Integrated Video & Photography Production in Advertising

By | 2017-08-10T12:11:52+00:00 August 10, 2017|Behind the Scenes, Innovation, Integrated Production, Technology, Viewpoints|

I recently spoke about Integrated Photography and Video Production at B&H Photo Video in New York City. The focus of this presentation is twofold: Great content is the result of a well-crafted story with purpose, and engaging content is created by a team of experts that flawlessly execute their portion of the project. Thanks for watching—let me know what you think in the comments.

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TRANSCRIPT

MICHAEL KAMINSKI: So, I’m here today to talk to you about video in advertising. The company that I work for is specifically pharma advertising, so there’ll be a little bit of a little bit of… a slant on that. What we would like the focus to be today is on integrated production and then hybrid video, and then, hybrid productions involving stills and video.

I’m going to give you a quick rundown of some of the interesting positions and experiences that I’ve had in my career that led me to creating video content today. They might seem disconnected and they might seem not related, but as I have the benefit of hindsight and looking back, I realize that each of these stops on my journey prepared me for being able to produce anything at this point—a Super Bowl commercial—it doesn’t even matter what comes our way—that we are able to take care of that.

I’ll try to explain why rigid prepress and scanning was a great foundation to create solution-based workflows and producing large-scale, multiparty projects, which is what I do now.

Why the limitations of VR and video streaming, and 3-pass digital cameras all taught us the virtues of patience. We’re going to talk about VR; that’s what everybody wants to talk about. We’re going to end with that today. The truth of the matter is, that we were doing VR in the ’90s, just nobody could watch it and nobody could see it because of bandwidth issues; same thing with video.

I’m going to tell you about my interpretation of integrated video. It’s been working for me very well for the last 12 years at JUICE.

There’s 2 things that I’d like you take away today, if you can:

  • Great video content is the result of a well-crafted story with purpose. Before you start shooting anything, make sure that you’ve checked that box off. If you don’t have an engaging story and there’s not a purpose for telling that story, it doesn’t matter what kind of team you get together, that video is going to fail.
  • Great video content is created by a team, and that’s very important, a team of experts that flawlessly execute their portion of the project. It’s a team effort, and that’s important to know if you’re going to do hybrid productions, and you’re going to do integrated production.

The best productions are executed flawlessly as a result of spot-on, don’t-miss-a-contingency preproduction. You’ll see with some of the things that we’re going to go through, and that includes the time to figure out what your story is, who your viewer is, and why they should care, and why they would want to watch it.

Video statistics, data, analytics, trends, forecasts—if you came to talk about this, you’re in the wrong place. This is—if you don’t know what’s going on with video, you’re not paying attention. I’ll just mention, just think of the money that Hulu, Netflix, and HBO are spending right now. If any of you commute on any public transportation system, just look around at your fellow commuters, they’re watching TV on their phones. The demand for content is overwhelming. There is video everywhere. It’s on your phone. It’s in the subways. It’s everywhere.

All right, so this is who I am. I’m the Director of Production at JUICE Pharma Worldwide, which is a privately owned company that I’ve been at for the last 12 years. Probably work for some of the most fantastic people in the universe over there. Within JUICE Pharma, they have allowed me to create the B12 Studio, which is an internal studio at the agency. It’s about 6 years old right now.

I also am a board member and a mentor for NYC SALT, which is a nonprofit. If anybody wants any more information about that after we’re done speaking, I’d be glad to talk to you about that.

And I’m also still a student, and I always will be a student, so we’ll talk about that as well.

Let’s talk about the path that got me to where I am now, producing video content for everything, banner ads, Super Bowl commercials. It’s unbelievable how much content that we create these days.

It started with a head-over-heels love of photography—that being a college student and a short-order cook on the weekends—just, couldn’t afford to do it. So, what I did was to buy film in bulk. I was loading my own canisters, I was processing my own film, but I wanted access to the bigger toys. I wanted access the science.

