A topic that always seems to create a big debate: the demo reel. Specifically, an editor demo reel. On one hand, it needs to be short right? So people will watch it? So string together some cool sequences and set it to a wicked techno track. But wait, no. You need to showcase your editing skills. Ok, so it'll be long. Grab some 2 minute sequences and slap them together. But wait, it's like 8 minutes long. Who will watch any of that? I'm doomed, DOOMED
The funny thing about this topic is that there doesn't really seem to be a 100% right or 100% wrong answer, though everyone feels their answer is the definitive one. When I was in college, I was given some advice about building a demo reel that I would consider to be a lot closer to the 100% wrong than anything else: pull together a bunch of cool looking shots, and edit them creatively together to a beat. "Your reel itself is your showpiece, it shows that you can edit." Meaning, the reel itself is demonstrating your editing ability, not what's within it. I completely disagree. It shows that I can edit a sizzle reel for a great DP and nothing else. What's the point of that?
And of course there's another whole subsection of editors that don't even have a demo reel. "I haven't needed one in years. People ask for me by name, or know me by reputation!"
That's super, but realistically there's a whole lot more of us still clamoring for gigs that need a solid reel.
So where do we meet on this? I'm going to tell you the strategy I've adopted for the time being. I don't know if it'll work for you, or if it even works for me, but I think it's an interesting approach to marketing yourself, because it applies some basic web video marketing techniques. Instead of marketing a product, you're marketing YOU
. If nothing else, hopefully it'll make you think about how you brand yourself online.
I don't actually have what I would consider to be a reel. Ok, well I do, but it's like the long one I mentioned, and I save it for special occasions and Bar Mitzvahs. The "reel" I have on the front page of my website is not a reel. It's basically a one minute video that introduces who I am, creates a personal connection (whether the viewer wants it to or not), and quickly showcases in quick succession the types of videos I've worked on by showing very quick samples. The point is not to show "hey this is how I edit" but to say "hey I have experience in these things, look at these shiny objects, also I'm a good person, I have these great skills, and you love me already now go watch the other stuff!"
At the end of my non-reel, I have a call to action that points the viewer to a sidebar next to the video. Here, I have links to 4 of my better or more interesting projects. This leads into a rabbit hole of portfolio work, where viewers can watch longer samples of my work. If they saw something they liked in my non-reel, they can find it in my portfolio.
So my reel blends both of the two big sides of the debate: it provides a super quick introduction into my work, showing some flashy images and motion graphics. Then it provides a way to watch the long forms. It's quick and compelling (I think or hope) and draws the viewer in, and they make their own decisions on where they go next with a little shove from me. It's a reel in some sense, and it's not in another. It just serves as a point of intrigue, to hopefully make the viewer leap from mildly interested to full-on looking within your website. In web marketing terms, making a conversion.
If you take away the call to action and make it a stand-alone piece, it's the kind of reel I mentioned above that I feel is pointless. The engagement and utilization within a site is what makes it different.
I'm not saying my "reel" is perfect, or my website couldn't use some updating. I'm saying this has worked as a great solution to the debate for me. It lets me tell a story and provide an experience to the viewer. And isn't that what we're usually hired to do?
Of course, it makes me really nervous to draw attention to my reel, as I know there are a lot of improvements I could make. Some suggestions I've had are things like replacing the software text with graphics, adding graphics for clients I've done work for, making the text more kinetic, adding lower thirds to describe videos as they pop up, showing some before/after comparisons for comps...and of course, getting better video to feature. That last suggestion was mine, though. Ugh. My own worst critic. (Look at the front page of my website, www.kyleewall.com
, if you want to see this in practice.)
In the age of web marketing, it seems to me a proper step forward to stop thinking in terms of "reels" and start thinking in terms of web video marketing for one's own self - using all the tools at your disposal together to create a full package.
I'm always curious to hear what everyone else is doing. How are you using the internet to your advantage? Do reels truly even matter at all anymore when people can just go on your website and watch the whole thing? Or are they vital to your hiring? Do you get asked for one?
Since the 48 Hour Film Project is kicking off this month, I figured I'd update my tips and repost. So, you're crazy enough to have signed up for the 48 Hour Film Project and now you're Googling away, trying to make that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach go away by researching and preparing yourself? Spoiler alert: unless you really get an endorphin trip from pure craziness and frenzy, that feeling isn't going away. There's not a whole lot you can do to really prepare yourself for the crushing realization you have to make a film in two frickin' days, but these tips will certainly help you set yourself up as best you possibly can to avoid some of the pitfalls before you even get started.
If you've read this on my blog before, it's because I posted an older version before. This is an updated post.
