Case Study: Judge Jerry Virtual Production
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, NBC Universal Television approached SNEAKY BIG with a unique project – to help produce season two of the hit TV show “Judge Jerry” while adhering to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. This was an especially challenging ask, as the key players – Judge Jerry Springer, Bailiff Najee Hinds and the litigants – would need to be filmed in different states. This project would require a level of remote virtual production that had never been successfully attempted by the industry before.
Judge Jerry Virtual Set
SNEAKY BIG’s design team worked with NBCU to build a virtual courtroom set to replicate Judge Jerry’s real-life set in Stamford, Connecticut. The set design was built using Unreal Engine to create a realistic and immersive virtual environment. It was so realistic; it was hard to tell it wasn’t the real thing. Each of the participants were filmed on a green screen and virtually added into the set – in real time – so that cases could unfold just like they would have in their original physical set.
Getting That “Live” Vibe
One of the tricky aspects of virtual sets is making it look like the participants are in close proximity and actually interacting with one another. We utilized five virtual engines with tracking technology cameras during filming, making it possible for the judge, bailiff and litigants to interact virtually with one another in real time. This lent the production a “live,” in-person feeling, even though these individuals were physically located in different states.
Remote Production Solutions
The NBC Universal team could not be present during filming due to the COVID restrictions. Utilizing remote production technology – combined with the real-time compositing of our virtual solution – gave their team the ability to direct and remotely produce all the episodes live as they were being filmed. This enabled them to have complete production control as they would have had on a live production set.
By combining the power of virtual reality and remote production solutions, more than 80 episodes were remotely produced. Going “virtual” allowed NBC Universal’s production team to continue producing new content for their stations during 2020-2021 season as well as the critical sweeps’ rating periods. And just as important, the entire production team and talent remained COVID-compliant and were able to abide by NBC Universal Television’s request of no air travel for talent and guests.