Coronation Street Celebrates Its 50th with HD Makeover
For its 50th birthday, television’s most watched show, Coronation Street, got a full file-based HD makeover, courtesy of ITV Studios eager to retain and enhance the lustre of its flagship property.
Such a drastic overhaul did not come easily. With nearly two and a half hours of finished content being produced every week, the challenge was to effect the necessary changes without interrupting ongoing production. Unlike other dramas, the show did not have a six-month run in, so work could not simply stop.
Backed from the beginning by ITV Director of Television, Peter Fincham, the goal of the project was to maintain the show’s tradition while keeping it fresh and contemporary.
May 31 was selected as the time to make the switch, when Coronation Street would feature an explosive double storyline around a factory siege and courtroom drama. But the planning actually started two years prior with a detailed discussion between ITV Studios and Avid about an upgrade of its production workflow.
The PlanThe plan eventually hammered out was to continue shooting in standard definition while testing the new file-based HD workflow. This involved converting two SD studios to the HD format, and upgrading two OB vehicles for HD location shooting. One of the vehicles was to be key to the switchover, acting as the studio-based control room and a vision gallery while the old SD infrastructure was replaced.
New HD camera technology was also added in the form of six Ikegami 79EXs with Canon lenses for the studios and Panasonic P2 camcorders shooting to 64G memory cards for location shooting. Two AirSpeed Multi Stream workflow servers per gallery were employed, allowing four streams of HD to be recorded to an ISIS 7000 shared storage unit. This enabled the craft, edit, and dubbing suites to playback HD media simultaneously.
We’ve always worked on Avid because their systems are so fast, solid and user friendly. With Coronation Street, there is no room for foul ups.
Dave Williams, ITV Offline Editor.
One of the best parts of the makeover process was its timeliness. Working together, Coronation Street and Avid Professional Services were able to meet the show’s on air deadline and complete a project that would normally have taken six to nine months in a fraction of that time.
Recalls Executive Producer, Kieran Roberts, Peter Fincham, ITV Director of Television, Channels, “was very keen that Coronation Street be made available in HD at the earliest opportunity.”
Key advantages of the makeover are that it allows picture editors to gain faster access to material. In addition, directors and script editors can add comments directly to camera rushes
“It’s made life much easier for us all around,” confirms offline editor Dave Williams, “Now, we have access to material as soon as it has been shot, which is mission critical for a show like Coronation Street because of its accelerated production pace.”
Material is instantly available on three Avid Mojo DX offline suites and the show’s Symphony Nitris DX finishing suite, as well as ingest stations where camera assistants manage P2 material. Dubbing on Pro Tools and Video Satellite enables playback of the same HD pictures from the ISIS 7000 shared storage unit in the audio suites.
Avid understands the need for speed these solutions bring to the table.
“The Coronation Street production crew can’t afford to reshoot anything or lose the rushes,” comments Avid senior application specialist Lawrence Windley. “That’s why automated back-up is currently provided by an AirSpeed Multi Stream cache, with the ISIS storing two copies and a copy archived as back up onto LTO tape.”
But it’s the flexibility and fluid media access provided by the file sharing and asset management capabilities of Avid Interplay that adds a whole new dimension to this workflow. With information no longer spread across multiple locations, the operation at ITV Studios has become highly organized, letting any approved staff member quickly locate content and its current status. For example, production assistants, script supervisors, and editors can find and browse material for continuity checks, frame-accurate annotation or shot listing, either locally or across a WAN.
“Avid Interplay gives us access to a generic bank of shared captions, titles, and sound effects which goes all the way through the edit to the online,” says offline editor Dave Williams.
Kieran Roberts knows his viewers appreciate the effort. “Although just a fraction of Coronation Street’s typical audience of 500,000 watch in HD at the moment, it’s very important to us that it keeps getting the love it’s always gotten. 50 years on, we want to make sure Coronation Street is still turning heads and holding audiences as captive as the day it was launched.”
Transition from SD to HD to ensure that television’s most watched show stays fresh and contemporary.