Post-production bosses have raised concerns about the looming deadline for the file-based delivery of programmes, with the managing director of one facility warning of “significantly longer and more expensive” processes than tapebased workflows.

Prime Focus managing director Rowan Bray raised the concern during the Post Production: State of the Nation panel at Broadcast’s Production and Post Forum (PPF) last week.

She said that the Digital Production Partnership’s (DPP) AS-11 file format was “very robust”, but that the best workflows for it had not yet been determined, meaning post facilities have been unable to accurately work out the likely additional cost.

The DPP, the cross-broadcaster group led by the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, announced last month that ITV and C4 will make file their standard deliverable by 1 October next year, when it will also become the preferred delivery method for the BBC.

Bray said: “We have to educate our clients as to what that means for them; it has a budget implication, and the cost is probably greater than for an HD CamSR tape. But if a production has a co-producer, as most do, they will also need an SR tape or a different sort of file, along with an AS-11 file.”

She added: “What we do know is that it’s a significantly longer and more expensive process; people are expensive and there are various places in the automated process where people have to step in.

“All post houses are independently engaging with manufacturers to look at the processes and come up with the best solution, and the DPP is doing the same.

“We’re telling people it will be more, but we can’t say how much because no one has agreed which route is the best.”

Halo chief executive John Rogerson questioned whether post facilities would be able to meet the October deadline.

“Maybe we will, maybe we won’t, but it’s really important to have standards because we’re in a twilight zone at the moment,” he said.

“The file-based world is here, but it is sitting side by side with tape.

“We are still delivering the majority of our programmes on SR, but setting standards will be a big step towards getting rid of tape.

“The transition from tape to file is complex, and it’s not just about technology,” added Rogerson.

“The whole process needs to be managed, from the pricing to the application of it.

“Also, the file format will inevitably change over time and it is important that that process of change is managed as well.”

During an earlier session at the PPF, the DPP moved to address the post community’s fears by announcing a series of workshops for post-production facilities, the first of which is due to take place on Thursday 28 November.

Skills gap: attracting the best

The issue of moving from tape to a file-based world led the panel to discuss the dearth of well-qualified new entrants to the industry, which Rushes managing director Joce Capper said was one of the main challenges.

“Kids should have more help with the skills they need to come into the industry.

“For London and the UK to continue as a centre of excellence for post-production, we need the right people with IT skills, but they seem to be going into banking or the games industry.

“IT and systems administrator skills are in short supply,” she said.

The discussion prompted audience member and UK Screen chief executive Sarah Mackey to announce that the facilities trade body had teamed up with the DPP and Creative Skillset to draw up a programme to address the issue of digital skills and data management across production and post.

“We are trying to get some funding through Skillset to put together a set of national occupation standards,” Mackey said.

“The benefit of that will feed into higher education, but it will also help with other pathways into the industry, such as further education, short courses, and possibly apprenticeships.”