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Catching up with the Tomorrow Awards winners // YouTube Symphony Orchestra

Posted on September 21, 2010 and read 2,853 times

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rafikcreditpic Catching up with the Tomorrow Awards winners // YouTube Symphony Orchestra Rafik Belmesk
Operations, AKOS

The call for entries deadline for Winter 2011 of the Tomorrow Awards is fast approaching. It has always been our mission at ihaveanidea to not only celebrate incredible, forward-thinking work through the Tomorrow Awards, but to help educate the industry about what goes into creating such work. In that spirit, we have been featuring interviews with the winners and shortlisted entries, to give you all a little taste of what’s needed to stand out at the Tomorrow Awards.

 Catching up with the Tomorrow Awards winners // YouTube Symphony Orchestra

Beyond celebrating the best and most innovative work our industry has to offer, the Tomorrow Awards set up to let everybody know and understand the how behind every winning and shortlisted campaign.

Today, we chat with Tom Uglow, the creative lead for YouTube and Google Europe and the person who headed the Symphony Orchestra project, about how it all came about and about a very geeky “what might have been”…

Tomorrow: Can you tell us how the YouTube Symphony Orchestra project started and evolved?

Tom: This is a long story. But here’s a really short version:

The project started out with one guy in the London office in 2008 called Tim Lee, who had this great idea for YouTube to create an orchestra formed exclusively from people who had auditioned online using the platform. He was big into Classical music but wasn’t even working on YouTube at the time. He hooked up with Ed Sanders and they put it forward to the rest of the marketing group via an internal ‘Dragons Den’ where marketing folk get to pitch big, ambitious or crazy ideas and senior marketing people try to shoot them down.

I got involved soon after that and my team in the UK brought in some music experts and worked with a designer on my team (Chris) to develop some basic identity and mock ups of how the site might work to help explain the concept internally. These were successful although it took about a year before Andy (and the Creative Lab – which didn’t even exist when we started) gave the project a home and a deadline and we moved into the next stage.

Tomorrow: Was this done as part of the big and on going effort to make YouTube profitable on its own?

Tom: It’s less a money thing and more the idea that YouTube is a platform for video in its many forms and bringing people together. It was about the possibility of YouTube more than anything else.

Having said that,  one of the things about YouTube is that in order to make it profitable, you need to improve the perception of its content. There is better content on it than you think. It’s not just people taking videos of their cats. So in that sense it was part of a broader strategic effort to improve the quality of content on YouTube. But it was never a direct goal.

Tomorrow: How exactly did you divide tasks on this project?

Tom: Eventually my team in the UK was very hands on. We built the YouTube channel, coded the xml gadgets and built the flash interface on the channel, designed the banner campaign, created the motion idents you’ll see at the start of every video, we created the collateral, did all the localisation into 20 different languages both online and off, we caused Susie (our distraught production manager in SF) heart-attacks with our artwork, and the video unit led by Julie Cohen in London produced most of the pre-event footage on YouTube – over 100 videos of everything from filming the LSO playing Eroica for the very first time conducted by Tan, to the Masterclasses, the silent conductor videos, to editing the call out videos a million times over. I even did a “Yooodle” or doodle-for-Youtube which went up on the homepage on the day.

In fact pretty much the only thing we didn’t do was the actual treble clef logo – which was designed by Ryan Vanderbilt in NY after a frenetic internal design-off over who would create the ID – I think his treble clef was one of my favorite elements – it was so obvious, simple, beautiful and flexible. Perfect identity.

Tomorrow: Did you guys have any prior experience in putting out an event like that and dealing with those sorts of crazy deadlines or did you just hire an event company to do the dirty work for you?

Tom: It was all done in house. We did work with a PR company called 20 Century who do classical music PR and who did a lot of the outreach work for us. But that was really the only outside outfit. Other than that it was just a very steep learning curve in negotiating with Carnegie Hall and trying to get big names. Things like the deadlines, to be quite honest when we first put the site up we went “well, now this has to happen”. There had to be an event when everyone was actually going to turn up.  And part of the fun with these things is the breath of learning that you get from these projects.

You can’t let yourself get daunted by the scale of what you want to do. In the end it all turned out fine and we had 30-35 different nationalities on the stage which was a wonderful feeling. I am sure other orchestras like the LSO for instance are pretty diverse, but they all live in London. We had to fly everyone in from all around the world, to get their visas and that type of thing which was a whole other issue altogether (laughs).

But yeah, the event side was a dramatic learning curve for us.

youtubeorchestra Catching up with the Tomorrow Awards winners // YouTube Symphony Orchestra

Tomorrow: What was the most interesting part about the project to you?

Tom: We never quite got to the part that I was most most most excited about.

From the very beginning I always liked the idea that if you got (as we did) 4k submissions – then you could create a tool that would allow you to create your own orchestra for example featuring a section of violinists from Korea, and trombonists from Brixton, flautists under the age of 19 and bassonists with red hair. I loved the idea of being able to mix every single submission into a track and play with that data and the patterns that would come out of that.  Not too mention with the video content as well. I really thought we would see more UCG mash-up stuff coming out of it – like inBflat or Kutiman. We did edit a really complex mash-up video (on the site) of the top 200 musicians who were in the contest, but we fell short of the full-geek out. I think mainly through exhaustion and fatigue – no one stood up at the start and made a list of everything that had to happen creatively – we just kept adding stuff whenever we could – and this was a casualty. Next time maybe!

In terms of things that did happen I was really pleased with the team’s work on the gadget from a technical perspective and I thought Obscura’s visuals on the night were amazing.

I also tweeted the entire concert live from Carnegie #YTSO which was fun – although my girlfriend was ready to murder me by the end and if it had been any other concert I would have murdered me too. That was really cool having everyone encouraged to record and document and stream as we performed – maybe not the best way to experience it – but a really interesting experiment.




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