As production tries to return to business, there are still plenty of challenges to overcome, including the number of people on set, personal protective equipment, protecting talent and more.
To solve those problems, director Ira Rosensweig of Wavemaker Creative teamed with filmmakers Dallas Sterling and Jeremy Fernsler to create a remote production system they call Crew in a Box, which is patent pending.
“At the beginning of the shelter-in-place orders in Los Angeles, I completely panicked and thought when am I ever going to work again,” said Rosensweig. “I wondered if I could come up with a product and a service that would allow remote production to happen in a much better way than what I was seeing.”
Even though California Governor Gavin Newsom has given the go-ahead for production to resume in California, it’s still tricky. Crew in Box aims to solve some of those problems.
“Celebrities are not in love with the idea of getting back on set,” said Rosensweig. “Talent are going to be the people who aren’t wearing masks and PPE. And people are still figuring out the insurance. All of these concerns are driving the costs of production up, while budgets are falling. That’s why people are reacting strongly to the idea.”
The system is delivered to talent in a disinfected military grade case containing a professional 6K cinema camera, an expandable LED light that can cycle through a range of color temperatures, a teleprompter/Interrotron that the camera shoots through, and two professional microphones. Each component is housed within a cage inside the box and works together in a fully integrated system that is controlled remotely.
The lighting system, which can dim or change to different color temperatures, was custom designed by the team, and all of the components are linked together by custom software written by Fernsler.
Once the box is received, on-camera talent simply has to open the box and plug it in, and Crew in a Box automatically connects over the Internet, without the need of a home WiFi network, to a remote team who control every aspect of the shoot, including the camera, lighting, teleprompter and microphones. The system also allows talent, along with the crew, agency and clients, to join a video conference, similar to a remote video village, where they can view the direct feed from the Crew in a Box integrated camera.
When the shoot begins, the director (which, at least in early cases, will be Rosensweig) appears on the unit’s integrated beamsplitter glass, through which the camera is shooting, to direct the talent. That beamsplitter can be used for various purposes, including: as a teleprompter for direct-to-camera addresses; as an Interrotron, which displays the live video of the director or other on-camera talent, for interviews; to display the live video of all participants in a roundtable discussion, so all are looking at each other as they look into camera; and to display the camera view of talent for themselves or for hair and makeup artists.
Alternatively, a second monitor, displaying the image of a director or other talent, can be removed from the side and placed on a desk to create an off-camera eyeline. As the shoot progresses, clients can give live feedback to the director on performance or any other aspect of the shoot.
The Crew in a Box system can send the high-resolution video footage to designated recipients through a remote transfer, or the shoot can be livestreamed.
Once the shoot is complete, talent closes the box and returns it.
Already, several companies—including Fox Entertainment and ViacomCBS—are using Crew in a Box to complete remote shoots.
“Crew in a Box is likely going to redefine the remote production game entirely,” said Scott Edwards, EVP, creative advertising, Fox Entertainment, in a statement. “The idea of having a user-friendly, self-contained, remote lighting and video solution is very attractive. With the tech, the support and the ease of use, Crew in a Box can make the experience as easy at home as it is on set for on-camera talent.”
Potential applications for Crew in a Box include direct-to-camera addresses for promos and commercials; interviews featuring both into and off-camera eyelines; roundtable discussions with talent in different locations; variety and talk shows with remote guests; reality-show confessionals; and press junkets.
“We’re exploring Crew in a Box as a great way to capture broadcast-worthy content for marketing and beyond,” said Edwards. “We see it being useful in other ways in the future, not just during our current lockdown and telecommuting circumstances. Having the remote connection, from the shoot site to the producing and directing locations, can alleviate excessive travel expenses for say, a 20-second pick up, a to-camera hosting segment, or a quick interview bite.”
ViacomCBS-owned BET recently tapped Wavemaker Creative to use the Crew in a Box system to help produce a Burger King campaign that debuts during the BET Awards on June 28.
“I do think production will be forever altered,” said Rosensweig. “Things are not going to be business as usual and more of these kinds of solutions are going to be looked at going forward.”