So, what I did was that I got a job—I worked in labs during the day processing films and working in the studio. So I was able to work with 8×10- and 4×5-view cameras. I was taught and mentored how to perfectly expose an 8×10 sheet of film and then cross-process it, reverse-process it, E6 process. I had the tightest Q-Lab/E-6 line on the East Coast for 5 years, something I’m very proud of.

So now I start getting exposed to the science. Now I start to get exposed to big studio work. I’d be—in the morning—in the studio with a guy who could light a car, and in the afternoon or that evening, I’d be printing big billboard-size prints of his. That’s already integrated production. You already have 3 processings there: the shooting, the developing, and then the printing. And you’ll see, we’re just going to keep building on that as we go through this.

So, it was photo labs by day, and then photographing concerts by night. This is what I was doing to support myself at the time. It was live music at night: shoot, process, contact sheets, print selects; and then we’d deliver to the publication or to the record company the next morning. You had to be standing there at 9 o’clock with your prints ready to give them, so they could get the images published. So, I learned a lot doing that.

This is just another shot from that time. And the funny thing about these is that they were all shot as chromes or negatives at the time—so these are pictures of pictures—which is kind of funny to think about that.

All right, so you might think that these are just eye candy and that I had the greatest job in the world. In many ways, it was. I mean, for years it was just standing in the first row for the first 3 songs with no flash, and it was amazing.

But the lessons that I learned at this stage are what prepared me to be able to run a 200- or a 300-person film crew. Because what you learned back then was about being superprepared like a Boy Scout. Everybody knows that’s a photographer. You go out to do your assignment, you better have everything that you need, double and triplicate of some of your equipment. You better have contingency plans for your contingency plans. That’s what this was all about. This was about arriving early. This was about scouting locations. This was about trying to get the guys to turn the lighting grid on just so you could see—all the things that you would do now to have a successful video production. It’s all the same basic building blocks.

One of the things that I find to be the most important about this point in my career which prepared me to be able to create video was that, I had to tell a succinct story to the viewer, to the user, to capture this concert in one frame. I had one frame to do that. Sometimes I only had 36 for the whole night to capture the show. But this is what allowed me to master integrated production; I didn’t even realize it until I was doing it later, years later.

Being able to choose one frame to tell a story about the concert was what allowed me to surgically dissect storyboards in preparation for shooting, because you have to dissect the boards with your creative team. You have to dissect the boards with your client to make sure that you can execute and shoot what they want to be in the final product. And how to succinctly tell that; sometimes you have 30 seconds, sometimes you have :60. These days you might have :15 to tell that story. So, that was a good training ground and I didn’t even know it at the time, it just happened to come back my way, afterwards.

All right, so now I’m processing film during the day, I’m shooting concerts at night. It’s really hard to film—it’s really hard to feed your family shooting concerts, I’ll tell you that right now; there’s no doubt about that. Most of the time you have to do it for free.

So, what I did was that I went into litho printing. It was a natural progression for me. All of my training, all of my laboratory-science training in RGB, processing film allowed me to be ready for CMYK for printing. It allowed me in my first year to be a scanner operator—to make separations and to get stuff on film. I had already worked with 4×5 and 8×10 film.

This is kind of fascinating. Here we go—integrated production—again different disciplines coming together. This was shot on 6×7 film. All the motion had to be done in-camera—there was no Photoshop back then. Then the chrome is scanned and made into 4-color separations, and then what you’re seeing here is a matchprint, right? A proofpress for printing on press. That’s why you see all the dots that make up 4-color printing.

And it’s ironic, right? Then I had to scan it and crop it in Photoshop to bring it into this presentation. So, it was funny, like things were really coming together at this point. I already had the photography background; I was already scanning; I was working on press. Then I moved on to the commercial presses, the 6-color presses.

There are 2 things that I learned here that prepared me for video production later on. One: how to work with a crew. On any given day, the crew for this press could be different. We were in financial printing; we worked 24/7/365. The place never turned off the lights, ever. It still hasn’t in probably the 20 years that it’s been there. But because of that, people worked overtime, they worked shifts, it was always different. You could come in on your shift and have a different lead pressman and, let me tell you, he did things differently than the guy the night before. The crew, some of the people you would never have met them before.

