial subsidiary of the BBC providing studios and post production services to all the major UK TV broadcasters and production companies including the BBC, ITV, Sky, Channel 4, Channel 5, Nexﬂix, Banijay and Hat Trick Productions.
Located across sites in London (Television Centre in White City, BBC Elstree Centre, Elstree Studios) and in Glasgow (Kelvin Hall), our facilities are home to some of the UK’s most watched and loved television shows.
Some of our credits are “Good Morning Britain”, “Lorraine”, “This Morning”,
“Loose Women”, “The Jonathan Ross Show”, “Saturday Night Takeaway and The Chase” for ITV. For the second channel of ITV we can highlight “Love Island Aftersun” and “CelebAbility”. For Channel 4 we produce “Sunday Brunch” and “The Lateish Show with Mo Gilligan”. For Sky we make “A League of Their Own” and “The Russell Howard Hour”. “The Crown” and “Crazy Delicious” are some contents we produce for Netﬂix. And, for the BBC we create “The Graham Norton Show”, “Pointless”, “Strictly Come Dancing” and “EastEnders”.
Kelvin Hall is one of your latest projects, what are the reasons for its construction and what objectives did you intend to achieve with it?
David Simms: Kelvin Hall is a 10,500 sq.ft. studio. It opened on September 30, 2022 and its construction was co-funded by the Scottish government and Glasgow City Council. Between them, £11.9 million was invested. The Scottish city council owns the building.
The studio has been designed to host all kinds of productions. In its development, sustainability was one of the main pillars on which we based ourselves. To meet these obligations, we brought new life to an existing building that was already in disuse.
Other facts that make it a sustainable project are that it uses 100% renewable energy and has been designed with LED lights.
Kelvin Hall responds to our ambition to open more studios throughout the UK. We did our research
across major UK cities and the studio at Kelvin Hall comes in direct response to a growing demand from producers and industry bodies to make more TV shows is Scotland, as well as a niche in the Scottish market for more Multi Camera Television
(MCTV) studios to meet the demand.
Our objectives with Kelvin Hall were to create a boost to Scotland’s capacity to produce multi-genre TV productions and as such help fuel the demand for Scotland’s creative workforce and economy.
After six months, have expectations been met?
David Simms: Six months since opening the studio at Kelvin Hall we have facilitated over 40 episodes of television —on two
shows: BBC Two’s “Bridge of Lies”, produced by STV Studios; and BBC One’s “Frankie Boyle’s New World Order”, produced by Zeppotron— created job opportunities for local production, technical
staﬀ and freelancers (six permanent staﬀ and an average of 100 people working on a studio record day).
We have also helped to support the next
generation of talent to join the TV industry - we launched a Multi Camera TV Conversion Programme in collaboration with the NFTS and Screen Scotland that trained 12 trainees who are now being oﬀered paid
work placements at Kelvin Hall.
We understand the importance and necessity of inspiring, nurturing and developing the next generation of production
talent, so collaborating with NFTS Scotland and Creative Scotland to oﬀer entry points for young Scottish people to the industry was a priority for us when opening Kelvin Hall.
With regard to supporting the nurturing future local talent, we aim to forge an industry collaboration, supported by Screen Scotland, which routinely invests and delivers initiatives that create a sustainable talent pipeline to meet the growing demand for skills and people.
The creative sector in Glasgow ﬂourishes, built on a reputation of having the best talent that can be sourced locally. We want to increasingly deliver on this ambition over the next ﬁve years.
Kelvin Hall is said to be integrated with stateof-the-art technology and has been built to be consistent with the other BBC studios. How did you achieve this?
Stuart Guinea: The BBC Studioworks project
team that managed the construction and installation of Kelvin Hall consisted of a group of our in-house experts who had previously project managed the remodelling and technical ﬁt-out of our facilities at the Television Centre in London between 2013 and 2017, as well as our move to the two Elstree sites in 2013.
One of the key decisions made in the design of the Kelvin Hall studio was the commitment to install the infrastructure for LED lighting. This not only reduces the carbon footprint of the studio operation, but it also puts us at the forefront of the change to LED lighting in multicamera TV Studios.
Unlike our facilities in London where our project teams had to work to speciﬁc space limitations in existing buildings, at Kelvin Hall we had the fortune of building a brand-new studio facility from scratch in a cavernous space. We took advantage of this to maximise our spaces, ensuring the control rooms and galleries were amply sized – these technical
spaces are now the largest across our entire footprint, allowing room for possible tech expansion in the future.
