As Sky One gets set to broadcast the first episode of their much-anticipated €22m drama series ‘Sinbad’ this Sunday (July 8), IFTN visits Egg post-production house who played a key role in the 12-part series, including the spectacular visual effects.
Egg post-production house is bustling. Behind the great big red Georgian door on Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Street excitement is in the air. You can hear it in the chatter of the staff as they busily move in and out of the labyrinth of rooms in the recently expanded city centre mansion. It’s there also in the bright first floor office of Egg co-founders and owners Gary Shortall and Gareth Young who, for the past year, have overseen the post-production of Sky’s €22m series ‘Sinbad,’ which goes to air this Sunday night and is already being talked up as the best drama series the broadcaster has produced.
“We’re excited to get this out,” says Young with a smile. “We officially finish work on the series next Tuesday when we send off the deliverables but everyone’s looking forward to it going on TV on Sunday. Some of the visual effects are just stunning. Episode one is a good, solid episode and, in all, it really is a good series. There are a lot of very good actors in it and a lot of very good up-and-coming faces in it.”
As exciting and visually engaging as you might expect, ‘Sinbad’ stars newcomer Elliot Knight in the lead role, while ‘Lost’ star Naveen Andrews plays Sinbad's nemesis Lord Akbari. Irish actress Orla Brady (A Love Divided) is also cast in the 12-part series, which was produced by Impossible Pictures Ireland (which is part of Britain’s Impossible Pictures group) for Sky and BBC Worldwide.
Shot in Malta, Sky’s decision to contract Egg to carry out almost all of the post-production on ‘Sinbad’ in Ireland has given a welcome boost to the local economy and the Irish audio-visual industry in general. For Young and Shortall it’s also helped in allowing them to expand their business; up-skill some of their staff and generate more than 15 new jobs. They won’t discuss the exact investment ‘Sinbad’ has brought in, but they will say that Sky’s spend on the post-production has been “well into the millions”.
“It’s a €22m project overall,” says Young. “It’s very good for the Irish economy. I think, because Sinbad only posted in Ireland and didn’t shoot here, people aren’t aware of how much work its actually generated here; how many jobs it created; how many people were trained, and how much money has come into the Irish economy. I mean it is millions and it’s not just Egg. It’s a whole support staff up in Impossible Pictures Irish office on Mount Street. There’s quite a large spend here overall and if there’s a series two, that will increase rather than decrease. So it’s just been a great thing to see coming in.”
Egg's offices in Dublin
Winning the ‘Sinbad’ contract has been – the duo agree - a watershed moment in the relatively short lifespan of the company which, since 2004, has established itself as one of the country’s leading post-production houses in Irish features, TV drama and documentaries. Although they’ve handled huge scale local projects – notably RTÉ’s long-running drama series ‘The Clinic’ – ‘Sinbad’ marked the company’s single biggest international project with the project seeing them set out a cutting room in Malta during the shoot and setting up a high-speed transfer connection between there and their Dublin HQ. Since then the company’s move to taking on international projects has continued at pace with the producers of the BBC’s €8m ‘Ripper Street’ series entrusting them with the lion’s share of post-production work on the much-anticipated series.
“With the downturn, the domestic market has kind of slumped quite a lot,” says Shortall of the decision to look to the UK for new business. “We had been doing a lot of features but not a huge amount of Irish TV drama, which we used to do an awful lot of. That’s why we talked to Impossible in the first place because we kind of decided that we’d try and expand outside of Ireland a little bit and try and attract some people in through the Section 481 tax break. The expansion of the business ran side-by-side with that. It was something we had decided to do but without a big contract like ‘Sinbad’ it would have been more difficult. It’s a high risk thing if you don’t have a contract to help you through, so they came hand in hand. It was good timing really.”
Upgrading last year to a “one-stop shop” complete with a new sound studio and visual effects department, the expansion has made Egg appealing to international producers. Shortall mentions the convenience for producers who can “go between online, grade, sound, etc, by just walking around the corridor.” Young adds: “We schedule it nicely for them so that when they come in there’s a sign-off on the online; a sign-off on the sound mix, etc. The producer can go from one room to the next finishing several different episodes.”
The duo are, however, keen to emphasise that working with domestic producers on locally made features, dramas and documentaries remains very much their key focus. “Because we’re expanded we can cater for both,” says Young. “I think that we’re still as strong in the domestic market as ever. At the moment we’re doing a TG4 drama; three documentary series, all for the domestic market; we’re doing a drama series for TV3, so we’re looking after the domestic market probably more so now than we have in years. The UK side of it is just an additional thing that we can cater for because of the expansion.”
Shortall chips in: “We are building the Egg brand bigger. We are concentrating a lot on the UK and it’s paying off but the Irish market is really important to us. At the moment we’re full to capacity. Every cutting room in the building is being used. I think three of our 11 cutting rooms are focussed on ‘Ripper Street’ and the rest are focussed on Irish documentaries and dramas, which is the key thing for us. Years ago, when we first set up, we were doing the same level of work but the drama we were doing was Irish drama because there was a much higher turnover of stuff back then. It’s due to the fall out of that that we’ve had to look elsewhere as well, but we’re reaping the benefits now.”
One of those benefits, Young says, is their link up with UK post house The Mill who collaborated with Egg on the visual effects in ‘Sinbad’ and have a long-standing relationship with Impossible Pictures. The UK house handled the majority of the show’s VFX while helping Egg set up their very own visual effects department in Dublin. “Our background in visual effects was very small,” admits Shortall. “We’ve done some of them before but nothing on the scale of ‘Sinbad’ so I think that that collaboration (with The Mill) was key, allowing us to set up the visual effects department that we have now. We kind of borrowed their expertise in setting it up. Now that that is finished, we have this fantastic visual effects department set up ready to take on anything.”
With ‘Ripper Street’ booked in to post at Egg until November and a slew of domestic projects also availing of the post house’s talented team, the future continues to look bright for Egg, who recently invested in 15 Avid Isis systems. “It’s very exciting times alright,” says Young, “and the great part is getting to work on such great, exciting shows. Long may it continue.”
Episode one of Impossible Pictures Ireland’s 12-part series ‘Sinbad’ will be broadcast on Sky One HD this Sunday (July 8) at 7pm. The Irish team at Egg who worked on post-production on the project includes Eimear Jenkinson as facilities coordinator; Sebastian Guest as colourist; Dominic Lord as online editor; Malcolm Moloney as VFX editor; Edel McDonnell as first assistant editor; Gareth Nolan, Kevin O’Brien and Veronica Kaminska as assistant editors, and Cormac Dunne was the technical supervisor.
The VFX team included Joseph Courtis, Grainne Freeman, Liam Neville, Sandra Chocholska and Patrick Hall. The sound editors were Fionan Higgins and Simon Fitzpatrick, while Chips Paul and Ben Baird were the dubbing mixers. Irish cast on the show included Orla Brady (A Love Divided).