Now, fast-forward 20 years later, you walk onto a movie set; you might know the producer and the director, and you don’t know anybody else. But you’d better get to know them and you better figure out a way to work with them. So, this was really, really good training for that.

The other thing that this was really good training for, and it’s funny—this is all with hindsight, as I wrote this presentation. So, believe me, I didn’t connect the dots until I really had to think about it.

Safety, right? When you work in a pressroom like this, safety is paramount. You fall in the press, you’re dead. I’ve seen people lose their fingers, their hands. I’ve seen crazy stuff.

Fast-forward again 20 years, you go to any set, any good-run set, what’s the first thing they do before anybody goes anywhere? You have a safety speech, right, especially if you’re working with pyrotechnics, or 20K lights, or whatever it may be. So again, that was a good training ground for that.

So, this is it. This is the end of printing, right? So, here we are again, all of the disciplines coming together: integrating production, panoramic photography, all the scanning, and everything that we talked about before. But the one conversation I will never forget from this time, and again it’s ironic to look back on it, is I remember saying to my boss—because I’d work on the press during the day and I’d do this photography at night—and like I showed you before, we were trying to capture all that motion in-camera. So, I’ll never forget talking to him and saying, “Hey, you know, it’s very difficult to capture motion in-camera. You have to take all these frames. It’s too bad that we can’t just shoot video.” And I’ll never forget his response of the time, “Video is for TV.” That’s it. Video is just for TV. So, we all know that that’s not true anymore, so those boundaries have completely dissipated. They’re completely gone.

All right, so I left printing and I went to work for these 2 companies. The Chameleon Group was a design firm and Digipict was the first, one of the first digital photography studios in New York. So, Steven and Jeff, if you’re out there listening, thank you for mentoring me all those years ago.

This was the introduction to video. So, Sobe, they wanted QuickTime VRs of their vehicle fleet. They had buses, they had vans, they had these great party vehicles that they drove all over the country. They had these beautiful, diecast models of the trucks, and of the buses, and everything. And we told them, listen, we’ll just do it on a turntable, you want a 360°, a QuickTime VR. They insisted that we fly out to California—and that we move the bus 5° every time in a parking lot. And, they were beautiful! Imagine shooting 35mm, full-frame, and then stitching those together. You felt like you were either in the bus—we did interiors because they were all tricked out on the inside—and then we did the exteriors.

The problem was no one could watch them. In order to put a file up that was that big and retain clarity—it was dial-up—there was dial-up back then. VR started there.

The lessons that I learned working here was work your way backwards from the deliverable. Figure out what your deliverable is first and then see if the video asset or content that you’re going to create is appropriate for where it’s going to end up.

Same thing with Playboy, I worked for them. They created video—Christie saved the company by having subscription to video—spent more time learning about compression.

And who remembers the RealPlayer, right? There are pained looks out there. I saw you with that pained look. Working for them—just trying to figure out compression and dealing with the bandwidth at the time.

Same thing with Chopard, here’s a tangent for you. This is a great story. So, you see this watch? This is a $40,000 watch. The way that you would get this jewelry is that you’d go up to their offices in Rockefeller Center. They’d double-door you in, pressure doors, and you’d walk up to the counter and the receptionist would hand you a clear bag with a $40,000 watch in it. You’d put it in your pocket, get on the subway and go back to the studio. It was nuts. I thought everyone was looking at me with the watch in my pocket.

Anyway, the point of the story is that we shot these beautiful testimonials with their executives—and they were very involved in the Tour de France and everything—and again, the videos were beautiful, we shot them in the studio. Nobody saw them. Nobody could even wait for those little, tiny videos to download.

So, it was funny, you know, the technology was there, the cameras were there; I mean it was digibeta at the time. It was a mini DV and the Canons: the XL1s, the XL1Ss. And you could create great content but, again, there was nowhere to show it. And that’s what I’m trying to say is, like the difference between—this was only 20 years ago—and what you have now, you can push HD to people’s phones. So, it’s important to remember that working backwards from the platform that you have.

