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Oxford’s atomic spy

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Sonya May 16In January 1941 Jewish-German refugee Ursula Kuczynski arrives in Oxford with her children.  Settling into daily life as a housewife, she was in reality a Soviet spy, codenamed Sonya.

This drama documentary tells how, for over a decade, Sonya relayed atomic secrets to the Russians.  It was to be her most successful mission.  To tell Sonya’s story, the production combines dramatic reconstruction with eye-witness accounts. It shows how she gathered intelligence, made connections and practised ‘spycraft.’ The secrets she delivered ultimately led to Soviet Russia developing an atom bomb and to the stalemate of the Cold War.

Why we made ‘Sonya’

Sonya: The Spy Who Stole the Atom Bomb was inspired by an article in the Oxford Times.  As filmmakers we found her story irresistible as it has all the elements of a classic spy tale. We found it hard to imagine that someone so ordinary could live such a treacherous, secret life right here in Oxford. The more we learnt about Sonya, the more we realised there is still so much to discover.  We hope this film will inspire more people to take an interest.

View the trailer here.  We’re planning a screening in Oxford soon, so email us to register your interest.


Celebrating hand-crafted furniture

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120 years of hand-crafted furniture at Wesley-BarrellTo celebrate its 120th anniversary, hand-crafted furniture maker Wesley-Barrell asked us to create a video that takes viewers on a fascinating workshop tour. Throughout the generations, the workshop has been at the heart of learning, practising and passing on the skills and techniques of the trade.



Hand-crafted furniture from Wesley-BarrellFrom sourcing wood to frame-making, upholstery and finishing, we show the knowledge and care that go into making sofas, armchairs, footstools and bedsteads, each one made to order and no two pieces ever the same. And we meet the craftspeople whose dedication and passion are continuing the Wesley-Barrell tradition of building beautiful furniture that is made to last.

Take a look here and tell us what you think

Avoid live-streaming pitfalls

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Skoll audience New Theatre May 16

Image courtesy Skoll World Forum

Live-streaming your event can more than double the number of people you reach, and add many, many more when your viewers share their experience across social media.  An interactive live-stream is also an excellent way to engage audiences as viewers give their feedback, join your conversation and add to your debate.

Event organisers who want to get the most from live-streaming regularly ask us why we broadcast over our own dedicated platform rather than a standard service such as YouTube.  And what are the real benefits of using a professional production company.

A major plus point has to be ease of being able to embed the video seamlessly into your own website with your branding.  Our clients are always happy when we tell them how easy we can do this for them.

And we can integrate social media engagement into the live-stream production so your audiences can share their experiences and give their response over channels like Twitter.

Using our own platform also ensures we deliver a stable connection with the highest possible quality of video and audio. You also get a secure server, under our control that is built just for your event.

We now shoot live events with 4K broadcast standard cameras which really lift the live-streaming experience for audiences.  When we streamed Skoll World Forum last month, we were thrilled to have had so many compliments about the quality of the experience.

Even if you’re planning a simple live-stream setup there are a lot of pitfalls around broadcasting on third party platforms such as YouTube.  For example, if any material under copyright features in your event, such as recorded music or extracts from films and television programmes, there will be consequences.

As a minimum YouTube will run ads over your live-stream to recoup costs to the copyright holder.  If YouTube considers you to be in severe breach it can close your account immediately, which not only wrecks your live-stream but draws you into a lengthy appeal process to restore your account.  

And there are geographical issues. If any of your viewers are in Germany for example, data protection laws prohibit access to live-streams on YouTube altogether (although note that this doesn’t affect YouTube recorded content in Germany).

Either way, we think you’ll agree that neither of these outcomes really works in a live-streaming situation.

There’s lots more we get asked about live-streaming.  Next time we’ll look at how you can best prepare for a live-stream broadcast to ensure your audiences get the most from the experience.  

For now, email or call us if you’re planning an event that would benefit from professional live-stream production.

Fiercely Compassionate at Skoll World Forum

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If you were in Oxford last week you might have spotted delegates from Skoll World Forum.  This global event for social entrepreneurs took place at Said Business School and New Theatre Oxford, and we’re proud to have handled media production again this year.

