Royal College of Art

The Grand Challenge 2020/21

Each year the Royal College of Art's School of Design runs the Grand Challenge, an opportunity for their students to collaborate in interdisciplinary teams and address truly global challenges. NextShoot were commissioned to produce a range of films documenting the students’ work, interviewing them and capturing their progress, working in new and very unorthodox times.

For 2020/21 the theme was Design for Safety. The students were given just over four weeks to develop design responses that explore, challenge or improve design practice and the results were truly inspiring.

The teams tackled subjects under one of seven sub-themes: Leadership, Care, Next Generation Interaction, Futures, Truth, Health and Resilience.

One team from each sub-theme was then shortlisted to present their concept to a panel of judges. NextShoot were asked to help both students and academics create a series of videos to draw attention to the process, highlight some of the creativity and thinking, and reinforce the RCA's reputation as the leading design school in the world.
The pandemic of 2020-21 defined what was possible in terms of filming. Government protocols made filming any tutors or students extremely difficult, and many of the students had returned home and were working across the globe from California to China and most places in between.

The decision was taken to conduct all interviews remotely via Zoom. While this would affect the quality of camera and lighting that we normally work with, it was the simplest way to capture the video content required.

NextShoot would direct the interviews and capture the material which would then be edited into a series of films for Social Media and other online use.
RCA Grand Challenge 2020-21 RCA Grand Challenge 2020-21
RCA Grand Challenge 2020-21 RCA Grand Challenge 2020-21
From the 81 teams participating in the 2020/21 Grand Challenge, we worked with academic staff in the RCA’s School of Design to identify one team from each of the seven categories. A spokesperson for each team who would be our main contact for the interview and managing the process was then selected

This ensured we would get a broad sense of the difficulties the students faced in The Grand Challenge, but would also consider the issues that each of the specific themes sought to address.

Each team spokesperson was also responsible for gathering and collating assets for use in the videos. These took various forms: short snippets of video, screen grabs of online collaboration like Miro and WhatsApp, and notes, drawings and renders of proposed products and solutions.

It was decided to create three videos. The first would introduce the Grand Challenge and the selected teams. The second would look at the seven finalists selected by the judges. The third would look at the overall winners in more detail.
We drafted a very clear and concise guide to help both students and tutors look their best on screen. This included advice on settings to get the best quality video, framing of the subject, keeping a level eyeline, and best practice in terms of lighting and audio capture.

We used an online scheduling tool where interviewees could book an hour slot. NextShoot would then conduct the interview and manage any other details like the provision of visual assets for inclusion in the films.

In addition to the students, we also interviewed their tutors in order to get their take on the issues being addressed and to discuss the students’ response to the challenges of working remotely and their response to some very new and unique circumstances. This approach also gave us a more formal structure for the editing.
RCA Grand Challenge 2020-21 RCA Grand Challenge 2020-21
RCA Grand Challenge 2020-21 RCA Grand Challenge 2020-21
The Grand Challenge was as much about the challenges of working together online across time zones and great distances as addressing the issues raised and coming up with imaginative and viable solutions.

Each interview was cut down to a brief explanation of the project and a few choice quotes about the experience. Each project was then illustrated with video, screen capture and images to bring the story to life.

In addition to the three main videos, NextShoot also supplied shorter content for use on the RCA’s social media channels.

Since Spring 2020 NextShoot have worked with many of our existing clients and new ones to help them produce video content while working around various restrictions in their offices and those of partners and clients, and taking account of new working practices. This has included producing and directing clients remotely using Zoom, Teams and other screen recording software and managing the acquisition of material and the editing process. We’ve also been able to bring our creative experience to bear in terms of concepts and our usual high-quality infographics and 3D graphics.

In the event that we do film on location, your safety is our first priority. We keep crew sizes to an absolute minimum and have drafted our Covid-19 filming guidelines which you can find here.


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