Digital Garage installs multipurpose studio facility in partnership with ARRI Solutions

The Yorkshire Film and Television School at the University of Huddersfield empowers young filmmakers to tell the stories that matter to them, in the format the world wants to watch.

Following a successful tender process, broadcast solutions specialist Digital Garage designed and installed the Stewart Film Studios in partnership with ARRI Solutions, to support the school’s academic vision with a practical, interactive space to inspire and empower its student community.

“A key aim for the faculty is not only to prepare our students for the working world post-graduation, but also to give them the widest possible study experience,” explained Professor Nic Clear, Dean of School of Arts and Humanities.

“We wanted a space to enable students to get hands on with all areas of filmmaking craft, which may open up opportunities in disciplines that they may not have initially considered.”

Named after the University’s Emeritus Chancellor, Sir Patrick Stewart, the purpose-built 300 square meter facility is designed as a flexible, interactive, multifunctional space that can support multiple productions and activities simultaneously.

A full-height blackout curtain system snakes through the building, which creates distinct areas instantly.

The studio’s lighting network, designed by ARRI Solutions, is modular, so students can control one or several areas, depending on the space in use.

“Students have really embraced the ability to shape the space to their requirements, not only from a creative perspective, but also how that influences their lighting and shooting setups,” explained Tom Kearns-Phillips, Camera Technician, Stewart Film Studios.

“There could be a production meeting taking place in one, an interview shoot in another, while a creative set is being built in the third. Or alternatively, the whole studio can become a huge, open production space.”

The University decided to house the facility in an existing storage building on campus, which meant careful consideration when designing trussing and structural elements.

Innovative Steelwork

To maximise the roof apex, Digital Garage designed a highly innovative steelwork concept that doubles as containment as well as providing integrated structural support, adding almost two meters of usable height within the studio.

“Without that innovative design, we would have lost considerable production space, and was an integral element of the successful tender proposal,” continued Professor Nic Clear.

“The combined, considered approach from Digital Garage and ARRI Solutions demonstrated that they understood how to make the space work as hard as it possibly could from the outset.”

Safety is always an important consideration, but the requirements are even greater for an educational facility. As students cannot work at height, a safe and effective system was required for rigging lighting, projectors, and other production equipment.

Within Digital Garage’s steelwork, nine SkyHoists, a design concept delivered through ARRI Solutions, were installed in the studio, three in each section, each capable of holding up to 200 kilograms of equipment.

The modular suspension system has customised power and data distribution across the hoists, together with extra security brakes, soft start/stop and warning systems for overloading or unequal weight distribution.

“The hoists make rigging a safe, smooth operation, and it’s already empowering students to take charge of their production requirements from the outset of a project,” explains Keans-Phillips. “They can take on responsibility for keeping the space and each other safe, as well as gaining confidence in practical rigging skills and lighting design choices.”

The studio also has a full range of ARRI SkyPanels and Orbiter lighting fixtures that can be rigged in the SkyHoists or on floor stands.

“It was important to give students the most authentic experience possible. Ideally, we want them to be able to walk onto a production and feel that they can add value,” continued Kearns-Phillips.

“ARRI equipment is synonymous with high-quality production, and by working with ARRI Solutions on professional training across our own inventory, we’re giving students the very best start to their future career on-set.”

Since opening the doors to Stewart Film Studios at the start of the academic year, the university has also seen the wider impact that the facility has had on other degree courses.

“We’ve already had costume design students staging fashion shoots, and we also have regular drop-in days for extra-curricular projects, including talk shows and even our own sci-fi film production,” concluded Kearns-Phillips.