Lessons from the 2008 Space VidVision Contest
by Greg Zsidisin
|Many of the responses called for less governmental spaceflight and more activity from the private sector, although there were certainly entrants who called for things like giving NASA more money.|
The Space Frontier Foundation, in conjunction with SpaceContest.Org and SpaceVidCast.Com, just concluded the first Space VidVision Contest, in which contestants were asked to post short videos on YouTube answering the question, “What should the future of American human spaceflight be?” The top entries, announced and displayed by Foundation Executive Director Will Watson on November 15 at the SpaceVision 2008 conference at Texas A&M University, were awarded a $2,000 first prize, $1,000 second prize, and $500 third prize. The winners were chosen based on judging from members of the Foundation’s Board, and from SpaceContest.Org members Elaine Bloom and myself.
As I described in a previous article in The Space Review (see “Announcing the 2008 Space VidVision Contest”, Tuesday, May 27, 2008), we weren’t sure what to expect going into this. Would people respond? Were space advocates and enthusiasts up for creating videos, or at least for learning how to do so? What would their takes be on such a broad question?
Here are the short answers. Yes, they responded, although really only after we moved the deadline by four months and worked hard to get the word out. Yes, we got many well-edited, visually sophisticated entries, as well as a number of “vloggers”: people who simply set up a webcam and talked away. We got a decent variety of responses, although all were pro-space (no calls for ending or cutting back space efforts). Many of the responses called for less governmental spaceflight and more activity from the private sector, although there were certainly entrants who called for things like giving NASA more money.
The top prize of $2,000 went to Arnie J. Abrahamson of Tustin, California. His video did not feature a lot of stunning space footage, although it was nicely edited with stock photos and music. Instead, Abrahamson—who appears throughout the video dressed in a snazzy silver tie and shirt—won the judges over with his smart, humorous, and low-key video essay espousing a near-term plan to jumpstart private space initiatives. For much of the video, stock photos of athletic young people spin behind Abrahamson. I must admit that I never expected to give my own top vote to such a video, nor to someone who would assert that space—who knew?!—is like lingerie. (Punchline: “It’s only when someone’s in it that it becomes interesting.”) For me at least, Abrahamson’s playful presentation of plans and philosophies was the best entry marrying the video medium with an interesting message to make a really compelling video.
Our $1,000 prize went to Kevin Myrick of Pinole, California, CEO of Interplanetary Ventures, for his well-made video calling for a space initiative that would be “pro and con”: proactive, considerate (thoughtful), progressive, convergent, productive, constructive, provocative, connective, probative, and profound. If that sounds gimmicky, our judges found that it worked for this video. Myrick entered an interesting second video with a very detailed and specific “12-step plan”, but it unfortunately lacked the kind of diagrams or other visuals that the video medium could have supported so well in explaining his complex plan. I did enjoy his choice of bouncy Muzak on the second video, though.
Joey Vigour of North Hollywood, California, took third place and $500 for his video “Explorers”. His passionate—dare one say “vigorous?”—video about returning to human space exploration is solidly edited and intersperses footage of he and his friends visiting a space conference with vlog footage. Joey seems to have taken a cue from Barack Hussein Obama: charge confidently ahead to win a contest despite a potentially problematic name. In Joey’s case, that would be his YouTube moniker: “jojothecannibalkid”.
These three winning videos far exceeded my own expectations for the level of sophistication in presentation and editing that we might see. I was concerned that many or most videos might be unwatchable.
Just now as I write this, I see that all three top winners are from California: two near LA, one near San Francisco. That these people live near California’s film and television industry may be more than coincidence. However, many of our other entries also showed a great deal of skillful scripting, visualization and editing.
Happily, we had a large number of exceptional videos, enough that I was compelled to create a fairly large category of honorable mentions. I would point anyone to these entries to demonstrate the creative response our contest inspired:
meg mclain – “Space Contest Video Entry”
A well-done call for non-governmental spaceflight from a documentary maker whose work includes a video on recent presidential candidate Ron Paul.
Daniel Reidel – “Infinity and Beyond 4.0”
Reidel created his own score to accompany a gorgeous array of space clips, quotes, and a call for private space.
Steve Bress – “An Exhibition of the History of Spaceflight by Inhabitants of Sol-3 (Earth)”
A clever animated tour of an alien museum exhibit on our space program.
Jeff Berkwits – “2008 SpaceContest.org Video Reply”
The Mars Society - San Diego and the San Diego Space Society remind us that kids are our future space explorers. (Make sure to watch it to the end!)
Joe Blowers – “Re: $2000 Space Video Essay Contest!”
Joe’s vlog is another compelling, passionate call for exploration by a generation led to believe it's all been done.
Thomas Anderle – “VidVision Entry”
Thomas’s stirring video, especially its striking opening sequence, can not fail to leave you with goosebumps.
Adam C. Hugo – “Space Video Contest Submission”
Brevity is the soul of wit. Adam’s well-edited 34-second video lays out a plan for the future of humankind in space within the space of a TV commercial.
So what might we do differently for future contests, which we will surely run? Marketing matters will be foremost. We will be working hard next time to get the word out more widely. (Despite our efforts this year, and an extended deadline, we got a slew of last-minute entries—and one after the mark—from people who said they’d just found out about the contest.) This should improve with our current success going into next year.
Expanding the contest to multiple categories, such as entrant age or video style, is a strong possibility. While the best entries did well in marrying thoughtful essay content to striking visuals and audio, I personally would not want to rule out those who express themselves in vlogs. One may argue that the video medium has a command of it all: visuals, audio, graphics, editing. At the same time, I would hope to encourage those unfamiliar with making videos to get started by simply learning to be comfortable speaking into a camera—no simple feat in and of itself. A separate vlog-only category, with a smaller prize to reflect the smaller overall effort involved, is something I’m likely to pursue next year.
When we planned the contest, I wasn’t sure if a video length of three minutes would be long enough. Seeing these entries, I’m convinced that future contests will require shorter videos. Some entrants productively used all their allotted time, while others appeared to stretch to fit the allowed time. I guess the latter is a natural response, but frankly some videos could have been pared and still ably make their presentation—indeed, would have been more watchable.
|When we planned the contest, I wasn’t sure if a video length of three minutes would be long enough. Seeing these entries, I’m convinced that future contests will require shorter videos.|
Future contests will certainly include some more helpful guidance up front. Conversations with potential entrants early in the process revealed that many space advocates were enthusiastic about the contest, but personally daunted by the prospect of creating and editing a video, even a simple vlog. I think it will be important next time to provide information on our contest website on how to make and edit videos. Clearly, many of our entrants are already quite aware and comfortable with the sophisticated tools available for a home desktop computer. That’s an awareness I would like to see expand in the space advocacy community.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the way this first contest has unfolded. I would invite those who would like to enter next year’s contest to be added to our email list by writing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to keep checking in at www.spacecontest.org. Our next contest will likely kick off in the spring of 2009.