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The Televisual Bulldog Awards - the night in pictures

The 2019 Televisual Bulldog Awards winners' dinner took place on Wednesday 3rd July at the Hotel Cafe Royal's Pompadour Ballroom.

The teams from all the winning productions attended including Sid Gentle's Killing Eve, Blueprint Pictures’ A Very English Scandal, Hat Trick’s Derry Girls, Zeppotron’s Would I Lie to You? BBC Studio’s Strictly Come Dancing, Minnow Films’ Grenfell, On the Corner/Rogan Production’s Stephen: The Murder that Changed a Nation, CPL Productions’ Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds, BBC Studios Natural History Unit’s Dynasties, Nutopia’s One Strange Rock and Wall to Wall who won the best indie gong.

The sponsors for all the awards were also at the dinner - thanks to Helicopter Film Services, 3Mills Studios, Platform Post, IMG Studios, Elstree Studios, ACS, CTV Outside Broadcasts, Envy, Clear Cut Pictures, Video Europe, Roundtable Films, Universal Production Music, GTT, Splice, Sony and BMG Production Music.

Here's the night in pictures

Posted 05 July 2019 by Jon Creamer

The Planets: Behind the Scenes

For the BBC’s latest landmark science series, the show set itself the task of telling the entire story of the solar system from its birth until now and on to what will happen to it in the future.

Ambitious in itself, but the show was envisaged as more than just an explanatory science doc. “From the very beginning we conceived this series as both drama and documentary,” says exec producer Andrew Cohen, with the individual planets treated as characters with their own distinct narratives.

As well as being a genre hybrid, the show’s action is a mix of elements too. Fronted by Professor Brian Cox, the series combines live sequences of the scientist in locations akin to the planets he’s talking about, blended with vfx of planetary events, archive footage of space explora-tions, cg builds and immersive sound design.

For dramatic effect
And to deliver on the show’s dramatic ambitions, the vfx had to evolve beyond the standard science doc format: “To deliver the sense of drama that we wanted in this series we needed to completely change the approach to our visual effects,” says Cohen. “These are not just graphics that explain things to the viewer instead they are an experience that takes you across the solar system and back in time so that we can become completely immersed in our story.”

The process began, says series director, Stephen Cooter, with the production team and vfx house, Lola Post, storyboarding all the key effects sequences pre-shoot and then deciding “which shots would be entirely computer generated, which would incorporate backdrops or foreground elements shot on location, and which would be pure, treated, cinematography. And then it was down to me and the other directors to bring back the elements and deliver them to Lola” where the vfx process could begin in anger.

The look of the vfx is a hybrid too. They had to be dramatic, but grounded in scientific reality (and complementary to the in-camera footage). Shots couldn’t be fluffed up with imagined nebula and background galaxies, but then, at the same time, much of the action is of events never seen by humans, which left space for imagination. “So it’s a nice blurry line,” says Lola’s creative director, Rob Harvey. Inspiration for many the vfx shots of human space exploration came from early Soviet and NASA archive. “It’s really unique stuff and it was all on black. You don’t get any stars. It’s odd framing. they didn’t have view finders on the cameras.” The aim was to make the vfx look “as photographic as possible, so the camera moves are sensible. There are pans, little crane moves, tracks but nothing really mental. It had to be based on what a drone could do or a satellite could see.” Any vfx based on probes or landers was created as though a GoPro had been bolted to the craft. Those shots were interspersed with real footage or stills of the launches and “it’s quite hard to spot where our stuff finishes and the real stuff starts,” says Harvey. “You keep the flow going so it’s not like ‘cut to CGI’ or ‘cut to wacky sequence.’ We aimed to make it look as though it could possibly be a bit of real footage.”

Keeping it real
That grounding in some sort of reality led further into the vfx, with much of it created in-camera using a host of old-school physical effects in the studio which was then combined with the shot plates or wrapped around CG models. Physical effects helped to preserve the ‘reality‘ but budget and time constraints were a factor too – 20 minutes or so of vfx per episode on a documentary budget meant some clever work arounds had to be created to pull off a high-end landmark BBC look.

Shots include a drop down through Saturn’s thunderstorms complete with diamond rain. “To do that in CGI would need a ton of R&D a whole load a simulation, a load of rendering,” says Harvey. Instead , Harvey worked with special effects studio Pirate for many effects “mucking about and making a mess. If you pour boiling water into liquid nitrogen it generates massive cumulonimbus clouds that then condense. You shoot it really high speed and then you put these old flash bulbs inside the clouds on a stick.” Diamond rain was created by pouring a type of  Perspex mixed with dust from a section of guttering - “it just looks really lovely and twinkly and Dia-mondy.” The surface of Saturn and Jupiter, the gas giants came from a tray full of Hammerite paint with petrol and solvent tipped in. “It’s absolutely stinky but you just get the texture that you’d never get in a computer and you wrap that over the top of your cg model as a layer. It gives you more depth.”

Other effects include rain evaporating on the surface of Venus created using a camping stove hot plate. “It tells the story and it looks really photographic and beautiful and real because it is.” Air cannons shooting various mixes of dust and powders generated early universe shots too.

The chaos of physical effects also adds to the realism, says Harvey. “If you’re shooting a desert plate in Oman and you’ve got to make it look like meteor strikes, rather than generate that in CGI we grab little snips of stuff from our library. We use those elements to fill in the background of the plate, but then add all the high-speed studio stuff in. It gives you all the dust and atmosphere, and it’s real so you get happy accidents with the way particles collide or break up or interact with each other. It’s something tangible and believable whereas if you do that in cg there is a point where it just looks cg after a while.”

Sound ideas
Sound was also a big part of the series and completed at Halo along with the picture post.  It’s a “very vfx heavy show, a lot of the science is quite out there. The visuals on their own needed help in places to sell the ideas, ” says dubbing mixer, Rich Addis. The sound design was, like the vfx, grounded in a reality . Nasa radio astronomy recordings were used as a basis for much of the planetary sounds throughout. “They take radio waves into the audible frequency range. They’re not technically sounds but they are wave forms originated from planets and stars transposed into audible human range of hearing,” says Addis.

Alongside that, Halo also worked closely with location sound recordist, Andy Paddon, using the extensive recordings he collected from the various deserts, mountains, fjords, volcanic craters and frozen wastes that Brian Cox’s commentary was filmed in. “It was nice to have genuine sounds,” says sound designer, Jay Price. “There were lots of recordings of cracking ice and more abstract recordings which we could manipulate. A lot of the sounds were built from location recordings instead of off-the-shelf stuff. They were quite bespoke.” And as many of the stories are about the various planets’ similarities to Earth, especially the ‘terrestrial’ planets “having the sound grounded in the real and familiar really helps to sell the idea that these places were at one point very similar to the earth of today,” says Addis. “If you take something that is real then you mess with it, screw it up as much as possible, it sounds other-worldly but based in some sort of realism,” says Price.

As with the vfx, the sound design also had to represent planetary events that nobody has ever witnessed. “For the gas planets in the later episodes then it gets a bit more abstract,” says Addis. “There’s nothing solid so we had a bit more creative licence there.” Part of that involved “forever descending sounds as you’re moving further and deeper into the planet,” says Price. “It’s giving a sinking feeling sonically. Christopher Nolan used it a lot for the Batpod in The Dark Knight and he used it in Dunkirk a lot too.”

