<I>Ted Lasso</I>: A look at the Directing, Editing and VFX nominees
August 14, 2023

Ted Lasso: A look at the Directing, Editing and VFX nominees

Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso receive more than 20 Emmy nominations for its third season, including those for Directing, Picture Editing, Original Music and Lyrics, Writing, Music Supervision and Visual Effects. Jason Sudeikis plays Ted Lasso, a small-time college football coach from Kansas, who’s been hired to coach a professional soccer team in England, despite having no experience.

Here, Post talks with many of this year’s nominees. We begin with director Declan Lowney.

Hi Declan! How did you get involved in the series?

“My then agent, Melissa Myers at WME, called me to ask if I had any connection with Jason Sudeikis? He was going to make a show in London, and they were looking for UK-based directors who had done some American TV, and were familiar with how things were done —the LA way!

“Bizarrely I knew Jason’s uncle, the actor George Wendt! We had worked together on a movie in Belfast about 20 years ago! Anyway, I had a good meeting with the producers, then had a Zoom with Jason and Bill. Bill only stayed 10 minutes, and as he left said, ‘I just wanted to make sure you weren’t an asshole. You aren’t…” and he was off.

“Then Jason talked about this amazing show he wanted to make. He had such a clear vision about why he was making it and what it was for. It was inspiring to listen to him!”

Do you recall what camera was used for the shoot? 

“The camera and lens package was decided by the first director of photography, so each director inherits that package. We shoot on (Arri) Alexas with the large sensor. I am not sure what the lenses are I'm afraid! Vanessa White, who was DP on my episodes, is a great resource.”

Was there a specific sequence or scene that was challenging to shoot?

“The whole thing is challenging to shoot, to be honest! It's a big show, and the football sequences in particular are quite complicated in how the shooting is structured. Each of the elements – the football action, the coaches’ dugout, the director’s box, the crowd cutaways, commentators Arlo and Chris, are all in different locations, and shot at the different times. The football action is directed by Pedro, with a second unit, but the main unit interacts with this when there are drama scenes to be shot on the pitch during a game. But production on the show is top notch, and the assistant directors worked very hard to maximize the shooting time with such a complex set of elements.”

The show’s music received Emmy nominations. Can you comment on how music and sound effects add to the storytelling experience?

“I love the music elements of Ted Lasso. The original score and incidental music by Tom Howe is just a joy. He’s got a great handle on what works and what a scene needs — never too much. We’re also blessed to have had such brilliant music supervisors. All the music choices in the show are just spot on.”

Editor A.J. Catoline, ACE 

A.J. can you describe your editorial workflow for the show?

“We worked on the show from the first day of shooting. We were based in LA, and the show was shot at West London Film Studios. We go through all the dailies and discover many beautiful performances and ideas our cast discovered on-set that grew beyond the script. As an editorial team, we collaborate to share ideas of what we are seeing in the footage. This season I cut all the odds episodes and Melissa the evens. We put an editor’s cut together and then send that to our directors. The director works remotely with us to explore the creative intention of the shots. We don’t have tone meetings, so this is the first time we hear what the goal was during shooting. Together, we further hone and craft the performance. 

“After releasing a director’s cut, this gets sent to our producers, the creators Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt and Joe Kelley. They are the triad that created the show. We get their notes and also send cuts to the studio and the network.  

“Ultimately it is the genius of Jason that crafts the episodes with us in the edit bay. He was often there 10 hours a day with us, really digging into the nuance of the story. As Jason works magic on the set, he also does in the edit room.”

What is your editing setup?

“Avid Media Composer of course. It’s what pro editors use in film & TV. Avid is a wonderful tool for storytellers. I’ve used it for so many years it has become an extension of my thought process, so I can quickly execute ideas I have in the editorial process.”

Can you point to any sequences that were a challenge?

“Cutting the Zava winning montage in Episode 303 was a challenge. We went through many versions of that, trying different songs. Ultimately we made the final revisions with Jason after he put each scene on a card and we moved things around in different order. I was most pleased when we used ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ and by chance this cut to the scene of Rupert cursing Richmond’s win streak. This was a lovely coincidence because Rupert is played by Anthony Head, and it was his brother, Murray Head, who starred in the original cast of JCS and sang ‘Superstar’ (on) the track that we used. 

