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A new home for Emmerdale

22 June 2011

Emmerdale is one of the most popular daily programmes on British television, writes Philip Stevens. This soap opera first appeared (as Emmerdale Farm) in 1972 as a twice-weekly afternoon programme, but its popularity saw it move to an evening slot and its frequency increased. Around eight million viewers regularly tune in to watch the events of this fictitious Yorkshire community.

As well as being aired in the UK, the programme has been seen throughout the world, including Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Romania.

While some of the programme is shot on location (there has been three main sites since the start of the programme), interior scenes have been taped at studios created from a former car salesroom in Leeds. However, in December 2009, ITV Studios (which makes the programmes) announced a £5 million refurbishment of its nearby Kirkstall Road studios. Central to the project was a full upgrade of the Emmerdale production centre.

The overall plan revolved around consolidating the production centre to fit the programme’s future requirements. Needless to say, the refurbishment involved the introduction of high-definition facilities. The work has now been completed, and the refitted studios came online in April.

Purpose-built

Before the refurbishment was announced, it had been thought that the facility might actually close, but a review found that a modern, purpose-built facility was key to enhancing the quality of production for many years into the future. “The decision was taken to put investment back into the original main building which had the foundation of purpose built studio facilities,” says Adrian Bleasdale, project leader, Project Farm. “Obviously, the new digital technologies which have been introduced in the industry over the years meant that a significant update of the resource was needed. As well as HD facilities, a file-based infrastructure and new innovative acoustic treatment have been introduced into the upgraded facilities in Leeds.”

He adds that dressing rooms, make-up and costume areas, plus a new joinery workshop, have also been created. In addition, ITV Studios’ television and film equipment hire business, known as Provision, has a new bespoke facility in the refurbished production centre.

In all, five studios and two production galleries have been totally refurbished. Each gallery can be connected with any studio – creating the flexibility that is needed for the tight scheduling to be met. Most studios accommodate three or four sets that are used in each episode, and careful orchestration is required to enable the production teams to move around between studios as their particular scripts demand.

“The whole facility and production throughput is designed around a high definition file-based solution,” states Bleasdale. “Editshare has provided us with a really clever studio ingest system, server system and post production solution.”

He explains that the system is unique to the programme’s requirements. The production galleries are fitted with standard For-A vision mixers. The output from the mixer, plus each of the four Ikegami studio cameras, is fed directly to the Editshare system, automatically producing an EDL. “The vision mixing is quite simple at this stage – with no effects or complex procedures needed. In effect, the studio output acts as a rough cut, with the editor tweaking the shots to make the required final version. Generally speaking, we utilise Avid for cutting and Final Cut Pro for conversion and file delivery. It’s a combination that works well for us.”

Alongside the upgrading of the production galleries, which also included Ikegami monitors and Clear-Com talkback systems, the audio control rooms were refurbished, including the installation of Calrec C2 mixers. In lighting control, ETC dimmers were provided by Whitelight.

“For sound-proofing in both the studios and galleries we used an innovative acoustic reverberation system material that is made by a Portuguese company called Vicoustic. It is lightweight and works really well.” Supervision of all the installation work was handled by systems integrator, AVC.

Enhanced production

A sizeable amount of the £5 million was spent on building work. “Two of the new studios were originally part of the scene dock. But since most of the sets are a permanent installation, we have limited requirements to store sets.”

He continues, “We’ve worked very closely with the Emmerdale team to create a studio which is specifically designed for the unique needs of the programme,” maintains Bleasdale. “So after months of careful planning, construction, consultation and work with a wide breadth of contractors and a detailed technical build, to a very high specification, we now have a modern, purpose-built studio which will enhance our production for years to come. Not only that, all the interior production requirements are now housed under one roof – whereas this has not been possible up until now.”

