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Urban Brew Studios offers television production, outside broadcasting, content generation, branded content, channel management, graphics and more.

Urban Brew Studios appoints new CEO

Kagiso Media recently announced the appointment of Calvin Sefala as Urban Brew Studios Chief Executive Officer (CEO) with immediate effect.

Sefala, who has been the acting Urban Brew Studios (UBS) CEO for the past year, has proven his ability to lead UBS during very trying times. During this period, Sefala has distinguished himself by improving the financial results substantially while settling UBS into its newly constructed 12,000 square metre premises.

Sefala has a financial and administrative background being previously employed as an auditor for KPMG South Africa and Canada; as the Chief Financial Officer for Endemol Shine SA, Kenya and Nigeria; Group Financial Manager for Kagiso Media; and Head of Finance at Urban Brew Studios.

“We are excited to have Calvin Sefala as the UBS CEO. He complements our strong performance-oriented culture, and we believe his impressive ability for execution and achieving results makes him the right choice to lead Urban Brew Studios as we prepare the business for the next phase of profitable growth,” said Tshepo Setshedi, Urban Brew Studios Chairman.

Sound Investments: How Urban Brew built one of the most sophisticated audio studios in South Africa


Urban Rhythm Factory is the dedicated audio and post-production wing of Urban Brew Studios, one of South Africa’s longest-standing production houses with a track record of quality output that stretches back nearly three decades.

When Urban Brew recently completed their new move and studio upgrade, Urban Rhythm Factory also took the opportunity – in the company’s words – “to make its creative capabilities and workflow efficiencies equal to its high-profile projects.”

Tshepo Mashishi, the head of Urban Rhythm Factory, explains the origin of the company: “Urban Brew was already well established by the year 2000, which is when we started to supply them with music and mixes on a regular basis. Urban Rhythm Factory was a small studio out in Lonehill – they used to send people over from Urban Brew in a production van to get the mixes – but we formed a strong working relationship this way, and eventually we moved on site and became an official division of Urban Brew.”

According to Mashishi, Urban Rhythm Factory’s nine state-of-the-art studios are mostly tasked with “television production, from kid’s shows to reality series, movies and ads. We’ve just done two advert campaigns for Vodacom and Standard Bank, and we’re busy on some others.”

In addition to the full suite of sound services – from composition to recording, mixing, mastering, editing, publishing and rights management – Mashishi explains that the “future-proof” design and cross-compatibility of the new Urban Rhythm Factory studios offer many unique value propositions to clients.

“Our recording booths are much larger now – and, because we’ve spotted that there’s a huge need for foley studios in the country – we converted one of our recording booths into a foley studio. We have a dedicated foley artist now, and so that’s one service that emanated from our new studio environment.”

The wide-reaching technology upgrade of the new Urban Rhythm Factory studios saw them become the first audio facility in South Africa to feature the new Pro Tools | MTRX audio interface. Avid’s most current release, the MTRX features a modular design capable of hosting a number of newer technologies such as MADI and Dante, as well as the ability to record up to 384khz DSD. With Pro|Mon 2 included, the MTRX gives you control over monitoring, talkback, summing and fold-down, whether mixing mono or producing a 64-channel ATMOS mix.

Moreover, each studio at Urban Rhythm Factory has been equipped with the tools that best fit its specific purpose. While some studios feature Pro Tools | MTRX interfaces, four others are dedicated to audio post production supported by Pro Tools | HD Native systems and other studios cater to music composition and production through Pro Tools | HDX systems. As well as being able to record and mix in higher 32-bit, 192 kHz resolution (with more headroom) and track and monitor with extremely low latency, the Pro Tools | HDX systems allow Urban Rhythm Factory to handle large, complex productions that might involve multiple audio sources and thousands of tracks and sound clips.

