Our production studio recently completed a project with CrimeCon, a True Crime convention that provides education and experience on the latest cases, newest scientific techniques, and everything in between. Since the convention was virtual this year, we helped produce their live stream, and created a lot of pre-produced content via remote production.

The team was faced with some challenges during this project, specifically because a member of the talent was in an age group categorized as high-risk for COVID. In the video below, we speak with Omar Lopez Jr., our Director of Photography, as he dives into some of the challenges we met and how we were able to make this virtual live event a success with a hybrid form of remote production. Check it out!

Mike: Hi everyone. Thanks for joining. I’ve got with us, uh, our director of photography who works with us on a lot of projects. Omar Lopez, Jr. Hey Omar!

Omar: Hey, how are you doing good?

Mike: Good! So, we recently did a project together that was a really cool and fun live stream combined with a lot of pre-produced remote production content. That was for a CrimeCon, a true crime convention. Really cool. The live element came out of our studio. Most of it was just one person in our studio, but there was an element where there were multiple people in our, not too gigantic New York city Manhattan studio. And Omar and I were faced with a challenge. How do we have a man who’s a little older and in the age group that is at high risk for COVID, and we need to be compliant not only for his sake, but for the sake and the health of everyone, but also just meeting laws and regulations.

And I wanted to talk about that because I was frustrated at some point where it’s like, you’ve got to accomplish the goal of making the shot look good, making the show go on, but at the same time, accommodating for all these things.

So, Omar, tell me about some of the things that you came up with, and some of the challenges that you found also.

Omar: This is where I find communication between our team and the client really kind of has to shine because, very early on you can combat all these COVID compliance issues that seem to come up, and they were not really issues there. It’s really a matter of safety. You’re trying to protect everyone and it’s limiting people in the room. It’s really like face-to-face time, can that be all done virtually? And if it’s not done virtually, who are those people who are going to be in the room? How many people at a time? How long are going to be there? Because sometimes if you’re in a room for half an hour, instead of two hours, it helps tremendously to lower the risk of everyone in the room.

So as far as actual people on set, I feel like so many clients think that we can only have one person on or two people on, and then say, “Oh, let’s do a live stream.” But a modern control room typically has four or five people, just on the production team. And now you’re trying to whittle that down to one technical director, one producer, and then one person to run around to do everything else. So, I think it’s really important to try to set up barriers if possible. And again, reduce face-to-face time, pick a bigger venue, a bigger room, things like that, that we kind of try to be cognizant of when we’re actually filming.

Pexiglass at Our Production Studio

Mike: Now in this particular case, our studio, it’s not too small, but it’s also not the world’s largest space in Manhattan either. We were able to get some plexiglass and put it in between the people that are on camera so that, when they are talking with their masks off, not only are they way further than six feet apart, they’ve also got plexiglass. Like you said, moving air was an important part. Keeping the fans on. Just simple things that other producers can take into consideration.

In this office building in New York, you know, it can get very cold very quickly with fans on, but also at the same time, we’ve got to keep in mind that we need to get the air moving, we need to open a window during breaks, things like that, and also make sure people aren’t in the same room when we don’t need to be.

We also found, Omar, that we need to separate people as much as possible, right? So we took a teleprompter – something that used to be in studio – to outside of the studio. We moved audio out of the studio. We try to minimize where we can. But like you said, it’s harder because now more work falls on one person. But do you find that there’s ever a benefit to this kind of setup that we could take post COVID?

Omar: Yeah, I mean honestly, I think people are realizing the benefit of talking before something happens, because a lot of times before COVID we were like, “we’ll figure it out on set.” Right. So now I feel like being able to discuss everything before it happens, and then the day of it, it literally is just executing the plan. I think a lot of, especially smaller businesses and a smaller commercial, they have a hard time with the pre-planning and I think COVID kind of forces you to pre-plan.

So it’d be really nice if after all this is over that we can say, why are we having 18 emails. We can have a quick 10-minute zoom meeting. We all know how it works now. So let’s just get it done, knocked out and we’re ready to go. So I feel like there are times that sometimes it’s just too many cooks in the kitchen and I think COVID is starting to like open that up where it’s like, why would I have eight people in a room when a couple of people can do the job just as well. And I think that’s all very helpful for smaller businesses and like smaller clients.

Mike: No, I mean, look, admittedly, I was very frustrated on set for that particular situation because I was like, we only have a certain amount of time. We’ve got to figure this out. Like you said, we could discuss as much things as much of it as we can in advance, but sometimes you do have to make split second decisions. Now you actually happen to have somebody in your household who’s a COVID compliance person. Tell me about that. And then also, you know, what were some of the challenges that we figured out together?

Omar: So I think having a COVID compliance officer, literally being my girlfriend, at home helps me a lot because it keeps me safe because I can talk to her and be like, “Hey, we’re doing this on set. Is that good?” And there’s always – a lot of producers don’t like to hear this, but – there’s always like the tiers. And I’ve had this discussion with you where it’s like, literally the first tier is, I always tell the clients, should we be doing this in person? Is it worth it to you? There are, you know, typically value wise, you can get the same result by doing it remotely.

If you have to have that live component, that in-person feel, then it becomes, can you limit people and you can move down from there. And discussing that beforehand, while also having a COVID compliance officer at home, it really makes you think so that then when I step on set and I’m talking with you, Mike, or any other person on set, it becomes like, okay, we need to police each other with mask wear and sanitation or anything like that. But also just, just some having some common sense, like, “okay, well I’m about to go over here to do this. Is there anything else that you need before I go talk to the talent?” Stuff like that where it really is just taking a moment and figuring out the problem, which we do in production naturally anyways. So now it’s just doing it a little bit quicker and with a little bit more sanitation in mine.

Mike: I think recently over the last nine months or so since COVID hit, it’s forced me as a producer and business owner to start taking others into consideration. I mean, I’m always looking out for the people that work for me, but I think we have to understand that we have a responsibility for not only to each other, but to ourselves. And, you know, I think Omar, you’re very good at this and at encouraging others. I hope that I do the same, and tell people to advocate for themselves, for those who are working in production or in any field, to remember to advocate for your own health and be an advocate for yourself. And yes, maybe sometimes conversations might be a little more challenging or difficult to have, but ultimately, it’s for everyone’s good. Omar, I appreciate everything that you bring to the table, not only your insight and intelligence, but your talent and your skills. So thank you.

Remote Production for Live Events

If you have an upcoming live event – such as a conference, convention or trade show – and are looking for remote production to livestream the event, reach out to Sorrentino Media today!