Ashford Studios puts Ireland in the picture

Ashford Studios is one of the major reasons Ireland's reputation in TV and film production is growing fast. During most of the year, productions like the current VIKINGS series are in residence at Ashford, which offers not only the largest soundstages in the Republic of Ireland, but also superb connectivity, which allows instant transfer of footage to post production facilities.

Located 37 km south of Dublin in County Wicklow, Ashford Studios quickly made a name for itself on its opening by securing the prestigious VIKINGS television drama, which has completed shooting three seasons at the site. The state-of-the-art facility boasts three soundstages, from 15,000 square feet to 28,000 square feet, which form part of a scenic, 300-acre site.

But Ashford’s atmospheric location has made this part of Wicklow something of a broadband blackspot, a major challenge in an industry for whom connectivity is vital. These days, the technology and communications infrastructure at studios is as essential as the lights, cameras and action. Ashford’s communications partner is AirSpeed Telecom, which helped the studio overcome the lack of connectivity in the area with a highly flexible 100 Mb per second connection based on licensed wireless technology.

That connectivity is what allows productions at Ashford to transfer footage to post-production facilities – which, particularly with international co-productions, are typically located overseas.

"High-bandwidth connectivity has always been imperative in this industry – a complete necessity," said Shelley O’Connell, Managing Director of Ashford Studios. "Production companies coming to us from other countries absolutely require high bandwidth. What's changed from the old days is that connectivity is so much less expensive now -- bandwidths like 100 Mbps are affordable.”

Ashford has worked with AirSpeed since entrepreneur Joe O'Connell first set up the studios in 2012. AirSpeed's licensed wireless solution not only provided an elegant way to solve rural Wicklow’s traditional connectivity challenges, but it also offered valuable flexibility. Today AirSpeed provides uncontended symmetric connectivity at 100 Mbps, scaling to 200 Mbps when higher speeds are needed.

AirSpeed also designed a SIP voice solution for Ashford. Unlike ISDN, SIP entails no line rental charges and can carry all inbound and outbound calls for Ashford over its data connection, with domestic and international call rates much lower than traditional solutions.

“It’s a huge advantage to us that the connection can also carry our phone calls,” Shelley said. “With the international nature of this business, overseas calls are important and rates can be quite high. This large expense has been completely eliminated now with the solution we get from AirSpeed."

Supporting the technology-intensive film and television industry

Shelley explains that the AirSpeed network is vital for more than just the transfer of daily footage. Productions in residence at Ashford require continuous connectivity to support their operations -- first edits from post-production can be viewed online, and even lighting setups can be adjusted remotely over the network as needed.

"Every single department on a production uses technology differently -- if a lighting team wants to control the lights remotely via our broadband network, they can do it. Things like that crop up with every department, and our network allows us to say, 'Yes, we can do that.'"

She notes that the relationship with AirSpeed has made it easier to serve the needs of Ashford customers, because AirSpeed's level of responsiveness and reliability is high, and because of the commercial flexibility it offered to facilitate the studio's highly seasonal business.

"There have been no issues with AirSpeed - whenever we have a requirement, the response time is very quick, and I know I'm talking directly to the people at AirSpeed who can make things happen."

Strong technology partnerships take on added importance for Ashford as it looks to move into a new phase of development. The studio is looking at the potential to invest further in services like dedicated recording, post-production and screening facilities on site in Wicklow.

"We will be doing post-production in future, because the business has proved itself," she said. While that may mean that fresh footage no longer needs to be sent abroad for editing, she sees no let-up in the studio's need for 100% reliable, superfast connectivity. "Technology is going to become even more important to us and our customers in the future. Connectivity is everywhere in production -- actors can even be cast over Skype -- and that's something that's not going to go away."