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How TV is going green

More and more productions are measuring their carbon footprint and finding ways to shrink it But there’s still plenty that can be done

While TV production may not be the industry with the biggest impact on the environment, it’s still significant.

On average, producing an hour’s worth of telly produces 9.4 tonnes of carbon when all the transport, production office energy, generators, flights and all the other essentials are totted up.

The last few years have seen more and more TV productions make an effort to lower their environmental impact. BBC in-house shows have had to measure their carbon footprint for a while now and those measuring tools have spread to the wider industry through the Bafta Albert Consortium.

The consortium is a group of indies and broadcasters that have teamed up to provide carbon calculators for productions along with a certification system for those who manage to lower their impact. There’s also advice on how to bring it down.

While lowering the amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere is an all round ‘good’ thing to do, it’s fast becoming a pressing business need.

Sky and UKTV demand Albert certification as standard from all programme suppliers. BBC in-house shows similarly are required to provide this. It won’t be too long before it will want this from its indie suppliers as well and then ITV and Channel 4 won’t be far behind. “In years to come it will be business as usual to do this,” says Jez Nightingale who looks after the Albert+ certification process. “I suspect that there will be a lot more targets around carbon reduction in the industry and the government will be putting pressure on too. So the quicker production and broadcasters get on board the easier it will be in the future.”

There are financial considerations too. Nightingale reckons productions that go through the certification process end up saving money. “On average we’re saving about £6k a production. We’ve got shows where it’s getting into £20k.”

Most of the carbon savings are relatively easy to achieve too. “It’s not reinventing the wheel,” says Nightingale. “What we’re trying not to do in this is get production to feel it’s just another process they’ve got to go through, whether its health and safety or compliance. We want them to feel it’s important and they can do it without having to employ huge amounts of additional resource.” The easy wins are things most productions do as a matter of course now, like opt-in printing for call sheets and scripts when so many people prefer things sent direct to their device. General recycling is standard now too.

“What were trying to do now is get people to think about the bigger ticket items,” says Nightingale. “That tends to be around power usage when you’re burning red diesel in generators on location. It also tends to be around the transport.” Is there a taxi company or hire car outfit that uses hybrid cars for example? BBC drama The Interceptor hired electric vehicles and used them across the whole shoot. “That had a carbon saving of eight tonnes and saved serious money too,” says Aaron Matthews, Bafta’s sustainability manager. For international shows it’s often about hiring crews on location where possible. “That’s often an unpopular thing to say as people like working with people they know, of course,” says Matthews. “But if you use the carbon calculator it gives you the information to form an argument around why it might be better to do it a different way. Natural history shows by their nature have a huge travel footprint, but it’s not about trying to stop people doing what they’re doing. It just gives an opportunity to think is there anything they can do?”

“Power and transport and zero to landfill are the big targets,” says Nightingale. “That’s where we can get the carbon reduction.”

But the push can’t all be on production. “Production have got a lot to deal with already,” says Matthews. And production teams often only come together for short periods of time. “When we talk about the systemic changes we need in the industry, production will never be able to create that change themselves, which is why it must fall back to other organisations and broadcasters as well.”

It’s also about influencing suppliers. Caterers using biodegradable containers and reusable water bottles is one example. “Because broadcasters have got behind this, the caterers have had to start coming on board,” says Nightingale. “It almost becomes part of the competitive tender. It’s price first and then one of the next questions is their sustainable credentials. Increasingly suppliers are under pressure not just on price but to be more sustainable. That helps them to do the right things themselves.”

Lighting is another big energy sapper. “We’d like to see more and more lighting companies offering low energy lighting at a price that is comparable to the old tungsten stock,” says Nightingale.

Finding generators with a lower carbon footprint is an ongoing problem too. “The only way they can be more efficient is if they can be running some sort of biofuel,” says Nightingale. “But access to reliable biofuel is not easy and can be costly. Productions will do all of this within reason but if it’s going to start costing them with the pressures on budgets as they are,” then it’s unlikely to shift too far.

The next step, says Matthews, is to try to create changes that will mean productions don’t have to think or work too hard to bring down their environmental impact. “Generators are a problem so what else might we be able to do? Can we install access to the grid at locations with frequent filming across London? That’s something that’s happening on the continent,” says Matthews. “There are organisations that can help people recycle props and sets. If we had the facility to make that easy for production – centres specifically designed for them” then the end goal might be reached sooner. And that’s to simply “design waste out of the equation. To re-engineer it so that waste is something we just don’t create any more.”

Laura Djanogly, Hat Trick’s joint director of production, on making Boomers greener

Our main objective was to be realistic about what we could do, and not put pressure on a busy and stretched production team.

So we choose these as our main targets: water, transport, paper, catering and recycling, but added a few more on when possible.

We handed out Hat Trick recyclable water bottles to all crew and artists and supplied water coolers at unit base and on set for easy refills. We used low emission/hybrid vehicles for unit cars, taxis and couriers and asked all where possible to comply with a ‘no idling’ rule. We emailed out all call sheets, schedules and movement orders as a minimum and avoided printing whenever possible. Our caterers supplied crockery and stainless steel cutlery and sourced as locally as possible. We had clearly marked recycling bins throughout the unit base and set. We donated items left over from the shoot to The Refugee Council.

Introducing new initiatives on a production will always be a bit more time consuming to begin with; there’s a certain amount of measuring usage which can take time and time spent researching greener options. But as people get used to these practices over the months and come to view them as the norm it’ll all bed in I’m sure.

It was cost neutral. There were savings on paper, water bottles and fuel for sure, but these would have been offset by bringing in the water coolers, additional time for washing up the crockery and cutlery etc.

Change in itself can be difficult and some aspects of the production cannot be changed. For example, because we were shooting at numerous and various locations across a seven week period, we couldn’t rely on a mains power supply (to eliminate use of the Genny). Being at the mercy of the British weather we couldn’t be sure we could always use low energy lighting, but our Lighting Dept did try to implement these as much as possible.

Posted 25 February 2016 by Jon Creamer

Shooting starts on second series of The Missing

Filming has commenced on a second series of the 8-part thriller, The Missing.

