Political conventions look to remote production to thrive under COVID-19

The United States Capitol building in Washington D.C.

For news organizations both large and small, election coverage is vital–drawing massive viewership across the country, and even around the world. As August approaches, broadcasters will turn their attention to the upcoming nominating conventions for both the Democratic and Republican parties, both of which have been the subject of substantial attention over the last few months.

Of course, this year is much different than any that have come before it, with COVID-19 warping the production landscape on an unprecedented scale. Both political parties have had to rethink what their conventions will look like, and–as a result–news organizations have had to rethink what coverage will look like as well, with remote production and remote collaboration playing a larger role than ever before in ensuring that the events go smoothly.

Going against conventions

Under normal circumstances, political events such as nominating conventions are produced much in the same way as a major sporting event. Whether it’s the Super Bowl or the RNC, broadcasters will send large teams to the location alongside truckloads of equipment, although more and more some of that team will work ‘at home’. This year, we will see an even bigger split with smaller teams on-site and many working remotely to maintain safety.

Both conventions will be scaled down for safety purposes, with the DNC telling all delegates to stay home, while their nominee–former Vice President and Senator Joe Biden–will travel to Milwaukee to accept the party’s official nomination. According to the New York Times, this largely virtual convention “will be ‘anchored’ in Milwaukee, but the four-night mid-August event will ‘include both live broadcasts and curated content from Milwaukee and other satellite cities, locations and landmarks across the country.’” This approach resembles the recent MLB and NFL drafts, wherein small production teams operated from a studio while the majority of commentators, draft picks, and other relevant figures had camera, lighting and sound kits delivered to their homes. 

Still at the time of the article’s publication, the Times noted that several crucial details remained unclear, including what level of access journalists would have to the physical proceedings, what social distancing regulations will look like, or how much space on the convention floor will be dedicated to the production footprint, complications which have also plagued the RNC, and been exacerbated by the decision to move the convention itself from Charlotte, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida due to fear that the former’s social distancing restrictions would limit the size of the event. As such, broadcasters will have to consider the presence of a far greater number of convention personnel and attendees when planning their remote production approach.

The necessity of content exchange

Even if the specifics of the productions remain slightly shrouded, the aforementioned drafts as well as other recent live events provide a good deal of insight into the needs of these undertakings. Because broadcasters will be juggling multiple sources of content from multiple locations, Signiant’s software will play an even more essential role than normal for streamlining and facilitating these workflows; moving footage to offsite facilities for editing and finishing, leveraging additional pre-recorded content and getting clips out to local affiliates and social media outlets quickly. We’ve been working closely with our customers who will leverage a mix of Media Shuttle for person-initiated workflows and Manager+Agents with Flight to support automated workflows with Flight coming into play if the cloud will be used. Our software has long played a role in live events but this year the level of use will be at a new high. Because of the added complexity of production under COVID-19, having solutions that are easy to manage, and can adapt easily, and that make moving valuable content quickly across  multiple locations will make all the difference.

COVID-19 won’t stop the conventions

While the coronavirus pandemic has certainly changed the realities of live production within our industry, time and time again broadcasters have demonstrated their creativity and perseverance, dedicated to bringing viewers content that’s comforting and informative while adhering to necessary distancing regulations and protecting their teams from harm. As the DNC and the RNC approach, once again our customers are showcasing their ability to adapt to the new media landscape, pushing for both quality and safety in everything they do. Signiant is proud to see our software among their ranks, and grateful to be able to help achieve smooth sailing despite an abnormally hectic current.

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