Bringing stories to life: Windmill Lane
How was Windmill Lane born?
In 1978 James Morris, Russ Russell, Brian Masterson and Miert Avis established Windmill Lane. At the time it was Ireland’s first world class recording studio and TV commercial post production facility. Back then Ireland was a country where people with ambition left (the late 1970’s saw Ireland fall into sharp economic decline) and everyone thought they were crazy but from a long established culture of storytelling, creativity & determination and a little bit of luck came opportunity. The leading opportunity, that formed the basis of what we are today, was TV Commercials.
2023 marks 45 years since we opened our doors as a music recording studio in the Dublin Docklands – famous for producing U2’s first five albums. Now based on Herbert Street, Dublin 2, we provide post production services for film, tv and commercials covering audio, colour grading, animation, VFX and editing. Jason Gaffney – Marketing Manager for Windmill Lane.
As a leading post-production and visual effects company, can you tell us about Windmill Lane’s approach to delivering high-quality audiovisual content?
We believe that delivering high-quality audiovisual content is contingent on investing internally with regard to talent and technology. For example, one of our fastest growing areas is VFX for global streamers (some of our current clients include; Paramount, Netflix & Disney+) and therefore we need to ensure that our clients can rest assured their work is being processed to the highest spec and by people with experience. In February 2023 we appointed Stephen Pepper as VFX Supervisor – a multi Emmy nominated professional who has worked on District 9 & Ironman. Around the same time we announced major upgrades to our world class multi-room audio facility, including the installation of Dolby Atmos – a revolutionary spatial audio technology providing the most immersive sound experience. By May 2023 we had installed a new FLUX Store 360 and upgraded our existing pair of Baselight TWO systems, allowing us to keep up to date with new technologies and workflows while improving the colour team’s connectivity, speed and performance. These are just some of the ways we stay on the edge of an ever evolving global media landscape and continue to produce the highest quality content. Dave Quinn – CEO of Windmill Lane.
Can you share some notable projects where Windmill Lane’s expertise in post-production and visual effects made a significant impact?
In 2022 we partnered with Oscar nominated Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline) and Oscar winning Jordan Peele (Nope, Get Out) on Netflix’s Wendell & Wild. This particular project was a mix of stop-motion, CG and VFX which required a particular set of skills. This responsibility threw up some technical challenges that pushed Fred Burdy – Head of CG at Windmill Lane – and his team;
“Working on stop-motion shots revealed new challenges that were great fun to tackle. We discovered that the amount of plates to work with was huge, because even simple shots had multiple exposure with different lighting setups – and more complex ones had multiple passes, multiple exposures, and quarter-scale passes for the background environments. All that was shot on motion control which helped the consistency. The production also provided us with textured 3D scans of the sets we needed to put together in our set extension, mostly done through a 2.5D matte painting approach.”
This level of expertise was required more so than ever as Wendell & Wild was shot during Covid. Fred reflects:
“The team were amazing, despite the COVID implications that made us use an hybrid approach: some artists were on site, but most worked from home, and a good few were abroad. We were careful to have frequent catch ups and made sure that people were as involved as possible even if they were not in the office – and to be fair it worked beautifully! It was a great experience overall to work with Mark Fattibene and Heather Abels, the super talented matte painting/digital/VFX supervisor we had collaborated with before. We’re very proud of having worked on this film and that we could make such an impact on the final piece”.
What are the key considerations when it comes to collaborating with clients and understanding their creative vision during the post-production process?
Understanding that today’s content demand is aggressive and fast paced – our internal strategy has allowed us to meet external expectations. Deborah Doherty – Head of Production says “As a business, and for us as a client facing partnership, we have become more solution driven. Our domestic sector is hugely important to us but doesn’t negate our international focus and the two exist together perfectly well. Across the leadership team, and the company as a whole, we now work together in a more strategic ‘business oversight capacity’. This has not been easy – it requires new thinking. This is the first time we are bringing in projects together. Recent examples include HBO, Netflix, Paramount, AMC and SKY along with strengthening relationships in the growing local film, tv and advertising sectors”.
With the effort on growing international business Deborah and John Kennedy – Head of VFX – knew that this would also require an evolution to Windmill Lane’s service offering. John explains “We realised we would have to apply a more holistic approach to how we engage with current and prospective clients. We are now more involved with clients from start to finish. In addition to discussing creative, production and technical aspects of the project we aim to add value by being more consultative. This can cover everything from our creative offering to helping clients avail of tax incentives”.
How does Windmill Lane approach the integration of visual effects seamlessly into live-action footage, ensuring a cohesive and realistic end result?
“We try to be involved in the creative process as early as possible, work with the director and the DOP on set to help them shoot in the best way possible to help us integrate our VFX down the line. We also make sure we capture all the needed information on set, such as cameras and lighting references, panoramas of the set, 3D scans of the set and sometimes the actors if needed. This is really important if CG is involved as we need to match the real set in CG. With all that, we have all we need to properly start our work on a shot. Then we usually do rough passes of the VFX to show the intent and make sure everybody in on board. After that, the creative process is a lot of work on integration, refining the work as we go to get is really seamless. And eventually we have a finished shot!” Fred Burdy – VFX Supervisor with Windmill Lane.
In terms of data security and protection, what measures does Windmill Lane have in place to safeguard clients’ confidential and sensitive materials?
We take the security of any content that crosses our threshold extremely seriously. Over the last year at Windmill Lane we have completely overhauled both our physical and digital security infrastructure, culminating in our first TPN audit in January. Our TPN journey is ongoing and we’re preparing for our TPN Gold Shield audit later this year. Everybody at Windmill is keenly aware of how important security is across the entire media & entertainment space and we’re committed to adhering to best practice and giving peace of mind to all of our clients. Ed Smith – Head of Operations at Windmill Lane.
How does Windmill Lane leverage technology and innovation to enhance the post-production process and create stunning work?
To support this focus the company has recently unveiled major upgrades to its world class multi-room audio facility, including the installation of Dolby Atmos, a revolutionary spatial audio technology providing the most immersive sound experience. The new studios, featuring Avid and Genelec equipment, ensure Windmill Lane will continue to operate at the highest standard of post-production.
On the colour front Windmill Lane has installed a new FLUX Store 360 and upgraded its existing pair of Baselight TWO systems, allowing it to keep up to date with new technologies and workflows while improving the colour team’s connectivity, speed and performance. The Baselight TWO upgrade and new FLUX Store have provided immediate workflow benefits as well as the option to further expand in the future.
Both investments serve to exemplify the importance of domestic projects to ensure Irish content is produced to the highest standard. Having recently provided full post production on RTÉ’s massively successful crime drama KIN, Windmill Lane prides itself on making great stories about Irish life and showcasing them to a global audience.
On 5 July 2023 Disney+ will release Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire. This animated anthology, by Irish based animation studio Triggerfish, brings together a new wave of animation stars to take you on a wildly entertaining ride into Africa’s future and is a perfect example of how Windmill Lane is leveraging technology and innovation to evolve the company’s output. Inspired by the continent’s diverse histories and cultures, these action-packed sci-fi and fantasy stories present bold visions of advanced technology, aliens, spirits and monsters imagined from uniquely African perspectives. Windmill Lane provided colour, sound editing & mix services on this ambitious project.