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Videos draw laughs at Novell conference

Y. students’ works offer a humorous take on technology

SHARE Videos draw laughs at Novell conference

It's not every day that video makers get a chance to hear what several thousand amateur Roger Eberts think of their work.

But a few Brigham Young University students had that experience Friday after their short videos were shown to people attending Novell Inc.'s BrainShare conference at the Salt Palace.

And the response to their humorous videos was overwhelmingly positive, in the form of applause and laughter.

"I've done a lot of work in media, a lot of film and video production, and, really, it's the most exciting part," said first-place winner Alexander Vance, a graduate student studying instructional technology but with undergrad work in film.

"You put a lot of work into it, a lot of creativity, and then you put it up in front of people. It's very exciting to see their reaction. You hope they laugh at the right parts, you hope they cheer and you hope you got the message across."

Vance got his across with animation of chameleons gossiping about friend Suse — a reference to SuSE Linux, a company Novell acquired last year and whose symbol is a chameleon. At the end of the video, one of the animals uses its quick tongue to snatch and swallow the Microsoft butterfly. Microsoft is the main competitor for the Linux operating system for which Novell is developing products.

In second place was Cammon Randle, a junior communications major, whose video depicted a laptop computer undergoing a virus scan before spitting the Microsoft butterfly from a disk drive.

Thomas Morrill and Jacob Speirs, both sophomore film majors, earned third with a parody of the "Matrix" movies, complete with somersaults and acrobatic fighting between a Novell rep and two bad guys trying to steal a security CD.

First-, second- and third-place finishers earned $5,000, $3,500 and $1,500 gift certificates, respectively.

But the intangibles — the laughter and applause — started even before the videos were shown, as the crowd was anticipating a jocularity break during tech-thick keynote presentations on the final day of the weeklong BrainShare event.

Novell, a Massachusetts-based company with about 2,000 workers in Provo, did the contest last year with several schools, but this year worked with just BYU. Novell's executive committee tabbed the winners.

Novell videographer Russell Dastrup said the company received 40 video entries this year.

"It was really a tough deal to decide," he said. "The quality this year was unbelievable. Twenty were outstanding. And the quality difference between this year and last year was very noticeable. This year we gave them a better head start and got more graduate students involved and more upper-level video students instead of just the first-year video students." -->

Each of the top three producers said the contest was worthwhile.

"It's a great opportunity for us to actually get our stuff shown in front of the public," said Speirs, whose work with Morrill took a day to shoot and a couple of days to add visual effects. "And it was fun for us, and that's what we're in the business for."

"It's good to have something to work toward and good to have a company give us an opportunity to show our talent and have something to show for it," Morrill said.

"A lot of the projects I've worked on in the past have been entertainment-based," Vance said. "This is something in the marketing world. It's fun to work on a project that has a different slant to it and has a different purpose."

Randle, who worked with Josh Dewitt on his video, put together the "Virus Scan" video in about eight hours after ditching an earlier one that took three weeks to put together. "It was an afterthought, and I'm glad it came," he said.

"Anytime you do something new, you learn about the process and how it works and what you could have done better. What we learned this time is that sometimes your thought-out ideas for weeks don't come out on top and the ones you do together in five seconds do," Randle said.

"It's every artist's dream to get a reaction to their piece in a good way. Ours obviously was kind of funny, and it was good to get the laughs."

The videos are fun, and the company sometimes get concepts and ideas "that probably we could never come up with ourselves," Dastrup said.

"We get creativity and pushing the envelope way beyond what we would do at the corporation. We can't tell them what to do. We're more structured and have to live within certain boundaries. We can't necessarily spend the money to make fun of the competition, but they can. They can do things we can't do. We don't mind it at all, and the audience loves it."

E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com