Published on Tuesday, 29 March 2011
The UK’s longest running drama series, Coronation Street has been given a new file based
production system for its 50th birthday to bring the show to viewers in HD.
|The series films throughout the year with only one 10-day Christmas break and produces about two and a half hours of finished content a week, which made the changeover fairly daunting. “It was a big undertaking because we can’t stop working on Coronation Street – it’s not like we’d have a six month run in, like other dramas,” said Kieran Roberts, Executive Producer.
ITV’s support co-ordinator Stan Robinson and his team were given a three-month timeline for the switch. “Because we had to be ready to go HD for the ‘Siege’ storyline, this meant that we had to be ready to make the switch in March, when production on May storylines takes place,” said Stan. “We had to prepare for shooting as normal in standard definition while testing the new file based HD workflow.”
|New HD camera equipment was also installed at this time - six Ikegami 79EXs with Canon lenses for studio production and Panasonic P2 camcorders shooting to 64G memory cards for location shoots. Two new Avid AirSpeed Multi Streams per gallery handle recording four streams of HD - 12 streams across the installation’s three galleries - to ISIS 7000 shared storage. Form this hub, desktop, craft edit and dubbing suites can playback HD media simultaneously.
Editing platforms included Avid Mojo DX offline suites and Avid Symphony Nitris DX finishing, with dubbing on Pro Tools which used Video Satellite to enable playback of the same HD pictures from the ISIS 7000 storage in the audio suites.
Because the production shoots up to 20 minutes a day, which is very fast for most dramas, it isn’t possible to reshoot scenes and all rushes are critical. So back up was automated, involving the AirSpeed Multi Stream cache, two copies stored on the ISIS and Avid Interplay archived a copy as back up onto LTO tape. Giving the editors faster access to material was an important goal, and allowing script editors and directors to add comments to the rushes electronically.
Material is available on the three Mojo DX offline suites and the Symphony, the Nitris DX finishing suite and the ingest stations where camera assistants deal with P2 material. Recorded footage also has to be available for editing or viewing by any authorised PC on the entire ITV network within a few moments of the shot being completed.
The file sharing and asset management tools in the Avid Interplay have made it easier for production assistants, script supervisors and editors to find and browse material for continuity, frame-accurate annotation or shot listing, either locally or across a WAN. This had been more efficient than keeping information spread over different locations. A generic bank of shared captions, titles and sound effects is available all the way through the edit to the online.
Stan Robinson feels the workflow is safer and more secure than the previous tape-based system because, when working under pressure, the camera operators always risked over-recording while rewinding a tape to review it. Deleting or over-recording is almost impossible now.
Kieran Roberts said, “Although a fraction of Coronation Street’s audience – typically 500,000 - watch in HD at the moment, it’s very important that it looks brilliant and helps to drive HD uptake. Otherwise they might be put off HD altogether.”
Compressing the job into a three month time frame involved pre-building and testing the system at Avid’s Dublin test centre. While Avid was confident that the hardware and software could be installed to meet the three-month deadline, it was less certain if the Coronation Street production staff could accept such changes to their workflow while maintaining their usual pace. For this reason Avid’s Professional Services designed and delivered the HD file-based system alongside the team from an early stage. People had a chance to understand the impact on their jobs.
Small advantages from the new workflow were found for each group of users, from script supervisors to editorial to vision engineers, and demonstrated during technical workshops. Notes from the sessions were worked into the best practices and configuration applied to the installed system.
For example, when editors and script supervisors were encouraged to air their concerns, it was found they needed to address detailed naming conventions. The naming conventions of the clips and where they are put into the Interplay database become crucial for post production. Now, instead of noting a timecode number in the script margin off a tape, they set a path to the folder where it is stored on the database, and the script supervisor makes comments on the files that are recorded. Once they had mastered new methods like these, they were able to look at how to do more with the system on their own. www.avid.com