<!--more-->Oh, and some background on me: I've done the 48 Hour Film Project twice
(2010 and 2011). Our film won best music in 2010. Didn't win squat in 2011. Our 2010 film really got some mega-mileage out of this two day insane-a-thon though. It's won some awards at other festivals (including Best Film, at a contest where it competed against films that had UNLIMITED time to finish!) and it's been screened at something like 10 theaters across the midwest, even so recently as last month. So clearly we did something right. However, remember that like any other awards ceremonies and contests, there are politics and opinions involved and often the deserving films are beaten by the flashy or heavy concept ones. Just a warning - the judges make a huge difference, so do this contest for the fun of it, not the glory of awards. But that should be true in any case!
1. Assemble your crew ahead of time and come up with a plan.
This is the best thing we did. We had a couple of meetings beforehand where we solidified our roles, equipment, where we'd find props, actors, etc. We had a production schedule on paper to help keep us on track even though we had absolutely no idea what we'd be shooting. Everyone knew the basic outline for the weekend and what kind of expectations to set.
2. Pick locations beforehand - and make sure you have full access.
This is another great thing we did. We decided to stick to one single very diverse location to limit our ideas and transportation time. We set up a little headquarters, had parking taken care of, and spent the entire day in this location. We let it help guide our shot selections. Plus, we got shooting permissions signed off on well ahead of time. However, we were on one location late at night doing some editing as well, and we happened to get tossed out by the local security/police. The person who had signed our location release had put the address of his building only, not the entire location (it was a college campus). Although it was totally clear we were allowed to be there, the officer took the opportunity to take advantage of this technicality. If you're in a place that can have gray areas, get an itemized list of the locations you're allowed in, and the times you're allowed there.
3. Make sure your auxiliary crew knows the plan.
Our core crew was pretty well on top of things, but we had some extended crew like hair, makeup, etc, who likely never saw the production schedule. Obviously it's helpful to them if they know how long they have to do a hairstyle or create a makeup change. And make sure extras know the plan and are treated well too.
4. Have a backup plan, even if it sucks.
On the day of our shoot in 2010, our main talent didn't show up and was unreachable. Turns out he stayed up all night for no reason and fell asleep with his phone off. Great, never working with you again! But miraculously, we ended up finding a quick replacement with his entire day free that was 10 times better and brought so much more to the role than our original person ever could have. We could have easily have been screwed though. Although you have no time to figure things out, always try to keep some sort of Plan B in your back pocket - whether it's a talent replacement or a weather challenge, or a location change. We had a backup in mind that would have worked and we were about 4 minutes away from putting him in front of the camera, so we didn't end up losing that much time to this fiasco. We also had a backup location for rain and a backup schedule to work around rain. We didn't end up needing either (barely, it rained right after we finished the outside shots).
5. Don't get distracted by the assigned aspects (character, dialogue, etc.)
The problem with 48HFPs in general is that people get distracted by everything going on and their story gets lost. Make sure when you are writing your script or outline, everyone agrees on the basic plot, story, and theme of your film. No matter what, this core concept will not change on the fly. That's when things turn to crap. Also, avoid cliches because most films will be FILLED with them - both plot and visual cliches. Don't get hooked by one aspect of your film - for example, if you have a good idea for the use of your prop, don't let it dictate the entire production. While there are awards for such things like best use of prop, it probably doesn't make for a great story.
6. Be willing to compromise - changes WILL happen.
As the production moves forward, you'll hit challenges. Everyone needs to be willing to evolve with the production. These changes happen on movies of any scale. It's just with the 48HFP, the evolution of the film happens in lightspeed. Everyone needs to be flexible. If you had hard-headed people on your team, ditch them. Everyone needs to work together.
7. Dedicate liberal time to production.
We decided to dedicate our entire Saturday to production, no matter how long it would take. That was the right call. Our call time was 8a and we shot from about 10am til 8pm.
8. Start editing while you're still shooting.
Our editing area was near our shooting area. We shot tapes to about half and ran them to the editor to begin logging. I would have preferred a tapeless workflow obviously but it wasn't something we'd done before as a team. At this point, if you shoot tapeless and edit in Premiere CS6, you should have almost no downtime. That is a huge plus.
9. And if at all possible, keep production and post production separate.
Your production crew can rest while the edit happens, and the editors can rest while the production happens. No one will be married to any shots because the editor will be impartial. Then on Sunday morning, the edit can be locked with everyone fairly well rested. That's really how this should work. Ideally, if there can be someone on set as a liaison between the editor and the production crew to relay the idea of the film and what the director wants, that would be best. If it can be the director, super. Better yet might be a second assistant director who is there half a day and hasn't been going strong for hours, but understands the film from the other assistant director and reading over script notes.
10. Pay a lot of attention to sound.
This is one of the top 3 things that derail a production - no matter how great your visuals, if your audio track is awful, you will never be successful. Have a dedicated sound person recording or monitoring. If you can't, strip away your location sound and add in stock audio. Or do a silent film. Don't forget to grab room tone. These things are usually shown in nice theaters, bad audio sounds even worse. For our first production we didn't want to get screwed with audio, so when we wrote our script, we intentionally made it very silent, relying on foley and ADR over location sound.
