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Back from the brink, Twickenham invests in studio upgrade

Twickenham Studios is investing £1m in an equipment upgrade as it gets back into full swing, after an uncertain future earlier this year. It’s also undergoing a complete overhaul of its three production studios. 

The first dubbing theatre is getting a new Gemini mixing desk, as is the second. The third, currently used for ADR and Foley, will also get an AMS Neve DFC PS1 mixing console.

The studios has already bought 3D projectors, including a £50k Christie projector for its theatre two dubbing theatre, and theatre one is certified Dolby Premiere.

As it looks to attract more TV productions, there are plans to build television mixing rooms and a grading suite, as well as refurbishing the changing, hair and make-up rooms. This will add to its existing cutting rooms.  

It is less than six months since property magnate and film buff Sunny Vohra saved Twickenham Studios from closure in June, taking the legendary facility out of adminstration.

In February, it looked like the end of an era, when it was announced that the studio had to go into receivership and would close one year before its centenary. The legendary studio was home to some of the best known films of the 60s, including Alfie, The Italian Job, Roman Polanski’s Repulsion and The Beatles’ Help and A Hard Day’s Night. More recently, it was used by Stephen Spielberg for the filming of War Horse and for the making of The Iron Lady.  Vohra stepped in after a petition to save the Studios gathered 1000 signatures in its first week, including those of directors Steven Spielberg, Michael Apted, Terry Jones, Peter Medak and Stephen Daldry. John Landis and Terry Jones.

Vohra, now managing director, appointed Maria Walker as chief operating officer. A former post production supervisor, she led the campaign to save the studios.

As well as the new investment in kit, Carl Childs has returned as head of engineering and Gwilym Perry has been recruited as foley mixer and ADR recordist. “Twickenham is back! We value film and TV equally and you will find us a centre of excellence,” says Walker.

It has already been used for Big Talk Productions’ new feature The Cuban Fury, which used all the stages across two months this summer. Among other productions, it is providing studio space for drama pilot Steffi from Emerald Films. 

Twickenham is looking to install its new equipment by spring of next year. It will remain open while the production studios are upgraded. 

Posted 21 November 2012 by Pippa Considine

Industry updated on green initiatives & how Anna Karenina saved money with BS8909

Senior executives from organisations including the BBC, ITV, Sky, Microsoft, Sony and Warner Bros attending BAFTA’s Greening The Screen event this week heard how BS 8909 was used during the production of Gambit, Les Misérables and Anna Karenina to help save money, while minimising the impact of the productions on the local environment.
BS 8909, the British Standard for film industry sustainability launched in Cannes in 2011 has been adopted by the BFI, which is now actively encouraging other film organisations to adopt the standard.
A report published to coincide with the event ( found that the most significant carbon impacts for productions are associated with travel (38% of emissions) and the production office (30% of emissions).

Kevin Price, chief operating officer at BAFTA, announced that Albert, the UK’s first carbon calculator for the film and television industry, is now suitable for use by film as well as television productions, and revealed that data collected from Albert shows that the production of each hour of on-screen content is responsible for an average of 5.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. This is equivalent to the emissions of one UK citizen at work in one year.

