The BBC has revamped the contracts it signs with VFX houses after struggling to retrieve a half-finished programme when a division of Red Vision went into liquidation earlier this year.
Manchester-based Red Vision was working on the VFX for Atlantis, a £2.4m factual drama shot entirely in front of a green screen in South Africa. It was at an advanced stage of the post-production process when the unfinished show was seized by liquidators.
Ailsa Orr, head of programmes at BBC Northern Ireland, which looked after the production, told Broadcast that it prompted a review of the contracts the BBC signs with VFX houses.
“This had never happened before,” she said. “The BBC has worked with many companies before on programmes with varying kinds of VFX, and each time the asset ownership did not transfer until completion. It is standard that assets are not owned until finished, which is why we had to go into negotiations with the liquidator.
“Examples such as this give cause to review and it will protect every other BBC production where VFX is involved, because ownership will now remain with the BBC.”
Orr gave assurances that “no company will suffer because of contractual requirements”, adding that consultations were held with post-production houses.
Kelvin Jones, head of production for BBC Northern Ireland, explained that contracts had since been reworded to make it clear that legal ownership of such assets remain under the BBC’s ownership irrespective of whether or not it has possession of them.
“There is also a clause that in the event of a material breach of contract – which is what liquidation amounts to – the supplier is obliged to deliver the assets to the BBC at their cost,” he said. “Also, if the BBC has a contract with a subsidiary we will seek a guarantee from the parent company.”
Jones added that that the BBC’s procurement department has now instigated an annual financial healthcare check for VFX houses and those on its preferred supplier list.
“That previously happened on two-to-three year cycle, but as we know, companies in that sector tend to be small and the market can be quite volatile.”
Atlantis has since been picked up by London-based post house Lola, which is working towards a December deadline for completion of the programme. Orr said that Red Vision has now been removed from the BBC’s preferred suppliers list.