LOS ANGELES—Sidelined by COVID-19 from his usual job of directing celebrities in commercials, Ira Rosenswieg decided to invent a way to get back to work.
His creation, called Crew in a Box, has him back to work this week, shooting for a campaign for BET and Burger King that will debut during the "BET Awards" on June 28.
Crew in a Box is a self-contained kit that opens up into a remote-controlled device for producing high-quality video so simple to use that even famous people will let it into their homes, said Rosensweig, who shot Fox’s Super Monday Super Bowl commercials and has worked with A-listers like Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Peyton Manning and Seth Rogen.
After the pandemic stopped most production, Rosensweig noticed commercials using stock footage and animation. “I knew that they’d probably be interested in having celebrities address the camera where they are saying ‘hey, I’m so and so. Watch my show or buy this product,” he said.
Necessity is the mother of invention and Rosensweig, who had never invented anything before, had an idea for how a bunch of components could work together to provide a seamless, plug-and-play professional-quality solution that can be completely controlled remotely.
He approached two people he trusted, Dallas Sterling, a director of photography, and Jeremy Fernsler, a visual special effects supervisor who worked on "Westworld." Both thought Rosensweig had a great idea but thought it would be crazy to try. After applying a bit of pressure, both signed up.
Fernsler wrote the software and Sterling modeled the product on a computer and then built it in his garage. “The three of us worked together for the past eight or so weeks to develop this product and shockingly, it works amazingly,” Rosensweig said.
Each unit consists of a 6K cinema-quality camera, microphones, adjustable LED lighting and a combination teleprompter/Interrotron designed to keep the performers’ eyes looking at the camera when they’re reading scripts, interacting with castmates or taking direction. The components come in a disinfected, military grade case.
Rosensweig has begun manufacturing the unit. At first, to use Crew in a Box, one must hire his production company, Wavemaker Creative. But he’s planning to have some units available for rent or purchase and to set up a separate company to handle Crew in a Box.
Rosensweig contacted people he knew at media companies, including ABC, Fox and ViacomCBS.
“We’re exploring Crew in a Box as a great way to capture broadcast-worthy content for marketing and beyond,” said Scott Edwards, executive VP of creative advertising at Fox Entertainment.
“We see it being useful in other ways in the future, not just during our current lockdown and telecommuting circumstances. Having the remote connection, from the shoot site to the producing and directing locations, can alleviate excessive travel expenses for say, a 20-second pick up, a two-camera hosting segment or a quick interview bite,” said Edwards, who worked with Rosensweig on the Super Monday campaign.
HAIR AND MAKEUP
On-camera talent simply has to open the box and plug it in, and Crew in a Box automatically connects over the internet via mobile networks, without needing to share a home Wi-Fi password. Remote filmmakers can control every aspect of the shoot, including the camera, lighting, teleprompter and microphones. When the shoot begins, the director appears on screen though the teleprompter/Interrotron unit. The talent can also see themselves in the screen, allowing for hair and makeup adjustments.
“I think they're going to be really thrilled that there's now a way that they don't have to leave home and they can have a really great looking product that makes them look great,” Rosensweig said.
The system also allows talent, along with the crew, agency and clients, to join a video conference where they can view the direct feed from the Crew in a Box integrated camera as if they were on set.
The Crew in a Box system can send the high-resolution video footage to designated recipients through a remote transfer, or the shoot can be live streamed, at lower quality,
Rosensweig said that as he’s discussed Crew in a Box with people, they’ve come up with many other ways to use it, including reality TV confessionals, roundtables, talk shows and even press junkets.
“It's not just a pandemic kind of fad thing,” he said. When a celebrity is in a remote location, it will make financial sense to send one of these units instead of a film crew and have people control it remotely in L.A.
“Even when things quote-unquote go back to normal it's never going to go back to normal. Like people are going to start finding new ways to work,” Rosensweig said.
For now, Rosensweig has the capital to produce a few of the boxes, but "if we start getting orders, I definitely would need investors at that point,” he said. Crew in a Box is going to start a part of Wavemaker, but it might get spun off into a separate business.
“Crew in a Box is likely going to redefine the remote production game entirely,” said Fox’s Edwards. “The idea of having a user-friendly, self-contained, remote lighting and video solution is very attractive. With the tech, the support and the ease of use, Crew in a Box can make the experience as easy at home as it is on set for on-camera talent.”
This story originally appeared on TVT's sister publication B+C.
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