Tim from Hilton Worldwide approached me with an unusual project. Okay, it was unusual in several respects-- first, that an international company based outside of Los Angeles, the film and video capital of the world, would reach out to a small videocompany in Oakland; second was the nature of the video itself. They wanted to create a 50th anniversary tribute for Greg, one of their vice presidents, utilizing cell phone video greetings from employees all across the U.S. From the outside it wasn’t so unusual... but lift the hood and you immediately see the problems. Multiple “videographers,” using a variety of poor equipment, in a wide range of environments, producing a breathtaking spectrum of quality. What videographer could say no?
My first goal was to try and create some consistency in the video itself. So I created a “best practice” guide for my crew of amateur camera people. It looked like this:
It’s impossible, of course, to turn novices into experts with just a set of guidelines. And there were dozens of “rules” I omitted (some to my downfall... such as “no vertical videos”). To boot, some folks roundly ignored my guide, shooting from the hip, so to speak.
Step two was a framework for the responses. Tim and I talked about the tone of the piece, who Greg was, his outstanding achievements, and work habits. Tim wanted something filled with humor and appreciation. Originally, there were to be eight pairs of people on camera. I created sets of questions (no more than 4 per person), and we divided them across geographic regions. The number of people quickly multiplied, as did the length of the piece. Soon, I had over an hour of footage from 25+ individuals. Audio levels ranged from barely audible to loudspeaker, and background noise from air conditioner hum to convention floor.
The trick, then, was to construct as much “story” as possible among the different speakers. I divided the video into topic sections, and focused my edits along common themes, letting multiple people tell the same story whenever possible. No one was ever under the illusion that this was going to be a polished “showroom” piece. But Hilton was thrilled with the final result; the rough edges were authentic and heartfelt rather than glossy. The sentiment was exactly what they wanted to convey to Greg, and the “tone” said “Hilton.”