Post Magazine

March 2011

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Reality Admit it. You watch them — those unscripted television programs, where unpredictability and drama equal big ratings.The net- works know it too and are constantly refining concepts and challenges to keep audiences interested. For post facilities working on reality TV series, there’s a lot to oversee. Almost everyone working on a show will cite the enormous volume of footage that is captured during production and the challenge that comes with storing it and making it available to a team of editors searching for that “choice” dramatic moment. This month, Post talked with a number of facilities that are providing offline editorial and online finishing services for reality series. Some are even producing the shows themselves, allowing them to oversee the programs from acquisition through final delivery, and create a stream- lined workflow. “With reality TV, the producers tend to shoot a lot, because you never know when you are going to get the choice material,”Welsh explains.“The biggest challenge for us is how to deal with the turn- arounds that we are facing.” Welsh noticed an increased demand for finished episodes once the storyline of John & Kate Plus 8 heated up and the couple de- cided to separate. Ratings skyrocketed. “They would run anything that showed up,”Welsh says of the net- work’s excitement and demand for programming “We have never changed back from that.” As such, the studio has developed a workflow that offers efficien- cies when dealing with last-minute deliveries. Serious Robots relies solely on Avid systems in posting Kate Plus 8, 19 Kids and Counting and Sister Wives. Media Composers are used for offline editing, and Avid Nitris DX systems are used to perform the online. All of the Avids are connected to a Facilis TerraBlock shared storage solution. Figure 8 Films is the production company for the three shows, with Puddle Monkey also contributing to Sister Wives. Welsh says Serious Robots has anywhere from 14 to 18 Avid sys- tems online at any one time and as many as 20 episodes in post pro- duction.The studio has four long-form editors on staff, and works with freelancers around the country. Freelancers are FedEx’d a drive to work from, and usually get between three and four weeks to de- liver an episode. “We put everything on a drive,”Welsh explains.“It’s full res.We give them all the graphics and the music library — everything we need. [We] ship them the drives and they will email us the sequence back.” According to Ian Krabacher, an online editor at Serious Robots, the Kate Plus 8 gets its post at Serious Robots in North Carolina. Media Composers are used for offline and Nitris DX is called on for the online. KATE PLUS 8, 19 KIDS AND COUNTING, SISTER WIVES Serious Robots ( in Raleigh, NC, serves as the post house for a number of Discovery’s popular reality TV programs, including Kate Plus 8, 19 Kids and Counting and Sister Wives. Leah Welsh, an executive producer at the studio who focuses on long- form work, says that deadlines for these Discovery shows can be quite demanding. Post caught up with her on a Thursday as she was overseeing the online of an episode that would air the following Monday. shows are captured on an assortment of digital formats, including HDV, XDCAM HD and XDCAM EX.The studio is also seeing an in- crease in the use of Canon’s 5D and 7D cameras, which can be mounted on the hood of a car or in a go-kart. Each show tends to have a core team of five editors, explains Krabacher.“With Kate [Plus 8] for example, they were working on a lot of shows at once, so in post we might have had six to eight episodes at one time.” The number of episodes each season can vary dramatically. “When a show is getting off the ground or being launched, they can buy as few as six,” he says. “On successful series, an order of 50 episodes is not unheard of.” Sister Wives’s first season debuted last year with 10 episodes, and the show has been given the go-ahead for another 10.The program fo- 18 Post • March 2011

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