Matt Fellows chats to the team at the new Manchester facility that raised a few eyebrows last month with its claim of being the largest UK post house outside of London.
It’s often touted in the UK audio post-production industry: if you want top-quality results, you go to Soho. But with this hub of pro-audio talent locked prohibitively in the south, what about the rest of the UK? Step forward Bark & Bite.
Already an established brand with a studio in central Leeds, Bark & Bite offers both audio and visual post-production from sound mixing to motion graphics. And with a list of clients including Sega, Ferrari and Nike, it now has its sights on the other capital of the north.
“We opened up in Leeds around six years ago, and that was just as the recession decided to kick in, so it was quite a slog for the first two or three years,” explains managing director Christian Knowles-Fitton. “But we’ve been very fortunate that we’ve progressively gotten busier and busier up to capacity.”
So for Knowles-Fitton, the decision to expand the company with a second facility was a logical step.
“We’ve been trying to open a second location in Manchester for some time. If you’re involved in TV, it’s going to be Soho or Manchester that you go to,” he remarks. “2015 felt like the right time to do it; we felt adding a new facility with the audio capabilities we have now would complement Leeds well. We thought we’d get our foot in on both sides of the Pennines.
“An opportunity came with a building just off Deansgate – it’s a prime location. Quite a lot of work had already been done to the location that made it ideal for our purpose: there was a lot of cabling that had been done, there were air conditioning systems that were unbelievably quiet, the regulations for access for everybody were correct, we have disabled access and we’re only half a mile away from all the top agencies in Manchester.”
But how does this new branch fit into the big picture alongside the original Leeds facility? Knowles-Fitton is very clear that it is complementary, rather than competitive.
“This is very much an addition,” he explains. “The way the studios are separate means that we can see the servers from both locations in real time and everybody’s got access, as well as the media servers that we use to preview work to clients and internal staff.
“It’s all linked together and we’re trying to cross-pollinate staff as much as we can; we want it to be a team while we have two locations. It’s not Manchester and Leeds; it’s Bark & Bite.”
And the reputation of that brand precedes it, with word of the new facility already making waves throughout the city.
“It’s been received really well. We opened the doors to a few existing clients prior to the official launch and people have jumped on board. Manchester is very different to Leeds in that there’s a stronger creative community and word has got round very quickly, and there’s been a lot of support from local businesses, so we couldn’t be happier on that front.”
With the expansion, Bark & Bite has made the claim that “the North is officially ours,” and the team is confident they hold a position of strength.
“It’s a great facility and we have a huge amount of space here. It really is a Soho-grade facility in the heart of the north,” remarks Knowles-Fitton. “The suites that we have are quite luxurious. Setting the business up, we worked with very small premises originally. Now we’ve got a finishing suite that is as big as the whole studio that we had for a couple of years.”
But its ace in the hole? “Our team is the most important asset that we have to offer,” he continues. “If you look at the client list and the people that we work for both nationally and internationally, that’s testament to that. I would hope our team, the quality of work that we put out and the people that we work for will speak volumes.”
Armed to the Teeth
And it’s not just its size and team that makes the new establishment so formidable; it’s armed to the teeth with the right audio gear and infrastructure to ensure they can meet even the most unforgiving of deadlines with
“We’re going to be pretty diverse across the range on audio,” outlines senior dubbing mixer Nick Netsall (pictured). “We’ve got a full 5.1 studio here, so 5.1 dubbing, tracklay and sound design. We’ve got a fantastically large voiceover booth that we utilise for a lot of ADR work as well. We do pretty much everything to do with audio post-production. We want to be a one-stop shop.
“It’s all based around a Pro Tools HDX system. We’ve got a D-Command desk with the fader pack – so that’s 24 faders – as well as a Genelec monitoring system, a Neumann TLM 103 microphone teamed up with an SSL XLogic preamp, and plug-in-wise we’re running Altiverb reverbs.
“We’ve also made sure that in our premises at both Leeds and Manchester we have dedicated fibre lines. That means in terms of trying to get real-time transfers or transfer rushes from one location to another or playing ads out, we can deliver a great service in terms of speed and turnaround.”
The future is looking bright as Knowles-Fitton reveals that the project pipeline has been populated since before they even opened their doors: “We have several radio campaigns that we’re currently working on; we have a huge live-action commercial which is a combination of live-action and CGI booked in. We’re just waiting to hear if we’ve landed our first car commercial, so that will be exciting!
“For the next year we want to really get out there and develop new relationships with people in the area and create the best work that we possibly can do. We like it when our peers look at our work and say ‘I wish I’d done that’. If we do that, I think we’ll all be very happy.”