When the idea of establishing a major production centre in Manchester was first mooted, there were some doubts as to its viability. Ten years on, it has become apparent that those reservations were groundless. Indeed, as dock10, located at the heart of Salford’s MediaCityUK, approaches its tenth anniversary, the future looks extremely rosy.
“People can now see the incredible success that the project has become,” enthuses Andy Waters, dock10’s head of studios. “There was a time recently when every room across the whole of the production facility was booked for some kind of activity or another. That shows the concept of having all the facilities under one roof really suits the industry at this time.”
One sign of the success of dock10 was the announcement last year of an investment of £5 million in new technology. This will see dock10 make significant upgrades to The Studios, post production, media storage platforms and the network that connects all the buildings in MediaCityUK.
New equipment in The Studios will include cameras, vision mixers, multi-viewer monitors and core routers. As part of that investment, dock10 announced in May that it is to launch a new industry-leading 4K UHD ready virtual studio capability using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) rendering technology. By using UE4, programme makers can create photorealistic output in real-time. Waters explains more: “The system enables studio sets to combine physical and virtual elements in such a way that they are indistinguishable from each other. It also allows cameras to point in absolutely any direction across the whole of the studio to deliver a seamless on-screen set.”
Another upgrade will see the building of a new broadcast network to future-proof the facility. Connected to the top-spec 200Gbps network will be the studios, galleries, post production suites, ingest, control rooms and the data centre.
“We are currently testing a range of equipment, but have already reequipped the gallery for HQ1 – our largest studio,” says Waters. “We have seen a resurgence of studio-based productions and it can be a very efficient way of producing high quality material when you have top end technology. Where else can you go in the country to find all these types of facilities in one compact area? Not only studios, and post production, but hotel accommodation, restaurants and the like. It’s a really good technical fit.”
“Of course, we had the distinct advantage of starting with a blank canvas, rather than converting an old factory or using a facility that needed an OB truck to be parked outside. That said, over ten years we have adapted the space from what we had here on day one. We are driven by our clients and their specific needs. That’s a core principle – adapting ourselves to suit our customers’ requirements.”
Read the full feature in the latest issue of TVBEurope.