This SNL video shows how its VFX team works under the gun to finish polished and ready-to-air Digital Shorts in less than 12 hours.
The past season was one of the highest rated in Saturday Night Live history, but now the cast and crew all have a well-deserved summer off. Working on SNL is famously stressful. Each week, the writers, performers, and crew (including everyone from gaffers to costume designers and more) put together 90 minutes of live television, with a different host. It could be argued that the show's VFX team faces some of the most extraordinary pressure of all, and this video from NBC highlights why.
In 2005, Lazy Sunday, an ode to Narnia, cupcakes, and sleeping in, became the first SNL Digital Short and one of the earliest viral videos. Since then, Digital Shorts have become a staple of the show, and as the years have gone by, productions have grown more stylistically complex, like this pitch-perfect Wes Anderson parody:
Video is no longer available: vimeo.com/129804479
The shorts have also become the most reliant on VFX, as in this complex POV clip from this season:
With each episode produced on this anxiety-ridden schedule, the sets and costumes don't start to get built out until Thursday morning at 6 AM, which means the commercial parodies, individual skit graphics, and, of course, Digital Shorts, don't go into production until later that same day. Which is, you know, insane. According to the NBC video, "By the time footage gets to the Visual Effects Team, they have less than 12 hours," meaning sometime around noon on Saturday, to get all the graphics and VFX content ready to go out, live, coast-to-coast.
"By the time footage gets to the Visual Effects Team, they have less than 12 hours."
SNL has a system, but it's one of the most intense systems in TV (though live TV was, at one time, the rule, rather than the exception) and it's a testament to the hard work of everyone involved that the show happens, week after week. And in the years since Digital Shorts have become so important to the show, the VFX team has perhaps one of the most important (and demanding) tasks in all of entertainment. So, as they begin their necessary time off, let's all take a minute to sit back, take a breath, and reflect on the fact that no matter how much stress we're under, the good people at 30 Rockefeller Plaza are probably under a lot more.