Another feature of the sound design was also the choice to often have an absence of any sound at all at certain moments. “There are huge moments when the visuals are big and stunning, the score is going great guns and we had huge sound designs but there are also really good, bold choices of taking everything out almost,” says Addis. “Huge planetary collision sequences where after the initial impact it just cuts to silence and you’re just absorbing these incredible visuals.”

The Science Unit, BBC Studios, co-produced with Tencent Penguin Pictures and The Open University.
Patrick Holland, controller, BBC Two; Tom McDonald, head of commissioning, natural history and specialist factual.
Series presenter
Professor Brian Cox
Exec producer
Andrew Cohen
Series producer
Gideon Bradshaw
Produced & directed by
Stephen Cooter (Mars & Jupiter); Martin Johnson (Venus & Pluto); Nic Stacey (Saturn)
Vfx super
Rob Harvey
Dubbing mixer
Rich Addis
Sound designer
Jay Price
Location sound
Andy Paddon
Graeme Dawson; Louise Salkow; Ged Murphy
Picture post
Sound post
Tom Hayward ; Julius Brighton
Original music
Anze Rozman for Bleeding Fingers

Posted 13 June 2019 by Jon Creamer

Good Omens: Behind the Scenes

A big name cast on a globe trotting vfx-heavy shoot made Amazon and 
the BBC’s Good Omens a work of Biblical proportions. Jon Creamer reports

It’s now 29 years since Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett published their best-selling novel Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch.

And while the pair had always envisaged a screen adaptation of the novel, it’s no surprise that it’s taken this long to make it to the screen.

The book tells the story of the birth of Satan’s son, the approaching apocalypse and the attempts by an angel and a demon to put a stop to it and preserve their comfortable lives on Earth. The action ranges across the globe and takes in miracles, destruction on a Biblical scale, the raising of Atlantis, alien invasions - budget lines to make any exec’s palms start to sweat. Doing the book justice on-screen back in the 90s would have cost the GDP of a small nation.

Screen adaptations have got close to the line before now. Terry Gilliam tried throughout the noughties to produce a movie version but the project fell short financially. Terry Jones and Gavin Scott were also reportedly writing a TV version in 2011 but again it foundered.

But by 2016, after receiving a posthumous letter from fellow writer Terry Pratchett urging him to go ahead with the project, it was announced that Neil Gaiman would write the scripts himself and act as showrunner with with BBC Studios, Narrativia and The Blank Corporation on board as co-producers.

Douglas Mackinnon, whose CV includes Doctor Who, Sherlock and Jekyll, was brought in as the sole director across the series. A big task for one person but, says Mackinnon, “myself and Neil recognised that one director was the best way to realise the script. The practicalities told us it was impossible for more than one director to do it. We’ve got very starry actors on very tight schedules so we had to fit in with them and we’ve got all these locations and CGI and so on. It was clear that however big a task it was, one director was key.”

The cast includes David Tennant, Michael Sheen and Jon Hamm among other big names and casting proved the relatively easy part of the production. “Normally you ask the casting director ‘can we get these people’ and you drop down from there but, actually, we just got all the people we asked for all the time.”

Mackinnon says “it’s the scale and ambition of it that’s the tricky bit” and points to the first page of the script that opens with “‘Exterior, Garden of Eden, Day.’ There’s a lot to fill in. The entire history of the world and its possible death.” And despite a “very good budget” the “director’s job is to stretch things.”

The first job though was to assemble his HoDs , a mixture of familiar faces and new. “As a director of a project of this size, the key is to make sure you’ve got the best people as your HoDs” and then give them the freedom to use their skills. “Part of my philosophy of directing is to let people express themselves when they get the ball. I wanted people to be bold with their decisions in every department. One of myself and Neil’s mantras was people should come to us with ideas and say “this might be insane but…”

But the overall tone had to be set by Mackinnon and Gaiman, because “it’s such an eclectic book. We fly through genres and we’re going from the very serious to the very comedic. The area we wanted Good Omens to inhabit was very close to being ridiculous but just on the edge. If you go too far you end up being a spoof show.”

The more “obvious” influences include Monty Python, Douglas Adams, PG Wodehouse (as well as Butch and Sundance for Tennant and Sheen’s characters). US show Legion was also a touch point.
Outside of film references the HoDs were given the avante garde jazz piano solo from Bowie’s Aladdin Sane  – “somehow, that got the spirit” – as did a picture of a single tile from an Istanbul mosque Mackinnon spotted in a documentary. “We used that as a colour palette reference.”

The target was “cinematic” and “a six-hour film rather than six hours of telly.” Mackinnon’s DoP Gavin Finney shot on Alexa SXT and Alexa Mini in ProRes 4444 (HQ) and 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Lenses included Leica Summilux primes and Alura zooms. “The package gave us flexibility to jump quickly between Steadicam, Technocrane and studio/dolly mode. Alexa gives very good green screen keys for vfx, and has great and flexible colour rendering which helped in the grade. The Alexa’s latitude could cope with the bright white sands of the Cape Town desert, very low-key hell scenes and everything in-between.”

Much of the look is also determined by the CGI. It’s necessarily a vfx heavy production with lead vendor Milk providing around 650 cgi shots covering the principal vfx sequences. But, says Mackinnon, the push was to make the vfx a seamless part of the narrative. “When I first did Doctor Who with Russell T Davies and David Tennant, the CGI shots were written into the script by Russell because they were so expensive. You would have five or six shots and that was your lot.” And that meant cgi had to be a showstopper. “What’s lovely now is you can move away from the clichés. You’re not just doing CGI shots for the exterior of a spaceship, CGI is involved throughout.”

For the two main characters, an angel and a demon, performing miracles is run of the mill and the vfx had to reflect that. Adam, the young boy who doesn’t know he is the antichrist, sees his imagination come to life. A cgi spaceship therefore had to be one that an 11-year-old would imagine, not the Death Star.

The vfx were extensive, says Milk’s vfx supervisor Jean-Claude Deguara. “You were pretty much doing a new effect for every vfx scene” which kept him busy on set advising throughout pretty much every shoot day. The vfx run the gamut of hellish creatures, explosions, water effects, a cracken, a speeding Bentley and the creation of one of the main locations, a Soho book shop that was scanned from a location on Berwick Street. But for all that, the thrust of the vfx was that they should fit in to the overall narrative, and not stand out as ‘moments’. “One of the first things that Neil ever said to me was he wants everything to feel like it’s all from the same place. It should all come together so everyone’s working together to harmonise the tone,” says Deguara.

But the vfx didn’t stop with Milk. The grade was with Gareth Spensley at Molinare and, says Mackinnon, much additional vfx occurred there. “There is a development now where a lot of the stuff that the vfx house would have done we now shift into the grade. The tech has caught up with us” allowing directors to sit in with a colourist to create many of the vfx that would have gone to the vfx vendor in the past. With the apocalypse approaching, the weather was a big part of the narrative and “80% of the skies we did with Gareth the colourist rather than Milk. A few years ago, Milk would have done that” but with more Flame plug ins now available in Baselight and other grading systems, the colourist can achieve more. “Neil calls Gareth a warlock because of the magic skills he appears to possess to change things,” says Mackinnon.

