by Claudi Schneider (Sequel Group)

I was honoured to be asked to judge the Clarion Awards this year for the first time in a while. It made me think back to how judging used to happen in the past for EVCOM, and IVCA as it formerly was.

I am aware this is going to make me sound incredibly old, but hopefully some of you will share these memories with me.

I started working in corporate production in 2004 and still find the rate of change in technology over the last 19 years quite phenomenal.

Back then, and for a long time afterwards, the thought of working in a purely digital world just seemed like science fiction.

We were filming on tape (Beta and later DVCAM), editing on AVID and later Final Cut Pro in large edit suites filled with machines, and exporting onto VHS tapes.

I remember vividly stocking up on boxes of tapes to carry to a shoot, patiently writing out and sticking on tape labels, the time it used to take to digitise everything after filming and following editing and film sign off, the effort and time it took to deliver boxes of hard copies to clients. There were long lead times for duplication in those days, and hours spent creating nicely printed VHS cases!

As time went on, we moved into a DVD and CD-ROMtastic world. Having to store and protect physical tapes and masters was a big deal. That tangible asset you could hold in your hands was important; now we have ‘The Cloud’ which still feels less certain.

The art of storytelling, and a film maker’s approach to creating emotion and excitement is the same today as it always has been. We just worked at a slower pace, in longer formats, and without the support of the kit, software and AI tools that enhance the process today. Back then, audiences had the attention span to sit and watch a 15-20 min documentary on a single topic.

So, when it came to judging, as you can imagine, the process was much more involved. We take for granted now that we simply need to log on to a site and plan time in to review and critique content and supporting materials at the touch of a button.

Judging the IVCA Awards back then was always a highlight for me, and many of us in the industry came back to judge every year. It was a chance to get out of the office for a day or two, to visit IVCA’s docklands office and meet with the IVCA team, colleagues, peers, and clients from across the industry in person.

Everyone would arrive early to join one of many rooms set up with a big TV screen, VHS player, and a tall tower of VHS tapes to review – in full – one by one – followed by a discussion, all day and often into the evening.

It wasn’t until you walked into the room that you saw how many entries needed to be judged in each category and how long that meant you would be captive. Like today, some categories had relatively few entries, but often there were 20+ films to judge, and with an average of 15+ mins duration, so you knew you would be there for the long haul!

We would sit for hours watching and debating and it got pretty heated at times – rewinding, forwarding, checking, and voting – until the shortlist was complete and winners were picked.

There is certainly a benefit to working digitally and remotely today, but I do look back fondly on the way things were, when we had the time to invest fully in the judging process, and the connections that were made as we all sat together.

As we move forward into an increasingly digital and AI driven world, those face-to-face meetings and connections will become incredibly important so we can keep sharing creative ideas, stories and best practices to keep our industry as strong as ever.

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