The biggest challenge for the whole project was timescale. There are always small delays in every building project and although we had planned for these, we were also working towards the deadline of our ﬁrst conﬁrmed client production series at the end of September, so the pressure was on to deliver on-time.
It is also important how the connections between equipment and devices within Kelvin Hall and even between other studios are developed. Designing them over IP is the big challenge and promises many capabilities. What is the situation in Kelvin Hall with respect to this technology? And in other studios developed by BBC Studioworks?
David Simms: After extensive research, we decided to implement a 3G (non-IP) solution for Kelvin Hall.
This was the more costeﬀective route for our business model and is already known to our clients, as this is the tried and tested solution that we have in our London facilities.
The core infrastructure at Kelvin Hall is all 4K ready, so we can accommodate a 4K production in the future.
What are Kelvin Hall’s virtual production capabilities? LED or Green Screen, which has been your bet?
Stuart Guinea: Our studio at Kelvin Hall is a large ﬂexible space (10,500 sq. ft.) - we have integrated hoists, data and power distributed throughout our overhead grid and the studio ﬂoor is paintable so can be matched to any greenscreen system. We can therefore accommodate both LED or Green Screen for VR.
Focusing on the technology, which manufacturers have you relied on to develop the Kelvin Hall installations?
Cameras, visions mixers and monitors
• Six Sony HDC-3200 studio cameras. The 3200 is Sony’s latest model which has a native UHD 4K image sensor and can easily be upgraded to UHD.
• Sony XVS7000 vision switcher, LMD and A9 OLED monitors for control room monitoring.
Hardwired and radio communications systems
• 32 Bolero radio beltpacks with the distributed Artist
ﬁbre-based intercom platform and for external comms, VOIP codecs.
• A SAM Sirius routing platform solution to support the most challenging applications in a live production environment and to ensure easy adoption of future technology innovations.
• Studer Vista X large-scale audio processing solution that provides pristine sound for broadcast.
• Calrec Type R grams mixing desk. A super-sized grams desk providing ample space for the operation of the Type R desk and associated devices, such as Spot On instant replay machines.
• A Reaper multi track recording server.
• ETC Ion XE20 lighting desk and an ETC DMXLan lighting network.
• 108 lighting bars with a mix of 16A and 32A outlets (if tungsten is required).
• 48 Desisti F10 Vari-White Fresnels.
• 24 ETC Source 4 Series 3 Lustr X8.
Another major focus has been on sustainability awareness. In practical terms, how can broadcast technology reduce its impact on the environment?
David Simms: We were fortunate enough to ﬁnd an area within Kelvin Hall that was already part of a wider redevelopment initiative at the site - the studio repurposes a previously derelict section of a historically important building. And as there is no gas plant, all electricity
is sourced from renewable sources.
The studio has been designed without dimmers to encourage LED and low energy lighting technology. The reduced heat generated by the low energy lighting has enabled the use of air-source heat pump technology for heating and cooling, and the ventilation plant has class-leading eﬃciency using heat recovery systems.
For the past three years we have proudly held the Carbon Trust Standard for Zero Waste to Landﬁll accreditation at our Television Centre facility, and we are currently working on achieving this for Kelvin Hall too. The Zero Waste to Landﬁll goal was achieved through a combination of reducing, reusing and recycling initiatives to reduce environmental impact. Speciﬁc waste
contractors have been procured to ensure diversion from landﬁll and an onsite waste disposal system, incorporating eight diﬀerent streams, has been implemented to encourage responsible waste disposal and reduce cross contamination.
We are also a founding collaborator of BAFTA’S / ALBERT’s Studio Sustainability Standard, a scheme to help studios measure and reduce the environmental impact of their facilities.
Second Home Studios
“What VR offers creators and consumers still seems to be in the Commodore 64 phase of its evolution. I think it still has much more to come.”
With this statement, Chris Randall, head of the Second Home animation studio based in Birmingham, positions us in front of a really promising future. His hands, and those of his team, have developed a multitude of projects ranging from bringing stories to life through handmade models captured with stop-motion techniques, to the creation of virtual worlds consumable through immersive technologies. Here’s what an animation craftsman has to say about the cutting-edge technologies that will inevitably revolutionize his profession.
What is the origin and history of Second Home Studios?
Second Home Studios came about as a happy accident. I’ve always loved visual eﬀects and animation. I cut my teeth as a ﬁlm Clapper Loader whilst at University working with the BBC VFX Unit (when it existed) on shows like “Red Dwarf” and helping to blow up Starbug in my Uni holidays. Great fun. I learned a lot and had a brilliant mentor in the form of DoP Peter Tyler.
