At Urban Sketchers Symposium Singapore 2015. Photo by Ken Lee
The Urban Sketchers Symposium is coming back for the 11th time in 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. FYI, the 2019 USk Symposium was attended by 700+ people that included participants with workshop and sketching passes.
I'm writing this to share my experience of what it's like to be a video correspondent at the USk Symposium. I was the video correspondent at the USk Symposiums in Singapore (2015), Manchester (2016) and Amsterdam (2019).
My first USk Symposium was actually in Barcelona (2013) and I've made a video for that too even though I wasn't a video correspondent back then.:
I've also made videos for other international sketching events such as the Asia-link Sketchwalks and more:
- Penang George Town 2012 (my first international sketching trip)
- Bangkok 2013
- Bandung 2015
- Kuching 2017
- Taichung 2018
- Hanoi 2019
What's it like?
If I can describe my experience in one word, the word would be exhilarating. If I have to use two words, it would be exhilarating, tiring.
It's a challenge to bring the spirit and energy of the symposium to viewers worldwide. For me, making daily vlogs was the best way to document the event in a way to make viewers, especially sketchers who were not able to attend, to feel like they are on location with our huge family of urban sketchers. It was incredibly tiring to make those videos, but incredibly fulfilling as well. Watching those old videos from years ago make me feel like I'm back seated on my little stool beside my friends, chatting and sketching away.
The symposium is a huge event with many workshops, activities and participants, so it's impossible to be everywhere at the same time to record everything. I remember I would start each day of the symposium at the gathering point with hundreds of other sketchers and just follow a random group to their workshop locations. Basically, I just go with the flow.
I would record what I need without much excess footage because I'm not sure if I will have the time at night to look through all the footage. I would sketch too with the sketchers and while waiting for my watercolour to dry, I would do my recording.
At night after dinner, I would rush back to the hotel to edit the videos, export and upload them, and sleep. As I have to edit videos at night, I usually don't join other sketchers for the night sketching sessions. Having enough rest is very important because you need the energy the next day. Attending the symposium without making videos is already exhausting enough mostly due to the walking, carrying the sketching tools and supplies (pack as light as possible) and sometimes the weather.
I remember while working on my old laptop, I would take a short timed nap so that I can wake later to upload the exported video to Youtube.
This workflow made it possible for me to record and post the videos daily. And I wanted to post videos daily so that others can follow along daily with our events and experience the excitement. By the way, the energy and the high you get from actually being at the symposium is several times higher than what can be portrayed through the videos. Everyday is a surprise waiting to happen because you won't know who you'll meet on the street as the city will be packed with sketchers that weekend, all wearing the same USk badge that's hanging from the lanyard.
I still watch those old videos occasionally and I'm always reminded of the thrill, excitement and energy. The videos are also very nostalgic because there are people who are my friends now but aren't at the time the videos were made. And the videos may make me feel differently again if I watch them in a few years time.
Making videos during the USk Symposium in Amsterdam was particularly grueling because I was down with some, probably, virus. My bones were aching the whole time I was in Amsterdam. It was so painful to even move while bathing or turn ever so slightly on bed while sleeping. It was bad. The only thing got me out of the bed each day and kept me going was the adrenaline or energy of being at the symposium.
What does it take to be a video correspondent?
Let's take a look at responsibilities and technical skills mentioned on the page calling for video correspondents, repeated below:
- Capture videos of key daily activities for the entire duration of the symposium April 19-22, 2023. These activities would include, but are not limited to: pre-symposium set-up, workshops, demos, lectures, and sketch walks.
- Show the spirit of the symposium in video format, e.g. bonding between participants, positive public interaction, informal meals, drink ‘n’ draw, opening and closing receptions.
- Record longer videos that feature interviews with instructors and symposium organizers that go behind the scenes and serve as educational and promotional materials by Urban Sketchers.
- Post several daily video summaries on USk social media channels.
- Recreate “the feeling of being at the symposium” and showcase its unique location in Auckland, New Zealand for the USk community who will be watching from afar.
- Work with the other symposium correspondents and symposium committee as a team.
Technical skills required
- Advanced skills in video editing and fast turnaround. This includes selecting, cutting, adding transitions, music, text, and titles, and subtitles as needed.
- Produce content that is suitable in duration [short, medium, long] for respective online platforms i.e. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter
- Have the technical equipment to support the above tasks, such as a phone with a video camera, video camera, microphone, and a laptop, as well as software for video editing and uploading.
- Produce content that is captured in both vertical and horizontal formats to match respective online platforms.
- Fluency with social media platforms in order to share video material produced ‘on the fly’ through Live Events, Stories, and Reels on Instagram, Facebook and a variety of other platforms.
It goes without saying that you must be good and fast at editing videos. You must have and know your tools and your software. There's just no time to learn video editing during those few days at the symposium. It can be stressful if you're rushing for time, especially if you have to get the videos out daily.
The part on editing videos to different formats to suit different online platforms is quite challenging. That sounds like a lot of extra miscellaneous work you have to create from the main video you've made. Those extra work will take more time. I've been told there will be a social media team helping out with the re-formatting and posting of these videos onto different platform. Anyway, all these work will have to be done on a laptop to be productive or save time.
While I was at the symposium, I only had time to make the daily videos, and maybe one or two live-streams.
What are the perks
You get to be at the USk Symposium! And you'll have an Open Pass that gives you access to all symposium workshops and activities so that you can record the event and behind-the-scenes footages.
The video correspondent will receive an honorarium in the amount of five nights’ lodging or $500 in cash. Nice. Travel expenses are not covered though.
I can't remember if you can book your own hotel or you're given a room at the hotel where all the instructors are. If you do have to book a hotel, the one nearest to the symposium venue is the best hotel.
The last perk is the incredible experience that you'll remember vividly for the rest of your life, and the friends you make along the way.