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***Please note that this document references best practices from a technical standpoint only. We expect that you seek further advice from your Production, Post and Legal teams prior to implementing the technical guidance herein in order to follow both medical and civil regulations in each respective area of filming.***

 

How is interactive remote production relevant to my show?

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the creative media world to work under constraints that have required adapting and thinking out of the box in order to create engaging content.  The initial response has been to rely on consumer tools for audio and video capture as well as for remote viewing and interacting with crew and talent.  This approach has worked, sometimes at the expense of image quality, audio quality and creative intent.  

 

Imagine the following scenario...

Interviews for a documentary in a residential area of Washington DC are being shot by a local crew but travel restrictions prevent the director and producers from being present.  The director needs to see the camera shots and provide real time feedback to the camera operator for shot framing.  The Producer is conducting the actual interview and needs to see and hear a live camera feed.  The interviewees need to see and hear the Producer as well.  All of the above must happen with minimal latency, good video and audio quality and under the constraints of the available internet connection.

In the above scenario, the bare minimum would be to conduct a video chat  session for the purpose of communication and video/audio monitoring.  A step up from this would be to utilize a hardware encoder to generate a point-to-point feed which could be accessed with a decoder, via a web browser on a computer or with a dedicated app.

 

Every show is unique

There are other use cases such as live productions with multiple remote participants (talk shows, variety shows, etc.)  or productions that typically would have an audience present for the shoot (comedy specials, sitcoms, etc.).  This document will provide some starting-off points to enable you to decide which technology and vendors may be most appropriate for your particular shoot.  We’ve also included a FAQ with common queries relevant to this subject matter and an APPENDIX with links to the various hardware and software solutions.  To help your shoot go smoothly, a finalized kit procurement should be made in consultation with the show’s technical lead, ensuring all creative factors are accounted for.

 

Real World Examples

Below are some typical situations you may be faced with.  While every show is different, the scenarios below should provide a good starting point in planning your workflow.  These are basic recommendations and can be improved significantly if budget and logistics allow it.

 

If you are working on a Netflix project remotely, we recommend following our security best practices. If you have questions or require additional assistance, please reach out to scs@netflix.com.

 

Remote Shoot Requirements

This is a breakdown of the capabilities you would want when conducting remote interviews.  

Location

Workflow Requirements

Video Capture Requirements

- Camera from Approved List

  • Most cameras can be operated remotely.
  • Some cameras have advanced auto-focus functionality. 

- Camera Media

  • Record to internal camera media using settings from Netflix Camera Production Guide.
  • Camera Cards can be shipped or uploaded to appropriate cloud storage.

Location #1
“Interviewee setup”

- Interviewee should be able to:

  • See remote interviewer in high quality with minimal latency
  • Hear remote interviewer in high quality with minimal latency

- Location crew should be able to:

  • Setup all equipment without hassle
  • See remote interviewer
  • Have a high quality audio kit (mics, mixer, recorder)
  • Hear remote interviewer
  • Speak to remote interviewer without distracting interviewee.  
    • This is where an intercom system like Unity could be deployed on mobile devices both on location and at the interviewers home.
  • Conduct data management/backups of all camera media
    • Computer
    • Enough external RAID drives for backup and possibly shipping them to your post facility.
    • Software capable of generating MD5/xxHash checksums and copying verified camera footage to external drives
    • Optional: Network capabilities for uploading camera footage to Content Hub or other cloud based storage. 
    • A DIT kit should be provided with the following capabilities:
  • Have a reliable and fast internet connection.
    • While in some locations the broadband internet service may be adequate, a Bonded Cellular solution can be used as a backup to enable fast internet, communication, livestream and file upload capabilities.

Location #2
“Interviewer setup”

- Interviewer should be able to:

  • See primary camera in high quality with minimal latency
  • Hear interviewee in high quality with minimal latency
  • Speak with crew without distracting interviewee
  • Provide a video feed (webcam or standalone camera) back to the interview location.

 

Use Case #1 - Documentary Interviews

In this example, interviews happen between two parties.  This is not a “live” event so multiple takes can be done and adjustments can be made if necessary.  This is a basic recommendation and can be improved significantly if budget and logistics allow it.

Components

Tools

Workflow

Video

- Camera from Approved List

- Camera Media

- Record to internal camera media using settings from Netflix Camera Production Guide.

- Camera Cards can be shipped or uploaded to appropriate cloud storage.

Audio

- Lavalier or shotgun mic

- Headphones

- Audio recorder (optional)

- Playback speaker (optional)

- Mic can be connected directly to camera or to a dedicated mixer / audio recorder.

- If using an audio recorder, mic feed should be sent to the camera as well for remote monitoring.

Communication and remote viewing

“Bare Bones”

- Windows or Mac computer

- Zoom, WebEx or other streaming service

- HDMI to USB3 adapter

- HDMI to USB3 adapter allows the camera to be used as a video source in Zoom,  WebEx or other streaming service.  