Produced by New Pictures in association with Two Brothers Pictures for BBC One and Starz, The Missing will once again be written by Harry and Jack Williams, with Series 2 being directed in its entirety by Ben Chanan (Cyberbully, The Last Kingdom).

Tchéky Karyo will reprise his role as detective Julien Baptiste as The Missing returns with a new case, new characters and a new location. The series follows Sam and Gemma, played by David Morrissey (The Walking Dead, Extant) and Keeley Hawes (Line of Duty, The Casual Vacancy, The Durrells), whose daughter Alice went missing in 2003. In 2014, a young British woman stumbles through the streets of her German hometown and collapses. Her name is Alice Webster, played by newcomer Abigail Hardingham (Nina Forever), and she has been missing for 11 years. Alice’s return sends shockwaves through the small community. Told in dual timelines, flitting between 2014 and the present day, we follow Alice’s family as they are thrown back into a turmoil that threatens to tear them apart at the seams. When French missing person’s detective, Julien Baptiste, races across Europe to pursue a 12-year-old case that he never let die, we begin to explore the murky morality and emotional complexity of what happens when the missing child you've been longing to return comes back.

Tchéky Karyo, David Morrissey and Keeley Hawes are joined by Roger Allam (Endeavour, Tamara Drewe); Laura Fraser (Breaking Bad, Peter & Wendy, One of Us); Anastasia Hille (Show White and the Huntsman, Prey); Lia Williams (The Crown, The Foreigner); Abigail Hardingham; Jake Davies (X + Y, Yen); Florian Bartholomäi (Deutschland 83, Smaragdgrün, Tatort-Taxi nach Leipzig); and Daniel Ezra (Murdered by My Boyfriend, Blood Cells).

Harry and Jack Williams, writers (Two Brothers Pictures), said; “While we were writing the first series, we began talking about what the show would have been had Oliver Hughes been found. This story grew out of that discussion. It’s the other side of the coin to series 1 – an exploration of loss, of freedom, of how the past can shape the present in myriad ways that we cannot fully understand. It’s bigger, more ambitious, and we’re delighted to have such a brilliantly talented cast joining Julien Baptiste for a new case.”

Willow Grylls, Executive Producer for New Pictures, said; “I am so proud to have such a high calibre of cast attached to this project and, with the genius of Harry and Jack Williams’ scripts, I know the audience will be gripped to this series just as much as they were to the first. And the beloved Julien Baptiste is back! I am also thrilled to have the wonderful Ben Chanan as director leading the charge, telling the story as it twists and turns over two time frames. The Missing series two will be just as thrilling, heart wrenching and character driven as you’d hope it to be. ”

Polly Hill, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning, said; “The success of series one and response from the audience was incredible, and I am extremely excited for what the second series holds. Harry and Jack Williams have delivered compelling original scripts yet again, this time with a completely new case from a different perspective. David Morrissey and Keeley Hawes are two of the finest actors in the country and we are thrilled to have them on board.”

Starz Managing Director Carmi Zlotnik said, “The talented Williams’ brothers take us on a thrilling journey in this next installment with a new story, characters and locations that ultimately explores what happens when the missing child you've been searching for comes home,” said Starz Managing Director Carmi Zlotnik. “We are thrilled to continue this limited series and collaboration with the BBC, New Pictures and Playground.”

The first series of The Missing received four BAFTA Television Awards nominations, two Golden Globe® nominations, and a nomination at both the Critics’ Choice Television Awards and the Primetime Emmy Awards.

The executive producers are Willow Grylls, Charlie Pattinson and Elaine Pyke for New Pictures, Harry and Jack Williams for Two Brothers Pictures, Polly Hill for the BBC, Eurydice Gysel for Czar TV, and Jan Vrints and Colin Callender. Producer is Julian Stevens. Series 2 was commissioned by Charlotte Moore, Controller, BBC TV Channels and iPlayer, and Polly Hill, Controller BBC Drama Commissioning and will consist of eight 60-minute episodes.

The Missing is produced by New Pictures in association with Two Brothers Pictures, co-produced with Czar TV, VRT, and BNP Paribas Fortis Film Finance and is filmed with the support of the Belgium federal government’s Tax Shelter scheme. The Missing is supported by the Screen Flanders economic fund, under the aegis of Economic Affairs Minister Philippe Muyters and Cultural Affairs Minister Sven Gatz. The second series will transmit on BBC One in the UK and STARZ in the US. All3media international retains all US rights not obtained by Starz. All3media International handles overseas sales for the show. The Missing has sold into over 170 territories to date.

Posted 18 February 2016 by Jon Creamer

Report: the top ten rental cameras in the UK

Televisual’s annual top 10 listing of the UK’s most hired cameras is now in its tenth year. Jon Creamer counts down the most rented models of 2015, and reveals the models everyone will be after in the year ahead

It’s the fourth year in a row that the Canon C300 has topped our list of the most hired cameras.

Its staying power is derived from the factual TV market’s desire for a large sensor camera at a price that’s right (an average day rate of £139 according to our survey). But its popularity is under attack from its big rival, Sony’s FS7.

That camera is placed second this time and seems to be the model with the momentum. “At the start of 2015, Canon’s C300 was by far our most popular camera to hire,” says Shift 4’s Alex Trezies. “Sony’s release of the PXW-FS7 saw that change however, with the FS7 taking over a large chunk of C300 work.”

Canon’s update, the C300 Mk2 is building slowly but, say many in the hire business, it’s not eclipsed the Sony FS7 yet. Have C300 users gone over to the FS7 never to return? The C300 Mk2 sits just outside the top ten this year, how far will it rise through 2016?

Arri’s Amira and Alexa Mini have been a big success. The Mini is the camera highest on the shopping list of the hire companies for 2016 with the Amira and C300 Mk2 a close second. The Mini in particular has been a revelation. Arri may have intended it to be a gimble/drone camera, but it’s lightweight nature and image quality are seeing it being used as a cheaper, more flexible Alexa. The Amira too is proving extremely popular, and is also used as another alternative Alexa.

How the survey works
At the beginning of the year, Televisual sent survey forms to a wide range of camera hire companies, both large and small. Each was asked to list their five most rented cameras of 2015, along with the percentage of hires each model received. An overall ranking of the UK’s most rented models was then created by multiplying the average percentage usage of each model by how many hire companies listed it in their top five. Many thanks to the 21 hire companies who took part.


