When UKTV’s promo creation deal with Red Bee came to an end in June, it provided the broadcaster with an opportunity to set up a dedicated in-house facility run by The Farm. George Bevir takes a look around

Having used Ericsson’s Red Bee creative team for 10 years, UKTV made the decision to bring promo creation for its 10 channels in-house for the first time. It bolstered its in-house creative team, built a 4,500 sq ft facility and recruited The Farm to operate a facility that has so far delivered 1,498 versions of 130 promos and 188 pieces of navigation.

The small but perfectly formed set-up, known as The Mezz, makes use of an area of UKTV’s new Hammersmith HQ that was previously little more than a graveyard for office furniture. The space was given a complete overhaul and transformed into three edit suites (see box) and two audio studios with their own V/O booths, which are used to finish projects cut by UKTV’s creative team, based on the floor above.

Along with a kitchen studio and a 30-seat screening room, there are two small recording studios used for green-screen work or stills shooting (and potentially as an additional edit suite during the busy Christmas period).

Combined with some recently purchased camera kit, which includes a Sony PMW-200, Canon XF305, Canon XA20 and a Canon EOS 600D, along with mics and lights, it has given UKTV the ability to not only handle its own promo creation but also produce short-form, reactive content for broadcast across it range of channels. So far, the studios have been used to shoot sequences for the Six Second News clips that run on Dave, as well as promos for Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled (Dave), Dave Gorman: Modern Life Is Goodish (Dave) and a Christmas promo for the Yesterday channel. The kitchen studio has also been used to shoot some short-form content for the broadcaster’s Good Food channel, and for a series of Milly’s Cookbook Winter Warmers shorts.

“We initially saw The Mezz as more of a promo space but everyone in the company has got involved, including the HR team, which used it to fi lm an introduction video” says head of production for UKTV’s creative team Esther Pilgerstorfer.

Along with its staff – a post producer, three editors, two dubbing mixers and two creative assistants – central to The Farm’s input into the operation is the connectivity between its central London sites and UKTV in Hammersmith.

Working with systems integrator Wire Broadcast, The Farm expanded UKTV’s existing server room and linked it via diverse dark fibre to two of the post firm’s Soho facilities, and to media management firm TVT in Chiswick, which is responsible for the majority of incoming assets and the compliance of finished promos.

It’s a different model to The Farm’s other standalone facilities, which it operates at the Bottle Yard Studios in Bristol for Deal Or No Deal (Channel 4) and MediaCityUK in Salford for the BBC.

Core services

The Farm’s head of special projects Jack Edney explains: “The infrastructure is set up so that all core services are in Soho, and The Mezz is treated as one of our facilities, with access to all of The Farm’s centralised equipment. So as well as being able to scale up in Hammersmith, we can scale UKTV’s requirements up or down in Soho.”

The UKTV site uses 10Gbit Ethernet connectivity and fibre infrastructure to link to any workstation within The Farm Group.

As well as scalability, the dark fibre connectivity gives UKTV greater access to The Farm’s creative resources – allowing, for example, Soho-based colourist Colin Peters to grade a brand trail for the Drama channel, which is being shown on TV and in cinemas, or the Farm’s Hammersmith- based dubbing mixers to draw on the post firm’s extensive library of bespoke Foley recordings.

For media management, The Farm developed a promos module for Fred, its remote approvals and logging system, for use by UKTV. When a new project is created within resource management software ScheduAll, Fred is triggered and a set of sub-folders is created within the near-line storage set-up.

“For UKTV, we did about four months development on Fred to add an approval platform for the signoff for all promos at the offline and online stage, and for marketing and compliance,” says Edney. “Once compliance at TVT has signed it off, we receive notification on Fred that it’s ready to go, and at that point we deliver to Ericsson for playout.”

The Farm also set up a website that gives the broadcaster’s creatives permission to read and write to its nearline storage space. Known as Cooper, the site has cut out the need to send WeTransfer files back and forth by allowing anyone on the UKTV network to access all of their content on The Farm’s near-line storage by navigating both company firewalls, which helps to keep the two firms’ IT networks separate and secure.

“Our goal was to integrate as many things between UKTV and The Farm as possible from a network perspective so that from their domain, all their users can access a pool of content on the near-line storage that we have,” says Edney.

“We have an allocated amount of storage within our Isilon in Soho for UKTV, separate from the editing storage and the Isis.”

Having launched its Spots (single programme on the shelf ) service for production companies that want to outsource the storage of their finished file-based programmes, The Farm is in the final stages of implementing an archive for UKTV for all promos, so staff at the broadcaster can browse and access master assets.

UKTV kit list

The two audio studios are built around Avid S6 M10-16-5 consoles with Avid Pro Tools HDX1 software. Monitoring is via Genelec 8050BPMs and Grace Design M802 mic amps, while RTW TM7s are used for metering and Neuman U87AI mics (pictured) for voiceover work. Plugins include iZotope RX4 Advanced, Serato Pitch ‘n’ Time Pro, Nugen VISLM-H v2, Focusrite D2/3, Audio Ease Altiverb and Waves Rennaisance Maxx.

A custom suite of desks for the audio studios and three online edit suites were supplied by AKA Design. The suites are equipped with Avid MC Symphony Nitris DX with Sapphire, Baselight and Boris FX plug-ins, and Adobe CS. Sony BVM-F250 monitors, Tektronix WVR5200 waveform monitors and Genelec 8050BPM monitoring completes the set-up.

The media-management operation relies on Avid Isis with Interplay Central UX, MC Cloud and EMC Isilon near-line storage. In-house system Fred is used for online approval and, along with Storage DNA, archiving. Aspera and Signiant MediaShuttle are used for media transfer.