Tech

Biden's 'Celebrating America' Special Relied on Hollywood Cloud-Based Production

Tom Hanks
Courtesy Photo

Tom Hanks during the Celebrating America Primetime Special on Jan. 20, 2021.

To help celebrate President Biden's inauguration, the virtual Parade Across America and Celebrating America primetime special brought together hundreds of disparate segments, including those from amateur dance teams to Hollywood stars and the 'TikTok Doc.' The result enabled participation from across the country amid the pandemic, with some help from Hollywood and an ambitious cloud-based remote postproduction workflow.

Hollywood postproduction facility SIM handled the post for the Glenn Weiss-helmed Kirshner Events production--what SIM's vp engineering and technology Paul Chapman described as "getting the band back together" as it was a similar team and way of working that was assembled last summer to produce a virtual Democratic National Convention. Since the pandemic began, SIM has been active in a number of high-profile virtual events--include the One World: Together At Home fundraiser held last spring and the Emmys--and it is slated to handle postproduction for this year's Oscars presentation.

Parade Across America, which aired Wednesday afternoon following the live inauguration coverage, featured clips from a string of participants including bands and dance teams--as well as a "Dance Across America" segment set to the song "Dancing in the Streets" and led by Kenny Ortega--coming from all U.S. States and territories. The 90-minute pre-produced program was hosted by Tony Goldwyn from a studio at All Mobile Video in New York.

The 90-minute Celebrating America, hosted by Tom Hanks, features performances from artists such as Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato and John Legend, as well as appearances from the likes of  Kerry Washington, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Work started nearly a month ago, with hundreds of the individual entertainment packages sent to SIM from all across the U.S. via Signiant's file transfer technology. This included everything from the professionally-shot segments to user generated content lensed with iPhones and drones. SIM's editorial team, led by lead editor Mike Polito, edited the programs remotely at home on their Avids. All cuts were reviewed and approved by the team using an expansive cloud-based remote workflow using Frame-io cloud technology.

Chapman relates that production challenges involved the schedule coupled with a massive amount of material, with the total project representing 3.3TB including 2.7TB of source material--more than what would typically be used on a feature.

"The work on the DNC allowed this to happen relative seamlessly as it was same team essentially," Chapman says. "We really learned a lot about how to set up remote editorial solutions reliably. It's been a challenge but it has evolved and improved."

This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.