I moved back to Birmingham, worked in theatre for a bit, then started working in Central Television’s Broadcast Design Department as a Rostrum Cameraman. I’ve always been a keen modelmaker so I started teaching myself stopmotion in my lunch hours. Soon after, CiTV commandeered me to make promos for them for children’s content. My ﬁrst proper body of work for broadcast won World Gold at Promax and I started to take it more seriously.
Around this time I was asked by an old colleague in theatre to create a ﬁlm to cover a scene change for The Wizard of Oz. It was a two minute tornado sequence and
encompassed much of what I’d previously learned on both sides of the camera while working as a Clapper Loader.
The following year more projection work was on oﬀer, so I left CiTV and set up our Digbeth [Birmingham’s neighbourhood] studio where we’ve been ever since. Now we’re a team of ten, soon to be twenty ﬁve.
What are the characteristics that make Second Home Studios diﬀerent from other animation production houses?
I think it’s our versatility. Some houses operate around a distinct house style, whereas we like to work in diﬀerent media
and try new things. We’re a pretty small operation but we’ve managed to punch above our weight a few times over the years. I think there’s a tenacity within the team that is slightly contagious. It’s certainly helped us get through troubling times. When one of us gets deeply into a problem, it kind of draws everyone else’s interest. It’s from this culture of curiosity which spawned our motto; ‘Be Curious, Tell Stories, Make a Mark.’ Even if all that curiosity ends up revealing is a shortcoming in our skillset. At least then we know how to improve. Plus there’s always a narrative in everything we design, draw or animate, no matter how short it might be. And it’s always good to have our work leave a positive scratch in the raging torrent
of online content which gets produced on a daily basis.
Regarding your projects, which have been the most technically challenging and on which technology have you relied to solve them?
Every project is challenging for diﬀerent reasons and with varying levels of complexity. Some projects rely on rigorously technical pipelines, others fall to the skill of the animator.
One of our signature stopmotion projects remains the Pilsner Urquell ‘Legends’ ﬁlm crafted entirely from paper and comprising dozens of multiple motion control passes on what is essentially a single camera move.
We also do mixed-media pretty well and were asked to collaborate with Glassworks on a Christmas production for Penny a few years back. This involved shooting miniature stop-motion sets for CG character integration. We used our Manta rig for this and had to match move to the pre-vis for certain shots. Image integration of this sort is always helped by observing good studio discipline for covering things like decent HDRIs, shadow passes, and clean matte plates.
Our rebrand for German edu-channel Da Vinci Learning was a mixed media extravaganza which combined studio eﬀects, stop-motion, CGI and a lot of 2D work as well. This was
a great collaboration which won us a British Animation Award for Best Motion Design in 2020.
More recently we produced animated route maps for the Birmingham 2022 Commonweath Games. Our concept was to convert the city into a table top model, a nod to our preference and history for creating in miniature. This involved the lengthy processing of incredibly dense mapping data into geometry which could then be animated. Render wrangling the immense poly count became a signiﬁcant challenge here, but the results turned out really well thanks to an eﬃcient pipeline through Houdini into Nuke.
We’ve not long wrapped on a large stop-motion project with Nexus Studios and Oscar nominated director, Siqi Song, made easier in post through the use of Polycam for photogrammetising puppet heads for face animation. Another great team eﬀort on both sides which launches later this year.
Our current stop-motion shoot is an animated documentary featuring all hand-knitted puppets. This presents a challenge of a more tactile nature where we have to work within the properties and limitations of the physical material. The main technological saviour here is humble aluminium wire.
What parts of the production chain of an animated project do you develop inhouse? Do you have the technical infrastructure
and human resources to cover the creative processes, designs, 3D creation, ﬁnal composition, conformation, etc.?
In short, yes. We always tell clients we can be involved as much or as little as is needed. We are often handed fully developed boards or animatics and asked to facilitate their production. But we also get commissioned to build projects from the ground up, sometimes from a one or two sentence brief.
I’ll be honest and say I think we prefer the latter because I think that’s where we’re used to best eﬀect. I’m glad to say I work with some brilliant creative minds, who can invent, research, pitch, create, produce, analyse, rework and ﬁx at all stages of the pipeline in whatever medium the animation takes.
