It’s 1 a.m. on Thursday morning, and I’m deep within San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center. The clock seems to be racing at lightspeed toward the final day of Red Hat Summit 2018. I’m feverishly editing the conference recap video, which will play in 7 hours in front of thousands of people. I quickly scan through a sequence of shots to drop on top of an interview clip. My manager and art director are there for moral support, and possibly to jump in if I nod off.
In the final stretches of editing (Credit: Brett Abramsky)
The War Room (Credit: Drew Carrow)
As a videomaker within the tech industry, I’ve worked numerous client conferences over the years. Typically, my role has been in event coverage, creating a variety of videos to be used during and after the conference (e.g., capturing panel discussions, interviewing attendees). Each event and brand is its own animal with unique challenges, but there is usually one constant: The need to create a conference recap video to be played at the end of the event.
What goes into creating this video? A lot actually.
Because these recaps are so timely, it’s imperative that our team is easily able to shoot, edit, and deliver content onsite quickly.
Behind the scenes of filming interviews (Credit: Lance Johnson)
For previous events, I’ve helped create sizzle or highlight videos that contain no content and only feature beautiful shots set to music. These are typically easier to make once you have your set music track—just plug in shots to the music beat and call it a day. While these types of videos are high energy and fun, they often can feel a bit hollow.
At Red Hat, the approach is always to take it a step further. Our goal is to tell an engaging story in 3 minutes. The formula for such a video requires balancing content on attendee experiences, products, session announcements, and big takeaways from our executives on stage—all within 3 minutes.
A large portion of the highlight video’s content comes from attendees in “person on the street” interviews, so these are extremely important to capture. Without fail, when asking to interview someone on the conference floor, I will get rejected somewhere between 70% to 80% of the time. At some point, it’s always a good reminder to not take it personally, and that being in front of a camera is a daunting experience for most people.
Capturing these interviews eventually becomes a numbers game. We typically aim to collect 20 interviews over the course of 2 days, knowing that only a handful will be usable for the final video.
Pro tip: My favorite icebreaker technique is to read a passing attendee’s name off their conference badge as though I know them personally. Arguably a cheap trick, it does provide a moment of temporary confusion and a small opportunity to pitch your request to interview them. It’s also advisable not to approach someone with a ton of camera gear in your hands. It typically will scare them off.
Creating the Edit
At the beginning of the week, to stay ahead, I select stock music to use in the recap video. I drop 3 music tracks into a sequence and edit them out roughly to 3 minutes (the intended runtime of the final video). I always find it easier to start editing once the music has been placed. As we collect footage, I rough in b-roll shots over music sections where I want to do stylized sequences of footage. For instance, I asked a colleague to go capture timelapses of the exterior of the building, so that I could place them in a series during a particular music swell at the beginning of the track.
The interview selects sequence (Credit: Kieran Moreira)
To stay on top of the content, I add all interview clips into a master sequence, trimming out any of the excess fat such as the interviewer’s questions or unuseable lulls. This keeps all the content tightly packaged together and easily watchable. From here, I place the best of the sound bites on the second track layer to note its potential use in the final video. Organizing the footage in this fashion is critical in assessing what our team has collected and what additional sound bites are still needed to make the final story.
Screenshot from the final video (Credit: Kieran Moreira)
Once the interview content is locked, it becomes much easier to drop in b-roll shots on top of the interview sound bites. There’s a temptation to haphazardly cover the video with random shots; however, the real magic is making each shot feel purposeful in its placement. This ultimately helps the viewer become immersed in the story, making a 3-minute video feel like a 1-minute video.
It Takes a Village:
To an outsider, these recap videos may seem to be magically pieced together in the span of a few hours. In reality, the process begins well before we get on the plane to travel to the event. This can take the form of:
- Loading hard drives with brand assets like logos & fonts
- Sending a few hours searching for music
- Creating a shot list
- Checking and double-checking camera & computer gear to be shipped
- Working with a producer to build out an extensive schedule for the week
The Red Hat Films Team at Red Hat Summit 2018 (Credit: Drew Carrow)
On site, I relied heavily on others to provide insights into the general session and partner announcements. I also was dependent on other videomakers to capture missing shots so that I could keep editing, and assistant editors to help comb through hours of footage.
It should also be noted that the highlight videos only consist of a small percentage of work that the Red Hat Films team produces for Red Hat Summit. In addition, we deliver customer success stories & branded film content to play on the main stage, capture Facebook Live videos, and create social clip videos that will live well past Summit. For more on the content we created at Summit this year, be sure to check out our Red Hat Summit Youtube channel.
At 1:30 a.m. I hit export on the final video and deliver it to our events team’s local server. I’ve been editing non-stop since roughly the early afternoon, and I can finally take a break. The last hours of the editing process are always the most stressful, but watching the final video play on main stage seems to make it all worth it.
By the Numbers:
- 5 cameras + 5 dedicated videomakers
- 1TB footage captured
- 6 hours of General Session footage reviewed
- 17 “person on the street” interviews conducted + countless rejections