tv-bay questions


Name & Title?
Barrie Williams, owner and founder of Pixelfantastic, a boutique post production facility 13 miles east of Soho
Who are you? (about yourself and who you work for)?
I started my career in front of the lens as a musician, touring Europe for several years playing Jazz violin. We did a lot of TV work, so I became very familiar with the inside of TV and post production studios in my teens. It was a natural progression that I should eventually have a studio of my own.
What do you do? What does your company do?
Having worked in many areas of the industry for decades, starting with David Bowie, I get invited to assist on many different projects. One day I will be DoP for a Kylie Minogue pop promo, next day directing a TV Commercial, the following week teaching 3D stereoscopic workflow at a university. A lot of my time is also spent ‘hands on” in the studio, color grading, compositing, match-moving and editing.
Tell me a little about your previous experience, what you've worked on and with up to your current position?
We started doing 3D animations in the days of U-Matic, and printing animations to tape one frame at a time from a Targa+ framebuffer. Then we moved on to the DPS Personal Animation Recorder, which let us do non-linear SD video editing when coupled with Speedrazor. Our first TV job was a commercial which we filmed on BetacamSP and added special effect using Eyeon Fusion, which was a world away from our most recent commercial which we filmed on Arri Alexa, and graded using our in-house Quantel. I recently had the great pleasure of working with Peter van Hooke on a Sky 3D broadcast with the band Elbow.
What specific project(s) do you have in the works?
Without compromising any NDAs I can say that we will be working in some way or other with 10 of the top music artists in the world before the end of the year. We have 5 commercials in production right now, and are planning a trip to the Far East to conduct a one-week stereoscopic seminar at a major university.
What new technology are you working with?
We like to be ahead of the technology curve, having had 3D facilities here for the last 5 years, but we’re also aware that 2D TV production will be here for many years to come, and we must not lose sight of the aim to make great looking images with interesting content, irrespective of the delivery format.
Two weeks ago, after extensive consultation with Jigsaw24, we bought a new DaVinci Resolve for its real-time grading and dual-stream playback ability. With the excellent support of the tech guys there and at Blackmagic, we installed it and already delivered several broadcast projects. The DaVinci’s use of CUDA technology has to be seen to be believed. Anyone who sells a system which requires color grading to be rendered needs to think very seriously about their future. It’s not just the time saved, but on-the-fly grading means you only need half the disk space.
Because of our close ties with Sony, we are also privileged to get to see some early development of new stereoscopic image processing tools for live production. That technology has to be seen to be believed and is very exciting for the future.
What new products/technology are you looking forward to the most?
There will always be the need for some mirror rigs, but I am interested to see if the camera manufacturers can create a really good stereoscopic 3D camcorder which does not need a bulky mirror rig. And as with all in the industry, I am waiting to see what Apple will do to recover from their FCP-X disaster. Will they follow the lead of Coca-Cola when they mistakenly changed the flavour of their drink, and then 12 weeks later, retracted the launch and went back to the original recipe? Or are Apple trying to retreat from professional post production? If so they need to come clean so we can make alternative arrangements.
As far as new technology that I wish to invest in, I will be looking closely at the whole range of Blackmagic mini recorders and digital glue. We already use lots of Blackmagic I/O cards, and the newly announced products are going to be essential for our new workflows.
During your career in post what was the biggest "turning point" into new technology?
The turning point for me was when I learned to ignore headlines and advertising and measure the facts for myself. We were told that computer chips were now fast enough to do all video processing without dedicated hardware. No they aren’t. They said tapeless workflow is cheaper faster than recording to tape. No it’s not. And nobody needs to buy VTRs anymore because everyone wants file-based delivery! No they don’t. And LCD panels are better than glass monitors because they de-interlace your footage for you. Hogwash. There are even marketing men who claim it’s “real-time” when a one-hour program takes 120 minutes to finish. One hour in, and one hour out. We prefer use the old fashioned “real-time” measure of 60 minutes to the hour. It’s so much faster!
What is your favourite / least favourite things about working in post?
I like that the tools to work with high quality footage are becoming affordable, but I dislike that many manufacturers of video editing equipment are selling incomplete and buggy software and hardware, selling it before its tested properly, then expecting the paying customers to find the bugs. Worse still, some then want to charge their customers for fixing the bugs, which should not have been there in the first place.
What gets you out of bed in the morning to go to work?
Our industry is peppered with many exceptionally brilliant people. Whether talented in front of camera or behind the lens, in the studio or in the office, in pre or post production. I have the privilege of being in direct daily contact with them and to watch them co-operate to create magic moments on screen. Meeting and exceeding their expectations is what motivates me.

Tags: iss056 | pixelfantastic | 3d animation | davinci | blackmagic | N/A
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