“Coach Beard’s presentation about the history of Total Football that opened Episode 307 was a challenge to put together. Our post team had to hunt for many images and clips we could use, and we had to try many different iterations. Also, the tactical formations on the field were designed based on some conversations I had with Brendan Hunt, who is our football guru.

“Finally Episode 311 ‘Mom City,’ was a challenge to put together. It was the second longest episode of Ted Lasso ever, so there was a lot of scenes and footage to flow together. I am grateful I had the help of my assistant editor, Alex Szabo, who I promoted to co-editor for this beast of an episode. It has everything that a good TL episode should have: comedy, action, drama and a lot of emotion and heart. The football game sequence was massive, and we had to incorporate all the elements together — the pitch, the coaches dugout, the owner’s box, the fans, the pub, Jamie’s mom and also Nate watching on TV. It was a lot to keep flowing and pacing, but it turned out great. 

“And a shout out to our sound team. They make the crowd at the games sound so real. We added some recorded chants of the Man City fans for authenticity.

“Our composer Tom Howe wrote a track he recorded with Sam Ryder - ‘Better to Have Fought & Lost.’ This was something he wrote hoping it could go somewhere in Season 3. When I tried placing it after the ‘Thank You/Fuck You’ scene with Ted and his mom, it perfectly captured the emotional feeling and took us through to the final scene of the show. Sometimes when you place a piece of music, it just works magic!

What does this Emmy nomination mean to you?

“This year I promoted my assistant editor, Alex Szabo, to co-editor for 311 ‘Mom City.’ I am happy that we can share the nomination, and along with Melissa McCoy and Francesca Castro. nominated for 312, we can go to the Emmy’s as a full editorial team. We have all been on the show together since Season 1, and we call ourselves the OG Crew.

“It is not lost on me how extraordinary it is to be nominated ‘3 for 3’ for all 3 seasons of Ted Lasso. Before I worked on this show, I never dreamed that I would be nominated for an Emmy, and then to win one for Season 1 was a fabulous experience that I will never forget. I am forever grateful to have been a part of the AFC Richmond family and this wild, wonderful ride of a TV series.”

Editor Melissa McCoy, ACE

Melissa, can you talk about your workflow on the show?
“While in dailies, I always start my day with a chat with my assistant editor, Francesca Castro, while reviewing all the paperwork sent over from the script supervisor in London. We discuss what’s come for the day and if there are any problems we need to sort. Then I start in on dailies. Before I start cutting a scene, I re-read the scene in the script again. Then I watch all the dailies for the scene, starting with the master, and making my way toward the tighter coverage. 

“Sometimes I’ll jot down notes, or lay something I like on the timeline so I don’t forget about it. But the process of watching all the dailies is necessary for me because it’s where I ruminate on what they’ve actually shot versus what I’ve just read in the script. Once the finished scenes are put together, I like to watch the whole show down, usually with Francesca. The cut is in it’s roughest form, but it’s here I can feel where I can pace things up or let things breathe. I’ll also spot music and sound effects. 

“Then we split the cut in two and I start going through the first part, laying in music and finessing, while Francesca works on sound effects and some music in the second half. Then we switch again and I’ll go through the second half, finessing while she tackles the sound work for the first half. Once we finish that run through, we put the show back together and watch it down again. Usually there’s only enough time for another quick round of finessing, then the cut gets shipped to the director and we go through the process of cuts until we lock the episode with Jason.”
Can you talk about your editing setup?
“Avid is the gear. It’s the program I’m most comfortable with when it comes to cutting. I have my shortcut keys mapped to my keyboard just to my liking. It’s just second nature as I go about working on a cut.”

