A day in the life of Dan Boast – Senior Post-Production Engineer

Post Production
UKGravity HouseLondon

I’m based at Gravity Media’s post-production HQ in Southwood, Hampshire, although I’ve also done a stint at Gravity House – our Soho-based cutting rooms on Frith Street. The main aspect of my role is to integrate live production with post-production. Perhaps the best way to explain this would be to walk through a typical FA Cup match day. 

The main aim of the day is to integrate EVS workflows with Avid workflows, enabling the editor to create a half-time highlights package and a full-time closer. My job is to build the kit that allows the editors to do their work, maintain the setup and manage the incoming and outgoing media. It’s a pretty quick turnaround, which doesn’t leave much margin for error. 

In the run-up to a game, we would have a couple of days to prep the job at HQ, so we know what’s involved and can plan the workflow. There’s one editor, but we also have an edit machine ourselves so that we can check footage back and know exactly what’s going in. So we would build those edit suites and perform a test while we’re at base to make sure everything is working. We’d find out the versions of EVS Multicam that the outside broadcast (OB) company is going to use, so that we can match them on our IPDirectors and XT Access units, which host our databases to stream the media. It can often be Gravity Media doing the OB, but for the FA Cup the rights holder invariably uses Arena Television. 

Once testing is complete, we’d pack the kit up and drive it to site, usually a day before the editor and production team arrive. This gives us a full day to rig everything in the OB trucks, where we test it all again to make sure it’s working. Then we’ll do one final check on match-day morning to make sure everything is still running correctly, so the editors can get on with their jobs. If ever something’s not working, it’s usually because someone has changed an EVS, and we’ll have to trace back to find out who did what and why. 

Production usually arrives around midday (for a 3pm kick-off), and invariably they give us some pre-cut material that the editor wants finish off from a piece they’d been working on previously. There’s typically quite a lot of pre-cut VTs with the FA Cup, which we load into EVS to make sure everybody has all of their material where they want it. 

When kick-off starts, we stream the media via an IPDirector and XT Access into an Avid Interplay environment. This allows the editor to work from a growing file to create their half-time and full-time edits. A growing file is the live-stream coming into the Avid, which can be cut while it’s still growing, and then finished and sent back out. The advantage of being able to edit a live stream is that an editor can cut together lots of different camera shots, highlights and visual effects that would not be available otherwise. And to make the game more exciting for the viewer, the half-time and full-time highlights will often include extra bits (from other cameras) that are not seen on the regular live feed of the game. At full-time, the editor will consolidate all their media; and we de-rig the kit and drive back to HQ to unload. It’s quite an intense, fast-moving 90 minutes while the game’s being played, but a satisfying and fun job to work on – particularly if you’re a football fan! 

In general, an OB working day can be between 12 and 14 hours, once you factor in de-rigging and travel to and from site. We’re trying to do more work remotely, freeing up our travel time, which theoretically means we would be able to take on more jobs. Due to the pandemic, remote production is really accelerating and is changing our work/life balance – for the better. This suits me as I’ve recently had a baby girl, Erin, who is 5 months now and it’d be good to spend more time with the family. 

It’s not all football. We work on lots of film and drama too – mostly out of Gravity House – but the sporting projects are probably the ones I enjoy most. And that enjoyment includes what happens after we’ve got the job done, as we spend a lot of time away from home working very long hours, so we need a bit of downtime too. One of my highlights has to be the 2018 World Cup in Russia. I spent nearly two months out there with a great bunch of people from Gravity Media, as well as some big names from the world of football. I think we had two days off in the entire time, but one of those days was probably one of the best days of my life. In the morning, there was a football tournament arranged by the crew and a lot of the talent as well. We were playing against the likes of Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Martin O’Neill and Henrick Larsson. And after that, we all socialised together at a random swimming pool/bar area in the middle of nowhere until the early hours. Don’t tell my wife, but that might even top my wedding! 

To find out how Gravity Media can help you with your next production, email enquiries@gravitymedia.com