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Sheffield Adventure Film Festival – making the digital platform part of the production

We’re really honoured to have the working partnership we do with the team at ShAFF. The origins of BoomBeam lie in helping them make the voting for their film awards much better. In 2015 we developed a voting app that helped make the voting for their film awards a much better part of the festival experience. In 2016 we developed a complete digital platform for the festival (and created the foundations of what became BoomBeam in the process).

It’s impossible to list everything we learned about the needs of a live festival environment through working on the project (and anyway we’ve built most of it into BoomBeam rather than writing a list) but a few things really stick in our minds.

Things happen fast so the platform needs to respond fast as well

From the festival kicking off to the final screenings there was constantly stuff going on that could be promoted or amplified by the digital platform. The platform is designed to automatically bring the latest events and screenings to the top of the programme but in addition to this we made sure someone was on hand ‘driving’ the platform and making sure that new content was being added ‘live’ from the festival and that news and messages were relevant to what was going on ‘on the ground’. The platform makes it really easy to add content and deploy it as required across the platform to enable this realtime reflection of the festival experience.

Digital platforms don’t exist in a vacuum

One of our insights from previous years had been around making the most of using the digital platform to promote the festival and the festival to promote people interacting with the digital platform. The mechanics of voting created a great additional touchpoint in the festival which required volunteers to interact with festival goers to encourage them to vote, often leading to them sharing more information and recommendations about how they could get more from their festival experience. We’d also worked with ShAFF organisers to make sure that the voting and the platform were promoted via trailers at every screening. We reckon there’s an opportunity for festivals to build on this even more and increase audience participation further. The voting and awards really means something to filmmakers who’ve sweated blood over their films and using the voting platform as a reason to create an emotional connection between filmmaker and voter could be a really powerful way of connecting these groups.

The basics are really important to people

Being out and about around the festival helped us see how simple things can really make a difference. The platform helps make sure people get the right information about screenings and events at the right time for them. But it was interesting to see how making sure basic information like how to get to a venue, where to collect tickets etc could make things even easier for people in the midst of their festival experience.

Data is content

The primary purpose of the voting data is to discover which film is worthy of the coveted People’s Choice Award. But we’re really excited about the prospect of using the voting data to enhance the live festival experience. We began to explore this by live tweeting hints around the results and how different genres were performing into the festival’s social streams and onto the physical public screens at the festival etc. We think there’s lots of opportunity in the future for festivals to explore how people voting and sharing their views on films can create live content that enhances the realtime festival experience and helps to make the audience feel like a participant in the festival not just a viewer.

We love the buzz of ShAFF and feel really proud to be part of making it a success.

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