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    The Making of Portrait & Landscape Artist Of The Year

    Ready, Set, Paint

    Storyvault Films, the production company behind “the AOTYs” (Portrait Artist Of The Year & Landscape Artist Of The Year), have worked with SPS since the series began. Collaborating to deliver the series again during the pandemic has hinged on the strength of trust and relationships between the producers and the crew, both from Studios and Post Production. To celebrate the successful conclusion and highest viewing figures of both series, we sat down with some of the SPS Studios and Post talent behind Series 7 of Portrait Artist of the Year and Series 6 of Landscape Artist of the Year to discuss the two series made in lockdown.

    Studios Talent: Camera Team Leader

    Tom Bryan, Camera Team Leader in SPS Studios, explained that “we supplied some operators to shoot on the F55s on the programme and some camera systems. We also provide a jib, the jib operator, and the system. I was the assistant on the jib.”

    Talking about COVID safety on set, Tom said “It was just cleanliness, hand sanitizing, wiping down equipment, we just had a really good system in place. There was one-way systems, there was gel everywhere, there were wipes everywhere. And we were out of our houses, shooting a TV programme, and we thought let’s not mess this up. Let’s make sure we don’t get unwell or make someone unwell and shut the programme down and we can carry on doing what we love doing. And we did, which was great.”

    Reflecting on both series, Tom commented, “Overall it was just a really beautifully put together piece of television, which I really enjoyed. And I can’t always say that about stuff that I’ve worked on, because you tend to look for faults and things that you maybe could have done better. When you watch a programme, you’re not thinking. You only think about the bad lighting, you know, when it’s a terrible drama, you’d never think about the lighting when you’re enjoying watching it. So that’s what I would say about what I’ve seen so far.”

    Studios Talent: Sound Supervisor

    Joanna Barcik, Sound Supervisor in SPS Studios’, shared that she “was responsible for recording all audio on both PAOTY and LAOTY. I was in a Team with a camera operator, producer, assistant producer and we’d record everything that was going on on-set.”

    When asked about the biggest challenge on the latest series’, Joanna told us, “Last year, obviously the biggest challenge was the COVID restrictions. I think getting through production with no COVID outbreak, I think that’s quite a big challenge. Especially, I think at the time that we’re filming, there was still a lot of unknown. We did also have a few interesting weather challenges, we had to work through torrential rain, and a 37-degree heatwave. I think that was not only a challenge for us as humans to get through that kind of weather condition, but also for the equipment, the cameras, and cell equipment.  But we got through it, and I think we’re probably just more prepared for the future.”

    Post Production Talent: Offline Editor

    Will Teversham, L3 Editor in SPS Post Production, highlighted that “in the past year, I was an offline editor on Series 6 of LAOTY, which is a six week edit, where we get all the rushes come in from the shoot and get six weeks to cut an episode. I got two of the episodes and we basically create the actual programme; we tell the story. We get all the footage in on Day 1 and we had to go through it all religiously and chronologically to make sure we don’t miss any good shots. And then from that, we tell the story of each artist throughout the day, building up to the shortlist, and then the announcement of the winner.”

    Discussing the challenges of editing during the pandemic, Will found a silver lining in the reduction in how much content he had to choose from in the edit. “I always enjoy seeing the members of the public, sort of gossiping behind their hands as they watch the artists, but we didn’t have any of that this year. So, if you haven’t got those shots of the public, then you use more of the art or use more of the artists, which isn’t a bad thing because one of the challenges is always to show as much art as possible. People are there milling around, you want to use them because they add colour to it and personality but if they’re not there, it just meant you can see more of the art or the artists. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

    Post Production Talent: Colourist

    Ben Whitney, L3 Editor in SPS Post Production, outlined that he “was a colourist this year, which is essentially matching the cameras, and of course, the light changes throughout the day. So, at one point, the canvas will be brightly lit. The next point, a couple of hours later, might be silhouetted or dully lit. So, there is quite a lot of matching to do, occasionally you have to change the colour temperature a little bit to make it less blue if the sun goes behind the cloud.”

    When sharing his thoughts on producing the series’ in COVID times, Ben was impressed by how little the pandemic impacted upon the actual content. “It doesn’t have a stilted feel to it, it just feels like in the previous year. There was quite a lot of effort put into making it appear to be normal, and not to date it or to otherwise make it awkward by the restrictions that were in place at the time. You wouldn’t really know there were any restrictions in place, I don’t think.”

    Post Production Talent: Dubbing Mixer

    Finn Curry, L3 Dubbing Mixer in SPS Post Production, told us that “my team and I worked on the audio post production. We were involved in ingesting, editing, and mixing the audio soundtrack to the programme. That involves getting the material from on-site and syncing that up, editing dialogue (often cut up quite a lot), tidying up the voiceover, laying in atmospheres/sound effects, and editing/tidying the music. Then, we do some noise reduction and some mixing and prepping it for Dolby Atmos as well.”

    Explaining some of the challenges to the workflow, Finn said, “A lot of people haven’t been on site at all during the pandemic. But for the very final mix, it’s always good to be on site in the big room with the amazing speakers and the soundproofing. But the challenge was getting the material home initially and being able to edit and track lay and work at home, and then transfer it back onto site. So, a lot of work was done behind the scenes to make it happen.”

    Commenting on the success of both series, Finn shared, “I’ve been working on the show now for seven or eight years and when it started, it was very small, and I always liked it a lot. So, it’s very nice to see that so many people are enjoying it. and it’s just nice to see the show do very well, and that it could grow and breathe and become a success in its own time.”

    How It Was Possible

    While lockdown provided a unique set of challenges to producing PAOTY & LAOTY, various teams across SPS stepped up and delivered a unique set of victories, some of them unexpected, and some of them purely down to the passion for the flagship Sky Arts shows.

    And this fondness for the series’ is recognised by Storyvault Films, as Stuart Prebble, Executive Producer, said, “We’re seven and eight years into making these series and we tend to get a lot of the same people back. And we take pride at Storyvault Films that there’s a Storyvault family, and members of the SPS team have become part of the family. So that when everybody gets together again, it does feel like a reunion. It’s a fantastic operation.”