11. The other 2 things that derail a production: lack of communication, and getting hung up on things that don't matter.
Keep communication open and honest. And if something is holding you back, make a decision and move forward. If nothing else, just defer to the director. Make a decision collectively ahead of time that someone will just be the final decision maker. It's better to just understand that not everyone will get what they want than to fight about dumb things.
12. Test your workflow ahead of time!
This is huge. Have everyone on the same page as far as how the workflow will go from ingest to delivery. Test out bringing in footage, getting the right aspect ratio, how long the color grade will take the render, and how long the export will take. Have a Compressor setting set up with the delivery requirements. However long the export will be planned to take - double that time. Make sure you have at least that amount of time on Sunday. Seriously, do this. You don't want to be watching a render bar 15 minutes before the deadline.
13. Now is not the time to try something new.
If you have a new plugin, or you want to build something new in After Effects, great. Just don't do it when you only have 48 hours to finish. Stick to tried and true methods, things you can pull together in your sleep. Or else you might be stuck trying to figure out something trivial that has no bearing to your story. Keep it SIMPLE.
14. Dedicate one person to paperwork.
There is a crapload of paperwork you need to turn in with your project. Have one person responsible for gathering and organizing all of it. There is too much to have it flopping around everywhere. You don't want to get disqualified for something stupid like a missing release.
15. Have someone completely separate from your production cater for you.
Parents, friends, whatever. Have someone bring food at a designated time during production and have everyone take a break. They will be happier for it. And your cast will be impressed you actually thought to feed them real food (and not just cold pizza) and will want to work with you again.
16. Have a production assistant you can depend on for menial tasks.
Coffee grabber, equipment finder, or just someone to watch your editing room while you go to the bathroom. It's very handy to have someone willing to stick around and do whatever you might need whenever you might need it. A friend is ideal, a student or someone interested in filmmaking is even better. Our PA was Lauren, and she was able to sit and watch equipment, direct extra crew and cast to the right areas, clean up, and run to get us things so we didn't have to leave the edit. It was lovely.
17. Just because you have 7 minutes doesn't mean it needs to be 7 minutes.
Honestly, most films I saw could have been cut in half. Increase the pacing, cut the nonsense, and make it shorter. It's almost always better.
18. Story is the key. Keep it simple!
Like I said, you don't have anything if you don't have a great story. A lot of 48 hour films I've seen look good and have some great aspects to them but they don't tell a good or complete story. So what's the point of them? The films that win (usually..hopefully) have a great story. If you can, get some people involved on your team that have a background in writing or storytelling. Keep it SIMPLE.
19. Have someone take production stills for you.
You'll be busy, so recruit a budding photographer or bribe a professional to document your day. You'll love seeing all the photos later, especially because you won't remember a lot of it.
20. Have fun.
You aren't making an Oscar winning film in 48 hours, it just doesn't happen. This is a great opportunity for you to bond with your friendly filmmakers, meet some new people, and see what's possible.
Constraint is your friend. Having the genre, character, and item thrown at you on Friday night is enough variable. Establish the pool of actors you'll draw from, the location you'll be at, and maybe some possible costuming or props. Don't change this stuff. Use it to guide your story. This allows you to develop a story easier - you're writing a story around a certain person or place instead of writing a story and trying to figure out who could play the lead, where you'll shoot it, and if it's even possible to do so. What's easier: "We need to write a comedy" or "We need to write a comedy about a butcher with a dog that will take place in this office"? Find the film "The Five Obstructions" and get some inspiration. Thinking from a constrained viewpoint instead of having the entire world at your finger tips makes a much better film.
Today, I was checking on some video analytics for a client's YouTube account. I manage the postings for the account, and use the data to develop stronger videos as time goes on.
YouTube recently redesigned their analytics dashboard (again), and one of the changes was the addition of "Audience Retention." This feature kind of existed before as "Hot Spots." Hot Spots compared your video to other videos across YouTube of similar length, and showed you a relative graph of how much of your audience you were retaining relative to the other videos. The graph would show you peaks and valleys so you could check where people were likely skipping forward (valley), rewinding a section (peaks), or just leaving altogether (downward slope). It was a really good indicator of what people liked or didn't like about your video, and I used it a lot to see where I was losing people. It was a bit vague though -- it didn't really offer any true numbers, just "hot!" or "cold!"
The Audience Retention feature now calls this "Relative Audience Retention," one of two options available to view. The other option? Absolute Audience Retention. A real time, moment by moment graph of your viewers' attention to your video - and ONLY your video. I was checking some videos today on the Absolute Retention, including one of the most popular postings in the last year. This video has gotten a ton of views and is currently sitting at number 4 in the top 10 videos on the account.