JUICE is an AOR, it’s an Agency of Record, meaning that when we take on a brand, that we create the marketing materials for all channels. This is the first time I’m talking about it today but it’s probably the most important thing that we do in advertising, is creating content for 12 channels.

This place is owned by 3 of the nicest people I’ve ever met. There’s really strong creative, and they have a really strong science foundation. I’m surrounded by people that are much smarter than me, so it’s great to execute their stuff. I’ve been there for 12 years and they’re going to have to wheel me out to get rid of me.

What I oversee as the Director of Production is all channels, and now, integrated production to serve all those channels. Under my umbrella in the production department, there’s print, which involves everything from retouching specialists to folks that build mechanicals in their sleep. And if anyone tells you that print is dead, you should laugh at them because print pays the bills, I’ll tell you that much. That’s a misconception.

There’s an interactive development department. There’s also a file prep department, which is important. And then we have postproduction and in the studio in which we create content: photography and video.

All right, B12. I’d be lying if I told you this wasn’t my favorite thing in the world. The agency allowed me to create a studio within the agency. As you can tell, in the winter we get bored. We need things to shoot on Saturdays, so stuff like this happens.

80% of what we do in the studio is internal for the agency. And that’s like doing proof of concepts, that’s comping stuff up, that’s getting a bunch of folks to put on doctors’ jackets and other folks to play patients. And then we do the internal communications, right. This was a promotion that this lovely woman got; and then we create this video, and then she introduces herself to the agency.

I’d say like 80% of the work is internal for the agency. 10% of the work that we do in the studio, because it’s such a tiny space, is for our clients. We’ll shoot portraits on white seamless, we’ll do talking head videos, again, only what we can do within that limited space. And then the other 10% that we do is that we give back. So, we use the studio as a vehicle to work with nonprofit companies and we’ll come back to that as well.

So we’ve talked a lot about integrated production, but what I’m going to tell you about now is the reality of the department that I’ve built over the last 12 years. It really consists of these 4 pillars. You have the print department, which encompasses a lot more than just print. You have interactive development, you have film and video. It’s funny, you can still use the film icon. Everyone knows what you mean, right? You can’t put a chip up there.

And then I put the VR goggles here to represent, not necessarily the VR goggles, but for us, that represents what’s next. That is the probably the most important cornerstone of our little quad here. We’ve got this down, I’ve got great people, I’ve got experts. I have people that I can rely on, that have my back. I’m not worried about that.

Where we spend a lot of our time is getting ahead of figuring out what’s next. So how are going to have to deliver video next? How are we going to have to deliver VR? We have to be ready for when our clients or our creative teams come to us and say, “Hey, I saw this on Kickstarter. Can we do it tomorrow?” We have to be ready for that, that’s important.

And this triad is very important, as well. Print folks can prep files for video, for photography. They can prep files for interactive, they can print stuff; they can’t go the other way. Digital folks have to advise the print folks how to set up their files to be pixel-perfect so that they can be executed in code. That’s their skill set. Digital, Programming, Strategy has to inform us about the weight limitations, about the frame rates, whatever it may be, so that they can incorporate the same video in an iPad, on a phone, on a website, in a kiosk, you know, any screen that is going to take the destination of that.

Some companies source some of this stuff out and they can. When I have a project or when I have something to do, representatives from each of these disciplines stand together, they speak and they create solutions. For me, that’s been very successful and I would be hard-pressed to work out of this model. I’ve tried every model you can possibly imagine: outsourcing 24 hours a day, outsourcing around the globe based on time. For me, for the last 12 years this has been insanely successful so it’s the methodology that I stand behind.

We were talking about giving back with the studio, so we’ll talk about that. You all know I’m a board member for NYC SALT. We advise the kids, we mentor them. We donate studio space. We’ve probably done 8 to 10 videos with them already—that the kids shoot and that the kids direct and the kids are the sound, they’re the audio, they’re the camera, they’re the DP, they’re changing the lights.

