Summer 2007  
  It’s been over a year since we last barked out a Kennel Talk – But here it is at last!

With the winters chill finally ending and spring eventually springing – the dogs are still here and ready for summer. In the last ‘Kennel Talk’ we mentioned over 15 projects in a week, so you can imagine how many we really did… Here is a smattering of what we have been up to in the last year. Please don’t be offended if we did not mention your project. It’s a LONG issue and we did not want to go on for ever….

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Shoprite Checkers / SABC 2 Woman of The Year Awards 2007

Underdog is thrilled to have successfully completed its third year on the annual Shoprite Checkers / SABC 2 Woman of the Year Awards. We were tasked with producing all TV promotion spots, nominee profiles and video elements (over 70 minutes worth of promos and inserts) for the prestigious award show. Underdog again utilised the skills and experience of a remarkable team including the company’s Executive Producer, Marc Schwinges - with more than 14 years at the helm. The highly acclaimed, Ferial Dayal (in addition to having a five-year history with Underdog) directed and edited this year. She also worked with the team on the 2005 and 2006 awards.

Underdog, this year, assembled a majority female team of highly experienced and motivated women in film for an exciting pilgrimage that saw two separate production teams simultaneously race across the length and breadth of South Africa to document the finalists in their environments. Underdog is thrilled to have again been the “ears and eyes” of the awards, bringing the amazing work of these worthy finalists to the public’s screens.



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Equipment and Edit suites
– HD, Final Cut Studio 2, V1 Cameras and even Dolly’s

Underdog continues to invest in its team and its technology in order to be ahead of the competition. It’s one of the first smaller production houses to go HD. This year Underdog boasts not only its own broadcast equipment for TWO production teams (including the brand new Sony HDV V1 Camera with all the extras) but also a custom-built facility to optimise post-production on a tight deadline (such as on the Woman Of The year Awards). This year almost all the shoot and post-production work was done using Underdog’s own facilities and equipment.

Since the Woman of the Year Awards, Underdog has also installed the first of two of its own Final Cut Studio 2 Suites (capable of full HD non-linear), to compliment its existing non-leaner Première suite. As such Underdog will now have three powerful and networked non-linear broadcast suites and two fully fledge ENG broadcast camera kits. We even have our own lights, reflectors and full broadcast sound kit; a custom built dolly and track system ideal for quick setups and


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Power Generator & Six APS Smart UPS’s
– guarantee 24/7 power supply

Since the ‘kennel’ is located in Melville, a stunning spot surrounded by bars and restaurants, we are subject to our fair share of power fluctuations. Add to that the lack of power generally in South Africa at present and the mission critical timelines we work on, together with complex electronic systems we use and we needed to take action. The ‘kennel’ is now equipped with a state of the art, silent type 12KVA, auto starting diesel generator, which can effectively run ALL the clean line power. Our 18 computers, lighting circuits, as well as the server room air-conditioner (to avoid over heating) can run for over 12 hours on a single tank of diesel! The computers keep running in the 70-80 seconds it takes for the generator to speed up, thanks to an advanced setup of no fewer than 6 high capacity American Power Company Smart Uninterruptible Power Supply Units serving all 18 computers in various parts of the office. This assures a stable 230V at all times and Underdog is now ready to keep running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It also means our clients’ data is safest with us.


Network & File Server Upgrade
– ‘Nobody has better systems’.

Just over 5 years ago, when Underdog originally expanded and moved into its Melrose Arch offices, we invested heavily in new technology. While there have been several upgrades and a move to Melville since then – we have been facing a problem over the last 2 years in terms of two critical and expensive components:

  1. Our main in-house file server’s capacity was designed for the requirements of the company with a 5-year vision. While it always had tape back-up systems and a mirrored data drive – it just got too small and slow. We found that it was suffering under our demands this year.
  2. Our network was designed for standard office data speeds and the 100M switch just did not chug the volumes when you start shunting about files in excess of 2GB, let alone 100GB video files! We needed something much faster and that meant a complete replacement of all the networking components of the company.

Introducing Underdog’s new state-of-the-art, in-house networking and file server solution for 2015 and beyond!

