Apple's exceptional WWDC 2020 keynote should be a model for future shows

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Apple didn't want to hold this year's WWDC keynote completely online, but when forced into it, the company did an exceptional job -- and so much so that it will be a shame if the 2021 WWDC reverts to a live show.

Tim Cook at WWDC 2020
Tim Cook at WWDC 2020


Forget everything Apple actually said in the WWDC 2020 opening keynote presentation about iOS 14, and macOS Big Sur, and just look at how they said it. The video presentation was extraordinarily well done, and while Apple has not named the writers, producers, directors, or crews of the presentation video, you can bet they are in demand now.

And you can hope that they're having a day off. This was an exceptional production, and that's in every area from technical to editorial. The decision to open with Tim Cook taking a seat to talk to us as the Steve Jobs Theater lay clearly empty, was precisely right.

It owned the problem of there being no audience because of the coronavirus, it faced the issue that another firm, another video team, in or out of the technology industry, might have tried to hide. That opening grounded Apple's presentation, let it talk about serious issues affecting us all, and then having discussed them, that opening let Apple move on.

From a somber and serious start, Apple was then able to boom forward into what it conveyed very well was a torrent of announcements. It had the space to let Kevin Lynch literally dance about the Apple Watch, it had room for Craig Federighi to make a joke about social distancing, but it didn't stumble at either.






This may be the first time all of these people have been filmed for a presentation, and yet compare it to how late-night talk hosts are still struggling after weeks of lockdown shows. It is very, very hard to present to an absent audience, and every single one of Apple's presenters did it extremely well.

It would be interesting to know exactly what equipment was used, and not just from curiosity over whether it was all iPhone-based. Aside from a very few presenters -- perhaps only Kevin Lynch, and Beth Dakin, manager of the Safari Software Engineering team -- everyone did seem to be too obviously reading from teleprompters.

That sole criticism aside, though, this was truly an extraordinarily well-conceived and well-made video presentation. If you were too caught up in the actual announcements to notice, compare it to one of Apple's somewhat less successful attempts.






The trouble is that if we have never seen the like of this presentation before, we're probably not going to see its like again.

Apple will surely be reviewing how successful it was, and there cannot be any measure by which they conclude it failed. Yet if that would guarantee a sequel to any other production, we are hopefully, not going to be in a full coronavirus lockdown for WWDC 2021.

That fact alone is likely to mean that Apple will return to the buzz of a live auditorium, and the whooping of developers in the Steve Jobs Theater. It's also likely to return to the hands-on, in-person developer sessions throughout the week.

Then even though Apple famously practices and rehearses its presentations extensively, a live event is always quicker to make than a film. There were exactly 20 on-screen presenters, utilizing around 13 locations, and even if Apple used multiple crews, that still meant managing them all, producing them all.

Sometimes there would be cuts to other angles on a presenter that could've been done by having them shot by more than one camera. However, possibly those, and certainly every other change means a new filming set-up. Even with the camera in place, that still requires adjustments to it, rearranging lighting, and possibly rewiring sound before your presenter even says a word.

Four of the 20 WWDC presenters: (L-R) Andreas Wendker, Beth Dakin, Cindy Lin, Craig Federighi
Four of the 20 WWDC presenters: (L-R) Andreas Wendker, Beth Dakin, Cindy Lin, Craig Federighi


Any production requires this kind of work, but such a finely made film needs each element to be taken painstakingly carefully. And it would under any normal year.

This is no normal year, and while Apple ran no credits for the show, it did end with an extensively-detailed explanation of how the film was made under social distancing conditions.

So be under no illusion that this video was anything but expensive to make, and if a non-coronavirus production would be cheaper, it wouldn't be by much. Apple can clearly afford to spend whatever this budget was, and it clearly appreciates the value of doing it right.

Apple could do this again. Apple actually has many very good reasons to do all of this again. As we pointed out, this was simultaneously the least- and the best-attended WWDC ever. If they wanted to, every single developer on Earth could have the same ringside seat as every other one.

That means doing it online ends the old lottery system of who gets a ticket and who doesn't. It completely ends the travel costs for all of those people, pretty much every one of whom then faced high accommodation costs as local hotels raise their prices for the week.

If this were solely about Apple serving its developers, if it were just that direct relationship, the the online version with its video keynote and streaming sessions is the best the company can do. However, it also cuts out developers meeting with each other.

It entirely cuts out the social side of WWDC, and that's not just confined to who gets a pass into Apple Park. There's a whole side industry of developers who come to the area despite not having a ticket.

