In the world of event videography simply producing high quality videos isn't good enough. Delivering high quality content as quickly as possible should be the goal.
Events are time sensitive. When you're at an event there's often a lot of chatter by the attendees, and those unfortunate enough not able to attend, about what's happening on various social channels. There's a buzz for all conferences that starts the day before festivities kick off and that lingers for about a week afterward. If you don't maximise the potential outreach of your content during this small time period, then it quickly becomes dated.
It's one thing to talk about maximising the potential outreach of your content, but if you don't have it within the sensitive timeframe that counts then it all becomes a bit irrelevant. No one wants to see a highlights video of a party, or an event, two months after it's happened. Conference talks can be a little bit different in this regard but still greatly benefit from a fast turnaround. Capitalising on the social noise of a great event can help you get in some early wins with high viewing figures.
Recently my video production company, Keyone Productions, provided services for React Conf at one of our favourite London venues, Shoreditch Village Hall. Our brief was simple, to produce a set of conference talks with two cameras and a feed from a presentation computer, along with an edited highlights video. Initially our client requested that we deliver these videos sometime between a week and a month after the event. Quietly and assuredly I agreed that this wasn't going to be an issue and started plotting.
Normally we deliver all of the videos we produce for an event or client up to a week after the shoot. This allows us to create all of the digital assets needed for the content, such as animated logos, lower thirds and sound design, as well as have a bit of back and forth over drafts and style guides. Recently we've been experimenting with even faster delivery times for conference videos.
Previously when filming events we've gone in with two or more cameras, requested copies of the slides from the speakers and then hit the editing room as soon as we wrap. This means that we have to watch the content once when initially filming it and then at least two other times (in real-time) when editing the final videos (once for the multicam edit and then a second time to sync up slides at the right time with the video). Whilst this approach is pretty great and fast, it's not quite fast enough. In order to make things faster we need to cut down on the editing time, if we can edit in real-time then this drastically cuts down on the amount of time we'll need to spend in post.
The setup we took with us to React Conf included 2 x Canon XF305 cameras, a vision mixer, a VGA scaler and an Atomos Ninja2 (read more about this set up). The cameras fed into the vision mixer, a live feed from the presentation laptop was converted using the VGA mixer and passed onto the vision mixer, a producer then sat at a desk and live switched between cameras and presentation slides whilst recording it all to an SSD using the Ninja2. In short we produced the recording of the event as a live television show.
If anything goes wrong with the switching, god forbid, then we have contingencies in place with all of the cameras internally recording and getting sound feeds out of the desk.
Assets from event organisers are normally a kink in the production chain. I always request copies of logos for the event and sponsors as soon as I get a booking, and will often send regular reminders, but sometimes an organiser won't send everything through until a few days after the event (things can get a bit hectic for them). This means that although their videos are pretty much ready to go, nothing can be rendered out until branding and sponsorship is sorted. With React Conf I managed to grab everything I needed a few days before the event, which allowed me to create their animated intro, sponsor slides and lower thirds in advance. This meant when it came to the editing process I was already a few steps ahead.
React was a two day conference (with an additional day of workshops). It wrapped at 5pm on Monday and instead of going home, winding down and mentally preparing for another early start on Tuesday, I stayed at the venue. There was a networking party for the conference taking place later that evening and I needed to be there to grab some highlights, so I decided to be productive with my time. I'd been transferring the talks from our production SSDs to editing HDDs throughout the event and the assets were already in hand. I opened up Premiere and started to edit.
At 11pm, just as the party and first day was coming to a close, I hunted down the organiser of the conference (Tara). I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him when he'd like his videos delivered, he said that anytime in the next couple of weeks would be fine and so I paused. "Oh." I said, "Only I've just rendered out all of the talks from today and they're now sitting as private videos on your YouTube account waiting for you to publish them." - Needless to say that I repeated the same trick on Tuesday evening with all of the talks from the day being uploaded by 11pm. This meant that the organisers actually had their videos finished and ready to publish during the event, something that’s a bit unusual to the startup conference world who often have to wait a few months before they see anything.
We've experimented around before with fast production times, we managed to get the initial talk videos for ThingMonk and Monkigras turned around in less than 24 hours, but the hold-up we faced was related to assets and a couple of minor changes that needed to be made (needless to say the client was still impressed). With React Conf though, and Scaling Startups two weeks before, we really nailed down our turnaround time and I'm now confident in boasting about and marketing our next-to-same-day delivery service with conference videos.
As always things can get faster. We're limited at the moment by the speeds of HDDs, SSDs, computing power and internet connection speeds, but these are all things that will better from inevitable technological advances. The next logical step in making this whole process faster is to hire an assistant editor for the period at the conference. The benefit here would be that as soon as talk is over they'd be able to grab the recorded footage, import it to Premiere and start editing whilst the next presentation is taking place, in theory being able to publish within an hour from changing speakers. Perhaps this might be a bit superfluous but would certainly prove an interesting experiment.
Obviously the alternative method of getting content turned around incredibly quickly is to live stream the event, but this is an expense and faff that doesn’t suit all events. At the moment, with the various streaming platforms, you wouldn't be able to re-edit the already streamed and archived content, meaning that you wouldn't be able to place animated intros, outros and lower thirds on the talks in post, or smooth out cuts that weren't so great at the time, or remove bits that weren't intended to be published. Having said that I'm far from not advocating live streaming conferences and events, I actually think it's a must for many and actually enjoy running them. You can do a mix of live streaming an event and then using locally recorded and edited videos to publish later, which is what I normally advise (the compression on live streaming platforms for archived footage usually sucks).
It's safe to state that this fast turnaround method of producing event videos only really works for conference talks and presentations. I certainly wouldn't recommend trying to live edit a highlights video, they need to be works of art that are curated over time and lovingly pieced together with copious cups of coffee, junk food and often need to go through several drafts. It is important, however, that highlights videos are turned around within 72 hours after an event's closing for maximum sharing potential; which is why you'll often see me looking rather shattered the following morning, having pulled an all-nighter to get everything delivered and signed off.
Fast turnaround on your event video is imperative. I'm excited and pleased that we've managed to create a very reliable and speedy workflow to help our clients make the most of their event video. If I, or my team, can assist you in any way with your upcoming conference, meetup, or presentation, please don't hesitate to drop me a line to see what we can provide.