case study coronation street



case study coronation street
“It was a big undertaking
because we can’t stop
working on Coronation Street.
It’s not like we’d have a six
month run in, like most
other dramas”
Executive producer
A new era has begun for the
nation’s longest running drama
series. As a fitting celebration of
Coronation Street’s 50th
birthday, the soap has been
given a makeover with ITV
Studios investing millions in a new
file based production system to
bring television’s most watched
show to viewers in high definition.
Executive producer Kieran
Roberts recalls that the impetus
came all the way from ITV
director of television Peter
Fincham. “He was very keen that
Coronation Street would be
available in HD at the earliest
opportunity. We have to both
respect its traditions and keep it
fresh and contemporary. We
didn’t want to be seen to be
lagging behind.” The sheer scale
of a show which has a hectic
production schedule filming all
the year round – bar a 10 day
Christmas break – and which
produces nearly two and a half
hours of finished content a week
made the prospect of making
the switch daunting. “It was a big
undertaking because we can’t
stop working on Coronation
Street – it’s not like we’d have a
six month run in, like other
dramas,” explains Roberts.
Wanting to introduce the
show in its new look with a bang,
Roberts chose the week of the 31
May as the week to make the
switch, when Coronation Street
would feature the explosive
double storyline of the factory
siege and Gail’s courtroom
drama. One of the first steps was
detailed consultation with Avid,
which had been talking to ITV for
two years about upgrading its
production workflow. When the
go ahead was given in January
the timeline was tight.
Avid’s ITV account manager
Dave Scott, responsible for coordinating the Avid team, recalls
how he and Avid Enterprise’s
senior applications specialist
Lawrence Windley battled their
way to Manchester on snowclogged roads for the first
meeting. “It seemed that the
entire UK had frozen to a stop.
ITV's timing meant we had just
missed the show's Christmas break
– and we would not have the
luxury of being able to shut down
production again."
At the sharp end was ITV’s
support co-ordinator Stan
Robinson, whose team was given
a three month timeline for the
switch. “Because we had to be
ready to go HD for the Seige
storyline, this meant that we had
to be ready to make the switch in
March, when production on May
storylines takes place,” says
Robinson. “We had to prepare for
shooting as normal in standard
definition while testing the new file
based HD workflow.” The move
involved converting two SD
studios to HD capability, and
converting two OB vehicles for
HD location shooting, work
subcontracted to Leeds-based
broadcast systems integrator
AVC. One of the vehicles was to
be key to the switchover, acting
as the studio-based control room
and a vision gallery – parked on
the studio floor of the Coronation
Street facility in Manchester for a
week whilst the old SD
infrastructure was replaced. New
HD camera technology was also
added to the mix in the shape of
six Ikegami 79EXs kitted out with
Canon lenses for the studios and
Panasonic P2 camcorders
shooting to 64G memory cards
for location shooting. Avid
technology included two Avid
AirSpeed Multi Streams per
gallery enabling the recording of
four streams of HD (12 streams
across the installation’s three
galleries) recording to ISIS 7000
shared storage. This formed the
cornerstone of the new
production and post production
workflow, enabling the craft, edit
and dubbing suites to playback
HD media simultaneously.
Editing platforms included
Avid Mojo DX offline suites and
Avid Symphony Nitris DX finishing,
with dubbing on Pro Tools which
used Video Satellite to enable
playback of the same HD
pictures from the ISIS 7000
storage in the audio suites.
Says Kieran Roberts: “We had
to have the best kit for what we
wanted to do. And it all had to
work very fast because we shoot
Avid had just three months to design
and integrate a state-of-the-art
file-based HD production and post
workflow for one of the UK’s biggest
shows – while it was still being produced.
Create explains how it was done
For fast-turnaround media production environments, AirSpeed
Multi Stream provides fast workflow-connected HD and SD
acquisition and playback capability. For more information
Keep up to date with all of Avid’s news
and product releases and what Avid’s
customers are creating with Avid
technology. For a FREE subscription to
the new twice-yearly Create, register at
[email protected]
01753 655 999
Pinewood Studios, Pinewood Road,
Iver Heath, SL0 0NH
For more information on all Avid products
“Every project has two sides –
technology and people.
Unless you bring the people
along with you it won’t be a
success. On Coronation
Street it was critical to get
everyone’s buy in.”
