Are you ready for an insider's look at the future of broadcast media, production, and technology? Well, look no further, because BearJam’s got the inside scoop on all the exciting developments we discovered at the Media Production and Technology Show, the UK's largest event for industry professionals.
The BearJam team headed down to this year's event and dipped into groundbreaking technology and the latest industry trends. Here’s some knowledge we each gained this year at the Media Production and Technology Show!
James Hilditch - Founder and Creative Director
As much as I enjoyed the interview with the CIO of Metaphysic about the AI software they built to de-age Tom Hanks for his latest Hollywood blockbuster, it felt a little out of reach for the video content projects we work on. They’re in A League of Their Own!
But, having looked into it recently, it was a talk on Virtual Production that caught my attention in a big way, especially as it isn't The Money Pit you might think. During the talk, they played a video for Le Coq and McLaren shot using real-time VFX which gives natural lighting and reflections on the cyclist, creating an amazingly realistic effect. That certainly made a Splash! They talked about the flexibility and efficiency of shooting in “the volume” but it was the creative opportunity that really got me Cast Away and excited to try and work with the technology soon.
Tristan Harrison - Head of Production
There was a talk titled ‘How AI is Shaping Storytelling on Screen’ which captured my attention when reviewing the programme. This was by Chris Smith, VFX/AI Producer at Metaphysic. Whilst the talk was predominantly around the work Chris had been doing with de-ageing, it also touched on some interesting legal and ethical questions around the use of AI - all of which are topics worth keeping an eye on as the technology develops. Such questions as; If we de-age Hollywood megastars to play their younger selves are we missing out on giving a younger actor a chance in the spotlight? And should we be copywriting our own AI likeness? Then, fast forward a few years and will we need to stick to the standard 2-hour window with sports stars, celebrities and influencers or will that be replaced by a body double and we can literally fix it in post to pop in the celebrity of choice…
Will Berman - Senior Videographer
I watched a talk discussing the colour grading process and creative choices of the third series of His Dark Materials, with cinematographer Petra Korner and senior colourist Sam Chynoweth.
Given how many different ‘worlds’ featured in the final series, there were multiple looks throughout which still had to remain true to the overall feeling of the previous series. They stressed how important the working relationship is between the DP and colourist to ensure that the DP’s vision is carried through to the final delivery, and Petra said that on any project the colourist is the first person she’ll want to have a discussion with so that they can start creating a look to use as a reference while shooting.
Hearing about how they approached one world’s look, in particular, was really interesting; Petra combined multiple filters at different strengths and did tests on set to determine a ballpark look that Sam then recreated in the colour grading suite (albeit with some slight differences!). The takes were then shot clean (without any filters over the lens), meaning that the grade could be applied to the final composite for consistency with the VFX elements - and to avoid any risk of the fairly extreme colour tints affecting the ability to track the VFX animals into the scene.
Where so many talks were dominated by AI and innovative tech, it was really refreshing to hear from a cinematographer keeping things more old school; experimenting using physical filters to see their effects in real-time which inspired and determined the final look.
Faiza Rehman - Senior Producer
AI shaping storytelling on screen is one of the hottest topics
in the film industry today. Many people believe that AI restricts creativity, particularly among scriptwriters. However, after attending a session on AI and its impact on filmmaking, I have come to realise that this is not necessarily the case. In fact, AI can broaden your horizons when it comes to creating characters for your storylines. You can make them older or younger, put on weight or take them back in time without having to worry about finding actors who fit those descriptions perfectly. This enhances the audience's experience as well by providing more realistic and relatable characters. With these new capabilities provided by AI, we are sure to see award-winning films in the future that push creative boundaries even further than before. Ultimately, AI offers filmmakers a valuable tool for enhancing their ability to tell stories creatively while broadening their scope of imagination like never before!