What were some of the tougher sequences you had to put together?
“I’d say the VFXs this season were bigger and more ambitious than ever. For the finale, there were over 700 visual effects, much of them in the big end match. Stadium orientation, game clock times, correct eyelines from the coaches on the sidelines to the brass up in the stands, ball trajectories and the use of speed ramps were just some of the things we were constantly monitoring to make sure they all landed correctly. It was a huge undertaking, with so many intercut details – a real puzzle to put together, but in the end so rewarding.”
How excited are you to have received an Emmy nomination?
“To be nominated by my editing peers in the Academy means everything to me. I love being an editor. I love the craft of editing and so for people to see my work and give me this honor is such a highlight of my career. I’m so happy I got to work on a show that really touched people’s lives…and then to be recognized with this nomination…well, it’s just been an amazing adventure.”

VFX supervisor James MacLachlan

Hi James! What are the VFX needs for Ted Lasso? 

Ted Lasso Season 3 utilizes a wide range of visual effects techniques to support and enhance the dynamic storytelling. The VFX are crafted to give fictional story beats a grounding in real-world locations. Premier League football authenticity is key.

“When we first read the scripts for Episode 11 (Mom City) we realized Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt and the writers had created scenes with exceptional scope and scale. To ensure that the scenes held up to everyone's expectations, we buttoned down the process nice and early in pre-production. 

“Reading the scripts, we determined (as best we could) what limitations may be placed upon the production due to timeframes and actor availability, and we worked backwards from there trying to place as little restrictions on the production as possible by having multiple solutions available at most times. This fluidity and flexibility is at the heart of filming Ted Lasso. It was important for cinematographer Vanessa Whyte to be unencumbered when setting camera positions that best convey the scope and scale. We knew we had Metastage in our back pocket.

“Set in Manchester City's iconic Etihad Stadium, a wide range of techniques are used to create the detailed idiosyncrasies of the stadium, the heaving throngs of passionate, energetic crowds, and the emotional connection viewers of the show feel in response to the football play on the pitch.

“The Etihad stadium pitch, seats, dugouts and roof were scanned by the incredible team at Visual Skies utilizing LiDAR and photography to nut and bolt levels of detail. Both aerial and terrestrial units were used, while secondary VFX photography was captured for texturing and occasional photogrammetry. These processes were useful for CGI reconstruction, camera tracking and real-scale placement of football and touch-side action.

“This all needed to be achieved without setting foot on the pristine Etihad playing field. One toe on the pitch and we would be sent out. Groundsmen and women can use some pretty colorful language at times.

“Due to these filming restrictions, often shots and scenes were constructed using elements filmed on different days and in different locations with varying Great British weather. Very careful consideration was given to time of day, direction and changeable natural light conditions while shooting. Field maps for each shot were created to assist communication between the directors, DOP, football choreographers, editors and Barnstorm to achieve the most aesthetically pleasing final shots. 

“All foreground football action was shot in London on a semi-professional pitch by a bespoke football unit helmed by the amazing 2nd unit director Pedro Romhanyi. To make the games as exciting as possible, few restrictions were placed on Pedro, Vanessa and the filming team. Often aggressive shots provided the energy desired. Filming utilized low tracking shots, handheld cameras, Ronin camera shots, aerials, extreme wide goal cameras, gantry and hundreds of traditional deep focus broadcast touch-side camera positions. Filming was a hell of a lot of fun.

“As any sports fan will know, the footballers bring the action and narrative, the fans bring the atmosphere. It was always felt that performance capture of real people, reacting to real emotions as fans, was essential to ensure authenticity. This was tackled in multiple ways.

“Rather than performing constant generic cheering, the crowd in Ted Lasso functions as an additional character in the scene. They must be choreographed to react to the moment-by-moment gameplay. All of the reactions of the fans, from booing Jamie Tartt, to chanting and singing songs, and alternately rising in excitement then sitting down again disgusted by a free kick being missed, are developed prior to filming with previz.

“A carefully choreographed eight-minute video was created to drive the supporting actors' emotions on a greenscreen set from take to take. Supporting artists (crowd) were presented the video as a reference off-set, and then audio only was played aloud as they performed. This audio-driven technique enabled the supporting actors to approximate the choreographers (Comp supervisor Bill Parker) timing in perfect unison, but not perfectly mimic Bill's actions.

