COVID-19 Learnings #6: Production
This article was written by Nadia Woodhouse, from AsiaWorks
AsiaWorks has been focused on video since our inception in 1996. We have offices in Singapore, Bangkok, and Jakarta, and handle productions across the Asia Pacific region, and occasionally globally.
Our clients span many different industries and sectors, including automobile companies like Rolls-Royce, financial services firms like Visa, intergovernmental organizations like the UN and the World Bank, major non-profit organizations, tourism, pharmaceuticals, food, heavy machinery, and others. We also create TV series for broadcasters, including National Geographic, CNBC, and Bloomberg.
Production Before and During The Pandemic
As an agency spread out across countries, with clients across the globe, we had a head start in navigating remote work, but like everyone, the pandemic still affected us deeply and suddenly.
So what changes did we make, and what has been important?
Protecting Employees and Talent
This is obviously first and foremost. We want to make sure at all times that our team is protected and safe, and that no one is put into harm’s way.
Some of the measures we instituted:
- With the nature of our work and our clients, many of us were already used to working remotely. Things that help with this? Zoom, obviously, but also programs that allow changes to be saved in real-time, like the various G Suite apps, and Wipster, which allows clients to review edits remotely, in their own time. Restrictions have since eased in Bangkok and Singapore, but in Jakarta, one of the hardest-hit places, staff are still working remotely.
- Of course, you can’t always work remotely. So on shoots, we use the following protocol:
- All crew must be 2 metres (roughly 6 feet) apart wherever possible.
- Shoots are done with the minimum crew – no one is there who does not absolutely need to be there.
- All equipment is disinfected before and after use.
- All crew wear masks and wash hands before and after handling equipment.
- Talent wear masks when not on camera.
- Hand sanitizer is available for each cast and crew member, and on most shoots, everyone has an individual bottle.
On a current PSA project with Unicef, we had the challenge of featuring celebrities and children while driving home the message to stay at home. For this, we took the added measure of actually teaching parents how to film and sending sanitized equipment for them to use, while monitoring sound from outside homes and directing remotely.
Flexibility is especially important when you’re working across countries, with different regulations, and when those regulations are constantly changing.
In some places, the regulations can be especially restrictive, and hard to navigate – in China, for example. We have excellent partners in Wuhan, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing, and through them we have on-the-ground and up-to-date information that has helped us navigate through the restrictions and find solutions with projects we have there.
It’s important to be mindful of the regulations and restrictions. We take the view that it’s better to be safe than sorry – we do risk assessments based on reports from a number of sources, which is especially important in places where governments are slow to issue protective measures.
What else is important?
Trust, tenacity, hope, and a sense of humour.
For all agencies, there have inevitably been clients that have reduced budgets and are trying to respond to a new market landscape. Check out some areas of growth in this new landscape.
Live Streaming and Webcasting
We’ve provided live services to clients since we started in 1996, starting with satellite feeds, and in the past ten years, live streaming and webcasting, but in the past two months, that area of the business has vastly expanded. We’ve been working with Universal Music on live streaming concerts with international artists, and we’ve been working on transforming what would previously have been physical meetings and summits into virtual ones for Microsoft and others.
This encompasses everything from handling entire live events, simultaneously casted to multiple platforms, to elevating production values and branding possibilities for clients beyond what’s possible using the built in tools with Zoom, to figuring out the technical details of how to remotely record a CEO at broadcast quality bitrates using the CEO’s mobile phone and coaching. It’s been an interesting challenge for us communicating with new clients who aren’t familiar with live event production as it existed prior to COVID-19.
Animation is another growth area, for obvious reasons: it can be done almost entirely remotely, and recording voice actors can be done while still respecting social distancing guidelines.
Trends for the future
In many places, countries are beginning to emerge from the pandemic. Numbers are coming down, lockdowns are gradually being lifted, and economies are beginning to recover, albeit slowly. It will take awhile, however, for the world to get back to any semblance of what it was before the pandemic.
So what do we see as trends for the future?
Production – with everyone having a greater awareness of safety, expect to see productions continue with protective measures in place for the long term. Risk assessments should be expanded on shoots, with special measures in place for crew and talent who are in vulnerable groups.
We are expecting the trend away from in-person events to continue. Live streaming, animation, and other pandemic-friendly formats will continue at higher levels than before, especially considering that countries are reopening at different rates.
Expanding networks – with the end of easy air travel, it’s more important than ever to find trusted local partners and leverage your networks.