Ongoing Challenges of Remote Production
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Ben Ratner: I'd say the biggest challenge was not so much the people who do the tech stuff, because a lot of us already knew how to use a lot of the software hardware that already is natively designed to work remotely, but it's the people who don't do this every day. Mostly the talent, specifically talent and guests--getting them to have the ability to set up a camera for the first time; lights, having their shot look good. The basic things, even upgrading their internet--that's just been a consistent challenge, particularly in early COVID. A lot of that is getting easier because there came a point probably seven, eight months into the pandemic where people started showing up with their own ring lights. and that was great because it meant that people were doing a lot of the hard work for us.
But the biggest challenges today are that a lot of the people I work with now still have all these remote guests. People want to work from home, but they still want higher-quality stuff. So it's figuring out the kinds of equipment and the kinds of workflows that they're able to manage remotely, when we can't send an engineer to help set up and maintain it constantly.
I'd say our experience has been pretty similar. A lot of what we were doing early on was client education, explaining to them what options are available. There's so many different ways you can be remote, but how do you do it safely? And how do you make sure your talent is really comfortable while it's happening? So it was so much client education, and there was so much anxiety happening at the time, too. People's businesses were under threat and their livelihoods are under threat.
And so it was really being there and explaining to them, "Everything's going to be okay, you could totally do this." And creating an infrastructure that made clients and non-technical producers feel really comfortable and cared for. And that even though they were at home, they were still in control. Developing our communications channels and things like that made a big difference. And now it really is about, "How do you not do the same show over and over again? How do we break some of the molds? How do we innovate and make your content look distinctive, but keep your talent really comfortable?" Because talent hasn't changed.
Daniel Webster: It's not just about educating. It's also about convincing, and COVID has forced everybody to rethink the way that they do things. Much of our business as being downstream of what a lot of people on this call do is basically picking up those live signals and being able to provide remote editing and just simply convincing people who are stuck in their ways with traditional on-prem workflows to try something new, and to show them how powerful that can be. That's been the major focus for us. The good news is, you can do practically everything remote. Now there are some outliers, but you'd be surprised how much you can do now in a remote situation.
Jef Kethley: Now, as we move more and more workflows to the cloud, that has opened up a very large chasm of possibility, because now we're not locked into a data center, we're not locked into on-premise resources. Everything that we can do on the ground or in an MCR or in a truck we can now do in the cloud. And that's amazing. Getting people to understand that is the next step for us in our remote workflows, that's for sure.
Marty Jenoff: Some of the challenges that we encountered were more on making sure that the remote presenters had the basics: a good camera, good light, good internet. Here in the Baltimore area, a lot of the school systems were all hybrid. We found that on some of those days, if the presenter was at home and their kids are online doing classwork, their internet wasn't good. So we were getting a lot of dropouts. It was just keeping that in mind, where it's not just it's not like it used to be back in the day. There are a lot of other constraints on the infrastructure and the network in individuals' homes and in their workplaces. So we may have to do things at odd hours or maybe ask them to get their kids to go to a friend's house or something like that, so that they would have a good internet when doing stuff.
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