When we volunteered to produce the promo video for TEDxBirmingham, we knew it would not be an easy feat. Tasked with the job to “Rediscover the Magic” of the great Magic City, our team of students and administrators set out to capture the true spirit of this ‘little big city.’

TED’s tagline is “ideas worth sharing,” and we wanted our video to convey just that. We had to ask- what is it about Birmingham that we can share with the world? When most people think of this southern town, they think of the 1960s. They think of a city whose true potential was never reached because its past was divided by color lines.  But for those of us who live in modern-day Birmingham, we are seeing a city that is changing for the better day by day. There is growing localist and community-first movement happening in this town and that’s exactly what we set out to show with this project. Here’s how we made it happen…


Our first meeting with the TEDxBirmingham organizers happened in late October. After viewing previous TEDx videos from around the country, we began creating a vision board on our Google Drive. Brainstorming sessions involved everything from discussing color tones to types of music we felt would be best. From watching art videos to scribbling key words on a giant white board, we began to develop a sense of what we wanted this project to become.

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The key component of this project was getting the perfect voice to pen the poem we wanted to base our video around. Rosie O’Beirne knew that there was only one man in town best suited for the job- local spoken word artist Sharrif Simmons. Within one week of meeting, Sharrif had written a near-perfect piece for us. His words served as the guiding structure for knowing the kind of footage we needed to get. Sharrif collaborated with our in-house musician Kevin Peek to record the poem in our sound lab.  From there Kevin set off to compose a piece that would really shape the tone of our entire video.

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One thing that really made this projecting interesting was just how many people were able to collaborate on creating it, especially the visual portion. Matt Drummond served as our primary videographer while Ryan Meyer, Daniel Twieg and Chris Humphries also went out to capture some great footage. In the TEDx spirit, we reached out to local videographers Kinora Films, Franks Global Media, IronTribe Fitness and our own Scott Thigpen who all graciously let us borrow their already fantastic footage of the Magic City.

When you have three videographers, all of whom are students in the midst of their finals week, the most integral part of a successful shoot becomes organizing a cohesive shooting schedule. Under the creative guidance of Anna Lloyd Franks, we knew when a videographer was in that day, where we needed them to be and what shots we needed them to get. This schedule allowed us to gather up as much footage as we possibly could. Armed with a 5D and a glide cam in hand, these guys never let us down when it came to capturing the perfect shot.

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Editing for us fell right during the holiday break, so our team worked hard (even on their off days) to string together all the right pieces. We had gathered SO much footage in two weeks, it was difficult to narrow down just what we needed. It was during editing that we learned the most difficult part of any video project is letting go of your favorite pieces.

We modified our usual editing workflow for this project. Rather than using a traditional storyboarding method, we used Kevin’s music and Sharrif’s words to guide us in creating a series of beautiful moments to show.

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Well this is isn’t so much the end as much as the beginning, is it? We were happy when Matthew Hamilton, an organizer of TEDxBirmingham, told us he could not stop watching the video. Once the video premiered we were blown away by everyone’s reactions. This project showed us that everything is better in teams, hard work does pay off, and Birmingham really is ready to “Rediscover the Magic.”