Confessions of an NAB Virgin
COW Library : Creative Community Conversations (was FCPX Debates) : Kylee Peña : Confessions of an NAB Virgin
~ "Ohcrapohcrapohcrap, there he is, ohcrapohcrap, I should go say hi, I need to say thanks, I've learned so much, crap he looks busy, chll out keep walking NO GO BACK ok walk straight crapcrapcrap what if you sound stupid or -- ok just look at this camera instead oh what a nice cam-ohcrap I'm going to regret this either way, may as well go for the gold. BE COOL BE COOL. How did I even get here?"
Well, that's an interesting question. And the answer is by plane, from balmy Indianapolis to freezing cold Las Vegas, early on a Saturday morning.
CONFESSION #1: I love storytelling. In fact, I just used a storytelling technique to yank you into my story! Ain't I clever?
So I'm in the back of a cab, heading to the Riviera Hotel for my first NAB Show. Explaining to the cabbie that I am in fact old enough to be in Vegas alone, I am an editor, I've wanted to be an editor since I was 14. Explaining why I haven't moved to LA yet, the challenges of post production, trying to get her to not take me through the tunnel. Too late. A $40 fare and my life story later, I'm dropped off at the nondescript sorta-front-doors of the hotel. I can't complain. My employer sent me to NAB to attend the Post Production World conference for some additional learning. For that, I am extremely thankful.
I get to my room. Recently renovated. View of a parking structure roof. Smells like balls. I can complain a little, right?
Unpacking and a shower later, I'm off to Post Production World. Checking in early will be the best decision I make all week. I had stayed up way too late packing, so I'm running on 3 hours of sleep and a bloody mary. A benefit (or curse?) of the Riviera is that it's so close to the convention center, you can walk to it in under 10 minutes by cutting through a parking lot. Typically not a bad walk at all considering you're spending your days inside a cold, windowless room, but this particular Saturday is about 45 degrees, so it's just a tad cold. Still, better than cramming yourself into a monorail car after waiting in an endless line to even get the privilege of walking into the station once the show starts.
CONFESSION #2: I absolutely love the monorail, it's neat. Isn't it? Yes it is.
Post Production World is everything I could have ever wanted and more. World class presenters talking about relevant topics to me. The authors of the books I reference, the tutorials I watch, and the forum posts I read every day, just standing up there talking at me like I'm a human being. The best part of PPW is that the sessions are not dumbed down to appeal to more attendees. In the past, conference sessions have always been very introductory to me. At PPW, there is always a certain level of expertise assumed, unless otherwise stated in the description. For example, the After Effects Expressions session by Luisa Winters assumes you know nothing about expressions, but are an intermediate to advanced user of the application otherwise. Everyone in the room with you is a professional in some aspect of video production, so the discussions are interesting. People like Abba Shapiro, Jeff Greenberg, Scott Simmons, and Steve Audette, just standing up there ignoring their demigod status. What is this? I even get to enjoy a keynote with Steve freaking Wozniak and Rob Legato, among others.
So we have expert presenters, good conversation, great connections. For five full days. I can't believe this conference costs less than a G. Many people choose to bring a laptop, but I bring a notepad instead. By Wednesday, it's almost full. How is it possible to learn so much when you are already working in the field?
CONFESSION #3: The numbering system for the rooms in the hall with PPW makes no sense to me. All I know is that whatever session I want next is always at the opposite end of the hallway.
Another thing: Twitter. Oh, Twitter, how I love you so much. Each day I'm at Post Production World, the show floor, or just walking around Vegas, I have people approach me to introduce themselves. I meet dozens of amazing Twitter friends, many of which I have been talking to for years. Post Production World feels like high school again, except in an alternate reality where my friends aren't catty beyotches. I run into people I know in the halls, I get invited to lunch, I sit and learn with them, and exchange ideas. It's easy because we know each other, even if we've never been able to hang out before in person. Even the people I don't know who introduce themselves feel like friends. We're all on common ground. (My name is @kyl33t if you want to follow me.)
CONFESSION #4: I've been on Twitter for over 5 years and have tweeted over 600 cat photos.
If you aren't on Twitter, get on it. Find a solid editor list, follow it, remove boring people as you like, and then you'll have a great set to follow. Participate in discussion, interact, and before you know it, you'll be part of a community. It's just that simple, children. And it made this introvert's life in Vegas a whole lot easier. And stranger. People coming up to you, introducing themselves? Saying they know you from Twitter or your blog or a forum? (And while I'm on this topic, change your avatar to a decent head shot of yourself.) How about someone approaching you because they found you through an #nabshow hashtag. A hashtag, people. We're all a hashtag away from a dozen new friendships.