Created by the BBC, Albert was officially launched in November 2011 as a free online tool ( administered by BAFTA and run with the support of a cross-industry consortium consisting of television production houses and broadcasters: BBC, Boundless, Channel 4, Endemol, IMG, ITV, Kudos, Shine, Sky and Twofour. One year later, Albert has 800 registered users from over 50 television companies and has gathered data from 266 productions, totalling 1,297 hours of output.
Deputy ceo of the BFI, Tim Cagney outlined the various measures the BFI is putting in place as part of its commitment to leading the adoption of sustainable practices within the film industry. The BFI is leading a UK-wide Sustainability Group made up of representatives from across the film industry, including studios, trade organisations, national and regional partners and others. It has also undertaken an audit of its own sustainable practices across every area of the organisation, from BFI National Archive facilities at Berkhamsted and the film storage facility at Gaydon, Warwickshire, to BFI Southbank, and its HQ at London’s Stephen Street.
The BFI has refreshed and updated the website, integrating the Albert carbon calculator. is now the go-to online resource for film industry professionals who want to minimise negative environmental impacts, providing practical case studies, examples of best practice and signposting to a variety of key support services to make adoption of sustainable practices as simple and streamlined as possible.
The BFI has also convened and leads the industry-wide sustainability group, uniting organisations from every area of the film value chain to share best practice and coordinate activity in order to maximise benefit. Sustainability Group members include Pinewood, BAFTA, BECTU, the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, Creative Skillset, the Mayor of London’s Office, National Screen Agencies, Directors UK, Film Export UK, Equity, the Production Guild, Film London and others, and the group welcomes and encourages new members who can bring new perspectives.
At Greening the Screen, actor and green campaigner Alistair McGowan chaired a panel discussion with leading figures from film, TV and games, representing organisations including Warner Bros, the BBC, ITV, Sky, Microsoft and Sony. Speakers shared the latest thinking on sustainable production and examples of business practices that are low impact in terms of carbon, finance and time.
Environmental management consultancies Greenshoot and Eco Consultancy presented case studies that brought to life in practical terms how companies adopting BS 8909 – the comprehensive standard for ‘sustainability management’ in the film industry – can switch to more sustainable ways of working without setting unrealistic goals or creating unnecessary administrative burden.


Posted 16 November 2012 by Pippa Considine

Objective uses compact robotic cameras for Derren Brown show

Derren Brown’s Apocalypse, a two parter from Objective Productions for Channel 4, used 50 Camera Corps Q-Ball robotic heads for a shoot that took place across 400 hectares at a former US Air Force base in East Anglia.


Working with Neon Broadcast Services, Camera Corps provided around 50 of the  remote camera systems for the latest Derren Brown production, where Brown attempts to convince a man that it is the end of the world. The show aired on Channel 4 last week. 


Last year’s production of Derren Brown's The Guilt Trip used 22 of the robotic cameras, mounted in various parts of a stately home. Apocalypse was on a bigger scale, requiring 47 Q-Ball heads positioned in multiple locations. All of the Q-Ball cameras were operated by a four-strong Camera Corps team, each using a joystick steering unit and a remote control panel to ensure accurate colour matching. 


“The production area of more than 400 hectares presented interesting challenges in terms of cable runs, some of which were well beyond the safe limits for HD-SDI over copper," says Camera Corps' equipment manager Neil Ashworth."We installed 11 of our new Simply SMPTE hybrid electro-optical links which can operate over five kilometres or more, allowing us to run feeds from aircraft hangers, bunkers, barracks and other former military buildings into the main control room."


Neon Broadcast's managing director Colin Vinten says: "The Q-Ball heads are much more compact than traditional robotic cameras and deliver excellent high-definition images over a wide range of lighting conditions. Their pan, tilt and zoom drives are extremely quiet and allow very precise control so can be used for in-vision tracking shots without risk of distracting the participants.”


The Q-Ball is an ultra-compact remotely-controlled camera with integral 10x zoom optical lens and smooth-accelerating pan/tilt motors, housed in a robust and fully-weatherproof 115 mm diameter aluminium sphere.


First used for the Euro 2012 football tournaments, 2012 Wimbledon tennis and the Summer Games in London, Camera Corps' Simply SMPTE compact remote link consists of a base unit and remote unit. Powered by 110 or 240 volts AC, the 303 x 165 x 65 millimetre 3.63 kilogramme base unit has an optical input for incoming video data. Electrical inputs allow direct connection of analog genlock video and audio-frequency control data. A loop-through connector is provided for the control data channel. Incoming video from the remote camera is accessible via two HD-SDI outputs.


Posted 06 November 2012 by Pippa Considine
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