Because of the pandemic, television production companies have had to go to some extreme measures to keep churning out product for the viewing audience. Late last month we told you that the cast of the Parks and Recreation reunion special was each sent an iPhone, lighting equipment, and a microphone. Video conference app Zoom was used to help direct the cast and keep them "framed." Since this was a special reunion, there wasn't the pressure that some live reality shows have been under to devise a way to finish a season that already started taping before the coronavirus outbreak became a thing.
American Idol showrunner Kinane says she wouldn't be surprised to see the iPhone replace television cameras in the future
American Idol. The beginning of each season is taped, but when the number of contestants is cut to 20, the hopefuls sing live, get immediate feedback from the judges, and hope that they've impressed the viewers who vote for their favorite performers. Back in April, Idol showrunner Trish Kinane said that the easiest thing to do to broadcast live performances from contestants' homes was to use an iPhone. The camera system on the iPhone 11 Pro models impressed Kinane who said, "In the end, we decided rather than send them some complicated camera that you really need a camera operator to use, we would go with the technology that they’re familiar with. These top of the range iPhones are amazing. It wouldn’t surprise me if we were using iPhones in the studio in the future."One show using the iPhone is
Kinane said that despite using a three iPhone setup, what is at the heart of the show hasn't changed. "We're not doing Zoom- or Skype-type situations," the showrunner told Yahoo Entertainment. "We're getting proper recordings. We're trying to just upgrade the sound and pictures all the way along. … We're keeping as true to the heart of American Idol as we can, but we just have different physical circumstances. It's still primarily about the contestants, about their talent, about giving them a chance of a career in the future whether they win or not, and about really good-hearted, talented judges who want to help them."
According to TechCrunch, the producers of the singing competition sent all of the contestants a kit consisting of three iPhone 11 Pro units, a tripod, and a ring light. Apple is taking the opportunity to promote the use of the iPhone as a way to deliver broadcast-quality video when the principals cannot be together in the same room. The iPhone manufacturer said, "We know that people are relying on their favorite shows while staying at home, and we are happy to be a part of that process with the team at American Idol; iPhone offers a unique solution to deliver broadcast-quality video, in the palm of your hand, while keeping production staff and on-air talent safe and in their homes."
Back in March, we told you that the Today Show's Al Roker was broadcasting segments live from his home using two iPhone units (the second one allows him to see videos cued up by producers that will be played during his segment) and an iPad which Roker uses as a teleprompter. In addition, the LiveU app is employed to provide a broadcast-quality stream via both Wi-Fi and cellular. The app's developer says that LiveU can be used to "cover breaking news and events as they happen simply by using your smartphone or tablet to transmit live video back to the studio."
Deep-pocketed production companies know that when it comes to live reality fare like Idol, the show must go on regardless of the cost. It's what those big cigar-chomping executives at the networks call a win-win-win. It's a win for Apple as more iPhones are ordered; it's a win for the networks since they can continue showing new episodes of American Idol while charging advertisers big bucks; and it's a win for the viewers at home who might be stuck watching reruns if not for the iPhone.