Platypus Productions recently became the first production company in the world to adapt Sonru.com's automated video interviewing services for an online casting.
"The idea of an online casting solution really appealed to us, as casting has traditionally been very time-consuming and labour-intensive," said Platypus Productions' director Stanley Edwards. "We cut a one-two-week process down by at least half, using a fraction of the resources."
Platypus, who are based in Cape Town, were looking for three presenters from Johannesburg for a pilot for Backpack, Budget or Bling, a multiplatform destination marketing series that chronicles three very different experiences in any location.
Sonru.com was named "one of the top 100 cloud services in the world" in the Amazon Webservices Challenge 2011 and has a string of awards to its name. "Although the software is built as a staff recruitment tool, I quickly saw how it could work very well for castings," said Stanley.
From the Platypus-branded account within Sonru, the talent receives an email link to an online audition where they use their own webcam to record themselves answering questions or tasks set by Platypus.
Stanley could log in to a secure, private back-end at any time to view entire auditions or just the answers to specific questions.
Instead of waiting for the edit and then having to FTP or courier the auditions to clients, he could immediately select his favourites and add his client to view and make notes alongside his own comments.
"The feedback we've received from both applicants and our clients has been very positive," says Stanley. "The process was easy to follow and allowed everyone to view selects, make comments and refer back to all castings. It saved time for everyone involved and generally proved seamless."
The online casting cut out a number of costs that would otherwise have been required, including the need for a Johannesburg-based casting company,casting premises, camera, sound, and lighting crew, editor and post production suite. It also avoided the disruptions involved in casting at their offices.
"Besides a cost saving, it allowed us to have full control of the casting process and to be able to do it a lot faster and easier," Stanley said. "For me the number one benefit was easy access to casting videos which could be viewed anywhere, anytime."
Stanley believes the online casting also led to a higher number of auditions. "Casting times and locations sometimes don't fit with talent's availability, especially given our increasingly short lead times. Here theycould log on in their own time, when they were ready, and it didn't matter whether or not they had transport."
Sonru.com works particularly well for presenter searches and for children's auditions, where the software allows them to be more open and less intimidated than in a traditional casting. However, Stanley warns Sonru.com is currently less effective for auditions that require a lot of movement or interaction with other people.
Platypus has always looked at how technology can enhance their production processes. They were the first company in Africa to work with augmented reality and the second company in Africa to do DVD authoring - Stanley laughs when he says that they paid R425 000 more than a decade ago for something that comes free with all computers now. They've also worked on holographic projections and with QR codes before and are currently exploring geo-tagging in Backpack, Budget or Bling, which will make its debut at ITB Berlin in March 2012.
Q-Core Consulting are the local agents for Sonru.com.
ABOUT PLATYPUS PRODUCTIONS Founded in 1992, Platypus Productions is one of most established commercial production companies in South Africa, but is enjoying a new lease on life since their Vodafone ZooZoo campaign became a global phenomenon.
Representing directors Ian Chuter, Prakash Varma,Vicci Turpin, Fiona Macpherson, and Renee van Reenen, Platypus offers a full-service creative solution for any board, from production to postproduction.