The monthly email update from the UK Screen Alliance,
the trade body representing VFX, Studios, Post Production
in partnership with Animation UK
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April 2017
In this month's edition:
  • Sohonet: Trial by fire
  • Scottish government approves £250m studio
  • MPC creates futuristic world for Ghost in the Shell
  • Aardman and British Council launch online series
  • Outpost completes VFX for iBoy
Spotlight on...
Sohonet: Trial by fire

Sohonet is well-known as the leading global expert in connectivity and data management services for the media and entertainment industry. It's probably safe to say that the majority of UK facilities, especially in Soho, would grind to a halt should they be without them. So it's incredible that when every company's worst nightmare, a massive fire, wiped out their office space, Sohonet were up and running at full capacity in 48 hours. Some of their clients didn't even notice.

Sohonet's Chief Operating Officer, Damien Carroll (below), tells us more about it and how Sohonet recovered.

Damien Carroll - Sohonet

So what was the sequence of events for this fairly devastating fire? 

Well it took place on 12th September, so actually most of the executive team were still over at IBC in Amsterdam. It was the Monday morning and I'd just got back for the working week on Sunday night, so thankfully I was in the country. It started at around 5am. We monitor all of our customer equipment remotely and so we do the same with our own.

Our alarm system started seeing equipment drop sequentially, one-by-one, as the fire spread. It's an unusual pattern which obviously wasn't a power failure. So we dispatched an engineer to see what was happening and when he arrived there at 6.30am and called me, there were actually 5 fire engines and 27 fire fighters outside trying to tame the blaze on the 4th floor. Obviously, massive amounts of smoke billowing out of the building.

The fire chief actually said they had one near miss with one of their fire fighters, having got into trouble inside and everyone was absolutely covered in black soot. It was probably the worst scenario for any company to see.

I arrived around 7.30am and the priority was obviously to do a recce of whether anyone was hurt or likely to have been in the building. Thankfully that wasn't the case. I then contacted our execs in Amsterdam - actually, at first they thought I was taking the mick and didn't believe me! A couple of responses came through the group text, "Nice try, Damien!". So I just sent a picture of all the fire fighters, which was much more effective!


Sohonet 5

What was the plan of action after that?

We enacted our disaster recovery immediately. The first step, which is the most-practised in case of not being able to use the building, was to notify staff about where to work - we had engineers go to Pinewood Studios and we can run the network from an office we have there. The second most important step after ascertaining the safety of our staff is to make sure we can maintain service to our clients, so that hopefully no one notices the problem. Especially first thing on a Monday, which is a busy time! Other staff were told to work from home and we drafted others into a cafe in Soho where we took up some tables and worked remotely, to monitor operations.




Scottish government approves £250m studio

After two years of waiting, Scotland will at last have a new dedicated film and television studio. Planning permission has been given for Pentland Studios to be built just outside Edinburgh.

Originally, plans for the facility were submitted in 2015 but were dismissed by Midlothian council on environmental concerns. Instigators of the project, PSL Land, then addressed Scottish ministers, who ruled that the economic advantages to the region were more significant.

Pentland Studio Scotland

Eileen Byrne, Chair of Screen Facilities Scotland (SFS), a UK Screen affiliate, said; "SFS welcomes the positive news of a step forward in growth of studio facilities in Scotland. We are excited for the new opportunities the studio will attract to our wide range of facilities companies. We also welcome the new facilities and services we expect the studio to attract and the benefits this will have for the TV & Film Industry.”



How MPC created a futuristic world
for Ghost in the Shell 

Working with director Rupert Sanders and Production VFX Supervisors Guillaume Rocheron and John Dykstra, MPC’s team lead by VFX Supervisor’s Arundi Asregadoo and Axel Bonami completed more than 1000 shots for Ghost in the Shell.

The complex work required a close collaboration between the filmmakers and MPC’s team’s in London, Montreal and Bangalore, who developed new shooting techniques and software tools to create the live action adaptation of the original Manga.


MPC - Ghost in the Shell

Cyber-enhancement is an integral part of the world of Ghost In the Shell, and the development of the hybrid CG and live action character Kuze (Michael Pitt) was an exciting challenge for MPC’s team. The character design required a seamless mix of the actor’s face with digital parts as well as an entirely digital body. The character had to be constructed in the most organic way possible so there was no obvious delimitation between the real and CG components forming his face and body. 


Aardman and British Council launch
'Learning Time With Timmy'
online series


Aardman have announced that they are in production on ‘Learning Time with Timmy’ - a new educational online series for early years English language learners. 

