By Megan McCarthy
"I thought all these egos would be bouncing off of each other," said Marianne from Treasure Island, "but this has been so warm and supportive. It's not about awards, it's more about celebrating new technologies." She was referring to the Vloggies, held Saturday night at the Swedish American Hall, and she was right about the atmosphere.
Going into this videoblog award show, I braced myself for an evening of cinematic navel-gazing, expecting clip after clip of disembodied faces staring into the camera, focused on their own reflection in the lens instead of communicating to an audience. I was pleasantly surprised. To me, the Vloggies clearly illustrated the varied world of internet video and, in a way, brought rationality to a medium easily construed as ridiculous.
On the other hand, Marianne was dressed as a fluffy yellow duck.
In a sign of the vlogosphere's influence, actual famous people attended the show. Jerry Zucker, creator of Airplane! and The Naked Gun opened the night with a great speech (recorded here) about the beginning of his moviemaking career, drawing parallels to the world of vlogging. Daniel McVicar from The Bold and the Beautiful (and the McVlog) and Irina Slutsky from the vlog Geek Entertainment Television (who also organized the event for podcast company PodTech) very capably co-hosted the red-carpet affair.
The usual group of internet celebrities showed up in support, including Scoble Show namesake Robert Scoble and Diggnation vlogger (and digg.com founder) Kevin Rose. Conspicuously absent from the ceremony were a few familiar Vlogerati, like ex-Rocketboom queen Amanda Cogdon and Favorite Male Vlogger Ze Frank (who sent Marianne the duck in his stead).
Alive in Baghdad was the big winner. This fantastic site - which takes a look at daily life in a war zone through interviews with Iraqi citizens - won a total of 7 Vloggies, including Judges' Favorite Vlog. Along with Josh Wolf, People's Choice winner for Favorite Male Vlogger, Alive in Baghdad demonstrates the capacity for internet videos to go beyond entertainment into true journalistic inquiry. In honor of its win, the Intel Corporation presented vlogger Brian Conley with a scant $2,000. It was enough to fund one Intel Core2Duo laptop, true, but the ridiculous size of the novelty check made the donation look meager in comparison. Given the state of the Iraqi power supply, I hope that Intel can cough up, at the very least, a solar battery charger and satellite internet connection, and throw in a couple flak jackets for the journalists.
Slight snafus haunted the night. The audio went out on Ze Frank's taped acceptance speech and the dubbing was delayed all night, making every video look like a 1970s kung-fu movie. Patrons at the open bar talked over Brian Conley's moving speech, and an overabundance of hungry party guests picked over scant appetizers at the afterparty at Café du Nord. On the whole, however, the hosts and presenters kept the show moving and the crowd entertained. One person at the mike even offered to tap dance for the audience when a clip refused to play.
One thing that struck me as odd: Andrew Baron, the producer of Rocketboom, accepted the Judge's Favorite News Vlog with a dark-haired beauty by his side - curiously, Rocketboom host Joanne Colan was back in New York working on some "TV stuff." Baron won the Ego Prize of the night for invoking Woody Allen in a condescending speech that managed to accept the honor while assuring the audience that he was really superior to all this nerdy stuff. Later on, he continued his pissing contest with Ze Frank by pretending to vanquish Marianne the duck in a tasteless photo op.
Valleywag party score: This event's ready for its close-up.