TBS 'Celebrity Show-Off is a unique talent competition series based on the popular Korean show My Little Television. The series moderated by Mayim Bialik with 10 episodes from a distance transforms the TV format of the variety show into an innovative virtual production experiment. Celebrities from the fields of sports, music, comedy, television, and film meet every week to see who can produce the most compelling content from the comfort of their own home. The longer a celebrity stays in the competition, the more money they raise for their charity. The last star deserves an additional donation for its cause.
James Pearse Connelly, the production designer for Celebrity Show-Off, won an Emmy Award for Art Direction and Set Design on the Kelly Clarkson Show. As the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the production of physical television series, Connelly and his team at JP Connelly Inc. have released virtual sets for series that require a rapid set turnaround rate, including a number of awards and variety shows , such as The Masked Singer, The Voice, and Chrissy's Court. This has allowed many television networks to continue producing series, especially series with multiple cameras, while unions and the entire industry work together to set new safety guidelines and manufacturers.
According to Connelly, the original idea behind Celebrity Show-Off was for celebrities to build their own physical shows in a studio. "With the darkness of the pandemic and in an effort to remain reliable and upbeat, we've been looking for a way to bring a wow factor to the stuck home crowd," he explains. “The increased need for security for talent as well as the physical isolation were some of the decisive factors for our design. We searched for green screen productions and figured out how we could do this with a multi-camera setup and still protect everyone. "
Check out his VFX showreel for the series:
"In broadcast television, downloading assets from a 'marketplace' and then optimizing assets can create legal risks for networks, and it also feels disconnected from the story," he continues. “When it comes to downloadable art, there are all sorts of issues with sharing. This can be very important when it comes to alternative television with multiple cameras. In our television world, production design is the script. The set creates the behavior that is captured in front of the camera. There's no website for that, especially when working on the most unique scenarios. "
With the world quarantined at home in their apartments, Celebrity Show-Off producers wanted to show characters in the same situation in a colorful way. “For example,” notes Connelly, “we can create a fantasy through an open balcony to other apartments in which you can closely participate in video conferences with other people. The wish was to take a look into the world of people and get a detailed insight into their experiences at home. "
As Connelly approached the show's format design, he didn't really see his design process as "virtual production", but rather as "virtual production design" or "VPD". "From a design perspective, we knew the audience would know the world was virtual, and we weren't ashamed of making it big and pushing the limits of what a virtual world can be in a multi-camera setup."
He continues, “As far as we knew, we needed a key environment in physical space and a 3D world that the cameras could hook in and interact with in order to give our director the same experience that he would normally have in a physical world . "Virtual production" can be a term used for many things. For us, our focus was on using real-time rendering for custom worlds as well as integrating camera tracking so the camera can interact with the world. When I look at what defines “virtual production” now, I can say that it is a perfect combination of VFX and production design. As a production design studio that has been working in Unreal Engine for stage design for about six years, we feel really at home and a little inspired when designing 3D worlds for virtual productions. "
Connelly continues, “Adding photorealism to the production process to improve textures and overall geometry was fun and we reached out to visual effects houses for advice. We offer a joint design journey and our designers and VFX artists work together to make it as beautiful and detailed as possible. "
For the production designer, VPD is an exciting, creative frontier with no limits (no pun intended). "I have a lot of fun exploring the possibilities and looking at the future of production design," he said. “The studio can now design a physical world while discussing specific set extensions to increase the height or depth of a playable space. As a production design studio, we can anticipate these additional worlds and effects and work with a VFX house to implement together and create value. "
Connelly goes on to explain that the VPD's possibilities are unlimited, adding that he can also incorporate, for example, animated architecture that feels big and heavy, “but costs a fraction of what a physical element would cost to build. By adding virtual layers, depth, and incorporating virtual video surfaces, television gains insight into the technology and quality of feature films. "
Summing up this growing area of virtual TV production design, he sums up: “As a production designer, incorporating technology and partnering with other technology groups is critical to creating big blockbuster wow factors and bespoke worlds for broadcast and worldwide To create an audience. "
For more information on Connelly's design methodology for virtual production, see JP Connelly website.
Dan Sarto is the Editor and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.