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Rainbow Post Complete Landmark HD Post 'Century' With National Geographic's 'Human Ape'

Rainbow Post recently completed their 100th high-definition post project: 'Human Ape', a documentary for National Geographic.
The two-hour special investigates the links between human beings and our closest evolutionary neighbours, chimpanzees and benobo apes, and includes the results of a year-long set of behavioural research tests into how chimps, benobos, children and adult humans solve problems, co-operate socially and communicate.
Nick Rogers, Managing Director of Rainbow Post, is proud to look back on 100 completed productions, but believes that this will be the simple day-to-day reality of the post business within a very short time.
"We've been handling post-production of HD projects regularly for a few years," he explained, "but over the last two years, it's become a major part of our activities.
"The cost of working in HD is falling fast, and although it still costs a little more than working in SD, and the deliverables are a bit more expensive, it's starting to make sense to make programmes entirely in HD and then down-res them to SD at the deliverables stage, which is what we're doing for a number of the mainstream production companies we work with.
"That way, your programme masters are stored in the best possible quality and you're future-proofing your material," he said.
Recognising the then-fast-approaching change in their business, Rainbow Post upgraded to make themselves fully HD/SD-capable two years ago: one HD post suite contains a Quantel eQ system, the other an Avid Symphony Nitris. The latest hardware upgrade at Rainbow, which was carried out over the summer, has involved the installation of a fully HD-capable (1080i, 1080P and 720P) Sony SRW-500 HDCAM SR deck in the machine room.
Meanwhile, the audio dubbing suites on the upper floors of Rainbow Post Post’s Soho-based facilities, which feature Merging Pyramix workstations with Soundtracs DPCII digital mixing consoles, have been HD-ready (i.e. surround-sound-capable) for several years.
Rainbow video editors Steve Gilbert and Chris Edwards both confirm that most of their work is now done in HD. "80 percent of the rushes that come to us are in Hi Def digital formats", said Steve Gilbert.
"From there, our regular HD clients work in two ways. Some of them edit in full resolution on Final Cut Pro HD, and send their edits over to us — then we do the video and audio post-production, grade, create effects and captions, and carry out a QC. That route is still a little more expensive, but that’s because you have to have the latest machines and a lot of large-capacity storage to handle the high-resolution video. Alternatively, the edits are performed in the more traditional way, with compressed SD files, then reconformed with the completed video edit at the end of the offline."
'Human Ape' was completed using the latter workflow, with captions and some computer graphics created, composited and added by Rainbow Post’s Amelia Cullern as the video edit progressed. The audio was mixed in 5.1 surround just after completion of the video edit, and the whole production was completed on time, including supply in a variety of delivery formats for different markets internationally, by late November.
"If we can get involved with a client at the pre-production stage of their HD programmes, advise them on their workflow and make them aware of how HD material can be supplied to us, we can ensure the minimum amount of trouble in post-production, and save our clients a lot of time and money," explained Steve Gilbert.
"We normally take four working days to complete video work on a 50-minute HD programme, but that's how long it took us on ‘Human Ape’, which is over 90 minutes." "Preparation is everything," added Nick Rogers.
‘Human Ape’ will be screened on the National Geographic Channel early in the New Year.
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