As Mashishi explains, “Our recording studios and control booths are seamlessly connected. We’re all on the same, integrated technologies and our studio rooms are cross-compatible. So if an engineer is missing for whatever reason, another can jump in there and continue with the work; you can move a project from one studio to another; and, just like the booths, the control rooms are interchangeable. So you can link through to the studio next door and operate it, and with the Avid S3 Dock you can even control your DAW remotely, using an iPad.”

In practical terms, these improvements enhance the studio’s capacities and improve its workflow efficiency, and can result in some unique recording benefits. “Of our five music recording studios,” Mashishi explains, “two of them are actually paired. So if you have a large choir, you can split them into two groups, and record them into one control room for greater isolation and balance in the mix.”

Not content with their busy production schedule – which includes Yo TV, the longest-running children’s show in South Africa and Khumbul’ekhaya, which is in its 14th season – Urban Rhythm Factory are also in the process of launching an exciting web-based music library project.

“The website will be a comprehensive music library, with all songs [encoded with metadata]. Sound designers and other production houses will be able to go to the website and search by instrument, tempo, mood, genre, geography – it will be an amazing resource to find the right music and sounds to match to your project. It can also be a clear way for people to identify the texture of the sound they want for our in-house team of composers to work with.”

Regarding this aspect of Urban Rhythm Factory’s operations, Mashishi says: “We have four in-house composers that have been with the studio for more than eight years, but we also have a pool of external composers that send us new music on a monthly basis. This is because we want to stay at the front of the pack from a procurement perspective, as well as keep our library sounding diverse and fresh.”

There is certainly a fresh and exuberant atmosphere around the studio, and Lerato Moseki, marketing manager at Urban Brew, speaks about the importance of always being on the lookout for new talent, and of developing the next generation of technical engineers through internships and training programs.

“With the move, and our new increased potential, we are currently optimising the overall brand strategy of Urban Rhythm Factory, but we know – with our facilities and our personnel – that we are sitting on gold here,” she concludes.

Urban Brew Studios to move to Brightwater Commons

Urban Brew Studios announced that they will be moving to brand new state of the art facilities at Brightwater Commons in Randburg, by early next year. The Moolman Group has been tasked with turning ten-thousand square metres of the shopping complex into the ultimate space for the production house, a division of Kagiso Media.

Urban Brew Studios new facilities will include amongst other things; trendy office space for almost 300 staff members, 12 television studios, dedicated audio post production and music compilation facilities, a business centre and meeting rooms
Kagiso Media Group Head: Shared Services, David Katz says, “Kagiso Media, owners of Urban Brew Studios and its BEE owner KTH are intent on gearing Urban Brew Studios up for the next generation of content creation in Africa. With more than 25 years in the entertainment industry, Urban Brew Studios is well respected in the industry and will have new facilities to match this level of expertise.’

The production house will take over the historical cinema and bowling alley area, with 10 of the existing movie cinemas being converted into studios and two brand new larger than normal studios being built. Operations Manager at Brightwater Commons Frans Fourie says deconstruction on site will begin as early as next week.
Fourie adds, “We’re excited about this agreement and view it as a major driver for other future development of Bright Water Commons. Our vision sees further investment in this area of Randburg over the next few years.’

Acting CEO of Urban Brew Studios, Richard Tsai, added “While we value our three decade legacy, we have our eye firmly on the future and will now have the facilities to match our visions.’

Urban Brew Studios will to take up their new office space between September 2017 and February 2018.

Cartoon Network and Urban Brew team up on new series Pop Up Party

The African continent is synonymous with its distinctive music and dance culture. Cartoon Network – the most watched kid’s entertainment channel in Africa – and Urban Brew Studios, renowned African content creators, have joined forces to create the new and original locally produced kids’ series Pop Up Party.

The series, which is the brainchild of Ariane Suveg, the programming and acquisitions manager for Turner Kids’ channels in Africa, was developed in a collaborative effort with Urban Brew Studios.

