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December 2017

In the magazine
Only available in print
  • The Televisual Commercials 30
    Jon Creamer introduces Televisual's exclusive annual report, the Commercials 30, and finds that while budgets are down and production companies are under threat from agency in-house units, commercials producers are finding new horizons beyond ads too.
  • Commercials 30: Best in Show
    Commercials producers also get to vote for their favourite directors, stand out ads and top rated agencies along with their favourite post houses, editors and vfx ops. We reveal the results
  • Commercials 30: The Top 30
    Televisual reveals the Commercials 30 itself, the 30 top rated commercials production companies in the UK
  • Music in Motion
    So what’s next for the music behind the commercials? Will it be another year in the ascendant for London Grime perhaps? Portugese house? Afro beats or the Angolan kuduro sound?
  • Televisual Factual Festival report
    Last month saw Televisual's annual Factual Festival return to Bafta. How to stand out in a world of ever increasing viewer choice was the big theme this time. Tim Dams reports
  • Alison Kirkham in interview
    At the Televisual Factual Festival, the BBC's controller of factual Alison Kirkham outlined the shows the corporation is looking for in the year ahead
From the magazine
Available to read online
  • 2017: the year in review
    Two very different stories – the rise of SVOD players and the Harvey Weinstein abuse allegations – defined TV’s year. Tim Dams reports
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Facilities 50 2009 Back to Reports & survey Listing

1 The Mill
CEOs/ Chief creative officers Robin Shenfield, Pat Joseph
Group director of film and TV Will Cohen
Head of production - commercials Darren O’Kelly
Genres ads, new media, TV
Credits Skellig, Doctor Who, Cadbury’s Eyebrows
Services grading (4k), telecine (2k), vfx (2d, 3d, animation), editing, Blu-ray, film recording
Turnover £49.8m

Creatively, it’s been a very strong year for The Mill, pulling in Visual Effects Society awards for outstanding animated character for its Brains Dance spot and its matte painting on the Silence in the Library episode in series four of Doctor Who. It also picked up a Bafta craft award for its visual effects on another Doctor Who episode, Fires of Pompeii. It also has an initiative to develop its own inhouse directing talent, with its directing collective Bif (Jules Janaud, Fabrice Le Nezet and Francois Roisin) winning the Siggraph Jury Award for their short film Dix.

Despite the slowdown in the global economy, it’s been a positive year on the business side, too, with turnover up on last year and the continued growth of its US operations in New York and Los Angeles. “In October and November last year there was a huge collapse in economic confidence worldwide and no one knew what was coming down the pipe,” says CEO Robin Shenfield. “We took cautious steps then to reduce costs as we didn’t want to impair the organisation.”

Part of this cost reduction saw 25 redundancies across the group, with 15 job losses in the UK. By acting early and decisively, Shenfield says, “It’s subsequently been a better year than we might have expected. So far we’re ahead of forecast and ahead of last year in terms of revenue. Our film and TV side has been less busy but is working on more Doctor Who series at the moment.”

The Mill has created the vfx on a string of major TV successes, including Doctor Who, Skellig and Merlin, but it’s still best known for its work in the commercials sector. Vfx in commercials makes up the largest proportion of its workload (at 60%), with digital/new media work now also accounting for 25% of its projects. “From our inception 20 years ago we’ve always been an ad-focused business,” says Shenfield. He adds that The Mill re-launched its film wing last year and is slowly building back its presence in the sector: “For film, we’re a quality boutique in a sea of giants.”

2 The Farm Group
Mds Nicky Sargent, Vicki Dunn, Ian Dodd, David Klafkowski
Customer service Jason Elliot Genres TV, film
Credits The X Factor, Wallander, Ross Kemp in Afghanistan
Services audio (5.1, foley, ADR), grading (4k), telecine (4k), vfx (2d, 3d, animation), editing, DVD, Blu-ray, camera hire, freelance talent agency
Turnover £22m

The Farm has televisual gold on its books in the form of The X Factor and Deal or No Deal, and has post produced some of the highlights of the year, including Wallander and Ross Kemp in Afghanistan, for which it won the ‘sound factual’ Bafta craft award. The difference between this year and in years prior to the recession, is, “We have to run to stand still,” says joint-md Nicky Sargent.

The Farm has grown steadily over the years and expansion is on the cards for the next 12 months, though not in London, says Sargent. “We have the maximum market share we’re going to get in London. We’re looking to the nations and regions, but we’re not going to rush into anything. We’re still looking at sites in LA, too.”

3 Framestore
Md Commercials Helen Stanley
Deputy md, commercials Lottie Cooper Facility manager Kirsty Cleminson Customer service Jane White
Genres film, ads, new media
Credits Pepsi Penguins and Rising, Where the Wild Things Are, Ask Jeeves campaign
Services grading (4k), telecine (4k), vfx (2d, 3d, animation), editing, DVD, Blu-ray, film (restoration, recording), on location vfx colour calibration 
Turnover £57m

Framestore continues to perform impressively across film and ads, working on some of the biggest features in town including Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Nanny MacPhee 2, Avatar and Sherlock Holmes. It’s also pressing ahead with its film production plans, following debut feature The Tale of Despereaux. Four further Framestore produced features are slated for release before the end of January. Commercials highlights include working on seven of the spots that appeared during the Superbowl. Helen Stanley, md, commercials, says digital work has grown significantly. But, the last year has been tough. Framestore has reduced overhead, with staff numbers down from 730 to 612 this year.

