The most bizarre Emmy Awards in TV history are upon us. On Sunday, the Television Academy will honor the year in television with an entirely virtual awards show. For weeks, industry insiders have been left in the dark about how the virtual Emmys will be conducted, but in a panel on Wednesday, executive producers Reginald Hudlin and Ian Stewart revealed that high-tech camera and audio set-ups will been sent to each nominee to ensure that viewers see the best possible feed. “It’s not going to work properly all the time. It’s just not,” said Stewart. “We’ve just got to embrace that.”
Hudlin and Stewart spent much of Wednesday’s panel discussing the technical aspects of the 2020 Emmys broadcast, as well as the many, many things that could go wrong. The executive producers explained that the show will be broadcast from 130 different live feeds as celebrities remain scattered across the globe (they’re in 20 cities, 125 different locations, and 10 countries, to be specific). “You have so many things coming in, and so many things that can stop coming in,” said Stewart of the feeds.
To ensure that nominees will be as present as possible given the circumstances, producers will be sending out retrofitted TV rigs with ring lights, teleprompters, and pre-loaded software (as seen below). “When the nominee receives it, they only have to plug in a few things,” said Hudlin. “We’re doing this at the highest quality possible.”
Because of the individual nature of each feed, nominees will also be able to have 1:1 conversations with producers throughout the night. “They’re really going to be our partners in this process,” Hudlin said of the 2020 Emmy nominees. “It’s never been done before, so it’s not going to go perfectly,” added Stewart. “But we’re going to try our best.”
The executive producers added that “anything we can do live” will be done live, but there are a few special moments that viewers should prepare for, including an In Memoriam performance from H.E.R. “It’s going to be extraordinary,” said Hudlin. “We tried to do something really special with the music and the visuals there.”
At the end of the day, Hudlin, Stewart, and host Jimmy Kimmel are “open to the X-factor” of live broadcasts, and they hope that celebrities will be game, as well. “If someone happens to have an extraordinary outfit, maybe we’ll have a conversation with them,” said Hudlin. “If somebody’s kid takes the mic and takes over, we’re going to let that happen.”
“We’ve tried to look at every item and say, ‘This is a new start,’” added Stewart, explaining that they’re trying to ward off “award fatigue” in nominees and viewers alike. “We tried to break all that off and do it really, really differently, just inconsistently differently.”
The 72nd Emmy Awards air this Sunday, September 20 at 8/7c on ABC.