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United masterminds entire post-production of drama series Zomer in Zeeland

Zomer in Zeeland (Summer in Zeeland) is a new drama series produced by IDTV that will soon be broadcast on the channel SBS6. The entire post-production process was conducted by UHD specialist United. The series was shot in UHD, resulting in an immense amount of data. To handle it, an innovative workflow was required.

United took care of the entire post-production process for this new tragicomedy series starring Daniël Boissevain and Jennifer Hoffmann, including audio, visual material and colour grading.

According to Bob Soetekouw, the editor who worked on the first series of this IDTV production, this situation is quite unique. 'Most drama series are produced by small editing houses, not a huge facilities service like United. Sometimes they're even done by single self-employed professionals. However, they often don't have the necessary technical knowledge required to manage sizeable UHD productions effectively,' explains Soetekouw. 'And you can understand why: what do you do with all of those terabytes of data?'

Read more Backstage

United masterminds entire post-production of drama series Zomer in Zeeland

'Think about it: we filmed for 72 days to create a total of 12 episodes. That's enough material to make roughly three and a half feature-length films,' continues Soetekouw. 'That's a lot, especially for a Dutch production.' In addition, the Arri Alexa – a high-end UHD camera – was used to film the series. It captures amazing quality footage but also generates massive amounts of data.'

Innovative automatic workflow

The key is processing all of this great footage in a way that does it justice. Following extensive discussion with the crew, United devised an innovative workflow. According to United consultant Thijs van de Kamp, the essence of the workflow is that the metadata (technical recording data) obtained from the cameras was used as a guide throughout the entire process. 'The series generated an astronomical amount of data. This was stored in our data centres and had to be readily available to the various parties upon request. The main challenge was to ensure these professionals could access the content without the system or the other parties involved getting in the way.'

The result was a fully automated system that provided editor Bob Soetekouw with new footage – processed into easy-to-edit HD files – almost every day via an FTP server. The audio was recorded separately and automatically synchronized with the visual material via the workflow. The editor received this as a ready-to-use package via a bin in the editing program Avid. Using the metadata from the Arri Alexa camera, the material had already been categorized into individual days of filming in order to maintain an overview of the material. 'I received continuity lists from various locations, which were compiled during the filming process. These gave me information about specific scenes, enabling easy retrieval of all the material at a later date,' says Soetekouw.

Once an edit was complete, the editor would use the server and the metadata to send the finished article to United's colour grading department. This provided an all-in-one solution: a single central point where audio, visual material, editing and colour grading automatically came together. 'We wanted to create a workable situation in which both the high-res and the low-res files could be automatically processed,' explains Thijs van de Kamp. 'This workflow enabled exactly that.'

‘The lines of communication were so short that it was like we were all in the same building’

This was especially useful when Soetekouw started work on the visual effects. 'For example, there is a scene in which fireworks are shooting towards a crowd of people. Of course, you can't do that in real life, so separate scenes were shot of fireworks being set off, which were then combined with crowd footage using After Effects.'

'It was as if we were all in the same building'

'To do this, I needed the raw UHD material,' explains the editor, who eventually completed the editing process in two months. 'I searched for the shot in question and took a file from Avid containing the metadata. I then put that file into the FTP server and received the original footage via the automated workflow. It's as easy as that. The lines of communication were so short that it was like we were all in the same building,' he laughs.

The workflow also proved extremely useful for audio post-production. 'Sometimes the recordings would contain an ugly sound or too much background noise. In such cases, I could put that extract onto the server so the sound engineer (Joost de Glopper, ed.) could listen to it and quickly let me know whether or not it was viable for use.'

All disciplines United

Bart Oudshoorn, IDTV's head of drama, was very impressed with the convenience of the workflow. 'It's incredibly useful to have the entire post-production process under one roof. Having the audio, visual and colour grading disciplines together as one is a breath of fresh air. At IDTV, we want to take post-production of drama to a new level, and this series is a good example of this.'

Zomer in Zeeland will be delivered to SBS6 in HD, although the mastering was done in UHD. 'This makes it future-proof,' says Oudshoorn, who thinks a deal with Netflix or another streaming service is not out of the question. 'At the end of the day, we want to provide drama of the very highest quality, something we have achieved with Zomer in Zeeland both artistically and technically. It fits like a glove.'

Zomer in Zeeland will be broadcast on SBS 6 from 8 January. The series tells the story of Sjors Mulder (Daniel Boissevain), who moves from Amsterdam to Zeeland after the death of his wife.

Text: Ger de Gram

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