Average Day Rate £139
hired from 247, Alias Hire, Bluefin, HotCam, New Day, Procam, Pro Motion, Run Hire, S+O, Shift 4, Shooting Partners, The Kit Room, Visual Impact, VMI
hired for World’s Weirdest Homes (247kit), Steve Reich, Lucky Man (New Day), The Jump, Disappearing Britain, Classic Car Rescue, Wild Things (Procam), Unreported World, The Nightmare Neighbour Next Door, Walking the Himalayas, Mega Structures (Pro Motion), Pampered Pooches, Nadia, The Day Everest Shook (Run Hire), Off Their Rockers, Marriage at First Sight (S+O), The Voice, Hunted (Shooting Partners), Posh Pawn, Benefits Street, Bake Off Christmas Special (Visual Impact), Jabra Commercial, Secret Lives of Students (VMI)

The large sensor look at a keen price means the C300 still reigns supreme but Sony’s FS7 is taking a large chunk of that market now. “We thought the FS7 was the end of this camera but it’s still going strong,” notes  Visual Impact’s Nick Hill. The C300 Mk2 may win that share back but it’s still early days for the updated model which is just outside the top ten this year.


Average Day Rate

hired from 247, Alias Hire, Bluefin, Decode, Direct Photographic, Finepoint, HotCam, New Day, Onsight, Pro Vision, Procam, Pro Motion, Run Hire, S+O, Shift 4, Shooting Partners, The Kit Room, Visual Impact, VMI

hired for Dog Rescue (247kit), London Fashion Week (Finepoint), Okinawa (New Day), Doctor in the House, Meet The Roman Empire, Free Ride, Best Before (Procam), Age of Loneliness, Lord of the Fries, Summertime Ball (Pro Motion), Cameraman to the Queen, Car Wars, Animal Births (Pro Vision), BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words (Run Hire), FIFA 2016 (S+O), Made Over By, Famous, Rich & Homeless (Shooting Partners), Britain’s Wildest Weather, Britain’s Busiest Airport: Heathrow (The Kit Room), River Monsters, Wildest Tribes (Visual Impact)

The ‘C300 killer’ has been a big hit since launch. It has “shaken the camera world and is rapidly becoming the go-to camera,” says Run Hire’s Simon Hotchkin. Pro Vision’s Danny Howarth points to the “flexibility of on board codecs” as a big reason. “With the FS7, Sony managed – finally – to regain its footing in the mainstream, factual market,” says The Kit Room’s Rosemary Hill.


Average Day Rate
hired from Decode, No Drama, Onsight, Procam, Pro Motion. Pro Vision, S+O, Shift 4, Video Europe, Visual Impact, VMI
hired for Legacy: The 2015 Rugby World Cup (Onsight), Strictly Come Dancing Xmas Special, McCafe ads, Shark Week (Procam), Storyville, Horizon, Obsession, Future Sounds (Pro Motion), Hank Zipzer, This is England 90, Alan Carr (Pro Vision), Jamie’s Super Food, A Grand Night In: The Story of Aardman, Friday Night Feast, Drunk History (S+O), Travelman, Superdry, Plimsoll Cats (Visual Impact), The Jesus Code, BBC World’s End (VMI)

It’s been a big hit and Procam’s Paul Sargeant says “new kid on the block” the Arri Amira is “taking market share from its big brother the Alexa within the TV market rather than the Sony F55 which people expected.” Which ever camera is losing out to it, the Amira has become the “go to camera for high quality broadcasting,” says S+O’s Olly Wiggins. “The high daily hire rate doesn’t hinder its popularity. This is a clear sign that well shot, well produced television will always stand out, regardless of budgetary constraints.


Average Day Rate £667
hired from Decode, No Drama, Onsight, Pro Vision, Video Europe, VMI
hired for Sky Creative, Cherry Films, Passion Pictures, Warp Films (No Drama), Toast of London, Professor Branestawm Returns (Onsight), Beowulf, An Inspector Calls, 
Home Fires 2, Cradle to Grave (Pro 
Vision), Midsomer Murders, Friday Night Dinner (VMI)

Still the camera of choice for drama, but there’s a feeling that new additions to the Arri family will dent its popularity. “A lot of shoots suit Alexa Mini (for the versatility) and increasingly XT for the 4:3 sensor for use with anamorphic lenses,” says Onsight’s Sam Higham. Shift 4’s Alex Trezies says: “The versatility and cheaper price tag of the Amira has negatively affected Alexa work.” That’s because, says Pro Vision’s Danny Howarth, “the expansion of the Arri family has made the ‘Alexa look’ available to the wider production community.” And, says Decode’s Tony Shocash “as soon as the Alexa SXT comes out it will be a complete wipe out of any other camera for the high end market.”


Average Day Rate £235
hired from Finepoint, HotCam, New Day, Pro Motion, Video Europe
hired for FA Cup, Rugby World Cup (Finepoint), Rugby World Cup, CBS 60 Minutes (New Day), Mission Survive S2, MyGration, Running Wild (Pro Motion)

Discontinued a while back now, but the Sony PDW F800 is still considered an industry workhorse and is regularly hired for a variety of uses but particularly for multi-camera series where the workflow and archive-able disc offer financial and time benefits.


Average Day Rate £259
hired from Bluefin, HotCam, New Day, Onsight, Procam, Pro Motion, Pro Vision, S+O, Shift 4, Visual Impact
hired for Team Sky, Sydney Opera House (New Day), Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle (Onsight), Surprise, Surprise, Landscape Artist of the Year, Derren Brown, Pushed to the Edge (Procam), Mission Survive, Orca Waves – live music, Jimmy Carr – live show (Pro Motion), Ennio Morricone DVD, Hateful Eight (S+O), Ruby World Cup (The Kit Room), Dance Moms, Mafia with Trevor McDonald, Animal Births (Pro Vision), Big Fish, Gorilla Family and Me (Visual Impact). 