The retention rate for the final two minutes of the video: 15%.
This video is the last part in a four part series following two guys as they go through a school. It's shown to new students in the classroom on the first or second day of classes, and I've been told that it's helped a lot to improve graduation rates since it puts people at ease. We've gotten a lot of really good feedback and students are engaged in the video the whole time (mostly, anyway). They remember the information provided, and their questions to instructors are better since they are more informed about everything.
The structure of the piece is pretty simple, basically three quick acts. The setup: it's the final day of class, the students have to pass a test, and there's a dramatic build up. Will they fail? Will they succeed? Then they pass and talk about how it felt and where they go next. Informative (if a little too talky at times but that's another post), sucks the students in, plays well on the big screen.
It gets a LOT of views on YouTube, but it simply doesn't hold the attention of the viewer the same way. They barely make it halfway through, and certainly don't make it to the end where we tell them what action they should be taking next. 7000 views in the last few months, but only 15% of those viewers are seeing the entire video.
This has made me think a lot about how to approach an edit for the web. In this case, the YouTube views fall off dramatically as soon as viewers know the outcome of the tests - basically, after the climax, they run for the door (typical.) The topic of the video is obviously a really popular search term since so many people hit it. But then they bail. Why? I'm assuming they just wanted to see what the test was like, and were engaged just enough to care if the guys passed. They aren't a captive audience, they're distracted by a million other things on the Internet, and while my video is answering their questions, they would prefer to be entertained instead. My conclusion is that I need to do more videos with this subject, and be more clever about how the action unfolds, and how I deliver the calls to action. The information you can gain from these graphs is not always so abstract. It can be as simple as checking to see if a setup falls flat, if a hook is grabby enough, or I suppose you could even compare versions of videos to see if different edits or graphics make a difference.
The interesting thing is that if you look at the Relative Retention on this video, it's not awful. Remember, this compares the audience retention to videos of similar length to yours.
What does that tell me? It tells me that YouTube users have no frickin' attention span, and it's all part of the challenge when editing for the Internet.And there's an awful lot of horrible crap on YouTube, weighing down the site.
And a lot of web video experts will tell you different things about this. The big thing right now seems to be "if your content is engaging, people will watch the whole thing no matter the length!" Yea, maybe for some audiences. But not all of them. This video I'm talking about is tightly edited, packed with good information, well-recieved among students, and answers a lot of questions. But YouTube viewers in my neck of the woods aren't interested. They might stick around if there was a nude woman, maybe. And that's a big maybe. I have to play a game with them and try new things to engage them and make them realize that this is the exact information they were seeking.
Go check out that Audience Retention tab on YouTube and see what juicy bits you can glean from it about your media. Are people rewinding a part to watch repeatedly, maybe a comedic cut? Are people fast-forwarding in a section that lags? Are you losing viewers in droves? Why? Of course, it's all one big psychological study. Who really knows what goes on in the brain of a typical YouTube user? And do any of us REALLY want to know?
Hi. This is not an NAB recap. This isn't a collection of my thoughts about products and software. This is the confession of a small-town starry-eyed NAB virgin, and the adventures and anxieties she finds herself in.
"Ohcrapohcrapohcrap, there he is, ohcrapohcrap, I should go say hi, I need to say thanks, I've learned so much, crap he looks busy, chll out keep walking NO GO BACK ok walk straight crapcrapcrap what if you sound stupid or -- ok just look at this camera instead oh what a nice cam-ohcrap I'm going to regret this either way, may as well go for the gold. BE COOL BE COOL. How did I even get here?"
Well, that's an interesting question. And the answer is by plane, from balmy Indianapolis to freezing cold Las Vegas, early on a Saturday morning.
: I love storytelling. In fact, I just used a storytelling technique to yank you into my story! Ain't I clever?
So I'm in the back of a cab, heading to the Riviera Hotel for my first NAB Show. Explaining to the cabbie that I am in fact old enough to be in Vegas alone, I am an editor, I've wanted to be an editor since I was 14. Explaining why I haven't moved to LA yet, the challenges of post production, trying to get her to not take me through the tunnel. Too late. A $40 fare and my life story later, I'm dropped off at the nondescript sorta-front-doors of the hotel. I can't complain. My employer sent me to NAB to attend the Post Production World conference for some additional learning. For that, I am extremely thankful.
I get to my room. Recently renovated. View of a parking structure roof. Smells like balls. I can complain a little, right
Unpacking and a shower later, I'm off to Post Production World. Checking in early will be the best decision I make all week. I had stayed up way too late packing, so I'm running on 3 hours of sleep and a bloody mary. A benefit (or curse?) of the Riviera is that it's so close to the convention center, you can walk to it in under 10 minutes by cutting through a parking lot. Typically not a bad walk at all considering you're spending your days inside a cold, windowless room, but this particular Saturday is about 45 degrees, so it's just a tad cold. Still, better than cramming yourself into a monorail car after waiting in an endless line to even get the privilege of walking into the station once the show starts.
