Monday, 10 May 2010
Producers of Hit CBS Drama The Good Wife Rely on Polycom Telepresence to Triumph Over Two Coasts and a Breakneck Schedule
Working at a blistering pace and collaborating across the country, the producers of The Good Wife, the hit CBS TV drama, can't afford to waste a single minute. That's why the show's writers, producers, directors, editors and even actors keep in regular face-to-face contact with telepresence from Polycom.
From initial script read-throughs to reviews of completed episodes, a network of Polycom telepresence systems and infrastructure solutions helps The Good Wife team streamline its production process and overcome the challenges distributed production can present. Set in Chicago but shot in Brooklyn, N.Y., the production spans two coasts, with episodes written in Los Angeles, then directed and filmed in Brooklyn. Footage then heads back to L.A. for editing and post-production.
The Good Wife films a new episode every eight days, establishing a pace that puts enormous pressures on the show's core staff, while leaving little room for error. "There are a lot of new members of the team for each episode, and many don't know each other," said Executive Producer Brooke Kennedy. "videoVideo allows us to get to know each other much faster, and to stay very focused on the tasks at hand."
Polycom solutions play a part in every step of creating the show, for which its star, Julianna Margulies, has earned Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards. Each episode begins with a script. A pair of Polycom HDX 7000(TM) room telepresence systems, installed in the show's L.A. writing offices, allows screenwriters to collaborate whenever they need to with producers, directors and actors.
"One of the top challenges in production is to stay true to the writers' vision," said Kennedy. "This becomes even more difficult when we are shooting across the country."
In Brooklyn, a Polycom HDX 6000(TM) room telepresence connects producers, episode directors, and actors with the writers on the West Coast. After each episode is planned and filmed, the content is sent to L.A. for editing. The Good Wife uses three Avid editing suites to produce its shows. The three suites are equipped with Polycom HDX 8000(TM) room telepresence systems. The systems take content directly from the Avid platform for transmission over the public Internet.
The video communications infrastructure also incorporates a Polycom RMX 2000(TM) conference platform and the Polycom Converged Management Application(TM) (CMA(TM)) distributed video solution. Some production staff members also use Polycom CMA Desktop software, which transforms any notebook or desktop PC equipped with a camera into a high-quality video conferencing station. As a result, the show's video communications infrastructure extends throughout the production process.
"Even though we all have Macs and could use something like iChat, Polycom gives us the flexibility to encompass all areas of our production," said Kennedy. "We talk about the script, then we talk about the shoot, and then we look at cuts together. We become whole when using the Polycom systems."
Achieving HD Collaboration over Public Internet When it came to reviewing edited content, however, the crew initially faced a common problem. With team members located in multiple studios, soundstages, editing facilities and offices, the show's video conferencing infrastructure involved a patchwork of public Internet connections operating at a wide range of bandwidths. Without a costly network upgrade — an impossibility due to the number of companies involved — producers and directors wouldn't be able to review edited content in high-definition (HD).
Kennedy said that notion was a non-starter. "Since we ourselves are selling an audio/visual product, it is crucial we have the best audio and video products to help us bring that vision to life." Fortunately, the latest Polycom HDX room telepresence solutions support H.264 High Profile. A breakthrough, standards-based video compression technology, H.264 High Profile reduces the bandwidth requirements for HD telepresence and standard-definition videoconferencing by as much as 50 percent. Combined with Polycom's Lost Packet Recovery technology, which improves video quality during network packet loss and network congestion, the systems deliver a consistent HD experience over the best-effort networks.
With High Profile on Polycom systems, The Good Wife crew can receive full frame rate HD video and full HD audio at significantly lower bit rates. "Because of the quality enabled by Polycom, we can sit down with each other and watch a 48-minute clip easily," explained Kennedy.
The open standards-based Polycom system architecture also gives Kennedy's team the ability to collaborate with post houses and other third-party facilities, even if those companies have another provider's video conferencing systems in place. Polycom's multi-vendor approach, typified by the Polycom Open Collaboration Network, provides flexibility and protects investments.
Saving Time, and Reading Between the Lines The time savings can be significant. For instance, audio mixing takes place in Burbank, Calif., while previews generally occur across town. Using Polycom systems, remotely located producers can watch the episodes without having to drive in L.A. traffic; that alone saves hours of driving in a single day. And because each eight day span brings another episode to write, shoot and edit, those time savings mount quickly.
Clear communication also spares crew members from losing precious time to misunderstandings. Here, too, Polycom delivers with smooth, natural motion and sharp, clear images. "In our production meetings, so much is said in someone's facial expression," said Kennedy. "With Polycom, we don't miss a thing."
The Good Wife airs 9.30pm on Mondays on RTE 2, and is produced by CBS Television Studios.
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