And then for Apple itself, beyond live adulation in Steve Jobs Theater for two hours, there is one big reason to go back to a live, in-person WWDC. It's possible that the streaming developer sessions turn out to be more effective than they seem, and we'll be talking to developers about that after the show is over. But surely nothing can compare to actually sitting next to an Apple engineer as you try out the new technologies.

Assuming, then, that Apple wants to go back to having developers attend its WWDC week, it is unlikely to sit them down in the Steve Jobs Theater and play a 2-hour movie at them.

Apple's WWDC 2021 may be different to previous conferences, but it's going to go back to the live keynote presentation. You can't blame them, you would surely do the same thing, but this video was so exquisitely well done that you also can't help but hope they'll do it online again.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    looplessloopless Posts: 216member
    The keynote was amazingly, suprisingly good - and sets the bar very high for any company. And no-one was sitting at home with shaggy hair and in their PJ's as all the celebrities pretend they are doing ( when you know they are out and about).

    randominternetpersondewmelollivercat52jony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 19
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,471member
    I disagree completely. I think there should be a live show as in the past. The fact that tech bloggers and others don't care about presentation, drumming up excitement in a live audience is fun to watch. This attitude of just-the facts and nothing more is actually disgusting to me. Every year, after every WWDC keynote, the usual crowd comes in here to state how boring it was, how Phil Schiller looks and Craig talks. You people despise emotion, happiness, fun, and joie de vivre. It's tell us how fast the CPU is and don't smile.
    OnPartyBusiness
  • Reply 3 of 19
    drhamaddrhamad Posts: 29member
    No, no it shouldn't.  It was an infomercial, plain and simple.  There's always some of that to a Keynote... it's obviously basically an advertisement... but the live keynotes have emotion to them.  This was nothing more than an infomercial.  It was slick, included a lot of information... and I might as well just read a press release.  There was no reason what-so-ever to actually watch it.  The reason you watch is to get sucked in, and this did none of that.
    OnPartyBusiness
  • Reply 4 of 19
    drhamad said:
    No, no it shouldn't.  It was an infomercial, plain and simple.  There's always some of that to a Keynote... it's obviously basically an advertisement... but the live keynotes have emotion to them.  This was nothing more than an infomercial.  It was slick, included a lot of information... and I might as well just read a press release.  There was no reason what-so-ever to actually watch it.  The reason you watch is to get sucked in, and this did none of that.
    Completely disagree.  I showed my non-techie wife a few minutes of the presentation and then went back to my office to watch the rest.  That evening she told me that she tuned into the rest of the presentation and found it very interesting (even though she didn't understand all the nuances of the Apple Silicon stuff).  So at least one person was "sucked in."
    StrangeDaysJWSClollivercat52jdb8167bikerdudejony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 19
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,531member
    I miss the live audience, the suspense, the hype.

    After the Foundation was anounced that "Wow!" the lady said in a dead quiet room kinda killed the moment where an audience cheering would have been a great transition.
    OnPartyBusiness
  • Reply 6 of 19
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,583member
    drhamad said:
    No, no it shouldn't.  It was an infomercial, plain and simple.  There's always some of that to a Keynote... it's obviously basically an advertisement... but the live keynotes have emotion to them.  This was nothing more than an infomercial.  It was slick, included a lot of information... and I might as well just read a press release.  There was no reason what-so-ever to actually watch it.  The reason you watch is to get sucked in, and this did none of that.
    Nonsense. It's a general keynote for a technical-minded conference. It did its job very well. You're probably looking to be entertained or something, which isn't the purpose of WWDC. As a developer, I found it very exciting.
    lolliverjdb8167fastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 19
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,583member
    I'm not sure they should go without audiences in the future, when the pandemic is dealt with. Having the audience there adds excitement and helps Apple gauge natural reactions to the announcements. 
    lolliverfastasleepOnPartyBusinesswatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 19
    M68000M68000 Posts: 367member
    It was a great presentation.  I think Tim Cook has upped his game.  He looked at talked like a leader.  All that said,  a remote presentation should not replace a hall of great fans and developers and the interaction with them.  How about a live Q and A session too...  ?
    JWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 19
    I really like the new format.  Nice not to have to listen to all of the wooooo's ;)
    Japheyfastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 19
    Why not both? I think both. Present live and as well, also produce the filming of that professionally, augmenting it with prerecorded content that sets this to the higher bar that this year’s online only set.
    dewmejdb8167jony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 19
    AlgerAlger Posts: 29member
    I'm a photo-shoot producer and art director.  This was, by far, the best Apple keynote presentation I've ever watched, despite that it was very tech-news heavy.  Sure, it was an "infomercial", but it was at least honest about that, and totally enjoyable. TBH, the live-audience shows get a little cheesy with the dramatic pauses, the orchestrated whooping and overdone applause.  I even enjoyed the more technical parts that I barely understood.  The production was impeccable, perfectly directed, edited, photographed, scripted and art directed, obviously done by the very best people in the business.  Kudos to Apple for clearly giving free rein for these professionals to do what they do best.
    lolliverjdb8167fastasleepjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 19
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,730member
    This was a great one. Personally I’d like to see Apple go to an online WWDC from now on. No technical glitches for the sawdust croud to hoot and holler over. More to the point. And most importantly, more developers can get involved at less cost. That will help the small developers the most. I mean not just the keynote, the whole conference should be done like this from now on.