“The initial task was to find a common denominator among Africans, specifically among the youth. The one thing that all Africans do when they are happy, sad or angry is dance.  Rhythm is in our souls, and with what these kids do, they remind people that sometimes it’s good to just let loose, pop up and dance and so, Pop Up Party was born,” says Urban Brew Studios’ spokesperson Markus Davies, who is the executive producer of the series.

The first season of Pop Up Party, which has been airing on Cartoon Network (DStv channel 301) since 23 July, comprises 10 short inserts which follow a young team of enthusiastic local dancers as they ‘pop up’ in unexpected locations and start to dance, creating an energetic atmosphere and a fun-filled Pop Up Party. The new series draws inspiration from the countless viral dance and flash mob videos that have risen in popularity and taken the internet by storm over the past couple of years.

In an attempt to find the perfect mix of dance pro enthusiasts, the show’s creators stumbled upon the Michelle Oppenshaw Dance Studio, which is run by Oppenshaw, a well-known dancer and choreographer. The talented and culturally diverse young dancers that feature on Pop Up Party were all cast from the studio. “We found a group of talented individuals who love to dance, who spend their free time in the dance studio, and invited them to participate in our Pop Up Party,” explains Davies.

Pierre Branco, VP and managing director of Turner Africa comments: “We chose a group of kids that are all the same age as our core target market and from the unique and diverse African cultures to appeal to our viewers. They bring various personalities and different elements to the show, but one thing is for certain, they all are incredibly talented!”

The show’s look and feel is distinctly bright, quirky and slightly edgy. Ariane Suveg, programming and acquisitions manager for all Turner Kids’ channels in Africa, says that the team behind Pop Up Party was deeply inspired by modern African street style and graffiti, “from the likes of Rasty, Tapz and Rekso Le Hond for example.”

“We drew our inspiration from pop art, shweshwe (a traditional printed, dyed cotton fabric) and of course, from traditional African arts and crafts, and the printed fur of some of Africa’s most iconic animals ie. the leopard. The bright, flashy colours and pop art inspired artwork, evokes a sense of excitement, energy and joy in the air – the perfect atmosphere for one heck of a party,” comments Suveg.

In terms of filming style, Pop Up Party employs a fast paced flair, to best capture and reflect the high energy of the crew. To further enhance the modern African undertones in look and feel, Cartoon Network teamed up with the choreographer and parent of each cast member, in order to create a bright, individual, African street-inspired style specific and authentic to each individual’s character and personality, while remaining true to the channel’s artistic style and aesthetic.

Pop Up Party is a ‘hidden camera concept’, filmed in an unscripted, unplanned environment. For this reason, the cameramen hid in strategic locations, concealed from the public and audience’s sight in order to best capture the energy, surprise, spontaneity and authenticity of the audience and crew on camera. “Some of the filming was captured ‘handheld’ style, also known as ‘shaky cam’, which is a technique we used to give the series a documentary/reality sort of look and feel. We really wanted to portray the unpreparedness and unrehearsed nature of the reality-style series, which is exactly what Pop Up Party and its crew is all about,” Suveg expands.

The show was filmed with light DSLR HD cameras (Canon 5D mark 2), which Suveg says was best suited due to the disruptive nature of the ‘flash mob’ aspect of the series. “Hand held cameras were extremely crucial to the filming of this series. Our cameramen were constantly on foot, and had to hide and move constantly, which made the Canon 5D the perfect camera to use throughout the making of this exciting, locally produced series.”

Pop Up Party was shot using 100% natural lighting (specific to each environment) so as to further support the hidden camera/surprise aspect of the show. “We really just wanted to capture the organic reaction of our targeted audiences in their natural habitat; therefore the footage needed to be 100% spontaneous, natural and authentic,” says Suveg. “Lighting and a full camera set up would have been too obvious, and we would not have achieved what we set out to accomplish.”