And the amount of vfx work achieved in the grade was new to Molinare’s Spensley: “The level we did it on Good Omens, that’s completely new for me. I don’t know of any episodic TV show that’s done it” to the same extent. “It could become visual effects but the reason it creeps into the grade is that if you break each shot down to visual effects then you would have hundreds and hundreds of vfx shots. And it becomes slightly unwieldy,” says Spensley. “Within the grade, we can probably get them faster and more cost effectively than if you break them into individual visual effects shots.” It also allows the director to sit in and make rough decisions in real time. “We can start something together in the Baselight and, if it’s the simpler end of things, they can reject it or proceed with it quite quickly,” says Spensley.

And with the original writer showrunning the production, and a ready-made fan base, that control becomes more important. “Five million people have bought the book already,” says Mackinnon. “Those fans will see a lovingly made version but also a bit more as well.”

Production BBC Studios, Narrativia and The Blank Corporation, in association with BBC Worldwide.
Broadcasters Amazon Prime Video and BBC2
Writer and show runner Neil Gaiman
Director Douglas Mackinnon
DoP Gavin Finney
Vfx Milk
Post Molinare
Music David Arnold
Executive Producers Neil Gaiman, Caroline Skinner, Chris Sussman for BBC Studios; Rob Wilkins and Rod Brown for Narrativia.
Commissioner For Amazon Prime Video by Amazon Studios and for BBC2 by Patrick Holland, Controller, BBC Two; Shane Allen, controller, BBC comedy commissioning and commissioning editor Gregor Sharp
Cast Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Jon Hamm, Frances McDormand, Miranda Richardson, Michael McKean, Jack Whitehall, Adria Arjona, Anna Maxwell Martin, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, Derek Jacobi
TX on Amazon Prime Video worldwide  on 31st May and on BBC2 at a later date

Posted 30 May 2019 by Jon Creamer

Survey: The Top Ten Pro Rental Cameras

Televisual’s annual top 10 listing of the UK’s most hired cameras is now in its thirteenth year. Jon Creamer counts down the most rented models of the past year

In this year’s survey of the top ten hire cameras, the perennial favourites still hold strong - Arri’s Alexa Mini and Amira are still going strong and Canon’s C300 and C300 MkII still hold their own.

What comes through loud and clear from the survey is that, outside of high end TV, the Sony FS7 is still the dominant model. Along with the FS7 MkII it has solidified its position as the industry workhorse. Few in the hire market predict that changing soon.

It’s not the only game in town, however, with some, including Run Hire, saying “where budgets are constrained, the Canon C300 still retains its presence in the HD broadcast sector and shows no signs of disappearing yet.” The Kit Room also points out that “the C300 and C300 MkII have had a resurgence over the last year.”

Over at the high end, “full frame is making more waves” says Electra. Hotcam also says that “full frame cinematography will undoubtedly make a lot more noise.”

Shift 4 too predicts “more people looking to shoot full frame on large budget productions.” And it seems that Sony could be the beneficiary of that. Pro Vision says the Sony Venice “will have a significant impact on the drama market for 2019,” with Procam saying “the Sony F55 will be superseded by the Venice.” Video Europe is another that says the Venice is “really beginning to gather momentum now.” The Kit Room argues that “this year will tell if it is able to knock the Arri of its perch,” with VMI saying that “the Arri LF has failed to excite the market, so we expect that the Venice will become a really important camera.” But then there’s the new Alexa Mini LF on the horizon. That could make things interesting.

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 2018, 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 hire companies who took part.

1 Sony PMW FS7

Average Day Rate £144


Alias, Anna Valley, Bluefin,, Hotcam, The Kit Room, Progressive Broadcast, ProVision, Run Hire, Soho Broadcast, Video Europe, VMI

Prison Life, Raw and Real, World’s Wildest Holidays, Danger in the Line of Duty (wt) (Alias Hire), The Voice, Hunted, Renovate Don’t Relocate (Anna Valley), BBC Hardtalk, Travel Channel, ITN, ITV (Bluefin), Blind Date, Eating with My Ex (Hotcam), The Great NHS Experiment, Rich Kids Go Skint, 999 What’s Your Emergency, Life and Debt (The Kit Room), Red Arrows, Dancing on ICE, Paddington, Blind Date (ProVision), Dementia Choir (Run Hire)

It’s now the third year in a row that Sony’s FS7 camera has made it to the top spot in our survey of the production industry’s most popular hire cameras having first supplanted the Canon C300 back in 2017.

Sony has updated the camera since its birth, bringing out the second generation of the camera, the FS7 MkII back in 2016. That model has risen up the rankings too but it’s still the MkI that goes out on the bulk of broadcast TV productions.

Anna Valley, formerly Shooting Partners, says that the FS7 has become the “workhorse camcorder of the broadcast industry, and it’s easy to see why.  It’s a professional camera for a reasonable price and produces images of a great quality. It’s the staple kit and there are hundreds of them out on shoots at any one time for broadcast television.” Bluefin says the camera’s success simply comes down to the down to the fact that it’s “less expensive and almost as good as an F55.”

And its success also partly comes from a lack of anything new in its class that has managed to contest its dominance in the sector. As argues: “With no new cameras challenging in this market space I anticipate the Sony FS7 will go from strength to strength.” The Kit Room, too, says that the FS7 keeps its place “because there haven’t been any breakthrough Run and Gun cameras entering the market.”

But its ability to hold its position as the most hired camera also derives from the simple fact that many operators don’t have to spend a lot of time getting to know it on every production they work on. “It is also increasingly popular because of its familiarity to shooters, making it ideal for productions with heavy time restrictions,” says The Kit Room.

The release of the FS7 MkII hasn’t made too much of an impact on the popularity of the MkI either says Run Hire: “It’s our most hired camera and hasn’t been affected by the MkII coming on to the market, so I think that the MKI will still hold its own in every type of production for many years to come yet.”

Alias Hire too says the MkII has little impact on its popularity. “Our client base has still been very happy taking the earlier version. It shows that the advancements between the 1st and 2nd generation FS7 cameras are minimal. It’s not like the jump the C300 did from MkI to MkII. That jump was significant with the inclusion of 4K and the build quality. ”

2 Arri Alexa Mini

Average Day Rate


HIRED FROM, Electra, New Day, The Kit Room, Progressive Broadcast, ProVision, Shift 4, Video Europe, VMI

Women on the Verge, Zapped, There She Goes, Locked Up Abroad (Electra); commercials (The Kit Room); Milan Fashion, Ballantines Whisky, Norvia (New Day), Still Game (Progressive Broadcast); Victoria, Vera, Truth of Murder, Ackley Bridge, Emmerdale (ProVision); The Athena, Agatha Raisin, Bad Move, Good Karma Hospital (VMI)

It’s another year in second position of the most hired cameras for Arri’s Alexa Mini as the camera remains a mainstay for high end productions.

As Progressive Broadcast says: “the Alexa Mini continues to dominate the hire kit lists from drama and commercials in our market.” Pro Vision too says that the Mini “has again reigned supreme in the drama market which we predominantly service. That said we have seen a significant increase in the request for the Sony Venice both 4K S35 and Anamorphic.  However, the Alexa Mini still has a strong hold on the current market and is a proven camera choice.” Shift 4 also says that “the most popular at the high end for us are still the Alexa Mini and Amira. The Mini because it’s so versatile and being used mainly for dramas and commercials.” And then there are the very strong rumours of an LF version of the Mini soon to be launched.

