Will Strauss looks at the growth of MediaCityUK and dock 10


Will Strauss# TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
by Will Strauss
Issue 81 - September 2013
Whats up Dock?

In less than three years Dock 10 has grown from a mere studio operator with add-ons to a fully-fledged digital media service provider. Will Strauss tracks the changes. MediaCityUK in Salford, Greater Manchester is exactly as the name suggests: a towering metropolis pumping out TV, radio and digital content to Britain and beyond.

Situated opposite the Imperial War Museum and Old Trafford football ground, on the lip of the Manchester Ship canal, in what was once thriving (but then derelict) docklands, it is a corporate citadel that has helped to change the landscape of TV in this country. Thanks to £650m of investment from The Peel Group (and support from various public sector bodies) it is now the home of BBC North - including a number of BBC channels and departments - as well as ITVs northern operation, SIS, Salford University and various other media companies, institutions, agencies and more. Very soon, with the last cobble having been laid just a couple of weeks ago, it will also be the location of the Coronation Street set.

Part regeneration project, part cultural empowerment exercise, MediaCityUK has created jobs, educational opportunities and countless other benefits for both the creative community and the economy in the North of England. Living just a short train ride away I have watched on closely as MediaCityUK has grown. I was there in 2007 on the day that the first clump of earth was dug. I was there for the topping out ceremony when a golden spanner was used to turn the final nut and bolt of the steelwork. And I was there when the BBC opened its first building.

Because of this, throughout that period, I have also spent an inordinate amount of time being shown around the studio block that sits at the centre of MediaCityUK - to the extent that I probably deserve some sort of loyalty card. When it opened, this facility was the first new British TV studio in a generation. It was also (and as far as I can tell, still is) the largest purpose-designed HD studio in Europe.

Now, it has transformed yet again. Which is the point of this article. Before we get down to the nitty gritty, however, lets dispel a myth: that the studios operation at MediaCityUK is a BBC facility. Its not. The BBC merely hires the studios for production of its programmes and for channel continuity. Back in 2010 a joint venture between SIS and Peel Media was awarded a 10-year contract to provide BBC North with studios, post and technical services. This JV is responsible for the studios.

The arrangement works well for all concerned as the corporation is actively seeking to move away from owning and operating buildings and towards a rental model. And the JV is guaranteed several millions pounds a year in revenues.
That JV is Dock 10

Originally known as MediaCity Studios Ltd (or The Studios), the re-brand took place in 2012 to better reflect the breadth of services it offers. Or, to put it another way, so that it wasnt pigeon holed as being just a studios operation.

Incidentally, if youre interested, the name Dock 10 is a reference to the location of the studios. The original plans for the Manchester ship canal included provision for a tenth dock. As it was, only nine were ever built. So Dock 10 is continuing that legacy. Albeit in a more digital way and with less need for a bilge pump.

Operating as a standalone business with a highly commercial mandate it has grown from being merely a service provider to the BBC Sport and Childrens departments (and a studios operator for hire) to something much bigger that also incorporates entertainment shows as well as comedy and drama production.

Clients now include Channel 4 and ITV as well indies Red, Objective, Endemol and Wall to Wall while Saturday night talent search reality show The Voice is amongst its credits. From a small launch team, the headcount has now hit 100, turnover is circa £20m (and I can assure you that this is not all from the BBC contract) and investment is ongoing.

As their marketing will tell you, they are now a fully-fledged digital media services provider. This has been achieved on the back of continued investment in people and technology.
This is the story so far:

THE STUDIOS

Dock10 has seven HD TV studios (four full production studios and three for presentation) ranging in size from 12,500 sq. ft. to 1000 sq. ft and enough vision and sound galleries to go round. That last piece of information is worth noting because, at launch, there were just two galleries - although any studio could be routed to either.

The largest studio is capable of working with up to 22 camera channels and is the biggest in the country outside Fountain Studios in London. On my most recent visit, in August this year, installation was about to begin on a saturated lighting rig that will allow for fast turnaround between shows. Similar rigs are available in other studios too.

The improvement in lighting capabilities follows quickly on the heels of an investment in seven new Sony HDC-2500 camera channels and assorted XJ27s, HJ22s and HJ14s lenses from Canon. While Dock 10 is a standalone operation, being able to dovetail with the adjacent BBC and ITV buildings is still crucial. Tapeless workflows have been devised that allow acquired studio content to be passed instantly to in-house post or to either of the broadcasters.

This is done via a significant fibre optic network that underpins MediaCityUK and also includes facility for broadcast services such as file content delivery networks and base band video (also operated by Dock 10).

Who works there? Well, at last count there were more than 20 client facing staff including studio managers and bookings people plus 40 engineers, media managers and workflow architects. Thats fairly unusual for a TV studio in the age of the casual workforce and big leap from what it was at launch.

