Tiger Aspect's second exploration of foreign culture in the company of Paul Merton returned to the digital workflow first devised by the producer with hire firm Procam and facility Evolutions.

Like its predecessor ... in China, the 5 x 60-minute documentary for Five is a tape/digital hybrid since the main camera, comprising 75% of finished material, is Panasonic's Varicam which captures DVCProHD to tape.

In need of a lightweight camcorder for more discreet shots, the production opted for solid-state recording to P2 [HVX 200], knowing that footage acquired on it could be graded to match with the Varicam.

“One of the challenging things with any tapeless format is how you manage media in the field,” explains Tiger Aspect's factual head of production Sarah Sapper. “We had a fabulous camera assistant responsible for back-up and storage. It adds one extra crew to the budget but in theory we recoup that in time saved by having digitised footage ready for editing.”

With an established workflow, Sapper felt able to speed things up this time around. Twenty-two hours of P2 material was downloaded daily in India onto six rugged hard drives, three of which served as back-up copies. Intermittently drives were sent back to the UK. On arrival they were copied to Evolutions' Avid Unity and further copied onto a safety drive for Tiger. With confirmation that this had been done, copies were wiped in the field.

Around 200 DVCProHD tapes were dealt with in the traditional way, either carried or couriered back for digitising.

“Pre-production is the key to helping you save money with new technology,” says Sapper. “Working with any tapeless format, I'd advise listening to everyone from camera supplier to facility and ask every member of the team to understand the workflow up front.

“It's like working on Super-16 where the film is so expensive you really have to plan what you shoot. With digital you have the luxury of shooting however much you want with the ability to select just the takes you need before going into post.”

Broadcast's next Digital Workflows conference, covering many of the issues raised in this article, takes place on 26 and 27 March 2009. To register for more information on the event email joanna.pocock@emap.com