The studio allows us to work with folks like Hidden Warriors, which is an organization that takes women after they have gone through chemo and treatment for cancer, and they dress them up in these elaborate, elaborate costumes and headsets.

All right, the right tool for the job. This is so insanely important these days. I have a 650-square-foot studio that has continuous lighting and strobes—top-of-the-line Broncolors. Love them. But there are limitations in the studio. I can only go so high, I can only go so far away with my light. You have to know that.

And the reason I say that is because a lot of the stuff that I’ve shown you—we’ve teamed up with people on the outside. Really, this integrated production, this hybrid model, is about surrounding yourself with people that are stronger, faster, smarter, folks you can rely on. You have to build a team of experts. And that’s why I break this out into its own slide because I think it’s that important. You can’t do everything yourself in an agency. It’s really hard to keep people on staff. And you know—if you need a character animator and you’re only doing 2 or 3 jobs a year—you have to surround yourself with experts.

The last thing I’m going to leave you with about B12—which is also a good overview of not only the studio, but of JUICE as well. And, what this reel will show you is, integrated production and hybrid productions. It will also show you us teaming up with much larger production companies—that we don’t have the size, that we don’t have the internal staff to scale to. So, this is a great little piece, it’s about a minute and a half—that represents those 3 things that we’ve spoken about.

The purpose in creating this reel was threefold. It was to cement client confidence in our abilities, it was to attract talent, and more so than anything else, it was to convey the message that we are extremely lucky to get paid to work and execute our passions. And you know, I’ve received all the feedback and apparently, we hit on that. So it’s good, it worked.

All right, this is what everybody wants to talk about right?; stills and video, hybrid productions, video and stills, video and VR and projection mapping, blah, blah, blah, blah. We are so past the point of having to present solutions to create video and photography at the same time that you should, as a professional—if you are professional content creator—that you should have a solution in place already.

You should either be… maybe your team… I see a lot of husband-and-wife teams, they work well together. I see a lot of teams where people have surrounded themselves with experts, which is the model that we’ve been talking about the whole time. And then I see folks that try to do it all themselves and it doesn’t work.

This hybrid production thing, it’s almost nonsense at this point. What you should be asking yourself at the beginning of every project is, “How do I create once, and deploy many?” And I’ll just give you a little tiny example of how things… how the game has changed.

So, you’re set up, you’re in a field, you have your wide shot, you’ve got your Director of Photography set up, he’s got it framed; you’re shooting Panavision Super Wide, and you have a layout that you know that this wagon is going to come through this scene and some text is going to follow it. Okay, that’s great, so that’s your cinematic shot for your primary piece of content. But that content is going to end up in—it could be 6 to 8 more channels. It’s going to be a website, it’s going to be an iPad, it’s going to be a banner ad, it’s going to be a vertical banner ad, a horizontal banner ad. It’s going to be on the phone. It’s going to be on a convention screen. It’s going to be projected in a dome. It’s going to be projected on a building. I could go on.

You have to be able to supply the assets so that the hybrid production with integrated production can produce those assets to go out into all of those channels. And the only way to do that is to ask yourself this question before you start shooting or before you start the production.

So, for instance, we’re talking about that wide shot, right, a wagon comes through or a Jaguar, whatever, something comes through the frame. That might be great for your primary piece that’s going to be in broadcast or whatever it may be.

Now you have a vertical banner ad that’s going to be 800 pixels high by 600 pixels. The point has come in productions where that becomes part of the shot list. It’s not so much just punching into the 4K or the 6K, that you’re going to shoot on the red, and pulling out that piece of the frame—you may actually have to reframe your shot to satisfy the end product. You have to work backwards.

I have a broadcast spot, I have banners, I have this, I have that—those are all the considerations. It’s not about shooting stills and video, that ship sailed a long time ago. And again, there are solutions for that, right, teams, families.

