Redesigning Hollywood: How Will Variety Shows Look After The Pandemic?

An Emmy award-winning production designer says the pandemic is creating a major "renaissance" for VFX and virtual production companies.

Redesigning Hollywood: How Will Variety Shows Look After The Pandemic?
FOX / "The Masked Singer"

Recognize these stages and sets? They were all designed by Emmy award-winning production designer James Pearse Connelly. He's worked on shows like "The Masked Singer," "The Voice," and "Nailed It.” During Comic-Con@Home, he talked with Newsy about how variety and reality series are going to look post-pandemic. 

James Pearse Connelly: "I own a design studio. I design variety shows for a living. I probably do between 25 and 30 a year. … With the pandemic hit, we obviously hit a little bit of a slowdown, but then what you don't realize is everyone needs good design right now. Everyone needs solutions."

Some of the biggest solutions needed for future TV productions involve complying with social distancing guidelines, having fewer people on set and doing away with studio audiences.

Connelly: "What I hear as a designer is, I need to redesign the desk for all the judges. Everybody needs to be 6 feet apart. We need to design solutions for audiences over and over and over again. But ultimately, what's netting out is we cannot 'reveal' that we're in a pandemic."

To better navigate the challenges, production designers are using augmented reality and virtual reality to avoid physical sets as much as possible. With this technology, Connelly is already building sets for the next season of Fox's "The Masked Singer."

"This is a major renaissance. I mean, I've had multiple conversations with VFX houses and animators, for instance, because they can tell stories without a lot of people on site to create a production."