By Russell Butcher, Broadcast and Media Systems Development Director, Altered Images
London-based independent production company, Knickerbockerglory TV, was first commissioned to produce the ‘fly on the wall’ series ‘GPs: Behind Closed Doors’ for Channel 5 in 2014; one of the first fixed rig multi-cam series produced for the UK broadcaster. The series’ success led to a second, longer running series and in 2015, Channel 5 returned to Knickerbockerglory for an even bigger 50 episode Series 3 (50×60). Filmed over a 35 week period at London’s Balham Park Surgery, it provides a behind the scenes insight into what goes on in a doctor’s consulting room.
The longer series meant substantial hours of shooting and an increase in footage to process, so Knickerbockerglory made the decision to take all the post production, facilities and shooting rigs in-house.
Knickerbockerglory TV has a long-running relationship with facility company Zigcam Film and Television and approached them to commission and manage the installation and upkeep of the shooting rig across the 35 week filming period. Zigcam’s Facility Manager Emily Rosen-Rawlings had worked with Altered Images in the past and was aware that the previous series of ‘GPs: Behind Closed Doors’ had used a Quadrus multi-channel Ingest Machine provided by Altered Images. That was also used for on the fly creation of basic EDLs via Quadrus’ ‘Live Cut’ feature. Given its expertise with Avid storage, workflow consultancy and wide range of solutions, it was a natural step for Zigcam to take on Altered Images as the main technology provider for the project. Onsite, remote and telephone support was also a key factor in winning the project.
Altered Images was contracted to supply and install the onsite camera rig, production gallery as well as supply and install equipment for Knickerbockerglory’s refurbished post facilities.
For the onsite camera rig, Altered Images supplied and installed over 36 Panasonic cameras, a control room and live capture facilities at the Balham Park Surgery. Everything had to be as unobtrusive as possible, allowing doctors, staff and patients to carry on as close to normal as possible. The Altered Images team had to work closely with Zigcam in order to handle the sheer amount of logistics and pre-production organisation required.
Samantha Stewart, Head of Production at Knickerbockerglory said, “Altered Images were chosen by our production partners Zigcam not only because they knew of its strong reputation in the industry, but also for its ability to deliver the full package of equipment supply, technical expertise and support. On a project of this nature and complexity, it was important to have a technical provider that could meet the specific requirements of the project and give us the degree of flexibility to adjust things as the show progressed.”
The 36 plus fixed Panasonic AW-HE40SWEJPTZ cameras were installed around the surgery. Remote control facilities were enabled over cat-5 cable, allowing the camera operator to frame each shot precisely and capture scenes in as much detail as possible. Ceiling tiles were replaced with acoustic ones and daylight bulbs installed throughout the surgery.
Altered Images created a complete portable production studio and fitted it out with equipment from manufacturers, including – but not limited to – Axon, Evertz, BlackMagic, Lynx Technik.
A complete audio rig included Behringer audio desks and Sony radio mics. LTO tape based back up and archive solution from StorageDNA were also provided.
Two Quadrus four-channel ingest stations were supplied and installed. These were used to capture any 4 of up to 36 simultaneous camera feeds, which were chosen live in the control room as the stories developed. Further multi-cam edits could be made from the 4 available channels in the offline edit suite. The PC-based Quadrus system was fully configured on two (main and failover) HP Z820 workstation. The solution removes the need for individual decks to record each camera output, an approach that requires regularly swapping out recording media and the drawn-out process of manually ingesting and logging files from each card.
With Quadrus, each channel is captured as 50Mbps XDCAM.MXF files and recorded to a central storage silo, with production management software able to manage every asset during the shoot. This not only saved time, but also valuable space in the production studio.
As with Series 2, the ‘Live Cut’ feature within the Quadrus systems was used to create a basic EDL on the fly, which could then be read by the NLE. The Quadrus enabled clips to be viewed quickly and easily and camera feeds to be dynamically selected and recoded in order to capture scenes of most interest.
With the key aim of keeping disruption to the surgery to a minimum throughout, there was a limited window to install equipment. This meant that the team had to work out of hours during the install and set up stages of the project. All the kit had to be installed without damaging the surgery interior. The portable production unit had to provide all the support a programme of this nature requires, but still be operated by a small crew.
Emily Rosen-Rawlings of Zigcam added, “Throughout the shoot, the whole crew needs to be focused on their job while remaining as unobtrusive as possible. Working with Altered Images meant the technical side was in safe hands, allowing the crew to focus on getting the footage we needed with minimal disruption to the doctors, staff and patients.”
Altered Images was also chosen to supply and install kit for the build and refurbishing of Knickerbockerglory TV’s brand new Hammersmith HQ, including offline editing facilities for ‘GPs Behind Closed Doors’, Series 3.
Altered Images delivered all the kit and installed seven cutting rooms, put in 10GB networking throughout the building and added a new central MCR area. In addition, six new Avid Media Composer suites, plus upgrades to three existing suites, were carried out. Also supplied and installed were six new AKA Edit Desks, 48TB EditShare XStream storage, StorageDNA for archiving and a fully installed equipment rack.
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