The one thing that I would caution you against—how many photographers are in the room who want to go into video? All right, be very careful about selling yourself as a director if you have a reel of B-roll. You’re not a director if you haven’t directed people speaking to each other, dialogue, reading off prompters, trying to elicit emotion, trying to get someone to give a testimonial about the cancer that they’ve had, or somebody giving a testimonial about how much they love Raisin Bran more than anything in the world. Please don’t make that mistake.

I go to 4 to 6 portfolio reviews a year and every photographer can’t wait to come up to the table and show me their reel. I’m like, “Great, you have a beautiful eye. You have a great sense of composition, color, and you’ve added motion to it. But it’s not being a director.” So, I just had to throw that in, just something to think about.

This is probably the most important philosophy—it’s the one question that I ask when we start off a production: I ask question, after question, after question, because you can’t ask enough questions. And more than likely, your client may not even have thought about some of the potential channels that they could distribute their information to.

We talk about hybrid productions. This, for me, is the new standard. You want to do a hybrid production with the agency? I want people that can do video and photography, and integrate it with this. This is this is where everything’s going. There are CGI elements, there are special effects—every production is getting more and more sophisticated than the last.

So, it’s a two-step, right? Put your team together, put your solutions together, and when somebody comes to you to price out a job, or to ask you how to do that. Start to talk to people, start to make alliances that do photorealistic CGI because this gets integrated with live content. Lot of work is going there. For me, the hybrid production model aspect has taken on a whole new meaning.

All right, VR. How many folks have actually put the goggles on and experienced VR? How many folks liked it? Much less numbers, right. Creating content for VR—there is no trick, there’s no magic trick. You have $40,000 Nokia 16-lens cameras that if you want—I think it’s $80,000, $40,000 to rent for the day—and you can create some of the most beautiful content.

I’ve seen music videos done by Universal that are just stunning. And then there’s the stuff that I’m going to show you that we use. They are just these little prosumer cameras. They backup to each other, and they make panels, and they make these VRs.

What do you do with that stuff if you don’t have a story, right? VR is experiential. It’s great if you want to go travel somewhere, you want to go see the islands or you want to go inside of an ancient tomb. But as a storytelling vehicle, that’s where the challenge is for this. The technology is there. The user experience is something else that we’ll talk about but, that’s something that’s not quite there yet.

Very important when you’re talking about VR, is to make the distinction between 360° video and virtual reality. You want to create 360° videos first, and then create VRs. You never want to go the other way, because a 360° video can be played anywhere, pretty much on any device. A VR experience—although you can play the files online and hopefully that will work if they have the right plug-ins, and you can see that—but you can’t have the VR experience outside of the headset. You can have 360° video that stands alone, and you can incorporate 360° video there.

All right, same thing, 360° video is linear. Even though you’re in the goggles—or you’re having a VR experience and you can look around in 360° and do whatever you want—the filmmaker, the director, the production company, the creative controls that story.

When they’re in the goggles, the user has the ability to create their own adventure. And as VRs get more advanced—like there’s one that we’re working on right now where you’ll actually be able to be inside the body and you’ll be able to walk over and touch a tumor, and it’ll either open another experience or give you more information.

But they choose. So, they could go here and say, “Hey, I want to check out the tumor. Hey, I want to see how this drug works over here.” So, that, in VR, it’s the path of the story, right? When it’s just 360° video, sometimes it feels like the user is controlling it, but it’s really a linear story that you’re putting them through.

So, last year at Photoville, like I had mentioned, I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Alan. So, I was there with NYC SALT and we had a booth, we had a container, and besides the students’ photography that we were showing off, we also had a VR experience, and I’m going to show you that experience in the next slide.

360° video: watch on your desktop, drag a mouse, stand with your phone, do it with your iPad. VR: they have to be in the headset, and then you have to put headphones on, and then you have to be tethered, and then you have to have the battery charging and the phones charging at all times. And you have to have the wipes.