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Producer Sam Cooper. Photo ODM

The three-day event featured a host of panel discussions, interviews and delegate-led discussions, and our team of 38 camera-people, sound recordists, editors and producers all worked together to handle video capture, live streaming and run the presentations.  It was also a real pleasure to work with event specialist Heather Mason and her excellent team at Caspian Agency.   


Being behind the camera at Skoll World Forum is always inspiring as it attracts delegates and speakers from all countries and cultures.  This year Al Gore gave an amazing keynote on climate change, and Mary Robinson, now president of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, took part in panel discussions on women in leadership and the challenges of carbon emissions reduction post-Paris.  To get a feel for the event, take a look at the 2016 highlights here.

Mary Robinson talks climate change with Selina Leem. Photo Skoll World Forum

Mary Robinson talks climate change with Selina Leem. Photo Skoll World Forum



Setting up at New Theatre, Oxford. Photo ODM

The Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship celebrated the achievements of pioneers whose efforts are improving lives in a host of different ways around the world – click here to meet the winners and watch the whole ceremony here.

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Photo Skoll World Forum

Next year Skoll World Forum returns to Oxford on 5 to 7 April, and you can see all of this year’s talks here.

Meanwhile, if you’re planning an event in Oxford, ask us about how our media production services can help you reach a bigger audience.












Oxford Business Forum Africa

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‘Unreasonable Africa’ was the theme of this year’s Oxford Business Forum Africa.  Hosted jointly by Saïd Business School and the Oxford Business Network for Africa the conference explored the reality of business in Africa with the aim of increasing awareness of the opportunities on the continent, creating meaningful connections, and generating actionable insights.

The conference, which was opened by Dean of Saïd Business School Professor Peter Tufano and featured keynotes from former South African cabinet minister Trevor Manuel and financial visionary Dolika Banda.  Talks and discussions focused on celebrating and understanding the bold visions, decisions, and successes of business people on the African continent.

The event was live-streamed by Oxford Digital Media.  View the sessions at

Oxford Strategic Marketing Programme

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This summer the Oxford Strategic Marketing Programme will focus on how marketers can be customer-centric.  Andrew Stephen (above), L’Oreal Professor of Marketing, who runs the course at Saïd Business School, talks about what students can expect.  The key focus will be on creating a customer-centric perspective and how firms can add value by adding value to their customers.

The discussion was filmed by Oxford Digital Media for Saïd Business School

The hidden value in archiving

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This week a client asked if there was any chance we could pull out some footage we’d shot a while ago.  When I explained that wouldn’t be a problem as we archive everything we ever do, she was amazed.  All her work with us was with filming and editing and when projects were finished she had considered them ‘job done.’ 

This made me realise that archiving is quite literally the hidden service in media production.  It’s also one of the most important, because properly archived material that can be retrieved, with no loss of quality, can save a fortune in re-shooting.  For example, we recently refreshed a previous promotional production for the Royal Microscopical Society, which with new graphics and branding, was transformed to be bang up to date.  

Archiving can also deliver whole new dimensions to the creative treatment of any production. Adding in archived footage is incredibly effective in strengthening a story or illustrating a talking point.


As for how it happens, if you work with document archiving you’ll understand the process and standards required to store material on robust media, with a user-friendly retrieval system.

Video archiving works on similar principles, but because the files are massively larger than documents, you need storage media and a retrieval system that can handle the huge amount of data involved.

Here’s how we do it.  When a project is finished it stays on our server for four weeks, then archived to our professional grade LTO tape backup system.  LTO is industry-standard magnetic tape data storage, widely used by broadcasters, large companies and Government archives.  LTO tapes have no moving parts to wear and fail like traditional hard drives and are rated to last at least 30 years.  We keep our tapes in secure storage and can retrieve any project we’ve shot for you within a matter of days.

So when you’re talking to us about your next project, ask us about archiving.  

Matt Greetham is Senior Editor at Oxford Digital Media.

How much will my video cost?

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When we estimate the cost of your project, we listen to your needs, then match the skills and resources required to do the job.

But if you want to get ahead with your planning before you speak to us, here are a few basic points to think about first:

What’s my budget?

Does it involve location shooting?

How many locations and where are they?

Will I need audio, music and graphics?

Where will I distribute it?

You can of course call us on 01865 241007 and we’ll go through your requirements on the phone, or shoot us an email.

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