Season 1 of Pop Up Party was filmed in South Africa, and is currently being broadcast across the African continent, but for possible future seasons of the show, Cartoon Network says that it will investigate the possibility of filming in other African countries. This is the first time that Cartoon Network has teamed up with an African production company to produce something original and exclusive for its African audiences that’s “full of local flavour, while still being true to the Cartoon Network brand and style,” says Branco. “The final product is not only fun, but also surprising, and that is exactly what Cartoon Network’s Pop Up Party is all about.”

Urban Brew Studios facilitates handover of community television station 1KZN TV

Urban Brew Studios has announced that it is pleased to see 1KZN TV become a successful independent community TV channel as of 1 July, after working with the channel for the past seven years. Urban Brew Studios has made substantial investments in helping 1KZN TV (DStv channel 261) to develop their capacity and skills to build a community station that creates an strong platform to enable the community in KZN.

Recent regulation has expedited the requirement for any community station to be entirely independent from commercial service providers and Urban Brew Studios has worked with the 1KZN TV board to ensure a seamless transition. This follows amendments to the Standard Terms and Conditions for Class Licence Regulations by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) as of 30 June 2016. As a result, as from 1 July 2016, Urban Brew Studios also ceded all obligations arising under the existing contracts to 1KZN, who has accepted this.

Urban Brew Studio’s CEO Trish Taylor says the investment into 1KZN TV has been extensive, “We’re very proud of the work that has been done within 1KZN TV and together with the 1KZN board this community channel has reached a peak viewership of 1.7 million. We’re confident that the channel will go from strength to strength.’

Taylor adds that Urban Brew has been instrumental in ensuring skills transfer between Urban Brew management and 1KZN TV staff. Prior to the recent amendments by Icasa, Urban Brew Studios had been instrumental in developing and growing South Africa’s community television landscape. Since 2008 it has been involved with three channels; 1KZN TV, Soweto TV and Bay TV.

Chairman of the 1KZN TV board, Themba Fakazi, says they are looking forward to their future as an independent channel, “1KZN TV has grown from a community’s dream to a major community success in the last five years. We are confident that it will continue to be one of the most successful community channels in South Africa. 1KZN TV has dedicated and energetic staff led by Edwin Mncwango as station manager, unique content and a very supportive community.’

Cartoon Network and Urban Brew Studios launch new African localised series

The leading kids channel on the African continent, Cartoon Network (DStv channel 301), has announced that they have teamed up with one of Africa’s leading content creators, Urban Brew Studios, to launch an innovative, locally produced series of short inserts called Pop Up Party, aimed at entertaining audiences on the African continent.

“This is the first time that Cartoon Network has teamed up with an African production company to produce something original and exclusive for its African audiences, full of local flavour, whilst still being true to the Cartoon Network brand and style,’ says Pierre Branco, VP and managing director of Turner Africa. “The final product is not only fun, but also surprising, and that is exactly what Cartoon Network’s Pop Up Party is all about. With a proudly African edge, not only is the show taking place in South Africa, but it is mainly centred on dance, which Cartoon Network believes appeals to our African audience and their culture.’

Africa is a continent synonymous for its rich rhythmic music and dance culture; hence the new short inserts will follow a young crew of local dancers as they ‘pop up’ and infiltrate unexpected locations to create a vibrant, unique and fun Pop Up Party. “We chose a group of kids that are all the same age as our core target market and from the unique and diverse African cultures to appeal to our viewers. They bring various personalities and different elements to the show, but one thing is for certain, they all are incredibly talented.’

The crew are currently all students from the Michelle Oppenshaw Dance Studio. Oppenshaw, one of South Africa’s well-known dancers, is best known for her work in the Hollywood movie Honey 3, Strictly Come Dancing the South African version, and being the choreographer and a dancer in Mi Casa’s Turn You On music video.

The African-flavoured dance party has been shot in South Africa, but for any future series of the show, Cartoon Network will investigate the possibility of popping up in other African countries. The unexpected locations for the first season were predominantly places where kids would never be found dancing.