Along with good sized and highly specced vision and sound galleries, one of the key features of the studios is that they are future-proof with 3G-SDI video paths throughout. This three-gig infrastructure allows for both 1080p50 and 3D operation (although the latter would appear to be less and less relevant as time goes on).
POST-PRODUCTION

While there have been changes in the studio set-up, the biggest movement can be seen in post-production. Dock10 was originally established to deliver fast turnaround post and multi-format content ingest. Little more. It started life with 12 offline and online editing suites (based on Avid Symphony and Media Composer) plus Avid Isis, Isilon nearline and Spectra Logic archive storage, QC capabilities and a single 5.1 Pro Tools dubbing theatre. In essence it was for BBC and studio add-on work.

This set-up was well received by Dock 10s potential competitors at the time as it meant that any additional production work coming to Greater Manchester would need to use the local market for its post-production. Things have certainly moved on since then.

High-end finishing is now the order of the day and Dock 10 now has 27 edit suites, a second 5.1 dubbing theatre and even a grading suite. A Baselight TWO was picked up earlier this year and a staff grader, Jamie Parry, recruited from nearby Sumners post-production.

The Baselight TWO has always delivered the quality and speed that I need to be able to confidently say yes to my clients requests, explained Parry at the time of installation.

Backed up by 40TB of storage, the suite has a Blackboard control surface and Sony OLED BVM monitoring.

This is pretty far from being a studio add-on. It signals the move into the post-production big league. While grading was possible before using Symphony, having a Baselight puts Dock 10 in a place where it can pitch for high-end docs and dramas. And it is doing just that.

Away from its own post facilities, Dock 10 also recently won the operator contract for the post-production offering at The Landing, a digital hub configured to be the home of small companies and freelancers involved in technology innovation and content for the digital realm (everything from apps to interactivity). An initial three-year contract to run Post @ The Landing was awarded by the Salford City Council, the public organization behind the venture.

Also, making use of the connectivity across the city (or campus as people seem to like to call it), Dock 10 is also providing tapeless file delivery, via Signiant, to ITV and The Farm, the post house that runs the BBCs own in house editing set-up.
THE CLOUD

While traditional broadcast services are the core of the Dock 10 service, the company is also taking the cloud very seriously, trail blazing in many ways with a nascent innovation that still scares the bejesus out of most TV folk.

Linking up with Infostrada (formerly Parkpost), it has put together a set of secure cloud-based production and distribution services that includes remote content editing, media archiving and metadata management and a new approach to content ingest. These services are based around Infostradas CentralParq workflow and media asset management platform.

As part of this, a private cloud-based craft editing platform will also be made available over the campus-wide fibre-optic network. Unlike many offerings of its ilk, this one will use standard editing interfaces such as Media Composer, Final Cut Pro or Premiere, and incorporate asset-management ingest and logging tools from Central ParQ,

The system is initially just for production teams based at MediaCityUK but plans are afoot to integrate it with The Loop, a 50-mile fibre network around Manchester.

The cloud offerings will be managed services based on true cloud commercial principles of elasticity of demand and price: that being one of the main benefits of course.

Either way, what Dock 10, and its commercial director Ian Munford, is trying to achieve is a blueprint for the industry. A plug-and-play offering that provides, as he puts it, a different way of accessing the things that people know and love.

This approach can, potentially, completely change the way TV is produced. But, as things stand, Munford is not sure how far customers want to go or how far the technology can go. Its got huge promise. But lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater just yet.

What I think is most interesting is that these ideas are coming from Dock 10, a company that many still think just run studios for the BBC.

Innovative, service orientated and progressive is how I would describe Dock 10. That said, it is not a company that is universally loved by its competitors as it now offers services particularly in post - that it didnt a year ago, adding competition to an already tight marketplace on the back of guaranteed income from the BBC (and therefore public money).

But what I do know is that the intentions are genuine from the staff at Dock 10. They want to be the best and have recruited accordingly - including recently bringing on board former Sunset + Vine head of production technology Emma Riley as head of business development and agreeing an exclusive deal with renowned dubbing mixer Mike Stewart.

And while they wont thank me for revealing that one senior member of staff was once a holiday rep while another was the manager of a next-big-thing (but not quite) indie band, I wish them luck.

Dock 10, like MediaCityUK, has changed beyond recognition since my first visit, helping to put Salford and the North of England firmly back on the media map. For that I will be forever grateful.


