Yellowmoon’s commitment to to the future of high-end television and film in Northern Ireland
Yellowmoon has long been Belfast’s premier post house and when you walk into their new purpose-built facility it’s not hard to see why. No dreary basement cutting rooms here– it’s all floor to ceiling glass, pewter bars and fabric walls, in fact it’s as much boutique hotel as it is post facility.
But hidden behind the stylish interiors lie the company’s latest state of the art facilities: a Dolby Atmos HE mixing theatre, a top end screening / grading room with Dolby Atmos HE playback, and a hybrid ADR and foley room. It’s an impressive addition to a facility that had humble beginnings 30 years ago.
From the ground up
Yellowmoon’s owner, Greg Darby is a highly respected documentary editor who grew up in Dublin before moving to Belfast in 1991. Darby recalls, “you had broadcasters in Belfast that you didn’t have down South. Channel 4, BBC and ITV all had a remit to make programmes here. I found myself as a freelance editor with plenty of work, so in 1994 I took on my first assistant, hired a room and that was the start of the Yellowmoon journey.
“15 years ago, 80% of our business was factual, today that’s completely reversed and 80% is now high-end drama. The turning point was the arrival of Game of Thrones. Up to that point if a BBC drama came to the island, it was inevitably made in the South. HBO’s Game of Thrones changed all that. It gave us the chance to prove that we had the infrastructure, the talent, and the facilities to be able to deliver the very best drama.”
Talking about a revolution
Producer, Mark Huffam has one of the most enviable lists of Hollywood credits, including Saving Private Ryan, The Martian and this Autumn’s blockbuster Napoleon. He first worked with the team at Yellowmoon in 2009 on Universal’s Your Highness. Huffam encouraged Universal to keep the work in Belfast. “The editor wanted to stay in LA, but we brought him over and got him settled in. He loved the cutting rooms, the attitude of the people at Yellowmoon and just being in Holywood, County Down, with all the local restaurants and bars. It’s a very warm and welcoming place.
“The next thing that came along was Game of Thrones and with Greg’s advice and support, we showed HBO the advantages of shooting digitally to offset Northern Ireland’s shorter and darker days. This was HBO’s first major foray into shooting this way and the start of a digital revolution.
“I am often credited with bringing Game of Thrones to Northern Ireland, but it was a team effort. Greg Darby, and what he’s created here, was equally as important as me and as Northern Ireland Screen.
“Greg has a terrific instinct. He brings good people in and nurtures them. The reason he has good staff is because he’s a master. He has a can-do attitude that is infectious.
“No matter what time of night, if you’re trying to get something out last minute for a screening, there’s no huffing and puffing.”
Darby continues, “Game of Thrones changed us as a facility. It made us better and by the time that show left we all knew exactly what it took to work on drama at the highest level. So, in the wake of Game of Thrones when shows like The Fall and Line of Duty arrived on our shores, we were ready to take our chance and we did.”
In the mix
Re-recording mixer, Paul Maynes originally joined Yellowmoon to mix current affairs docs. “I had assisted on a few dramas and was assisting on Alan Cubitt’s The Fall, when the re-recording mixer went on holiday and couldn’t finish the job, I stepped in and haven’t looked back since. I’ve been fortunate enough to have mixed a lot of big shows since then like Line of Duty, Derry Girls, Blue Lights and World on Fire.
“The new Atmos HE theatre started out with me and Greg standing in this space when it was just rubble and pillars. The original use was for retail. We had huge chimneys going up the central atrium, with the very real prospect of audio vibrating throughout the building and given there were 40 residents living above the space – it was a worry.
“Level Acoustics Design came onboard and brought with them their unique knowledge and understanding of how to build an Atmos theatre.
“Chris Walls did sonic tests in the apartments and corridors above us and worked out how we could bypass this without any major construction work. We’ve never had any complaints since completion. Not a peep.
“Matt Ward had the answer to every question we had about tech, and we went back and forward with how to spec the room with Vanessa Archer who headed up the technical architectural drawings and room design with Greg’s wife Sharon Darby adding all the interior details and flourishes.
“I previously worked on an Avid S6, and it was always going to be the S6 and Pro Tools. I wanted a long desk with a centre console as I do a lot of editing myself, and I also wanted faders on both sides. As a single operating mixer, the AKA desk is incredible to work at. I have everything exactly where I want it.
