Any behind-the-scenes on lives shows "WFH" yet?
April 22, 2020 9:18 PM   Subscribe

All late night hosts are doing WFH bits, with the exception of Conan and Fallon all look like they had set designers or behind the scenes people either running the show or there once. I don't know if these are running live or not, but I can't imagine them running live without a full satellite crew. For example, Kimmel's "home," which I have no doubt is at his home, looks like a full on set designer took over a garage or something.

The video and lighting quality is also top-notch and broadcast quality. Anyone know if this is an inside joke or if there's been any behind-the-scenes on this? If this is truly a home setup, how can I create a Kimmel like experience in a <$1k budget, is that possible (assume no set design just lighting + cameras)?

I don't know why this interests me, but I have noticed the "Live" is gone so I'm guessing none are doing it live. In any case if I can achieve AV quality with a few lights and a boom mic I'd rather do that then use my airpods at my home office.
posted by geoff. to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a behind-the-scenes of Conan's setup for the company that's doing it.
posted by BungaDunga at 11:11 PM on April 22, 2020 [5 favorites]

Seth Meyers has said he’s using an iPad Pro.

Stephen Colbert has a Sony something camera and has said several times that he has a satellite truck parked in his front yard (not 24/7, one presumes). He mentioned this during the interview with Conan O’Brien that they both edited and used on their respective shows. His kids are assisting with the onsite work.

I’m confident that they both have simple lighting kits. They probably have pro stuff, but Kara Swisher mentioned on Pivot that the circular ring lights are selling strongly as people try to improve their on camera appearance for meetings.

One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that some talk show guest remotes have excellent video quality but lousy audio quality, probably because they’re just using the built in laptop mic. It sounds distant and echoey, detracting from the overall effect. I don’t think an expensive mic is necessary, but it should be closer to the mouth.

And of course, some have lousy cameras and/or low bandwidth. Colbert talked with Steve Martin the other night, and Martin was outside on what had to be a mobile phone connection, given the jerky picture and audio dropouts.

Overall, its been a wide range from what I’ve seen.
posted by pmurray63 at 11:21 PM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Earlier AskMe on WFH TV workflows:
posted by yeahlikethat at 12:07 AM on April 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

I can tell you that having a camera with white balance control makes a huge difference. I've got semi-pro lighting with adjustable color temperature, but with a webcam with no white balance, I come out looking bad no matter what temperature I set them to, even though the camera itself is relatively high quality.

Switching to a DSLR with white balance makes a huge difference, just from the color tone.

looks like a full on set designer took over a garage or something.

I have no specific knowledge of this but it would not surprise me if most major TV hosts have had some kind of home setup built up for years. When you make millions of dollars a year, putting $10k into a decent home setup is a very reasonable hedge against the standard things life throws at you.

A big factor is probably having someone that knows what they're doing consulting on how to set things up. I can do 4k broadcast quality video for a single person with well under $10k of equipment - a big part of it is knowing where to put the lighting, what settings to use, and why.

Also, per pmurray63's point about the uplink trucks, going to satellite with a remote truck will result in much better quality video than trying to go out of a consumer grade internet connection with low end h.264 encoding.
posted by Candleman at 1:45 AM on April 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

The network geek in me thinks that for the most part, TV hosts probably have decent internet in their neighborhood and all it takes is some Network $$$ to get their connection bumped up into a business-class sort of range. It's all rate-limits and priorities and such once you get to that first switch. The same equipment handles business and consumer lines, it's just how things are configured and how much you want to pay.

Then they do have the pro-level help for design, lights, cameras, microphones, green-screens, computers etc. Some hosts are rolling with the "I'm at home with you and my Internet sucks too" angle. But there's not much stopping the big hosts from throwing up a studio in their house.

So, yeah... a mix of good consulting and $$$ and experience goes a long way.

I would have thought that the truck wasn't a satellite uplink and would have been a microwave pointed to a local tower.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:36 AM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

I would be unsurprised if an organization like CBS found it less expensive to park a satellite truck they already owned in Stephen Colbert's driveway pointing at a satellite they already had a long term lease for transponder space on that is going otherwise unused in this time of social distancing and zero live sports than to get Stephen Colbert on a good Internet connection.

The incremental cost for them may be less to do that than it would be to do anything else simply because they already have the necessary equipment and are already paying for the people to operate it.
posted by wierdo at 4:13 AM on April 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

Seth Myers was Chris Hayes' MSNBC show last night. Seth mentioned that his show is on hiatus this week. They also showed a clip of his at home show. It was pretty obvious that the audio quality was not as good on the Chris Hayes interview. The video quality looked approximately the same. For the interview it didn't look like Seth was using a lavalier mic. Unclear why he wasn't using the better microphone but it makes a big difference.

Not sure the real gear is a hassle or they decided that whatever video conferencing software on his laptop was good enough.
posted by mmascolino at 10:52 AM on April 23, 2020

Response by poster: Cool anyone know how well a lav compares to an airpod?
posted by geoff. at 1:36 PM on April 23, 2020

I'll let a true expert comment on airpods vs. broadcast quality lav mics (because I suspect there is nuance based on the room you are in amongst other environmental factors). With that said, I just so happened to start a podcast episode of Fresh Air and Teri Gross mentions she is recording from her dining room table. There is no mention of her setup or what efforts they are doing to prep the space but she sounds like she is in a professional radio booth. I never would have known she was not in a purpose built recording studio.
posted by mmascolino at 3:17 PM on April 23, 2020

It's a very different question than you started with, but for one thing Airpods introduce an extra layer of conversion into the picture, and for another it's much easier to choose where to place a lav. The counterpoint would be that airpods and a phone are a comparatively simple and intuitive setup that will probably sound fine to most people.

I loathe airpods, mostly for other reasons, but hey, work with the tools you have.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:27 PM on April 23, 2020

A decent lav mic is going to be better for most cases. Even with Apple's magic, Airpods are still using a compressed audio format , have some latency that would ideally need to be compensated for to align the audio with the video, and introduces some risk of random interference messing the audio or it dropping out entirely. And they may have gotten better, but this review of the first version rated the microphone quality as mediocre and has an explanation on why part of that is inherent to Bluetooth. FWIW, I use the Jabras that are listed in that review as being better microphones and while they're acceptable for phone meetings, I'd never use them for professional purposes.

On the other hand, there are also some dreadful lav mics out there. But just about anything in the $200 or higher price range is going to sound better. Keep in mind that many lav mics, especially ones designed for pro use, also need a microphone preamp as well, if you're looking to buy something.
posted by Candleman at 4:33 AM on April 24, 2020

The Audio-Technica AT831B is one of the industry standards, and I've found it useful on instruments as well as voice. Keep in mind that any semi-professional microphone is also going to require an interface of some sort.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:36 AM on April 24, 2020

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