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Production in New Times

by Gregor Clark

Yes, Budweiser did a great overlay of audio to reframe its iconic commercial. But re-inventing the thing you once did isn’t the only option to make something new right now.

Here are three good ways to re-think production.

Safe Studios

If you’ve got something small, consider calling a small, regional studio. Many studios in the U.S. are endeavors begun by production technicians with an entrepreneurial spirit. Which means many will assemble an owner-run remote project for you – a single-person (or couple) crew delivering tabletop or other content they’re able to create for a client independently.

Some production is emerging in safe studios. Media Monks’ remote tabletop solution in Amsterdam provides a full studio environment that is prioritizing minimal size, obsessive sanitization, and social distancing for live crew, but also, significantly, a suite of remote access options to maximize collaborators’ ability to work off-site. And of course, production in certain “open” areas in the U.S. is an option, too, albeit of uncertain safety.

As countries emerge from the most significant lockdowns, adaptive producers can think about harnessing remote creative direction with international production teams – New Zealand and China may end up leading enabling production for international partners.

As people emerge with evidence they’ve got antibodies, we may see all kinds of new segmentation across industries. Might a production company offer an inoculated crew solution by the fall? It’s possible, undoubtedly with some serious ethical dimensions that maybe none of us want to foster.

Stock Production

A reliable alternative for many production needs is to mine past libraries and stock image libraries and blend those images with new remote recorded voiceover to create new content. This Strawberry Frog ad for their client Northwell Health was put together entirely remotely. Many creative agencies and production companies have built fully remote animation and editing teams that can collaborate on the cloud and deliver new video assets without new video production.

One note on animation and motion graphics: these are critical tools for helping you move stock content into a unified presentation. It’s up in the air whether or not the Strawberry Frog example really holds together visually. You can feel the stretch of different sources. A unified graphics treatment can sometimes help diverse footage feel more like part of a cohesive whole.

@Home Production

Perhaps the strongest potential for innovation is the creation of a new @home production model. What’s @home? Think of production that is managed remotely but created entirely at the location of and captured by the talent. SNL’s final three episodes of their 2019/20 season were all at home production.

The model centers either on the talent (as SNL did), or the production crew. Writers work to create scripts that are achievable within the constraints of home and home talent, including family. SNL, Jimmy Fallon, and many other productions are not using family as talent to limited success.

A stronger corporate model might center on hiring a Casting Director to identify a new kind of production-ready household: look for multi-talented families with a range of talents and you’re beginning to see how this could get better over time.  Sound and Director of Photography conducting remote scouts and leading remote @home recordists, who are using either equipment shipped to them or their own equipment. Remote directing and retakes. Upload of content from phones or tablets to the cloud. A transformed level of control from the talent side. New intimacy, new kinds of projects.

It’s all possible…if you just take the first step.

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