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Progression and Evolutions

11 November 2013
Progression and Evolutions

Evolutions is perhaps best known for its post house in London’s Soho, though since the company launched in 1994, it has opened a US operation in New York and more recently, a facility in Bristol. Credits include popular TV series QI, The Graham Norton Show and The Apprentice, as well as rig shows like One Born Every Minute.

Evolutions Bristol started operations in its Bristol facility in June, featuring several production offices, 16 offline suites, two Avid Symphony online suites, a Pro Tools 5.1 mixing theatre with a second under construction and a Baselight grading suite. “The facility is all brand new, all compatible and all file-based,” explains Gabriel Wetz, head of Post Production.

Rather than opting for FCP, an editing platform “not really supported any more” Evolutions chose an Avid platform and ISIS storage. Being competitive means keeping up with the BBC, whose Broadcasting House is situated just a few doors down. The Beeb has replaced FCP with Adobe, so “it goes without saying” that Evolutions “need to offer an Adobe Premiere solution, so that people in the BBC know we’re able to support that and they can bring work to us.” The move seems to have paid off, as Wetz stated that he “recently received a quote from someone wanting three Adobe edit suites in January for 60 weeks.”

Staying at the front
The machine room will soon accommodate an extra ISIS 5500 and does not include tape decks, “which is probably going to become more common in post in the future,” says Wetz. The company decided to “go straight in” with file-based delivery, taking note of guidelines issued by the DPP and aiming to stay “right at the front.”

The dubbing theatre features Genelec speakers and head of audio Will Norie works with Pro Tools 11 on a PC. Traditionally, when offline edits were finished all the data had to be transferred from edit workspace to the dubbing theatres’ hard drives and uploaded. However, with Pro Tools “Will can basically just open the offline workspace and there’s the editor’s timeline, there’s all the sound as the editor left it, with none of the messing around in the middle,” explains Wetz. Dotted around the facility are a number of small, wall-mounted tablet computers. “This is something we have in London,” Wetz explains: each tablet links to the company’s scheduling system via WiFi, refreshing every 15 minutes to display which clients are using which room and jobs happening in each.

Equally interesting is the technology which can’t yet be seen – specifically the launch of a cloud-based FORscene logging system. This is already up and running in London, allowing Evolutions to ingest client media and load it onto a server, which clients can then access by logging in from any web browser. This lets users view rushes and add logging information, allowing them to get “as far ahead as they possibly can before they even set foot in the editing suite.”

Occupying two large Victorian period properties, Evolutions has moved its facility in without moving any of the “characteristics and charm” of the setting out. This means that the suites are large and spacious, including the two dubbing theatres both of which – somewhat unusually in the industry – have large windows, creating a light, airy environment.

As space is not an issue, plans are afoot to install a lounge area for clients, as Wetz rightly admits: “It’s a service industry, we’re here to service [clients’] needs and part of that is making sure they have a really nice experience.”
Another aspect of the company Wetz mentions is Evolutions’ team. Both Gabriel and Tom Arnold, head of Technical Operations, are ex- Bristol-based Films at 59. Will Norie, head of Audio, is another local recruit, having moved from Aardman. A key appointment from slightly further afield was Blair Wallace, as head of Grading. He came to Evolutions from Envy in London, with impressive credits and years of industry experience.

Wetz stresses the importance of the appointment of a “really good colourist” as being “key to the business strategy”, considerng the volume of high-end and factual programme making that happens in the area. Bristol offers a “growing creative pool” of talent, and Evolutions is already looking to appoint new members of the team.

A brave move
So, with things going well in London, what could Evolutions gain from the move West? Wetz admits that, despite other post companies looking to open facilities in Bristol, Evolutions was “quite brave” in making the move. And it didn’t do it without good reason: even before the opening, production company Dragonfly was requesting to set up and produce Channel 4 rig show One Born Every Minute, and RDF in London also expressed interest in using the site. Wetz explains that there are also “cost incentives to do things regionally.” One Born Every Minute for example, is filmed at nearby Southmead Hospital, and with the BBC as neighbours it’s perhaps no surprise that “we’ve already got BBC work that’s just come straight to us.”

Wetz confesses that “setting the place up has been quite challenging”, however, he is looking forward to the next phase: “running the facility, and delivering our clients’ work to the highest standards attainable.” Details of future projects are being kept under wraps, however, Wetz divulged that, as Norie had been mid-way through mixing Shaun the Sheep series 4 when he was at Aardman, “it seems fairly likely” that Evolutions will complete the second half. The company is also working on a pilot for RDF, which will hopefully lead to a 10-part commission.

The facility at Evolutions Bristol will soon be full to capacity, and Wetz describes its current state as a “golden phase.” Given good relations with neighbouring companies, work in the pipeline and new members coming on board, it looks as though the move West will lead to further progression at Evolutions.

By Holly Ashford

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