Average Day Rate £579
hired from Decode, No Drama, Onsight, New Day, Visual Impact
hired for Apple Pay HSBC (New Day), Ink Films,, G&B&Co (No Drama), Teletubbies, The Martian (Onsight), Japan, Patagonia, Wild West, Alaska, New Zealand (Visual Impact) 

A favourite among ad directors, it’s “unrivalled for high resolution glossy imagery,” says James Jones at No Drama. “The combination of a Dragon and Master Primes is unbeatable for this sort of work.” It’s a camera that’s in big demand for VR shoots too, says Sam Higham at Onsight.


Average Day Rate £187
hired from Alias Hire, Bluefin, Direct Photographic, S+O, Shooting Partners, The Kit Room, VMI
hired for Great American Railway Journey (Alias Hire), Don’t Tell The Bride, Almost Royal 2, Desi Rascals 2 (S+O), The Voice (Shooting Partners)

“The Sony F5 has become the popular multi camera system,” says S+O’s Olly Wiggins.Because of its “small file sizes,great recording options, it is lightweight and it fits all budgets without any visual trade offs.” The danger for the camera is that with so many of its features now also catered for with the FS7,  will demand for the F5 be hit?


Average Day Rate £101
hired from Finepoint, Hotcam, Run Hire, The Kit Room
hired for Horror Homes, ITV’s Trawlermen Tales

“The XF-305 is still a dominant workhorse, and the C300 isn’t far behind,” says Simon Hotchkin of Run Hire. “Both are still proving to be the favourites for many productions.” The XF-305 has been around for quite while now having been introduced by Canon in 2010. Its popularity is dropping but it’s still a firm favourite. Not all that surprising when budgets are getting squeezed. It remains a low cost option for the self shooter.


Average Day Rate £475
hired from No Drama, Pro Vision, Video Europe
hired for Jellylegs, Sky Creative, Swallows & Amazons, ITV Creative, Joyrider Films (No Drama), Home Fires, Beowulf (Pro Vision)

Launched by Arri as an “Alexa for gimbles”, it’s being used much more widely and “rapidly became more than a gimbal camera, used across a variety of productions for its lightweight nature and image quality,” says Pro Motion’s Duncan Martin. “DoP’s are very impressed and not just because it’s a winner with gimbles, drones and Steadicam,” says Procam’s Paul Sargeant.

Posted 18 February 2016 by Jon Creamer

OB in 2016: Has the 4K future arrived?

2015 saw new 4K tech come online and all outside broadcast operators are now gearing up for the UHD future but there are still problems to iron out. Jon Creamer reports 

2016 looks like the year when live 4K production will come fully into the mainstream.

BT Sport has already launched its UHD channel and with Sky’s new Q Box on the way, the demand for content will leap considerably.

All OB facilities providers are gearing up to meet that demand armed with the kit now available to make it happen.

Back in the day
Because 4K live production has moved on considerably in the past year. 12 months ago, there was little kit designed specifically to deal with capturing live sport and events in 4K with solutions cobbled together from 4K cinematography.

“Previously the most widely used solution was to use the single sensor Sony PMW-F55 with a fibre converter. While this ‘worked’ it wasn’t ideal as it gave a shallow depth of field that’s not desirable for sports production,” says Duncan Payne, sales manager at WTS Broadcast.

The solutions available were all rather “awkward” says Adam Berger, general manager of CTV OB. “With cameras like the Sony F55 and F65 you’re taking a digital cinematography camera with all the baggage that comes with that – the lenses, additional people to make sure it all works, technology to get it to interface to an OB truck.” And although it was a workflow that worked “it wasn’t good for sport. The lenses being used were shallow depth of field lenses. You needed a focus puller and it’s difficult to put a focus puller on a golf course or at a cricket match.”

But the latter half of 2015 saw the launch of a whole range of kit from major manufacturers that was dedicated to making 4K live production a much smoother experience.

“We’re now seeing the next generation of cameras come through,” says David O’Carroll, head of technology at Presteigne Broadcast Hire. The Sony HDC-4300 and Grass Valley’s LDX Universe, cameras with 2/3” sensors both came to the market in 2015. “This single development has made the acquisition stage much simpler,” says WTS Broadcast’s Payne. And the lenses have also launched to back those cameras up, Fujinon launched its UHD 4k 2/3 inch 80:1 box and 22:1 ENG lens and Canon has similarly brought its own UHD lenses to the party. “Now we’re getting to a point where the acquisition tools are comparable to what people were used to in an HD world,” says Presteigne’s O’Carroll.

Timeline was first out of the trap with most of this new technology when it launched its UHD truck for BT Sport’s new UHD channel back in June last year. Its truck, billed as the first purpose built Ultra HD 4K outside broadcast unit in Europe, ended up taking on the very first of much of this technology as it rolled off the production line. And it’s come online with surprisingly few hiccups, says Timeline’s head of operations, Nick Buckley who says that running a UHD OB has now “become commonplace. We’ve done 40 now. There are no major issues and they happen just like any other OB now.” And the new gear, despite having serial number 001 stamped on it, “worked pretty much right out of the box. Certainly the Sony 4300s did. And Fujinon delivered some amazing lenses right on time. Snell [SAM] too with the vision mixer.”

But there’s still a way to go. NEP Visions, after the fire that engulfed its Bracknell base in November, has had to speed up its upgrade plans as some equipment was lost. “For very apparent reasons we’ve had to accelerate our equipment purchase and replacement schedules rather rapidly so 4K is obviously a very important element of that,” says Brian Clark, sales director at Visions. “The key is making it future proof but there’s still a lot to thrash out - record mediums, archive, workflows, small cameras, radio cameras - all that stuff is still not 100% firmed up.”

Which way now?
Many others buying into the 4K world similarly find themselves “at a slightly awkward juncture,” as Richard Yeowart, md of Arena puts it. “We’re rolling out three UHD trucks next year, the first one will be ready in March and we have been waiting for the technology to settle. Even now we’ve been surprised how much we’re having to push the envelope to get the solutions we want in place.”  And much is still to be decided upon, “it’s not 100% clear right now which HDR version will make it into the mass market” for instance.