Over the last couple of years, the internet has seen many viral dance fads that have taken the internet by storm and got the world moving, but this will be the first time that a show like this will be shown on Cartoon Network. African audiences can look forward to surprise, intrigue and lots of fun with this brand new local production. “The show will definitely take our African audiences by surprise, make them smile and appeal to them through the universal language of dance,’ says Adelaide Joshua-Hill, head of unscripted productions at Urban Brew Studios.

With lots of excitement ahead of the launch in July, audiences will be able to follow this African-flavoured dance party by logging on to Cartoon Network’s Pop Up Party webpage, where viewers can send in their own dancing videos and learn some of the signature moves from the series. Viewers will be encouraged to upload their videos and the best dancers will get some screen time on Cartoon Network.

The brand new series kicks off on 23 July 2016 on Cartoon Network (DStv channel 301) at 16h30 CAT.

Three senior appointments at Urban Brew Studios

Three Urban Brew Studios’ staff members have recently been appointed to senior management positions. Herbert Hadebe has been appointed as the head of Scripted Productions, while Adelaide Joshua-Hill is now head of Unscripted Productions and Joanne Lurie is the head of Creative at Urban Brew Studios.

Herbert Hadebe brings with him over 15 years of experience in the film and
television industry. He currently works on two drama series for Urban Brew
Studios, Mzansi Magic’s Zabalaza and e.tv’s Gold
. Last year he was honoured to have been selected as an Emmy
Award’s juror and attended the event in New York.

Adelaide Joshua-Hill started her career at Urban Brew seven years ago as an
education consultant for YoTV. She then became head of YoTV mini and went on to
head up the entire YoTV portfolio. Her new role will include overseeing and
managing production teams and providing leadership across all productions in the
unscripted portfolio.

Joanne Lurie, who has been in the TV industry for 13 years, spent eight of her nine
years at Urban Brew Studios producing 3Talk with Noeleen. Before
joining the company, she worked on international formats, including The
Weakest Link, The Biggest Loser
and Big Brother.

In her new role, Lurie will give strategic creative input across the business to ensure Urban Brew Studios becomes an innovative hub of creative excellence.

Three Urban Brew Studios productions in running for SAFTAS

Urban Brew Studios would like to congratulate three of its productions for being
nominated as part of the annual South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs).
SABC 1’s YOTV has been nominated for a SAFTA for the Best Children’s
Programme, while, Danine Naidoo, presenter of Edge on [ED] (DStv
channel 190), has been nominated for Best Presenter, and Dana Tsafandakis has
been nominated for Best Editor for a documentary called Joburg
, which was produced and directed by Desmond Naidoo.

CEO of the Johannesburg-based production house, Trish Taylor says, “These
nominations attest to the high calibre of productions coming out of Urban Brew
Studios and we’d like to congratulate all of the nominees and the production teams
involved in these shows for their hard work and dedication.’

YOTV, a long standing youth variety show on SABC 1, is produced by
Urban Brew Studios and is broadcast live from their Randburg studios every
weekday. The show’s Friday YO Party, which ushers in the weekend, is
up for a SAFTA award.

Edge, which is also an Urban Brew production and is broadcast on
[ED] (DStv channel 190) every Monday at 19h25, is a series at the edge of
technological research and development. Presenter Danine Naidoo uncovers the
latest gadgets and innovation. Of her nomination for Best Presenter Naidoo says,
“I’m so overwhelmed, a bit gobsmacked and really excited. Presenting is such a
journey and this is my first industry award nomination. It’s such a team effort, so
well done to the whole Edge team.’

Joburg Rising, which was produced by Urban Brew Studios and
broadcast on [ED] last year, is a documentary that tells of a change that is
sweeping across the Johannesburg inner city. Viewers are invited to experience the
energetic heartbeat of a city reborn, with its incredible pulse, people and places
creating a microcosm of a new South African society. Editor Dana Tsafandakis has
been nominated for the SAFTA for Best Editor.

