Some of you may already know about Adam Henderson, an awesome editor at Post Op, who recently edited an H-E-B Super Bowl spot for The Richards Group. But did you know that last year, he won an Adobe contest to edit Imagine Dragon’s “Believer” music video? The contest was part of Adobe’s twenty-fifth anniversary celebration and they took submissions from over nine thousand editors from twenty-eight countries. When we found out about this, we just had to learn more, as this song has remained a huge hit from 2017 through this year. We recently interviewed Adam about the details.
AdChat DFW: How did you find out about the Adobe contest?
Adam: Cody Clack, motion designer here at Post Op, told me about the contest. I initially didn’t think I’d have time to do it. Creating a music video from scratch is a huge undertaking. I knew it was going to take many hours and my wife and I were about to head out on vacation. Cody suggested we team up and tackle this together. I’ll do the edit and he’ll do FX. So we did, and agreed to split the prize if we won.
AdChat DFW: How did Adobe supply the footage?
Adam: Adobe made a trailer video where they announced the contest and gave a download link to get the footage. We didn’t get all the raw footage, but it was more than enough to work with. It was all color corrected and compressed, only two gigs worth. It came with the song and some Adobe stock images. It was pretty much like they were saying, “Here’s everything you need, and then some. See what you can do with it!”
AdChat DFW: After you saw the footage and listened to the song, how did you decide to edit it the way you did?
Adam: I pretty much spent half the time editing it and the other half just staring at an empty timeline not knowing what I wanted to do because it was so overwhelming. At first, I wanted to avoid watching the original music video…but I couldn’t help myself. Matt Eastin, the director, had a specific vision when he shot all of this footage, so I had to see how it all came together. After watching it, I knew what to avoid replicating because I didn’t my edit to resemble what he had already done.
The first thing I did was watch all of the raw footage and see if there was a different story arc I could edit from. There’s a lot of confrontation and conflicting moments happening in the footage, and I wanted to explore that and see where I could take it. I essentially wrote on paper this and that needs to happen, but I didn’t know when they needed to happen. After creating all of my selects, I then created a five-act structure, and then Cody and I collaborated and came up with a visual effects story arc that could compliment the edit. It all came together in the end and it’s something we’re pretty proud of.
AdChat DFW: How long did it take you to cut it?
Adam: The edit took forty-five to fifty hours to complete. I found out about it a week after the contest started, so time was already ticking. As I said, I had a vacation planned in the middle of this, so I was editing on my laptop on the plane, and in the middle of the night and in the hotel while my wife slept. Once I got into a groove with the edit, it’s all I could think about, so I worked on it whenever I had the time.
When I submitted it, there was only four hours left till the submission deadline. Apparently, many people had trouble with submitting because they had waited till the last minute. If I had waited another hour it may not have gone through which would have been a huge bummer.
AdChat DFW: How long before you knew you won and what happened after that?
Adam: After it was submitted, I was kind of left in the dark for a few weeks. All I knew was they would pick twenty-five finalists. It was just a matter of checking your email every day hoping to get some sort of notification. After a couple weeks I got an email saying congratulations, you made it as one of the top twenty-five finalists.
AdChat DFW: How did that feel?
Adam: My heart skipped a beat, I couldn’t really believe it. I had thought if I could only be one of the finalists I’d be so happy, and this would all be worth it. Then as time passed and it got closer to when they were going to announce the contest winner, I went from wanting to be a finalist to really wanting to win this thing. I was so close.
Interestingly, when they had announced the top twenty-five finalists, they had already narrowed it down to the top ten finalists for the judges to judge on. The twenty-five had been publicly voted on as a fan favorites. So, when I got the email about being in the top twenty-five, I was really in the top ten, I just didn’t know it.
A few more weeks went by and they said if you hear from us again you will be in the top five finalists and we will want to fly you out to San Jose to meet the other top four and get tour of their headquarters and meet Adobe’s CMO and the Premiere team.
AdChat DFW: What happened next?
Adam: Next, I got an email saying I made it to the top five, and they asked if I could fly out and meet the team. I was thinking holy freakin’ crap. I got in the top five, this is amazing! I just want to be in the top twenty-five, but now I’m in the top five. I wasn’t even thinking about the money, but I was that close to winning this thing. What I didn’t know was when they told me I was in the top five, I’d won the thing. They were just trying to get me approved so I could travel out there and have them tell me that I had won. They had to do this extensive background check on me to make sure I wasn’t a convicted felon or anything like that. Once I sent all that paperwork in, it was confirmed that I was good to go…nothing illegal had happened with me in my life…I flew out to Adobe’s HQ thinking I was going to be meeting the other top four finalists.
AdChat DFW: What happened when you arrive at Adobe?
Adam: When I arrived, I was thinking, OK I’m here, where is everybody else? Then a guy came down and said three of the other four finalists are upstairs, but why don’t I give you a little tour first. During the tour we get to this area where they play a welcome video. Up on the screen popped up the Imagine Dragons band sitting in these chairs, and I thought…what the heck is going on? And they said, “Hey Adam, we just want you to know how much we liked your video.” And I’m thinking what a nice thing they did this for me and the other finalists…. but I was also thinking where ARE the other finalist? And then they told me, “But we liked yours the best! Congratulations!” Next all these people came in from around the corner, popping champagne, and had balloons and they were screaming my name. The whole trip was a farce and a fun way to tell me I’d won.
AdChat DFW: Looking at the video we are blown away by it. Did they give you any of these motion graphics?
Adam: Cody did all the graphics and motion effects, which included the opening title Believer, the 3D sculptures, the rear projections, etc. We were hoping to key the footage onto the fabric behind the band members, but it ended up having to be rotoscoped, which took hours to do.
AdChat DFW: How much time did you spend planning out the edit?
Adam: I spent two weeks on a rough cut and mapped out what I wanted to go where. We thought it would be cool if there was this structure that was kind of crumbling in the background and the character is beating up this older version of himself and at the end it reveals this gold sculpture thing. We had concepted that idea and then when I showed him the rough cut, Cody started on the 3D effects in After Effects. Adobe really limited which of their software we could use to do this. Once I got the edit locked we submitted very close to zero hour.
AdChat DFW: How does it feel to have won this contest?
Adam: I feel very fortunate to do what I love for a living and Post Op has been that vehicle for me for over nine years now, so I’m very grateful for everything I have received out of that for sure.
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Check out Imagine Dragons “Believer” music video….