As far as I know Conan films all his shows in a studio in front of an audience

However there are few episodes, like this one

There was another one where there were two Andy Richters on stage, which I don't have a link to right now, but it's freely available on Conan's YouTube channel

Are these episodes filmed in front of the audience too? What is the audience doing when they are preparing for effects like these? How are these episodes filmed?

  • 2
    They're likely in front of a green screen, and they're superimposed on the real set (or a picture thereof). I don't see anything special in this video.
    – BCdotWEB
    Feb 4, 2021 at 14:16
  • I mean, you can do basically the same with a decent computer at home, e.g. youtube.com/watch?v=-oaikJCR6ec
    – BCdotWEB
    Feb 4, 2021 at 16:00
  • 1
    I think the question is: what does the audience see when scenes like these take place.
    – Joachim
    Feb 6, 2021 at 11:04

2 Answers 2


In short, with the stationary camera, a still image of the set is captured. This still image is then split into halves* (one half for Andy's chair, and one half for Conan's chair).

The two "empty desk set" photos are overlaid onto the live camera image. For the start of the bit, the opacity is set to 0% (transparency at 100%).

During the bit, the half with the Conan "empty desk" picture slowly has its opacity increased (reducing the transparency) - thus providing the feeling that Conan is disappearing. (The same process is applied for Andy later in the bit). As we see more of the "empty desk" photo, we see less of "live Conan".

Both actors are in their normal position on the set during the bit. The audience, in order to understand the joke, must look at the monitors inside the studio.

*Note: It may not truly be a "half", based on the needs for special lighting used later in the joke. In fact, if you look at Conan's finger tips on the desk - you can see a bit of the "overlay cutout" leaving his fingertips at full opacity for most of the bit. Though, it looks that way towards the end when Conan has his overhead lighting increased and Andy is fading out.

  • 1
    So the audience is just there as normal but has to look at the screen instead of the stage?
    – user13267
    Feb 5, 2021 at 0:34
  • Yes. This is common in comedy/variety or any place where a taped piece provides context to the rest of the production. For example - whenever Saturday Night Live cuts to a taped piece (such as a time-lapse, or if the host goes backstage during the monologue, for example), the audience must view the in-studio monitors.
    – sonnik
    Feb 5, 2021 at 17:49
  • do they have a green screen on stage where they act things out in front of the audience, or are episodes like these entirely off stage and the audience only looks at the screen?
    – user13267
    Feb 6, 2021 at 5:42
  • There is no green screen involved. The action takes place on stage. Think of it like this... Conan/Andy live on stage on video. Control Room overlays a still image ON TOP of the LIVE VIDEO and then uses their magic sliders and knobs to control the transparency of the "empty desk" images on TOP of the LIVE VIDEO. The audience has to "get the joke" by watching the monitor.
    – sonnik
    Feb 9, 2021 at 18:35

This is probably done with a camera trick.

However, I would point out that a similar thing can be performed to a live audience using an effect called Pepper's Ghost. Disney's Haunted Mansion uses it to produce transparent figures.

A large glass screen, set at an angle, catches a reflection from a brightly lit actor in an area hidden from the audience. Not noticing the glass screen, the audience mistakenly perceive this reflection as a ghostly figure located among the actors on the main stage. The lighting of the actor in the hidden area can be gradually brightened or dimmed to make the ghost image fade in and out of visibility.

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