    And let’s be honest, most of the reporters who fill up the hall Cheer and clap, and then repeat Apple’s press releases anyway, at least until they can get their hands on the new toys to test. 
    edited June 2020 lollivercat52jony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 19
    Over the past 15 years or so, Apple has come to be regarded as the gold-standard with respect to live tech presentations. To watch their online WWDC keynote this year was a true pleasure; multi-cam views of the presenters, slick graphics, time-lapse transitions between locations, and other technical elements really made this presentation informative, polished, and engaging.

    Respect to the team that put it all together; it was surely no small feat. 
    lollivercat52jony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 19
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,635member
    Beats said:
    I miss the live audience, the suspense, the hype.

    After the Foundation was anounced that "Wow!" the lady said in a dead quiet room kinda killed the moment where an audience cheering would have been a great transition.

    Apple should make Facetime Crowd each watcher has a voice only channel that only pick up loud responses. Clapping, chearing and such.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 19
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,824member
    The keynote was exceptionally well done. In fact, the production quality and technical precision of every video presentation I’ve watched so far has been outstanding. Sure, there is something lost for all of those who are used to attending the live conference. The trade off is a less socially immersive experience for the 5000-ish who are lucky enough to be able to attend in person for the many millions who are now enjoying having accessibility to one of the highest quality technical training catalogs for Apple technology created to-date. The fact that Apple was able to pull this off over a very short period of time is amazing.

    Of course this begs the question of what happens when social distancing concerns are no longer in effect. There is a lot of value in the planned and unplanned social interactions that take place when you put a lot of smart people with diverse backgrounds and experiences in close proximity. I really don’t know, but I trust that Apple and its leaders will come up with some innovative ways to make sure that all of the benefits of live interactions are not lost. If they can brilliantly pull off a virtual WWDC under such a severe time crunch there’s no telling what they can do with a little longer runway to play with.




    paulalexwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 19
    pdbreskepdbreske Posts: 45member
    While flashy and well executed, the biggest takeaway for me was the lack of spontaneity. Seeing these people up close, as opposed to seeing them on a stage, means we get to read their eyes and emotions (or lack thereof) much closer, plus we can clearly see them reading from a teleprompter. When they are presenting on a stage, the prompters are down in front, not next to the camera, so their occasional glances down seem more natural than watching their eyes scanning every written word. 

    Also, watching this event really drove home the reality of the pandemic. Instead of being new and fresh, it just made me sad to know that the coronavirus has changed (maybe forever) the way we interact as a group. Instead of taking my mind off the pandemic, it focused my attention on the way we do things as a result of it. 
    retrogustowatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 19
    I enjoyed the presentation, and though sometimes a bit too hypee, it moved well. I liked most of the transitions and really enjoyed seeing some of the lesser viewed parts of the complex. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 19
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 5,691member
    I have no doubt we'll go back to the crowds, but this was exceptionally well done and I am still in awe of how much they crammed into just under 2 hours. I was expecting something much more sterile and slow and boring and it was none of those things. I cannot think of a previous keynote that I actually kinda want to go rewatch all over again (and the PSotU as well was equally good!). A+++++ work by all involved.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 19
    multimediamultimedia Posts: 951member
    I loved it. Moreover if you think this Covid-19 crisis will be over by next June I think you are fooling yourself. I believe this Covid-19 problem will be with us through all of next year. It will need to be online next year as well. I prefer this way of holding the WWDC.
    DAalsethfastasleepwatto_cobra
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