Socially distant filming: how it works in a studio

Studio filming is a consistent necessity for us as a video production company. Studios are great because of the level of control they afford over light and sound – meaning that it’s easier to ensure an efficient shoot and a quality result.

There are loads of ways a studio can be used for filming. For example, we have shot white studio dramas with multiple actors and props like this one here. However, during the social distancing conditions of the global pandemic, we have avoided even considering bringing that many people together in one space.

Studios have proved themselves useful during the pandemic for less involved production styles/approaches. This includes presenter-led video content on a white background, and live streaming of training from a single trainer and a mediator. We’ve now conducted a number of shoot days and implemented a new health and safety measures which are in line with government guidance on social distancing, as well as our own common sense.

This is a summary of the measures we have implemented to enable us to conduct studio shoot days safely.

A note on preparation

Global pandemic or not, preparation has always been the key to a smooth running shoot day. The need for social distancing has put a magnifying glass over the pre-production process for us and there are a few considerations, beyond a standard recce and risk assessment, that are new and unique to social distancing requirements.

Minimum viable crew

Firstly, in considering producing any video content at all, we are thinking in terms of our minimum viable crew. Who is absolutely necessary to capture the content we need? It might mean that a smaller crew needs a longer day than a larger crew. Or two days instead of one. However we split the resources, it’s from a motivation of minimizing close human interaction as much as possible.

Briefings

COVID-19 guidelines are a specific item on our call sheets and a specific agenda point in all of our briefings with crew, client and talent. This includes talking through the schedule for the day and the expectation of personal responsibility for adhering to our guidance.

A key request is that if any individual is showing any symptoms at all, that they let us know and that they do not attend the shoot.

Backup plan

Our main concern is keeping everyone safe and well. Where possible, we will have a contingency plan / back up crew in place. But if we have to cancel or postpone a shoot we will.

The schedule

There are a few new elements to planning a schedule that are a direct consequence of needing to think about social distancing

Arrival times

We now stagger the arrival times of crew, talent, and client so that no one person is at the studio for a minute longer than they need to be. The crew arrive early to set up the space and the client / talent will arrive a short time before the scheduled start time. They then need to call the crew who will allow them to enter the studio when everything is set up and ready to go – in order to minimize the amount of time people need to move around each other.

Similarly, with departure times, as soon as someone has fulfilled their role, they are expected to leave the studio and not hang around. This allows the crew to finish packing up efficiently and safely. These departure times are estimated on our schedule and if someone finishes early, they’re expected to leave at the earliest available opportunity.

Regular breaks

Breaks are always scheduled throughout a shoot day. We are now insisting on more frequent and regular breaks throughout the day so that doors can be opened and attendees can go outside for some fresh air.

Realistic schedule

What we don’t want is any time pressure on a shoot. Time pressure increases the probability of human error and a need to cut corners. We therefore plan schedules that are realistic, with plenty of contingency. Pace of work has to be with a safety first attitude, rather than productivity.

The studio

The reason we’ve been able to go ahead with studio shoots is because the studios we work with are large and spacious and allow us to easily maintain a distance of more than 2 metres from other people.

Also, the spaces we use are cleaned regularly.

Studio and visit mixxer
Studio during set up, before arrival of presenter.

Travel to and from

Crew and cast are expected to travel independently to the shoot using their own cars / bikes. We are doing our best to ensure that all crew and cast have the means to travel to the location safely when we make the bookings.

Food and drink

In order to avoid any unnecessary risk and to reduce the need for using shared facilities, we are asking that all crew, client and talent bring their own supply of food and drink for the shoot day.

Also, it is a requirement that everyone cleans up after themselves / puts their own rubbish in the bin.

Hand washing

Finally, hand washing remains as important in this environment as any other. Attendees are expected to wash their hands on arrival and departure. Everyone is also expected to use hand sanitizer before and after using any piece of equipment. Hand washing at other obvious points throughout the day is also encouraged (and this is a common sense point – before and after food and drink, before and after use of the facilities).

If you’re considering commissioning some video content that might require a studio shoot, please do get in touch. We are happy to have a no-obligation conversation to explore any unique potential challenges and solutions.

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