- Since mic audio is being fed to the camera, remote viewers (interviewer, director, producers) will be able to hear on-camera talent.

- On-camera talent can wear headphones or use a playback speaker to listen to the interviewer and receive direction.

Remote viewing

“Critical review”

- DIT cart with ability to generate stills and export high quality clips of the original camera files for critical review

- The DIT or Data Manager on set ingests the original camera files and generates stills and clips of various shots in high quality.
- Clips and stills are uploaded to the cloud and shared with remote creatives (DP, Colorist, etc.) for critical review of image quality, lighting, color and exposure.

Remote viewing

“LIVE Critical review”

- High end hardware encoder.

- Fast internet connection.

- If a very high quality HD or 4k LIVE feed is required, there are solutions that can transmit either point-to-point or via cloud relay.

-  With cloud relay, viewers can view either via a computer or with a hardware decoder connected to a monitor at their home or office.

- Point-to-point requires a hardware decoder at the viewing location.

* Please refer to the appendix section for examples of hardware encoders, decoders and sevices.

Lighting

- 1-3 LED light panels

- Lighting is key to making a shot look good.

- Shooting in natural light can work well but a small lighting kit is recommended to supplement any available practical lighting.

 

Use Case #2 - Studio Shoot with Remote Audience

In this example, a standup comedian or performer is on stage.  Since the audience cannot be physically present they will be viewing the event from home.  The performer should be able to see and hear the remote audience and their feeds should be recorded in order to add them to the show during the edit.

Components

Tools

Workflow

Video

- Camera from Approved List

- Comprehensive Flypack or OB Truck

- Standard multicam workflow.

- Record at highest quality per Netflix capture specs.

Audio

- Comprehensive Flypack or OB Truck

- Audio of audience clapping and laughing at home can be fed to speakers on stage/set.

Communication and remote viewing

- Windows or Mac computers

- Zoom or WebEx account

- Stream Encoder

- Zoom or WebEx can be used to create a VC session where the audience can watch the show.

- Line-cut from switcher is encoded and broadcast to a predefined audience.  

- Audience logs on to a secure streaming service to view live broadcast.

- Audience camera and sound feeds (from their phones or computers) will be fed back to the performer on multiple displays or projection screens close to the stage/set.



Use Case #3 - Studio Shoot with “live” Remote Talent and Interviews

This example is similar to Use Case #1 above but assumes multiple interviewees (guests) simultaneously.  The guests would not only need to hear the hosts but also hear and interact with each other.  There are solutions that enable this through a “party-line” system.  This is similar to what apps like Zoom or WebEx do but with functionality tailored to live broadcast and media production.

Components

Tools

Workflow

Video

- Camera from Approved List

- Comprehensive Flypack or OB Truck

- Standard multicam workflow.

- Record at highest quality per Netflix capture specs.

- Guests camera and audio feeds should be fed to routing system for distribution to switcher, audio console, monitors and recorders.

Audio

- Comprehensive Flypack or OB Truck

- Audio Department will generate a mix-minus of   all guests, depending on whether they have to hear each other or just the host.

Communication and remote viewing

Newtek Talkshow
TVU Talkshow
TVU Partyline

- Several solutions are available, from Zoom and Skype to broadcast quality products like those listed to the left.

 

Use Case #4 - Crew and Director/Producer/DP are in different locations

This example focuses on the communication between production personnel specifically.  On a shoot, the crew may be on a stage but the Director, Producer, Script Supervisor, etc. are in a different geographic location.  They need to interact in real-time and be able to see and hear the camera feeds in real-time as well, ie. “Virtual Video Village”.

Components

Tools

Workflow

Video

- Camera from Approved List

- Video Switcher and multivewer.

- Stream encoder

- If this is a single-camera shoot, the output of the camera can be fed directly into an encoder. 

- For a multicam shoot, there are a couple of options:

  • Program output of switcher fed to an encoder - this allows the remote viewers to see a line-cut of the show.  Ideal for anyone who does not need to see individual cameras all the time.
  • Multiviewer output fed to an encoder - this would be preferred by a director or DP as they need to see what each camera is doing all the time.  A director would likely also need to see the line-cut as well in the multiviewer.  Low latency is very important.  

Audio

- Audio Console

- Sound Mixer can control what personnel who are offsite hear by sending a program mix or mix-minus to the  stream encoder.

Communication and remote viewing

- Standard video-conferencing app

- Dedicated production intercom

ie.  Unity Intercom

- A production intercom system can enable multiple channels of communication between crew on-set  and remote production personnel. 

- Production intercom allows each department to have their own channel, enabling multiple departments to both interact globally or selectively with specific personnel without talking over each other. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the bare minimum recommendation to view a remote camera feed?

A: You can use Zoom, WebEx or similar VC service.  These allow not just the use of your built-in webcam but also work with external USB3 converters that can interface with your primary camera or video switcher.  By using one of these converters you can use the output of your camera as the video source in the Video Chat session.

 

Q: What if I need to interact with the camera crew or on-camera talent?

