Coffee & TV is a leading Soho, London-based creative and finishing studio that has moved effortlessly from high-end commercial grading, VFX and titles design to long-form TV post while retaining a boutique sensibility. Its latest work is on the climactic season of the international hit drama Peaky Blinders, with VFX done while artists worked remotely using Sohonet’s ClearView Flex for critical review sessions. Co Founder and Technical Director Jon Trussler discusses how Coffee & TV used ClearView to finished Peaky Blinders VFX
When did you start using Sohonet’s ClearView Flex?
The minute the pandemic hit we understood that we would have to change course. We knew there were some things you could do at home and how some bits of kit might work in that environment. No one really wanted to go that route unless they had to. Well, the pandemic was that pivot. Now we had two weeks to get everyone remote and ClearView Flex was a big part of that.
Had you tried other solutions?
I remember at the time [Spring 2020] I was finishing a commercial on Flame and I’d move the title a shade to the left and sent the client a QuickTime. They’d report back asking for a tweak to the right. Which I’d do, and then send another QuickTime. This was like moving through treacle. Telegrams would be quicker.
We also screen shared using things like Zoom but the picture quality is woeful, and playback isn’t there. It’s just not premium which is what you get with ClearView. Especially if you’re grading. There’s no way you can use Zoom for a director to judge their work. It’s got to be 10-bit true colour, which ClearView is.
How have you deployed ClearView Flex?
We’ve got one box in the studio into which we can connect any of our machines over SDI or NDI and a further three further boxes that live with our colourists at home. They can grade remotely but equally send that feed directly to directors. We use a mix of Resolve, Baselight, and Flame workstations plus Maya and Houdini among other software for CGI and motion graphics.
What has it enabled you to do?
It’s just the best solution we’ve found in terms of colour depth and fidelity. It’s also so easy for the client – that’s a big thing. They don’t have to download anything. We just give them a link and it’s all very secure. Clients love it because they get instant live feedback on all inputs. The main benefit has been in facilitating remote workflows. We’ve got directors who are so busy they can’t get into town, or somebody somewhere has Covid and needs to isolate, so it’s just been brilliantly helpful for us. We use it all the time on every project.
What work have you done recently?
Our biggest longform project to date is the 180 VFX shots we completed for the BBC drama Peaky Blinders. This included 2D, 3D, buildings and digital matte painting work.
We also designed the titles for Sky’s F1 season, and we are incredibly proud and very excited that the Sky Sports Lions Tour 2021 title sequence that we designed has been nominated for a BAFTA Craft award. Coffee & TV’s Steve Waugh and Danny Boyle also co-directed the title sequence for Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story which launched on Netflix. We used ClearView Flex extensively on each one.
How will working life change going forward?
A lot of our artists are still remote or coming in only two days a week. Apart from team building, they love working from home. They are more efficient and can manage their own time, take the kids to school and work the hours that suits them. I don’t think anyone wants to go back to what it was before, not now that we’ve proved it all works. ClearView Flex sessions are so good, why would you ever go back?
What do clients think?
I think the days of clients attending every session are over. They’ve learned the same lessons as us. Why struggle against the traffic to look at a screen for 30 minutes when you don’t have to? It makes their day easier. For them, ClearView remote sessions are amazing. Clients have learned that they can run two jobs at once and they can be, in effect, in two places at once remotely.
If a director is in the room with the artist but some of their creative team cannot be physically present, there’s this lovely crossover of attended and unattended whereby everyone is on the same page. It’s just the sheer flexibility of the solution that works so well.
We’re using it now on a project where the director is in LA. We can have a live session with someone in the States which is not something we could ever do before. It opens up the whole globe.
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