Avid DS Nitris and FilmLight's Baselight Form a "Super-Natural" Solution
Big Bang Post Production, Bristol
Natural history documentaries often pose difficult challenges in post production. They involve huge amounts of footage, shot on the run under far less than ideal circumstances. And, it all has to be pared down to a cogent, concise and compelling story with a clean and consistent look.
"The animal that runs from one shot into the next shot is not necessarily the same animal," explains Tim Bolt, cofounder of Bristol's Big Bang Post Production which has handled post work for nature-themed shows for BBC, Animal Planet, Discovery and PBS. "It is usually the same species and it's usually on the same continent, but it was frequently not filmed on the same day and quite likely it wasn't shot with the same medium i.e. film or video, or at the same aspect ratio or resolution.
"Natural history documentaries may be shot over a period of months—if it is an archival show, it could be years—and yet somehow you've got to make it all look the same."
Bolt is well equipped to tackle that intimidating task. An editor with more than 20 years of experience, he is also a highly skilled colourist and typically takes on both roles for his projects. He has also built his facility to accommodate work where large volumes of source material, multiple film and video formats, and problematic imagery are the norm, establishing a workflow centred on an Avid DS Nitris and FilmLight's Baselight HD colour grading system.
The DS Nitris/Baselight HD combination allows Bolt to do all of his work in a seamless, non-linear environment while making editorial and colour grading adjustments in real time. It also provides him with a powerful toolset to address virtually any image problem that may arise. "I'll do the grading in Baselight because it's got great a great set of grading tools, but if I encounter something that would be more sensible to do in DS, like painting out a LandRover, I can slap it in there, make the change and move on," he says. "It's nice to have that flexibility."
In addition to nature work, Big Bang provides post services for documentaries on other subjects and for reality programs such as Antiques Roadshow and the Channel 4 talent search Chancers. It also draws a significant amount of work in commercials and music promos.
As a mid-sized facility—Big Bang has a staff of about 15—the Avid DS Nitris and Baselight HD represented substantial investments. Bolt says that the choice made sense in part because the easy upgrade paths both systems provide ensures that they will continue to meet his company's needs well into the future. For the veteran editor and colourist the payoff also comes in the form of the confidence they inspire in his clients.
"The Avid DS Nitris is the best integrated, all-in-one box available," he observes. "And Baselight is at that same level—it's the best colour grading system available—end of story. People love it. When clients walk into our facility and see our tools, they are impressed."