At heart, I suppose we’re generalists and Second Home was founded as the ﬁrst studio oﬀering stop-motion animation in
our city. But we’ve since expanded our toolset because there’s too much fun to be had with all the other techniques available in the animation universe. Of course we draw upon an extended family of freelancers and partner organisations of similar size for support when needed to achieve such versatility.
What internal technological infrastructure do you have to develop your specialties?
We’re brand agnostic. We started as a Mac design studio I think because of familiarity and habit from the old CiTV days, but now we operate this along with self-speciﬁed PC’s.
We run a simple NAS drive hub as the core data repository, which is soon to be replaced with an 80TB Linux driven server.
Software-wise we’re mainly Adobe driven but push everything through Nuke for ﬁnal image composition.
Grading often happens in Da Vinci.
For stop-motion capture we use Dragonframe which is an incredible piece of software; faultlessly robust and always being innovated by Dzed. It’s a pleasure to use, especially with its motion control and DMX integration for lighting.
We use Raw Therapee to convert frames from studio ready for comp and where possible we’ll use this stage as a pre-grade ﬁlter to get the look of something as
close to how the Director and DoP feel it should be.
The 2D stuﬀ happens in After Eﬀects, Animate, Toonboom or whichever feels most appropriate for the task in hand.
3D work happens in Maya, Blender or Cinema 4D for the artistic modelling and animation. The more technical product demo work normally lands with 3DS Max for accuracy and polish.
What is the last technological renovation or expansion process you have carried out?
What is the next one you are planning?
The last innovation project was probably our Manta motion control rig which we designed and built ourselves. We needed something with a bigger reach than most other rigs on the market for stopmotion use. It’s a 7 axis rig and gives a pretty wide reach over most miniatures. Plus the live preview courtesy of Dragonframe’s DMC-16 interface makes it good enough to shoot live passes on smallish life-size sets. We’ve also done some tinkering with LED strips
in making our own budget lighting solutions for lighting cycloramas and model sets, all with DMX control.
Our next process will build on this use of LEDs when we come to gearing up for our next production.
The technology around the creation of animation content has been the same for some time, but it is now in a time of transition thanks to technological advances. What would you say are the main trends that will develop in the future of animation?
I’d like to say that stopmotion will always ﬁnd a way to trump the digital methods. We’re crafters at heart and will always look to that as our ﬁrst creative option if we can, but only if it’s right for the project. My suspicion is that soon there will be a ‘make look like stop-mo’ button in most desktop packages and you’ll be able to dial in exactly how much needlefelt or plasticine fakery you want and the quirks and nuances of the human hand will be approximated by algorithms. It’s already most of the way there, and AI will likely complete the gap. I hope that even
if it does, there will still be an appreciation of the eﬀort that traditionally has gone into those projects that means stop-motion commissions will continue to be given to human hands to realise the aesthetic, as opposed to a simulation of it. I guess it will probably come down to cost as it always has.
That said, we love the possibilities that more powerful digital tools can open up – but for very diﬀerent reasons than our craft based approach. Mocap’s entry barriers are crashing down making the integration of authentic
human performance into digital characters so much easier to do, which hopefully means that the expression of the human body will always have a part to play.
is the technology around video
games interacting in the world of animation? Are you already using it? What use cases do you predict are most suitable for this technology?
I’m in awe of how gaming tech can inﬂuence immersive storytelling. We’ve dabbled in games, and supported some
development work of projects using our craft experience. The learning curve for us is too steep, but we’re happy to partner with other organisations in this sphere to try out new things. How do you envision the use of virtual reality techniques both in consumption and in the creation of animation projects? Do you have any experience in this ﬁeld? What are its possibilities at both levels?
We’re currently working on our second VR project which is funded by the BFI and Storyfutures, called “Beachcomber”. It’s an experimental exercise in suggestive storytelling where, as emotional beings, we can attach signiﬁcance to tangible (or rather intangible) objects by engaging with our memories and imagination. I’m interested in how VR can be used to change our relationship to the real world and the people within it, and that’s what Beachcomber is about.
Again, we’re partnering with a VR production studio (Holosphere) where we can focus on the creative steering of the project and they can hone in on the technical details. It’s our third project with them and a good relationship.
Experientially, it’s hard not to get drawn into so many new things on oﬀer within this space, even if I resent the monopoly that Meta are trying to cultivate across mobile. And in terms of its haptic ability, it feels like we haven’t even scratched the surface yet. So for all its lightsabers and landscapes, VR for me still feels like it’s in the Commodore 64 phase of its evolution. So much more potential to come I think. Lots more to lose yourself in, both as creator and consumer.