: I absolutely love the monorail, it's neat. Isn't it? Yes it is.
Post Production World is everything I could have ever wanted and more. World class presenters talking about relevant topics to me. The authors of the books I reference, the tutorials I watch, and the forum posts I read every day, just standing up there talking at me like I'm a human being. The best part of PPW is that the sessions are not dumbed down to appeal to more attendees. In the past, conference sessions have always been very introductory to me. At PPW, there is always a certain level of expertise assumed, unless otherwise stated in the description. For example, the After Effects Expressions session by Luisa Winters assumes you know nothing about expressions, but are an intermediate to advanced user of the application otherwise. Everyone in the room with you is a professional in some aspect of video production, so the discussions are interesting. People like Abba Shapiro, Jeff Greenberg, Scott Simmons, and Steve Audette, just standing up there ignoring their demigod status. What is this?
I even get to enjoy a keynote with Steve freaking Wozniak and Rob Legato, among others.
So we have expert presenters, good conversation, great connections. For five full days. I can't believe this conference costs less than a G. Many people choose to bring a laptop, but I bring a notepad instead. By Wednesday, it's almost full. How is it possible to learn so much when you are already working in the field?
: The numbering system for the rooms in the hall with PPW makes no sense to me. All I know is that whatever session I want next is always at the opposite end of the hallway.
Another thing: Twitter. Oh, Twitter, how I love you so much. Each day I'm at Post Production World, the show floor, or just walking around Vegas, I have people approach me to introduce themselves. I meet dozens of amazing Twitter friends, many of which I have been talking to for years. Post Production World feels like high school again, except in an alternate reality where my friends aren't catty beyotches. I run into people I know in the halls, I get invited to lunch, I sit and learn with them, and exchange ideas. It's easy because we know each other, even if we've never been able to hang out before in person. Even the people I don't know who introduce themselves feel like friends. We're all on common ground. (My name is @kyl33t
if you want to follow me.)
: I've been on Twitter for over 5 years and have tweeted over 600 cat photos.
If you aren't on Twitter, get on it. Find a solid editor list, follow it, remove boring people as you like, and then you'll have a great set to follow. Participate in discussion, interact, and before you know it, you'll be part of a community. It's just that simple, children. And it made this introvert's life in Vegas a whole lot easier. And stranger. People coming up to you, introducing themselves? Saying they know you from Twitter or your blog or a forum? (And while I'm on this topic, change your avatar to a decent head shot of yourself.) How about someone approaching you because they found you through an #nabshow hashtag. A hashtag
, people. We're all a hashtag away from a dozen new friendships.
Speaking of surreal, at the conclusion of Day 2, I start participating in a series of pre-planned night-time events: INKMINIGT KISS Monster Mini Golf, the Media Motion Ball by IMUG, the AJA VIP Party, the CPUG Supermeet, and a #postchat meet up. First up is mini golf. I share a rickety cab to the venue with a new-friend-found-through-a-hashtag and meet more stranger-friends. This event, organized by Eric Harnden, is the inaugural NAB mini golf. My ticket includes a round of golf and VIP room access. The VIP room is baller: gigantic beanbags, tons of free food, and of course free beer. Everything is lit with a flattering red light, adding to the strange atmosphere of the facility.
The mini-golf course itself is illuminated with blacklights. Oh, and it's KISS themed. Like, the DJ plays a nonstop stream of KISS music while wax-figure-ish replicas of Gene Simmons and whoever else was in KISS perform on a stage for all eternity, Chuck-E-Cheese style. We split into groups and golf while raffles are held every so often over the loudspeaker. Nice prizes from sponsors are handed out, and I win a book. I suck at golf, though. No awards for me there. After golf, we had some socializing time, yelling at each other over the sweet tones of "Beth" about how great it is to finally put a name to a face. Like I said, surreal.
: I freaking hate KISS.
Monday, NAB Show week. It kind of reminds me of Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving shopping frenzy), only replace old ladies with ubernerds and cheap blue light specials with 2K cinema cameras. Twitter explodes with NAB tweets, most of which are tweeted within quarter mile away from me, but I can't keep up. Being at Post Production World allows me to get settled into the convention center for two quiet days before these masses pile in. I end up missing the huge cab line at the airport, the huge check-in line at the hotel, and the huge line at the NAB Show Store. So if you're wondering why I'm not complaining about these things, it's because I arrived early. So nyah nyah
At this point, I realize I haven't really eaten since Friday night, so I walk to McDonald's and get a breakfast sandwich before Post Production World begins. My body seems to go into shock. I'm not sure if it's because of the sudden burst of calories, fat, or carbs, or because I don't eat McDonald's anymore (usually), but I look like a coke addict, shaking and sweating as what is probably pink slime runs down my chin from the "sausage patty" "cooked" just for me. So I encourage you to not do this to yourself, if possible. There isn't a whole lot of breakfast food in the convention center, by the way.
