How are control rooms coping?

In tight control rooms some staff now work in other parts of the building.

The Project control room pre-COVID

While some shows are continuing on a weekly or even daily basis, how does social distancing impact on TV control rooms?

Most have pulled back on the number of staff in close proximity and instigated strict new measures designed to keep everybody safe.

Jon Olb, director of The Weekly and Mad as Hell says while one ABC Melbourne control room is larger than most it still requires precautions.

“The first thing that we do when we arrive is sterilise our respective areas. We keep our distance wherever possible,” he tells TV Tonight.

“Non-essential operators are moved to less populated areas of the control room, but all the self-monitoring must follow. Even bathroom breaks are twice as long to accommodate the necessary hygiene procedures.”

“To be honest, the production itself is far more complex.”

Further steps are also necessary with crews.

“To be honest, the production itself is far more complex. For instance you can only have a maximum of 2 people in an elevator, so make-up and costume changes are far more time consuming,” he continues.

“Most talent will now apply microphones themselves, and if not the operators wear gloves and masks. Makeup and wardrobe staff, such as Mad as Hell, must wear PPE for both their safety and those that they work with.

“A traditional 2-shot doesn’t exist in a lot of cases  where a distance of 1.5m must be maintained. Floor crews must keep a safe distance at all times, and there is a great level of trust involved with all members of cast and crew.

“Intimate and fight scenes cannot happen. Location shooting for the most part is cancelled, and anything that does occur is difficult as everyone is on tenterhooks.

“If one member of the team is ill, it is most likely that the entire production will shut down. There are staff who are off ill, staff worried about their symptoms staying home, staff returning from overseas in quarantine, and many concerned about the health of their families opting to stay away.

“Of course this is all totally understandable, and we are mosr fortunate to maintain essential services at this time. The entire Arts community is suffering enormously, as live venues, hospitality and sport, and indeed anything with groups of people also not occurring.”

The Sunrise team is working with a smaller control room at their Martin Place studio but Executive Producer Michael Pell explains they too have adjusted numbers.

“Our control room is generally a tight squeeze, so we’ve removed two people from the front row and put them in other rooms, so they can still do their jobs, but with appropriate social distancing.

“A middle row of producers now has two, not three, with one upstairs or at home. It’s the same with our back row which is Lighting, Camera Control Unit and Technical Director. They’ve also been separated and appropriate measures put in place.

“Hygiene is the priority”

“The room itself is cleaned and disinfected several times a day. Hygiene is the priority.

“Elsewhere, we have remote crews and reporters filing from the field without coming in. And almost all day producers and support staff are working from home. It’s a huge logistical challenge for an operation of our size, but in a Covid world, you have no choice but to adapt.”

“It’s amazing what can be achieved with technology now days”

The Project, team at 10’s Como headquarters has also adjusted.

“We have a lot of our team, other than Operational, working from home. It’s amazing what can be achieved with technology now days,” says Executive Producer, Craig Campbell.

“Less people together is the basic principle. We have split a lot of the roles out and are working on talkback panels in other parts of the building. Edit suites are now set up across three different floors.”

A Nine spokesperson added, “We’ve implemented strict social distancing measures across all our productions, including the way our on-air talent work. But we’ve still been able to do this in such a way that it would be indiscernible, in most instances, to viewers. Plus, our control room is pretty large and never has more than three people in it.”

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