And there are plenty of other unanswered questions when it comes to live 4K. “The areas with ground to cover is on EVS and editing and super slow-mos,” says Timeline’s Buckley. “We haven’t really got a good super slow-mo system yet. In the HD world you’re used to being able to turn them around on EVS and get a fantastic quick slow-mo. You can’t really do that on 4K yet, the cameras can’t run that fast but I’m sure that’ll come over the 12 to 24 months.” EVS video server technology is also an issue with such a massive amount of extra data to crunch. “When you go to 4K, suddenly the machine loses functionality.”

All these technologies will catch up, but it could be a while yet. And, says Presteigne’s O’Carroll, “we’re beginning to see more of the less glamorous things come along now - the waveform monitors, the LUT boxes that will support 50P, monitors that are able to support wider colour spaces - those are only just beginning to come to market but quite a long way behind cameras and lenses.”

Looking backwards
But making sure you’re ready for the 4K revolution is only one part of the story for OB providers. “As a facilities provider for various companies we’ve got to react but you’ve also got to double check back compatibility,” says NEP’s Clark. “As we step into 4K you’ve got make sure you can still transmit in HD and you’ve still got to consider SD and at the moment you’re considering SD, in some parts of Europe you still have to consider Pal or the equivalent. There are a lot of elements to this that complicate the picture.”

UHD will become more and more available but “legacy is very important,” says Arena’s Yeowart. “There will be a massive spread in the next few years with people quite happily enjoying the content in SD and others wanting to have UHD. We’ve got to cater for both ends of the market. Legacy viewers don’t want the quality of the coverage to be compromised in any way so you need to come up with a truck design that allows us to simulcast in different outputs without the viewer getting upset. Even now we’re waiting for one or two solutions to come to market.”

The IP future
Moving the extra amounts of data around that 4K production involves is also an issue that needs to be solved. “The other difficulty is the signal path for 4K is a quad feed,” says CTV’s Berger who is currently upgrading to 4K. “The development of 4K over IP is something we’re looking at and seeing how that develops further and whether it’s practical in a live environment.”

Because while QuadHD is currently the most prevalent solution for moving the extra data around. It’s a short-term solution at best. “Ultimately IP seems the big next step, particularly in an OB environment where the last thing any OB truck owner wants is a heavier truck,” says WTS Broadcast’s Payne. “QuadHD can add up to 80% to the video cabling, conceivably QuadHD could add anything up to half a tonne of additional weight on to a major OB truck.”

Richard Yeowart at Arena is soon to come to market with his new 4K capable trucks that will jump over QuadHD. “We’re calling it UHD 2.0. We’re trying to miss out the standard dynamic range QuadHD version of it because we don’t think that will be very long lived. If we get the IP infrastructure right then it’s almost beyond Ultra HD because IP infrastructure will support everything up to 8k.” But it’s a big leap. “I’ve been doing this job for 25 years now and this is the hardest push we’ve had in terms of technology change. Everyone got very excited when we went to HD and all of a sudden we’re throwing all those bits of copper out of the window and everything is going down IP and fibre.”

Remote production
While 4K live production is the revolution that is happening right now, there’s another on the horizon. Whereas traditionally large teams and huge quantities of kit are sent to an event with the various camera feeds mixed and just a single broadcast feed sent back to base, the promise of remote production is that all camera feeds would be pumped back to network centre with production decisions made there. Fewer personnel and less kit would need to be sent out into the field. “It’s definitely a very hot topic in the costs that it drives,” says Presteigne’s O’Carroll. “It allows you to use a control room multiple times a day from different locations and that’s a very attractive proposition.”

The sticking point so far is simply the vast amounts of data that would need to be pumped back to a network centre and the costs that would entail. Newer compression codecs will mean more data can be pushed down smaller pipes but right now “You’ve got to save a lot of money on the production process when you consider what you have to pay in connectivity,” says Timeline’s Buckley.

And in the UK, geography means the costs savings of not sending as much crew and kit acroos the country would not be all that huge, says CTV’s Berger. There’s also the issue of “the reliability and the resilience of telecoms network in the UK which is not as powerful as America or the Far East”

And with UHD on the horizon, connectivity costs become an even bigger hurdle. “It’s a massive amount of bandwidth if you’re working in Ultra HD HDR and trying to send those 30 feeds back,” says Arena’s Yeowart. The problems are not insurmountable though and productions are already being run in this way. “If it’s pretty basic coverage and you’re doing six or seven camera coverage at a Football League ground and you’re having to do blanket coverage of the whole league then I can see the value in that,” says Berger.

For big events though, it’s not necessarily the tech that’s the sticking point, more the desire of the production team to buy in. “It’s whether there’s a will from the production people to be 300 miles away from their talent and the match,” says Berger. “That’s a change of production culture.” The drive for remote production will have to come from the rights holders at the top, not the technology.

MOTO GP for BT Sport

Timeline Television and BT Sport designed and built the first purpose built Ultra HD 4K outside broadcast unit in Europe.

The unit was built to provide content for the new BT Sport Ultra HD channel that started in August. The first UHD broadcast was the Community Shield and UHD events to be covered include UEFA Champions League, Barclays Premier League, FA Cup and Aviva Premiership Rugby.   

The unit contains the worlds first Sony 4300 2/3 inch UHD 4K cameras, Sony UHD 4K PWS-4400 server, the worlds first Fujinon UHD 4k 2/3 inch 80:1 box and 22:1 ENG lenses, Snell Kahuna UHD 4K vision mixer and Sirius router, Axon signal processing equipment & Axon Cerebrum control system,  EVS XT3 UHD 4K servers, Grass Valley Kaleido-Modular-X multiviewers & Belden cable.

“One of the key things we needed for a sports based UHD service was 2/3 inch chip cameras and corresponding lenses, both the long box lenses and the shorter lenses,” says Andy Beale, chief engineer at BT Sport. “We worked with Fuji testing their early lenses all the way through our test programme through early 2015. We’ve used the lenses on a wide range of sports on football on rugby and on the MotoGP. The picture they give is fantastic. We couldn’t deliver a genuine UHD experience without this next generation of glass. MotoGP at Silverstone was the first time we’d covered really fast moving content. We were nervous before we got there about possible motion blur artifacts but in fact the picture quality and the motion representation that the HDC 4300 gave us was phenomenal. The picture was movie quality pristine sharp and in focus.