Post Production World has a short lunch break built into each 9 hour day, so I skip lunch and decide to walk to the south hall and get an idea of what day 1 of NAB looks like. I don't realize how far away the south hall is from Post Production World at first, but realize you have to walk outside to a completely different building. I stroll by a million-million men in business suits, nerds in t-shirts, girls who MUST be in sales or marketing because I've never seen anyone in post with a tan like that, and a man singing karaoke -- a solidly terrible rendition of an 80s song I recognize but can't place.
I finally make it inside the hall and slowly approach the doors to the exhibit hall. I know this is going to blow my freakin' mind. I'm sheltered and easily excitable. I'm trying to manage my expectations as I enter.
Mother. Of. God.
I'm blasted with the glow of hundreds of post production companies' booths as far as the eye can see. To my right I see people swarming around Blackmagic Design. In the distance, I can make out a blue glow of Autodesk. To my left, a bright green Grass Valley exhibit..no, arena
. That's one thing everyone fails to mention. Most of these booths are bigger than my apartment. And they're filled with extraordinarily knowledgeable people, fun toys, and crazy geeks like me. Thousands of people crowd walkways, trying to steal glances of anything. Hard drives, capture cards, keyboards, computer towers.
I tweet a photo and alert everyone that I've found Disneyland, just so they know.
I barely make a dent in the lower south hall before I have to make the expedition back to the opposite side of the convention center for the rest of Post Production World.
: Seeing the post-production show floor draws up an excitement in me that last seen when I was 12 and awoke to what Santa brought me on Christmas morning. Did I say 12? I meant 8. Yea, 8.
Night, time for another event. This time it's the IMUG Media Motion Ball. The Media Motion Ball is a somewhat more intimate dinner event. To be clear, it's a couple hundred top video people, so when I say intimate, it's not like 14 people around a table or something. It's at the Monte Carlo this year, which is approximately a million miles away from my hotel, so I walk to a monorail stop, smoosh myself in between broadcasters in suits, ride from one end to the other, and make a hike through the entire MGM Grand onto Las Vegas Boulevard.
The Monte Carlo is still maybe the equivalent of 4 city blocks away after all that, so by the time I make it inside, my black sweater dress has drawn in the 95 degree heat like a convection oven. I slap my name over my heart, buy a ten dollar gin and tonic, and make my way around the room, looking for someone I know.
Anyone I know.
I see a lot of names I recognize, but they have no reason to know me. Suddenly, a wild editor approaches. Editor uses greeting. It's super effective! Wait, are Pokemon references way too out there for readers of the COW? Whatever, you love it. It's Evan, someone I know from Twitter. Then suddenly I'm surrounded by more stranger-friends, and friend-friends: Kes, Eric, Liam, Jason, Lesley…it's a happy family. We hug, we take photos, they tell us to sit our asses down and I grab a table with some Canadians and plug-in reps. Again, it's like a high school lunchroom, except the complete opposite. A sponsor provides table wine, and the Chardonnay is actually very good (or my tongue is numbed from the gin) so I have about mumble mumble
glasses of it. Dinner is amazing. We're provided a buffet style assortment of pasta dishes, vegetables, breads and meats. It's the only real meal I eat during NAB.
A plug-in hero sits next to me during dinner, and I contemplate how to introduce myself and tell him that his software enhanced my life by something like 5000% when he turns and says he knows me from Twitter and wanted to say hello.
: Back home in Indiana, nobody knows me, let alone anyone that enhanced my life by 5000%.
I'm tweaking out, maintaining a very nice conversation with someone I hold in very high regard. I feel like Eliza Doolittle, like any moment my Cockney accent will pop up and I might be like OY GOVNAH and tap dance out the door.
I see a lot of people around me that I really want to meet, shake hands with, hug, thank forever and ever. I find some, but others escape to another party. We listen to some great speakers, including Seth Worley, who appears to be born to speak publicly AND create amazing video, which really makes the rest of us look bad so thanks a lot, guy. Media Motion Ball ends up being a really relaxing event, despite my anxiety.
Post Production World plows forever forward. By this time, it's only day two of the NAB Show itself, but all of us are on day four of our own nine-hour-a-day conference. Classes are thinned out a little and people leak in for an hour after the first session. There are a lot of hungover faces. I'm at the table a half hour early, ready to absorb as much information as I can possibly contain. Sitting next to my notepad is a small array of items to keep me going: refillable water bottle, a protein shake mixing device, and a bag of snacks. A lot of my meals are replaced with protein shakes or meal bars because I can't be bothered to wait in line for a crappy hot dog, and I don't want to miss a moment of Post Production World (suck-up nerd). There are water coolers all along the halls, so the water bottle can be easily refilled, and the protein powder easily mixed. I'm sure it's gloriously unhealthy to have a liquid diet but at least I was getting nutrients, right?