Another big trend is the introduction of artiﬁcial intelligence and machine learning technologies into the M&E industries. Do you anticipate any use of these technologies in animation?
I think it’s inevitable. We’re already using Midjourney AI for rapid concepting. It’s speed and reaction to prompts is absolutely staggering. However, this AI can’t read minds (yet!) so at some point you still have to wade through the reams of images which you splurge on, and chop them up and overtrace and actually design the thing you want. But as an inspiration tool,
it’s quite an addictive thing to use.
And while it’s easy to be blasé about this technology, the dangers are pretty hard to ignore. Deepfake feels like it’s only a command line or two away from becoming something quite nasty if wielded with malintent. Animation for me has always been a visual eﬀect, to be
enjoyed in the creating and the watching. But when you introduce machinery which can interpolate so much better and faster than a human hand, and not just approximate human behaviour but replicate it accurately, one hopes that this will only ever be used to entertain and educate and nothing else.
What will be the evolution of Second Home Studios in the years to come?
We’re in the process of expanding into a new studio unit to facilitate the production of our ﬁrst pre-school stop-motion animated series. This will be the ﬁrst show of its kind to be made in the city. It’s a big step for us, and not in the most ideal of circumstances, all things considered. But we’re setting it up with a view that we’ll have enough space to accommodate more interesting projects and invite more ambitious creative collaborations in all the fantastic media that animation aﬀords.
Shooting The Rings of Power Aaron Morton
Aaron Morton, Director of Photography originally from New Zealand, was one of those responsible for taking us back to Middle Earth. The ﬁrst season of “The Rings of Power” has once again teleported us to this well-known fantasy world and this work has depended entirely on professionals like our interviewee. From this story you will learn about the great challenges that the cinematography teams faced in ﬁlming this epic adventure, as well as Aaron Morton’s views on the technological trends that will deﬁne the future of ﬁlmmaking.
Who is Aaron Morton and how did he enter the world of cinematography?
Probably, like most people, I got into cinematography through a love of the movies, didn’t know how it worked but knew I was interested in learning more.
What was your progression like, where did you start and how did you get involved in bigger productions?
After High School, I got a job as a PA at a small production company, met freelance camera people, DP’s, started assisting on short ﬁlms for them, which led to “Xena, the Warrior Princess”. Started as the 2nd unit Loader; loved the camera department,
loved the ﬁlm making process, the way the set works, the systems. Over the years I shot a lot of oﬀ shore work that came to New Zealand. Then started working away more and more, so working back home in New Zealand for 18 months on “The rings of power” was a dream.
Speaking of “The rings of power”, when you joined the project, what stage was production at? Were you able to give your point of view on the visual aspect in pre-production or did you adapt to a look that was already set?
When I arrived, they were about to start shooting the ﬁrst episode. So, a lot of
preparation had already been done. I ended up shooting some scale unit work for the ﬁrst two episodes before I started preparing my own shows.
The look and feel of the show was being set as I started, so I was able to be a part of that. Oscar Faura, who shot the ﬁrst two episodes, with Sean O’Neil, the Gaﬀer and his team, had done an enormous amount of work in terms of lighting rigging and fabrication of some incredible lighting tools I was able to take advantage of. Jay Munroe, our Key Grip, was also instrumental in achieving the big epic scale of shooting we were aiming for.
Does Aaron Morton have a personal style? Did you have to adapt to the appearance characteristics in “The rings of power”?
I’m not sure if I have a personal shooting or lighting style. I’ve done lot of period, ﬁre and candlelit lighting over the years that certainly helped on
this show. I felt privileged to be there. It’s great to be part of the history of books and lore in general, but also of the cinematic history established by the great Andrew Lesnie.
To develop this initial season of “The rings of power”, what technical and human teams were involved?
Biggest team would have been the Art Department, led by Ramsey Avery and Jules Cook. They designed and built everything in front of the camera. They were incredible artists and creators.
I was able to be present during the construction of the sets, so I was able to adjust and modify certain parts to ﬁt the position of the lenses or the way we were going to shoot.
The ﬁlm crew: camera, lighting, grip, art, wardrobe, special eﬀects, makeup, hair; they were really amazing.
The VFX team played a key role in the overall look. They provided the magic in the
ﬂashy shots, but they also did hundreds of shots that integrated and extended the physical worlds, which will probably go unnoticed on viewing, but had a huge eﬀect on the overall look.
What has been the biggest technical challenge you have faced in ﬁlming this season? How have you solved it?
