With more than 100 speakers over five days, attending TED conferences can be an emotional roller coaster ride, as attendees flit from talks on virtual reality to racial prejudice, climate change to Google art, incarceration to drones. TED uses brief videos in between talks to reset the mood and help attendees battle mental fatigue.
The videos at the 2016 TED conference in Vancouver ranged from funny ads to music videos to short films, judiciously deployed as amuse-bouche or palette cleansers throughout the rich speaker program, much like Super Bowl commercials for the brainy set. For instance, stirring vignettes from the film Human, Yann Arthus Bertrand’s three-hour opus on the human condition, threaded through one session, broadcast on three giant screens on the main stage.
“The misconception is that the videos always need to be funny,” explains TED’s media archivist Anyssa Samari, who collects these special clips year round. “Sometimes you just need something to clear your mind,” she says to Quartz.
In a repeat of a last year’s video roundup, here’s a selection of some of the best interstitial videos shown this year, created by some of the world’s top creative talent.
Wow me with science
Jokingly described by TED curator Chris Anderson as “the best ever use of a Russian airline,” American pop sensation OK Go’s newest music video for their song “Upside Down & Inside Out” was shot in zero gravity.
This mesmerizing montage by a Dutch film editor was pieced together with footage from two NASA space expeditions.
Puzzles and word play
This charming commercial for the board game Scrabble uses clever anagrams to tell a love story.
Singer Son Lux’s stunning 4,000 frame stop-motion music video was painstakingly made with 200 push pins and 500 yards of thread.
A dose of reality
This delightful short depicts a jaded, world-weary photographer’s losing a battle against a kid’s relentless cheerfulness.
Emmy-nominated comedian Daniel Koren ruminates on the quotidian details of his daily life on the streets of New York.
The creative spark
Created by the award-winning Amsterdam-based film and design studio Mr. Boonstra, this video shows what follows the first spark of inspiration for a new business.
This cinematic video for the Pharrell Williams song “Freedom“ won the Grammy Award for best music video a few days before the start of the conference. It primed the audience for one of the most anticipated talks: Bhutan’s charismatic prime minister Tshering Tobgay speaking about his country’s quest to remain carbon-neutral.
TED conference organizers have carefully studied audience attention spans ever since its founding in 1984. (TED’s founder, architect Richard Saul Wurman, famously interrupted boring, long-winded speakers and coaxed them off the stage.) The video mini-breaks are designed to sustain attention, much like the conference’s longstanding “18-minute or less” talk format and the more recent ban on the use of mobile phones and laptops in auditoriums.