Digital Orchard celebrates 10 Years by creating a new environmentally and socially responsible home for film & digital production, training and talent support in a beautiful countryside setting.
Never a ‘traditional’ Soho facility, Digital Orchard finds itself at an exciting new beginning having recently purchased a 26 acre farm just outside Chalfont St Giles. The new facility is placed 10 minutes from Leavesden Studios and 15 minutes from Pinewood Studios putting it a stone’s throw away from the two major hubs of UK filmmaking, whilst still being nestled in idyllic countryside.
Not only is Digital Orchard looking to expand its services with this strategic relocation, but also push forward on a commitment to become a net zero facility by 2023.
“For me, the most important thing is about looking forward. It might have been 10 years, but Digital Orchard has only just begun its journey in the film and television industry. The entire team is focused on bringing new innovation and services to our clients that will enable them to tell stories in ways we can hardly imagine today.”Callum Just, founder Digital Orchard.
On Digital Orchard’s 10th birthday, managing director Sam Margaritis is extremely proud of what the company has achieved, most importantly the “consistently high level of customer service, our ethos of plain speaking and transparency and our ability to adapt and grow in such a competitive and changeable market, to innovate and thrive through extremely difficult times.”
Over the past 10 years, the film industry has changed significantly, and those working within it have had to be incredibly flexible and forward-thinking to adapt to the fast-moving technological landscape. Back in 2011, the digital revolution was only just beginning, with the digital imaging technician emerging as a new role on-set to cope with the new challenges created by shooting digitally. This is where Digital Orchard began, as a collective of like-minded professionals, pooling resources and forming a supportive community. 10 years on, this initial seed of an idea has taken root and grown organically, with the company responding and adapting swiftly to the ever-changing industry. As a freelancer, Joe Dibble, who has been with Digital Orchard since 2011, has been grateful for the support of a team: “DO has been instrumental in building my career as a DIT, facilitating training and advice and always offering encouragement. As a primarily lone position on set, it is also useful to have a pool of DITs within the Orchard to share tips and tricks with.”
Major projects include Murder On The Orient Express, No Time to Die, Black Mirror, A Discovery Of Witches, Kingsman (and The Kings Man), Rogue One and Mission Impossible.
The new facility aims to address and overcome various industry challenges, the first of which is to seamlessly combine film & digital whilst broadening the range of film services available here in the UK.
As the digital revolution relentlessly pushed forward over the past 10 years, there was a fear in the industry that celluloid film would become obsolete and disappear forever. However, thankfully, due to the passionate efforts of a multitude of film lovers; film still remains very much alive today, and Digital Orchard has been proud to lead on numerous hybrid workflows that improve efficiency and security by planning both formats side by side.
Digital Orchard was delighted to play a part in the renaissance of film when presented with the challenge of supporting Murder On The Orient Express, which was being shot on 65mm film. The team invested heavily in the R&D on a brand new 65mm scanner from LaserGraphics, and they also forged a pioneering partnership with Kodak to support the regeneration of film as a commodity.
“Kodak and Digital Orchard formed a services partnership in 2019, merging the leading photochemical expertise of Kodak lab with Digital Orchard’s innovation and talent in digital post- production, providing film makers with the confidence that their film is managed by a team of specialists,” (Antonio Rasura, director of motion picture services at Kodak).
At the new facility, this relationship will continue, not only modernising the film workflow, but also empowering cinematographers to make more creative choices on set. Adding the Scanity 4k HDR to the arsenal and now with the capacity to also scan 8mm, Digital Orchard offers the full gamut of film scanning services: 8mm, 16mm, 35mm and 65mm.
The second aim of the new facility is to make the industry a fairer and more inclusive place to work, building a better future for the workforce.
Digital Orchard started its ‘Foundation’ activities back in early 2019. The original aim was to tackle gender inequality, creating a workforce that would be more representative of society, both within the company itself and in the wider industry. By 2020, these activities had expanded to reach people from all underrepresented groups, working with them to help secure access to the opportunities they deserve, and help talented people facing unnecessary barriers to progress equally in the industry.
Alongside industry talks, networking events and lobbying campaigns with various brilliant partners, the Foundation team also launched ‘Equality In Focus’ as a solution to tackle inequality across the entire industry. Via this framework it delivers equality awareness training, signposts ongoing and in- depth learning, and coordinates shared and individual actions for the industry to take.
Since its conception, Digital Orchard Foundation has helped over 500 people work towards achieving equity and take action to make film and TV productions truly inclusive. At the new facility we aspire to grow this substantially, with plans for on-site training that will support access and development for talent across camera and post at all stages of their career.
The third aim is to continue to help the industry navigate the pandemic, for as long as it takes.
When the industry re-opened following the first lockdown, DO adapted its way of working and was at the forefront of remote stream collaboration during this time. Having Qtake operators on-set was invaluable for social distancing as the technology enabled the number of crew needed in situ to be reduced. Additionally, if a director or DOP were forced to quarantine, this process could live stream the action to their home, ensuring that the production could continue, and the industry could be kept open.
Head of post, Charlie Noble explains: “It’s been an incredibly exciting and fulfilling time, with our post team having to find ingenious ways to solve many challenges; from the complexities of setting up remote grades for clients all over the UK, Europe and the world, through to creating and streamlining workflows that have allowed our technicians, conform artists and colourists to deal with the limitations that the pandemic placed on our industry worldwide.”
Finally, Digital Orchard also wants to help the industry to become environmentally responsible with a sustainable vision for its new home.
DO is making a commitment to become a net zero facility by 2023, and every aspect of the new hub in the countryside is going to offer the industry an alternative to traditional, more damaging ways of working without losing any of the security or efficiency that productions rely on. Digital Orchard will be a highly secure, highly responsible and hugely welcoming destination for film and digital productions of all kinds, ready to take on the next 10 years together.