At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we needed to quickly create a workflow that included options for remote video production. Our team came up with a solution in the form of our remote production kits, which remain unlike anything we’ve seen other production companies doing.
Check out the video below where we talk about how we developed our kits and the biggest takeaways from our experiences as we look ahead to a post-COVID world.
Mike: Hi everyone. I’m sure you’ve seen a lot on our website about our remote production kits, but I sort of wanted to dive a little deeper into the process of how we came up with the option that we have. You know, there’s a million things out there, like fancy kits that are built outside the house and wheeled in that that are $30,000 or something for a day use. Then there’s a simple thing of just using your own phone. And then we’ve come up with a really great solution.
With me is Omar Lopez Jr. Omar Lopez is a Director of Photography and you can learn more about his work at omarlopezjr.com. He’s just so talented, and when the challenge came up of accomplishing the task of acquiring high-definition footage remotely and reliably, with the unknown of Internet and how even some executives that are highly paid and have beautiful homes may not have the best internet connection, may not know anything about lighting. We don’t expect them to, that’s not their job, but Omar,
this was a real challenge.
Omar: It was the challenge. You know, when COVID hit, I wasn’t too worried in terms of our production because I had confidence in us, but it really was a roller coaster of vendors. And how do we do this? Honestly, almost everyone has their own system. We look around at what other people are doing, but the reality of it is that I really don’t think I’ve seen another production company or spoken to another production company that has as tight of a kit as we do.
I always tell people that when you’re making stuff, once you understand the limitations and you work within those, everything else becomes easier. Once you know that this is the top, this is what I can do, you can work around it, you can troubleshoot everything else. And I think Mike, one thing that you did very well, very early on, was that you’re always looking out for the end user. Me as a DP, I want this to look the best it can be, so let’s ship out.
We were talking about PTZ cameras, which are robotic cameras that you can control remotely, but for one, your client’s going to have to pay some of the shipping costs, etc. But also, the average person, as a C-suite level executive, is not going to be wanting to set up a grip two-ton truck full of gear. It’s a lot for one person to be doing five other people’s jobs. I mean, that’s why we pay DP’s, videographers and other people to do all that stuff for us.
Mike: God, I miss those days.
Omar: Yeah! Because then you can just say, “Omar, why is it look like that?” And I could actually physically do something, whereas you can’t really speak like that to the CEO of a company where you’re like, “Hey, you need to just tilt up.” You can’t just do that all the time, you know? Now it’s customer service in addition to them doing all the work and, of course, you’re taking their time. So I think our kits have really kind of meshed together the failsafe to production with the actual use case, where every end user is having a good time when they’re using it.
Mike: We went through a lot of trials and tribulations. We bounced, like you said, different vendors back and forth. There’s so many components to it and it is simple. But simple is hard to accomplish and we still will always continue to improve. But, you know, it’s funny to think about the journey to get to where we are, which we were talking about the other day. Which is just that, you know, there was a one point, Omar, where you two vendors, we had a shoot on Friday and you said to them, we both have the same problem and one of you needs to figure it out before Friday, and I don’t care who it is but whoever it gets it wins. Right? And that was an interesting challenge.
I also think that we’re learning a lot from this about the post COVID world, right? So tell me, what are some of the key takeaways for field production when you’re able to go back on set again, that you’re going to be able to take away from this?
Omar: For me, I think it’s going to make me appreciate field production more, I definitely won’t be complaining about moving things or doing things or working a little bit harder to get a certain result, because I’ll be on set again.
Mike: And Omar never complaints – that’s for the record.
Omar: No, I, I really do think communication is going to be the biggest thing. I mean, obviously with COVID, everyone’s kind of realizing how much face-to-face time is really important. And I think being on set now, you can communicate better because you know exactly what you want. At least from our team’s perspective, we are so much better at telling someone, “Hey, we need to move that one thing in the corner.” Right. And before it used to be like, “Just move it that way.” And you could point. But through the screen, it’s like, “Okay, so in the bottom left corner of your screen, there’s this and this, can you scooch it two inches to your right?”
Mike: And also dealing with the cat, the dog, the cousin next door who might be in their underwear or something. There are all sorts of things that we’ve experienced.
Omar: Yeah, we have experienced some crazy shenanigans happening in the background.
Mike: It brings us to my final point here. Look, we could talk for hours about this. But you know, I think one of the key takeaways that I’ve gotten is bedside manner. And we’ve always had really good demeanor, especially as we deal with clients, it’s something that you have to in our world. But I think this really was a challenge for bedside manner, for just being on zoom and talking softly and slowly and understanding that the end user may not know the very basics of some of the foundation of experience and knowledge that we have. So we have to sort of educate them along the way. So I take that away. Would you say the same?
Omar: Yeah. I definitely agree with you there. I mean, my very first job was at a pizza place and I always tell people that I learned all my customer service from there because you know, sometimes it’s something as easy as just explaining that this is why we’re doing it this way. It helps so many people, and a lot of production people don’t really understand that They just assume the client doesn’t know or care, and then they kind of just say it like, “Oh, we can’t do it this way.” But people like knowing why, people like hearing, “Hey, we are having this issue. We’re hearing this on your mic. This is why we’re doing it. We’re stopping. Let’s restart.”
Mike: Always have a plan B. Have a plan C. We always tell people that there are going to be problems, we will get the video, we just need you to give us the two hours that we have allotted and we’ll let you go at that time.
Omar: Yeah. I find that a lot of times when a client might be like, you know, I really wish this video could have been X, Y, Z, and really pushed it a little bit further. We come back down to, well, we asked you for two hours and you gave us 30 minutes. So, I think a lot of it is that people are busy, we get it. Especially, C-suite executives are busy. But it really is a test of patience and, of course, bedside manner, as you called it, to convey to other people that this is what we need to get done.
I’ve had a couple of interactions where you’re on a call with like five other people who are your peers, and especially sometimes you’re your rivals in the same industry. And something as simple as, “I’m having issues with my webcam,” can make people feel inadequate. So you’re juggling all these different emotions because it’s like giving a presentation in front of everyone and messing up. Like you can either go on and keep going, or it’s going to build up and everyone’s going to be looking at you. That’s how I think people feel like on a zoom call sometimes. So, juggling all those emotions and the technical aspect is something that definitely going into this whole remote production, I was not expecting to have to dust off those customer service skills as I used back of my pizza slinging days.
Mike: It’s always the first job skills that you forget that you’re going to take with you for the rest of your career. Omar, thank you. Again, we could talk for hours. We have much work to do still, and I’m not happy to be in this moment in the whole world and universe that we’re in, but while we are here, I’d like to just take a second and say, we did a freaking great job. Thank you. Thank you to the team that you put together for the remote production. And you know, it’s been a ride Omar, and I’m glad to have been on it with you.
Omar: Yeah, me too. I’m right back at ya.
Sorrentino Media is a national, digital-first video production company headquartered in NYC. We specialize in short-form digital content and remote video content production. As a boutique production company, we provide exceptional service to our clients that large production studios simply cannot match. Learn more about our remote production services, and get in touch with us today to discuss your next project!