: I don't spot anyone else in any of my sessions with a refillable water bottle, and I don't even care. Water is $3 and people are hungover as hell. Free water is the biggest commodity you can have in a town that never stops drinking.
I head back to the exhibit hall during a longer break to explore further. I also have a goal in mind. There are several people I missed at the Media Motion Ball, and several others I know are around the floor somewhere. If I miss meeting them, I'll be very upset with myself. I formulate a hit list, and make my way through the show floor checking out Autodesk, Adobe, G-tech, Red Giant, and all the other goodies.
I find some people I originally discovered through Creative COW, like Walter Biscardi and Shane Ross. People I've followed and learned from for years and years online, inadvertently at first, but they're everywhere giving amazing information so you just keep running into them. Forums, blogs, Twitter, more forums. I taught myself how to push the buttons, but these are the people that taught me everything that makes me money on a daily basis. Sure, the instructors of PPW sessions are great, but the fact these people aren't educators and just put themselves out there to help or answer the same freakin' sequence settings question over and over makes me respect them in a whole different way.
Anyway, I'm pretty sure when I tell them this they don't really believe me. I wouldn't believe me, either. But they're all friendly and good people, which is always a relief. You don't want your Internet heroes to be d-bags.
I cross a few more post-people off my hit list, like Mike Seymour and Andrew Kramer. I'll spare you the details of our conversations, but for some reason I'm much more anxious to talk to them. I think it might have to do with them being a little less accessible since they aren't forum regulars, or maybe the fact they both seem incredibly tall. I'm able to tell them both what an impact FXPHD has had on my marketability, or how much Video Copilot has brought me into the intermediate/advanced After Effects user category, and thank them for doing it. Completely forgettable conversations (to them) ensue. It's tragically awkward and I don't care one bit because it's sincere.
: I don't get star struck by "celebrities." Unless, apparently, they're in post-production. I worked a couple of jobs in college where I had to deal directly with the public, and there were many times I waited on, escorted, or sold something to a celebrity like Dakota Fanning or The Basketball Player Formerly Known as Ron Artest. Don't care, they're just people. Post-production celebs? OH MY GAH, THEY TOUCHED MY HAND.
Satisfied overall with the number of people crossed off my mental list, I walk the exhibit hall. And walk and walk and walk. I don't know how big it actually is, but it seems like two football fields pushed end to end, and filled with post production stuff and a human obstacle course. I mean to go to a short session in the Content Theater, and I don't realize it's at the exact opposite end of the hall. I basically run there, but it's already at capacity. I'm thankful I picked up running a few months ago in this moment. I'm also thankful for the handy NAB Show app on my iPhone. It's great for figuring out what's going on at any given time, or to check session times and locations during Post Production World.
The CPUG Supermeets always seem to fall on the Tuesday of NAB week, and this year is no different. I make my way from No Man's Land at the Riviera to the Convention Center, then from there to the MGM Grand via the NAB buses with old-new friend Kes and new-new friend Ben. The bus situation is interesting. Buses are lined up outside the Central Hall, and have dedicated routes to certain hotels. I think the NAB program says they run every 20 minutes, but they seem to run whenever they want. The Riviera/Las Vegas Hotel shuttle is basically a Chevy Cavalier, while the bus to the MGM Grand is basically a stretch Hummer. I'm not sure I would rely on them if I were on a time table.
The trek gives us the opportunity to relax from a lot of walking and sitting and learning. I make one of my favorite NAB memories -- rambling back and forth with Kes about all the amazing people we met so far. I'm sure we sounded like teenagers to those listening in around us.
The bus driver gets to the MGM and starts asking us where we're supposed to be dropped off. Uh, I don't know, I'm not exactly from around here. He gives up and decides to stop, pointing at a door. After walking several hundred feet inside, it appears to be an employee service tunnel beneath the casino. We're the only ones without uniforms. Oops. With some help from security we make our way through the MGM and to the Tropicana, and Supermeet.
We arrive close to 6:30, which winds up being a pretty perfect time to arrive considering the doors open at 4. There's still some snacks available, and vendors are in full swing in their booths (actual booths this time, not arena booths.) I get my raffle tickets and purchase an extra one for the Da Vinci Resolve system. I sort of hope I don't win, because how the hell do you get that thing home? There's an expensive cash bar and little else to drink unfortunately. Vegas.