Speaking of surreal, at the conclusion of Day 2, I start participating in a series of pre-planned night-time events: INKMINIGT KISS Monster Mini Golf, the Media Motion Ball by IMUG, the AJA VIP Party, the CPUG Supermeet, and a #postchat meet up. First up is mini golf. I share a rickety cab to the venue with a new-friend-found-through-a-hashtag and meet more stranger-friends. This event, organized by Eric Harnden, is the inaugural NAB mini golf. My ticket includes a round of golf and VIP room access. The VIP room is baller: gigantic beanbags, tons of free food, and of course free beer. Everything is lit with a flattering red light, adding to the strange atmosphere of the facility.
The mini-golf course itself is illuminated with blacklights. Oh, and it's KISS themed. Like, the DJ plays a nonstop stream of KISS music while wax-figure-ish replicas of Gene Simmons and whoever else was in KISS perform on a stage for all eternity, Chuck-E-Cheese style. We split into groups and golf while raffles are held every so often over the loudspeaker. Nice prizes from sponsors are handed out, and I win a book. I suck at golf, though. No awards for me there. After golf, we had some socializing time, yelling at each other over the sweet tones of "Beth" about how great it is to finally put a name to a face. Like I said, surreal.
CONFESSION #5: I freaking hate KISS.
Monday, NAB Show week. It kind of reminds me of Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving shopping frenzy), only replace old ladies with ubernerds and cheap blue light specials with 2K cinema cameras. Twitter explodes with NAB tweets, most of which are tweeted within quarter mile away from me, but I can't keep up. Being at Post Production World allows me to get settled into the convention center for two quiet days before these masses pile in. I end up missing the huge cab line at the airport, the huge check-in line at the hotel, and the huge line at the NAB Show Store. So if you're wondering why I'm not complaining about these things, it's because I arrived early. So nyah nyah.
I finally make it inside the hall and slowly approach the doors to the exhibit hall. I know this is going to blow my freakin' mind. I'm sheltered and easily excitable. I'm trying to manage my expectations as I enter.
Mother. Of. God.
I tweet a photo and alert everyone that I've found Disneyland, just so they know.
I barely make a dent in the lower south hall before I have to make the expedition back to the opposite side of the convention center for the rest of Post Production World.
CONFESSION #6: Seeing the post-production show floor draws up an excitement in me that last seen when I was 12 and awoke to what Santa brought me on Christmas morning. Did I say 12? I meant 8. Yea, 8.
Night, time for another event. This time it's the IMUG Media Motion Ball. The Media Motion Ball is a somewhat more intimate dinner event. To be clear, it's a couple hundred top video people, so when I say intimate, it's not like 14 people around a table or something. It's at the Monte Carlo this year, which is approximately a million miles away from my hotel, so I walk to a monorail stop, smoosh myself in between broadcasters in suits, ride from one end to the other, and make a hike through the entire MGM Grand onto Las Vegas Boulevard.
The Monte Carlo is still maybe the equivalent of 4 city blocks away after all that, so by the time I make it inside, my black sweater dress has drawn in the 95 degree heat like a convection oven. I slap my name over my heart, buy a ten dollar gin and tonic, and make my way around the room, looking for someone I know.
Anyone I know.
I see a lot of names I recognize, but they have no reason to know me. Suddenly, a wild editor approaches. Editor uses greeting. It's super effective! Wait, are Pokemon references way too out there for readers of the COW? Whatever, you love it. It's Evan, someone I know from Twitter. Then suddenly I'm surrounded by more stranger-friends, and friend-friends: Kes, Eric, Liam, Jason, Lesley… it's a happy family. We hug, we take photos, they tell us to sit our asses down and I grab a table with some Canadians and plug-in reps.
Again, it's like a high school lunchroom, except the complete opposite. A sponsor provides table wine, and the Chardonnay is actually very good (or my tongue is numbed from the gin) so I have about mumble mumble glasses of it. Dinner is amazing. We're provided a buffet style assortment of pasta dishes, vegetables, breads and meats. It's the only real meal I eat during NAB.
A plug-in hero sits next to me during dinner, and I contemplate how to introduce myself and tell him that his software enhanced my life by something like 5000% when he turns and says he knows me from Twitter and wanted to say hello.
CONFESSION #7: Back home in Indiana, nobody knows me, let alone anyone that enhanced my life by 5000%.
I'm tweaking out, maintaining a very nice conversation with someone I hold in very high regard. I feel like Eliza Doolittle, like any moment my Cockney accent will pop up and I might be like OY GOVNAH and tap dance out the door.
I see a lot of people around me that I really want to meet, shake hands with, hug, thank forever and ever. I find some, but others escape to another party. We listen to some great speakers, including Seth Worley, who appears to be born to speak publicly AND create amazing video, which really makes the rest of us look bad so thanks a lot, guy. Media Motion Ball ends up being a really relaxing event, despite my anxiety.