3 Sony FS7 MkII

Average Day Rate £151


Electra, Hotcam, New Day, Run Hire, Shift 4, VMI

 A League of Their Own, Revolutions: Ideas that Changed the World (Electra); Coach Trip, Couple Goals, Eating with My Ex, Britain’s Got Talent, The X Factor, Greatest Dancer (Hotcam); Football Channel, BT Sport, Cheryl (New Day); Inside the Bombsquad (Run Hire),

Sony’s original FS7 model still reigns supreme in the rental market but its younger sibling, the FS7 MkII, released in 2016, is slowly making its way up the rental charts, this year to third position.

VMI says that the FS7 MkII has taken over from the original FS7, “aided by Netflix quality acceptance” (it got a crucial Netflix Post Technology Alliance tick last year).

Alias Hire says that it expects to see “a climb in requests for the FS7 MkII version, but that’s just natural as the FS7 MkI models start to show their age visually. We’ll look to bolster our stock with a few FS7 MkII models while we wait to see if Sony come up with something groundbreaking enough to make an FS7 MkIII a huge hit.” The FS7 MkII, like its stablemate is considered a good “all-rounder,” says Shift 4. “DoPs on a budget will use them with nice lenses as well as self-shooters using Canon L series glass.”

4 Sony PMW F55

Average Day Rate £230


Bluefin, Electra, Hotcam. Progressive Broadcast, Shift 4

Commercials and corporate (Bluefin); Top Gear, A League of Their Own, FIFA World Cup Official Film (Electra); Britain’s Got Talent, The X Factor (Hotcam); River City (Progressive Broadcast)

The Sony F55 is now a seven year old camera but still holds its place in the rental market. Alongside cameras like the Alexa, it’s testament to the fact that well built, well liked cameras can have a very long shelf life, especially if the manufacturers keep delivering firmware updates.

It’s also got a broad range of uses all the way from live production to high end dramas and it’s still being used on some of the highest end dramas around, DP Adriano Goldman uses the camera for The Crown, for instance, due to its relatively small form factor and its acceptability to the Netflix gate keepers and he professes to have no plans to change that despite the Venice and Alexa LF’s emergence.

It’s also found new uses too. Shift 4 says the F55 “has had a bit of a resurgence with the release of the R7 RAW recorder, as combining them allows you to shoot 4K RAW at 120fps. No other camera other than specialist ones such as a Phantom can do this so it has made it a popular choice for any high frame rate projects being done for Netflix for example.”

5 Canon C300 MkII

Average Day Rate £178


Alias Hire, Anna Valley, Bluefin,, The Kit Room, New Day, Soho Broadcast, VMI

Prison, Family Project (Anna Valley); Corporate (Bluefin); The Great NHS Experiment, Claimed and Shamed, The Homeless Filmmaker, Brexit Doc, The Last Witness (The Kit Room); Pottermore / DSTV Promo (New Day), docs (VMI)

6 Arri Amira

Average Day Rate £250


Electra,, Video Europe, VMI, Shift 4

The Grand Tour, Keith and Paddy Picture Show, This Time with Alan Partridge, Zapped (Electra); Danny & Mick Series II, Josh Series II, Man Down Series III, Raised by Wolves Series II VMI

7 Panasonic AW UE 70

Average Day Rate £135


Anna Valley, Hotcam

Life Behind Bars: Visiting Hour, Celebrity Call Centre (Anna Valley); Coach Trip, Couple Goals (Hotcam)

8 Canon C300

Average Day Rate £125


Progressive Broadcast, Run Hire

Fantasy Homes By the Sea  (Run Hire)

9 Sony A7S MkII

Average Day Rate £99


Alias Hire,, ProVision, Soho Broadcast

=10 Canon XF305 and Red Epic Helium

=10 Canon XF 305

Average Day Rate

The Kit Room, Run Hire

Sex Tapes, The Fraud Squad (The Kit Room); Oxford Street (Run Hire)

=10 Red Epic Helium

Average Day Rate £475

New Day, VMI

Great British Architects - Lutyens (New Day); Turn Up Charlie (VMI)

Posted 01 May 2019 by Jon Creamer

Channel 4 ponders its big move

Three cities are still in the running for the new out-of-london Channel 4 HQ and three for the 
two creative hubs. the indies in those cities say the potential prize is immense. Jon Creamer reports

Autumn is when Channel 4 promises it will finally announce the names of the three cities that have won the beauty contest to become homes to its new non-London HQ and two creative pied a terres.

Birmingham, Greater Manchester and Leeds are all still in the running to be the home of the new HQ with Bristol, Cardiff and Glasgow the remaining potential bases for one of the two ‘creative hubs’.

And it’s not been easy to get this far in the competition. To get on the initial long list, Channel 4 set out a series of conditions, some practical – travel time to London, size of working population, office space that could offer “cutting edge connectivity and technology”  - and some literally a beauty contest - “quality of life and the general attractiveness of any new location” was considered “paramount.”

To get to the final six, cities had to make it through a pitch process in June and July in which teams from Channel 4, including chief exec Alex Mahon, chief commercial officer Jonathan Allan and chief marketing and communications officer Dan Brooke, visited 13 shortlisted cities and regions for “presentations and discussions.”

For those that didn’t make the grade, there was much disappointment. Municipal councils and their creative communities fought hard to be one of the chosen. The official prize is a chunk of the 300 jobs Channel 4 is to base outside London with the National HQ also including a “state-of-the-art studio” that will be used to produce Channel 4 programmes and events and broadcast live daily programmes including Channel 4 News which will be co-anchored from outside the London studio every night.

But it was a hard-fought battle because for the indies and facilities in those cities, the benefits stretch far beyond those 300 new taxpayers.

Part of it is simply a psychological boost. “For Glasgow it would be another vote of confidence” in the city, says David Strachan, director of strategy at Tern TV. Laura Marshall, md at Bristol’s Icon Films, says a C4 move to her city “would be a substantive acknowledgement of the wealth of creativity, innovation and ability to deliver.” Rollem md Kay Mellor also argues that a C4 move to Leeds would not just “hugely benefit our economy and community” it would “put Leeds firmly on the map as a visitor destination.” Back in Glasgow, IWC creative director, Mark Downie, reckons “it would underline Glasgow’s growing reputation as a winning city when it comes to culture, bolstering its civic self-confidence” in the same way that hosting the European Championships and Commonwealth Games and “being named a UNESCO City of Music and producing five Turner Prize-winners” did.

Creative director and founder at Leeds based True North, Andrew Sheldon, says that even before the final decision,  “the bid process itself has already had a positive effect - the enthusiasm for bringing Channel 4 to Leeds is tangible. It isn’t simply what it means to the television and digital industries here – it’s about what it says about the region as a whole. Channel 4 would really enhance Leeds’ reputation as a forward looking European city.”

But it’s important to remember that the entire process has been one that was forced upon Channel 4. The Conservative’s election pledge to move Channel 4 lock stock and barrel out of London was resisted strongly by the broadcaster and led to it negotiating that pledge down. That negotiation ended with the government agreeing that Channel 4 could keep a substantial base at its Horseferry Road building in London but would spread its staff and spend further afield. Channel 4 has pledged that commissioning editors overseeing significant budget and with responsibility for some of its biggest shows will be based across the three new creative hubs – alongside a variety of other creative and business functions. Indies in the potential cities believe that it will keep to its word and real decisions will now be made outside London. And that is a major prize.