Also, as a lover of documentaries, I was thrilled to attend the masterclass on this captivating genre. The panel had some fascinating insights to share about how they approach their work, particularly when it comes to featuring controversial figures like Michael Jackson, Bill Cosby and Ron Jeremy! What struck me most was their emphasis on taking time and being patient with the process. Rather than rushing to capture every detail, they highlighted the importance of building trust with contributors and allowing them space to tell their stories in their own way. This can lead to unexpected twists and turns that take the documentary in an entirely new direction - as seen with Janet Jackson, whose patience paid off in producing a powerful film that went beyond her original vision. It's clear that for these filmmakers, documentaries are not just a means of telling stories; they're an art form that requires collaboration and openness between talent and creators alike.
Catie Humphreys - Creative Producer
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to spend the whole day at MPTS but did enjoy walking around for an hour or so before catching one of the last talks. There was one booth that caught my eye: Magic Video Box. I’ve recently become involved behind the camera in talking head content here at BearJam, which I’ve loved. I enjoy these conversations - getting to know the speaker, finding the story and shaping the narrative once it starts hitting the edit desk. Making someone feel comfortable speaking down the lens isn’t always the easiest, no matter what atmosphere you create and this product seems to solve so many variables there - helping to create the illusion of no crew as well as making the lens to be actual eye contact with the interviewer. Not to mention, it can double as a teleprompter! We’ll definitely look into hiring for our next project and test it out.
John Pickard - Production Executive
I was lucky enough to catch the talk on The Boy, The Mole,The Fox and The Horse. A remote case study on the first day of MPTS.
This film was first aired on the BBC over Christmas 2022 and won the BAFTA & Oscar for Best Short Animation at this year's awards ceremonies. Not bad for a set of drawings that originally started out as an Instagram post!
The film was a beautifully poignant, stunningly executed work, based on the original illustrations of Charlie Mackesy and brought to life by a talented bunch of over 120 creatives from over 50 countries. The lineage to the film going into production was indeed after a set of posts on insta, Penguin Books offered a publishing deal, then the film's producer (Cara Speller) approached Charlie directly and the rest is history!
The craziest revelation about the project was the entire process was done remotely! Unfortunately, the project was green-lit as the world was catapulted into lockdown due to Covid-19. So the producers were forced to build the team and combine workflows using external cloud storage Lucid link. LucidLink is a new way for creative teams to work on projects in real-time without downloading and syncing media locally. It has an insane amount of workflow capabilities with entire teams uploading 5-6k files in real time! They even had to build their own render farm from scratch! It sounds like this one job has changed the landscape of how animation projects could be produced in the future.
Stephanie Shaw - Creative
This was my first time at an event like this, and being neurodivergent, walking into a space full of people, tech and bright lights was an overwhelming experience, but as if by fate, the first talk I stumbled across was on Accessibility and Inclusion in Production. It was hosted by Inclusivity Films’ Sarah Leigh and straight away I felt more at ease. Sarah, along with 3 other panellists - Bryony Moss, Diane Janssen, and Deborah Williams - broke down the importance of understanding what inclusivity and accessibility mean at work. They spoke from individual experience and also had beneficial tips for production companies and agencies alike on how to build a more inclusive workforce such as:
- Remember inclusion isn't just about gender or race
- Access looks different for everyone, so don't forget to ask!
- Don't be afraid to speak up for what you need
- Make your equipment disability friendly
- Train, Train, Train! The better you understand disabilities the better you'll be able to accommodate others.
I learnt that in the TV industry, only 4.5% of people that work behind the camera are disabled, whilst 17% of the UK workforce are actually disabled; and considering how creative my neurodiversity makes me, I was shocked! Regardless, it was heartwarming to see these conversations being had at such large events, gestures like these help people feel seen and heard and accepted within production.
Alexa Kerr - Lead Creative (Design & Motion)
We attended a talk by MPC about the VFX behind Apple’s Prehistoric Planet. We heard about their mammoth (no pun intended) efforts to create a show that looked and felt like a nature documentary but was wholly CG. They had put a lot of thought into faking camera angles to make it appear as natural as possible so the audience felt immersed in the environment. From creating time-lapses, night vision shots, and GoPros on a cliff… the whole series had to match the realism and documentary feel of other nature shows. They worked alongside palaeontologists to create scientifically accurate animals that were as believable as possible. The only shot they couldn’t create in CG was the best shot - dinosaur poo - they tried many attempts to create it and ended up shooting mud dropping into water. Very realistic!
