January 4th 2021 and lockdown 3.0 is upon us. Feral gets straight to work by pre-recording a government and institution-sanctioned, Covid safe, dual-location, 12 part taster-lecture series for the University of Exeter.
The audience: prospective new students for the 2021 intake.
The challenge: demonstrate the passion and dynamism of some of the uni’s leading undergraduate subjects and academics, tying in their presentations and props, then shoot all of them over three days across two campuses with no more than three crew… oh, and design the set too! And then deliver each lecture within a week.
Feral’s answer: Vision mix pre-recorded, ten-minute sample lectures of the most engaging topics within a range of subjects using one operated and three locked-off cameras, a comms matrix system, stage monitor and a vision mixer receiving four feeds and sending two.
The university remaining open relied entirely upon our operational preparedness. After all, we’d be interacting with all of its key lecturers. One slip and thousands of students could be missing out on their education, We responded to this risk with more stringent risk assessments, limiting access to the set, temperature checks upon entry, new lapel mic covers for each speaker and full sanitising of all the touch points on the set. This was carried out by a single person for the duration of the shoot, thus avoiding any cross-contamination even within the crew.
The main technical and editorial challenge: Show the lecturer’s presentation both on the stage monitor and full screen in the program record. It sounds so simple, and while that’s technically true, the challenge is to do so without it jarring or feeling contrived. The answer, another row of selection buttons of the vision mixer, one receiving and sending a default animated logo from an engineering laptop (this would be visible when nothing contextual was on the screen), and another feed from a second laptop that houses the presentation. The director then selected the desired feed to be sent to screen while the speaker had a small clicker with which to scroll the presentation at their own pace.