LUTZ — Diamond View Studios has been taking precautions to protect employees and clients during the pandemic.
Everyone entering the 10,000-square-foot television, film and video production facility at 1616 E Bearss Ave. in Lutz first has their temperature taken and then must fill out a questionnaire asking if they have coronavirus symptoms or have been exposed recently to anyone who has.
Half the 28-person staff is working from home and the other half, plus clients, must always wear masks inside.
Diamond View — clients include the Atlanta Braves and the University of Florida — took precautions a step further early in July. They created a more coronavirus-safe 4,000-square-foot studio that uses a robotic camera operated via remote control from an adjoining room. There’s no crew on set when the cast is saying lines.
This allows the cast to remove masks with less concern that they will contract the coronavirus. They leave the set when crew must tinker with lights or the camera.
And a green screen allows Diamond View to turn the studio into anyplace in the world.
“We have to be really careful with interacting with people,” Diamond View CEO and founder Tim Moore said during his team’s practice session with the new technology. “We’re doing everything we can to limit those interactions and protect clients.”
The robotic camera is called a Bolt Junior Plus, created by London-based Mark Roberts Motion Control, and is one of only two in the United States, Moore said. It’s able to capture overhead, underneath and swooping shots.
Max Deroin controls camera movements with a keyboard and mouse from a control room that has a wall-sized window peering into the studio and a movie screen that broadcasts the footage live.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Deroin, whose title is motion control operator. “There’s been a learning curve. Usually, the company we bought it from would fly someone in to train me. But not even that is safe, so I’ve been learning through a lot of practice and eight-hour Zoom sessions with a trainer.”
The robotic camera weighs around 1,200 pounds and cost $225,000.
“Worth every penny,” Moore said, especially if the pandemic is still a concern when the Super Bowl comes to Tampa in February.
“For sports, a lot of the time they want to bring one player into a studio to do a bunch of media for TV packages,” Moore said. “We can have a player safely alone in the studio and get some dynamic shots.”
Hillsborough County film commissioner Tyler Martinolich said “COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way the film industry will operate moving forward. By investing in technology that allows for safer sets, Diamond View is future-proofing their own business.”
The camera will continue to be useful in a post-pandemic world, Moore said, because robots, unlike people, can mimic “the same movement over and over again.” That makes it easier to piece footage together during editing.
“We can do this for 12 hours and get the exact same shot,” Moore said. “It’s amazing.”
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