The role of the studio space has changed dramatically in recent years, as digital production methods mean that traditional ways of working are no longer efficient.
At the forefront of this trend is dock10, an all-in-one location in Salford’s MediaCityUK which boasts seven studio spaces, a full digital production pipeline and complete end-to-end facilities that can take a show from filming to final cut without the need for physical media.
In this exclusive video interview with K7 Media, Andy Waters, Head of Studios, reveals the history of dock10 and the challenges it has faced in challenging industry norms, both in terms of production and location. Click on the image to view video version of this interview.
K7: Can you give us a little background on dock10 and how it’s evolved into what it is today?
AW: We’re over three years into this business now. I came up here four years ago and spent the first nine months getting ready for opening, finalising contracts, working with the BBC, having negotiations with ITV, and the first day we opened, the very first show we had in at dock10 was Don’t Scare the Hare, which was a huge success for the studio. It didn’t quite hit the spot with the viewers, unfortunately, but that’s out of our control. It’s been non-stop ever since that point. We’ve been building and building and building on the work that we’ve been doing. When we first opened, of the seven studios only four were fully fitted out. The spaces were available and every year we’ve had to grow into those studios because of demand from clients.
K7: What have been some of the production highlights?
AW: The Voice came to do the blind auditions with us, and because of the success they had in that first series they came back for another run, and also did the knockouts and the battles with us. ITV has arrived here now, with gusto. They’re doing Jeremy Kyle, University Challenge and Countdown with us. As well as those core shows, we’ve seen some new series for ITV come out of here including Jo Frost, Show Me The Telly and Stand By Your Man, an ITV Studios production for Channel 5. And Endemol have been here doing a show called Ejector Seat. It’s great to see the mix of shows from different broadcasters, all coming to use these facilities.
K7: What are the additional advantages for clients of shooting at MediaCityUK?
It’s not just about the facilities that are in the building, it’s the great space we’ve got outside. We can roll out into that space, as Blue Peter, one of our regular clients, does on a regular basis. They’ll often use the piazza space, down by the water, in the parks, and all of that connects beautifully with our infrastructure inside the studio. Last year we had a great show called Gok Live: Stripping for Summer, that had over a thousand audience members coming to see three live shows, on Channel 4, made by Endemol, with Gok Wan hosting. It was a great show, and a good example of using that outside space with the connectivity inside the building.
K7: What about further expansion? Are you at the limit of how much studio space you can host?
AW: In terms of studio space on this site, we’re probably full. However, what we can do, and what we have already started to do, is use The Pie Factory which is our sister company next door. They have a significant amount of stage space there. This year we couldn’t fit Dragon’s Den into our studios at dock10, so what we’ve done is put Dragon’s Den in The Pie Factory, and we’re servicing them, we built the galleries for them, and we have the connectivity back to dock10’s post-production facilities. So as all the material is recorded on the stage, it’s instantly available on their Isis for the post-production team to start editing. That’s one way we can manage expansion, and we can essentially do that to any stage space in the region or the country.
K7: How important is that end-to-end production service in today’s TV industry?
AW: We’re in a process of change at the moment. When we first opened, a number of clients were very sceptical about the idea of file capture. People wanted to go away with cardboard boxes full of tapes, to get their content and take it home with them. Over the last three years, as we’ve been able to demonstrate the robustness of file capture, and having a full end-to-end workflow, people have seen the benefits of that, and it’s grown and grown. Almost exclusively, that is our standard workflow in the studio. As soon as it’s shot, it’s available in the edit, and they can be safe in the knowledge that it’s already been digitised, on a mirrored system, in a robust infrastructure. There won’t be any more lost tapes.
K7: Do you get people still insisting on physical media?
AW: Occasionally, people will still want to record on tape, particularly if they’ve opted to do their post-production in London. What we’re trying to do now is challenge that way of thinking. What we can do is file capture your production and send it to your chosen post-production company, anywhere. No longer do you need to physically take the media away with you. We’re very confident and very happy offering those sorts of workflows. Bringing the rest of the production community on board, that’s the next step.
K7: Being based in Salford, have you found it hard to entice companies away from their London comfort zone?
AW: When we invite people from the industry to Salford, I often think they come up here thinking they’re going to go to an industrial estate, with a shed in the back with a couple of studios in. And then they come here, and they see it for themselves, and they realise “Oh, they’re quite serious about this. They really have built a state of the art, fit for purpose, new studio complex for this millennia”. It’s something to be very proud of.