Dave Harris
Dave Harris, owner of Freq’ncy Audio.

Freq’ncy Audio is an award-winning Johannesburg-based audio post-production company aimed at the high-end radio and television commercial market. Owned by Dave Harris, the company’s success has led to expansion, with Freq’ncy recently launching Freq’ncy Music, which adds music composition to the product offering.

In order to improve industry skills, Harris is pioneering a workshop to help industry newcomers familiarise themselves with the post-production processes required to complete a TV or film commercial. While the workshop is targeted specifically at advertising agency people, it would also benefit newcomers from colleges or those simply new to the industry.

Post-production is a complex process, made more so by rapid advancements in technology and techniques, so even long-time industry players would benefit from the course. So how does it work?

“We are a self regulated and unique industry, so we will only ever be as good as we make ourselves,” Harris says. “This is why I felt the workshop would be beneficial. The idea stems from industry veteran Peter Carr of Velocity Films. Carr is involved with a lot of students from AFDA and other colleges, and has asked a couple of times if he could bring students around to see the part audio has to play. Carr is an important player in the production phase of commercials and is highly regarded in the industry. He contributes where he can and part of this is to get students through the post-production processing, starting here at Freq‘ncy.

“We started getting a lot of students through here and, while they are taught the basics in colleges, their practical experience is somewhat lacking. They are keen and clearly enjoy the practical side. In fact it’s not just students. I had an occasion when a senior person from a large organisation brought a newcomer through; this person was also totally unaware of the processes involved in post-production.

“From there the idea developed and grew. It started with audio, and then I began to realise that it goes throughout the entire process. Because of my close association with post-production facilities – especially Blade – I thought, let’s take it one step further and look at the entire post-production process.

“I have tried to incorporate a step-by-step, layman’s explanation of each part in the process, including the introduction of HD and how it affects us. I have also looked at simple tips from the different parties involved and how to make the process smoother. For example, we have traffic people in agencies who in their eagerness sometimes cause problems in the workflow by bringing in the client at the beginning of a session. If the session starts at 09h00, and I need four hours to do it, the client has to sit in for four hours before he can hear the finished product. This is frustrating, and causes issues with the workflow.

“I wanted the workshop to be as comprehensive as possible, from start to finish. So I approached people who I have good relationships with – one being Barbara Clark from Jupiter Drawing Room. She gave me a quick breakdown of the process the agency goes through before the commercial is even shot.”

The initial process is that the idea for a commercial comes from the client. It then gets briefed to the agency and the copywriter comes into play. The art director comes up with the look and feel and then it goes to production.

“I also spoke to Daniel Kaplan from Bioscope Films,” says Harris. “He gave me a brief of the production side of shooting a commercial. All this information I will keep in summary form as it is the necessary introduction, but the workshop is mainly about the post-production. I then approached Karen Macdonald from Guillotine Post Production, and also spoke to Pudding Telecine Services, as a short while ago they shot a shot promo on 16mm film – and they agreed for us to use this footage as the demonstration piece for the workshop. This meant we could take the workshop participants through from start to finish of the post-production for a short promo or commercial. It’s all very well showing these guys a completed product, but when you actually see something from start to finish you really grasp what is involved.

“The workflow will start here at Freq’ncy Audio on a Friday morning. Depending on attendance, I have talked to my staff and some of the other parties involved about the possibility of a second group on a Saturday morning, but we will see if this is needed. I will keep it to small groups of around 10 to 15 at a time and we will target agencies and their clients. Each participant will be given a workbook detailing the processes and the various stages they will be exposed to. Fortunately all the required services are contained in our building.

“The first port of call will be to meet at Freq’ncy, then onto Guillotine Post Production where they will be shown the offline editing process. Once all the various cuts have been explained – director’s cut, agency cuts and the associated problems – they will be walked to Pudding Telecine Services where the Edit Decision List (EDL) created at Guillotine will be handed to the colourist at Pudding who will then do a grade of the offline footage. A full explanation of the processes involved will be made including BaseLight, 2K, the telecine itself, digital versus film and so on, and then they will be shown the final graded footage.

“The group will then be taken to Blade Effects (BFX) who would show them a 3D title and other 3D animations, and explain what the shortfalls are, what is required in terms of titles and so on. From there I would take them through to a Flame, where I have arranged for an online edit. The graded rushes will be used for this. They will also be given an explanation of HD and SD, answering questions such as: What do these terms mean? What does a second pass mean? How does one incorporate the 3D titles into Flame? We will also have a write up on other devices that may be used and give an explanation about how they work in the workbook, but we won’t have time to go through each option.

When the online is complete we will give the offline footage to Freq’ncy Music for my musician to compose the music. When this stage is complete do the final mix at Freq’ncy Audio. In another studio we will also show them what a 5.1 mix is and what it involves. Finally we will show them what a stripe is, and then take them to the Central Apparatus Room (CAR) and show them how the finished product gets telestreamed to the broadcast station.”

Although this may sound a lot to cover in the allocated time, Harris is confident. “We have tested this process already and the timescale works,” he says “We sacrifice time for more exposure to all the areas. It’s between six to seven processes with around 20 minutes per process. The worksheet will contain all the notes covering all the processes and areas, so the whole process will take around two hours from start to finish.”

It’s an ambitious project but covers a vital link in the chain of creating a commercial or programme. For further information please contact Lee@freqncy.co.za