Political Conventions have always been a mix of pomp & circumstance, moving messaging and a kickoff to the heated 3-month battle that lies ahead. This year, for many reasons (as you all know too well), things are very different. Last night, long after the workday was done, the Team SEQ general Slack channel was abuzz with our own version of political commentary. That’s right, it was all about production for this unprecedented virtual Democratic National Convention.
Here are some of our takeaways from Night 2 of the DNC:
Variety is the Spice of Virtual
DNC organizers made an effort to mix it up onscreen. Kicking off with a crowdsourced mashup of regular Americans (albeit too long!), beautifully produced (and tear-jerking) video packages with real stories such as ALS patient Ady Barkan, a virtual round table with Joe Biden and 5 real Americans’ health stories (very well-cut using monitors with him in-studio and their full-screen video intermixed), and live on-location moments like Jill Biden’s culmination speech inside a symbolically empty school, all woven together with dynamic (albeit somewhat cheesy) graphics. Though we think that they should have considered shortening the overall time of the program each night, this variety made for an engaging viewing experience.
Location Location Location
The Virtual States’ “Roll Call” was so well done, and brought the uniqueness of all the states and territories like never before. Using the classic convention vertical sign and a 3D map to tie all the moments together, this is one of those silver lining opportunities that only a virtual event makes possible. From cacti in Arizona, to the iconic Las Vegas sign in Nevada, Joe Biden’s childhood home in Pennsylvania (with cheers from a real crowd!), and ending as tradition dictates with Delaware (having passed to go last) on the platform of the train station bearing Joe Biden’s name. This trip felt like a real journey, and was very special.
Home Sweet Studio
Tracy Ellis Ross anchored the program well, and gave it a home in-studio. Returning to her throughout the evening gave us a touchstone within the 2-hour program, which otherwise could have felt like a continuous documentary. She lent context and provided much-needed transitions throughout the night.
Prerecorded is the New Live
On CNN’s feed, they added a timestamp below the location of each speaker as a subtle way to show what was live. There was clearly a mix of both live and pre-recorded content throughout the program (including within the States’ Roll Call) but it was unclear to us the rhyme or reason behind it. How did they choose what was live and what was pre-recorded? Not sure. There were some notable differences in speakers’ energy as well, such as a more quiet AOC prerecorded in a studio vs. Tom Perez who was standing at a lectern and speaking with the passion inspired by a live audience. Though we love the energy of live, we’re not sure it stood out here in a positive way (don’t get us started on Joe Biden’s beyond awkward nomination acceptance moment in a drop-ceiling school library...).
No One is Immune to Technical Glitches
Though different channels seemed to have some different issues, the main DNC feed brought slow switches to any live content and you could hear the control room audio in most cases too. The commentator and graphic told us that Louisiana was Maine (they’re pretty hard to confuse, you guys!). There was wind in Montana (despite the cute cows) which made it hard to hear. Jill Biden’s cue was a few seconds late to start her hallway walk & talk and MSNBC lost sound during her speech too.
Did we miss the energy and cheers from the live crowd? Yes (the zoom-inspired grid of clapping people with no audio was not enough!). Did we miss the natural breaks we would typically have as we saw two colleagues greet each other onstage or as speakers would pause for audience approval? Yes (this virtual program was really relentless). Did we miss the extra hour of airtime when the live event inevitably ran late? No (we were certainly done by 11:00 on the east coast!).
All in all, Day 2 of the Virtual DNC got the job done, but lacked the palpable energy of live as is so often the case with one-direction virtual content. However, moments like the States’ Roll Call really excited us and breathed new like into an old political convention. We hope that will be here to stay!