Ikegami’s 8K truck for NHK

While the world gears up for broadcasting live events in 4K, over in Japan the ability to transmit those same events in 8K is currently in development.

Back in September, Ikegami completed what it describes as the world’s first 8K OB production vehicle.

The new vehicle is designed to operate as a complete mobile 8K broadcast production facility complete with 22.2 channel surround sound.

In Japan, the road map for 8K broadcasting announced by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has decided that trial broadcast transmissions will be starting in 2016 at the Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. Regular 8K broadcast services are planned to begin in 2018.

The 8K OB vehicle was delivered to NHK in September 2015. It can handle up to 10 8K cameras such as the Ikegami SHV-8000 and SHK-810, which can be connected to a 16 inputs, 4 outputs, 1 mix/effects switcher.

NEP: Remote cloud production

DutchView Infostrada, part of the NEP group, launched its IP-based video production platform Cloud Production late last year.

On 22 November the TV show Carlo’s TV Café was broadcast on RTL4, a leading Dutch commercial TV channel, using remote-controlled Cloud Production. NEP are billing it as the first live broadcast to be televised using cloud-based technology. The day afer, Voetbal Inside was broadcast on RTL7 and was produced in the same way.

Cloud Production centralises resources so that they can be shared more efficiently and used across productions. The technology and teams can be used across multiple productions every day, “It was quite exciting to be the first shows ever to be aired live in the Cloud,” said Mark de Vink, Business Manager at RTL Netherlands Productions. “Cloud Production is more efficient than any other solution. We only use the resources that are strictly necessary for the duration of the recording. Because of centralised resources we need significantly fewer crew members on location, which also greatly reduces travel and accommodation costs.”

The studio location and all essential parts of Cloud Production were connected via IP network connections. All connections used DutchView Infostrada’s own fibre optic network to connect to its data centre in Hilversum, where the technology was housed. NEP say the new Cloud Production suite gives the same control over the production process as with traditional productions. Depending on the type of production, the director can either direct from a location near the studio or from the new central directing, audio and shading suites.

Posted 08 February 2016 by Jon Creamer

How we shot Attenborough's Great Barrier Reef

For the 3x60-minute David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef for BBC1, Atlantic Productions wanted to push the tech as far as it could. Series director Mike Davis explains how

What was the driver behind the series?
David [Attenborough] first went to the Great Barrier Reef in 1957 in Zoo Quest. He was using a scuba tank that Cousteau had invented just 15 years before and a wind up Bolex 16mm camera. There was no sound or certainly no synch sound. To go back with the latest technology was one of the USPs of the series.

What were the key pieces of hardware?
We had access to the 56m research and exploration vessel The Alucia, so we were able to get the latest camera equipment into remote parts of the reef. Also we had access to a helicopter with a stabilised nose mount to get amazing aerials. Most importantly we had the Triton 3300/3 submersible. That was the key piece of tech to allow David to get down to 1000 feet and spend time looking at and getting samples of coral.

What about cameras?
Our underwater camera throughout was a RED Dragon 6K as we were keen to film in high resolution. The Triton takes three people - the pilot Buck Taylor, David and the cameraman Paul Williams. He was on board with a Sony F55 filming David’s pieces to camera. We had cameramen outside the sub, cameras mounted on the sub looking out and looking back, GoPros littered all around.

Did the extreme depth cause probems?
When we did our deep dive that became challenging. You have battery life issues and underwater cameramen can only dive to 60 metres or so. When you’re at 1000 feet you’re limited to the cameras on board. They’re controlled by one cameraman and he’s also holding a camera to film David. There are limited points of view. In some ways that informs the grammar of a deep dive; people expect the resolution to drop.

You made a VR version too for the Natural History Museum?
We had a Jaunt rig inside the submarine so you could sit with David and hear him talking to you. Outside we had the Kolor Abyss spherical rig with 6 GoPros in an underwater housing system. We could capture scenes with fish swimming all around you and also see the submarine in the distance. You can hop in and out of the sub and really feel immersed.

What other units did you have shooting?
We used timelapses on beaches to capture the turtles on Rain Island for instance. Things like coral fighting has to be done in controlled conditions in tanks just off the reef. In those we shot timelapse but with focus stacking which allowed us to choose which area we wanted to bring into sharp focus in post. If the coral’s fighting and a tentacle goes off to attack another piece of coral in the background, you can focus in on that. It meant huge amounts of storage was required. The sheer physicality of some of this imagery was a problem. Shooting 6K is great but there are only so many hard drives you can take on board and fly back with.

Posted 15 January 2016 by Jon Creamer

BBC docs boss Patrick Holland in interview

The BBC's head of documentaries, Patrick Holland, speaks about the kinds of shows that have worked well for his department recently, and what he is looking to commission in the year ahead in this interview.

Holland was interviewed at Televisual's Factual Festival late last year where he  picked out BBC2’s recent access doc The Detectives, which centred on the Greater Manchester Police’s specialist sex crimes unit, to illustrate what he wants from indies. 

He argued that the access the production team had gained was important but it was also the team’s ability to “stay with the story and the intensity of their focus,” that made the show. “It isn't just about access, it's about the stories you're going to tell and what questions are you going to ask” when you get it.

He said that on many access docs, “you feel the questions stop when they get to the front door” and that he was tired of “profiling documentaries that just describe process.”

On rig shows, he argued they have a danger of losing a point of view. “Great documentary has the presence of the director catalysing what is happening. We need to empower producers to drive stories with a point of view.”

See the full interview above.


Posted 07 January 2016 by Jon Creamer

The Televisual Drama Report

TV drama goes from strength to strength but with so much on show, standing out from the crowd is becoming a bigger challenge for producers. Jon Creamer reports

Drama is still the headline act in the world of TV genres. Across broadcasters and across borders, television drama is continuing its run of extraordinary success and there’s no sign of that slowing down.

Since the UK tax break for high end drama kicked in, the genre has had a major shot in the arm leading to ever bigger shows and ever higher production values. Internationally, the wealth of possible co production partners coupled with the widening number of broadcasters and platforms crying out for the genre has created a perfect storm. “In all the years I’ve been working in drama I don’t think there been a time where there’s been such an incredible appetite for it,” says the BBC’s controller of drama, Polly Hill.

