With much of the world’s population under lockdown, airlines suspending international flights, and limits on numbers of gatherings limiting the possibilities of crews, remote production is one of the most viable forms of production at the industry’s immediate disposal.
Due to the global nature of coronavirus, productions involving international travel may be impacted for months to come even as individual countries loosen lockdown measures and crews can start working again. Remote production solves these problems by connecting international partners to a 360 degree vision of the shoot from beginning to end. Camera feeds are streamed in real time to those who are unable to be physically present on set. Communication channels are established to make sure that remote participants can contribute, approve takes and direct as if they were on set themselves.
For brands, agencies and production companies that have never considered remote production, the approach may seem daunting, but with the right partners, communication setup and mentality the results can be worthwhile.
Darko Skulsky, founder of Ukraine based Radioaktive Film based in Ukraine emphasises the importance of a thorough pre-production process to map out the shoot, much like any production would. “I think that once you have gone through a thorough pre-production process, it’s back to trusting the creatives to get it right. They should have the film mapped out in their heads. Let’s get back to trusting the genius”.
The technology required to pull off a remote shoot varies between service provider, but remains relatively simple.
Radioaktive Film uses the Q-Take app which integrates every aspect of a modern video assist, including logging capabilities, rapid shot selections and media import and export and more to live stream with only one second delay.
Up to sixteen devices can be connected, and up to four cameras stream simultaneously even when shooting on location. Darko Skulsky “We would use a combination of Zoom and Skype for pre-production, and the Qtake and GoPro cameras for the shoot. We would do all the casting and pre productions on Zoom and on set we would use Qtake to show the playback and GoPro set ups to shoot creative areas such as makeup, wardrobe and art for approvals. We also set up a separate camera for clients to speak more discreetly with agencies or directors without being broadcasted to the entire team”.
Philip Key CEO of South Africa’s Moonlighting Film Production Services outlines the system they used for a recent shoot with London production company 1st Ave Machine. Conferencing platform Zoom formed the main base of the “Virtual Video Village” that streamed on-set shots from South Africa to international participants. “It is not rocket science, and it can be accomplished, as we did through a Zoom conference call with some added fire power in terms of the video, to counter the quality and resolution that can lack detail on conference platforms” says Key. While the conference system can stream in without delay, the quality is not always as high as is required so the high res stream follows 20 seconds later on a dedicated and secure streaming platform with images controlled by the set VT operator as on a usual shoot.
Any conference platform could be viable, but Zoom was elected because you can buy a license that allows you to legally penetrate the Chinese firewall, where some key participants were based. Having established strict communication protocols, approvals from the team around the world were performed for each set up and take just as if they were on set.
While remote shooting is predominantly used for advertising productions, the question remains whether remote production could be applied to longer formats. Skulsky adds: We have two features happening at the moment. Some of the pre-production is happening via remote sources, but I think advertising is much more built to handle remote work. Most companies like ours are set up to do it all remotely and all we need is the director to be fully engaged and with us to guide us through it. Different style of jobs will have different issues, but when you know what the key points of the job are, it is possible to address this from anywhere in the world”.
On the other end of the spectrum, Simon Cachera from Amsterdam based integrated agency and production company Victor & Simon says “since the crisis started, we noticed that agility is the key point right now, because the big production agencies are struggling now to make it happen because they are just not used to it at all so are starting from scratch. The crisis might be one of the biggest digital and agile accelerators for all these companies. We are lucky because we are used to this process” he says. Predominantly creating branded content, Victor & Simon are currently the company are working with Match.com to create a campaign to showcase dating in lockdown. The pared down production will have no crew, and is being carried out using what resources are immediately available, such as Zoom for pre-production and iPhone cameras for shooting itself.
Cachera has noted a change in attitude from clients in recent months. “Not everybody knows the new process so you are learning and adapting. You have to be more daring, doing more communication and testing much more than ever before. But being ready to jump on the unknown is a positive change. I have seen people that were afraid of everything, but now they are ready to try new things and that is the most exciting thing that may impact the future”.
While remote shooting of any scale is allowing production to continue, Key notes that it does impede the natural creative process that happens when people get together. “When this is all over and we can shoot again, my sense is that it shouldn’t be something to replace people travelling to shoot, because that would take away far too much. However, I do think that it can probably be quite effective as a cost saver so that as many people don’t have to travel”.
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