Tags: iss081 | dock 10 | media service provider | cloud | setup | mediacity | manchester | uk | review | whats up dock | digital media | the voice | rennovation | Will Strauss#
Contributing Author Will Strauss#

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    BroadStream CURRENT at IBC 2014

  • BroadStream HARBOR at IBC 2014

    BroadStream HARBOR at IBC 2014

  • Panasonic show VariCam at IBC 2014

    Panasonic show VariCam at IBC 2014

  • Thomson Broadcast at IBC 2014

    Thomson Broadcast at IBC 2014

  • Dalet at IBC 2014

    Dalet at IBC 2014

  • Glensound Dante at IBC 2014

    Glensound Dante at IBC 2014

  • Tedial at IBC 2014

    Tedial at IBC 2014

  • NOA Archive Solutions at IBC 2014

    NOA Archive Solutions at IBC 2014

  • Phabrix RX series at IBC 2014

    Phabrix RX series at IBC 2014

  • RTW at IBC 2014

    RTW at IBC 2014

  • Tektronix at IBC 2014

    Tektronix at IBC 2014

  • Clear-Com LinQ at IBC 2014

    Clear-Com LinQ at IBC 2014

  • Clear-Com FreeSpeak II at IBC 2014

    Clear-Com FreeSpeak II at IBC 2014

  • Ross Video Acuity at IBC 2014

    Ross Video Acuity at IBC 2014

  • openTruck from Ross Video at IBC 2014

    openTruck from Ross Video at IBC 2014

  • WohlerGateway at IBC 2014

    WohlerGateway at IBC 2014

  • Wohler MPEG Monitoring Series at IBC 2014

    Wohler MPEG Monitoring Series at IBC 2014

  • Air Alloy Tripod System from Miller Fluid Heads at IBC 2014

    Air Alloy Tripod System from Miller Fluid Heads at IBC 2014

  • CueScript EMC prompter and control surface at IBC 2014

    CueScript EMC prompter and control surface at IBC 2014

  • Hive Lighting Wasp Plasma Par at IBC 2014

    Hive Lighting Wasp Plasma Par at IBC 2014

  • Cooke Optics technology at IBC 2014

    Cooke Optics technology at IBC 2014

  • Cooke Optics talk anamorphic at IBC 2014

    Cooke Optics talk anamorphic at IBC 2014

  • JVC GY-LS300 prototype at IBC 2014

    JVC GY-LS300 prototype at IBC 2014

  • Photon Beard Platinum Blonde at IBC 2014

    Photon Beard Platinum Blonde at IBC 2014

  • Photon Beard Photon Beam at IBC 2014

    Photon Beard Photon Beam at IBC 2014

  • MultiDyne SilverBACK at IBC 2014

    MultiDyne SilverBACK at IBC 2014

  • Dejeros products at IBC 2014

    Dejeros products at IBC 2014

  • Zylight Fresnel updates at IBC 2014

    Zylight Fresnel updates at IBC 2014

  • Pronology at IBC 2014

    Pronology at IBC 2014

  • TMD summarises their work this year at IBC 2014

    TMD summarises their work this year at IBC 2014

  • BBright at IBC 2014

    BBright at IBC 2014

  • WORK Microwave at IBC 2014

    WORK Microwave at IBC 2014

  • EBS at IBC 2014

    EBS at IBC 2014

  • Visual Unity at IBC 2014

    Visual Unity at IBC 2014

  • Hitachi at IBC 2014

    Hitachi at IBC 2014

  • Gearhouse Broadcast OBLite at IBC 2014

    Gearhouse Broadcast OBLite at IBC 2014

  • KITPLUS at IBC 2014

    KITPLUS at IBC 2014

  • AVIWEST at IBC 2014

    AVIWEST at IBC 2014

  • Viaccess-Orca at IBC 2014

    Viaccess-Orca at IBC 2014

  • Harmonic at IBC 2014

    Harmonic at IBC 2014

  • Guntermann and Drunck DP-HR range at IBC 2014

    Guntermann and Drunck DP-HR range at IBC 2014

  • Ateme at IBC 2014

    Ateme at IBC 2014

  • SIS LIVE ManPak and LoStow at IBC 2014

    SIS LIVE ManPak and LoStow at IBC 2014

  • Cobham satellite EXPLORER products at IBC 2014

    Cobham satellite EXPLORER products at IBC 2014

  • Cobham new receiver at IBC 2014

    Cobham new receiver at IBC 2014

  • Fibrenetix with StorageDNA at IBC 2014

    Fibrenetix with StorageDNA at IBC 2014

  • Cinegy at IBC 2014

    Cinegy at IBC 2014

  • Quantel LiveTouch at IBC 2014

    Quantel LiveTouch at IBC 2014

  • Quantel deal with AFP at IBC 2014

    Quantel deal with AFP at IBC 2014

  • Front Porch Digital at IBC 2014

    Front Porch Digital at IBC 2014

  • TMD Mediaflex at IBC 2014

    TMD Mediaflex at IBC 2014

  • TMD at IBC 2014

    TMD at IBC 2014

  • Pixel Power Buzz at IBC 2014

    Pixel Power Buzz at IBC 2014

  • Matrox at IBC 2014

    Matrox at IBC 2014

  • Blackmagic MultiView at IBC 2014

    Blackmagic MultiView at IBC 2014

  • Snell Kahuna Production Switcher at IBC 2014

    Snell Kahuna Production Switcher at IBC 2014

  • Telestream Wirecast and Switch at IBC 2014

    Telestream Wirecast and Switch at IBC 2014

