The digital curation of #Tweepathon The Movie 2016

tweepathon slate

It’s a fairly long story. About 2-3 mins reading. Or you can skip straight to a pretty cool movie at the bottom of this page…..

Ok, so it’s not a real movie in the true sense of the word. But at around 4.30am Monday morning after a marathon of digital curation and video production it felt like that’s what we had all made. A piece of history. Something special and something certainly unique. Born out of the genius mind of Simon Heath, #tweepathon was a brilliant journey. Great people coming together to do great things for charity. You can read all about that here and make charitable donations as you wish.

A small unexpected twist in the tale meant that I also ran one of the legs with my daughter when someone was unfortunately unable to make it on the day. It was a pleasure to do so. The lessons learned from just that alone were amazing. Lots of reflections on my personal fitness levels, the ownership of running shoes and my love of jelly babies were all bonus lessons that originally I hadn’t expected.

But my involvement in #tweepathon started from a less physical digital curation and story-telling angle. The best videos to produce are those that have a great story and a solid purpose. From the moment I heard about the idea, I knew this was one hell of a story with a strong heartfelt purpose. I wanted to do all I could do to help. I wanted to lend a hand and bring some digital curation and production to the team. It’s the least I could do. Here’s how it panned out (times are ‘ish!).

Sunday afternoon – 2pm: I started climbing the digital mountain just after running had finished. The first job was to scrape content from various sources. There isn’t anything I’ve ever produced that contained so much digital material from so many sources. Twitter, Dropbox, Whats App, Live Drive, Apple Photos, email, telephone, Skype, Periscope and so many others. I saved photos, recorded audio, collected videos, read tweets, found routes and map locations. Well over 5GB worth of cool digital stuff was shared on the day.

5.30pm Tea-time. We sat down and had a beauts Sunday roast together as a family created as always with love by my brilliant wife. I’m so grateful as always for her support and that of the rest of my family. We had all been involved in #tweepathon in someway or the other. We had a busy weekend doing our usual thing. This on top, made it a great weekend. Dinner done, my belly smiled but my body ached. It had been a while since I’d run a mile and over the weekend I’d done two – one on the day and a sneaky practice one (albeit running to and around the pub!) the day before. My decision to carry on with the digital marathon was born out of the obsession I had for this incredible story. I wanted to make sure that when the world woke up on Monday morning, the story of what had happened was there ready to go. I wouldn’t stop and rest until it was done, dusted and published.

9.30pm: wine in hand, I sat back down ready to produce. Next stop was to organise and make sense of these digital treasures into a logical format. Working through all this was a great way to re-live the whole story. That’s one of the great things about producing. You get to watch and listen to every single second of one big story.  I created 26 folders, one for each runner to house their individual digital content. It was a realisation that I wasn’t curating for and telling one story. There were 26 individual stories. Stories that those running told incredibly well, all joining together to form the bigger journey.

11pm: Next came the fun bit, creating each of those individual mini-stories. With 26 of these to glue together I knew that I was limited to how much I can include for each. There’s always so much great content that ends up on the cutting room floor. It’s sad, but the harsh reality of production. The soundtrack was ready to go, a great track called ‘Let’s Go’ by Italy based music producer Emanuele Perilli. I began laying down the skeleton framework of the 26 stories, adding in the graphics, tweaking the titles and adding in new ones in for Sukh Pabial who kindly dragged himself from the front of the fire and stepped in as sub-runner with only an hour notice.

2:30am: The first run through of the draft production happened at around 2.30am Monday morning. The video at this point was just over 7 minutes. This kind of breaks the ‘rules’ of what the ‘ideal’ viewing time for a video of this nature should be, but I didn’t care. I just wasn’t prepared to cut any more out. So my next job was to make sure that the video was capable of engaging people throughout its duration. The visual and audio story of the runners was already amazing, but I knew that I needed to overlay a ‘back story’ too. Videos don’t always have to have visuals and audio in sync. The human brain seems very capable of receiving at least two stories from two channels at the same time. At the points in the story where audio was limited, I brought in some of the audio from a recorded interview with event creator Simon Heath. I took the most powerful soundbites of his interview (there were lots to choose from) and laid those in the right places to keep the audio and visual story flowing throughout. I examined the emotional impact of the timeline thinking about how the audience might be reacting emotionally throughout. What bits might make people smile, laugh, cry, reflect. I worked the timeline to make sure there was enough of all of that in the right places, to create the rollercoaster of emotions that I hoped would keep people hooked through to the final frame.

3.45am: Time for my play through of the almost finished version. I turned the volume up. I pressed play. It worked for me. I was hooked throughout. Emotion hit me and hit me hard. I laughed, I reflected and I don’t mind admitting to the odd man tear too! I suffered at the hands of my own production skills. It worked. When it had finished I sat in silence for quite some time. I reflected on what had happened that day. I reflected on the great people involved. I reflected on what this whole venture meant and the good that it would add to this great cause. I was proud and honoured to know such great people, people that just two years ago I didn’t know. I reminded myself of how much I appreciate, really appreciate, the opportunity I was given back then to connect with these awesome people. It means a lot.

4:30am: final tweaks, rendering and publishing done, my night shift was complete. It was time to grab a couple of hours kip.

6.30am Up and about, usual time. Tired: definitely. Aching: still. Excited: like a kid at Christmas! It was a proud moment when we as a family gathered around to preview the finished job. With that most important stamp of approval, it was time to bother Simon and show him the finished version. I didn’t mean to rudely interrupt the start of his day, but this was important. Fortunately, he doesn’t live closer otherwise I possibly wouldn’t have resisted the temptation to knock on his door at 4:30am. Not a great idea I would imagine!  I couldn’t wait for the creator of this amazing story to see the end result.

It was around 7.30am when we released the finished version privately to the runners. What then followed was a flurry of social media action, support, general loveliness and most importantly, more donations.

This, by far, has been one of the greatest pieces of digital curation and story-telling I have been involved in. I couldn’t have possibly imagined the lessons I would learn along the way, both professionally and personally. And for every single person involved, those that ran, those that supported, those that donated, those that cheered thank you so much.

You are the stars of #tweepathon, the movie.