Artists transform homes into movie studios amid pandemic

By Van An   August 26, 2021 | 05:17 am PT
While singer Hong Nhung was filming at home, her daughter turned on the hair dryer to help create a ‘blowing’ effect.

Nhung has been using her apartment as a home studio ever since Ho Chi Minh City imposed more stringent social distancing measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.

When she filmed the music video (MV) for 'Co Phai Em Mua Thu Ha Noi' (rough translation: Is That You, Hanoi Autumn), her daughter turned on the hair dryer, pointed it at her mother, and so created the effect of hair blowing in the wind, while her other daughter was busy transferring recorded footage to her mom's laptop. After a day spent helping their mother, the two children fell asleep on the sofa in the living room.

"Mom, you have to put my name in the credits, because I also helped out," one of her daughters said.

With the support of her kids, the singer has released nine MVs made at home since June.

Filming and livestreaming from home have been favored by Nhung and artists to release new content during the epidemic.

Singer and actor Quang Trung turns his house into a home studio with full sound and light equipment.

Singer and actor Quang Trung in his home studio. Photo courtesy of Trung

When HCMC required suspension of social events, gatherings of 20 people or more in one place and of 10 people or more outside workplaces, schools and hospitals, and a minimum distance of two meters between people in public - singer and actor Quang Trung was able to organize an online mini-show at home with his band, attracting more than 300,000 spectators.

To do this, he had to squeeze musical instruments, sound equipment and lighting into his apartment. After the mini-show ended on May 29, the city imposed more tougher social distancing measures the following day, as Trung launched a home cooking series on YouTube.

No longer able to hire a professional crew, he asked his relatives to film the show using smartphones. The actor focuses on encouraging the audience to stay active during the pandemic.

Movies and game shows are also experimenting with this shooting method. For instance, comedian Truong Giang recorded for the 'Nhanh Nhu Chop' (Lightning Quiz Vietnam) TV program in southern Dong Nai Province after returning here to avoid the pandemic in HCMC. Meanwhile, many TV match making programs have gradually switched to video calling.

Actor Huynh Lap also shot and produced a horror series with his manager in his hometown of southern An Giang Province.

While shooting at their home is challenging enough, the most difficult thing for artists is ensuring sound and image quality.

Nhung only has one dedicated microphone, two livestream lights and a phone for shooting at home. "The image quality is quite poor when shooting at night and can be unusable sometimes," she said.

Meanwhile, Giang had to set up a light bulb on a stick and fix it to a fan with tape to replace the light fixture. Lap said, due to a shortage of human resources, he had to mobilize family members to support him. He also asked them not to go back and forth many times because it is easy to mix up the noise.

With the online game show recording sessions featuring many guests, internet speed is another factor that can cause disruption to the connection.

Comedian Kha Nhu said: "At the climax of the story, I said a few funny sentences, but it took five or six seconds for the others to hear and respond to my jokes, which might kill the mood of the show."

MC Nguyen Khang also had problems during filming when his phone froze after operating for too long. He used the camera to record, but sometimes misaligned, with the footage only showing his head.

MC Nguyen Khang is hosting for a TV program at his home. Photo courtesy of Khang

MC Nguyen Khang hosts a TV program from his living room. Photo courtesy of Khang

At first, Khang had to call on his friends to ask them how to set up the light. Currently, he can do all the steps himself, from assembling lights, setting camera angles, recording, doing hair, makeup and choosing costumes.

For artists, recording at home during the pandemic is a strange yet meaningful experience.

Nhung is longing to be able to perform in front of a live audience. She admits she is not good with technology, but can still seek help from her kids. She said while setting up is a bit tedious, it helps her bond more with her kids during the pandemic.

Nguyen Khang once envisioned that filming online would be quicker and easier because of the simplicity of personnel, equipment and machinery, and no need to move. But in fact, it took him about three hours per episode. One day, he filmed from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., had to cook instant noodles and eat canned food for convenience.

However, the MC feels luckier than many people because he has a job to do during the pandemic.

"It's not just a matter of income, online recording helps me learn to adapt to new circumstances and take on many different roles."

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