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Pandemic has forced TV and film producers to bring new technology to sets

By Anousha Sakoui, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

LOS ANGELES — A week ago Monday, cast and crew of the Amazon series "Goliath" gathered to check in for a day of filming at Santa Clarita Studios.

Despite the pandemic, the fourth season of the show is back in action, thanks in part to technology that helps track COVID-19 testing for hundreds of cast and crew members, including stars such as Billy Bob Thornton.

As people arrived on set, a COVID safety officer scanned color-coded IDs with embedded chips that could be read by portals stationed around the set. The chips would collect and track data on the movements of cast and crew in case any of them came into contact with someone who tested positive for the disease.

This system, called Safe Set, was recently launched by Culver City-based Greg Guzzetta, a former production manager who spent the last decade providing public safety technology for live music events.

After the pandemic shut down live entertainment, Guzzetta, 56, created a new company, Safe Haus Group, and adapted some of his safety technology for use on film sets.

"It allowed me to put the live event business over on a shelf and not be depressed by that," he said. "I've taken bits and pieces of different tech that I used in the other spaces and wrote some new software with my development team and we came up with Safe Set."

 

Safe Set is one of a group of new and existing technology companies capitalizing on the demand for safe productions. These businesses, which supply everything from remote-operated robotic cameras to tracking technology that helps enforce social distancing, have emerged in response to new safety protocols on sets.

These rules, agreed on by entertainment industry unions and studios, require that large productions divide their cast and crew into different zones. Performers, and those working close to them, tend to be in one zone and are tested multiple times a week. Others can be tested less often, but the two groups cannot mix.

The protocols presented new challenges for productions looking to resume after the pandemic prompted production to be shut down in spring. Although activity has not returned to pre-pandemic levels since L.A. County resumed issuing permits in June, productions are finding ways to get large crews back to work on TV shows and some films.

"The first days (when) we were there, creating credentials for all these people and seeing how happy they all were coming back to work, was pretty cool," Guzzetta said.

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