Rabia Ghaffar - Junior Video Editor
I got to see an interesting talk about the skill shortage in post-production. They covered the lack of promotion and the issue with the runner position.
The lack of promotion of what post-production is and all the possible jobs there are is a big issue as post-production is a huge sector with many subsections and with many possible work opportunities that aren’t mentioned. This is something that needs to change if we want more creatives, we need to show them what this sector of the industry is.
They also discussed the problems with the runner position in the industry as it is cutting off possible creatives. The problem with the position is that there are people who are comfortable with taking drink orders and interacting with everyone but that is not the case for everyone. There are people that this is difficult for and they are not interested in doing that but they could be amazing creatives that are either blocked from the chance of showing it or turned away. Because of this issue, there are schemes and programmes that are being made that are entry-level that help individuals progress into their chosen fields!
Louis Cochran - Lead Editor
While the MPTS had lots of interesting presentations and discussions regarding different aspects of post-production such as the current state of the nation, the future of post and, of course, the topic on everyone’s lips (is AI going to help the creative industry or is it going to make us obsolete/destroy us all? - I very much hope for the former!) - it was a panel discussion about the importance of racial and LGBTQ+ diversity in the industry that was the most impactful for me.
One of the main takeaways from the panel was that it’s so important to try to live authentically as yourself in all walks of life. You spend such an enormous amount of your life at work so having policies and protections in place for your employees against discrimination, regardless of whether you perceive there to be no threat to anyone, can make a world of difference to an employee and make them feel comfortable to be themselves at work without fear of reproach.
Another element that particularly resonated with me was something Riyadh Khalaf, broadcaster and author, talked about how the not-specifically-gay-focused projects he’s worked on became more LGBTQ+ minded due to the fact that he worked on them and saw them through an LGBTQ+ lens. I’ve seen this before throughout my working career as a gay man when I’ve checked over projects from a sensitivity perspective and pulled up unintentionally questionable aspects and reworked them to be more inclusive and ultimately change for the better. …Though it’s more fun for me to state that every project I’ve ever worked on counts as a gay project simply because I’ve worked on it!
Daniel Williams - Motion Designer
One of the main talks that stood out to me was ‘How To Create Award-Winning Stop Motion’, hosted by some of the team behind Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Pinocchio’, Wes Anderson’s ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’, Aardman’s ‘Chicken Run 2’ etc. I always find it fascinating listening to experts talk about that craft - especially when it’s so close to what I do, yet so far removed.
The talk covered a range of topics but two that were most interesting to me were style and planning.
The animator Tim Allen spoke about how he would create two different styles of motion when working for Wes Anderson and Guillermo Del Toro. He created an example, using a drink can, to show that Anderson would try to make the movement smooth and simple. His hand would go from A (by his side) to B (the can) in the simplest motion possible. On the other hand, Del Toro’s style would be to create imperfections in the same action. The hand would almost miss the can, take a second to lift it, and maybe spill some of the contents.
Both styles work for their respective films but it’s interesting how such a small change, across a 90-minute or so film, creates an entirely different overall vision.
Personally, I prefer highlighting imperfections but I see the merit in both!
Outside of directly talking animation Lisa Hill spoke as a producer. She, and the team, discussed the relationship between producing and animating and the trust and knowledge needed for things to go smoothly (or as smoothly as possible). To paraphrase Tim Allen: “A producer with stop-motion experience knows which corners can be cut. Sometimes cutting corners without experience ends up in extra time and money being spent.” For me this highlights how everyone needs to have a baseline knowledge of every role around them, not just their own, to make a project work. The more knowledge the easier it is to communicate, plan and problem-solve.
It reminds me of the relationship between writers, designers, animators, editors etc and the chain through which a project gets passed along. Talking specifically as a Motion Designer this would be: creating scripts that suit and allow for exciting animations, illustrations that are set up for motion, animation that works alongside and fits the pace of edits, and everything coming together as the finished product.