Talkback Thames is upgrading the technology that it uses to produce ITV drama The Bill, starting with the sound dubbing operation.

Production of the twice-weekly police serial will be totally modernised, moving from a standard-definition, tape-based operation to a high-definition, tapeless workflow that uses wireless camera systems.

“The Bill is a very reliable but very old-fashioned production in terms of the way it is made,” The Bill head of production Nigel Taylor told Broadcast.

“We still use Thomson cameras cabled back to VTRs, even on location. It's very robust but when you look at what can be done with technology it's very old-fashioned. Purchasing [new audio kit] is part of a wider transformation.”

The first step on that road is replacing the existing AMS Neve sound editing and mixing set-up with three Digidesign Pro Tools dubbing suites complete with Icon D control desks. This process is already underway and will be completed by August.

Taylor believes that the new suites will allow more time for creative dubbing.

“AMS Neve is a reliable and robust system but it no longer offers the plug-ins to dub the sound quickly,” he said. “We dub and track lay an episode in four days. Pro Tools is an IT-based system and a sophisticated piece of software. It will streamline the workflow. We've bought the operating surfaces as well and this gives us a very nice desk which the guys are used to working.”

Taylor said he looked at various options - including offerings from AMS and also Pyramix - before deciding on Pro Tools.

“It is an industry standard and means we can use a wider range of freelance dubbing mixers,” he said. “Up to now, most dubbing mixers have assumed that because The Bill is done the way it's done they wouldn't be able to work on it,” he said.

The new equipment was ordered direct from Digidesign. Sound consultant and dubbing mixer Keith Nixon is overseeing the installation and training.

ITV Productions, the maker of Coronation Street, also opted for Pro Tools when the production of the soap was overhauled at the end of last year. A 16 Fader Icon console with Pro Tools HD3 was installed at the Manchester Studios. The kit was bought from Scrub, a division of HHB.