The biggest technical challenge was undoubtedly the scaling of the diﬀerent characters. I mean the process of making a human sized actor look like a Harfoot or Dwarf sized character. Because this is such a big part of the show, Ron Ames, VFX Producer, and Jason Smith, VFX Supervisor, had a team of people working on this from the start. The Scale team would work with our director, Wayne Yip, and me on deﬁning the shots. Then they would go oﬀ and ﬁgure out where the camera would need to be to shoot the live-action shots in forced perspective, either to scale the actors up or down in relation to the characters in the scene.
What technology did you rely on to develop this capability?
We use the Technodolly, a 15-foot motion-controlled telescopic crane. It’s a device that allows us to repeat movements with frame accuracy. We calculate what the scaled camera position needs to be to make the other character in the scene look bigger or smaller, and then repeat the movement at that scaled distance. It’s that easy.
What is the biggest technological innovation you have introduced in the ﬁlming this season of “The rings of Power”?
It would probably be the systems developed by VFX for our scale work.
But we also used some amazing previs systems, developed by Third Floor, which helped us imagine Numenor and design city plans.
We also had N-cam on set so we could see live what would be composited on our blue screens.
There are higher and higher resolutions, how does this aﬀect the cinematographer?
For me, dynamic range and color are more important factors than resolution, but there are many excellent camera systems that meet all these requirements in diﬀerent ways.
HDR is becoming a standard now that HDR monitoring solutions are
available, has it become the norm, and does it change the work of a DOP?
It’s already the norm in terms of the level at which we ﬁnish a project. This reinforces the idea that you have to understand how the image works to get the most out of it.
Another of the great revolutions that this industry is experiencing
is Virtual Production. Have you had the opportunity to shoot with this technology? How should they evolve and what facilities do they bring and can they bring to your work?
I’ve shot in a virtual production environment and it’s amazing what you can achieve with the right planning. It’s a great way to work for the right kind of production. I love the way you can use the
screens themselves as lighting tools, shooting in environments that would be too expensive or unsafe to go to. However, it’s not right for every job either. So knowing when it’s the right tool is also important.
What will be the next big revolution that will aﬀect the work of the Director of Photography?
Cameras themselves are now so good, I’m interested in tech that can help me on set more.
It’s already started, but more integration of Rock and Roll style lighting tools, into Cine style lighting units,
basically a lamp that is high output, any colour, internal shutters, can remotely pan and tilt and is quiet.
Gently does it: How Pebble is helping in the transi on to IP workﬂowsBy Alison Pavi , Director of Sales and Marke ng at Pebble
The broadcast industry has gone through several transitions in recent decades as the pace of technological change has accelerated. We’ve had changes in formats, from SD to HD and now 4K HDR; we’ve had changes in distribution, from a handful of linear channels to the current cornucopia of streaming content on demand; and we’ve had changes in consumption, from living room TVs to a multiplicity of devices and platforms. And now we’re currently in the midst of one of the most farreaching of them all, the transition from SDI-based broadcast workﬂows to IPbased ones, from dedicated video technology to tech based on IT and COTS products.
The operative word here is ‘transition’. There is a
temptation in any great step change in any industry to think of it as a ‘big bang’ moment, where a switch is thrown and the old is swept away to be replaced by the new. Real life is a lot messier than that, however, and such sweeping changes are rarely successful. Rather a slower and steadier migration typically takes place; one where an industry moves through several transition stages to reach an end goal.
This is where we are now with IP and embracing such a process has distinct advantages. The hybrid environments that are produced as a result of this process are a costeﬀective way of managing change. If set up in the appropriate manner, with a careful eye on the eventual IP-only future, they help businesses take steps
along the path rather than giant leaps, allowing them to obtain maximum ROI out of legacy equipment and move towards IP as a staged process without having to commit to costly infrastructure investment in the here and now.
The eventual destination is not in doubt. IP brings multiple advantages to broadcasters; it allows them to scale and adapt easily, quickly spin up new services to meet changing audience demands for content and ﬂexibly
conﬁgure and manage devices and workﬂows. It is very much where the industry is going, probably within the next decade as a working timeframe. However, not everybody is in a position to move at the same speed to this SDI-free future, and so there are distinct beneﬁts to allowing the current hybrid IP/SDI infrastructures that we are seeing taking shape in the industry to not only ﬂourish but be encouraged.
Building hybrid SDI and IP playout
Let’s look at a couple of examples of this sort of approach.
We recently worked on a major project for a customer who was moving to a new location in the heart of London.
