The Tonight Show Airstream Studio
Remote TV lighting in an Airstream Trailer
When the pandemic forced TV studios to shut down in March of 2020, most late-night shows pivoted to recording in the hosts’ homes, with whatever makeshift setups they could create quickly and safely. TV production was able to move back into the studios that summer, but worries about the possibility of another lockdown had the design teams thinking and planning for what to do if it happened again. Most shows ended up putting together a lighting system go-kit, so their hosts would be better lit if they had to retreat to their homes again.
The Tonight Show took a slightly different tack, doing what’s been described as “the most Tonight Show thing ever”: they built out an Airstream trailer as a mobile studio and parked it in Jimmy Fallon’s backyard. The lighting was designed by Tonight Show LD Fred Bock and had to fit an incredibly tiny space. They couldn’t have a tech onsite, and they didn’t want to just set up some presets in the shop and hope for the best, so they needed a lightweight, versatile way to control the lights remotely.
Fred chose CineMiranda, the portable version of our Miranda DMX controller, which allowed him to have a programmer remotely controlling the lighting live as they filmed. This let them do realtime adjustments to the Airstream lighting system from the lighting console in New York, keeping everyone remote and safe.
The Tonight Show and Jimmy wanted to set up a portable studio in an Airstream Trailer at his home in the Hamptons, which was to be controlled remotely should there be another COVID lockdown. Luckily there hasn’t been a need for another lockdown at the moment, but we did do one show from the trailer to mark the one year anniversary of Jimmy’s first “At Home Show”. The CineMiranda allowed the lighting team to control all of the lighting in the trailer via DMX. Its compact size was perfect for the trailer, and it didn’t require anyone with lighting knowledge to be out on site for any reason once it was all set up and running. The CineMiranda was the perfect solution at the perfect time. – Fred Bock, Lighting Designer
CineMiranda requires no special firewall rules and is perfectly happy being connected to the lighting system 24/7 for weeks at a time, without user intervention. This enabled the Tonight Show team to install the system in September of 2020, where it then sat idle, but online, waiting to be needed. Fortunately, the second lockdown never came – in March 2021, they finally filmed an episode in the trailer for the one-year anniversary of the start of the pandemic.
For a full view of the inside of the trailer, check out the episode here!