The sheer weight of drama now accessible to audiences across the platforms has led to a “virtuous circle,” says Nicolas Brown, director of film and TV at Neal Street Productions. “There’s a desire from broadcasters for something that has as big an impact as their last big show.” Success breeds success and as the shows get better, competition increases too.  “Competition is a good thing for us all,” says Polly Hill. “The appetite for drama raises all of our games. Competition makes us want to reach further.”

Success has also lead to talent migrating to TV drama, particularly from the movie world because what’s possible on television has also opened up. With so much choice, the audience’s horizons have widened and there’s an appetite “for strong, sophisticated, ambitious storytelling,” says Polly Hill. What’s possible in the mainstream has shifted too. “What we mean by mainstream is really progressing. People want things that are sophisticated and smart. If you give them that they come in great numbers.”

Sophie Gardiner, creative director of Playground Television agrees that the mainstream now accommodates a wide range of shows. “In the past year there’s been Wolf Hall, Dr Foster and This is England, all things that have gone out on terrestrial channels, all brilliant pieces of work but so incredibly different from each other.”

Broadcasters in response are emboldened to widen their drama offering too. “It’s not a revolutionary change but my sense is they’re all broadening out and wanting to be less defined and provide audiences with something they don’t quite expect,” says Neal Street’s Brown.

There are more places for drama to play out too. “There is a greater potential for co-production,” says C4 head of drama, Piers Wenger. “That’s driven by the US, which has increased the number of buyers UK producers can sell to, allowing them to maximise budgets and increase the range of their output.”

Kudos’ Santer says drama now feels like “it’s become an international game. We haven’t yet made a show solely for a foreign broadcaster but that doesn’t feel impossible now. It feels like we’re in a global market now.”

The amount of co production is driven by the need for higher and higher production values as shows compete and audience expectations rise. The nature of co production has changed too. Now there is a “proper conversation in terms of co production,” says Sophie Gardiner. “When it first started it was ‘put in a French character then you can get French money.’ That doesn’t seem to be what’s happening now. With all the really exciting co pros what they want is the author’s voice. That allows writers to be bold and ambitious.”

However, the rise of the big budget co pro does have its downside. “On more domestic shows it’s harder,” says Santer. “On Humans or River we’ve managed to find good international partners because they’re returning series. What’s harder is with a show like Capital, a great but traditionally structured BBC1 three parter so it’s harder to attract that partnership. With the cost of everything going up suddenly those things are hard to make.”

And as broadcasters push for bigger ideas, there’s a danger there may be fewer mid range shows, traditionally the training ground for directors. “Those places where you can learn your craft and get a break and not have the pressure of a £1m-plus budget are harder to find. It feels like TV is more polarised between expensive stuff and soaps,” says Santer.

But there’s an inevitability to that middle ground falling away. It may be a cliché but with so much noise out there, broadcasters do need shows that “cut through” and have a clear central idea. “In the past if there was a new drama launch people knew about it and were probably quite interested. They would give it a go,” says ITV’s drama controller, Steve November. “Now week on week there are so many drama launches internationally that people have access to there’s much less excitement and fanfare. It isn’t an event any more. Getting people to make the choice to try it in the first place is very hard. That does to an extent influence commissioning decisions. What is going to be appealing about the very idea of it? What are we selling to people. Marketing is so important. There’s no point having a beautifully crafted gem that hasn’t got the marketing appeal to create the choice to view in the first place.”

So bold, clear ideas are the order of the day and “the exceptional is becoming the norm,” says Daybreak’s Hal Vogel. “That’s not always about pulling in stars it just needs to be bolder and more engaging. If you look at Dr Foster it was taken a notch beyond what everybody was used to. That’s what excited everyone – taking the familiar and taking a new twist. It’s about fantastic writing and being bold,”

“No one can tread water now,” agrees Sophie Gardiner. “It’s got to shout louder. It has to have a really strong voice and sense of purpose. There are boring things being made but they just get forgotten. There’s more commitment on the commissioner’s part to find things that shout loud and earn their space.”

Roanna Benn, md of Dr Foster producer Drama Republic, says there’s more pressure now to “come up with something distinctive and authored and genuine. You can’t be cynical about it. Back in the day we used to make shows where the ideas were a bit softer at the edges.” But not now. The trick “is to come up with these big, bold ideas but remember it’s ultimately still about the interaction of the characters.”

The trouble is, those big bold authored ideas have to be generated by writers. And good writers are few and far between. More and more production companies that haven’t traditionally made drama have started developing ideas too. And that means competition is high for the top writers. “There is so much demand and not enough writers to meet that,” says Benn. And more writers need to be brought through. “The challenge as an industry is to keep bringing in fresh names and fresh blood so it doesn’t become too narrow and too focussed on a few names with everybody chasing them,” says Neal Street’s Brown. And with so much drama being made, and so much British talent being picked up by America, it seems the industry is prepared to look a bit harder than it might have done in the past. And as the quality of TV drama rises, more will be attracted from the worlds of film and theatre and novels.

The sheer success of drama is even making its makers a little nervous now. The number of new dramas and the budgets it’s attracting are leading some to fear there is a glut of drama that is no longer sustainable in the long run.
But, says Sophie Gardiner, a drama glut is not the real danger for the genre. “One of the reasons we have such a vibrant industry here is because of the BBC. It’s a wonderful haven for creativity. We’ve got to make sure we defend that and also the terms of trade. One of the reasons this country is so vibrant in drama is because we have a vibrant independent industry.  We punch above our weight. The threat for drama is coming from those larger political movements.”

Bite size drama
The last years in TV drama have been marked by the success of single narrative serials like Broadchurch, The Missing and Dr Foster as well as The Killing, Breaking Bad and The Wire. But all those shows require commitment from an audience and there’s a sense that while those shows are here to stay, there’s a need for bite size drama too. The hunt is now on to find the next tranche of ‘story of the week’ shows. “The commissioners all want to have more episodic shows,” says Roanna Benn of Drama Republic. “ I do think someone will crack that. There’s a definitely a will in this country to do a modern version of an episodic show.”

