By Randi Altman
For many, late-night shows have been offering up laughs during a really tough time, with hosts continuing to shoot from dens, living rooms, backyards and country houses, often with spouses and kids pitching in as crew.
NBC’s Late Night With Seth Meyers is one of those shows. They had their last in-studio taping on March 13, followed by a scheduled hiatus week, followed by the news they wouldn’t be able to come back to the studio. That’s when his team started preproduction and workflow testing to figure out questions like “How are we going to transfer files?” and “How are we going to get it on the air?”
I recently interviewed associate director and lead editor Dan Dome about their process and how that workflow has been allowing Meyers to check in daily from his wasp-ridden and probably haunted attic.
(Watch our original Video Interview here or below.)
How are you making this remote production work?
We’re doing a combination of things. We are using our network laptops to edit footage that’s coming in for interviews or comedy pieces. That’s all being done locally, meaning on our home systems and without involving our SAN or anything like that. So we’re cutting interviews and comedy pieces and then sending links out for approval via Dropbox. Why Dropbox? The syncing features are really great when uploading and downloading footage to all the various places we need to send it.
Once a piece is approved and ready to go into the show — we know the timings are right, we know the graphics are right, we know the spelling is correct, audio levels look good, video levels look good — then we upload that back to Dropbox and back to our computers at 30 Rock where our offices are located. We’re virtually logging into our machines there to compile the show. So, yeah, there are a few bits and pieces to building stuff remotely. And then there are a few bits and pieces to actually compiling the show on our systems back at home base.
What do you use for editing?
We’re still on Adobe Premiere. We launched on Premiere when the show started in February of 2014, and we’re still using that version — it’s solid and stable, and doing a daily show, we don’t necessarily get a ton of time to test new versions. So we have a stable version that we like for doing the show composite aspect of things.
When we’re back at 30 Rock and editing remote pieces, we’re using the newer versions of Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2015.2 9.2.0 (41 Build). At home we are using Premiere Pro CC 2020 14.0.4 (Build 18).
Let talk about how Seth’s been shooting. What’s his main camera?
Some of the home studio recording has been on iPads and iPhones. Then we’re using Zoom to do interviews, and there are multiple records of that happening. The files are then uploaded and downloaded between the edit team, and our director is in on the interviews, setting up cameras and trying to get it to look the best it can.
Once those interviews are done, the different records get uploaded to Dropbox. On my home computer, I use a 6TB CalDigit drive for Dropbox syncing and media storage. (Devon Schwab and Tony Dolezal, who are also editing pieces, use 4TB G-RAID drives with Thunderbolt 3.) So as soon as they tell me the file is up, I sync locally on the folder I know it’s going to, the media automatically downloads, and we simultaneously download it to our systems at 30 Rock. So it syncs there as well. We have multiple copies of it, and if we need to, we can hand off a project between me, Devin or Tony; we can do that pretty easily.
Have you discovered any challenges or happy surprises working this way?
It has been a nice happy surprise that it’s like, “Oh wow, this is working pretty well.” We did have a situation where we thought we might lose power on the East coast because of rains and winds and things like that. So we had safeguards in place for that, as far as having an evergreen show that was ready to go for that night in case we did end up losing power. It would have been terrible, but everything held up, and it worked pretty well.
So there are certainly some challenges to working this way, but it’s amazing that we are working and we can keep our mind on other things and just try to help entertain people while this craziness is going on.
You can watch our original Video Interview with Dome here: