Y Combinator

The famous tech accelerator asked me to direct a couple of videos to bolster founders and startups during the height of the pandemic. The only option was to get creative.

Role

Video Production
Animation
Strategy

Timeline

6 months

Top Companies

In 2020, the YC team wanted to do something different than their typical blog post to announce this year's "Top Companies". They asked me to produce a special video that would share lessons these top performing founders have learned though starting their companies.

Remote Interviews

Over a period of two weeks, myself and a small team at YC interviewed over 45 founders and CEOs at leading tech companies. We devised a set of standard questions for each to answer on camera. I followed up with a select group for a more thorough conversation to uncover additional insights about their founder journey.

Remote Workflow

At this stage in the pandemic, everyone was still working remotely and the interviews were conducted over remote conferencing. There was a very specific process required to produce as high quality video as possible over Zoom. Since I could not facilitate every interview, I created an interactive check list for my non-technical collaborators to use when recording. This ensured we had consistent video, audio and backups regardless of who was conducting the interview.

Visual References

It seemed like basic Zoom call recordings were the only form of content from any online media outlet for most of 2020. I wanted to make these zoom calls more engaging with the use of illustrative animations and dynamic text. The references I collected informed the style of motion design in post-production.

Animations

After editing the raw interviews together into a cohesive narrative, I turned particular moments into a type of animated visual metaphor. Concepts were developed using simple graphics, a tight color palette and a sprinkling of two-tone images. These animations helped elevate these simple Zoom calls to something just a little more pleasant to watch.

Black Founders List

As Y Combinator continued to create directories that highlighted underrepresented founders, I was tasked to create a video that featured four successful black founders and the unique challenges they faced starting a company.

Concept

Again, I wanted to make remote video interviews more dynamic, this time by bringing it into a physical space. I pitched the idea of three black pillars, each one holding a vintage monitor alluding to the earliest days of the tech space. These props would permit unique interactions between the different interview subjects and a physicality to the camera.

Production

Pillars were custom built and brought to YC's iconic Mountain View office. Because of COVID restrictions, I was a crew of one on the shoot. Since I wanted to retain flexibility in the edit, the monitors used a green screen that would be replaced later. It made the shoot really simple, but would make post-production much more labor intensive.

Post

The interview edit, titles and additional graphics were then placed into the live action footage. All 47 shots required tracking and compositing. To pair with the vintage monitors and to contrast the slick dolly shots, I threw in a few shots that were meant to resemble an old, handheld VHS-style camera. Process shown below.

FUTURE Content Strategy

After completing these one-off videos for YC, I conceptualized a larger programming strategy to help educate potential founders and promote entrepreneurship. These series would add a consistency to their content and reduce production costs due to its repeatable formats.

There are stories to be told

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zach@zachboth.com