With a career spanning over a quarter of a century, Barrie Williams, owner of Pixelfantastic, has had a ringside seat at the evolution of post-production workflows. Pixelfantastic is a boutique facility specializing in color, conform and file-delivery for concerts, documentaries and episodic television.
Barrie has delivered literally hundreds of shows over the years using a variety of mastering formats including tape, AS-11/DPP and UHD/4K files. While best known for color-grading, Pixelfantastic’s expertise also includes audio mastering, and repairing difficult-to-fix Harding PSE errors. Recent works include 4K grading, conform and delivery for “Stevie Wonder – Live at Hyde Park”, remastering an entire series of “Guitar Center Sessions”, “Blur: Live in Hong Kong”, the Bestival festival, BST – Hyde Park series, and concert specials for artists like Kylie Minogue, Ella Eyre, Pharrell Williams and Take That. It’s likely that if it’s got anything to do with music for broadcast television in the UK, it’s probably been touched by Pixelfantastic for one reason or another.
Mr. Williams is an early adopter, and expert user, of cineXtools and insert-edit technology, having applied cineXtools on nearly all his projects since his purchase back in late 2016. He tells us, “Ben Wainwright-Pearce, a superb London-based editor who I’ve worked with for many years, said I needed to take a look at cineXtools. I’d not heard of it, but he’d never recommended anything to me before so I thought I should take a look. I’m really grateful he called me!”
The challenges of file-based workflows are not new to Barrie. “I moved to file-based workflows when everybody else did, after the tsunami in Japan wiped out all the SR tape stock,” he says. “When we lost HDCamSR delivery, we lost the most valuable function of tape: being able to insert-edit to the existing video.” In addition to the challenges of no longer being able to make fast insert-edits, Barrie comments on the fundamental difference between tape and file deliverables. “When there was an issue with a program, the broadcaster would send the tape back, and I would simply insert the change. When we sent the same tape back with an inserted fix, the broadcaster would recognize the tape and only re-QC the segment flagged on the changelog. However, with files, and before cineXtools, every change was a new export – a brand new file that I am required to QC again and re-certify that it passes a long list of technical checks. We never had that problem with SR tape. If I only changed the credits on tape, we would only need to re-QC that segment, not the entire program.”
Based on recent experience he explains why spot-checking files can be risky. “We purchased a new Mac Pro, but when it got hot it would occasionally render random lines of garbage in 4K exports. It turned out to be a VRAM error. Once the system cooled down, it wouldn’t happen for the next render, but it confirmed to me that encoding errors can happen regardless of how new and fancy your system is, that means every export requires a full visual QC,” he explains. With cineXtools, spot-checking any newly inserted material is completely adequate and results in a much faster turnaround for changes. “When I do insert a new shot or fix, I will immediately open the file in a media player and double check the newly inserted material. cineXtools has never been wrong, but it’s just an added level of confidence during the online process.”
As a musician himself, Barrie has an ear and eye for the editorial process for artists and musicians and feels that he is ultimately the custodian of his clients’ art for the duration of the production, resulting in work that is completely in tune with the artist’s goals.
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