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Maidstone Studios celebrates 40th birthday

Maidstone Studios' Josephine Clark talks to TVBEurope about the facility's heritage, the technology that has had the biggest impact, and plans for the future

Maidstone Studios is celebrating 40 years since its doors first opened in 1982.

The site was first earmarked as a possible production base in 1979 and hosted its first live transmission in autumn 1982.

Over the years it’s been home to shows from Art Attack to Take Me Out and Later…With Jools Holland, and last year it hosted ITV’s coverage of Euro 2020.

While there’s no-one in today’s team at Maidstone left from the early days, many of the current team joined the company in the mid-to-late 1990’s, working across its portfolio of classic children’s shows.

Our chairman Geoff Miles is a former BBC Producer/ Director who worked on titles such as The Paul Daniels Magic Show, The Generation Game and Carrot Confidential and bought the building with a consortium of business partners back in 2002 after filming a series here in the late 1990s,” commercial director Josephine Clark tells TVBEurope.

It was then that Geoff became passionate about providing a filming facility that always went above and beyond for its clients and the building was renamed Maidstone Studios.”

These days, the studios have a core team of 23 as well as a number of freelancers working across sport, entertainment and drama.

Over the years, the studios have grown and now includes three flagship studios ranging from 12,000 square foot, 6,000 sq. ft and 900 sq. ft.

“We have redeveloped two floors within the building which now houses over 50 local creative businesses including newly fitted out edit, dubbing and Foley suites,” adds Clark. “We have an in-house data centre onsite called Vinters Connect offering cloud storage, fully redundant diverse lines and high-speed connectivity and we are home to the ScreenSkills accredited degree course run by University of Creative Arts in Television Production – which is in its 13th year here.”

In terms of technology, the arrival of IP has had the biggest impact on the studios over the years, says Clark. “The move to tapeless, IP file-based systems has made it possible to get the studio records to the post house, over the internet, point-to-point or via cloud-based services, straight into the edit – speeding up the overall workflow,” she adds.

The studios are also looking to embrace newer production techniques, including a new virtual production studio that will be available for hire from 2023. “This is a great addition to our portfolio as we often facilitate large sporting events such as ITV Rugby World Cup studio coverage 2019, ITV Euros 2020 & various esports competitions,” explains Clark. “It will be a plug and play studio offering a remote gallery option, infinity wall and UPS and gen-backed tech power.

 “We now have a backlot area for exterior set builds, and we have utilised our wild gardens and decking for pop-up studios such as the backdrop for the 2022 and 2021 ITV Sports Tour de France coverage. We have also recently invested in AaStuder Vista X sound desk and upgraded our monitor stacks.”

The UK has been going through a boom in new studio space over the last few years, as demand soars. Asked what makes Maidstone stand out, Clark cites the company’s independence, and the fact that it’s just 40 miles outside of London.

“We can facilitate large productions such as film and long form dramas looking for sound stages,  we can provide dry hire and wet hire options with multiple camera solutions including Sony 4300s, Arri’s and Grass Valley, as well as live feeds with our fully diverse fibre paths,” says Clark.

Our studios are easy to rig and all fully soundproofed; Studio 2 (6,000 sq. ft) has individually controlled barrel hoists, our flagship Studio 1 (12,000 sq. ft) has fully automated trusses and all studios come with a full black cyclorama,” she adds. “We have a lot of the infrastructure already here which makes rigging that much easier across all our studios. Every studio has its own dedicated fully functioning gallery and all galleries work with all studios.”

During Covid, the studios offered production teams socially distanced production solutions, with This Time with Alan Partridge and I Can See Your Voice operating completely independently to one another with their own dedicated green rooms, dressing rooms, parking and even catering spaces.

We also back onto a 52-hectare nature reserve Vinters Valley which we work closely with to offer production mental health walking trails and we are currently working to become albert accredited by 2023,” says Clark.

“For us, Maidstone Studios isn’t just a place to work, it’s a filming facility we truly love and cherish and one which we continue to be passionate about,” she continues

Each client is so important to us and we will continue to strive to be the best we can be and be as versatile as possible in an ever-changing world. We are hugely excited about the next 40 years and all that it will bring.”