Live, interactive, narrative sci-fi is not something we’ve seen since…ever. So when we heard about “Orbital Redux” (starring Yuri Lowenthal and Yasmine Al-Bustami), Nerdist and Legendary’s live sci-fi show about a pilot shuttling fuel in a ramshackle spaceship, we were certainly intrigued. Also of interest was the show’s use of a full Blackmagic Design workflow, from cameras to live switchers. “Orbital Redux” was gracious enough to allow us on set for a day to shoot behind the scenes, as well as interview key members of the production. In honor of their upcoming finale (Thursday November 15 at 5:45PM PST on Project Alpha), we spoke with writer and director Steven Calcote, who described how the show got started, his inspiration behind the tactile, practical set and effects, the importance of inclusion in today’s stories and how Blackmagic Design helped create a seamless end to end workflow for the show.
In addition to being the most positive and supportive set we’ve witnessed, “Orbital Redux” is perhaps the most interesting set we’ve ever been on. They use 10+ Blackmagic Cameras to capture every angle of the 360-degree set. Blackmagic Studio Cameras hide in the corners and each wall panel computer screen doubles as a hidden door that swing open to allow for camera operators to capture additional angles. Calcote’s own background in aerospace allowed him to source real pieces from decommissioned submarines and planes, crafting a set that is very genuine and provides a tactile feel you don’t see on many other shows.
Throw in interactive, audience-driven plot points that change the story from episode to episode and over a mile of wiring and you have what would be a disaster on any other set, especially a live one. However, Calcote points out that Blackmagic Design’s “rock solid” workflow between their products allows them to avoid many pitfalls. “This integrated system where we have everything from a Teranex converter in the chain to multiple Hyperdeck Studio Pros to URSA Mini Pros to Micro Studio and Micro cinema…because that’s all talking a shared operating system, a shared design philosophy, which is about having rock solid live dependability, it takes a lot of problems out of the equation and it lets us focus on what we should be focused on.”
Calcote also touched on something that’s become a hot-button issue for media producers and consumers alike: inclusion. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of such an issue, it is easily argued that Calcote and his team have done it “the right way” by presenting characters of varying ethnicities and backgrounds that are more than just those frequently defining characteristics. One of the most interesting points Calcote brings up is how pushing for inclusion actually helps improve the story as a whole, in ways that may not be evident at the start. Specifically, in any other show with a male and female lead, the typical narrative would be to play on their budding romantic relationship and how that complicates their work, how they overcome it, etc.
It’s a story we’ve all seen a thousand times over. Calcote’s push for inclusivity has expanded their narrative beyond that, however, as their lead male character is gay (and married), making any romantic potential with his female co-star a highly unlikely possibility. So how is such a relationship between two leads realized? “What if this were a relationship, trainee and mentor, where you never fell back on them falling in love,” explains Calcote. “What if you had to, for this relationship, make it a professional relationship of respect and friendship? When you take unexpected opportunities for narrative and give those to viewers, the ultimate result is much better entertainment.”
At the end of the day, Calcote and his team have crafted a unique show through their creative use of a Blackmagic Design workflow in a one of a kind set, as well as their inclusive views on story and character choices. Calcote’s vision of the future is a fun and beautiful portrait we should all aspire to, and one that you can still be a part of right now, as their live season finale premiere’s tomorrow, November 15 at 5:45pm PST on Project Alpha.
You can learn more about “Orbital Redux” from the interview above, as well as Join.ProjectAlpha.com/OrbitalRedux
You can learn more about Blackmagic Design and their many products at BlackmagicDesign.com