When we were at Photoville, 70,000 people came through. The lessons that we learned weren’t about the video content, it wasn’t about the story. What we learned was about the logistics. What we learned about was the user experience for folks to have that experience. It’s a lot. They’ve got to put on the goggles, they’ve got to be cleaned first, then they’ve got to put on the headphones. So, you really have to think about where your audience is going to be.

So, for 70,000 people coming through and for all these students lining up and grabbing it out of each other’s hands and wanting to be the next one, the user-experience lesson there was that maybe there needed to be more headsets, or it needed to be more a controlled environment.

This works really well in convention environments. The logical progression of VR—and we’ve seen some of them before, they’re called monochromatic domes, is instead of having the headsets and having all the tethering and the headphones, and all that stuff, you would experience the VR in a dome. So, it would be projected from the center out—be the same experience—is that you would just be physically turning, right?

And then the other thing to—and this just goes back to the storytelling that we were talking about before—a 360° video, it’s linear, even though you may have the ability to look around and do that kind of stuff. Whereas, in a VR experience, you could have multiple components, you could have multiple chapters, portals, whatever you want to call them, and then the user could determine what type of adventure, what type of experience that they want to have.

So, these are a couple of VRs that we’ve done already. And you know, it’s kind of funny because people have said to me, “I’ve got a lot of questions about how can you do a VR of a SALT student on location, in a place where they took a photograph, and transfer that into pharma.”

This, worked really well as storytelling: You were there with the student, they had the photo, you could see the environment in 360°. They told you why they were there, what the purpose was of creating the video, of creating the image, and shooting it. And of course, when you’re in that medium you have to plan, preproduction: everything, no stone unturned, what’s that experience going to be.

So, now you’re dealing in 360°. What’s one of your best friends? It’s audio. We use audio cues to force people to turn around. I mean, in this particular one, this gentleman’s name is Malik. He says, “Hey,” at the end of his thing, “Why don’t you take a look around?” and it kind of forces you to turn around.

We did another one where another one of the students was in the kitchen with his grandmother, and we set them up on opposite sides of the room, deliberately because this is a different user experience. You’re not passively watching this, you’re actively engaging in it.

And I just want to read this, and I’m going to read it verbatim just because it explains a lot about VR—explains about why we did it and the purpose of it:

  • “As part of attracting potential donors and to encourage photo purchase, the piece needed to be an experience that invites the viewer to get to know the student photographers of SALT. Additionally, creating context through storytelling, visitors were able to feel a stronger sense of connection to the photography projects on display at Photoville. As each of these stories are shared through this immersive medium, the viewer is transported to different environments. Places they may never—they may otherwise never see or experience.”

And that’s really important, right, because this medium, this channel, this type of hybrid production allows you to transport people to places that they may never get the opportunity to go to.

So—and this was a quote that I lifted from the A/B focus group, “In discussion about virtual reality, an expert from IAB focus group said, ‘When you’re actually feeling like you’re there, you gain a whole new level of empathy for the subject. Seeing and hearing these stories in what feels like a close-up and personal situation creates a powerful sense of presence.’” And it really, it does do that… there’s no doubt about that.

The very interesting thing that we learned at Photoville as well, was that it really depended on the age of the viewer and the user. And you need to craft your experience for that as well. The first day that Photoville opened, at the SALT container, we had New York City high school kids come through. The morning was only open for them. You couldn’t take the headsets off of them. They were fighting over them. They wanted them, they wanted them the whole time.

As the crowd got older, and later in the day, less and less people wanted to do it, and a lot of it has to do with putting everything on. There are advances on the way that will make the experience better. For instance, when you’re in the goggles, you can’t see your hands and you can’t see your feet, so be prepared. In one of the SALT pieces, we actually filmed Fiona, one of the students, on the edge of a rooftop in Brooklyn. And when you’re in the goggles, it feels like you’re going to fall off.

Hardlight TAC just released a Kickstarter thing, they’re making a vest that’s going to pulse—and then the gloves are coming—but there are certain limitations to the experience.