Exterior scenes for the programme will continue to be filmed at the specially built Emmerdale village in the grounds of nearby Harewood House. “The process of moving Emmerdale production from the old facility in Burley Road to Kirkstall Road has taken a great deal of detailed planning,” reflects Bleasdale. “It has meant liaising closely with the production team to ensure that we were able to continue meeting the demanding filming schedule.”
Emmerdale is one of the most popular daily programmes on British television, writes Philip Stevens. This soap opera first appeared (as Emmerdale Farm) in 1972 as a twice-weekly afternoon programme, but its popularity saw it move to an evening slot and its frequency increased. Around eight million viewers regularly tune in to watch the events of this fictitious Yorkshire community.

As well as being aired in the UK, the programme has been seen throughout the world, including Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Romania.

While some of the programme is shot on location (there has been three main sites since the start of the programme), interior scenes have been taped at studios created from a former car salesroom in Leeds. However, in December 2009, ITV Studios (which makes the programmes) announced a £5 million refurbishment of its nearby Kirkstall Road studios. Central to the project was a full upgrade of the Emmerdale production centre.

The overall plan revolved around consolidating the production centre to fit the programme’s future requirements. Needless to say, the refurbishment involved the introduction of high-definition facilities. The work has now been completed, and the refitted studios came online in April.

Purpose-built

Before the refurbishment was announced, it had been thought that the facility might actually close, but a review found that a modern, purpose-built facility was key to enhancing the quality of production for many years into the future. “The decision was taken to put investment back into the original main building which had the foundation of purpose built studio facilities,” says Adrian Bleasdale, project leader, Project Farm. “Obviously, the new digital technologies which have been introduced in the industry over the years meant that a significant update of the resource was needed. As well as HD facilities, a file-based infrastructure and new innovative acoustic treatment have been introduced into the upgraded facilities in Leeds.”

He adds that dressing rooms, make-up and costume areas, plus a new joinery workshop, have also been created. In addition, ITV Studios’ television and film equipment hire business, known as Provision, has a new bespoke facility in the refurbished production centre.

In all, five studios and two production galleries have been totally refurbished. Each gallery can be connected with any studio – creating the flexibility that is needed for the tight scheduling to be met. Most studios accommodate three or four sets that are used in each episode, and careful orchestration is required to enable the production teams to move around between studios as their particular scripts demand.

“The whole facility and production throughput is designed around a high definition file-based solution,” states Bleasdale. “Editshare has provided us with a really clever studio ingest system, server system and post production solution.”

He explains that the system is unique to the programme’s requirements. The production galleries are fitted with standard For-A vision mixers. The output from the mixer, plus each of the four Ikegami studio cameras, is fed directly to the Editshare system, automatically producing an EDL. “The vision mixing is quite simple at this stage – with no effects or complex procedures needed. In effect, the studio output acts as a rough cut, with the editor tweaking the shots to make the required final version. Generally speaking, we utilise Avid for cutting and Final Cut Pro for conversion and file delivery. It’s a combination that works well for us.”

Alongside the upgrading of the production galleries, which also included Ikegami monitors and Clear-Com talkback systems, the audio control rooms were refurbished, including the installation of Calrec C2 mixers. In lighting control, ETC dimmers were provided by Whitelight.

“For sound-proofing in both the studios and galleries we used an innovative acoustic reverberation system material that is made by a Portuguese company called Vicoustic. It is lightweight and works really well.” Supervision of all the installation work was handled by systems integrator, AVC.

Enhanced production

A sizeable amount of the £5 million was spent on building work. “Two of the new studios were originally part of the scene dock. But since most of the sets are a permanent installation, we have limited requirements to store sets.”

He continues, “We’ve worked very closely with the Emmerdale team to create a studio which is specifically designed for the unique needs of the programme,” maintains Bleasdale. “So after months of careful planning, construction, consultation and work with a wide breadth of contractors and a detailed technical build, to a very high specification, we now have a modern, purpose-built studio which will enhance our production for years to come. Not only that, all the interior production requirements are now housed under one roof – whereas this has not been possible up until now.”

Exterior scenes for the programme will continue to be filmed at the specially built Emmerdale village in the grounds of nearby Harewood House. “The process of moving Emmerdale production from the old facility in Burley Road to Kirkstall Road has taken a great deal of detailed planning,” reflects Bleasdale. “It has meant liaising closely with the production team to ensure that we were able to continue meeting the demanding filming schedule.”

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