CEO Mark Benson Mds Graham Bird (commercials and TV), Christian Roberton
Customer service Ads: Vittorio Giannini, Film: Drew Jones
Genres film, ads
Credits Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Evian Skating Babies, Syfy re-brand
Services audio (5.1), grading (4k), telecine (2k), vfx (2d, 3d, animation), editing, DVD
Turnover £46.5m

MPC has been busy working across film (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince) through to ads (including internet hit Evian Skating Babies). Yet, acknowledges CEO Mark Benson, the downturn has had an “unquestionable impact on business.” Against a background of budgets being cut and projects cancelled, MPC has trimmed costs, including 20 jobs. The focus now, says Benson, is looking more closely at workflows “so we can deliver the same level of creative excellence within smaller budgets.” Digital currently accounts for 8% of MPC’s work, and Benson wants to integrate this more into the company’s offer.

5 Prime Focus
Md Simon Briggs Facility manager Sam Greenwood (ads), Rachael Dudley (TV/vfx)
Customer service Daniel Sapiano (ads), Sara Hill (broadcast)
Genres TV, ads, film
Credits Great British Menu, Madonna Sticky & Sweet: Live from Buenos Aires
Services audio (5.1, foley, ADR), grading (4k), telecine  (4k), vfx (2d, 3d, animation), editing, film (restoration, recording, cutting)
Turnover £16m

Prime Focus has just renamed all of its global facilities – Prime Focus London, blue and Machine (UK), Post Logic and Frantic Films VFX (USA) and Prime Focus Group in India – as, simply, Prime Focus. The move, says md Simon Briggs, will help clients take advantage of its “global talent” and “cost-efficiencies.”

6 Envy
Md Dave Cadle Facility manager Natascha Cadle
Customer service Natascha Cadle
Genres TV, ads, corporate
Credits The Fallen, C4’s Adoption season, The Secret Caribbean with Trevor MacDonald
Services audio (5.1, foley, ADR), grading (4k), vfx (2d, 3d, animation), editing, DVD, Blu-Ray, fully licensed bar
Turnover £10.6m

Envy is as well known for its ultra stylish buildings as its growing roster of clients. This year it opened its third building in as many years; an attractively appointed offline building on Foley Street, complete with swanky bar and sizeable balcony. Its boutique hotel look and feel appeals to clients, catapulting it to second in our producer poll in its second year of existence and where it remains this year. Further expansion is once more pencilled in for the coming year, most likely “outside the M25,” says md Dave Cadle.

7 Ascent 142
Mds David Barrett, Adrian Bull, Simon Constable Facility manager Johnny Whitehead Customer service Becky Start
Genres TV, film, new media
Credits Robin Hood, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Telstar
Services audio (5.1, foley, ADR), grading (2k), telecine (4k), vfx (2d, 3d, animation), editing, DVD, Blu-ray, film (restoration, recording, cutting), TV studios
Turnover £16.5m

Since consolidating its post brands under the Ascent 142 umbrella last year, Ascent has managed to tempt top talent, including colourists Jet Omoshebi and Adam Glasman, on board. Naturally, though, the recession has impacted on business: “Despite more work going through the facility, our numbers remain static year on year,” says CTO Adrian Bull.

8 Molinare
Mds Steve Milne, Mark Foligno COO Richard Hart
Customer service Kate George, Helen Phelps
Genres TV, film
Credits Moon, MasterChef, Silent Witness
Services audio (5.1, Foley, ADR), grading (4k), telecine (4k), vfx (2d, 3d, animation), editing, DVD, Blu-ray, film (restoration, recording, cutting)
Turnover £11.7m

Molinare has had increasing success in the film market of late, working on vfx, picture and audio post for Moon and winning the Conch award for best UK film sound facility. 70% of its work remains in the TV sector, though – including the MasterChef franchise – and this remains its key focus. It is currently in the process of converting its former TV studios into what joint-md Steve Milne promises will be London’s “premiere grading theatre.”

9 Evolutions
Md Simon Kanjee Facility manager Owen Tyler
Customer service Darren Musgrove
Genres TV, corporate
Credits Top Gear, The Apprentice, The F Word 
Services audio (5.1, foley, ADR), grading (2k), vfx (2d, 3d, animation), editing, film cutting Turnover £10m

Evolutions is home to some of the biggest brands on television: The Apprentice, Top Gear and The F Word. Nevertheless, it’s been a “struggle to find work” in a “crap market” for the last 12 months, says Evolutions md Simon Kanjee. But he thinks the worst is now over, and says the facility is fully booked until the end of January. In the next few weeks Evolutions is likely to announce a move into commercials – part of a strategy to broaden out its base from the “turbulent” TV market. He’s also focusing heavily on offering “efficient workflow” to help cash strapped clients spend less.

10 Smoke & Mirrors
CEO Penny Verbe Md Gary Szabo
Facility managers David Southwood, Emma Ibbetson
Customer service Jodie Brooks, Belinda Grew Genres ads, TV, new media
Credits Drambuie The Eternal Run, The Brits promo, Six Nations Rugby promo
Services grading (4k), telecine (2k), vfx (2d, 3d, animation), editing, DVD, Blu-ray
Turnover £10m

Smoke & Mirrors has invested heavily through the recession, completing a £5m expansion into the building behind its Beak Street office and decking it out for vfx, 3d, grading/telecine and production spaces. It has also opened an offshoot branch in Shanghai. “We’re actually expanding in a recession and focusing key areas,” says CEO Penny Verbe.

Two thirds of its client-base is commercials producers, and it also works on numerous short-form promos for a range of broadcasters, including BBC Sport’s Six Nations Rugby spot, ITV’s The Brits promo, BBC Poetry Season Roving viral, Five USA channel idents and Big Brother 10 idents for C4.

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