A: A mainstream chat app like Zoom or Skype can be used.  There are web based intercom solutions like Unity Intercom which enable multiple channels of communication in a single session.  This allows the camera crew to be on one channel, sound on another as well as talent, Director and DP on their own channels.  Since the various channels are part of a single session, users can select who they want to hear as well as who hears them.  For example, you could be talking to the camera department without interrupting a simultaneous conversation between a producer and the Director.

 

Q: Can I build a kit myself or should I hire a vendor to do it for me?

A:  There are several factors to consider when building any type of production kit.  Cost to purchase, availability of equipment and technical support will all have an impact.  Generally, the more complex the system, the more benefit there is to hiring a specialized vendor rather than purchasing and attempting to do it all yourself.

 

Q: Will I need to hire specialized crew if my production requires live-streaming of camera feeds or any other type of remote capabilities?

A:  In most instances we would recommend having a DIT or Video Utility person on your crew who can be dedicated to setting up and supporting your remote production workflow.  Some equipment rental vendors can provide a technician to support your shoot as well.  

If your remote production requirements are fairly basic; maybe all you need is a live camera feed over a Zoom call, then it could be viable for a member of your camera dept. to supervise and support it.

 

Q: What is the best way to record remote feeds if I need to use them in the show?

A:  The best image and sound quality will always be achieved by recording locally; on the internal camera cards and with a sound recorder.  If the remote feeds are coming from a webcam or phone camera, you may be able to record internally on these devices as well.  Apps like Zoom allow for recording locally as well with decent image quality.  

 

Q: I need to conduct interviews remotely and want the interviewee to look in a particular direction as if I was there talking with them in person, what are some methods to help achieve this?

A:  An Interrotron can be used for this.  The remote interviewer would need a camera at their location, with proper framing.  This camera could then be streamed back to the interview location and displayed on the interrotron.

 

Q: I’d like to remotely monitor multiple cameras simultaneously, will this require one livestream per camera?

A:  While you could stream each camera feed independently, this would require significant network bandwidth.  A more efficient alternative is to feed your cameras into a multiviewer at the shoot location, which would then provide all your camera feeds as a grid on a single screen.  The output of the multiviewer could then be streamed to your viewers.

 

Q: What if I want the option to monitor individual audio channels as well as a mix (ie. multiple guests are being interviewed simultaneously or my show has an audience and I don’t want to hear the audience reaction mics)?

A: Some high end encoders like the Streambox Chroma 4k can embed up to 16 x channels of audio.  By using a Streambox decoder with an SDI audio de-embedder you can break out those 16 x channels into either analog or AES audio and monitor them through an audio mixer.

Another option is to use an IP based intercom system like Unity.  With Unity you can feed multiple audio sources into it on-set with an audio interface.  These sources can then be monitored individually by anyone using the Unity app on their mobile device.

 

Q: Other than shipping hard drives and LTO tapes, what other options do I have for getting my Original Camera Files from the shoot location to post and Netflix?

A: Outside of shipping drives, files could be sent digitally using secure means. Utilizing Netflix's Content Hub Workspaces would be an example of a secure digital push/pull medium to share files.

 

Q: I need to stream a camera feed but my location has poor broadband internet access, what do I do?

 A: Bonded Cellular can help in this instance.  By using a bonded cellular appliance you can leverage multiple LTE modems or SIM cards to create a fast internet connection.  The only requirement is that your location have decent cellular network coverage.  A few of the more popular bonded systems are listed in the Bonded Cellular Hardware section of the appendix.

 

Q: My DP is in a different location and would like to control cameras remotely, is this possible?

A: Some of the newer “PTZ” cameras can be controlled remotely over the internet.  These are all-in-one pan, tilt, zoom capable cameras with integrated lenses.  If you need to control a regular cinema or broadcast camera, some rental vendors offer bespoke robotic camera heads that can be controlled remotely.

 

Appendix

Video Conversion (USB3)

These devices allow you to feed a camera signal into a computer via USB3.  You can then select the camera as a video source in your streaming software or video-conferencing app (see Remote Monitoring & Conferencing section below).  

 

Livestream Encoding

These are hardware based encoders that can take a video feed and send it to a CDN or decoder that is connected to the internet.  Note:  OBS is a computer program that can take multiple video sources and encode a livestream for distribution.  It requires a hardware interface to ingest the live video sources and a fast computer. 

Monitoring and Dailies

These are software/web based services that allow viewing of live camera feeds and/or previously recorded takes.  Moxion and Qtake also offer comprehensive “dailies” functionality.

 

Remote Monitoring and Conferencing

These are several examples of tools that are used for remote monitoring and communication.


Bonded Cellular Hardware

These vendors offer LTE cellular hardware that can use multiple LTE modems or SIM cards to enable fast internet connections in locations with poor connectivity.


Rental vendors who have experience with Remote Production

The rental vendors below have extensive experience in remote production and can design and support a kit that includes cameras, audio and everything else needed for remote production.

 

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