“Inevitably there’s a pendulum effect,” says Nick Brown of Neal Street. “If you’ve been around long enough you see things swing back into fashion again. It’s been great to have those serials around but it demands a lot of audiences. Audiences want that but there are others that want to dip in and out a bit more.”

“We nailed serials with Broadchurch and The Missing,” says Kudos’ Diederick Santer. “But some people don’t want all their TV to be that intense and demanding.”

“There’s still a hunger for those big immersive multi-layered pieces, but you can only fit so many of those into the schedule,” says ITV’s Steve November. “It would be difficult to watch Broadchurch and The Missing in one week so I’m really looking for slightly easier to digest story of the week shows to mix it up a bit. You still want character driven shows with serial character arcs though.”

Small island
Since tax breaks for movies and high end drama kicked in, a flood of US productions have headed to the UK leading to a drain on space and crew. “It’s a massive issue, says Neal Street’s Nick Brown. “The reason we’re shooting Penny Dreadful in Dublin is because we couldn’t find appropriate space here. Crew rates have been pushed up, they’ve been held for a long time and were due a rise but that’s made dramas much more expensive to make. It’s simple supply and demand. We need more people trained. It’d really important to make the industry feel like it’s a place that people from all sorts of backgrounds can come and work in if they have the desire.”

“The tax credit is fantastic,” says Diederick Santer of Kudos. “But in the time since that’s happened the prices have inflated beyond it so the benefit is swallowed up to a degree. I’m not complaining though, talent inflation is the sign of a vibrant market.”

“On the technical side there is no shortage of opportunities and work,” says Daybreak’s Hal Vogel. “The appetite is huge to take new people on.”

Posted 07 December 2015 by Jon Creamer

The Bad Education Movie: how we made it

Director Elliot Hegarty and producer Ben Cavey tell Jon Creamer how they took BBC3 comedy Bad Education to the big screen

Jack Whitehall’s Bad Education, the BBC3 sitcom about incompetent teacher Alfie Whickers and 
his badly behaved pupils, came to an end on the small screen last year. But this month, the show gets its movie debut. Producer Ben Cavey and director Elliot Hegarty explain how they took it to the big svreen.

How do you transform a TV series into a movie?
EH The greatest fear for a TV show going to the big screen is that it doesn’t feel like a movie but just an extended episode. Our conversations were about expanding this world so it doesn’t feel like we’d forced a small story on to the big screen.
BC There have got to be clear reasons that this is a movie and is offering something that TV doesn’t. There’s a lot of content you wouldn’t be able to do on the BBC – outrageous moments we would have struggled to get past. There’s an edginess to it. And there’s obviously a scale to it that comes from the budget and a bigger narrative than we could do in thirty minutes.

What about in terms of production values?
EH The reality of the shoot is you’ve got the same restrictions on money. You’ve only got a few crane shots so it’s about choosing when they’re going to be most useful. One of the main differences in a movie is you expect to see more extras, it’s a subconscious thing. We had to make sure we had enough people in the streets and beaches and schools. Aside from that it was serve the script as well as possible and have confidence in the script being a more cinematic story.

Do you have to be careful not to lose what was good about the TV show?
EH Yes, so the story does start in the school and in terms of the shooting style we wanted to slowly develop what people loved about the show into a movie. I wanted to shoot it in a way where it starts very much like the TV show – very handheld, very chaotic with lots of frenetic movement and then as the story develops it becomes more of an action piece. We calmed the camera down and the lenses got longer, the camera height got lower. It was equally dynamic but more track and dolly. We had to lure people in to Bad Education the movie rather than Bad Education the TV show.

Was post production very different?
EH The post process was the main difference. Our aspirations with certain effects and music meant we had to upscale the post and we were fortunate to work with people like Double Negative and Goldcrest. We needed crazy effects that had to match up to our Hollywood counterparts. It’s not good enough for it to be done by some bloke on a computer in Enfield, it has to be done to a certain spec otherwise people will be upset they paid 15 quid. We went into Goldcrest and graded with Rob Pizzey. That felt like a film to me, grading it in this wonderful huge suite.

Is there more pressure when making a movie?
BC It’s a big weight you carry – wanting people to feel that they’ve got their money’s worth. You work very hard to make sure everything’s on screen in every way. Tiger Aspect and Cave Bear have invested everything themselves in the movie. We’re not taking fees, everything been rolled into go on screen and make it as big as possible. We are as deep into this gamble as everyone else is.

Was it hard to find the budget?
BC The tricky thing is because the brand already exists and there’s a star attached, people think it’s a dead cert. So you can go to institutions that you would expect to be supporting a low budget British movie and you can really struggle. Nigel Green [from Entertainment Film Distributors] really supported it. Between them and Tiger they picked up the deficit I expected to be covered by others.

How big was the budget?
BC The budget wasn’t huge. We had to focus and work long hours and lots of days a week. We went to war in the same way we got to war in the TV show. The Inbetweeners was famously the fastest shot film of its type and we did it two weeks faster.
EH The shoot was just as stressful if not more so. We had very little prep time. We got greenlit very shortly before the start of the shoot and we had a five week window because of Jack’s availability. If we didn’t shoot it then, it would never happen. With only a few weeks to go we had no locations, few crew, half the cast and half the money. We thought ‘fuck it, let’s go for it.’ That seems to be how the British film industry works.

In the movie adaptation of Bad Education, teacher Alfie Whickers takes his class on a post GCSE school trip to Cornwall where they end up getting involved in a bid to make the county an independent state
Production Cave Bear Productions, Tiger Aspect, Entertainment Film Distributors
Director Elliot Hegarty
Writers Freddy Syborn, Jack Whitehall
Producers Ben Cavey, 
Pippa Brown
Executive producerNigel Green
Co-producerSarada McDermott
DoP Pete Rowe
Editor Peter Oliver
Colourist Rob Pizzey
Vfx DNeg TV
Casting Sarah Crowe
Production designer Simon Rogers
Music Vince Pope
Post-production supervisor Mike Morrison
Production manager Brett Wilson
Cast Jack Whitehall, Iain Glen, Harry Enfield, Matthew Horne, Joanna Scanlan, Sarah Solemani, Marc Wooton
Camera Arri Alexa

Posted 27 August 2015 by Jon Creamer
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