Written by Shona Smith on May 14, 2020. Posted in General Interest

The tech streamlining production during the pandemic

Tech apps, digital solutions and AI powered platforms have long been sold to the film and TV industry as the future of production. Streamlining solutions encompass everything starting from what should be greenlit, but gaining traction can be slow. Will these digital solutions become an essential component of productions as a result of Covid19?

As cameras begin to roll again sets won’t look as they did before coronavirus hits. Smaller crews, remote production methods wherever possible and social distancing are key features of guidelines set by countries beginning to welcome productions again. New needs created by these rapid changes this entails calls upon digital tech platforms from location scouting and permitting to daily rushes.

Location scouting will need to be done in a more remote way, to minimise contact. Andrew Pavord, Chairman and founder of FilmFixer says that "location agencies will possibly be more relied upon for location scouting. It already happens but it will becomes the standard way of doing it rather than one of the ways of doing it". Launched in December 2019, Location Finder AI is a visual search engine that aggregates images from location agencies and provides real locations that match the look and feel of reference images. "we are trying to aggregate them all so they can be found on one website so it is more of a search engine in many ways, rather than just another photo gallery". The company have also made changes to their Filmapp permit processing system used in the UK and US by putting in new questions that accommodate for new regulation.

Once on location, another platform Remote Filming allows for parties not on site to get feedback from ongoing shoots. Although it was in development long before Coronavirus presented the world with travel restrictions and social distancing, it launched at a pertinent moment.

With many years behind them in the production industry, founders Yanina Barry and Alex Seery had recognised the need for a more secure and intuitive solution to remote viewing, feedback and review on set and decided to create something that was completely fit for purpose.

Executive Producer, Owner of Good Films and Remote Filming Co-Founder, Yanina Barry says “Despite the huge variety of software at our disposal, we realised there was nothing that could allow you to see a camera feed directly and securely with only a standard Wi-Fi connection and no expensive hardware or crew. Now that the production industry is facing its biggest remote-working challenge yet, we wanted to share our solution".

The challenge they often faced themselves on set was that there was no easy way to see a live camera feed remotely. The process often required a lot of expensive proprietary hardware and software and installing potentially risky applications. An experienced operator was needed on set and it made lines of communication complicated.

Although the need for these systems existed before the pandemic new working pressures may force a greater pace of change and takeup of such tech. Digital Workflow Supervisor, Co-Owner of Hijack Post and Remote Filming Co-Founder Alex Seery explains “the faster we proceed into a digital age of information sharing, the whole production industry is facing increasingly tighter NDA restrictions from clients, studios, commissioners and advertisers".

"Our priority from the beginning was to ensure the software we created would be completely secure and that only approved viewers could access the feed via an encrypted peer to peer connection. Our second priority was to make it accessible and as easy to use as possible - without having to buy expensive hardware or get to grips with complicated software".

Remote Filming works for multi-camera, location or studio shoots and can be viewed by unlimited authorised numbers of people across the world. In order to view Remote Filming, users are simply provided with encrypted access keys to log in through a private portal using their usual internet browser. Once logged in, the images and audio from set are transmitted live in real-time with a latency of under 500 milliseconds. The only equipment needed to transmit is a dedicated on-set laptop, an inexpensive capture card and an internet connection. Viewers of the live feed can communicate notes securely back through a text chat function incorporated into the page.

Finally, Drylab, a Norwegian based sharing platform for digital rushes and dailies has found a new niche during the pandemic. “Drylab was made to enable collaboration in various locations, and this enables creatives to work on the content despite being socially isolated” says CEO Audun Vaaler, “The collaboration value of Drylab is a great advantage while producing in Corona times”.

The platform enables scripted film and TV series to digitally streamline their workflows and analyse relevant production data, and is already widely used in Scandinavia where productions have started rolling again. The film Havboka has continued shooting, although unusual measures taken to keep the staff safe, such as the director not being able to visit the editor, “all clips are shared and collaborated on using Drylab dailies, video conferencing and shared screens while using Avid. Even though Ole Anders Tandberg, in charge of script and scenography is Corona-confined to his location in Stockholm, he is still able to collaborate with director and Cinematographer John Christian Rosenlund via video link, while having access to all clips on his iPad” says Valler.

"We see today that the industry is trying to adjust to the new situation to continue their productions, but in a safer way than before. In Norway, NRK’s second season of drama series “EXIT” has restarted their filming with a dedicated Communicable Disease Expert on the set, ensuring that the “stay safe guidelines” are adhered to while producing. They also use Drylab when filming so that a wider group of people can quickly access all material although they are in various locations and some also in social isolation” explains Vaaler.

Although the Covid-19 situation took the film- and TV-making industry by surprise and at a time when the appetite for new and original content has never been higher. Technology platforms and apps that allow for flexible, remote production have long been available, but the pandemic may compel the industry to pick up these tools. Even after the pandemic ends, the new normal might see these systems a permanent fixture, especially those that promote eco-friendly productions. “The world we re-join will not be the same as the one we left. We anticipate the need for remote working will not subside in an environmentally-conscious future” concludes Remote Filming’s Barry.

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