Les Mills uses hologram tech in Masterclass videos to overcome pandemic travel bans
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Les Mills uses hologram tech in Masterclass videos to overcome pandemic travel bans

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Les Mills has come up with an ingenious solution to get around the pandemic travel bans, which threatened a long tradition of its video Masterclasses featuring a global line up of instructors and presenters.

COVID-19-enforced travel restrictions and border closures meant overseas presenters couldn't make it to New Zealand for the shooting of the videos.

Those who have viewed the videos, however, would've spotted that the latest Masterclass releases still feature teams from the UK, China, Australia and France.

This was made possible by using projected image technology, creating a type of hologram effect, showing instructors from different countries as if they were in the same room.

Les Mills Producer Ross Peebles said: "They're basically projected images of presenters from around the world.

"'Projected images' is probably a better term than 'holograms'. We're not trying to say in any sense that the presenters were in the same studio."

Peebles said that COVID-19 has created massive challenges for producing Masterclass.

“When travel restrictions were initially introduced, our response was to create the United releases, which featured presenters from around the globe who filmed themselves on iPhones. We subsequently evolved this tactic with Q4 2020.”

Since then Les Mills has gone a step further, employing some inventive solutions.

“Our biggest challenge was creatively bringing a group of international presenters together while maintaining consistency of the class,” said Les Mills line producer Georgia Burn.

“We could have sent a camera crew out to film someone in China presenting BODYPUMP, but then it would have looked and sounded – both from a creative perspective, but also a technical perspective – very different to what may have been filmed in Sydney or the UK.

"So we hit upon a coherent and consistent concept that ensured every shoot would look the same."

Shoots were set up in London, Shanghai, Sydney and Paris, with Peebles directing the shoots from Les Mills International in Auckland.

“We essentially watched the shoots on a more robust version of a Zoom call,” Peebles said.

“This allowed us to both monitor and direct the cameras, to make sure we're getting exactly what we need.

"We also had Kylie Gates, our creative director, and the program directors with us to monitor the performance elements."

He added that filming around the globe over consecutive days meant the teams faced added challenges from time zones and language barriers.

“We were filming five days in a row, where the presenters are at the opposite ends of the earth, so what time do you film?” Peebles said.

“The Paris team didn't finish filming until around 04:15am local time. It was a massive undertaking for the teams to shoot BODYATTACK or BODYCOMBAT tracks at 03:30 in the morning, wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, operating under what would have been clearly challenging and stressful circumstances at the best of times, let alone with those additional pressures as well.”

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Les Mills has come up with an ingenious solution to get around the pandemic travel bans, which threatened a long tradition of its video Masterclasses featuring a global line up of instructors and presenters.

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