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Dian Fossey: Secrets In The Mist

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Altered Images has supplied a complete Avid Media Composer system for lead editor, Fergal McGrath, for his work on 'Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist', which airs this December on the National Geographic Channel.

The three-part series tells the story of Fossey's life and work, her subsequent murder and finally her legacy, as she fought to save rare mountain gorillas from extinction. The project contains a large amount of rare archive footage and stills, together with interviews, new footage and reconstructions, which all help tell Dian Fossey's life story. The series also features excerpts from Fossey's many written works, voiced by Sigourney Weaver.

"We tried to approach the story-telling as a dramatic feature film rather than as a standard biography," Fergal explained, "and I think this comes across well in the final films. Secrets in the Mist was an unusual project from the start in that the production company, Tigress, is in Bristol, Zara Hayes the director lives in LA and I'm based in London. It was also the first time that I'd bought my own equipment for a project, so I really valued Altered Images' advice.

"All rushes, archive and film transfers were first ingested by Bristol-based facility, Films@59, who would send the media to me by courier on Lacie rugged drives that I would transfer to my Lacie 5 Big Thunderbolt drive. Whenever I needed anything checked or a task done by the assistants, I just emailed them a bin, which meant it was no different to being physically at the post house.

"Because of the enormous volume of the workload, it was critical that I had a reliable system from the start that could avoid workflow problems in dealing with the many legacy formats in the project, plus one that was up to spec with the overall post production workflow with Films@59. Altered Images worked closely with me to find a solution that could deal with those complexities but that was also within my budget.

"With a project of this magnitude, when there's so much archive footage, so many stills and so many formats and frame rates spread across multiple edits, there really wasn't any other choice but Avid Media Composer."

The Secrets of the Mist project had over 300 hours of rushes, just under 300 hours of film scans, 90 hours of archive and over 5,000 stills, spread across over 1,500 bins – around 40TB of storage in total.

"There has been amazing evolution of all the technologies within the Avid family," Fergal continued. "The biggest improvement in this latest Media Composer system for me is its stability, since a reliable system gives you the confidence to work remotely. Since both Altered Images and Films@59 tested the system after it was built, I was confident with how it would work, and Altered Images also provided on-site support to help with some of the more complex workflow issues."

Another useful tool in the process was the Forscene cloud-based video platform, which allowed Fergal to view rushes on the cloud as soon as they were uploaded, so there was no waiting around to see material.

"My Media Composer system is a pleasure to work on and is more than up to the task of offline editing; working at home on a dedicated hard drive means I don't have to suffer that seemingly interminable autosave period using shared storage either. Also I enjoy the added responsibility that comes with providing the edit suite and equipment for the project, which means a closer working relationship with both the production company and the facility."

Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist airs on National Geographic in early December.

This article also features in the December edition of Broadcast Film & Video.

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