“Studio Creations has vast experience of doing audio networking and Rob King introduced us to Q SYS which I love. I can control the entire room from an iPad – the heating, lighting, projector, ratios and speaker EQ. Rob can even write new functionality and shortcuts into the interface from his home. (When Rob was explaining this to me, I thought he was making it up.)
“The key thing that Level Acoustics and Studio Creations gave us was confidence. The room we now have lets us work on bigger and better shows. We mixed HTM’s latest Covid drama, Breathtaking for ITVX in this room – it sounds amazing. I’m now working on the second series of BBC’s Wreck. The room helps me do some of my best work.”
Picture with sound
Colourist, Scott Ferguson joined Yellowmoon 15 years ago, as a first job in the industry, following a Northern Ireland Screen trainee scheme. When Game of Thrones season 1 shot digitally, Ferguson graded the digital dailies.
Ferguson’s break came in the wake of grading Mike Lennox’ short film, Boogaloo and Graham in 2014 which won a BAFTA and got nominated for an Oscar. He went on to grade many short films and docs. When Mike Lennox directed Channel 4’s Derry Girls, Ferguson graded all the seasons. He has graded many dramas since including the last three of World Productions’ Line of Duty series and more recently Euston Film’s comedy horror, Wreck.
“Having a room like this is about giving our clients the best possible experience. They get the best seats in the house. With the same Dolby Atmos speaker system and set-up, that we have in the mix room – the audio is incredible. Although this is a picture room, there’s no compromise in sound moving from the dubbing theatre to here.”
Everything under the moon
The third stage of the new build is a hybrid ADR and foley room. Darby wanted to complement the main mix theatre with dialogue and sound effects recording and further extend Yellowmoon’s services.
A hybrid room made best sense of the space available without compromising on the scale of the main theatres.
As part of the new expansion Darby and Post Producer, Alan Freir called on long time technology collaborators Bryan Malone and Declan Hogan at Tyrell and invested further in their Avid estate including a second Avid S6 console (with 32 faders, MTRX and HDX core) for the main Atmos HE mixing room, an Avid S1 console for the ADR and Foley room and 360TB of Avid NEXIS high performance storage to bring together the picture and audio workflow within a new network. Darby says, “we looked at other storage but at the end of the day we’re an Avid house and NEXIS makes best sense for us.”
AKA Design were the “obvious choice” for the operational furniture. All the desks have a walnut finish with a large leather buffer bar running the total length of the grade desk. The S6 desk is ergonomically tailored to place Re-Recording Mixer Paul Maynes in the centre, “where he likes to be” with the space for two further operators for total flexibility. Darby says, “the desks are fantastic and perfectly complement the aesthetic we wanted.”
The next chapter
Darby continues, “Everything about Yellowmoon has always been organic and this new facility is no different. We just felt the time was right for us as a company to take this step. I believe it’s a step that not only illustrates just how far we have come in the last 30 years but more importantly it’s a step that demonstrates our confidence in the future of the film and television industry in Northern Ireland.
“Thanks to the wonderful home-grown team at Yellowmoon, the drive and talents of local producers like Mark and to the foresight and ambition of Northern Ireland Screen, we think it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”
“The furniture is the centrepiece of the room and if that isn’t right – nothing is right. Guy and the team at AKA were very personable, flexible, and always accommodated the many changes we made as the project evolved. The functional but elegant results speak for themselves.” Greg Darby, Managing Director, Yellowmoon
“The acoustic design element of this project was paramount, but it wasn’t the ONLY challenge for Chris and his team. They took what was a car park and turned into one of the finest facilities this side of the Irish Sea. We couldn’t be happier with the finished product, and we couldn’t have done it without them.” Greg Darby, Managing Director, Yellowmoon
“At the initial stage of the project there were three of four possible contractors but once we met Justin and saw first-hand his company’s work at Bleat, we knew they were the team for us. Their attention to detail and expertise in both construction and install were essential to the success of this build.” Greg Darby, Managing Director, Yellowmoon
“The first bit of Avid kit Yellowmoon ever bought was from Tyrell, so it was crucial they were on this journey with us. From the outset, they understood how important this project was and they did what they always do – offer the very best technical support and know how on the island.” Alan Freir, Post Producer, Yellowmoon
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