Of all places, there is a lengthy piece in the Wall Street Journal about how American Idol produced the rest of the season remotely, and the show’s plans for an at home finale. Alas, you’ll need a subscription to read it.
Nevertheless, for your reading pleasure, I’ll summarize the highlights here in bullet points, which include confetti cannons, an Aretha Franklin medley . If you can, check out the full story, with photos, at the Wall Street Journal.
- The show’s producers are shipping a confetti cannon to each of the remaining seven contestants to fire off at home if they win.
- Staffers held 230 Zoom meetings last week, including some back-to-back preparations with contestants that ran over 12 hours.
- In total, 90 iPhones provided by Apple were shipped out, including cameras sent to judges, host Ryan Seacrest, and other stars.
- “Across the board, the biggest challenge was putting together the tripods,” says producer Patrick Lynn.
- A dozen “Idol” staff members gathered in a Zoom meeting to watch a live feed from contestant Dillon James’s back porch in Bakersfield, Calif. As the singer held up several western shirts from his closet for producers to pick from
- Contestants tape three renditions of the song they choose. To keep things fair, judges always evaluate their second take. Video footage of all three versions can be used in the final edit for broadcast.
- Band members who normally back contestants live now record their individual parts of the song in their homes. Tracks are stitched together over multiple rounds of mixing and rerecording. In a Zoom meeting with 12 musicians last week, music director Kris Pooley consulted a spreadsheet as he gave assignments and discussed new material, including an Aretha Franklin medley.
- “Doing it this way isn’t that sustainable if we had to do 12 episodes,” he adds.
- Loosening restrictions allowed the show to shoot former contestant Lauren Daigle singing in Nashville’s historic, and empty, Ryman Auditorium.
- To help pump up the spectacle in the finale episode, featuring an “Idol” version of “We Are the World,” 25 singers (including judge Lionel Richie, who co-wrote the song) shot their contributions against black backgrounds and wore white shirts. That uniform allows editors to digitally superimpose the performers on various virtual surfaces, including images of iconic locations around the country.
- During a Zoom meeting with producers and judges last week, Richie jokingly demanded a dedicated communications tower outside the Tennessee home of Luke Bryan, who has had more internet glitches than his fellow judges.
- Because a winner must be crowned live on Sunday, producers decided to remove the web from the equation. They’re deploying nine satellite trucks—one parked outside the home of everyone on screen, and connected by a cable to a camera inside that will be automatically controlled from a safe distance.
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The American Idol finale airs on ABC Sunday May 17 at 8 pm ET/PT.