It has been a rapid rise for Dom Smith to become the Lead Video Editor for F1 Digital, a role he took on last year.
The 28-year-old Manxman joined the F1 digital team in a full-time capacity in 2017 after gaining experience at Biggin Hill in 2016. He previously worked with Greenlight Television on his home island, the Isle of Man.
In MotorLat's exclusive interview with Smith, we discuss how he fell in love with F1, his passion for editing, how videos are planned and created, the growth of the sport thanks to Drive to Survive, a nice personal story involving Sebastian Vettel and more.
If you want to follow Smith on Twitter, click this link.
Who got you into F1 as a child?
''It was my dad who got me into F1 - I remember him talking about it on walks, and I'd be asking him for updates on who had won the races so far! In a way it's probably my sister too, because on her birthday back in 2003, I wasn't interested in playing with her and her friends, so instead sat down with my dad and watched my first race, Brazil 2003! No surprise that chaotic race got me hooked, haha!''
You recently posted a photo on Twitter of you showing your DVD edits of races from the days of ITV coverage. Is that when the passion for editing started?
''Editing didn't actually cross my mind for another five years after that. I only found myself doing it back in 2004 because I loved watching the full F1 races back, and because it was impossible to fit multiple races into just one or two DVD's, I used this software my dad had that allowed me to cut down races and fit them into a couple of DVDs. But I do find it funny that that's exactly what I do now, but just for social platforms!''
Did you ever have any interest in presenting or has editing always been your preferred choice?
''I had a lot more confidence as a kid so there are a fair few family videos of me presenting or acting, but as I got older I lost all of that confidence and found myself behind the camera instead, and usually locked up in an edit suite by myself somewhere! I definitely prefer editing over any other media role though, so I'm very happy where I'm at!''
Tell us about your journey before joining the F1 digital team. What roles did you have?
''While I was finishing college, I got the chance to join Greenlight Television back home in the Isle of Man which, was great fun and an amazing experience! I learned so much from the people who worked there, and I'd find myself traveling around the world, filming motorbikes in Northern Ireland, powerboats in Malaysia or dragsters in England. Other than that I only really had other experiences at University, editing for the Liverpool Sound City festival, making music videos for the Label Recordings, and then working as a runner for the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year in 2012!''
You posted a Kimi Räikkönen tribute on YouTube in 2013, and it has amassed almost 700,000 views. Was that video part of the reason you were interviewed by F1 for a position at Biggin Hill, as well as what you discussed in the previous question?
''I remember sending a tweet out to an editor of BBCF1 during university, asking him for any advice on how to get in somewhere like BBCF1, and he came back with a very nice response sending me a few tips to try out to get my foot in the door. It was then about a couple of years later that he messaged me out of the blue, asking if I'd be interested in doing a week's work experience at FOM, of which he had now joined. I did send him the Kimi Raikkonen tribute video as part of my showreel, which I guess he must have thought was OK, because I was soon flying over to Biggin Hill to spend some time with the team in 2016, before being offered a full-time job in 2017!''
You joined in 2017 as Digital Media Video Editor. How did it feel when your first video got posted on one of F1's accounts? Can you remember it?
''I think it might have been a video of Felipe Massa previewing the Austrian Grand Prix, and getting to share that on my social channels was a very cool moment for me! I was just a super fan getting to make videos of the sport I'd followed all my life, and it was all very surreal for the first several months of working here!''
Last year you became the Lead Video Editor for F1 Digital. How did you feel when you were asked and how much are you enjoying the role?
''It was a cool moment for sure, but the actual title of my role was something I never really cared much about. It was nice having the extra responsibilities though, and it was also very cool to be able to tell my family of my new job title, because I guess that could make them proud! With the new title, I have gotten to understand more of content better, help various other editors where required and even being around to train up any new staff are all nice additions to what is an already very enjoyable role!''
Your race highlight edits from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year have already reached the top 10 for most-watched videos on the F1 channel on YouTube. Is it still a surreal feeling to get so many views?
