Producing in My Pajamas: Adventures in Remote Production (Part 2 – Remote Production 2.0)

Video Creative Producer
Published 1/20/21
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(This is a continuation of Producing in My Pajamas Part 1.)

Once upon a pandemic, San Francisco Travel had the opportunity to interview five local celebrities: Coach Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors), Mayor London Breed, Lexi Pence (YouTube Personality), Hunter Pence (Former San Francisco Giant), and Francis Ford Coppola (Winemaker and Director).  The twist?  San Francisco was on lockdown, and that was only the first challenge of many that we needed to ninja our way around to make this happen.

With this prospect, they wanted to create a hero video that would speak to their COVID recovery messaging and use of the tagline “Our Gate is Open™.”  Given that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we also encouraged them to consider using the interviews for a more evergreen hero video as well as individual vignettes of each celebrity to enable us to get the most mileage out of the footage and create content with a lifespan beyond COVID. 

But…COVID.  Where do I begin…San Francisco was on lockdown so sending a crew to shoot wasn’t going to be an option.  At best, we were going to be able to have one director/ videographer on-location but no on-site producer.  While we have at our disposal a very sizeable archive of existing assets to pull from, we needed some COVID-appropriate b-roll to include in order to show San Franciscans enjoying the city safely.  And…we needed the footage to be high-quality since we had over 50 content pieces to produce between the longform videos and associated re-cuts for media and social distribution, including a PSA that would broadcast globally during the PGA tournament in August.  A recording pulled from a video conferencing platform wasn’t going to cut it.  And…it needed to be completed by the end of July -- it was mid-June.

Remote Production 2.0 was born.  While I couldn’t be on-location to conduct these interviews, I decided to use the ubiquity of video conferencing to my advantage and use Zoom…even if it did mean ditching my pajamas and dressing like a grown-up again (which, thankfully, I hadn’t forgotten how to do and had miraculously avoided gaining the COVID 19).  This would enable me to see the speaker and talk to them directly as if I were in the room while having a videographer on-site to capture the interview in glorious 4k with a two-camera set-up.  This way we had an on-location crew of one with a remote producer, still allowing for quality footage to be captured and allowing me to ensure we were getting soundbytes that would make the most of this opportunity and align with the client’s goals. The unexpected bonus was that this remote video village set-up also allowed for our clients at San Francisco Travel to participate in the filming. We ended up leveraging Cinebody to capture footage of San Franciscans enjoying the city responsibly through a call-to-action on their social media channels.  This, coupled with existing b-roll that was COVID-friendly, allowed us to avoid having to send a shooter to capture additional b-roll.

And was it successful?

After a surge of cases over the summer, the City decided to delay their reopening until mid-September, at which point they finally began releasing the videos.  A little over a month into the campaign, the videos that had launched had generated 73,000 views, over 10,500 engagements for a reach of over 187,000 people.  Here are a couple of videos produced from this series:

"Our Gate is Open" hero video

“Our Gate is Open” Steve Kerr vignette

Not bad for a project that was produced remotely!  But the question remains, these COVID-adaptations that allowed us to continue producing work during this time, are they a temporary fix or something that will ultimately transform us and/or the video production industry at large?

The industry has seen some potentially permanent transformations.  For us, this has become a mechanism by which we’ve been able to strengthen our offerings to provide more capabilities.  We believe that elements of remote production will be here to stay well after COVID-19 recovery.  During the pandemic, people were hungry for content and the ability to turnaround new videos quickly became essential.  The speed with which content can be shot and delivered to an editor through platforms like Cinebody will continue beyond COVID.  As destinations recover after the pandemic, we may see budgets shrink or continued apprehension surrounding large groups of people -- hangovers from our time of social distancing -- so being able to minimize the number of crew members will continue to be of importance.  And thankfully, there are now more elegant platforms available like DirectMe and TVU Anywhere that are designed for video production and the remote video village environment.  While we have always prided ourselves on operating at an efficiently sized crew -- we’ve been doing it before COVID made it essential -- this will force certain areas of the industry to do the same and consider alternatives.

And while we look forward to getting back to “business as normal” (whatever that means), we know that given our forward-thinking track record and elasticity in responding to the challenges that come, we’re at the ready to be the architects of the next great solution to whatever problem the world may send our way.