For IWC’s Downie “There’s a long history of commissioners based in London having a piecemeal relationship with producers in Glasgow. By committing to a permanent presence in the city that era will be brought to an end. It will raise Channel 4’s connectivity by improving the sharing of information, promoting better and more frequent dialogue with the city’s creative community; and existing relationships will be deepened.”

For Tern’s David Strachan, ending that “piecemeal relationship” is central. “Regular dialogue is the key to building trust which commissioning needs. Proximity makes dialogue more possible. The communities of Scotland and Northern Ireland need that umbilical connection to the heart of Channel 4.”

Rollem’s Mellor too says that being around the corner from commissioners “would allow our production company to develop a proper working relationship with them.” Icon’s Marshall echoes that saying “it would give west of England indies and freelancers easier access to commissioning.” That’s something that indies beyond London envy about their counterparts based full time in the capital. “We’ll look forward to having commissioners as part of the daily routine – the kind of contact that London producers take for granted in reception at Horseferry Road, but which is really important to building a long term creative and commercial relationship,“ says True North’s Sheldon.

Getting Channel 4 to set up shop in your city will inevitably give the local creative sector significant heft too. If Channel 4 build it, they will come, is the outlook for one big Manchester based facility. “Wherever Channel 4 move to, the commissioners will follow along with the production companies, this is the true value to any city that Channel 4 chooses.”

Any chosen city will see an influx of indies and new home-grown indies getting the confidence to set up shop long term. For Tern’s Strachan, “A growing production and commissioning community will create stability, continuity of employment, more confident pitches of greater scale.” Rollem’s Mellor says that “long-term I would hope that Channel 4 being in Leeds would encourage more production companies to make the city their home, and to enable us to grow and invest in proper studio space and post-production facilities in our city.”

A Channel 4 move means a city achieving critical mass in its production community. “There will be an influx of talent who have been considering where next to move to,” says Icon’s Marshall. “There will be economic investment in the city, one of the best places to live, through house purchasing, and of course the actual bricks and mortar of the hub.”

And that will also draw in talent, always a significant headache for non-London indies. “Channel 4’s presence will have an immediate impact on our greatest challenge, which is staffing. Their presence will help make Yorkshire somewhere that doesn’t just nurture talent but retains it,” says True North’s Sheldon.

That’s the prize for the winners. For the losers, it will be business as usual, back on the train and the plane to London and now with another destination to visit for those much-prized commissions.

Posted 07 September 2018 by Jon Creamer

Vanity Fair director James Strong on making a period drama with attitude

Putting Thackeray’s Vanity Fair on screen is far from untrodden ground. There have been around 13 adaptations of the story of Becky Sharp, Emma Sedley and their friends and families so far, all the way from a 1911 silent movie to a 1998 BBC version.

But the director of Mammoth Screen’s upcoming ITV/Amazon take on the novel, James Strong, hasn’t seen any of them.

In fact, says the director, whose credits include Broadchurch and Liar, he’s not really a big fan of period drama. “As a viewer, I sometimes find certain period dramas, particularly of this period, can be quite distancing - a little unrelatable to a modern audience.” And that made him the ideal fit for this adaptation that aims from the outset to be a contemporary drama in a period setting. That tone begins with Gwyneth Hughes’ scripts, says Strong. “They immediately have a modernity to them in the way they’re paced.”

And Strong was determined that the direction had to capture that tone. “I was very clear I wanted to approach it in the same way I’d approach a contemporary drama.” But, he says, “that’s an easy thing to say” and a little harder to get right in practice.

Initial thoughts were for a “mad, Trainspotting Baz Luhrmann mash up” but that was soon dropped. “The danger with that is it would tire after 20 minutes” leaving audiences dazzled but exhausted and missing the drama. “To have too stylised an aesthetic could risk detracting from the believability of the story,” he says.

The show needed to have “an attitude and swagger and fun to it” with the pace of contemporary drama, but had to keep the story real. Rehearsals with the cast steered clear of the text itself to keep performances fresh. “You have to catch lightning in the bottle a bit. On set we try to get the cameras up and running very quickly so we’re rehearsing as we’re shooting” so “you can often catch instinctive emotional reaction” - a technique used on Broadchurch and Liar. And the cameras were kept fluid so the actors aren’t restrained.

But alongside that contemporary feel, the show also needed to keep all that is good about period drama. Historical accuracy was not up for discussion, “it’s as forensically accurate as possible. The costumes, the etiquette, the houses, the décor, the military operations are all as accurate as you can be.” That extended to the decision to shoot much of the drama in the London, the novel’s main setting, despite the capital being “a nightmare to film in. It’s really expensive. The permissions are a nightmare, they take forever.” There was also extensive vfx clean up by Technicolor of out-of-period architectural details.

The series just “played around the edges with the format, the look, the music. It had a modern veneer,” says Strong. But at the same time the drama is shot in a “beautiful appropriate way,” he says. “There is handheld, there’s Steadicam, there’s movement but there are also beautiful graphic wides that allow you to enjoy our locations and sumptuous settings and scale. It’s a big story - you’ve got the politics of war, the battle of Waterloo. Its both epic and intimate so we had a to find a style that fitted those two things.”

Part of that came from the use of zoom lenses throughout the series  “There’s no tracking, there’s no unmotivated camera work. If there’s something going on the camera will be drawn to it. I told the operators that if there’s something interesting going on in the scene, then take me to it.” It was, says Strong, a way of using the set piece of a big composition but then using a zoom “to isolate characters in a more immediate way than that slow gentle tracking or the American power push.”

DoP Ed Rutherford shot on the Red Epic with a 6K Dragon sensor, another departure from traditional period drama production. “I love that Alexa look with the Cooke lenses where you’re trying to chuck everything out of focus and the shallow depth of field,” says Strong. But “I wanted this to be visceral. I didn’t want a soft-focus view of the past.”

Colours and lenses also help tell the story, says Strong. “As Becky rises there is literally more colour in her life” and as the Sedleys lose their money “the colour drains out of Amelia.” The lenses tell the same story, Amelia initially shot wider with the family she fits into “then as things go wrong, slightly longer lenses as she becomes more alienated.” There’s the reverse for Becky, long lenses while she’s different and separated from her environment and shorter wider lenses as she makes her way in society.

References for the look of the series spanned Kate Moss in her Britpop pomp, the photography of Saul Leiter and Gregory Crewdson, Blade Runner 2049’s colours, The Shape of Water “Del Toro does period and doesn’t feel stuck in the past.” A balancing act that Vanity Fair also manages to pull off.

Gwyneth Hughes’ seven part adaptation of Thackeray’s classic novel is set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, and follows heroine Becky Sharp as she attempts to claw her way out of poverty and scale the heights of English Society.

