I've been filming London's startup Tech events on and off for the past two years and I'd like to think that with my trusted colleagues we've done a pretty good job of covering and documenting the scene. Each event I film is different and each requires its own style.
Below are five production styles that best cover events. All five together provide the best coverage, but you can easily get away with just using one method to show off your event.
Presentations & Conference Talks
Filming presentations and conference talks can be fairly straight forward. I've covered a range that have required as little as one operated camera up to a modest six. Not quite be as big as your 62 camera Superbowl setup, but still a decent amount.
Most event organisers want their talks to be filmed, after all they're the main attraction most of the time. It makes sense to keep an archived record and post it online for people to reference at a later point in time.
The amount of cameras you require to have your talk filmed depends on a few factors. The first is room size. Are you filling an auditorium with 400+ people? If so a single camera stuck at the back of a room might not do your event justice. Normally, for most events, I recommend a minimum two camera set up. This gives you the ability to have a fixed wide angle, which can capture the general action on stage, as well as a nice establishing shot of the audience and speaker. The second camera is operated and is used for medium and close up shots. If the speaker moves about on stage it's typically this camera that follows them. A third camera can be added for an alternative angle shot and could be used to focus on the speaker's hands, or an item on stage, if the talk is more practical.
The trouble with filming conference talks is that it's hard to keep an online digital audience, who are forever being distracted, engaged. Multicamera productions help a little to combat this. Once you've covered your very basic needs more cameras and angles are used to add polish and prestige to an event, you could even throw in a crane or two just for shits and giggles.
A good method of keeping audiences with short attention spans interested in your content long enough to get out the most useful bits of information, is to create a slimmed down and edited version of the talk. Recently a colleague of mine, Olly Newport, has been filming Don't Pitch Me Bro. Startups have 15 minutes to pitch their ideas and answer questions from an eager audience. 15 minutes might typically seems like a good amount of time for an online talk, but no, the organisers wanted an even more cut down version, asking Olly to create a 'highlights' video of 5 minutes for each pitch. This keeps the 'pitch' fast paced, separates the wheat from the chaff and gives the exact right amount of information for the viewer to feel content with. Naturally the full version of the pitch and talk is also made available, but the 'highlights' are the videos that are actively pushed.
Highlights Reel & Summary Videos
Highlights videos best sum up parties, meetups or hackathons. Any event that you want to give an overall general look into. They're usually compromised of a series of montages of action that happened at the event, cut to a sound track, with some talking head interviews.
Most event organisers don't tend to consider producing a 3 minute video that best shows off their event, something they can easily tweet out, post on Facebook or feature in their newsletter. A highlights video shows exactly what went on at your event, why you put it on and the reaction to it. Consider it an advert or a promotional video. If you've already got a camera crew filming the talks, or presentations at your event, it's not much to ask them to take the camera off the tripod during breaks and in between talks to capture some of the atmosphere, so they can cut it together in a nice highlights package for you.
A misconception that I've come across, when working with clients, is that an additional promotional highlights video of an event must double the production cost of filming a conference. In reality it adds practically nothing to the budget. If you've got a crew in to film your event presentations, consider asking them to shoot a couple of cutaways and general overviews, you can always ask for the footage after and cut a promo / highlights video together yourself. You're already paying for their time and editing something quick together will only take a couple of hours.
The best way to capture some events is by telling a story through a documentary. I've found that this works especially well for hackathons, where you can show a team's development from an initial concept right the way through to the end with their final presentation.
Invite a camera crew to become part of your event and the furniture Brief your attendees on what's happening and trust that the crew aren't going to be too invasive. You'll find that after a while people get used to being filmed and will open up to the cameras and you'll be able to get some great footage. Two events that I've captured really well, in the documentary style, are London Real-Time and Digital Sizzle's Art Hackathon.
With London Real-Time we had a camera operator spend the entire weekend at the event, staying over night and constantly shooting. We produced a total of three documentary style videos, each one being a summary of the previous day's activities. The event took place over three days, so we had a video for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, in addition to separate videos of the demo pitches afterward. This allowed us to show off London Real-Time, in almost real-time, in the most organic and fun light.
At the Digital Sizzle Art Hackathon we took a similar approach to the documentary style video, as we did with London Real-Time, however this time we decided to make a feature length documentary instead. The entire video was half an hour long and showcased at the gallery event, along with the other project, after the hackathon. Shorter 3/5 minute versions were then derived from the 30 minute piece, for easier online consumption. This worked well for us and the client, it was a fun project to work on and they had one piece that really showed off their event for what it was. A fun long weekend.
Talking Head Interviews
You're running a conference, or a meetup and you've got some pretty well known and important speakers in attendance. You're already filming their talk and that's going online in full later, but why not pull them aside for a quick 5 minute interview to turn into a talking head video?
Each of your speakers will have their own online audience and following who are eager to learn more about their journey and company. An intimate talking head interview is easily shareable and consumable.
Recently I produced a series of these talking head events as part of my own coverage of London Web Summit. Admittedly I haven't got around to editing all of them together yet, but I got some great stuff from the likes of Dannae Ringelmann of indieGoGo, Jeff Lawson from Twilio, Paddy Cosgrave from Web Summit and a whole host of other great people.
I was already at the event, filming a highlights package for a news outlet, so took some time to film interviews on the side. These videos can be posted months after the event and still have relevance and increase my own exposure later, along with the event. A constant stream of new content is the best way to keep an audience engaged.
Live streaming an event has become easier than ever before, but live streaming an event well is still a big technical challenge. Not every conference requires it, but a lot of them want it. Unfortunately the live element does add on a big cost element. Specialist equipment is required, such as a television switcher, a digital encoder, an online platform and a specialist crew.
If you've got an event that benefits from having a live globally connected audience, then live streaming an event is a must. It allows you to show off, with great polish, what's happening right now. Keynotes, award ceremonies, competitions, anything that is time sensitive gets a boost from a live production, as opposed to releasing a recorded copy later.
Streaming live to the web offers added benefits, in that you can interact with your audience in real-time. This allows you to gauge to your production and react instantly. With the added bonus of social media integration your audience can really get involved in the action and feel as though they're at your event with you.
I've run four Tomorrow's Web events over the last year and a half, the last three of them have been live streamed to the web with great success and feedback. We have attendees who aren't able to get to the event, either because they're unable to travel there or are otherwise pre-occupied for some of the day. They do, however, have time to tune in to the stream. They have an opportunity to watch our speakers and participate in asking them questions during the Q&A.
Producing conference videos, like Tomorrow's Web, live has the added benefit of cutting editing costs and time down to zero. Thanks to the vision mixer, as soon as a talk is over we can have a recorded, multicamera produced video up on YouTube within minutes.
These are the best ways that I've found to document and cover events, not just my own but also the ones of my clients.
If you like what I've described above and want similar coverage for your event, I'm always around and available for a chat and to work with you in producing the best video possible. Feel free to drop me an email at email@example.com