The facility utilizes Unreal Engine, which allows for the procuring and creation of incredible sets and environments for single and multi-camera projects. This allows for big-time projects to be created, dressed, managed, lit, and filmed with minimal crew. Some of their sets even feature digital extra actors, further minimizing the number of people needed to be physically on set.
Since there are still a lot of uncertainties with how Covid will continue to affect the industry, L.A. Castle Studios serves as a much needed solution and is among the top utilized facilities during this time. Beyond just the pandemic, the studio is an affordable, high-tech space for many productions. The entire business is family run and have been in the industry for over 10 years.
PH: Can you talk about L.A. Castle Studios?
Tim Pipher: L.A. Castle Studios is changing the way television and movie production is done. We're the first studio in the world to successfully tether multiple cinema cameras and lenses at 4K to the Unreal Video Game Engine. This means that producers can film in what appears to be expensive news or talk show sets, ancient Rome, or anywhere else in the universe without spending millions of dollars and without the need to travel.
Unlike traditional facilities, we're all set up and ready to go, so if we get a last minute call, we say “sure, come on in.” Our facility is exceptionally comfortable and clients and crew are excited to spend a day (or multiple days) filming here. We are centrally located in Burbank, CA, so we are very handy for producers and talent.
PH: How have things changed for you since the pandemic?
Tim Pipher: Like almost all businesses, we were worried about how we would stay afloat. Then, we received a call from the producers of "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Graduates of 2020", who needed a safe facility in the industry to film their high profile celebrities at the height of the pandemic. The show ended up being one of the most viewed programs of the Covid era, and since then, the phone hasn't stopped ringing so we have been extremely lucky.
PH: Can you talk about some of the precautions you're taking?
Tim Pipher: First, our technology means we can operate with minuscule crews, sometimes five or fewer, and no set construction crews. With 12,000 sq. ft. of space, that means it's easy for cast and crew to spread out, which inherently creates a safer environment to work in. We have Merv 13 HVAC to filter the air, and when weather conditions allow, we open our two giant elephant doors, making the bulk of the facility almost open-air. Our staff is Covid-tested on average every 4 days. We require masks and social distancing at all times, and clients are free to add their own additional protocols.
PH: What are you shooting at the studio?
Tim Pipher: We've been shooting the BET Awards for BET and CBS, the BIFF Awards, the American Valor Awards for ABC, American Humane Hero Dog Awards for Hallmark, Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020 special for ABC, NBC and FOX, the series Bookmarks for Netflix, John Lewis: Celebrating a Hero for CBS, a game show for FOX, a virtual automobile event, several national infomercials, and a sketch comedy show. Recent virtual locations are as diverse as a spectacular television news set, a comedy club, a college football field, John Lewis and Common performing on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma Alabama, and under the ocean complete with circling sharks.
PH: How has this shift impacted business and the way the studio operates?
Tim Pipher: Producers who would not have been looking for space have discovered our facilities during the Covid crisis. Additionally, operations have shifted toward ultra safety-consciousness so conversations that have never been discussed before, like the need for HVAC filters, are being brought to the forefront. We also have to take into account new regulatory compliances but we’re proud to say we’ve been able to meet with all new protocols.
PH: Do you think this will have a permanent impact on business?
Tim Pipher: While the pandemic has brought us new clients out of necessity, producers are saying we offer a better way to shoot than traditional studios. Our facility offers them creativity and solutions while saving money and time. We believe the services we offer will allow L.A. Castle Studios to thrive even when the Covid crisis is behind us.
PH: What other changes have you seen the studio go through?
Tim Pipher: We are on our toes more than ever because clients are booking us last minute. Instead of producers calling a month before the shoot, they are calling us to film the next week or even the next day. We've also become more of a one stop shop, as producers, more than ever, are asking us to provide not only our technology and facility, but also our cameras, lenses, virtual sets, lighting, teleprompters, audio gear, and crew.
PH: Can you talk about some of your upcoming projects?
Tim Pipher: Upcoming projects include a Christmas special for Nickelodeon, the Media Access Awards, a competition series called "Highway to Hollywood", and host wrap-arounds for "Mission Unstoppable with Miranda Cosgrove" for CBS.