“These human performances are specifically directed and play in continuity across cuts and geographical locations to match the different sections of the stadium. Traditionally, the show has benefited from filming individual extras on greenscreen and creating a sprite system that can be controlled by compositors to perform specific actions in various parts of the stadium. However, the nature of this seminal game’s photography, which took players unusually close to the fans, involved creating an entirely new 3D workflow for the episode to utilize performers scanned in a 360-degree volume stage. Enter Metastage.”

Can you provide a bit more details on Metastage?

Metastage was an eye opening process and valued partner on Ted Lasso Episode 11. Performers were captured using revolutionary scanning technology combining the realism of filmed plates with the three-dimensionality of digital doubles. These supporting actors have real facial expressions and clothing movement, and they can be re-lit and re-positioned. Real people, with real emotions pushing the narrative forward.

“This enhanced detail allowed performers to be viewed very close to the field, in-focus, with the parallax of moving cameras. It also enabled Barnstorm to fill shots with crowd that were non-traditional angles. UV mapped shaders allow for clothing to be keyed to ensure that the crowds are wearing their team colors. Even security officials and other on-field personnel are digital characters. These enhanced digital performance captures could also be converted to sprites as necessary and incorporated into the existing sprite crowd system, with the advantage of being able to be rendered with AOV-based lighting layers that could be tuned in comp to match specific shots.

“Traditional in-camera filming of the fans was also used. There were 200 supporting artists available when filming in Etihad Stadium. They were moved in a bespoke (per shot) fashion to fill foreground sections of the frame, knowing Barnstorms VFX artists would fill the 53,200 remaining empty seats behind. Additionally there was a second VFX unit in the Etihad filming sectioned tiles of the crowds to be used as and when required.

“With authenticity at the forefront of our minds, performances of individual fans were also captured as ‘sprites.’ Synchronizing hundreds of these fans to one another created the ability to have large swaths of people performing similar emotions at the same time.

“I don’t want this to come across as an Apple advert, but my iPhone and iPad really have revolutionized on-set VFX supervision. The apps I used on virtually all 151 shoot days (Camera, Maps, Notes, Measure, SunSeeker, Qtake, ArtemisPro, PolyCam, Flickr Calc, Theta, Slack and Zoom) ensured communication across all departments was seamless.

“Due to availability of a certain world class football manager (no spoilers here), we noticed a couple of shots in the locked cut required a manager, but we hadn’t shot assets for that. In came MidJourney. It was my first foray into this field. We generated the manager for a few very distant shots (fortunately he is enough in the public realm for MidJourney to know him). I then shot myself in my home and tracked my movements and applied them to the generated image. It’s a brave new world.

How did you collaborate with editorial?

“As editor AJ Catoline developed the cut, the ability to choose the crowd's emotions in all 258 shots as late as possible in the editorial process, helped immensely. A few Barnstorm preparatory tool sets and techniques enabled crowds to be synchronized and controlled via emotive notes: idleness, boredom, cheering, clapping, booing, anxiety, elation. The Barnstorm artists were able to choose between shot-dependent angles of fans sitting, standing and postural transitions. Percentage values were given to individuals within the crowds for authenticity too: 25 percent idle (sitting), 50 percent cheering (standing) and 25 percent booing (sitting to standing). No worries, Barnstorm have got you covered.

“All of the above crowd emotions were also created for the away team fans (AFC Richmond), as they often react in the polar opposite to the home team, while both sets of fans were visible within the same shot. This technique was also utilized for the 250 individually placed security guards.

What does this Emmy nomination mean to you?

“Personally, I’m extremely honored and excited! I feel very lucky to have been surrounded by wonderfully talented production staff, crew and VFX artists. It is incredibly humbling to have been trusted by Kip Kroeger, Katelyn Hollenbeck, Cory Jamieson and Lawson Deming. Thank you.

“This might sound trite, but the nomination really is a reflection of the talents of everyone I have been inspirationally taught by over the years. If you're reading this and have been subjected to/pestered by my endless curiosity, please know that this nomination is very much yours too.

“To the Television Academy and my fellow Greyhounds, thank you so much for this wonderful experience!”