Professional Services consultant
up to 20 minutes a day –
unimaginably fast for most
dramas.” Avid Enterprise’s senior
application specialist Lawrence
Windley adds: “The speed and
turnover of the production
schedule means you can’t
reshoot anything and you can’t
afford to lose rushes. So
automated back up with the
AirSpeed Multi Stream cache,
plus ISIS storing two copies and
then asset management through
Avid Interplay archiving a copy
as back up onto LTO tape was
key.” ITV’s Stan Robinson points
out that one of the beauties of
the new production workflow is
that editors can get much faster
access to material than they
were able with the old system –
with script editors and directors
able to add comments to the
rushes electronically.
Offline editor Dave Williams
confirms: “It’s made life much
easier. It means that we have
access to material as soon as it
has been shot. It’s crucial to
have speed on your side on a
show such as Coronation Street
which works at a pace.”
Material is instantly available
on the three Avid Mojo DX offline
suites and the Avid Symphony
Nitris DX finishing suite as well as
the ingest stations where camera
assistants deal with P2 material.
Says Williams: “We have always
worked on Avid because their
systems are so fast, solid and user
friendly. It’s a show where the
turnover is so fast there’s no room
for foul ups.” Flexibility is another
feature of the new Avid
workflow. Recorded footage is
available for editing or viewing
by any authorised PC on the
entire ITV network within seconds
of the shot being completed.
One of the most powerful
parts of the Avid toolset is its file
sharing and asset management
capability enabled by Avid
Interplay. This makes it easy for
production assistants, script
supervisors and editors to find
and browse material for
continuity checks, frameaccurate annotation or shot
listing, either locally or across a
WAN. With information no longer
spread over different locations,
the whole operation has the
potential to become better
organised, with anybody able to
find content and its current status.
Says Williams: “Now we all have
access to a generic bank of
shared captions, titles and sound
effects which goes all the way
through the edit to the online.”
Stan Robinson adds another big
plus is that the whole workflow is
safer and more secure. “With the
old tape-based system because
we always worked at pace and
under pressure there was always
the danger of over-recording as
you rewind a tape to review it.
Now it’s virtually impossible to
delete or over-record – which has
taken a huge weight off the
camera operator’s shoulders. All
the operators love the new
system,” declares Robinson.
Kieran Roberts hopes that the
viewers feel the same. “Although
a fraction of Coronation Street’s
audience – typically 500,000 –
watch in HD at the moment, it’s
very important that it looks
brilliant and drives HD uptake. If
ITV viewers see Coronation Street
in HD and don’t come away
thinking it looks brilliant they
might be put off HD altogether.”
Avid’s Dave Scott concludes:
"We managed to achieve the on
air production deadline in an
extraordinarily tight time frame
with no effect on the output. An
installation and change
management project which
would normally have taken six to
nine months was delivered in a
fraction of that time – a
testament to the commitment
and vision of the Coronation
Street and Avid teams.”
“Integrating a new file-based production and post
production workflow into a show such as ITV1’s
Coronation Street – while it’s still being produced – is like
changing the tyres on a juggernaut whilst it’s still driving
along,” explains Avid’s professional services and workflow
consultant Jason Plews.
Compressing such a huge job into a three month time
frame involved pre-building the system at Avid’s Dublin
test centre, with senior executives from ITV Studios visiting
to road test the design. “Testing like this in a controlled
environment both reassures the customer and helps
squeeze the project to fit the timeline,” explains Plews.
While Avid was confident that the technology could
be installed to meet the three month deadline, the
bigger question was would the Coronation Street
production staff accept such a radical change in the
way they worked so quickly.
“What we did was manage that transition by getting
small teams of champions together looking at how life
would be different for them under the new system,”
explains Plews. Editors and script supervisors were
encouraged to air concerns early about changes,
which were addressed with tweaks to the design of the
production workflow, right down to detailed naming
conventions. Avid’s Lawrence Windley adds: “Getting the
support of PAs and script supervisors was key. The naming
conventions of the clips and where they are put into the
Interplay database become crucial for post production
so the supervisors’ role at the front end is now much more
significant. Now instead of jotting down a timecode
number in the script margin off a tape, they are setting a
path to the folder where it is stored on the database, and
the script supervisor is making comments on the files that
are recorded. In short they had to take on a lot more.”
Plews concludes: “Every project has two sides –
technology and people. Unless you bring the people
along with you it won’t be a success. On a well-oiled
production such as Coronation Street, it was critical to
get everyone’s buy in.”