Producers at Levity Live consider themselves lucky. The shows they were working on — like Food Network’s “Restaurant: Impossible,” Adult Swim’s “Black Jesus” and HGTV’s “House Hunters” — had all wrapped principal photography by March when the pandemic hit. There was only one problem: Post-production needed to be completed.
But the company was also prepared. In the weeks before the coronavirus forced the closure of many offices throughout the entertainment industry, Levity Live preordered huge hard drives to transfer more than 520TB of footage per day that enabled it to move its 140 post workers from the office to their homes.
John Bravakis, executive VP and chief operating officer at Triage Entertainment, a production company owned by Levity Live that also produces Ovation’s “Inside the Actors Studio,” notes that early planning — along with the good fortune to not have any serialized reality shows in its pipeline — meant Levity and Triage didn’t miss a beat. “We could have been on Episode 6 of 9 on a competition show,” he says. Instead, “we were able to continue the workflow and migrate that content to our editors and post coordinators. All the shows had promo and marketing, and we were able to deliver on time.”
All3Media America, which produces shows like Fox’s “Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back” and HBO Max’s unscripted dating series “12 Dates of Christmas,” also was ready for the coming storm. “We were bouncing ideas around prior to the lockdown,” says James Voda, VP of post production. “We reached out to our vendors, talked to producers and discussed what would work.”
With all the data stored on hard drives and the team ready to edit, remote editing bays were set up. “There were producer stations and post stations, and it didn’t come cheap,” Voda says.
Voda and Bravakis agree that the pandemic has shifted attitudes toward working from home. “There was a fear that activity would drop,” Voda says, “but it’s been quite the opposite.” He adds that the pandemic has proved that post work can be done anywhere in the world and has provided more opportunity for that to happen. “We can have editors anywhere,” he says. “This has really opened that up.”
Bravakis sees the technology available to those in post not only getting faster but also easier to use, citing workflow programs like Streambox Solutions and Evercast that allow teams to work together remotely in real time. “We’re looking at what can be done in the next three, six, 12 months,” he says. “We continue to aggressively evaluate emerging technologies focusing on speed, accessibility, remote team viewing and security.”
Voda, meanwhile, is using existing open broadcaster software OBS Studio to stream a video feed from AVID directly into videoconferencing apps like Webex Teams. “It allows multiple people to view cuts and collaborate in real time with the editor,” he says.
Bravakis believes greater remote post-production options will soon be available, particularly regarding improved camera tech. “I’ve had interesting conversations with a company that allows you to take control of a cellphone and adjust the exposure,” he says. “You see it live while recording.”