Production co Mammoth Screen
Cast Olivia Cooke, Claudia Jessie, Tom Bateman, Johnny Flynn, Simon Russell Beale, Martin Clunes
Writer/exec producer Gwyneth Hughes
Director/ exec producer James Strong
Exec producers Damien Timmer, Tom Mullens
Producer Julia Stannard
DP Ed Rutherford
Director episode 6 Jonathan Entwhistle
Line Producer Paula McBreen
Casting Theo Park
Costume designers Suzie Harman, Lucinda Wright
Production designer Anna Pritchard
Art director Henry Jaworski
Editor Steve Worsley
Camera Red Epic 6K Dragon sensor
VFX Technicolor

Posted 03 September 2018 by Jon Creamer

Survey: The top ten pro rental cameras

Televisual’s annual top 10 listing of the UK’s most hired cameras is now in its twelth year. Jon Creamer counts down the most rented models of 2017, and reveals the models everyone will be hiring in the year ahead

It’s a second year at the top of the most hired professional cameras for Sony’s FS7.

And it’s been a fairly settled year all round in terms of the camera models most in use. There are “a few very versatile cameras that crew, production companies and hire companies are all familiar with making the camera market a very calm sea at present,” says Electra. Shift 4 also says that “the cameras most in demand haven’t changed too much from last year.”

Much of that is down to operators and crews prizing familiarity highly in their camera choices. But it’s also down to versatility. With the FS7 (and FS7 mk2), Sony has produced a camera that is finding a place across a huge range of genres from fact ent to ob doc to live events and corporate. It can “be scaled up to be used with PL glass and record UHD internally or alternatively scaled down for self shooters using EF lenses. Versatility to suit all budgets,” is Pro Motion’s take. Canon’s  C300 range also benefits from its familiarity and versatility. The C300 is now slowly being replaced by its younger brother, 
the mk2.

Versatility has also been the key to the growing popularity of Arri’s Amira and particularly the Alexa Mini, with ads, drama and high-end docs often specifying a Mini on the kit list. “Their huge versatility and the large range of accessories available render them perfect for many shoots, locations, and situations,” says Picture Canning. Often now, the Mini is shouldering out its bigger and more expensive stablemate, the Alexa, on high-end shoots.

But there could be a shake up in the high-end market in the year ahead with a number of full frame cameras in the market now. Sony’s Venice has now launched, Red’s Monstro was announced late last year and Arri announced the 4K large format Alexa in February (a caveat to this report is that most camera hire companies that helped with this survey sent back their info before Arri made its Alexa LF announcement). For S+O, 2018 could bring about a “delineation of the camera market as Full Frame sensor acquisition prices itself outside the current Super35mm format cameras. Monstro, Venice and Alexa LF cameras are the new high end.” It’s all to play for.

1 Sony PMW FS7
Average Day Rate £150
Last year 1st

Hired from, Electra, Film Store Rental, Pro Motion, Run Hire, S+O, Shift 4, Shooting Partners, The Kit Room, VMI, Video Europe

Hired for Various (Electra); 10k Home, Back to the Land, Relationship Rescue (Film Store Rental); Inside the Factory – BBC2, Ambulance – BBC1, Escape to the Country – BBC1 (Pro Motion); Celebrity Big Brother – Behind the Scenes C5, Tamara’s World – ITVBe (Run Hire); Celebs Go Dating, Bromans (S+O); Hunted s3, My Floating Home s2 (Shooting Partners), Blind Date, Heathrow, The Cruise, Phone Swap (The Kit Room); Planet Earth - Mountains - BBC NHU (VMI)

Sony’s FS7 first took the top spot in our poll of the most popular rental cameras last year, supplanting Canon’s C300 from the number one position it had held for four years in a row.

And many camera hire specialists reckon the FS7 will hold its dominant position for a while to come yet. “The FS7 is looking likely to hold its own and be incredibly popular again in 2018. Canon really seem to have fallen behind in a market they were dominating 18 months ago,” says The Kit Room.

Shooting Partners too, says that although “some of the newer cameras will start to be adopted more widely by our factual entertainment clients, we don’t expect any serious challenge for the FS7 throne.”

Much of that is down to the FS7’s perceived versatility. Pro Motion describes the camera as a “great all rounder,” that can be “scaled up to be used with PL glass and record UHD internally or alternatively scaled down for self-shooters using EF lenses.” Film Store Rental also points out that the FS7 “does tick a lot of boxes across the board, making it a highly flexible, multi-purpose camera. It’s being used by TV documentary makers, incorporated into multi-camera shoots and has also found a home on promo sets. It has a versatile codec and hits an attractive price point.” S+O also describes the camera as “a consistent performer across a wide range of TV and branded content. It is affordable, has great frame rate options and a wide range of lens mount options.”

The FS7 seems to have hit that sweet spot that makes it a camera to suit a very wide range of productions and situations and, importantly, budgets. Run Hire says it expects that “the demand for the FS7 will increase hugely as it slowly pushes aside the likes of the Canon XF305 to become the standard run and gun shooting camera for ob docs, as well as continuing to be the mainstay for huge parts of the broadcast sector.  I have also seen the live events and corporate sectors increase their interest and use of the FS7 for many new productions and I think these industries will grow much further in 2018 in terms of hire.”

Of course, Sony has already brought out its update to the FS7 with the FS7 mk2 but, says Shift 4, even that isn’t denting the original’s popularity. “Sony’s FS7 has dominated the mid-low level market, with the FS7 mk2 gaining more popularity without taking away too much from the mk1.”

2 Arri Alexa
Average Day Rate £366
Last year 3rd

Hired From, Electra, Film Store Rental, New Day, Picture Canning, Pro Motion, S+O, Shift 4, Video Europe

Hired For Josh, Tracey Ullman Breaks The News (Electra); Nike, BP, Unilever Campaigns (Film Store Rental); Disney Emojis, Designa Friend & Nella the Princess Knight ads (New Day); Butterfly, Famalam, Tales from the Lodge, commercials, fashion content, music videos (Picture Canning); Cunk on Britain, Quick and Easy, BBC Artist Specials (S+O)

The Alexa Mini continues its rise up the ranks of our top rental cameras this year. This time the camera comes in second (third last year and tenth the year before). High-end shooting is increasingly dominated by the model. Video Europe says the Mini is “still the most popular” with The Kit Room predicting the “high end camera business will still be dominated by the Alexa Mini” for some time to come.  S+O describes it as the “go-to camera still for high end television, commercials and branded content. It’s the cinematographer’s choice offering both spherical and anamorphic lens options in a compact size.” Conceived by ARRI as a B camera for the Alexa, its small size and relatively cheap rate has meant it often supplants its big brother. “We have facilitated pilots in 2016 which chose to shoot on Alexa SXT for A and B camera, and yet, when it came to shoot the series in 2017, Alexa Minis were used in their place,” says Picture Canning.

3 Arri 

Average Day Rate £276
Last year 4th

Hired From, Electra, Film Store Rental, Picture Canning, Pro Motion, S+O, Shift 4, VMI, Video Europe

Hired For The Grand Tour, Zapped, Keith and Paddy Picture Show (Electra); Beyond Bionic, The Wine Show, Comic Relief (Film Store Rental); Commercials, Tales from the Lodge, Famalam (Picture Canning); Friday Night 
Feast, Keith Lemon Coming in America (S+O); Josh II - BBC Comedy, Man Down III - Avalon Television (VMI)

Alongside the Arri Alexa Mini, Arri’s Amira has also increased its popularity, rising from last year’s fourth place in the poll to this year’s third position.
And its rise is at least partly down to the Arri family’s ubiquity in the drama market, says VMI. “For drama, the Alexa, the Amira and the Alexa Mini are the main cameras of choice on probably over 95%  of productions.”
Shift 4 says the Amira, and the Mini, are “still by far the most popular high-end cameras, whether it’s for commercial, drama or high-end documentary.” Film Store Rental similarly says the “Arri Amira is making headway on the documentary market. However, its weight and cost makes it unsuitable for much of the broadcast documentary market. We are seeing it find a home on higher-end branded campaigns and feature docs, where it is often paired with the Alexa Mini.”