Post Production World plows forever forward. By this time, it's only day two of the NAB Show itself, but all of us are on day four of our own nine-hour-a-day conference. Classes are thinned out a little and people leak in for an hour after the first session. There are a lot of hungover faces. I'm at the table a half hour early, ready to absorb as much information as I can possibly contain. Sitting next to my notepad is a small array of items to keep me going: refillable water bottle, a protein shake mixing device, and a bag of snacks. A lot of my meals are replaced with protein shakes or meal bars because I can't be bothered to wait in line for a crappy hot dog, and I don't want to miss a moment of Post Production World (suck-up nerd). There are water coolers all along the halls, so the water bottle can be easily refilled, and the protein powder easily mixed. I'm sure it's gloriously unhealthy to have a liquid diet but at least I was getting nutrients, right?
CONFESSION #8: I don't spot anyone else in any of my sessions with a refillable water bottle, and I don't even care. Water is $3 and people are hungover as hell. Free water is the biggest commodity you can have in a town that never stops drinking.
I head back to the exhibit hall during a longer break to explore further. I also have a goal in mind. There are several people I missed at the Media Motion Ball, and several others I know are around the floor somewhere. If I miss meeting them, I'll be very upset with myself. I formulate a hit list, and make my way through the show floor checking out Autodesk, Adobe, G-tech, Red Giant, and all the other goodies.
I find some people I originally discovered through Creative COW, like Walter Biscardi and Shane Ross. People I've followed and learned from for years and years online, inadvertently at first, but they're everywhere giving amazing information so you just keep running into them. Forums, blogs, Twitter, more forums. I taught myself how to push the buttons, but these are the people that taught me everything that makes me money on a daily basis. Sure, the instructors of PPW sessions are great, but the fact these people aren't educators and just put themselves out there to help or answer the same freakin' sequence settings question over and over makes me respect them in a whole different way.
Anyway, I'm pretty sure when I tell them this they don't really believe me. I wouldn't believe me, either. But they're all friendly and good people, which is always a relief. You don't want your Internet heroes to be d-bags.
I cross a few more post-people off my hit list, like Mike Seymour and Andrew Kramer. I'll spare you the details of our conversations, but for some reason I'm much more anxious to talk to them. I think it might have to do with them being a little less accessible since they aren't forum regulars, or maybe the fact they both seem incredibly tall. I'm able to tell them both what an impact FXPHD has had on my marketability, or how much Video Copilot has brought me into the intermediate/advanced After Effects user category, and thank them for doing it. Completely forgettable conversations (to them) ensue. It's tragically awkward and I don't care one bit because it's sincere.
CONFESSION #9: I don't get star struck by "celebrities." Unless, apparently, they're in post-production. I worked a couple of jobs in college where I had to deal directly with the public, and there were many times I waited on, escorted, or sold something to a celebrity like Dakota Fanning or The Basketball Player Formerly Known as Ron Artest. Don't care, they're just people. Post-production celebs? OH MY GAH, THEY TOUCHED MY HAND.
Satisfied overall with the number of people crossed off my mental list, I walk the exhibit hall. And walk and walk and walk. I don't know how big it actually is, but it seems like two football fields pushed end to end, and filled with post production stuff and a human obstacle course. I mean to go to a short session in the Content Theater, and I don't realize it's at the exact opposite end of the hall. I basically run there, but it's already at capacity. I'm thankful I picked up running a few months ago in this moment. I'm also thankful for the handy NAB Show app on my iPhone. It's great for figuring out what's going on at any given time, or to check session times and locations during Post Production World.
The CPUG Supermeets always seem to fall on the Tuesday of NAB week, and this year is no different. I make my way from No Man's Land at the Riviera to the Convention Center, then from there to the MGM Grand via the NAB buses with old-new friend Kes and new-new friend Ben. The bus situation is interesting. Buses are lined up outside the Central Hall, and have dedicated routes to certain hotels. I think the NAB program says they run every 20 minutes, but they seem to run whenever they want. The Riviera/Las Vegas Hotel shuttle is basically a Chevy Cavalier, while the bus to the MGM Grand is basically a stretch Hummer. I'm not sure I would rely on them if I were on a time table.
The bus driver gets to the MGM and starts asking us where we're supposed to be dropped off. Uh, I don't know, I'm not exactly from around here. He gives up and decides to stop, pointing at a door. After walking several hundred feet inside, it appears to be an employee service tunnel beneath the casino. We're the only ones without uniforms. Oops. With some help from security we make our way through the MGM and to the Tropicana, and Supermeet.
