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My 2019 Adobe MAX Experience

Attending Adobe MAX was something I’ve wanted to experience for the past few years.  I was very grateful that I was given this opportunity and aimed to return the favor in any way I possibly could with what I could learn and bring back to our team to elevate our work to a new level. Just a little disclaimer here - I tried my best to not overwrite, but I did.  Even so, I would not be able to get close to put into words my entire experience - from things I saw, conversations I had, memories I made, and most importantly, lessons I learned.  I think the short video I did for this experience is a nice short version of this blog. (Just skip to the bottom for that.)

Sunday

The conference doesn’t officially start until Monday - but I was lucky enough to get  a pre-conference pass.  I was able to register and get my badge and hoodie sooner as well as explore the campus to get more familiar with where classes were located. And best yet, I found out that breakfast and lunches were included. This large cafeteria was a great way to sit and mingle with new people.  I was able to take a full day worth of a lab workshop around Intermediate Premiere. Even if most of this session were refreshers or things I already knew about our editing program, I was hoping to pick up as many new techniques as possible. And that certainly happened - I learned about 10 small changes to my workflow that will make me edits quicker and more efficient.  And I learned one audio technique when balancing voice audio with music audio that will honestly save hours per project. That was a huge win for me and I literally clapped out loud when I was shown this. Another amazing opportunity I had was to talk directly with the engineer who developed the auto reframe effect - which will basically take a standard horizontal video and alter each clip to fit and frame within a portrait comp.  He and I talked about it while at lunch and then when we got back, I tested the limitations of the effect and how certain workarounds were needed and even some improvements to make. I really felt like I was able to present in person feedback to their team and it would be incredibly rewarding if they took anything I said into account and altered. After this full day of class and exploring, I was tired but ready for the next day.

Monday

On the first official day of MAX, I immediately noticed a tripling of the crowd of people.  Unique individuals from all over the world getting excited about our careers of creativity in the most beautifully creative environment I have ever experienced.  With this amount of people, I was happy I had a day before to get familiar with the area and beat the lines. Even talking with people the day before helped me to know I should get to the keynote at least 30 minutes before it starts. The transformation of the LA Conference Center was transformed into what felt like a concert experience.  When the show started, I saw some of the most intricate and visually stunning motion graphics through a creative video opening. I knew from just this short video that this was the type of viewing experience that would trump anything else I have seen - from professional sports games, concerts and more. The first day’s keynotes focused on Adobe’s theme of Time is Money.  So the major Adobe apps each had a person display the new best features of each program that often wow’d the crowd (I was wow’d with just about everything, haha). These techniques all featured the Adobe Sensei philosophy of saving time - from making an incredible fast and accurate selection in Photoshop to auto reframing a video to work in portrait for posting on socials like Instagram.  This along with many other amazing uses of Adobe felt me eager to try it out. Leaving the keynote and heading to my first lecture, it was incredibly refreshing to feel warm weather and sunlight in November. Walking around and see droves of creatives, in a beautiful campus-like environment, made me feel like I was in a professional college experience. My first session, which is more of a lecture experience, was with Andrew Kramer, visual effects artist well known for his work with video co-pilot.  His compositing work is overwhelming impressive and I would say taken for granted. The subtle touches and enhancements he creates really add so much visual value. After leaving the session inspired, I got a chance to browse quickly through the community pavilion where all the booths and displays were located. I only had 20 minutes before my next lecture, so I skimmed through to see where my favorite vendors were located so I could spend more time there the next day. My second session of the day was a unique experience.  Each seat had an audio receiver and headset. Each student was able to listen through the headphones as she instructed. This session focused on interview style video processes and thinking. I was very happy to hear that our team and her lecture aligned so well with our way of doing it. Her points about how to make the interviewee feel comfortable, respond naturally and follow progression are all similar concepts we utilize when interviewing for storytelling pieces. But what was new was the idea of presenting the interviewee “themes” instead of a question list.  When question lists are given before an interview, the interviewee tends to try to memorize the responses or write down answers. Themes allows the interviewee to prepare for what to talk about but not specifically how to answer it. I had one last session of the day, but I have to admit - like a college student - I left the class early. It wasn’t extremely applicable - and I managed to find Andrew Kramer’s same class from earlier and sit in it one more time. Don’t tell anyone!

