Remote Production – A Godsend in an Era of Social Distancing

Tom Carlisle, CBTE / 6.3.2020

Like everyone in the production industry, the team at SNEAKY BIG found itself in need of changing workflows and processes to reflect the changing times. We did this not only to comply with CDC safety guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic but also to protect the employees, freelancers and clients who may come to our facility during this time. In the process, we rolled out new remote production techniques to support some exciting productions.

Safety First

On the safety side, SNEAKY BIG has instituted a procedure for all employees, freelancers and clients to follow upon entering the facility. This includes:

  • Mandatory temperature checks prior to entry
  • Everyone in the facility wearing masks at all times unless they are on camera
  • Minimum distances of at least six feet between attendees

This even applies to our hair and makeup artists who still wear masks and gloves to avoid direct contact with our clients even while completing the necessities of their job, which require closer contact.

Before the Pandemic

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, SNEAKY BIG had already become a proven leader in remote production. We made history as the first facility in the nation to provide Skycam control and graphics insertion from a remote facility for NFL/CBS Thursday Night Football. We produced 17 REMI home games and 33 halftime shows for the Alliance of American Football and a Megacast for The Cowboy Channel’s production of “The American” rodeo. See examples of our remote production work here: https://www.sneakybig.com/work/

Engineering and Production Changes After the Pandemic

With the stay-at-home order in place, we needed to get creative and collaborative for our most recent project – becoming the live to tape production facility for Engine Shop’s eMLS Tournament on Fox Sports 1. For this event, we partnered with our friends at Journey and Bitfire Networks to leverage our combined technology and unique solutions. Together, we were able to bring four on-air talent, eight players (four teams of two) and two game views back to SNEAKY BIG as sources for this production – all while embracing social distancing.

Through Journey and Bitfire Networks, we were also able to set up live video chat rooms so that everyone involved in the production could communicate in real time with zero delay during this event. To provide scope on just how many moving parts this involved, the people in communication included Engine Shop’s executive producer and engineers, eMLS’ event producer, technical director and AD, as well as the engineering team at SNEAKY BIG. These chat rooms were also extended to four on-air talent and the players so production could also jump into their chat rooms and talk in real time. All talent, players and production staff were remote and located at both ends of the country – that’s the beauty of remote production.

We were also able to return program feeds from our control room to the players and talent and dedicated Multiviewer feeds to the Engine Shop production staff so they could easily manage the production from their remote locations. Inside SNEAKY BIG, we reduced the technical operations team for this event down to a crew of five operators and one engineer to manage the technical production side of the event.

The Benefits of a Full-service Production Facility

Once we finished recording the production, all footage was transferred in house to our Harmonic MediaGrid and all five episodes were edited in our post-production facility. Using Journey and BitFire Networks technology, we were able to send the event producer a live, real-time, high-resolution feed of the edits so the producer could make comments and changes in real time to speed up the edit and review process. Once we reached picture lock, SNEAKY BIG performed the entire 5.1 audio mix and music insertion inhouse and delivered the final product to the network each week for Engine Shop.

Prep, production, live broadcast engineering, post-production and distribution – it’s all under one roof at SNEAKY BIG. Not only does this make the whole process more efficient for our clients, but it also reduces the number of people involved, further helping with safe social distancing.

Quick Turnarounds Are the Norm

At SNEAKY BIG, we excel at handling short timelines and tight, results-driven schedules. The timeline for this event from the first phone call to the start of production was approximately two weeks. In this short timeframe, we were able to work together with Engine Shop and our partners to get the workflow built, integrate any rental equipment needed to do the production, crew the tech ops staff and set up the control room.

We’re excited to collaborate on your next production project. Contact us today to get started.

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