4 Canon C300 Mk2
Average Day Rate £207
Last year 7th

Hired From, Alias Hire, Finepoint, New Day, S+O, Shift 4, The Kit Room, VMI

Hired For The X Factor (Finepoint); Adidas ad, Baftas (New Day); Through the Keyhole (S+O); The Doctor Who… (The Kit Room); Febreze commercial (VMI)

Despite the Sony FS7’s popularity, Canon’s C300 family is still a major force in the rental market. The original model takes fifth place in our poll with the updated mk2 overtaking it and coming in fourth (The C300 mk2 was seventh last year, the C300 was third).

Both the C300 models have the benefit of being a very known quantity. “Familiarisation with the kit is really important to our factual entertainment clients,” says Shooting Partners. “They need to know the camera intimately to catch moments that only happen once, which explains why both the Sony FS7 and Canon have remained in our list of top five most popular cameras.”
Alias Hire says the C300 mk2, along with the Fs7, will continue in popularity at least partly because of the range of add-ons available and because they can be set up exactly as the user wants. “The size and weight of these cameras allows individual users to build the rig that is right for them and their shoot because of the abundance of accessories. The broadcast shooters love the size and wide range of accessories available for each setup, and the production managers love the cost.”

5 Canon C300
Average Day Rate £155
Last year 2nd

Hired From, Film Store Rental, Run Hire, Shooting Partners, The Kit Room, VMI

Hired For Unreported World, My Embarrassing Family (Film Store Rental); Billion Dollar Deals  BBC 2, To the Sun and Back - Pilot (Run Hire); Rich House Poor House, 24 Hours in Police Custody S3 (Shooting Partners); 999 What’s Your Emergency (The Kit Room); Saving Lives at Sea - BBC1 (VMI)

6 Sony PMW F55
Average Day Rate £320
Last year 5th

Hired From 
Alias Hire, Electra, Finepoint, New Day, Picture Canning, S+O

Hired For
Top Gear (Electra); Big Cats (Finepoint); Top Gear (New Day); TBA – Netflix Series, commercials, branded content (Picture Canning); Antiques Roadshow (Pro Motion); Bromans, Million Pound Menu (S+O)

7 Sony FS7 MK2
Average Day Rate £153
Last year n/a

Hired From  Finepoint, New Day, 
Picture Canning

Hired For
Ariana Grande (Finepoint); Football Channel (New Day); TBA – Netflix series, Reported Missing, corporates, music videos (Picture Canning)

8 Sony PDW F800
Average Day Rate £183
Last year 9th

Hired From  Electra, Film Store Rental

Hired For Gold Rush (Electra); Running Wild with Bear Grylls, Wild Weekends, (Film Store Rental)

9 Arri Alexa

Average Day Rate £425
Last year 8th

Hired From  VMI, Video Europe

Hired For Midsomer Murders - Bentley Productions, The Level - ITV1 (VMI)

10 Sony BRC H900 
Average Day Rate £275
Last year n/a

Hired From 
Shooting Partners

Hired For Gogglebox, Gogglesprogs (Shooting Partners)

Posted 04 July 2018 by Jon Creamer

The art of the edit

In advance of EditFest London 2018, four editors from the worlds of live action and animation tell Jon Creamer what it takes to create the perfect cut

Chris Lebenzon

CREDITS Dumbo, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Maleficent, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, Planet of the Apes, 
Enemy of the State, Armageddon, 
Mars Attacks!, Top Gun, Weird Science

Normally I work with directors that I’ve worked with before. When I work in London, I generally start a week before filming. I land and hit the road running. With Tim [Burton], because I’ve worked with him so much, it’s easy to read his dailies.

When we work I don’t have the luxury of waiting for the whole scene to be shot. During the day when a shot is complete, the video tap is loaded into the Avid. I pick the best moments to put the scene together and when the last shot is loaded in the Avid, I adjust the cut. Then Tim comes in and sees the scene he just completed shooting. It’s very immediate. He’s in first thing the next morning [Chris is currently cutting Burton’s Dumbo in London] to see any adjustments that I’ve made and then we move on to what we’re doing that day. Tim comes to the editing room several times a day to check on how that day’s scene is developing. He’ll tell me what he’s going to shoot and I might ask for a particular shot. He obliges or he doesn’t. That’s our process. Most directors don’t have time to come to the editing room when they’re shooting. Nor is the editing room close to where they’re shooting.

The cut is always evolving, the more scenes that are shot, the more I’m able to see how the movie is developing and what is needed. A lot of scripts are overwritten so things have to come out. Initially it’s best not to take too much out because the director will want to see everything edited that they shot. A lot of the work comes after the first cut. I chip away and take things out that we feel we don’t need.

It’s very important to stay fresh to the material for us editors. I try to pretend that I’m a viewer, that I’m in the audience. The audience doesn’t read the script, they go in cold so I try to keep a simple, almost childlike, view of the story with no pre-dispositions. After so many months on a project it’s difficult to stay fresh. But there’s generally so much to do in these movies, if I feel that I’m losing perspective on a scene  I can work in a different area and re visit the scene another day. I can go work in the end for example and then come back and re examine the beginning.

There’s so much missing when first editing a vfx movie. In our movie, Dumbo is played by a man who doesn’t move the same way that the final Dumbo will move. In some shots  he’s not even there, just an empty plate.  But that doesn’t change the need to pick the best performances  of the actors that are in the scenes with Dumbo and find the best pattern of cutting to tell the story.

Whatever the type of movie, the job is the same for me. I’m responding instinctively to what’s been shot, going with the actor’s sense of pace, and picking the best performances all the while making choices that tell the story in the clearest way possible.  Action genre movies like Armageddon or Unstoppable, require a lot of coverage and edits to create excitement. A drama requires a different approach. But emotion is the common element on all movies. One has to feel and identify  with the characters or the movie’s never going to work. For me that is the overriding element that’s always the same.

I’m most comfortable with repeat business directors. I’m on a project that will last a minimum of ten months and if I don’t click with the director that’s not good. When I work with people I’ve worked with before it’s more comfortable and I gravitate towards that scenario. I spend more time with them than my family so I want it to be a good experience.
To be a good editor you need sensitivity, an understanding of human nature, to be able to judge performance, and have a sense of timing and pacing. Though pacing has evolved over time. Things have gotten much faster, just like the real world . If you look at older movies they’re more languid with beautiful master shots that are left to play out but that contemporary audiences might find boring.

For me technology has made things much better. I don’t honestly know if I’d still be working if I was using the KEM flatbed that I used when I started my career. With the Avid I can see the coverage immediately. I punch up the dailies bin and see what’s there right away. I can also add as many music and sound effects tracks as I want. With mag I was limited to  four tracks total.

