SouthAfrica.info (Johannesburg)

South Africa: SA Post-Production of U.S. TV Series 'First-Rate'

Johannesburg post-production company Refinery provided "first rate post-production and delivery items" in its work on American TV series SAF3, according to supervising producer Michael Murphey.

Made by Baywatch creator Gregory J Bonann, SAF3 is currently screening in the United States after shooting wrapped in Cape Town in December last year.

The TV series stars action star Dolph Lundgren, Dancing With The Stars winner JR Martinez and The Bold and The Beautiful's Texas Battle. South African channel e.tv will screen the series later this year, says the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF).

"I'm very proud of the fact that we were the first major international TV series to post entirely in South Africa and to make our international deliveries from here as well," Murphey, the founder of Cape Town-based production company Kalahari Pictures, told the NFVF last week.

"Our international delivery items [formatting copies for broadcast on TV, DVDs or film] were first-rate and saved the production a great deal over what it would have cost us in the US or Europe."

Refinery set up a satellite post facility at Cotton Mill Studios in Epping, Cape Town to manage all post-production on SAF3, which they delivered to 23 countries around the world. The company handled the dailies (footage from the day's shoot), editorial, visual effects and sound editing at the studios, with sound studio Area 5.1 handling the sound and Refinery the deliveries from Johannesburg. This was a first for an international television series of this scale.

The post-production and visual effects company is no stranger to working on international series, having handled the dailies transfers on the Emmy-winning Generation Kill; the additional dialogue required for the Emmy-nominated No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency; the visual effects on two seasons of the Kidscreen winner Leonardo; the dailies on three seasons of the Emmy-nominated Strike Back; and the audio post-production on the award-winning animated South African/Canadian co-production Magic Cellar.

Murphey praised the Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI's) foreign film and television production scheme and post-production incentive, which now offers productions shot in South Africa an additional 2.5% rebate if they spend over R1.5-million on post-production locally and an additional 5% if they spend over R3-million. SAF3 is the largest project to benefit from the post-production incentive so far.

"The DTI post-production rebate of an extra 5% helped seal the deal to bring SAF3 to South Africa," Murphey told the NFVF. "Australia, New Zealand and the US just couldn't compete."

"The rebate was the tipping point," Refinery managing director Tracey Williams said. "It always comes down to economics, and when you add the weak rand, it just makes financial sense to keep your post-production in South Africa now."

Williams said the tight timeline also counted in Refinery's favour. "We had two weeks to ship everything in, get the equipment installed, and be ready to start. Then we had three weeks to our first transmission date. It would have been very difficult to turn the show around this quickly with an international facility."

She said setting up a temporary facility was "the way of the future; I'd do that again tomorrow."

From a time and cost-efficiency perspective, Williams said they particularly benefited from having the automated dialogue replacement facilities (for re-recording dialogue affected by sound problems) right where the cast was filming, "as well as from having Cyril Schumann as a dedicated visual effects artist on Flame" (a 3D visual effects software programme).

"Flame's not a typical TV tool, but we knew Cyril would turn around the effects really quickly on it," Williams said. "The visual effects turned out to be one of the big savings on the series."

According to the NFVF, South Africa has been hosting a steady stream of international TV series, with Black Sails and Dominion currently filming in Cape Town.

Williams said this presented an opportunity for the South African post-production industry. "On SAF3, we had 14 people employed full-time for six months," she said. "Features come and go, but a successful TV series like Black Sails will keep coming back every year. There's no reason why we shouldn't be keeping the post-production in South Africa for TV series like that, so it's a major growth opportunity for the sector."

 - SAinfo reporter and National Film and Video Foundation

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