COVID-19 has stalled, derailed, and even canceled television shows, feature films, and countless corporate videos. Since the show must go on, crews have had to get inventive and create new ways of doing things. We here at Brella are going to share with you some of the strategies, gear, and processes we’ve put into place to help us—and hopefully you too—keep production safely running, even during these times of uncertainty.
Embrace the Zoom
Like Kleenex is to tissue, Zoom is now synonymous with virtual video meetings. The Zoom platform helps millions of users communicate. For us, it has become an invaluable tool for live broadcasts as well as a platform for client and team input. During recorded shoots, we’ll fire up a Zoom feed so everyone from client-side creative to remote personnel to regulatory/legal can weigh in. We’ve found that, rather than huddling around confidence/control room monitors, a zoom feed can engage stakeholders a little better. Live feedback via Zoom has allowed us to catch and address issues that would have normally only been spotted in post.
Zoom has also allowed us to safely work with remote talent using flypacks—self-contained studios in a box, complete with HD cams, lights, and audio equipment—that we send to them. Our producers and crew—sometimes thousands of miles away from the presenters—use Zoom and similar platforms to instruct talent on self-set-up for audio, lighting, and even wardrobe.
Utilize the Solitary Studio
Though traditionally crowded affairs, studio shoots still have their place in the midst of the COVID pandemic. With a little care, forethought, and discipline, studio production can be less risky for cast and crew alike.
To that end, we’ve installed high-grade air purifiers capable of removing and/or destroying most concerning airborne particles and viruses. Coupled with a highly structured protocol for sterilization of equipment and touch surfaces, and our studio is now nearly a cleanroom.
All Brella crews wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks and gloves, while following very structured setup procedures. Whenever possible, we set up shoots a day prior with very small teams. Producers set up strict schedules for shoot days, including health pre-screenings for all personnel, as well as set durations of time in the studio to minimize shared airspace exposure.
Crew members and talent utilize a combination of separate control rooms and additional conference space to distance from each other. Talent are remotely guided through makeup, mic set-up, and prop stations. Live client rehearsals are set via Zoom, and when the shoot is over, the talent places their mic into a designated box and are free to go—100% contactless.
Consider Long Distance Production Partners
Lockdowns and travel restrictions have made location shoots challenging, to say the least. Collaboration and distributed production have become vital to survival with remote production companies hiring local camera operators, audio engineers, and other behind the scenes crew to capture the footage they need. Agencies and corporate clients from around the world have recently used us as their Chicago-area boots on the ground, taking advantage of our COVID-19 risk mitigation pre-production process.
Before any local location shoot, we extensively scout the area to ensure that it can support safe work practices. We evaluate air handling and environmental controls, where and how cast and crew can safely distance from one another, and how much additional time may be needed for equipment disinfection. This protects not only our crews and clients but surrounding homes and businesses as well.
The silver lining here is that, by challenging our assumptions about how video production should work, COVID-19 has actually expanded our understanding of what is possible. Zoom and other streaming communications services are getting their day in the sun, proving their value as a production support tool, as well as a platform for virtual meetings. Flypacks provide a cost-effective alternative to flying in talent or presenters for studio shoots. Normalizing collaboration with remote crews can help tame budgets and remove logistical hassles that come with transporting gear and personnel. The changes we see now are a short term response to a critical situation, but these adaptations may stick around for longer than you might expect.