Published on Friday, 10 June 2011
Igloo Post post production house in London has spent the last 18 months online, colour
grading and deliverables on 16 nature and wildlife documentaries.
|Six of these documentaries are now due for UK broadcast premieres during the week of 6 to 12 June on the Eden Channel in a new series called ‘Earth-Touch’. Within the project, Igloo’s Online Editor and MD Brian Ainsworth has been dealing with different formats, while his team handled all of the online, colour grading and deliverables using their single Quantel eQ system.|
|The Earth-Touch crew specialise in filming wildlife material and at any time will have up to ten HD camera crews in locations around the world. Earth-Touch is linked to Igloo through its owner, Igloo’s co-director Costa Theo, and they share office space with Earth-Touch’s London branch. Thirteen of the 16 documentaries Igloo has completed have used Earth-Touch footage, and six more are in production.|
|Brian said, “Typically the post-production side is always tight, and we generally get two weeks per documentary. This includes the conform, the colour grades and the deliverables. All of this is done on the Quantel except when we have to do conversions, which we put through the Alchemist.”
Round the Clock
The documentaries are all shot in HD, 1080/50i, using Sony F900 cameras. The production and offline is done on Final Cut Pro at Earth-Touch headquarters in Durban. All footage is ingested from HDCAM and put onto hard drives as uncompressed 10bit QuickTime files and then shipped to London.
“The normal two-week time frame generally ends up as 14 working days, so we work through weekends and sometimes night shifts. When the hard drives arrive we turn the original FCP projects and into AAF files for the Quantel using Automatic Duck. This workflow normally works well and if you have, for example, six layers of video, your Quantel timeline will have six layers and is essentially aligned to the Final Cut Pro timeline.” They may need to adjust the speed/size changes slightly. Once the files have been converted it takes about a day to ingest the files.
“After this we spend about four days on the conform and sorting out things like the supers, effects and rollers and then move on to colour grading. We like to allow eight to ten days for this, because the grade is important and can be very fiddly. We are often putting footage together shot on different days in different lights, and in different seasons. In these cases we try to match the different shades of green foliage and different lighting. The documentaries featuring mainly underwater footage cause fewer problems like this.
“We aim to keep the footage looking as natural as possible. All of the shows are ultimately destined for international sales, so it’s important to appeal to all markets. Some of the documentaries are quite unusual - one is about a guy who dives with crocodiles - and Earth-Touch may let the editing styles change a little between the productions but as a rule we keep the colours natural. We don’t pump up the blue sky too much, for example, or make everything look ‘super real’; we just like things to look natural.
Lions & Crocodiles
“While we are working with Earth-Touch we add and change details all the time and the colourists, led by Tori Janke, are always revising. You can hop onto the Quantel to change something and it won’t affect other processes. The music design and audio mix is all completed in South Africa by David Birch and the graphics are designed by Earth-Touch in Durban.
“Out of the six documentaries we’ve made for Eden one of the most challenging was ‘Pride in Battle’. Brad Bestelink the cameraman followed the lions over a period of some years, which meant we had several seasonal changes throughout the footage. We also ended up working with Pogo Films in order to complete ‘Diving with Crocodiles’ in time, because we found ourselves with three documentaries to finish in only a few weeks. In general, we can cope with two simultaneous projects by working weekends and evenings. Jamie Dickinson also grades on a Quantel system at Pogo.
“At the moment we’re working on an Earth-Touch documentary for National Geographic which is a co-production with another production company. It was all shot at 60p and we’re working at 23.98 because the co-production Final Cut project files were supplied in this format. I expected some problems but so far the Quantel has churned through it. We’re sticking to 23.98, and when we get to our 1080/59.94i drop frame timecode playouts we’ll do it all from the 23.98 master made on the Quantel. If you know that the kit can handle the material on the timeline, it allows you to plan ahead on a project.
“The Quantel also suits us because, as a single piece of equipment, our overheads are lower. Because Earth-Touch are based in South Africa we have to aim financially to match what it would cost them to do the work locally. We run a tight ship but still produce work that has been broadcast on channels including ARTE, RDF, Canal +, the Smithsonian Channel, National Geographic and now the Eden Channel.
“For our next step we want to investigate stereo 3D documentaries. Our Quantel setup at the moment is an eQ running 4.1 and we want to upgrade to V5 soon for the stereo tools. Hopefully once we raise our profile among UK documentary production companies we’ll also consider expanding the Quantel kit.” www.quantel.com www.igloopost.co.uk www.pogofilms.com www.earth-touch.com