Bespoke solution with tapeless and file-based workflows
Production company Ambience Entertainment is used to requesting unusual solutions from Videocraft. In fact, according to Supervising Producer Monica O’Brien it’s almost expected now. However, the company’s most recent request surpassed everything they had asked for to date. “This time we asked Videocraft to build us a complete studio from scratch in under three weeks. Even for us that’s a big ask and for anyone who knows Videocraft they’ll also know their answer – yes, we’ll do it!” said O’Brien.
The request came after continued success for Ambience with the company being commissioned by the Nine Network to produce another children’s show entitled, Pyramid.
O’Brien explained, “We had to do two series of Pyramid in Sydney in record time. In order to do that we required a cost effective strategy for the production which was file based and did not compromise on quality. With their previous success in providing us with XDCAM workflows for Larry The Lawnmower and Magical Tales we again turned to Videocraft for the solution. Along with the XDCAM workflow we wanted an SD/HD solution that was reliable and could cope with producing 130 commercial half-hour episodes at a rate of six per day. Oh and it had to be very cost effective too!”
Upon initial discussions it became clear to Videocraft MD James Taylor and NSW State Manager Andy Liell that what Ambience needed this time was more than just a straightforward workflow solution.
Liell explained, “Ambience wanted us to think outside of the box. What was required wasn’t a traditional networked studio or OB solution. It was much more a bespoke studio build that would suit Pyramid and many other future shows for Ambience. The studio also had to be tapeless with file-based workflows. With so little time James immediately began a system design proposal and my team started work on the install schedule.”
Videocraft specified a system that used the latest industry standard components. This meant the production was not tied to a legacy of older equipment. Although Pyramid was to record in SD, the core of the system is a powerful and flexible HD backbone.
Liell continued, “This system is totally unique, customised to the needs of the production and designed so it can be easily and quickly reconfigured if required with the entire studio able to switch from SD to HD by simply changing the cameras. The fact that this is now a permanent installation in Fox Studios Studio 8 means that there is virtually no potential for problems that could occur with a system that was constantly being bumped in and bumped out on a weekly basis, potentially delaying production if a problem arises at bump in.”
Key to the system’s success was the design, equipment and its workflows. Central to the system solution was a 6-channel EVS XT2 server and XDCAM workflow for record and playback.
Liell explained, “James designed the system to record to both EVS and Sony XDCAM. Main programme and a backup record is to two Sony PDWHD1500 XDCAM decks, which also give the advantage of being able to record 8 channels of audio in the MPEG IMX 50 format – equivalent in quality to Digital BETACAM. The EVS XT2 server records the programme feed, ISO cameras and also does playback. We also added the EVS IP Director to simplify recording and manage exporting operations to Final Cut Pro for editing. The ISO material on the EVS is recorded in the same IMX 50 codec as XDCAM, so the quality of the master and the ISOs is identical. Both Final Cut Pro and Avid systems can natively edit these files with no quality loss. This file based workflow significantly helps the turnaround time of the programmes, reduces cost for tape stock, reduces ingest times to post and preserves the best picture and audio quality.”
Monica O’Brien added, “The EVS is amazing. It’s at least 1 and ½ times faster than a tape based solution and there’s no digitising time involved, so this saves us money on every line item in the production.”
Taylor’s system design also includes a fully optioned Sony MVS8000G Vision Mixer, Sony’s most powerful switcher currently on the market, for maximum flexibility. Multi-view monitoring is taken care of by Evertz VIP-A multi-viewers feeding four Sony 47” LCD screens that make up the control room monitor wall along with Marshall UMD LCD displays. Also included in the system is the TSL Tallyman box, which allows tallys and source names to follow through from the Codan router to all the monitors in the control room.
For graphics a Deko 3000 dual-channel CG boasting a full feature set was included and for intercom an RTS Zeus III Digital matrix with wireless floor manager comms, wireless IFB for talent and standard wired camera comms were chosen.
Videocraft also provided four Sony BVPE30WSP widescreen SD cameras on Sachtler pedestals and fifth camera (Sony HDCX310) as a jib mounted wide-angle camera with full paint control from the CCU area.
Liell said, “The BVPE30 is the current flagship SD camera of the Sony range. The Power HAD EX CCD is widely regarded as the best 2/3” SD CCD ever made and provides the best SD picture performance, excellent low light capabilities and very low noise. The BVPE30 follows the same operational characteristics as earlier series of Sony cameras, providing instant familiarity for Camera Operators and Technical Directors.”
Videocraft also took care of the studio’s engineering area designing it with full control of all router sources and destinations, its own grade one monitor and audio monitoring.
Monica O’Brien said, “We turned to Videocraft to custom build us an entire studio because we can trust them. I told them I needed them to provide a miracle in three weeks and they did it. The team were as professional as ever and even during installation and commissioning the production was able to continue unhindered not missing a beat. Videocraft never try to mislead or hard sell us on anything, they are honest and always provide the best advice – not to mention always work within our budgets too. Along with help from Fox Studios and support from Channel 9 we have an exceptionally strong team. With this studio our aim is to continue to produce high quality programmes for local and international broadcasters for the foreseeable future. We also expect Videocraft to very much be a part of that. Their expertise and integrity is unquestionable and invaluable.”
Andy Liell said, “Custom building this long term rental studio for Ambience is one of our greatest achievements to date and has significantly bolstered Videocraft’s inventory. Omnilab Media and Ambience are always looking for new and inventive ways to effectively and efficiently make their programmes. We are very pleased that we continue to play an integral part in helping make that happen.”
Pyramid airs on Channel 9 at 4pm.