Harbor Picture Company’s Commercial Director, James Corless and Head of Post Technology, Paul Sisley recount how their new high-end audio rooms in Farringdon’s Turnmills building were built to the very highest specifications in lightning speed with the help of the best suppliers in the audio post business
Sponsored by AKA Design, HHB Communications, Level Acoustics Design and Westwood Joinery
JAMES CORLESS: “Our ambition was to build a state-of-the-art, world class picture and audio facility to offer a full service for feature and episodic work to broadcasters and streamers like the Netflix, Amazon and the BBC as well as take on theatrical blockbusters. To achieve this, you need to work with world class partners.
“Any build is not just reliant on one but on multiple specialist partners. In the UK there is no better team to complete a comprehensive audio post facility than the combination of Level Acoustic Design, Westwood Joinery, AKA Design and HHB. All are individually on top of their game, and they share a shorthand which makes projects come together, based on our requirements, in lightning speed.
“For the audio alone it was a major undertaking with one theatrical Atmos suite, two Atmos Home Entertainment suites and two ADR rooms. All built from scratch within a blank canvas space at lightning speed. In addition, we have two theatrical grading rooms, three 4K HDR suites, three online and 15 cutting rooms.”
ABOUT THE PARTNERS
Harbor’s new audio suites in the Farringdon Turnmills building were completed in record time working with the UK’s best suppliers of audio post services. Level Acoustic Design provided the specialist acoustic, architectural and interior design as well as ongoing support throughout construction and commissioning. Westwood Joinery constructed the floating, acoustically insulated suites with exceptional theatrical and home entertainment Atmos audio reproduction. HHB Communications supplied the kit and consulted on install, particularly for the ADR rooms. And AKA Design built bespoke, ergonomic desks with a mid-century retro feel for all the rooms as well as the challenging reception desk.
It’s not their first rodeo working together. They have all collaborated on so many projects. From individual contributions to collectively and seamlessly working together, there is no better team.” JAMES CORLESS, Commercial Director, Harbor Picture Company
LEVEL ACOUSTIC DESIGN
PAUL SISLEY: “The Level Acoustics team were critical to the success of the project, and we worked closely with them from the outset.
“We looked at lots of buildings in Soho and around before the opportunity to take over the ground floor at Turnmills in Farringdon presented itself. Chris scoped every option, and each time came back with architectural drawings. I can’t think of any other architectural practice who would have undertaken what he did for us and so thoroughly.
“When we came to look around the Turnmills building, Chris came back with a detailed schematic for three floors within two days. This involved a complete re-imagination of the ground floor to become two of the three floors with reception and a central breakout hub and with Mix 1, ADR 1 and Mix 3 in the basement.
“That the Turnmills building is directly across the road from a busy underground and overground station is both a blessing for those coming in but also presents acoustic challenges. Chris took various measurements to see how we could make the rooms acoustically fully sealed. You can’t hear any extraneous noises in any of those rooms.”
JAMES CORLESS: “You can go to a large building practice, but the project is likely to cost more, take longer, and still not give you the result you want because they don’t truly understand how to construct a floating room. Or you can go to a specialist builder… and they’ll end up calling Jerry Bennett.
“That closeness between Level Acoustic Design and Westwood Joinery is invaluable. Westwood know exactly what they’re getting from Chris and how to project manage and interpret Chris’s work and manage the project to the highest specifications.
“Everything funnels through Project Manager, Martin Howard for the day-to-day construction. When we needed to make changes or pivot, Martin takes the request on board and runs with it. He never loses his sense of humour.
“Jerry and Martin work brilliantly with us as the client, Chris, Guy, and JJ. All of them have
a shorthand with each other and when you’re trying to do something on this scale within a finite timescale – and with so much congestion – it felt that Martin always had a handle on what needed to be done next. Without Jerry and Martin, it simply wouldn’t have happened.”
PAUL SISLEY: “We were always going to run with the Avid S series consoles and Pro Tools. Our engineers and mixers, as well as freelancers, are all familiar with the DAW and the consoles are ergonomically designed with Pro Tools in mind. The versatility and flexibility of the console modules is also helpful when building a bespoke layout. For Mix 1 – our hero theatrical Atmos suite – we have a dual operator S6 with 48 faders. For Mix 2 and 3 – which are both Atmos Home Entertainment rooms – we have a single operator S6 console in each.
“JJ at HHB was particularly instrumental in how we mapped out the ADR rooms. A lot of ADR rooms use very old kit and workflows. We wanted to take a modern approach, as this was outside of our comfort zone. We have an Avid S4inADR1andS1inADR2.
“Having worked with HHB on numerous previous projects, I don’t know of any other reseller that understands the business or is better connected with the vendors than HHB.
“Most of the build was over the pandemic lockdown period and with issues around component availability within the supply chain there was a knock-on effect in sourcing all the kit we required. It was always going to be a challenge, but HHB came through with flying colours.”
JAMES CORLESS: “Guy is a good listener and accurately interprets what you say into his designs. We wanted something comfortable but understated; a classic look and feel across the audio rooms that would stand the test of time. Guy showed us designs that had a mid-century aesthetic which we ran with.
“There was no compromise on materials for the build itself from the solid and veneered natural wood and real leather to the acoustic flutter-free side panels which dampen sound reflections in multiple speaker areas.
“For the main desk in the theatrical Atmos suite, Guy designed and delivered a customised system that allows us to change the position of the Avid console fader packs to suit our operators’ preferences and project workflows. This design also allowed us to specify the viewing angle of the Avid modules, to suite the studio sightlines.
“The reception desk presented more of a challenge than you might expect. There was no other logical place for it to be and have sight of both the front entry and the breakout area and it had to sit two people comfortably. Guy’s innovative design works with the space and incorporates two different heights for the base.”
In 2012, The Harbor Picture Company was launched as an independent studio crafting premium content for the feature film, episodic, and advertising industries.
Since then, Harbor has grown to become a global company with operations in New York, Los Angeles, London, Chicago, and Atlanta. Relentlessly focused on talent, technical innovation, and protection of artistic vision, Harbor hones every detail throughout the moving image-making process: live-action, dailies, creative & offline editorial, design, visual effects, sound & picture finishing.
Harbor’s recent credits include Beau
Is Afraid, El Conde, The Holdovers and Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths. In the UK recent work includes Heart of Stone, The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die and Great Expectations.
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