Dunlop’s ‘open’ road: this Soho-based broadcast design studio rides high with projects for ITV, Discovery and Sky Italia – English Beat
LONDON — For a broadcast design company to grow from three founders in 1999 to some 60 employees today is a remarkable achievement, especially with the world economy the way it is. Although size isn’t everything, it shows that something is being produced that broadcasters want. Today, all UK viewers see the results of Bruce Dunlop and Associates’ (www.brucedunlop.com) work as the studio’s branding designs, IDs and promotions make up the on-air look of several channels. So, what is the secret of their success?
Founder Bruce Dunlop started this Soho-based business with an established track record in broadcast design and promotions from the Nine Network in Sydney and BskyB in London. Martin Poole, director of sales and marketing, joined the company in 2000 and is a veteran of the broadcast design business from his years at Novocom Ltd. in London, as well as the BBC. He explains, “The company understands what’s involved in getting on air, so the packaging we design makes the promo editor’s job easier. The key is practicality and not just art for the sake of it. If it doesn’t work fast, there’s a chance they’ll not use it and try other things, and that can signal the end of a station’s uniform branding.”
Although essentially a broadcast design service, Bruce Dunlop and Associates has enough gear to rival many out-and-out post houses. There are four online Avids and one for offline, two Digidesign Pro Tools audio suites and the “workhorse” Quantel V8 Editbox. The 3D department runs Alias/Wave-front Maya and the rapidly expanding design department has Digital Voodoo and G4 Macs operating Adobe’s After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator, NewTek LightWave and Macromedia Flash.
Unsurprisingly, a large part of the ongoing business is with promotions. This involves working from program material–usually delivered on Digi Beta tapes. For this there are five Digi Beta logging stations where promo producers can select shots prior to digitizing into their Avid suites. This pre-selection process greatly reduces the time required for digitizing and makes the whole operation more efficient.
Dunlop’s recent re-branding of the UK’s leading independent national channel, ITVI, delivered many elements, including the new channel logo, all for easy composition into commercial and program breaks. Part of the strategy is for using on-air time efficiently. For example, there is a defined style for sharing end credit screen space by squeezing the credits halfway left to make room for text information accompanied by a voiceover on upcoming highlights. This is all designed to help keep the viewers tuned in. The simple mechanics of a straight vertical edge, rather than a more “arty” curve, between credits and promo, has proved much easier to implement. Indeed, the promo design is for automated composition — typically with a character generator, DVE and switcher, rather than time-consuming sessions in an edit suite.
The ITVI package also included design for major items including network IDs for Drama Premieres, soccer (mainly UEFA Champion’s League) and a Formula I motor racing ID. Proof positive that the package has been well received came with the award of the contract for re-branding of ITV2 — to hit UK screens later this year.
Another customer is The Hallmark Channel, for whom Bruce Dunlop and Associates has already created channel-branding packages for their UK channel as well as promo formats for use across Europe. These promotions require the production of finished stops in as many as 10 languages — including Portuguese, Spanish, Hungarian and Hebrew. Poole explains, “As the multi-language aspect has a bearing on the original design of the promos, it’s a good idea to tackle the creation and language aspects in one place.” This is the main reason for the digital linear suite, where the appropriate language captions are added to the basic promo to create separate finished versions in all the required languages.
In a similar vein, Bruce Dunlop and Associates produced a proportion of the promo output for Discovery Networks Europe. Once again, this involves producing the results in up to 10 languages.
The combination of a comprehensive equipment line-up and personnel skills specializing in all aspects of production means that the company can offer a soup-to-nuts service. However, the organization is not compartmentalized. “Everyone self-operates,” claims Poole. “Promo producers have to pitch for the jobs, script, offline, online and present to the client. This gives us great continuity and producers who really know what they are talking about, and it gives them a chance to see a concept right though to completion.” Special requirements, such as 3D and design, are handled in-house, They go out of house with any need for shooting studios, filming, crews, telecine or high-end Flame effects.
The Dunlop’s slogan: “You provide the bait, we’ll catch the fish,” rings true as customers do come back for more. Although some work extends to commercials, promotions continue to act as the mainstream business that is complemented by the design contracts. Besides the current ITV2 re-branding, work is also underway on designing the on-screen identity of Sky Italia. This applies across the multichannel platform and includes movies, sports, entertainment, pay-per-view and news.
The secret of success comes back to the on-air broadcast experience. Poole explains, “Working in promotion and presentation, you meet all aspects of programming as well as getting the on-air pressure. It’s understanding the needs and everyday priorities of that sharp-end of television that makes the difference to our clients. Many people have great design, but we achieve that in a practical package.”
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