Yes we took a quantum leap into cyberspace and invested in an HP Rack Mounted ProLiant DL320S Xenon Dual Core 2.4GH Server. For the techno geeks out there – it will come with 5x 250GB Hot-Pluggable disks in a RAID-5 Configuration (i.e.: 1 Terabyte), with a 6th Hot-Swapping disk. The server is expandable to 14 internal drives, so if our Terabyte is not sufficient, we can always grow. All this is linked to the office with a brand new Gigabit Switch (i.e.: 10x as fast as it was) Yes this does make us probably the most connected of our competitors and certainly one of the most technically advanced production houses in SA!


Migration to Mac
– A logical move to Apple Macintosh for a forward thinking company.

Apple Macintosh has become a highly effective and effortless working tool. We already have Mac’s on our network but we are initiating a process to convert all design and edit machines to the newest Mac’s available within the next 2 years! We have found in the last 2 years that the software for design, web and postproduction has far better value on the Mac OS Platform than on PC and so the migration is an obvious one. More will follow on this in future Kennel Talk Updates….


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The Puppy Program
– An update on the mentorship program & new Underdogs.

Underdog has always been committed to empowerment and transformation. Ever since its humble beginnings, (not that we are not humble still) we firmly believed in empowering people. To date, Underdog has mentored over 35 young people of whom the majority were previously disadvantaged and assisted in equipment and resources for the production of several student productions from various film schools around Gauteng. While some of Underdog’s first mentored puppies are still with the company (take our own Financial Manager, Nomali Dube for example) others have gone their own way and are now in high profile positions including an SABC Commissioning Editor, a Programming Coordinator for SABC 2 as well as highly sought after DOP’s, Editors, Directors, Script Writers and Producers. Several now own their own production / post production houses!

The puppies often come back to the kennel though:

Most recently, Ziyanda Ngcaba, (mentored in 1999) came in as post-production producer on Woman of the Year 07 before heading off to her new post as Programming Coordinator for SABC2.

Fanney Tsimong (mentored in 2003 and making his directorial debut) teamed up with partner Nhlanhla Ndaba to form ‘Doti Produxionz’. The two have become a regular feature at Underdog, having co-produced the internationally acclaimed “Black Beulahs” with Underdog in 2005/6. They continue to work on projects together with Underdog, including two new exciting projects currently on their combined development slate. They will be back soon after the OIA Festival to take their projects to the next level.

Themba Mnyele, who first came as a student to work with Fanney as Editor on his 2004/5 VUKA! Awards, is now entrenched at Underdog yet again. He teamed up with DOP Mduduzi Ndlovu to form a postproduction company based within Underdog. The talented guys are available to Underdog for all its projects but may also use Underdog’s resources for their own clients work. It’s a win-win situation for both companies, as Underdog is helping to jump-start the team with real resources on a long-term deal.

Then the BEST news of all is, Ntsako Radebe, who worked on all three Woman of the Year Awards as a trainee production co-ordinator with Underdog, is currently completing her final year in Media Design at the University of Johannesburg. Naturally she is top student there, since she is just a brilliant “pup”…. rest assured, we only mentor the best! She joins Underdog in early September as the newest full-time Underdog. Her training and knowledge in design, multimedia, animation editing, production and postproduction will be a great match for Underdog. We look forward to welcoming her to the Kennel full time!


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Documentary Filmmakers Association
- Housed at ‘The Kennel’

Underdog is well known for its high quality, award winning Documentaries. When the niche industry of Documentary Filmmakers in South Africa debated the formation of a ‘Documentary Filmmakers Association’ (DFA), the Underdog’s tail started to wag! Marc Schwinges is on the current and first formally elected board of the DFA. The DFA has found a home within Underdog’s Johannesburg offices. The Gauteng board meet in Underdog’s boardroom on a regular basis and do a video link to Cape Town to include the co-chair in the meeting, using Underdog’s Skype videoconference facility. The DFA’s web site: is sponsored by Underdog, as part of its industry commitment. The DFA has over 60 paid up members, which for a ‘niche’ industry organisation isn’t bad. Who knew that we even had more than 60 documentary filmmakers in SA! The founding AGM took place at Underdog on 21 April of this year, where the present board was elected. Marc’s main focus on the board has been: Presentation to the DTI on its new industry rebate scheme; broadcaster presentation / interaction (where we continue to deal with unfair trade practices); and communication systems such as e-mail and web for the DFA.