The series, which is set to launch on a dedicated YouTube channel, has been developed in collaboration with the British Council, and is the latest addition to the innovative Learning Time with Shaun & Timmy portfolio which marries the studio’s much loved characters with the British Council’s teaching expertise to deliver English language learning for 2-6 year olds around the world. 

Aardman will launch the YouTube channel this summer with content rolling out on a weekly basis. The 26 ‘Learning Time with Timmy’ episodes follow the curriculum developed by the British Council and feature alongside fun and engaging bonus content.


Outpost complete VFX for the
Netflix superhe
ro film 'iBoy'


Bournemouth based VFX studio, Outpost are the sole provider of VFX for the Wigwam Films/Netflix project, iBoy, directed by Adam Randall and based on the Kevin Brooks novel.

Outpost - iBoy 2

Outpost provided all 150 shots, the vast amount of which were coined ‘iVision’ - which is how the protagonist connects with and manipulates technology. These shots consisted of motion graphic elements that were composited in nuke.  The work also involved numerous digital matte paintings in and around London, green screen window replacements, SFX enhancement and basic cleanup/wire removal/crew removal.      

Outpost VFX Supervisor, David Sadler-Coppard, was running this project and on set throughout, working closely with director, Adam Randall. 



Aardman launch entertaining new
short film 'Visualise This'

Aardman have today released a fun and visually eclectic short film that takes a light hearted look at those conference call meetings with clients. You know the ones that seem to go around in circles and you come away being even less clear on the brief than when you began?

Aardman - Visualise This

Aardman director and designer Danny Capozzi tapped into that frustration and made it the narrative for his latest short film ‘Visualise This’.

The studio is focused on developing their diverse stable of directors with opportunities to create short films for different kinds of audiences, with a key objective of pushing the boundaries with innovative storytelling and developing new visual styles, working with their incredible team of artists from all over the world.



BlueBolt completes VFX shots for Tom Hardy's 'Taboo'

BlueBolt completed over 550 shots for FX/Scott Free on the Tom Hardy lead show 'Taboo' produced by Scott Free London and Hardy Son & Baker for BBC One and FX.

BlueBolt - Taboo

The visceral look of the series mirrors the dark and brooding tale of James. The team at BlueBolt created CG period London which features right through all 8 episodes, enhancing and extending what was built by the Production Design team. Docks and harbours were filled with period cargo ships, and views along the Thames were replaced with digital matte paintings and historically accurate CG buildings and towers, all providing a powerful backdrop for the gritty drama.


Salon Pro Sales & TC Soho
announce new partnership

Salon-TC Soho logo

Leading content delivery specialists TC Soho are excited to announce a new partnership with storage solution experts Salon Pro Sales.

The move will see Salon, who have been part of the film & tv industry for over 40 years, open a new sales desk at TC Soho’s Poland Street offices giving customers access to a wide range of storage solutions from the industries top manufacturers including G-Technology, Lacie & iStorage amongst others for walk-in purchase and online click and collect via

Salon Pro Sales @ TC Soho officially opens on
April 10th at 1a Poland Street.



Animation Sector Review Published
The first comprehensive review of the Animation Sector in Scotland has been published.

Is your child watching fake Peppa Pig cartoons?
The disturbing YouTube videos that are tricking children.

Karen Bradley's C4 speech: in full
Culture secretary’s keynote at the nations & regions conference

BBC to assess tender process
Northern Ireland boss to evaluate

UK facilities air Brexit concerns
Staff losses and funding among topics occupying post firms.

Amazon open to smaller indie pitches in UK
SVoD service is keen for smaller UK TV indies to pitch ideas.

Academy to continue working with PwC after Oscars gaffe
New protocols include ban on electronic devices backstage on Oscar night.

Barclays reveals £100m UK TV fund
Cashflow fund to compensate for staggered SVoD deals; Roughcut Television among clients.

Netherlands Film Fund backs 21 projects in latest funding round
Beneficiaries include team behind children’s fantasy film Admiral.

BBC urged to stand firm against accusations of Brexit bias
Letter signed by more than 80 senior politicians urges ‘resist attempts at political interference’.

A chance to catch up on feature stories about UK Screen Alliance members from past editions of Spotlight.

Union VFX: Soho to San Francisco

Lola Post: Sweet Sixteen in Soho

Outpost VFX: a South Coast Success Story

Satusfaction: the Power Behind the Name

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