Martin Walsh

CREDITS Justice League, Wonderwoman, Cinderella, Chicago, 
V for Vendetta, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Mansfield Park, Hackers, Backbeat, The Krays

If it’s a new relationship there’s an initial meeting with the director to talk about the script, who’s in it, shooting styles etc. But really it’s to establish whether we can bear to spend a year in a room together. If it’s someone I have worked with before, it’s simply a case of reading the script and having a chat on the phone. I think it’s acknowledged we all know what we’re doing by this stage in our careers so we can just get on with it.

From the very first day of principal photography we’re cutting scenes as they come in. It’s important to provide feedback to the director at this stage, they need to see that performances, lighting and all the technical aspects are working as intended. If not we can make adjustments as we go along.

During production it’s often difficult to get a director’s attention. It’s a massive job directing a movie, so many moving parts - but it’s important to stick your nose in if you think you’ve got something important to say that can impact the final product. It’s always better to deal with issues during production when the crew is available than to rely on a pick up shoot later.

If a scene feels right, moves right, move on. You’ll be coming back to it countless times anyway so live with it for a bit and as the work evolves and cuts change, usually tightening, getting faster, if it deserves a revisit it’ll be obvious.

An editor needs an inmate sense of the rhythm of the spoken word. I always come back to music. Or at least the dynamics in music. Film should have light and shade - or loud and soft, fast and slow. If directed and performed well editing is easy because those things are intrinsic to the words on the script page and the performances on set. As little intervention as possible is the ideal.

The best editing work is not invisible. I won an Oscar for Chicago which is about as flashy a piece of editing as they get. But it was shot to be that. Choppy, uneven cutting bumps for the viewer, takes them out of the story for a split second. The aim is to make a scene feel like a single piece of film regardless of the number of cuts.

Editing is more labour intensive now. Sitting in a chair staring at televisions all day isn’t beneficial to anyone’s health. In the pre digital age at least we had to get out of the chair to fetch a box of film from across the room. I’ve had lots of physio on my neck, back and shoulders. I’m now standing at my desk for as long as I can - about half the day - which helps but is tiring. Your eyes are knackered by the end of the day too. None of that is much of an advert for going into the editing business!

Aside from the above I don’t think the editor’s job has changed much over time. We do more sound and music editing in the early days of production. The days of showing ‘workprint’ to studios and executives are over. Everything we share with them has to appear to be a finished film. A lot of work goes into colour and sound and we haven’t touched on vfx and the pressure and restrictions they place on a show.

John Venzon

CREDITS The Lego Batman Movie, Storks, South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut, Flushed Away, Shark Tale, 
The Lego Ninjago Movie

As a feature animation editor, I start on a project much earlier than I would on a live action film. Sometimes even before a full first draft of the script has been written. We might even be working off a pitch outline that the writer is still working on. In animation, the Avid is almost used like a word processor in that the director and writer will be reacting to our story reel and using that as inspiration to continue refining the script. It is animation’s version of rehearsals and workshopping the story before we ‘shoot’ the movie. I may work for one to three years before animating the movie.

Most people hear about animation editing and think, “Do you just cut off the head and tail of the animated shots and put them in order?” I don’t tend to get upset at this because I even hear it from other live-action editors. My response to other editors is to ask, “what if I told you that the very next film you got to edit, you were hired years in advance to work alongside the director and writer, helping them develop not only the cut, but help shape the very story as it is created. Once you all agree that it is working, only THEN does the movie get shot.” Every single editor I’ve told says it would be a dream work scenario. Well, this is how we make animated movies. Since the large bulk of the time I’m on an animated film will be before we ‘shoot’ the film, that is animate and light it, I’m as much a part of the story team as I am an editor.

Spending years working alongside a director and forming a deeper creative bond is one of the great joys of doing an animated film. With that comes the trust you get with a strong collaboration. I get to have more creative input in the films I cut than I ever did on live-action films just based on the fact that I can ask for a new shot, sometimes entire scenes to solve story problems.

A big trade off is that while you have a larger degree of creative control, it is all very detail oriented, much more so than for an editor in live action, and it can very much be like creating in slow motion. There are times I wish I could get already shot footage to build action sequences rather than having to plan everything out, painstakingly cut for cut before I get any moving footage. Also, you have a much bigger responsibility to remind everyone, including yourself, that things actually work once you’ve seen it for three years and everyone is completely sick of a joke or a moment. Second guessing can drive you crazy. Live-action has the immediacy of touching on the first instinct and moving on. It can be harder to trust something that everyone in the room has stopped reacting to.

At the bedrock of what makes a good editor is being able to hold onto the first blush instinct on the material. As the editor we are the very first audience, and as such we have to guard that spark vigilantly. If you lose sight of how a scene is feeling because you are trying to fix continuity errors, or are led astray by trying to fashion something that doesn’t exist in the footage, you can wander away from the audience you are trying to serve. It’s up to us as the builders of the scenes to know what the audience will feel when two people are talking to each other, what they are saying, or more importantly, what they aren’t. Never forget the audience. They are not only our bosses, but they are us.

Alex Mackie

CREDITS The Crown, Mary Shelley, An Inspector Calls, Out of Blue, A Poet in New York, Kill Command, Wallander, Downton Abbey, St Trinian’s, CSI, The Siege of Jadotville, Judge Dredd

I get involved with the project from the moment that I’m asked to cut the film. I’m reading the script and giving any constructive thoughts about it to the director then planning the workflow for the shoot with my assistant editor, and consulting with the DoP, the Sound Mixer, the Script Supervisor.

My starting point will be to cut the scene to make it as strong as possible. I like to keep up with the shoot so, every day, I will hopefully cut all the scenes shot the day before. That way, if there is anything missing, I can let the director know. I tend to show cut scenes to the director at the end of each week’s shoot, although some directors prefer not to watch anything until after the shoot.

Several days after the end of the shoot, I will show the director the full cut, usually with some temporary music and sound effects added. This cut will include all scripted lines, since it is more valuable for both director and editor to see the full scripted version before embarking on the next cut. I hope in this first cut to work the material as much as I can to bring out the best in it. This first cut will typically not be a ‘loose’ cut, but will be paced as I think it works best. After that, I work closely with the director to refine the story and make it sing. We might reorder or cut out scenes, rework storylines, try all kinds of things. In this sense we are now re-directing, or perhaps rewriting the film.

At this stage it’s good to try to stay fresh when viewing the cut. I like to follow Edward Dmytryk’s tip in his book ‘Film Editing’, which is never to view a cut in the evening but instead to view the next morning. After a sleep, you are a new person and will have fresh responses and ideas when you view.

The key to a good edit is that you are cutting to show the audience what they need to see at the precise moment that they need it in order to tell the story to its best ability. A good editor needs to be strong, because there is often a lot of pressure in post production, both physical and mental. They need to be inventive, creative, have some musicality, have a strong visual sense and a strong sense of story. Also of course they must be patient and diplomatic!

The biggest change in the past 25 years has been due to the move to digital editing. Typically now a director will spend much more time in the cutting room because of the viewing screens being there. Also cuts may now be sent over the internet to producers. This is a  loss, since films should be viewed on a big screen and it’s always better to view together with the producers and discuss in person afterwards. On the other hand, the move to digital has meant that now the editor has more creative tools at their fingertips, for example laying music, sound, creating visual effects, and so on. But whatever the changes, the editor’s job remains the same, which is to find the inner truth in the material and find the best story out of the material.

Posted 22 June 2018 by Jon Creamer
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