News 04.05.21

MOD: HARRY SHEARER’S LIVE VIRTUAL PUPPETRY PACKS A PUNCH



If you hear the name Mr Burns, what comes to mind? What about Principal Skinner, Ned Flanders and Reverend Lovejoy? Let’s throw in Saturday Night Live and Spinal Tap. That’s right, one of Mod’s latest collaborations was with none other than Harry Shearer on 16 music videos for his album The Many Moods of Donald Trump released in 2020 featuring (not the Real) Donald Trump.

Mod line produced, directed the virtual production sequences and edited two of the videos, all from their studio in Haymarket, Sydney and from Harry Shearer’s home in Los Angeles.

“That was an opportunity for us to demonstrate that we could work in real-time with the Los Angeles industry, that we could source the equipment there, and develop the processes needed. We could remotely manage everything that came up and deliver a production where distance wasn’t as much of a challenge as you might think it was”, says Mod director, Michela Ledwidge.

Courtesy of Mod

It was an indie production, but fortunately for Mod, it wasn’t a one-off. They had the opportunity to refine the processes over multiple shoots, and every shoot increased their arsenal of tools. One product Michela is super proud of is WebCaster, which she developed to allow her to virtually direct and produce the videos remotely.

“It looks a little like Zoom with extra buttons, but it allows me to not just have video contact with the remote participants, but be able to record, edit, create rushes to trigger all kinds of complex systems, potentially the other side of the world but using one interface that’s designed specifically for a production.”

Michela Ledwidge, Director, Mod

Michela described WebCaster like a little Lego kit of parts. That means as the director and virtual production supervisor who is monitoring a take, WebCaster allows her to build her own director’s viewfinder of sorts. 

“The viewfinder could be looking at, for example, 23 cameras, as we had recently for a volumetric video project. For a remote live motion capture shoot, like with Harry Shearer I have an extreme close-up camera on Harry’s face to monitor the quality of facial motion tracking, battery life, and even the temperature! Being able to press RECORD and monitor equipment on the other side of the world is a practical convenience post-COVID… So really, really, exciting potential”, says Michela.

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