Its seven ﬁnancial news channels (including two web streaming channels) needed to support fast turnaround workﬂows and be remotely controlled from New York production facilities when the US markets were open. The goal was to have as little SDI infrastructure as possible. The solution chosen features Pebble Automation controlling 14 integrated playout channels (7+7) and 64 Integrated Channel ingest and review channels. Each of the playout channels can select from one of four inputs for live pass-through (essentially the local feed for EMEA, USA or APAC, plus a spare) or they can play out prerecorded content from either local or network storage. Crucially, they can
support a hybrid mix of either ST 2022-6 or SDI for video input and output.
It is exactly this ability to build a bridge between SDI and IP and maintain ﬂexibility in the here and now that is the key to success in the current hybrid era. As an illustration, this particular client wanted to continue to use its existing SDI-based Viz Engine, which was able to connect directly into the workﬂow as a result of the hybrid solution oﬀered.
What this successfully installed solution recognizes is that SDI may remain the best choice, for now at least, for certain mixes of equipment and technologies, or for organizations of certain sizes and budget levels. Solutions like this need to be forward-thinking too, however. While many organizations are transitioning to IP-based systems using their existing SDI infrastructure, the danger is that this can create isolated areas of IP.
One of the most important meta trends of broadcast
engineering of the past two decades has been the breaking down of these sorts of silos. Installations need to consider how to integrate IP into their current infrastructure and bridge between these resulting islands in order to move forward and eventually convert everything to IP.
It should be pointed out that the resulting hybrid solutions are not handicapped in any way and can represent the most powerful and ﬂexible option available in the current climate. An existing Pebble customer came to us with a requirement to set up an IP-based Disaster Recovery system outside its base in the Middle East. Its playout center had a traditional playout system using Pebble Automation, video servers, master control switchers, and graphics.
The solution we architected enabled the operator to continue to play out its channels with Pebble Automation controlling traditional devices (SDI), with everything synchronized across to
the new IP and cloudbased European DR facility 24/7, where a virtualized deployment of Pebble Automation controlled Virtualized Integrated Channel devices running in a private cloud. Following the initial system implementation, additional features were added to handle live sources, run 3D graphics with a best-ofbreed graphics plugin, and add capacity to support all 23 of their channels.
The interoperable heart of the matter
One of the key enablers of a smooth transition to IP workﬂows is interoperability. To achieve true IP workﬂows, interoperability is essential to unlocking the beneﬁts of using oﬀ-the-shelf IP networking technology to route signals from any source to any number of destinations on a network.
It is also essential where multiple vendors are involved, as is commonplace on most RFPs nowadays and was certainly the case in the
examples above, that creating solutions which stick to standards and best practices is of the utmost importance.
There are two key ones to talk about when it comes to hybrid IP and SDI deployments: the SMPTE ST 2110 protocol (the set of SMPTE standards for sending digital media over an IP network and an evolution of the previously mentioned ST 2022-6); and the AMWA Networked Media Open Speciﬁcations (NMOS) suite of protocols. Together, these two advancements help join those islands together, and do so both now and in the future. Many manufacturers, us included, are working within the SMPTE and NMOS protocols to simplify establishing IP native workﬂows. These open standards are also critical in enabling hybrid workﬂows to run smoothly today in 2023 as well as providing a roadmap to future deployment. For example, the ability to emulate legacy index-based matrices or routers means that any
IO or container can be connected using an SDI router protocol.
All this makes the hybrid IP/ SDI environment possible and provides a seamless roadmap to the IP future that an organization can traverse at a speed that suits them rather than at a speed someone else says they need to follow.
As an example that can be achieved at the end of the process, we were recently awarded the contract to provide playout solutions for the largest uncompressed IP project in Europe at a greenﬁeld site where the broadcaster is building an all-IP facility. It is
utilizing ST 2110 technology to its full potential, splitting up video/audio/aux signals for much greater capacity, eﬃciency and ﬂexibility compared to ST 2022-6, while the four-channel playout solution we are providing features Pebble Automation and Integrated Channel.
One of the key requirements in the RFP was to use as many open standards as possible, so the project makes heavy use of the new NMOS speciﬁcations including IS04, IS-05, and IS-07 (Pebble chaired the IS-07 initiative). When complete, the facility will be all HD with the ability to upgrade to UHD when
the outbound infrastructure supports it.
This user will be one of the ﬁrst playout customers to use ST 2110 to its full potential, with multiple audios and multiple auxiliaries.
