Talking at TIFF: What it Took to Prepare Our SoOnCon Talk

Ever wondered exactly what it takes to put together a 30 minute presentation?

Brad and I knew that the opportunity to speak at SoOnCon was something that is unlikely to happen again any time soon. We also knew that we had nothing to talk about. We had given a lightning talk at Toronto Mini Maker Faire just months earlier, and we haven’t really done any new projects since then. But we still really wanted to do something.

I was on the phone with Brad, pacing around my apartment, trying to throw ideas back and forth, but nothing was coming to mind. Our conversation wandered off on some bizarre tangent. Then we started complaining about how horrible artists are, and how terrible a lot of art projects are. That’s when a little light bulb clicked on in my brain.

I suggested, “why people hate art”.

We frequently have long conversations about this very topic whenever we get together, so generating material wont be a problem. We’ve experienced enough art-BS first-hand to burn through 30 minutes without having to prepare a thing! This talk would be little different than any of our normal meeting, with one little difference: instead of ranting to each other in private about how horrible the art world is, we will be ranting in public! Brad thought I might be on to something. He prepared the application form and sent it off. We received our acceptance notice the next day.

That meant that we had to get to work.

Some personal stuff came up for one of us, and calling the talk off was suggested. This presentation almost didn’t happen. Fortunately, the other person took the reigns and did the bulk of the brainstorming work solo.

A week before the talk, I was sitting at Brad’s house, sipping tea and going over the mountain of notes and ideas we had hammered out. I came up with the list of important points I wanted to get across. Brad had a list of ideas he wanted to get across. We decided on which stories we would tell, and what we would leave out. We made a list of these points and stories, and that was all we needed for a script or notes.

It was now time for a dry run. Standing in the kitchen with a stopwatch in-hand, we gave our very first version of this presentation to Brad’s cats, who watched us attentively. Using the notes as a rough guide, we recounted each event, then moved on to the next subject. We both felt that this technique was a good one; the stories felt fresh and spontaneous, not overly scripted, yet the talk still had a clear direction.

I checked the clock after finishing: 26 minutes without the video. Close enough. Let’s call it done. I went home.

We had spoken about Take a Picture to this same audience very recently, and I didn’t want to keep going on and on about the same project. Take a Picture is one year old at this point; we needed something new. It was decided that this talk would be the public debut for our next big project, the DRM BOX. That meant I needed to put together a promo video. We also wanted to integrate some of our recent experiments with QR codes. That meant I needed to record that paper-based QR album I had been talking about.

So, the tasks before we were to produce an album and an animation in one week.

I experienced one exhausting week.

I’m not a musician, so recording an album is a difficult task for me. Luckily, my friend Adam is a musician, and he just moved up to the city, and brought his guitars and effect pedals with him. I could supply some programmed beats and synth lines, and he could do the live stuff. On the Thursday before the talk, I made my way over to his place with a field recorder and a drum machine (by drum machine, I mean my Nintendo DS running some homebrew sequencing software called bliptracker) I played about 10 seconds of each beat and synth melody. He picked up his guitar and recorded the rest, right there, in one take. Oh, how I envy musicians who can do that. It takes me weeks to program something that fits with a beat that well, and it still wouldn’t have the life and energy of something recorded live.

I went back home, loaded up an audio editor, and got splicing and mixing. A few hours later, I had material that is passable. I knew I could do better, but I still had to put that video together, and that will take a long time. I started compiling a shot list, a collection of photos to take and illustrations to whip-up. I spent all day Friday working on these things. I spent all night Friday still working on these things. I finished the video around 4am.

It was now time to render. The hour it takes to render the 2 minute clip is the perfect excuse to grab a nap. For once, I was glad to be producing HD content on an under-powered laptop. Had I been working on a faster computer, I would have only been getting a 15 minute nap.

I woke up and resumed work. I headed out to the Lightbox, arriving 30 minutes later than I had hoped. I’m going to miss out on pre-show set-up. Let’s hope everything on the technical end works out. (It’s powerpoint; what could possibly go wrong?)

That’s pretty much what I went through to make this SoOnCon talk happen.

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Kyle Clements

Kyle Clements is a Toronto-based artist and nerd. During his thesis at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Kyle began working on his Urban Landscapes series, a body of work that aims to capture the energy and excitement of life in the fast-paced urban environment. After graduating from OCAD in 2006, Kyle spent a year living in Asia to gather source material and experience in a different kind or urban environment. His work is vibrant and colourful. Whether painting the harsh Northern landscape, or capturing the overwhelming buzz of life in the city, his acrylic paintings hover between representation and abstraction.