The Rising: 4EVER Group Launches First Annual Event Video Convention in Orlando
In the summer of 1982 I had the good fortune to attend the wedding of former Duke basketball superstar Gene "Tinkerbell" Banks. As dazzling as the wedding was (like most Duke Chapel weddings, it would have been glorious to shoot), what really made it unforgettable was the crowd. Banks was a starting NBA forward at the time, and his star-studded attendee list included Harlem Globetrotters Curly Neal and Meadowlark Lemon, Julius "Dr. J" Erving, NBA leading scorer George Gervin, and a half-dozen other contemporary NBA stars. For me it wasn't so much a wedding as an autograph-fest.
The 4EVER Group's inaugural convention, held in Orlando last week, had much the same feel, and not only because EventDV unveiled its 2005 All-Star team, autograph-ready trading cards and all. From Monday night's awards banquet to Thursday's closing ceremonies, the sense of being surrounded by our industry's best and brightest never let up. If you weren't attending seminars by industry standard-setters like Randy Stubbs, Mark and Trisha Von Lanken, Robert Allen, Steve and Laura Moses, and Terry Taravella and Julian St. Pierre, you were soaking up the wisdom of other star speakers in the midst of those same matinee idols, as well as numerous videographers of equal clout and caliber. These are folks you'd never guess had anything left to learn about the craft they helped create, but there they were, in Orlando, listening, taking notes, and learning along with everyone else.
There's so much to report about what happened in that cozy corner of Orlando (the wisely chosen Disney Coronado Springs Resort) during four days of non-stop networking and education that it's hard to know where to begin. Video 06 kicked off in grand fashion Monday night with the Artistic Achievement Awards banquet. MC Steve Wernick delivered the first annual AAAs Oscar-style, complete with award-winner clips and a few breaks in the action in which the crowd was treated to the comedic stylings of celebrity impersonator Tim Beasley doing John Lennon and Austin Powers. The banquet also afforded EventDV the opportunity to present its EventDV 25, as alluded to above, recognizing 25 videographers and videography outfits as the hottest and most influential in the business today. Every attendee of the banquet arrived at the dinner table to find a pack of limited-edition EventDV 25 baseball cards commemorating our 2005 All Star Team.
And all those dinner tables were full. By the opening night it was already clear that this was a conference with modest attendance where "intimate" isn't just a euphemism for "small"; amid the old-home-week vibe there was definitely a feeling of critical mass, a solid turnout with a virtual who's who of industry leaders that bespeaks a first-time event with a future. The banquet roared on past midnight with music and dancing fueled by the dynamic DJ work of Party Time's Jeff Greene, a self-described DJ/photog/videog "triple threat." And for those who didn't get their fill of dancing and rollicking good times in copacetic company Monday night, a surprise event at Disney's Pleasure Island on Wednesday night kept the after-hours conga-line alive.
After Monday's daytime workshops (with an all-star house band including Luisa Winters, Josh Fozzard, and Douglas Spotted Eagle), the afternoon's local association leaders meeting (a rousing success, by all reports) and the evening banquet, Ryan and Wernick began the conference program proper on Tuesday morning with a taut keynote setting out the 4EVER Group's goals, first and foremost to address the "primary challenge facing our industry: growth and respect." Wernick also announced a new initiative that may go a long way toward achieving those goals. Wernick revealed that the 4EVER Group has completed negotiations with The Wedding Channel to create a pilot program for placing wedding videos on the Wedding Channel site, which will give the two million brides who visit the site each month a chance to see those videos and gain a better understanding of what videographers can do. In the coming months, the 4EVER Group will issue invitations to select videographers to participate in the program, and the Wedding Channel will, in Wernick's words, "support and endorse wedding videography as an essential part of the wedding day."
While defining the event video industry as much broader than weddings, Wernick also spoke of the possibility of establishing a new trade association "run by the membership for the membership," insisting, "our industry needs an independent voice." He also said the 4EVER Group would establish a committee (in conjunction with EventDV) to lobby for a workable plan for the licensed use of copyrighted music in wedding and event video, similar to the one in place in Australia. Campaign promises, to be sure--but it was also the right place to make them, then move on to the educational business at hand.
The Ryan/Wernick team returned to the spotlight later on the first day for the Ebert & Roeper-style Critics Corner, debating the merits and demerits of assorted video clips. Compared by one online blogger to watching a bickering old married couple, this was a new approach for a conference in our industry, and by all accounts a keeper.
Some attendees reported that the challenge with this show was picking your sessions. Invariably, each time slot included multiple seminars that had many attendees torn, or wishing they could be in two or three places at once and not miss any great opportunities to learn. The UK-based Institute of Videography sidesteps this problem in their annual convention by repeating sessions on successive days; that's one solution, certainly, but an imperfect one at best.
One of the best sessions I attended was PixelPops' Brian Gunn's "The Website Advantage: Your Most Profitable Employee." Gunn addressed issues of Web site organization, emphasizing the importance of headlines as clear and direct navigational tools, and showed his audience how to arrange their sites visually to take best advantage of how visitors' eyes move over a site. Gunn also discussed the value of testimonials, which he said videographers should have on every page of their sites, and most of all the importance of having streaming video that plays right away, is selected for uniqueness ("avoid the processional," he told wedding videographers), and is effectively edited for brevity and maximum impact. He also discussed how to use keywords to improve your site's ranking on Google, but warned against trying to find a simple magic bullet for Google pre-eminence, since anyone who thinks he knows the "secret" has no idea how little he really knows. "The algorithm that Google uses to rank relevancy is a more important secret than the recipe for Coca-Cola," he said. "It's locked in a vault somewhere, and not even their employees know it."
Another great session I saw was EventDV 25 honorees Donna and Robin Greenwood's "Wedding Day Artistry--Greenwood Style!" which included all sorts of great practical insights on ceremony audio, how to shoot B-roll for cinematic productions, how to light an event and how to communicate with other camera operators during a ceremony, how to edit a processional, how to frame your shots and make the most of multi-camera coverage, and more. Citing 40+ hours as a typical editing time for a cinematic short-form wedding production, Donna said, "Some edits fall into place; other times, you just have to beat the thing into submission."
Staten Island videographer Angela Trupiano gave a first-rate seminar on making imaginative use of DVD in event video production, with nice tips on extras like Behind the Scenes/Making Of... segments and trivia games, as well as making the use of alternate audio tracks for bride and groom commentary and foreign language seem easy and accessible.
There's always at least one session you attend at a show like this that leaves you thinking you've seen the future. For me it happened several times, perhaps most dramatically at an afternoon session on the last day on concept video production and marketing by Cinematic Studios' Ron Dawson, whose Bridal Boot Camp concept video won a Diamond Artistic Achievement Award and was shown to awestruck crowds at 4EVER Group Video Summits in 2005. Dawson, whose previous job was developing script-writing software, discussed pre-production, conceptualization, scripting and screenplay formatting, shot list creation, developing a shooting schedule, and more, all the way through production and post and even serializing the release of the video for added dramatic impact. To learn more about what Ron Dawson does and how he does it, stay tuned--he'll be discussing all these topics and more in a regular EventDV column on concept video that will debut in the spring.
And what's ahead for the 4EVER Group? Well, they're not going to Disneyworld. Both principals are back on the road as I write this, beginning a two-week, five-city tour to provide expert, hands-on training on Adobe's new Production Studio suite. Updates on the 4EVER Group's travels to follow as the tour rolls on.