The first show was recorded on December 14, 2008 and broadcast on January 17, 2009.
Due to last minute scheduling change of the premiere broadcast the first episodes would need to be recorded while director Rich DiPirro was abroad. As these were the important initial tapings that would set the look and style of the show it was important that the director who had been involved from the start provide his imprint on the series.
DiPirro and 3Ball Executive Producers J.D. Roth and Todd Nelson had just successfully staged the ground-breaking ABC series “Opportunity Knocks” where the technical and logistical challenge of setting up a prime-time game show studio outside in front of an unsuspecting family’s home was met with unique and successful planning. With this success behind them, this new challenge was tackled with a bold solution: DiPirro would direct from Tokyo while the show was performed live on a stage in Hollywood
There is precedent for using multiple satellites or fiber lines to transmit individual cameras and program video & audio feeds, but, this had to be accomplished on a syndication budget. DiPirro suggested using existing Internet communication services and technology to allow him to direct the shows for 6,000 miles away.
Utilizing the video capabilities of Skype, technicians sent a multi-split screen displaying all five cameras to Tokyo. On a second Skype feed, the director’s voice was transmitted to Hollywood and patched into the studio’s intercom headset system while the party-line camera channel was returned to Tokyo. To address the issue of delay and latency with the free consumer Skype feeds, a dedicated peer-to-peer IP-based video and audio service was contracted. The switched production feed along with program audio allowed DiPirro to interact with the production in real time.
A control room in Japan became a reality...all for less than the cost of an economy round-trip airline ticket from Tokyo to LA.
Over two days the show was blocked out and rehearsed successfully. The show’s electronic production elements were choreographed and executed by Associate Director Marco Mancini and Technical Director Iqbal Hans in the Hollywood studio while DiPirro directed from Tokyo.
The format established during this taping cycle set the mold for the series’ 82 episodes. This adventurous solution to a scheduling challenge is frequently recalled as yet another unique production accomplishment by the teaming of 3Ball Productions’ forward thinking EPs and staff with an experienced and familiar production crew and directing staff.