  • Telestream Vantage support for DPP at IBC 2014

    Telestream Vantage support for DPP at IBC 2014

  • Facilis at IBC 2014

    Facilis at IBC 2014

  • Fibrenetix with Quadrus at IBC 2014

    Fibrenetix with Quadrus at IBC 2014

  • Sonnet Technologies Thunderbolt Chassis at IBC 2014

    Sonnet Technologies Thunderbolt Chassis at IBC 2014

  • Volicon Products at IBC 2014

    Volicon Products at IBC 2014

  • Volicon at IBC 2014

    Volicon at IBC 2014

  • NewTek TalkShow at IBC 2014

    NewTek TalkShow at IBC 2014

  • Blackmagic and Fusion at IBC 2014

    Blackmagic and Fusion at IBC 2014

  • Metus at IBC 2014

    Metus at IBC 2014

  • ChyronHego Lyric PRO at IBC 2014

    ChyronHego Lyric PRO at IBC 2014

  • Sonys new cameras at IBC 2014 - including the FS7

    Sonys new cameras at IBC 2014 - including the FS7

  • Tally Technologies at BVE 2014

    Tally Technologies at BVE 2014

  • Autoscript at IBC2011

    Autoscript at IBC2011

  • Verizon Digital Media Services at IBC 2017

    Verizon Digital Media Services at IBC 2017

  • SMPTE on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    SMPTE on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Telestream with Wirecast version five at IBC 2013

    Telestream with Wirecast version five at IBC 2013

  • Telestream with Post Producer at IBC 2013

    Telestream with Post Producer at IBC 2013


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Articles
NEP Student Day
KitPlus The world of broadcasting is in constant flux, with undefined boundaries between broadcast, TV, film and interactive media. With a changing consumer demographic now a key influence on the industry, many companies no longer specialise in a single medium, but have had to become adaptable to deliver multiple services through a combination of media.
Tags: iss134 | students | tvfutures | NEP | KitPlus
Contributing Author KitPlus Click to read or download PDF
GoPro HERO 7 Review
Tim Bearder When I heard I was filming a nature restoration project in the pouring rain this week I was excited. WHY? No Cameraman enjoys the rain, surely but this time I was enthusiastic because I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to try out the brand new GoPro Hero 7 Black Edition.
Tags: iss134 | gopro | hero 7 | review | liberal media | Tim Bearder
Contributing Author Tim Bearder Click to read or download PDF
Shedding Light on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4k BMCPP4K
Garth de Bruno Austin “What is it about light that has us craving it?” Is the question asked in the opening seconds of Garth de Bruno Austin’s latest short, The Colour of Light. Exploring this natural, human need as well as our innate desire to control it, Garth’s film showcases everyday people going about their lives in differing degrees of luminance, whether that be an artificial streetlight or a natural morning sunrise.
Tags: iss134 | blackmagic | cinema camera | 4k | cpp4k | Garth de Bruno Austin
Contributing Author Garth de Bruno Austin Click to read or download PDF
State of the Nation - November 2018
Dick Hobbs - new There is an interesting seminar called Size Matters at the KitPlus Show – organised by the publishers of this fine magazine – at MediaCityUK in Salford on 6 November. It’s a talk by cinematographer Alistair Chapman on the way that camera technology is changing, and in particular the size of the electronic device which creates the image is growing.
Tags: iss134 | cmos | 35mm | AJA | Arri | Blackmagic | Canon | Datavideo | GoPro | Grass Valley | Hitachi | Ikegami | JVC | Kinefinity | Nikon | Panasonic | Red | Sony | jpeg2000 | Dick Hobbs - new
Contributing Author Dick Hobbs - new Click to read or download PDF
University and Mental Health
Rhiannon Jenkins University study and mental health has been in the media quite a bit over the last year, and I’m sure there are many people wondering what is going on? The issues are complex, and I suppose the focus of employability off the back of a degree course has raised the stress stakes for a lot of young people. I’m only qualified to talk about this from my perspective, and my story began when I joined a course not knowing I had a mental health condition.
Tags: iss134 | portsmouth uni | mental health | student | tvfutures | Rhiannon Jenkins
Contributing Author Rhiannon Jenkins Click to read or download PDF