Homebrew Films: Keeping ahead of the curve with Blackmagic Design

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Atlantic Studios, Cape Town

For the 40-strong team at Homebrew Films, no two work days are ever the same. The production company, based at Cape Town’s Atlantic Studios, delivers a huge variety of high-quality content, from stunning wildlife documentaries, to studio-based soap operas and lifestyle magazine shows filmed in front of live audiences.

Now a new, Ultra HD studio infrastructure – built around a broadcast workflow featuring Blackmagic Design equipment – is allowing the team to not only evolve and future-proof its broadcast programming, but also to expand into the world of corporate production.

“This modern studio solution opens up an opportunity that we’ve always wanted to explore, and places us in a very competitive segment of the market at a very affordable cost,” begins Chris Gardner, Homebrew’s technical studio director.

When Gardner started to scope out the new infrastructure, his main requirements were for a system that could be assembled and configured quickly, and for a solution that would allow Homebrew to have a technical advantage over the rest of the market.

“Although our broadcasters are not yet accepting Ultra HD 4K, it made sense to get ahead of the curve, so that we can meet their content needs now and in the future,” Gardner continues. “And the beauty is that at the same time, we can use the 4K functionality in our studio system for live streaming and events, so our clients can have the best possible experience for video production.”

Gardner explains that Homebrew’s studio acquisition relies on six URSA Broadcast cameras paired with Canon KJ20 x 8.2 BIRSE HD b4 optics; four positions are mounted on pedestals with two positions being jib- and tripod-mounted respectively. The latter provides a locked-off shot that can be moved easily.

“We produce a large amount of content for local television channels, including Tussen Ons, an all-female Afrikaans version of The View, and a local affairs talk show called Kwela, and all of these require multi-cam set-ups that are flexible,” he explains.

“For shading we rely on a pair of ATEM Camera Control Panels, alongside the ATEM Camera Control software, and an ATEM Talkback Converter provides our operators with return, tally, comms and control. That ensures we can communicate clearly and effectively with our operators as to what shots the director needs at any given time during a production.”

Video with embedded audio is sent from the studio floor via SDI through to a Smart Videohub 40×40, which each camera channel ISO recorded to SSD using the HyperDeck Studio Pro. Those broadcast desks are also used for VT playback and prerecorded content, while an UltraStudio 4K I/O box is used to generate a fill and key output from RGB graphics and animations or Photoshop. All of this feeds into the central production desk, where an ATEM 4M/E Broadcast Studio 4K with ATEM 1 M/E Advanced Panel is used to produce the live programme mix.

“When we need to stream content to social media sites, for example for the Facebook series Capetona Live and LCA Spark Talks, we simply take the programme feed from the ATEM through to a Blackmagic Web Presenter and then stream it via a laptop running OBS. It’s that simple to move between traditional broadcast and a live streaming workflow.”

“We’ve been incredibly impressed, not only by this flexibility, but also the ease of design and installation,” concludes Gardner. “To put it in perspective, it took two of us just four weeks to design, wire, install and deploy the system, and that includes building custom elements and racks.”

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