For the moment this facility remains an outlier. Undoubtedly more IP-native facilities will be built over the coming years, but we suspect the other examples we have mentioned will still be more commonplace for the next decade or so.
The beneﬁt of hybrid infrastructures though is that they can transition too in the fullness of time. With a degree of foresight now, they have the ability to integrate existing workﬂows and technologies with new devices and technologies as part of a managed transition at a pace and time that suits them.
The future of broadcast is very much IP, but the path to it can be a gradual and cost-eﬀective one.
Driving Digital Innova on – the Growth of IP in the Broadcast IndustryBy John Wastcoat - SVP Strategic Alliances and Marke ng at Zixi
The broadcast industry is currently experiencing a rapid phase of digital transformation, much of which is being driven by technologyled developments implemented with the adoption of IP proving to be a major enabler of innovation and eﬃciency. Many organizations that previously relied on satellite or other alternative workﬂows are adopting IP-based infrastructure to deliver a range of beneﬁts, from operational ﬂexibility and agility, end-to-end visibility and management, to the delivery of reliable broadcast-quality distribution of live video content over the Internet and bottom-line business impact.
While the pace of change varies from one organization to another,
for fuboTV, a fastgrowing sports-ﬁrst live TV streaming platform, IP infrastructure is the foundation of its techled strategy. Available on the web, via mobile and connected TV devices, fuboTV is a leading OTT provider, oﬀering a wide range of live and ondemand content across 100+ channels featuring top leagues and teams, as well as popular shows, movies, and news. The company is a virtual multichannel video programming distributor (vMVPD) that operates a distribution strategy that relies mainly on IP networks. As such, it has broken away from traditional broadcasting workﬂows for primary delivery of content.
In developing its IP-based infrastructure strategy, fuboTV needed a live
video delivery solution that would securely and reliably provide broadcast quality across its content portfolio. The right solution would need to ensure a high-quality viewing experience, helping them retain subscribers in an increasingly competitive OTT marketplace. Its evaluation process led to the selection of Zixi as its technology partner to receive and normalize content from any provider over any IP Network using any required industry
protocol via the D2C Video Gateway so fuboTV can now leverage a single platform for source acquisition of live linear content and normalization of any encoding format and any PID Structure.
Initially, the partnership leveraged third-party technology providers for the encoding, transcoding, and distribution of 75 channels of international content, but more recently fuboTV has migrated transcoding to the cloud. Today, the Zixi Broadcaster
software takes content via MPEG TS – UDP from providers and then sends it through the ﬁrewall over the public internet using the Zixi Protocol into the Cloud, where it is transcoded. This content is then pushed out and distributed to origin storage and CDN for delivery to endpoints like Smart TVs, mobile devices, desktop computers or set-top box applications. One of the key advantages of using the SDVP is its interoperability, not only within the fuboTV
software platform but also across its partner network. Zixi accepts 17 industry protocols, including Zixi, NDI, RIST, SRT and WebRTC, and others, while also oﬀering six nines availability utilizing patented sequenced hitless and bonded hitless failover to ensure reliability and quality of streams over mixed IP networks such as internet, ﬁber, satellite, and cellular.
For fuboTV, being able to deliver high-quality video translates into more subscribers, with their
solution allowing them to ingest broadcast-quality video content at sub-second ultra-low latency with security, resiliency, and scale. Zixi’s protocols and applications for real-time transport deliver high levels of visual quality and user experience while ensuring that latency is maintained and synchronized across devices, network locations, and conditions so that content can be delivered in real-time to the end user with conﬁdence. As a result, fuboTV has expanded its Zixi deployment, adding a total of 500 channels.
The broadcasting industry is being deﬁned by rapid change with consolidation and diﬃcult market conditions dictating that companies need to do more with less. To succeed, as they move oﬀ of expensive and unﬂexible satellite contracts, they also need to swiftly capture new monetization opportunities, such as expanding digital ﬁrst applications including touch points on SmartTVs, and launching new FAST channels. OTT platforms are now taking rights to mission-critical live sporting events, so combined compliance validation, content formatting, stream localization, ad load, delivery strategy, and security are requirements that can represent major challenges for media companies looking to deliver programming to an ever-increasing number of target destinations with new IP-based broadcast infrastructure. In 2023 we will see IPbased infrastructure with automation-augmented operations enabling scale to maximize ROI for broadcast organizations. With live cloud production (only possible with IP) and the ability to spin up and down resources going mainstream, media companies will be able to become more and more eﬃcient and experiment with what kind of content is going to be popular so the use of FAST will mature even more.