Vid technology allows casting in real time


When casting director Charlie Bogdan was recently in Brazil casting a Toyota commercial and needed approval on the Amazon Indians he wanted for the spot, flying them to Hollywood never crossed his mind.

Instead, he uploaded live video of them via the high-definition video communications technology known as LifeSize and received instant feedback from producers.

In the Hollywood of old, seeking the right actor for a commercial or any role often meant the cost of first-class tickets and hotels to get both directors and actors in one room, not to mention an even costlier commodity: time.

But with HD video at 1280x720 resolution, full-room coverage audio, a camera, wireless remote and a video-conferencing phone, the LifeSize Room has attending directors, producers, actors and models in one location conducting a meeting or audition with those at a separate location. Video and data is captured in real time and sent instantaneously through an IP address using any bandwidth.

"We're doing more stuff out of the country, and because it's in real time it's going to revolutionize casting and the way people do business in the future," Bogdan says.

Kendall Henry, who produced Lance Armstrong's Subaru campaign among other commercials, agrees and refers to its use as "casting live online," crediting its popularity to advances in technology including the advent of broadband.

"The only reason we didn't use it a long time ago was that the technology wasn't fast enough and the picture was too pixilated," Henry says, noting that in the old days you were only getting a third of what you should be seeing because technology could handle only 10 frames per second compared with 30 today. "Now because of all the high-speed lines, you can actually have a real conversation in real-time and actually direct in real-time."

Henry says the only problem with that is that talent may sometimes need to catch up to the technology.

"For a model to act to a TV screen, it takes them a while to warm up to it," Henry says.

But commercial talent agent Mike Casey, who has represented clients ranging from Elle Macpherson to Uma Thurman, says that the quality of the LifeSize picture is such that it can actually benefit those in front of the camera.

"I've had girls audition in person for shampoo jobs where the client was disappointed because their hair didn't shine," Casey says. "But this system's lighting is superior."

Karoline McLaughlin, LifeSize's director of corporate marketing, says the system, which came out last December, also is used in the health care industry during surgeries and that its clarity is why fashion designers trying to see the texture and true color of a fabric use it.

"Instead of seeing a black swatch of fabric, they would be able to see that it was not only black but that it was corduroy," McLaughlin explains.

It's that resolution that has casting director Robert B. Martin Jr. of Digital Dog Casting who works out of Los Angeles' Exclusive Casting Studios, swearing by the subtleties captured by the system's high-definition picture for the comedy-based casting in which he specializes.

"When it comes to capturing an actor's performance, it's like being in the room," Martin says.

But besides the ability it provides to cast an actor from New York in an L.A. role or fill a last-minute cast addition, this technology is allowing postproduction editors to edit footage the same day it's shot, saving millions of dollars, according to Casey.

"The commercial casting world out there is vicious," Casey says. "You have to have the equipment or you're gonna go by the wayside."