Herbert Hadebe of Urban Brew Studios to judge Emmy Awards

One of Urban Brew Studio’s drama directors, Herbert Hadebe, has been selected as
an international Emmy Awards juror. Hadebe travelled to New York City this week
and will be judging the “Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Drama’ as part of the
prestigious television awards.

With over 15 years’ experience in the film and television industry, Hadebe currently
works on two drama series for Urban Brew Studios, Mzansi Magic’s
Zabalaza and e.tv’s Gold Diggers. He was nominated as
an Emmy juror by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), which as a
partner and member of the international Emmy Awards enables the South African
film and television industry to participate in the judging.

Hadebe is honoured at being given this opportunity, “I’m so looking forward to being
exposed to the so-called “anchor’ of film and television in the world. In my role as
juror I will be looking for an actor who is able to connect and effortlessly
manipulate the viewer’s emotions.’

Hadebe says he’s passionate about storytelling in the film and television industry
and his ultimate goal is to help create employment and sustainable innovations.

Zig Zag and Urban Brew Studios announce production partnership

On 5 October, UK independent TV production company, Zig Zag Productions,
announced a co-production agreement with South African producer and content
creator Urban Brew Studios.

The agreement is designed to pool each company’s creativity, expertise and
production facilities to create cross-genre programming for the South African, UK
and international markets.

Urban Brew Studios, with eight fully equipped studios, produces over 50 hours of
original content per week for local platforms including SABC, DStv and e.tv. Urban
Brew is also a channel broadcaster, managing and producing content for domestic
channels including Soweto TV, Glow TV and 1 KZN TV, and broadcasting over 500
hours of content per week.

Urban Brew Studios also has a strong track record in adapting international formats
for South Africa. BBC format Friends Like These is now in its record
14th season.

The two companies will be developing shared IP and entering into option
agreements for their respective programme formats. The first of which sees Urban
Brew Studios option Zig Zag’s Strike a Match format for the South
African market.

Strike a Match is Zig Zag’s studio show where the game is to weed out
the real couples from a hilarious line-up of misfits. Contestants have to try and
keep their relationships a secret when being grilled by a comedic panel.

Zig Zag has taken an international option for Urban Brew’s The Virus
that follows the world’s leading virologists as they travel to the
world’s most remote areas to pre-empt the next deadly virus. Zig Zag and Urban Brew Studios are also co-creators of iServed and Survived: a re-enactment series that explores modern day heroes serving mankind despite the risk to their own lives.

The agreement also sees the companies partner on the development of a production carousel hub in South Africa for large studio based game show formats.

Zig Zag and Urban Brew Studios also plan to develop co-productions on factual
entertainment series, offer production and post-production services on South African location shoots, and harness Urban Brew Studios technology capabilities in applications and second screen development.

“Urban Brew is truly one of the world’s best kept secrets and without doubt
leading content and production businesses in South Africa. I have long felt that as a country and a region Southern Africa has been under represented in the world stage and in a creative leader like Markus Davies they have someone who understands the impact they can make. In an emerging market we see the potential to both sell our formats but also to help take their formats and bring them to the international market. We already have our first projects together and I hope this will be the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship,’ said Zig Zag CEO Danny Fenton.

“We are extremely excited to be partnering with Zig Zag Productions. Working with
an international player that produces for channels like BBC, ITV, Fox and Discovery
is going to bolster Urban Brew’s offering and in-house capabilities. Urban Brew
Studios is confident that this relationship will bring with it mutually beneficial
opportunities to create cross-genre programming globally and this ties in perfectly
with the vision for Urban Brew Studios, which is to be the leading African content
creator providing innovative global entertainment solutions and services,’ said Trish
Taylor, chief executive officer of Urban Brew Studios.

Zig Zag Productions also recently announced a development and distribution deal
with Toronto-based distributor Blue Ant Media Inc.

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