Just to finish my thought before—was that people always ask about: “How do you figure this stuff out? How do you come up with these solutions? How you do the prepro before you start?” It’s like anything else. You want to learn how to play the guitar, you practice. You want to learn how to be a good photographer, you go out and shoot.

So, that’s what we did. We went out, we shot a lot of this stuff. This was the JUICE holiday card, which was an immersive 360° experience. This is a knife thrower, the Great Throwdini. And trust me, when you wear these goggles and he throws these knives at you, there is not one person I’ve seen put on the goggles who hasn’t gone “Whoa, whoa!” So, it works.

But what that allowed us to do was to parlay it to say, “Okay, so we created this 360° video; now we need to create this environment in 3D max, CGI, a completely fake container.” So, take those learnings—now we create a bloodstream, right? Now we have the environment. Now if there’s any 360° video that we wanted to put in here, we could drop that in as well.

You know the other thing, too, is like, it’s funny, you don’t need the cameras to make—you don’t need the Nikons, you don’t need the Kodaks—you can just use regular photography equipment. You could shoot film and make VRs. You just have to remember that when you’re shooting, anything you shoot is pretty much going to be in here before it gets warped out by the software.

So, here he’s asking for his grandmother, right, who is on the complete opposite side of the room. You have to turn around to hear her talk. So, that’s what I’m talking about. The funny thing with doing VRs is—for anybody that’s done video, storyboarding, right?—I’ll give away—everyone is going to figure this out anyway. Storyboards are usually elevations, usually looking right into them. VR storyboards have to be bird’s eye. You have to look at a 360° circle and then you have to dive out of the way of the cameras. Nobody on the team can be in-camera, you know.

This is all studio. This is just studio. These are Canon Mark IIIs, 24 to 70 on them, probably, or a Prime 85. But that’s how this content was created, and then just brought into the software. So you can move around, you can be in the woods. Let’s skip ahead to Mr. Throwdini.

Trust me, when you have the goggles on, you’ll flinch. They come in right next to your head when you’re in the goggles.

I told you in the beginning that I have those 3 jobs, and I’m also a student. So, I never stop learning. I try to wake up every morning and figure out what’s the new thing I can learn today.

I love street photography and I’m going back to Cuba in 2 weeks with 2 world-renowned photojournalists so that I can learn and get better. That’s how I practice on my free time. And what I do for this particular trip is that, and I did this last year as well, I’ll go down there and shoot completely manually. No autofocus, no autoexposure, kind of to teach myself the basics because as you saw from my presentation, learning those foundational techniques and good habits is what has allowed me to create the VR and to create Super Bowl commercials.

And the funny thing about a Super Bowl commercial, just so everybody knows, it’s all the same as any other commercial. It’s just another shoot. It’s just that everybody has these giant microscopes—it would cost a lot anyway—but it was a lot of fun. But, that’s what I practice.

I try to, if I can, I go out in the street and shoot. You know, you saw that crazy picture of me with the Day-Glo paint on. You know, every once in a while, I’ll just buy a bunch of beer and pizza and have my team into the studio and we’ll do something crazy like that. They just did—they just did another one that I missed; I wasn’t around for it. But we’ve done gold leaf portraits and the Day-Glo and, you know, sculpting light and just anything to just keep practicing and checking out new techniques.

There’s a new camera, like it seems like, every 2 weeks now. We went through the whole thing with the Sony A7s, and so it’s a lot of testing, it’s a lot of shooting, it’s a lot of video. It’s a lot of: how do you get the best uncompressed 4K signal?—which we now get in—we’re still shooting with Mark IIIs for most of the stuff but it’s an uncompressed signal so there’s no noise. It’s little things like that.

That’s why I said, when I showed you guys the bear before, like I give this same presentation to my team and they think that they’re like at the top of their game, and they’re bringing their A game. And then I show them the bear and they’re like… “Oh yeah, we have a long way to go.” And that’s… for me… I think you should just wake up every morning and figure out what can you learn that you didn’t know the night before. Well, thank you all for coming out. That’s all I got.

About the Author:

Michael Kaminski
Executive Producer, Director of Production

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