TEDxBGU

I had the privilege of participating in the planning and execution of the TEDxBGU conference at Ben Gurion University at the end of May and was tasked with editing the final videos for each of the talks. From start to finish it was an extremely complicated and tasking experience but while I would not describe the task as a pleasant or fun one, but it was an incredibly educational experience and I learned so much about this kind of work through the process and I'll try and explore what came out of both the pre-production and post-production processes.

In addition to a Behind-the-Scenes video for promotional purposes, I edited video for nine different talks. We worked with an outside contractor who provided three videographers. In all honesty, I was involved in both the stage production as well as the sound as well as the video work so I was hoping to shut out the video recording from my mine on the day and trust the other videographers to do their jobs. In all honesty I was a little wow'd by the big, expensive cameras these guys brought in and I really used that excuse not to talk to them much and not give a lot of direction to them. It's hard to say if giving them instructions would have left me with different results, but it couldn't have hurt. I had the three guys set up around the room and let them be for the course of the event. They knew what kind of footage we were looking for and I had a thousand other technical issues to work out in the half hour we had to set up the room before the conference started.

I was assured the video footage would take a week to be delivered to me. A week was revised to two weeks (with the assurance that I had in fact been told two weeks from the outset). Two weeks became three and a half before I met the head guy with two laptops and no USB cable in the campus library. Moving on. Nothing was organized, labeled, or even chronological and I had about 60GB of random data and files dumped on me to sort through. In the end, it turned out that three of the nine talks were not interesting for the guys filming because I had only a single camera's worth of footage in the form of sub-60second clips (mostly shaky and many of the audience). After the initial frustration and angry phone calls, I had to sit down and get creative combining the scant video selection I had to create something worthy of the TED website.

Coordinating with the speakers to find creative solutions and address the expectations and creative contributions they brought to the table was a whole other issue, but I was certainly reminded of the eternally surprising benefits of collaboration on things like this. As much as I grumble when I finish a video and get a list of changes from a client, I am almost always grateful for it in the end as it forces me to look at my choices and compare them to someone else's which in turn results in a much better product in the end. I will still probably continue to fight it, but as much as I can encourage the pursuit of collaboration among creative people I will do so. I'm sure anyone who has worked as a copy editor would say the same thing.

On the technical side, this was my first experience working with a multi-cam project and I had a hell of a time learning how to use the Multi-Cam Editor in Adobe Premiere. That work might be nullified by switching over to the new Premiere CS6 at the end of the summer, but I'll cross that flaming bridge when I come to it. In any case, the Multi-Cam editor was great I was so happy to be able to just sit and watch the presentations go while simply clicking between different synchronized camera angles at will. One interesting hiccup I discovered was that Adobe Premiere can't compile footage with blank video streams in the multi-cam sequence. See, a lot of the speakers had Powerpoint shows so I planned to slice images from the slide shows into the video after the multi-cam editing. So as I went through in multi-cam mode I would pick a black video stream and select that source whenever I planned to insert an image into that space later on. When I finished the first video, however, and went to export it, I kept getting an unknown "compile error" about half-way through. It took a while but I finally tracked down the problem and discovered that I had missed a blank stream segment where an image was supposed to go. So apparently Premiere doesn't like blank segments when rendering, though I'm surprise it doesn't just insert a blank screen (rather than giving an unspecified error).

So what did I learn from this month-long experience?

First, I'd say that communication with partner videographers is absolutely essential. Sitting down and talking through the different works you'll be doing, the amount of time involved and the types of movement you're looking for CANNOT be overlooked.

Second lesson would be to do as much planning ahead of time so you are not depending on someone else to convert and deliver your footage. Whether that means bringing your own memory cards or taking time at the end to sit and bring data over from an on-board drive, always choose that option and don't let the cameras out of the room with your footage unless you have no other choice. I don't know if the missing footage that had me in rage was never filmed or if it got lost in the conversion process, but anticipating problems like that will save headaches.

Third lesson is to maintain an orderly and efficient file collection in the drive as well as in your project window. Nine talks and a BTS video meant I was juggling 397 individual files (and that doesn't count footage and images I DIDN'T use). When you hit format issue and need to rig up some unconventional solutions, ignore how tired you are at this point in the process and do your best to keep your workflow under control and don't let your unsorted files get out of control.

So after all that, I'm happy to have been a part of this and I've learned so much that I can put toward my inevitable involvement in the conference next year.

The TEDxBGU playlist is available here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL326A17D264797E82

Look for some of these soon on the TED.com website. Enjoy.