Soon enough, we're in our seats. If you've read anything about NAB, you know what happens next. Technical difficulties. It's unfortunate, considering how hard the organizers work to plan such events. However, everyone makes it work, and it's still extremely entertaining. We see presentations from Adobe, Autodesk, and Blackmagic Design. We get a hint at the Creative Cloud. We watch Michael Horton run around giving away prizes while technical issues are sorted. And we listen to a very informative, fun discussion with Morgan Spurlock. He even narrates the trailer to his new film for us when the audio drops out. The raffle ensues and I win nothing.
It's late when I get to the AJA Party at a club in the Cosmopolitan. I'm happy to somehow make my way into this party despite the fact it's a private VIP event. The clubs I attend (rarely) in Indianapolis are nothing like this one. Imagine any night club party scene from a Hollywood film. Yea, it's like that. After walking around a bit on my own, I find that I am wearing approximately 70% too many clothes in comparison with the rest of the women at the party. Somehow, I don't think they are in post production. Despite feeling like a fish out of water, I have fun observing the scene with more friendly Canadians. I meet more old-new friends -- on the dance floor, of all places -- and grab a free t-shirt to prove my attendance.
: I'm not a "clubber" by nature. My description of this party probably varies a lot compared to others.
The final day of Post Production World has no mercy for those out late with AJA. I manage myself fine, knowing I have a full day of video compression ahead of me, but many others in my class look pale as ghosts. They're probably wishing they had my refillable water bottle, eh? Hydrate, people! I spend almost the entire day in the same chair as Jeff Greenberg explains things to me that it took three years of piecing together to learn on my own. The Starbucks line is finally short enough to actually get coffee. They should have a separate line for people that just want black coffee, by the way.
Then, it's over.
I look at my notepad. Almost every page is filled up, and I didn't even take notes during a couple of sessions because of the promise of the slide deck later this month. I learned. A lot
. And I'm so glad my employer agreed to send me here, because there couldn't be a better investment in my continued education anywhere else.
I opted to extend my stay in Vegas a few extra days to spend time with my husband, so my NAB experience isn't over just yet. I'm back for more on the show floor Thursday, checking out things I missed and taking a peek in the central hall. The crowds are mostly gone by now.
: This is when my feet start to give out. Seriously, buy really good shoes before NAB.
My last pre-planned night-time event is a #postchat meet up at O'Shea's. Postchat is a weekly hourlong Twitter chat where people in post talk about a given topic using the hashtag #postchat. It's grown quite a bit since it was created something like a year and a half or two years ago. At the meet up, there are more in attendance than I expect there to be. We hang out for a couple hours in the pub, drinking and talking about everything from Avid to Premiere, and other things too. I meet dozens of people I talk to on Twitter, and we get the chance to get to know each other a little bit more. Close to midnight, we start to disband into the night and back to talking to each other 140 characters at a time. It's a perfect send off from the NAB Show week.
NAB is something I've wanted to attend for a long time. I would read about it in my Moviemaker Magazines when I was a teenager, wishing I could be in attendance to see the next big thing. Now that I've done it and Post Production World, I can say it exceeded my expectations by far. I met people through hashtags, I learned to increase the number of real time audio tracks in FCP (WTF HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS), I saw a pool with beds floating in it, I got a look at CS6 and Smoke 2013 in person before anyone else, I was educated about beer, I met dozens upon dozens of stranger-friends, and I listened to conversations along the Las Vegas Strip that consisted of transcoding, nodal compositing, and lens choices. It was a great week filled with amazing people and information, and I hope to be able to make it a yearly visit I only miss if absolutely necessary.
Everyone always offers their tips for NAB. Here are mine: Talk to everyone. Wear really good shoes. Smell ok. Bring a refillable water bottle. Don't drink your face off. If you drink your face off, for the love of god hydrate yourself before you go to bed. Be on Twitter. Put your Twitter handle on your business card. Plan your evenings in advance. Be flexible. Try to find time for a quiet dinner with friends. Shake everyone's hand. Be prepared to have a cold when you get home.
But wait, what about that little bit I hooked you with at the beginning?
"Ohcrapohcrapohcrap, there he is, ohcrapohcrap, I should go say hi, I need to say thanks, I've learned so much, crap he looks busy, chll out keep walking NO GO BACK ok walk straight crapcrapcrap what if you sound stupid or -- ok just look at this camera instead oh what a nice cam-ohcrap I'm going to regret this either way, may as well go for the gold. BE COOL BE COOL. How did I even get here?"
Where does that fit in? Well, the truth is: every freakin' second, it seemed. As an NAB virgin, everything was shiny and amazing and overwhelming and I loved it. Every person I met or saw was terrifying and awesome. Maybe next year when I return as a veteran of the whole charade, I'll have a more jaded facade. Maybe I'll take my excitement level down when I enter the show floor. Maybe I can push back the feelings of how freakin' GREAT it is that post-production is a thing we all get to do every day as I trounce around, awkwardly introducing myself to anyone who will listen.
: Maybe. But man, I hope not.