Festival Roundup
- International Film Festivals continue to request Underdog work

The ‘Out in Africa Film Festival’ appropriately screened the African Première for Black Beulahs. The film was introduced to four packed houses in Johannesburg and two in Cape Town, by director Fanney Tsimong in March of this year.

Marc had the privilege of introducing the London Première of Black Beulahs to a packed house, on 2 April 2007, at the ‘21st London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival’ in the newly rebuilt BFI South Bank.

The 22nd of April 2007 saw the film appear on the other side of the globe again in Seattle USA at the ‘Langston Hughes African American Film Festival’ and on 15 July 2007 it appeared at the ‘Philadelphia International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival’.

More recently Black Beulahs was screened at the famous ‘Africa in the Picture Film Festival’ in Amsterdam – Holland on 10 September 2007.

Just the other day on the 23rd of September, Black Beulahs was again screened on home soil at the ‘7th Appollo Film Festival’ along side some of South Africa’s finest films of the year.

You can get an update on Black Beulahs at its new web site .

Previous films like Two Moms are also still being requested for festivals such as the popular ‘Munich Women’s’ Film Fest’ in March of this year and the well run ‘17th Freiburger Lesbenfilmtag’ on the 7th and 9th of June 2007.

Metamorphosis enjoyed a further screening this year at the extraordinary and professionally put together ‘4th Netherlands Transgender Film Festival’, on the 23rd May 2007, in Amsterdam. This is the only transgender film festival in the world… now we are talking ‘niche’.

Phew (or is that woof)…what a round up! We hope ‘Black Beulah’s’ may still be seen on South African television, but for now the SABC is still in breach of contract with us by refusing to pay up a final amount, so they are not allowed to broadcast the film. It’s sad when we, as independents, have to stop working with the SABC in order to get anything done.


Transnet extranet for the People Project
– Transnet communications strategy

For Transnet, communicating with its people is of utmost importance. Building on the successful Vulindlela Project Extranet for Transnet, Underdog developed and implemented a brand new Extranet for the seven operating divisions of Transnet and its people. The site is password protected at: and via direct encoded links allows the Transnet staff to enter the site without having to enter a username and password. The People Project is Transnet's human capital strategy, one of the four pillars of its Turnaround Strategy, designed to make people ready, willing and able to perform and grow a sustainable business. The site was commissioned by Converse, who together with Resolve, develop the strategies and internal communications for Transnet. Underdog is thrilled to continue to redevelop the Transnet Vulindlela and People Project Extranets for its client, Converse, as they continue to evolve and grow.


  Other New Media Project Highlights

Here is a quick summary of some of the highlights: - The Africa wide HIV/AIDS multi-lingual communication initiative, run by Broadcast HIV Africa. It deals with a number of sexual lifestyle awareness issues. Underdog built and maintain the website for their client, the Kaiser Family Foundation, in Washington USA. - The website for the Broadcast HIV Africa / African Broadcast Media Partnership against HIV/AIDS (ABMP) initiative. ABMP are Underdog’s tenants at the “Kennel” in Melville and they are also funded by the Kaiser foundation in Washington. – Long time Underdog client continues to have updates to its award winning website and in addition Underdog manages updates to its product CD. - Via La Moda – sister company of Comport Creations – produces fine Italian Style handbags and leather accessories. They are back with Underdog with again with a fully back ended online showroom. – Style, design and events guru, Otto De Jager, came to Underdog for his on-line experience. The brief was simply… “Let the images tell the story… in a clean and uncluttered way.” Otto and his clients seem thrilled with the results.

  While others grapple with “New media, new models, new rules, new results,” Underdog has always been a true ‘cross-media’ company, understanding the reality of the future at least 10 years ahead of others! We were the first to bridge into cross media exploitation of a major global TV brand in South Africa (Big Brother SA 1, 2, BB Africa 1 and Scamto GB 1&2). We have always worked in multiple media. This allows us to really “reach audiences” for our clients’ communications strategies as well as our own entertainment brands. Underdog’s clients include major international NGOs, blue chip companies, broadcasters and governments. Its broad-based shareholding and staff are known for their exceptionally high standard of production and creative work in the fields of “Interactive, Television, Web, and Print”.  
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