ROUNDTABLE POST PRODUCTION: NEW AGE OF CONTENT AND DEVELOPMENT
Marcus Alexander, Executive Director of Roundtable Post Production
Roundtable Post Production is an independent post production facility, based in London, which specialises in High-End Theatrical and High-End television projects. Whether it is the challenge of tracking master archive on a feature documentary, working with other vendors to deliver VFX pulls or despotting film scans so that they hold up on the big screen, their team uses their specialist experience to tell their client’s story. Roundtable’s recent credits range from feature documentaries End to End and McEnroe, to scripted series Maryland and Harm.
We caught up with the Executive Director of Roundtable, Marcus Alexander to discuss the shift in content delivered, and the future of development and the facility.
With the directional change in the industry over the last few years with theatres losing traction during the pandemic, and much more demand for at-home entertainment and the content they provide, have you noticed a change in the types of projects that Roundtable are asked to work on?
It has been an interesting shift. We originally began in 2008 as the go-to facility to finish theatrical feature-length documentaries and those tended to carry the ‘prestige’ tag due to their cinematic release. Now, the scope of what constitutes a documentary, alongside scripted content has spanned out incredibly, especially in the last 4 years. We have seen a huge influx of differing subject matters, different creative voices and aesthetics and a very obvious appetite for episodics you could binge, or features that carry weight, but on the streaming platforms both in the unscripted and scripted mediums. With more streamers there has been an increase in demand and a larger stage to reach a wider audience, however, with no less a discerning eye for quality level being on the small screen as opposed to theatrical.
How has Roundtable therefore adapted to this influx of new content from new studios?
Roundtable set the agenda early on in this trend – that no matter the subject, budget or schedule – we were to maintain the quality and bespoke handling that our original output enjoyed. The result needed to evoke pride in both client and facility. It has allowed us to tackle some truly complex and rewarding material no matter the schedule, budget or subject. The phrase we coined was ‘built by creatives, for creatives’ so the vast array of material being produced simply put, has broadened our canvas to apply our paint brush to. It allowed us to take the craftsmanship honed over years of documentary work, and apply that to both the scripted and unscripted demands we now see from studios and television streaming alike.
Where do you see the industry going next?
We are seeing some truly interesting developments in entertainment. There is a very obvious investment into event-based entertainment, alongside the continued growth of streamed content and enhanced approaches to filmmaking. So, with the resurgence of theatrical releases, the investment in new mediums for large format final presentation alongside technical approaches to content creation (i.e. LED Volume content for in-camera effects work, the use of once-gaming software like Unreal Engine) and the continued growth of at-home or ‘small screen’ entertainment, there are exciting times ahead. Roundtable has plans for retaining our core values but helping support the evolving needs of the industry through a ‘collective’ approach, essentially an investment in scalability through partnership. With evolving demands there is a need for malleability without sacrificing our technical approach to the creative ask.
With these new developments, how do you see productions getting the best out of post production ?
Rather than concatenate everything to a post production crunch – by Roundtable offering to ‘amortise’ the process through production – we help alleviate the pressures and at times cost spiral by hosting the project earlier and evolving the look with the creatives early in the process. The look and sound of the project can therefore carry from the early discussions in pre-production (camera/sound tests and development during the actual shoot process) through production via a ‘live’ finish from shoot onwards. Rather than a condensed finishing schedule, we offer the idea that you are planning your completion the minute it leaves the scripted page.
With the use of new technology in large virtual production volume shoots and gaming engines as an art department tool – dialogue and testing with a finishing house and the sharing of the material with a ‘handshake’ process during the prep and capture mean a closed loop on the colour, LUT creation and image fidelity.
So getting the production to start early is a must?
Scheduling the post house in pre-production at times can be a luxury as it’s dependent on availability of production crew, funds and equipment amongst others. So, we help discuss the best approach at Roundtable. If we are joining the project when it is already underway, or at times already shot, then having a team that adapts to the needs of the particular production is vital. From our beginnings in documentaries, this conditioned our crew in all Roundtable departments to adapt. It’s all about understanding the production needs and ensuring we know the restrictions in place and the desired end result. Our aim is always to surpass that ‘box’ and make the project feel, look and sound limitless.
You mention your staff. With the demands placed on post facilities including very evidently those in VFX, how do you plan to cater for this?
With our roots in a more specialist approach, and the company mantra that it be maintained whatever the ask, we like to think differently as to how we approach industry demand and its changes. Our crew and the workflow we developed was born out of the unique documentary pipeline the company originally setup to convey. This process we therefore use in our internal and external training and per project approaches, sharing the knowledge to team members and freelancers that join the Roundtable ‘collective’. This same approach is core to our business model and the adaptive workflow we offer through vendor alliances. Come project big or small, scripted or unscripted, we ultimately provide a sustainable and supportive working environment where the work is scaled according to each project, the creative intent is never sacrificed and the crew feel fully supported in their endeavours.
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