Post Production Showcase: Prime Focus

We’re pleased to reveal that Prime Focus is among the six post-production houses that have made the final list for the first ever Audio Media Post Production Showcase – a feature highlighting the varying work across the field of audio post-production for feature films, shorts, TV, and advertising.

Prime Focus’ pitch comprised two exclusive documentaries for the ‘Live from Space Season’.

We spoke to Prime Focus’ Phitz Herne, dubbing mixer of the two documentaries.

What was your brief/concept for this?

We were tasked to mix two one-hour documentaries and all the VT inserts for both the Channel 4 and Nat Geo programmes.

Before the project started we discussed the sound design with the client and realism was key to the project. So we initially decided to keep the space walk sequences mute, apart from any radio transition between the astronauts and mission control, however as the first mixes progressed we realised that SFX would help to tell the story better.

A lot of the footage used was shot in space, specifically for this project and therefore it was also important to ensure that any audio that was captured by the astronauts would be fully restorable. We were given examples of the audio in advance of the cut and prepared a bespoke set up for this project using a combination of RX3 and Cedar.

What was the mix process like?

Delivering to two different broadcasters, one American and one British, created its own challenges in the mix process. The American execs, reviewing the mix remotely from the USA offices, had very different creative requirements to the British, so there was a lot of tweaking to VTs that were sent over to America as we were mixing new ones.

The style of mix is also different between the two countries. America likes punchy FX and music whereas the British audience seems to like things a bit more subtle. There was also a lot of re-cutting to keep an eye on because the quick turnaround of the project meant that films were being changed as we were premixing. We also had two different level specifications to adhere to, British R128 and American ATSC85.

Can you run me through the technology set-up?

We ran two tracklay suites and two studios for a lot of the process. The media was all dedicated to our server allowing both picture and audio to share data and access picture re-cuts and final mixes quickly. We built a specific template for the audio so we could easily import/export audio without having to rebus any stems. All the films were mixed in 5.1 and then stereo fold downs were created from these.

How long was the production process?

Two weeks of very long days, sometimes going right through the night to keep up with the demanding schedule.

What special challenges did it present?

While working long hours it is important to keep consistency and I was supported by our kit and software and strong audio team to ensure that this was maintained.

How was the response from the public?

The live programmes were received well in both countries and the documentaries provided an excellent insight in to life on the International Space Station. It trended on Twitter, and was covered in all the major territories on TV and in magazines and newspapers. It has received multiple award nominations, including a Grierson Awards nomination for Best Science or Natural History Documentary, and is held as a benchmark UK production for 2014.

Lastly, what are you working on right now?

An Island Parish (Tiger Aspect) for BBC Two and Taking Stock, a feature film starring Kelly Brook.