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Avid helps bring viewers to the FRONTLINE in Egypt

While the actual protests started small in Cairo they quickly escalated into a historical event with regional and global implications. FRONTLINE's senior editorial team kept a close eye on events as that first week unfolded and the movement swelled. On Saturday January 29th the decision was made to send in a FRONTLINE production team to pull together a yet-to-be produced program about the revolution in Egypt. With only a three week turnaround (FRONTLINE programming usually takes six to twelve months) the production and post production teams were tasked with creating a unique workflow incorporating original and archival footage, along with video clips captured by young protestors on the ground in Cairo.



FRONTLINE "Revolution In Cairo"

Shown: A man holding an Egyptian flag runs through the streets of Cairo. Anti-government protestors have called for Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to step down.  Credit: Ron Haviv/VII. Image may only be used in editorial conjunction with the direct promotion of this film in North America.  No other rights are granted.  All rights reserved.



Producers Inigo Gilmore, Rachel Anderson and Emmy award winning cameraman Tim Gruzca were quickly on the ground in Tahrir square with 3 Canon 5D MKIIs, a Canon HV40 PAL HDV camera in addition to Flip cameras and camera phones. Meanwhile, back in Boston, the FRONTLINE team began recording CNN and al Jazeera streams to a pair of raided hard drives on WGBH's tape floor for use as archival footage. It was quickly apparent that additional equipment and supplies were needed on the ground in Egypt, but because of the disruptions there were concerns that obtaining everything would be difficult. Resourcefulness prevailed, however, and within two hours the US team had acquired numerous hard drives, tripods, a wireless mic, a camera light, CF cards, batteries, and a pair of Flip cameras. FRONTLINE staff member, Azmat Kahn, then flew out to hand deliver the equipment to protesters tasked with capturing first hand accounts.



FRONTLINE "Revolution In Cairo"

Shown: Protestors filled Tahrir Square in Cairo demanding an end to the 30-year rule of president Hosni Mubarak.
Credit: Rachel Beth Anderson for FRONTLINE. Image may only be used in editorial conjunction with the direct promotion of this film in North America.  No other rights are granted.  All rights reserved.



With the team in Egypt actively documenting the revolution, post-production started assembling a producing/editing team and supporting resources half way around the world in Boston. Two of FRONTLINE's senior producers, Martin Smith and Michael Kirk, were each selected to produce one segment for the new magazine-format program. Two editing teams consisting of Chad Ervin/Mark Dugas and Jon Neuburger/Ben Howard would do the primary editorial, while remaining staff and edit suites served as a support system.  When media arrived from Cairo (typically late at night) team members would quickly copy the materials to a 40 terabyte Avid Unity Media Network, as well as apply up to 13 editing systems to consolidate or transcode the material overnight so that the editors could start first thing in the morning.


The post-production set-up included five Symphony 5 Nitris DX systems, three Media Composer 5 Nitris DXs, four Media Composer 5 Software only systems, and one Final Cut Pro. In addition to the Avid Unity and editing systems, FRONTLINE also relied heavily on Avid's Port Server Pro which allowed them to use the Media Composer 5 software only systems for ingesting and media management.  And media management was no small task as the production was made up different formats and frame rates including Canon 5D, Canon HDV, Flip Camera, Blackberry Camera phones and Final Cut Pro ingested Apple HDV QuickTimes – which relied on Automatic Duck to transcode and consolidate media for an Avid Edit. In addition, the footage had been shot at 23.98, 25i and 29.97, and Canon's 25f. Nearly all of it was HD, both 720 and 1080, some was progressive and some was interlaced. The copying and transcoding required a great deal of care to insure that the material all ended up being useable.


FRONTLINE OutPost has worked hard to create file-based organizational practices and this production is the proof of performance of that system. All the varying sources--original, file-based, tape, stock footage, and conversions needed to be accessible, easily identified, and organized in a way that numerous edit systems and editors could use. With an amazing amount of footage arriving in a short period of time, Post-Production Director Chris Fournelle, and Post Production Coordinator Megan McGough kept it all on track so there was almost zero down-time for the editors.


FRONTLINE's “Revolution in Cairo” is a testament to a team of exceptional producers, editors and support staff who are commitment to telling important stories. and building a strong technical foundation to make it all happen. The team at FRONTLINE insist that the strength of Avid’s shared storage, open AMA ingesting, and scalability was instrumental in making “Revolution in Cairo” come together.



“Revolution in Cairo” airs tonight Tuesday, Feb 22, at 9pm ET on PBS (check local listings).


FRONTLINE (@frontlinepbs) will be tweeting (#RevolutionInCairo) during the broadcast and hosting an open chat with producers on their website the day after broadcast. For more follow Chris Fournelle on Twitter @FLOutpost.



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About Meagan Keane

Meagan Keane is the Artist Relations team member who works directly with Avid's filmmaking customers. A documentary filmmaker herself, Meagan started with the Avid team in 2009. With an Masters degree from USC's School of Cinematic Arts Meagan has produced, shot and edited numerous documentary feature films including 2009 Sundance Grand Jury winner "We Live in Public".

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