Tuesday

Coming in to line up for the keynote felt like we were waiting for a music concert.  Huge lines and tons of commotion. From talking around, people were buzzing about Billie Eilish? (I honestly didn’t know who she was before this and people around me were shocked to hear that!) but I was excited to hear what M. Night Shyamalan would say.  He directed some of my favorite movies growing up, like The Sixth Sense, The Village, and Signs. But back to Billie Eilish. When she was introduced, the mentioned a collaboration with a very well known motion graphics and animation expert from Tokyo who co-created a music video for her.  After hearing his music and seeing her style, the animation matches that intensity and edge. It really helped me to immediately appreciate why she has such a following. When Shyamalan spoke, I’ll never forget what he said about taking time. When creating movies in the past, there needed to be a physical process of cutting film and splicing edits together - a luxury us modern editors take for granted every day.  He explained how it was much more time consuming to try an alternative take. But while physically looking for a new take, feeding the reel, and reviewing - your mind has time to be thinking as you go through. This helps make decisions happen more intelligently vs. rushingly trying alternative takes instantaneous with our digital editing. Then, musician and now director, Dave Grohl, got a chance to speak. He mentioned early on how he was a kid growing up in Ohio who learned how to play music from listening to albums and practicing on his pillows - while still not knowing how to read music.  Honestly, just hearing all of this was enough to inspire me on so many levels. I was eager to get to the booths so I left the keynote early to also beat the crowd rush. Without going too in-depth about it like I already have and will continue to do, I spent two hours floating around the booths - learning an amazing new effect from GoPro, playing with the new Photoshop functions, learning Substance for 3D modeling materials, bantering with the RED rep and talking about what I think of the new auto-reframe in Premiere and workflow of Rush. And just like a rush - the two hours were up and I was almost late for my first lab of MAX.  Labs are different than sessions in that you get access to a computer with assets loaded and ready to follow along with the instructor. My first lab was about cinematic techniques for video editors. So obviously I was eager to see what I could learn. The first 80% of it was great in-depth explanation of techniques that I was pretty familiar with. I think this is something important to know about MAX. I think people can get frustrated if the instructors spend the first half of the lab going through things they feel they already know and then want to leave or become disengaged. This is not a good mentality to have - no matter what the skill level.  Luckily, the last 20% of the lab blew my mind. I found what I eagerly wanted to share with my team - some new ways to make visually stunning color to our video. POWER WINDOWS. Can’t wait! So excited to overuse this and hopefully eventually apply unique twists to it to make it my own. I was buzzing about this lab and this carried into Adobe MAX Sneaks. This was basically a giant production showcasing engineers who have conceived of a unique function of their favorite adobe program and are basically pitching it to the audience to see if we feel like it’s a good idea or a bad idea. I won’t spend much time talking about this - there was something very rehearsed and, for lack of a better word, fake, with the whole experience.  The attempts at comedy by the “punch” guy fell so flat. And the host, Charlie Day, was the “set up” guy. It was so hard to watch him need to be the straight man and set up the punch lines which all fell so flat. Charlie Day is obviously incredibly funny and we all wanted him to step in and provide some real humor but he unfortunately had to be the host. As he said very often, “fantastic.” And the program showcases, some of them felt real and some of them felt fake. I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be a known performance or if they were trying to pretend these programs were actually operating. It was beyond confusing what we were supposed to understand from this experience. At the very least, the comedy fell so flat and I left early to get a head start to check out what everyone was buzzing about, Adobe MAX Bash.  This event was obviously promoted and hyped by everyone I talked to. But I really had no idea what to expect. I was guessing a party in one of the buildings with some music and cool stuff - but.. geez - was that an underestimate of what I saw and experienced. The entire plaza was transformed into an outdoor party. The surrounding block of The Staples Center, Xbox Plaza, and Microsoft Center were filled with beautiful displays, crazy creative visuals, engaging interactive experiences and so many sights at each corner. It is honestly difficult to put it in words other than seeing what I saw through the video edit I did of my whole conference experience. As for that, I tried to challenge myself to film and edit only using my iPhone. I knew this was going to be a fun challenge for me because I am so used to using professional cameras and equipment along with a desktop computer to edit.  So I used Adobe Rush to edit what I filmed while exploring the entire conference. Anyway - while wandering around filming with my phone like a crazed fool - I noticed the Staples Center was open.  I went in and found a whole new atmosphere.  The vendors were open like it was a normal event.  And around this time I also noticed no one was paying for the beer?  At this point, I needed a beer or two - and luckily these were included with our MAX badge.  As many as we want along with - thanks to help of some friends I spent some of the night with - cheese sticks, hot pretzels, brownies, and more.  But I love just floating around and making sure I see everything I can while I’m there. It’s also humorous to admit that I had no idea a concert was populating inside the main arena.  It was some guys named vampire something. They were ok, haha. But I wanted to challenge myself to film as much as I could from the event and get as many angles as I could all with one iPhone.  Sure it won’t look no where near as good as what we could do with our cameras, but I definitely explored that entire arena for butter shots. After this, I limped my way to the hotel - quite exhausted, but worth it for my favorite day of the conference. 

