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First Flying Monsters 3d pics

Here’s a first look at pics of Sir David Attenborough’s new 3d film, Flying Monsters 3d, which airs on Sky 3d on Christmas Day. The one hour film is Sky’s first original factual 3D commission.

A feature documentary about the evolution of pterosaurs - flying vertebrates with a wingspan of up to 45 feet who lived 200 million years ago - Flying Monsters 3d is written and presented by Attenborough.

Filming of the 3D natural history documentary took nine months and involved Sir David and a crew of 12 taking in locations across the world including Germany, New Mexico, France and the UK. A team of over 80 people were involved in the filming and post-production and the process took over half a year in total to complete.

The film is produced by Anthony Geffen through his company Atlantic Productions and was directed by Matthew Dyas. The 3d TV technology was from VFX studio ZOO, with members of the global team's credits including Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Flying Monsters 3d features several pterosaur species including Dimorphodon, Darwinopterus, Tapejara and Quetzalcoatlus and culminates with footage of Sir David Attenborough flying in a glider alongside a Quetzalcoatlus.

“This was one of the most complicated sequences ever filmed in 3d. We shot David in a real glider and later superimposed, using CGI, the biggest pterosaur – a Quetzalcoatlus. The idea was to demonstrate the extraordinary scale of the pterosaur, a creature that was longer than a bus and could fly at 75 miles an hour, by setting it beside something from the modern day of the same size that people could relate to,” explains Geffen.

The film will be released theatrically in IMAX cinemas around the world in 2011 and return to Sky 3D later in the year.

Posted 23 November 2010 by Tim Dams

Year of sluggish growth ahead

Among the many exclusive surveys that Televisual publishes each year, the Commercials 30 is perhaps the best at revealing the true state of the media industry’s prospects in the months ahead.

Every year, the Commercials 30 (see full survey here) weighs up the fortunes - or otherwise - of the UK’s commercials production companies. As such it’s an excellent barometer of advertiser confidence, which in turn directly impacts on the revenues of commercial broadcasters.

And the encouraging news is that commercials producers are reporting a slight upturn in business compared to last year. The general figures are all up: the average production budget for a 30 second ad has risen from £143k to £167k; companies are working on an average of 64 jobs each year, compared to 60 last year; and the turnover of commercials production companies has risen substantially too.

Many producers say business conditions, which were tough in the first six months of the year, have eased. Some even report an ‘autumn rush of scripts.’ Advertisers, it’s clear, are spending again.

This uptick was confirmed recently by WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell, who said the global ad giant had enjoyed its strongest quarter for 10 years as consumer goods companies and retailers started spending again.

Of course, few are predicting strong growth for the creative industries next year, despite these positive signs. Caution is the watchword, with business prospects likely to be dampened by the impact of last month's Spending Review as well as the BBC’s tough licence fee deal.

As our recent Talking Point (see here) on this subject clearly shows, the media industry is expected to avoid a double dip recession. Above all, there is a sense that business has come through the worst, but that conditions will remain tough and challenging for the forseeable future. If anything, it looks set to be a year of sluggish growth.

Posted 12 November 2010 by Tim Dams

TV tunes into Apps

Two of TV’s best known shows launched their own iPhone Apps this week. The Supernanny and River Cottage Apps have both gone live, priced £2.99.

Shed Media Group, owner of Supernanny producer Ricochet, partnered with etv online to create the Supernanny iPhone app. It went on sale in the UK and the US yesterday. (It costs $4.99 in the US).

Meanwhile, Keo Digital - the digital arm of River Cottage producer Keo Films - created the River Cottage App, which launches today.

To date, relatively few production companies have successfully pushed into the App market on the back of their TV shows. TV chefs Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson have both launched Apps, as have programmes such as Shine TV’s MasterChef and All3Media’s The Cube.  [Nov 23 update: BBC Worldwide have just announced the launch of apps for top shows such as Doctor Who, Top Gear and Teletubbies]

Both the River Cottage and Supernanny Apps stand a good chance of making money for their producers, and could prove to be a profitable sideline like book tie-ins or DVDs. Crucially, the Apps are based on well-known brands so come to market with an inherent advantage. Also, they offer much more than just a rehash of old TV clips.

The Supernanny App is the first to come out of superindie Shed Media Group, which also produces shows such as Who Do You Think You Are? and Waterloo Road.