''I don't know why, but YouTube views have always been something I love to keep an eye on, and seeing a video do so well definitely gives me a nice feeling! Even though in pretty much all cases, the total view count has nothing to do with me being the one to have edited them. I do try to make every single edit to the best possible standard, and a quick turnaround has always been something I seem to be good at, which I guess helps it gain that little bit extra in the view count as it's relevant for even longer. I think my most viewed video currently has about 26 million, but again that's probably more down to the thumbnail than it is to my edit, or moments selection!''
What's the feeling like on race weekends when you have to quickly edit a free practice, qualifying or race highlights video for YouTube?
''I love it - the race weekends are the best part of work for me. Getting to do what I love, while also following the sport I love is way too much fun! We always try to be as quick as we can, but then we also need to make sure we're getting it right, and telling the right story!''
Describe to us the steps that go into making a video, like Top 10 Moments of Brilliance. Is it very much a team effort?
''A team of writers and producers will put together a list based off research and knowledge, and then once a script is written, that's given to the editor to start creating an edit for, while the voice-over artist does their magic and records a piece of voice for the editor. The editor will tend to spend a few days on it, compiling all the footage from our archive before piecing it altogether. Any graphics that are required will be put together by our graphics operator as and when required. Once the editor is happy with their cut, a lead producer for that piece will then watch, feedback and approve any final version for it to go up online!''
The F1 digital team has come up with some amazing ideas in recent years, such as Radio Rewind, Top 10 Moments of Brilliance, 5 Shocking Moments and more. Have you got a particular favourite?
''I'm very biased here, but for me it has to be Radio Rewind! It was a little idea I had a few years ago, to let viewers hear a whole bunch of archive radio for the first time, and each episode that has gone up so far seems to have done well! I'm also actually in the process of trying to bring back lots of little gems from the 2000s that could make for some very exciting episodes in the future!''
Drive to Survive has been a huge shot in the arm for the sport, boosting its popularity massively in the United States and around the world. How important do you think it has been?
''Yeah, it's been massive, and amazing for the business! I've seen so many people come through to the sport because of Drive to Survive, and it's amazing to see F1's popularity so high right now. Back in school I was the only person who seemed to care about Formula 1, yet now I'll be on a train somewhere and there'll be someone sat opposite me playing F1 videos or talking about a driver to their friends!''
As well as DTS, F1 has massively embraced social media over the last five years or so and the growth has been massive. How much do we owe to Liberty Media for that?
''Liberty Media have been amazing. They give us so much freedom to make the content we want, and are always pushing us to make more and more videos!''
Who's the nicest driver you've worked with in the sport so far?
''I've not actually worked with too many drivers, because I tend to be based more at Biggin Hill than the track, but of those I have worked with, Sebastian Vettel has been the best to work with! I was shooting Grill the Grid with him back in Italy 2019, and as shy as I was, Seb was looking at me, making jokes, and making me feel so much more at ease! Because I was so socially anxious, I remember being so shy and when I called Charles by his surname, Sebastian turned to me, started to joke about it and called me "Mr. Smith" back, which again was a very surreal moment!''
If you were to give advice to any aspiring video editors, whether it be for F1 or another industry, what would you say to them?
''Just keep creating edits, no matter how many times your videos get removed for copyright! (I'm not sure I should be saying this. haha!). I had far too many videos taken down from my YouTube channels growing up, but the ones that stayed up I was able to share to those within F1 and likely helped get me where I am today. Look up YouTube tutorials to help your progress, or try new tricks from playing around with the different software!''
Lastly, how intense was 2021 because of the title fight? And any brave predictions for the 2022 season?
''2021 was insane, but in a good way. I had so much fun turning up to work every day knowing just how epic the title fight was. Getting to sit with a great bunch of people, all working on the race is a brilliant feeling, and something I don't think I'll ever get tired of! For 2022, I think Hamilton will definitely get that eighth title, but I also reckon we will see wins for Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso!''