The Film Bakery Gets Cooking with Blackmagic Design and Qantas

The Film Bakery recently teamed up with Qantas to release an hour long independent documentary, now airing on The History Channel, about Australia’s national airline. The purpose of creating “Qantas: From the Outback to the World” was to bring archived material together to tell a cohesive story about the major airline’s humble beginnings, while still maintaining the aspect of age.

With more than 90 years of archived film and television footage to work with, this would be no easy undertaking. But the Sydney post house successfully restored and edited archived footage, and ultimately brought an important piece of Australian history to life.

The Film Bakery is a self contained production company run by husband and wife pair Ben Allan and Clara Chong. Though producer/cinematographer Allan has been collaborating with writer/director Chong for quite some time, they had to wait for the right technology to establish their own facility. They wanted to have the freedom to distribute their time across various elements of the creative process, without the many limitations imposed by budget and deadlines when working with multiple studios. That opportunity presented itself in the form of Blackmagic Design’s high quality capture and playback technology, and The Film Bakery set up shop in 2007.

Allan came from a background in TV, and having worked for a variety of broadcasters and gaining extensive experience in shooting and editing tape before freelancing in film, he took to HD quite easily once it came along. And he couldn’t have been happier when introduced to products like the original Blackmagic Design DeckLink capture and playback cards.

Suddenly, with the ability to work in SD and HD and essentially gain full control in a desktop system, the DeckLink changed what was possible for a small production company, transforming piecework opportunities into big projects. Though he and Chong have handled a number of exciting jobs from start to finish at The Film Bakery, their most recent project with Qantas served as a powerful testament to just how much of a difference the right equipment can make.

The Qantas Archives
Allan and Chong received a hard drive of SD ProRes files containing all of the footage they would be working with. These film archives dated all the way back to the airline’s inception in 1921 with the Avro 504k propeller plane, right up to the introduction of flights on the Airbus A380 in the 21st century. Shot in various formats, the archived material had been transferred entirely from film and analog videotape by Qantas and then captured into ProRes with Blackmagic Design’s family of DeckLink HD Extreme cards, which the airline also uses in their inflight entertainment area.

With analog tape formats as diverse as Betacam, BVU, 1-Inch and 2-Inch, as well as a wide variety of film and digital formats, the ingest process alone would once have been a massive undertaking.  But The Film Bakery received all of the footage in a single digital format enabling the edit to begin immediately.

Allan recalled, “In terms of digital, the footage was pristine. This gave us an advantageous starting point, and we edited the files on the hard drive in Final Cut Pro, using our own DeckLink card for playback.” Their job was to create a story with nearly a century’s worth of footage, establishing a fluid piece of visual art, while being careful not to erase the subtleties that marked the distinct era of each piece of material.

With various tape and film formats having been captured entirely into ProRes with the DeckLink, they could work at full quality from day one. More importantly, they could cut, mix and finish, from beginning to end, in their own facility.

Across various television and film projects, Allan credits the DeckLink with minimizing time and budget limitations and ultimately giving him the freedom to offer clients an entirely self contained workflow. He explained, “The DeckLink card is incredibly powerful considering its price, and gives us everything we need on a desktop system. Not to mention, its compatibility with FCP means we haven’t had to deal with so much as a hiccup in the process.”

He continued, “Before, we would have needed to work with multiple studios to complete what we’d call a conventional project today.  Now we can keep everything in house, and enjoy a more creative process without having to worry about a small allotted budget and multiple deadlines.” With just a couple of Mac Pros loaded with Final Cut Pro and a DeckLink, Allan and Chong transformed nearly one hundred years of fragmented footage into a one hour piece of Australian history.

Allan said, “Being a self contained operation is key to us. Products like the DeckLink, which evolved from a solid card and continues to be developed into a line of incredibly impressive equipment, make operating a company like ours and producing high quality work possible. More importantly, it allows us to keep working at the level we’re used to, enjoying total creative control without ever having to compromise on quality.”

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