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Inaugural Vimeo Festival and Awards Celebrates Innovation and Inspiration

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Vimeo stepped forward in the online video space Friday and Saturday when it held its first festival and awards show in New York City, creating a meeting space for its large and passionate user base. The two-day festival was held in the parent company IAC's frosted white Frank Gehry-designed headquarters, as well as two other nearby locations, while the culminating Saturday night awards show was held at a Chelsea theater owned by the School of Visual Arts.

The festival was loosely divided into "innovation" on Friday and "inspiration" on Saturday. Each day featured a mix of panel discussion, learning labs, video viewings, and creative projects.

Wild-haired comedian Reggie Watts, dubbed "Dr. Reginald Watts" in the program, gave the event's opening remarks Friday. In a half-hour talk that was hilarious and free-ranging, he perfectly set the tone for the sessions to come. Watts spoke of his admiration for "Vah-may-o," as he pronounced the site's name, imitated squirrels, and improvised a few songs. He also took the occasional shot at Vimeo's main competitor.

"YouTube is wonderful, really great, if you like horrible quality videos," Watts said.

After the opening remarks, the event offered a mix of discussions, training, and viewings. A morning session on DSLR filmmaking offered advice from three industry experts on getting great results from inexpensive cameras. A session called "Telling with Numbers" showed innovative ways to present information visually.

A fascinating first-day afternoon session saw Lawrence Lessig, the creator of the Creative Commons license, discussing digital rights with Paul Miller (also known as DJ Spooky).

"I don't think you have any digital rights, yet," said Lessig. He spoke of the need for creative individuals to educate others on the new culture of remixing, while not waiting for the law to catch up.

"The remixer is a creator," Lessig asserted. He added that remixers need to be able to derive revenue from their creations, and need to allow others to build upon their work.

Creative events at the festival included the world record for the largest video waterfall. In a session led by a representative of the Universal Record Database, approximately 60 attendees created a chain video where one person recorded the next, who turned and recorded the next, and so on. The edited final video should be posted on the record site soon.

For attendees, the festival filled a gap between the creative and the technical.

"I like to see the future: what they're planning. I also want to check out some state-of-the-art equipment," said attendee and Vimeo member Santo Wiryaman, who drove down from Boston for the event.

"The festival happened because there was no place online that was celebrating online creative talent," said Jeremy Boxer, co-festival director. "It seemed like a natural progression for Vimeo to give something back to the community by honoring its best talent."

The two-day event culminated with an awards show on Saturday night, hosted by Ze Frank. Vimeo was able to pull in major names as judges, including David Lynch and Morgan Spurlock. This reporter wasn't able to get in because the P.R. agency in charge made a mistake with the guest list (cheers to you, Ogilvy Public Relations), but it looked like a major production from the curb. Anyone else who couldn't attend can see highlights here.

With a successful event behind it, Vimeo has cemented its place as the leading site for cutting-edge, independent video creators. Here's looking forward to what next year's festival brings.

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Friday, Jan. 15, by Troy Dreier