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60 TVBEurope The Workflow A Prime Focus on drama

Melanie Dayasena-Lowe speaks to Head of Operations Broadcast UK Kate Robson about her technical background and challenges she has faced working on complex post workflows for dramas such as Sherlock

KATE ROBSON joined Prime Focus in June 2011 as technical producer. In January this year she was promoted to head of operations for its broadcast division in the UK.

Prior to joining Prime Focus,

Robson had been head of operations at Pepper Post. When she first started at Pepper as operations manager, Robson had to build on the client-facing side as well as learning the technical side. “My background is mostly just technical, although I spent a number of months covering project management and producing, really I’m a techie.” At Pepper she became

involved in pre-sales meetings and realised there was a gap between when people were going out on a shoot and post production. “Nobody was really looking after them. There was no real structure to the way that programmes came into post production. They just arrived. That coincided with everything becoming file-based. “Two to three years ago I started realising this needed some structure, and that led to fusing the technical and client side where you work with clients from a very early stage and help them technically when they are trying to get a production through into post.” At this post house, Robson’s team had been working on drama projects and when

“You have the ability to get a good technical infrastructure in and take advantage of it for other clients and other genres. The word ‘high-end’ is batted around quite a lot. It still makes people think there’s a certain quality level. To be honest that’s a quality level I aim for no matter what the production because that’s the way I am. Realistically, financially you have to have something that’s driving that level.”

Investing and upgrading Robson’s first major project as technical producer at Prime Focus was to build a new drama department on a whole floor in its London broadcast facility. This formed part of the £1.5 million investment in new infrastructure at Prime Focus’ London and New York facilities. The new kit included the

Kate Robson: “There’s a huge amount of development going on, particularly in asset management and cloud systems”

Pepper went into liquidation in June 2011 its clients were obviously worried about finding a home for post work on their drama productions. Cue Prime Focus. Robson,

together with Pepper colleagues Kevin Horsewood and Scott Hinchcliffe, brought their drama post experience to Prime Focus.

The post workflow on Sherlock involved several shoot locations, multiple cameras, file formats, frame rates and colour spaces

“There was an opportunity at Prime Focus to build a dedicated drama department and we were able to bring Sherlock, Spooks and Hustle plus a Dangerous Films drama doc from Pepper into Prime Focus,” she explains. So why bring drama to Prime Focus? “It’s a very good selling

point,” Robson says. “People do like to be involved in the drama side of things and it does get a lot of exposure. Quite often new technology is used on drama productions, which is then available for other genres as well. You can get good rates from drama, which you might not be able to get for entertainment.

purchase of four Baselight data grading consoles and two Dolby Professional Reference Monitors for colour grading. There were also upgrades to the latest DS hardware and software in London and an expansion and full upgrade of the broadcast division’s central offline Editshare storage system as well as the installation of a Trinoy equalising unit in the audio department. There is also a client area, currently under construction in London, allowing clients to work on their

Uncovering the mystery of Sherlock

Kate Robson cites Sherlockas one of the most complicated shows she has worked on in terms of post workflows. It involved several shoot locations, multiple cameras, file formats, frame rates and colour spaces, all being cut on location with an extremely effects heavy timeline.

“It’s our job to make sure that that translates through to final post efficiently — to do that you have to have control over what is happening on set with all the data and how it gets to the edit. I set up the data management workflow and systems at the studios in Cardiff and from that point on we went through a process of workflow tests, grade tests and FX tests, even before the shoot started.

“The aim is always to keep the workflow as simple as possible, but sometimes in order to preserve all the available data information to allow you to get the most out of the grade, you might need to process files from different cameras in different ways. “For a workflow like this, as a facility you need a wide range of skillsets in terms of the operational support staff, from IT-savvy assistants that can spot and deal with problem files, to people with great colour sense that can spot the smallest shift in gamma, to someone that can spot whether a particular effect has translated correctly. Getting the staffing right at this level means that your senior

editors and colourists can use all their allocated time being creative and not sorting technical issues.

“Of course ultimately I have to have an overview of the whole process from the shoot to the delivery for broadcast. I tend to start at the end – what are the broadcast specifications?

“These are also all going through a significant period of change, with the creation of the Digital Production Partnership and the resulting proposed move to long form file-based delivery. Delivery quality is affected by (and sometimes limited by) acquisition formats, and clients often need to be advised on this.”

Melanie Dayasena-Lowe April 2012

Photo credit: Jake Young

Photo credit: Hartswood Films/Prime Focus

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