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Chinese variety shows embrace 'cloud filming' amid epidemic

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-03-04 16:13

Zhou Shen.[Photo/People.com.cn]

Zhou Shen is probably the first Chinese celebrity singer who attended an acclaimed singing show by singing in his own bedroom.

Like hundreds of millions of Chinese, Zhou was confined at home by the novel coronavirus outbreak. So during the third episode of "Singer," he was seen singing and watching his peers' performances from his apartment in Shanghai.

"It's so hard because I alone have to act as singer, cameraman, stylist, propman and light and sound technician," he said. "But the good thing is that I can lie down on my bed immediately after recording."

For Hu Shiyan, a big fan of TV shows, watching the show's 10 singers, including Japanese singer Misia, pooling their renditions from studios or their homes in different cities is also a new experience.

The 24-year-old post-graduate student in Changsha is struggling with boredom after having stayed at home for a month. She was worried that her favorite show would also be suspended due to the epidemic.

"The TV show not only cures my boredom but sends positive energy through the music," said Hu, who was particularly impressed by the several songs dedicated to doctors and nurses.

Like "Singer," a number of TV shows in China have opted for "cloud filming" amid the outbreak. Deprived of fancy stages, cheering audiences and the bevies of helpful staff, celebrities in such shows have to record or livestream performances in different venues, often accompanied by basic instruments and simple props.

As of Wednesday, the two "cloud filming" episodes of "Singer," released on Feb 21 and Feb 28, have received over 148 million views.

The producing team of "Singer" said they conceived "cloud filming" to continue their show during the outbreak. Reconciliation of music and other configurations in different venues became their main challenges, said Hong Xiao, producer of "Singer."

"We also need to make the performances look more live and prevent the leaking of video or audio resources," Hong said.

But despite the many technological obstacles, Hong said new AI technologies made "cloud filming" possible. AI identification and editing, for instance, were used to process nearly 70,000 pieces of raw materials generated in the filming process within one hour, greatly improving the efficiency of their production.

Another "cloud filmed" TV show "Hey! What are you doing?" asks guests to share their life during the epidemic through Vlog and video calls.

"The show is not perfect in terms of content or technology, but we hope to help our audience ease their tension and discover the truth and beauty of life during the epidemic," said Liu Wei, the show's producer.

"Although the show's guests are usually comfortable in front of the camera, it is the first time that they have to complete shooting all by themselves," said Liu, whose team even shot a manual training for the hosts and guests to quickly become technicians, camera people and directors.

"As the epidemic alleviates, our guests may be able to film outdoors in the near future," Liu said.

For many Chinese viewers, the survival of their favorite TV shows through "cloud filming" brings a precious antidote to boredom, as well as a sense of companionship and a "life-goes-on" feeling.

"I used to be busy with my work and seldom stay at home with my parents, but after being stuck at home for more than a month, I became a little uneasy," said Lin Jianyu, 31, from eastern China's Jiangsu province. Inspired by the show, he began to learn to cook, work out at home and spend more time with his parents.

"It's like an old friend sharing the daily routine, gently saying, 'it's OK, we're all here with you. We can make it through this,'" a netizen commented on "Hey! What are you doing?"

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