Soon enough, we're in our seats. If you've read anything about NAB, you know what happens next. Technical difficulties. It's unfortunate, considering how hard the organizers work to plan such events. However, everyone makes it work, and it's still extremely entertaining. We see presentations from Adobe, Autodesk, and Blackmagic Design. We get a hint at the Creative Cloud. We watch Michael Horton run around giving away prizes while technical issues are sorted. And we listen to a very informative, fun discussion with Morgan Spurlock. He even narrates the trailer to his new film for us when the audio drops out. The raffle ensues and I win nothing.
It's late when I get to the AJA Party at a club in the Cosmopolitan. I'm happy to somehow make my way into this party despite the fact it's a private VIP event. The clubs I attend (rarely) in Indianapolis are nothing like this one. Imagine any night club party scene from a Hollywood film. Yea, it's like that. After walking around a bit on my own, I find that I am wearing approximately 70% too many clothes in comparison with the rest of the women at the party. Somehow, I don't think they are in post production. Despite feeling like a fish out of water, I have fun observing the scene with more friendly Canadians. I meet more old-new friends -- on the dance floor, of all places -- and grab a free t-shirt to prove my attendance.
CONFESSION #10: I'm not a "clubber" by nature. My description of this party probably varies a lot compared to others.
The final day of Post Production World has no mercy for those out late with AJA. I manage myself fine, knowing I have a full day of video compression ahead of me, but many others in my class look pale as ghosts. They're probably wishing they had my refillable water bottle, eh? Hydrate, people! I spend almost the entire day in the same chair as Jeff Greenberg explains things to me that it took three years of piecing together to learn on my own. The Starbucks line is finally short enough to actually get coffee. They should have a separate line for people that just want black coffee, by the way.
Then, it's over.
I look at my notepad. Almost every page is filled up, and I didn't even take notes during a couple of sessions because of the promise of the slide deck later this month. I learned. A lot. And I'm so glad my employer agreed to send me here, because there couldn't be a better investment in my continued education anywhere else.
I opted to extend my stay in Vegas a few extra days to spend time with my husband, so my NAB experience isn't over just yet. I'm back for more on the show floor Thursday, checking out things I missed and taking a peek in the central hall. The crowds are mostly gone by now.
My last pre-planned night-time event is a #postchat meet up at O'Shea's. Postchat is a weekly hourlong Twitter chat where people in post talk about a given topic using the hashtag #postchat. It's grown quite a bit since it was created something like a year and a half or two years ago. At the meet up, there are more in attendance than I expect there to be. We hang out for a couple hours in the pub, drinking and talking about everything from Avid to Premiere, and other things too. I meet dozens of people I talk to on Twitter, and we get the chance to get to know each other a little bit more. Close to midnight, we start to disband into the night and back to talking to each other 140 characters at a time. It's a perfect send off from the NAB Show week.
NAB is something I've wanted to attend for a long time. I would read about it in my Moviemaker Magazines when I was a teenager, wishing I could be in attendance to see the next big thing. Now that I've done it and Post Production World, I can say it exceeded my expectations by far. I met people through hashtags, I learned to increase the number of real time audio tracks in FCP (WTF HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS), I saw a pool with beds floating in it, I got a look at CS6 and Smoke 2013 in person before anyone else, I was educated about beer, I met dozens upon dozens of stranger-friends, and I listened to conversations along the Las Vegas Strip that consisted of transcoding, nodal compositing, and lens choices. It was a great week filled with amazing people and information, and I hope to be able to make it a yearly visit I only miss if absolutely necessary.
Everyone always offers their tips for NAB. Here are mine: Talk to everyone. Wear really good shoes. Smell ok. Bring a refillable water bottle. Don't drink your face off. If you drink your face off, for the love of god hydrate yourself before you go to bed. Be on Twitter. Put your Twitter handle on your business card. Plan your evenings in advance. Be flexible. Try to find time for a quiet dinner with friends. Shake everyone's hand. Be prepared to have a cold when you get home.
But wait, what about that little bit I hooked you with at the beginning?
"Ohcrapohcrapohcrap, there he is, ohcrapohcrap, I should go say hi, I need to say thanks, I've learned so much, crap he looks busy, chll out keep walking NO GO BACK ok walk straight crapcrapcrap what if you sound stupid or -- ok just look at this camera instead oh what a nice cam-ohcrap I'm going to regret this either way, may as well go for the gold. BE COOL BE COOL. How did I even get here?"
Where does that fit in? Well, the truth is: every freakin' second, it seemed. As an NAB virgin, everything was shiny and amazing and overwhelming and I loved it. Every person I met or saw was terrifying and awesome. Maybe next year when I return as a veteran of the whole charade, I'll have a more jaded facade. Maybe I'll take my excitement level down when I enter the show floor. Maybe I can push back the feelings of how freakin' GREAT it is that post-production is a thing we all get to do every day as I trounce around, awkwardly introducing myself to anyone who will listen.
CONFESSION #12: Maybe. But man, I hope not.