Wednesday

Waking up dehydrated, beat up and aching felt a lot like a college hangover.  But just like college, I had to get up, get ready and get to class. I had two that I was very excited for.  The first was an Illustrator and Animate class. This was the first class where I took something that I had little to no familiarity with.  I was in a classroom full of designers who were breezing and yawning through the intro steps while I’m struggling, flipping through pamphlets, bothering people around me, etc.  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to move at the classes pace so luckily I have plenty of resources to learn how to make an icon set in Illustrator. He then jumped into Animate - which is an html and java based program that simplifies creating interactive info graphics for web and mobile.  I felt I did much better with this program and was able to relate skills I know from After Effects. But there were still so many questions I had and ideas I had to improve the interface. I got a chance to talk to one of their engineers who liked some of my ideas for ways to navigate through the interface easier.  He also showed me some applicable ideas for how I can create something engaging using embedded video. This class overall was an interesting experience because it felt like I was taking a course at a high-end design school. The teacher was young and had a cool accent. His lesson plan was challenging and engaging. And he easily had the most students after class talking to him.  But my last lab on my Max experience was with my favorite instructor, Ian Robinson. 6 years ago I learned After Effects through his online courses. So I was eager and looking forward to whatever he had to offer. I made sure to go up to him before class started to talk with him a little and thank him for that. The lesson itself was very appropriate for what I was hoping to learn.  His in-person lecture was exactly like he was in his online tutorials. It felt so comfortable to hear him giving instructions and I followed along easily. I also learned dozens of small techniques to improve workflow and better ways to motion track scenes. After class, it was starting to hit the trip was already coming to an end.   But leaving, I felt incredibly happy with what I was able to learn, who I was able to talk with and what I was able to experience.  I am grateful to find some new Adobe techniques for not only video and animation, but also graphics and design. I definitely wish I had more cards to hand out and wish I brought more.  But I collected a good amount and have so much potential for some real connections across the United States. While waiting at the airport for my flight home, I was eating by myself. I looked up in the line and saw Ian again.  I couldn’t believe it was him and I felt like quite the nerd going up to him. But I invited him to sit with me and we ended up having a 2 hour conversation together and one of the most meaningful moments of my career. I was really happy to know we are so similar in so many ways.  I’ll always be grateful for my amazing team at PEG that provided me with this memorable experience I can honestly my life has been changed.  

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