Originally Bristol’s first airport, then a winery and bottling plant for 50 years, the 300,000sqft site in the south of the city is now home to Bottle Yard Studios, the BBC Studios and Post Production’s purpose built facility for Endemol and post production partners The Farm.
The Bottle Yard Studios opened in 2010, an area owned by Bristol City Council and part of the Hengrove Park investment as a venture to attract more media companies to the area. BBC Studios occupies part of the main warehouse and this summer contracted Magna to convert the space into the bespoke facility it is today. “It was very much a hands-on move,” explains Tim Deane, BBC S&PP studios manager. Builders started work at the beginning of June, with the set for Endemol’s Deal or No Deal established mid-September and production moving in at the end of the same month.
Once a warehouse containing over three million litres of alcohol, the plant was gutted and the set from Deal or No Deal moved in from Bristol’s Paintworks, its home for over seven years. The series’ new studio has been redesigned for a slightly different feel and to for allow a twist in the gameplay – all to be revealed when the show airs on 30 December.
The old and the new
A mezzanine with a green room, audience holding area and production office occupy an upstairs area, whilst the control room, edit suites and post production all occurs around the studio space. This work is contracted out to Channel 4 and all completed by The Farm. “Everyone works so well with everyone else,” says Deane, “The site helps a lot with this – before everything was separate.” Contestant and audience bookings are done at Bottle Yard too, with even show websites run from the production office.
The Deal or No Deal studio has a floor space of around 700sqm, seating an audience of approximately 100. The studio has been carefully integrated into the original infrastructure of the bottling plant: substantial pillars, for example, are virtually invisible in the new space, with the audience seating nestled in between to create an “amphitheatre feel”. Gearhouse Broadcast provides all of the technical equipment for Deal or No Deal, with eight Hitachi HD broadcast camera chains used on set. Seven use Hitachi SK-HD1200 multi-format 1080p/3G HDTV production cameras with Canon lenses, with a further Hitachi DKH100 multi-purpose HDTV box type camera for POV shots.
Behind the scenes in post, there are six edits running at any one time, with the media coming straight to the MCR, ingested and backed up to LTO tape. There are seven offline suites. “For each show they get about three and a half days to edit,” says Deane, “And that’s from beginning to end including track laying. At any one time there are about 30 shows sat in edit, at various stages of being done.” Recording happens from October through to May, so output is huge. Backstage, “the largest whiteboard we could find” displays detailed information of everything that’s in edit at any one time.
Scope for new business
The Bottle Yard Studios is far more than just a home for Deal or No Deal, explains Fiona Francombe, client liaison and site manager. She has been involved with the facility project since 2009 and “seen it through all its phases and all the difficult decisions the council have had to make.” In its incarnations, the site produced Casualty and has been the home of such productions as Five Daughters, Inside Men and Trollied, as well as live broadcasts. The local council are very much onboard, with Bristol’s mayor a staunch supporter, says Francombe. With the council’s support, funding is “pretty much guaranteed for at least three years, maybe longer,” explains Francombe. And there are three other build spaces available and as “they’re all dotted around, not cheek by jowl, all the spaces are completely individual,” leaving a lot of scope for new businesses to move in.
There is hope that this expansion will begin by 2015, when the site’s main tenant, drinks wholesaler Matthew Clark, is scheduled to leave. Francombe foresees that “some of the local companies who struggle a little bit for activity…may move from elsewhere in Bristol onto the site.”
Expansion could be huge at the Bottle Yard in 2015, but there is plenty of activity at the studios closer to the horizon. “Next year we’ve got four drama productions starting each week in January,” reveals Francombe, including “two long-running ones which will be here for about nine months.” Drinks may have stopped flowing from The Bottle Yard Studio but production output and ideas for development certainly are.