The Supernanny App draws on key elements of the TV show and is designed to help parents amuse and discipline their kids.

Shed’s director of commercial and legal affairs Claire Hungate said the App is not just a rerun of video clips from the show, but provided ‘added value’ for users. The App contains a customisable profile for each child, reward charts, a ‘Naughty Step timer’ and games as well as information and advice on the techniques used in the Supernanny programmes.

Meanwhile, the River Cottage App contains 32 seasonal recipes, recipe videos, a food sourcing guide and a live help network for culinary questions.


Hungate said Shed had chosen to launch the Supernanny App first as it is one of the superindie’s biggest brands with a strong footprint in both the UK and the US.

Etv online, the digital division of etv media group, produced the Supernanny app for Shed. Etv paid for the development costs of the App, and will share its revenues with Shed. The Supernanny App took six months to produce.

Hungate declined to reveal sales targets for the App, saying it was an experiment for Shed, but pointed out that Supernanny is now in its 106th episode on ABC in the US and has been produced in 15 territories and acquired in 182 territories.

“We definitely wanted to do something that is both profitable and adds value, rather than producing an app for the sake of it,” said Hungate. Shed is now looking into the possibility of launching Apps for Who Do You Think You Are? and Waterloo Road.

Posted 11 November 2010 by Tim Dams

The trouble with documentaries

The UK's culture of TV documentary making came under attack last night from veteran filmmaker Penny Woolcock, who lambasted overly formatted docs and their lack of concern with telling the truth about the world.

Penny Woolcock films - from The Wet House to Tina Goes Shopping - are known for their ‘uncompromising’ attitude and ‘never shying from the more difficult aspects of life.”

It says as much in her citation for the Grierson Trustees Award, which she won last night at the prestigious Grierson British Documentary Awards, held at the BFI Southbank.

True to form, Woolcock was uncompromising in her take on the state of British documentary making when she took to the stage to accept the award.

The veteran documentary filmmaker used the occasion to hit out at heavily formatted docs and at the culture of TV documentary in the UK.

She also bemoaned the fact that commissioning is so centralised and that so many ‘terrific, innovative directors’ find themselves with no option but to take jobs on formatted docs.

“It’s like the civil engineers and doctors who put out deckchairs in Cuba,” said Woolcock, to applause and cheers from an audience packed with leading documentary makers and commissioners.

“A real documentary adventure is where the outcome is uncertain,” said Woolcock. “It’s not when a posturing hero pretends to be in the wilderness while sleeping in a hotel or undertaking tasks of derring-do which have been planned by the producer and his team of stunt coordinators.”

Woolcock then went on to criticise more directly formats like Secret Millionaire.

“Does it matter that we lie to people. I think it does even in relatively benign formats like Secret Millionaire. Essentially the film crew starts off lying about why they are there, the millionaires are so feeble apparently that they fall apart after a couple of days away from home, and then you meet some poor people and decide to give them some dosh. Then you pull in a poor old AP to do second camera so you make sure you can capture the tears, probably because they rumbled the millionaire and were hoping for more money.”

Woolcock added: “Have a look at the names of some of the terrific, innovative directors who are forced to take these jobs because they are down to their last £50. It’s like the civil engineers and doctors who put out deckchairs in Cuba.”

“Times change. They must. There is a thriving documentary scene outside television. Although I can’t be the only person in this room who receives a request for crowd funding several times a week.”

“Decisions seem to have been unmanageably centralised with no commissioners in control of their own budgets. Surely this will loosen up - it has to.”

“Television attracts a lot of brilliant and interesting people. And we live in a beautiful and terrifying world. One of the jobs of this most extraordinary and democratic of mediums is to try to understand the world as it is, and be as fearless and bold about telling the best truths we can.”

Woolcock’s words were made all the more poignant by the fact that the Griersons showcased so many original, intelligent films rather than formulaic documentary formats.

Over the course of the evening, fantastic clips from dozens of the nominated and winning Grierson films played out.

Many people in the audience, speaking at the Awards after-party, said how depressing it was that the nominated films got so little attention when they came out.

“I sat there thinking ‘oh, that looks good, how did I miss that’ to just about every nominee,” said one audience member.

For full list of Grierson winners, click here.

Posted 03 November 2010 by Tim Dams
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