As soon as I saw the first IBM Watson national spot where they had people conversing with Watson in creative ways, I knew I wanted to do something with it (since IBM is a big client of my company and we have free reign to try new stuff sometimes). The TV spots had cool settings with very visual surroundings, and very unique looking people (from a cute little girl to Bob Dylan) which I thought would turn out really well in some cool motion graphic treatment across a large-scale videowall. The commercials also featured some good tag lines around cognitive business and also good witty banter between Watson and the featured person. A great challenge to turn it into digital content.
My first opportunity was for a much wider digital canvas, a 7 portrait screen array which is about 3 times the width of HD. But this wasn’t a hindrance, as its a normal thing we do and actually gives you a lot of freedom in creating supporting graphical treatments to surround any existing HD footage or maybe use to put some title text or supporting messaging.
The biggest challenge on these were the audio because the videowall we were creating content for didn’t have the audio turned on due to it being in a corporate lobby and not wanting to be overly distracting. But the audio piece was the compelling part of the video which highlights the value and personality of Watson.
So we transcribed the people talking to Watson and figured out how much of it we should try and use and how to show the text on the screen. We decided to have some messaging on one side of the screen, and then for the actual conversation we treated it almost like a text message string or chat client type of format, where each speaking person had a little avatar/headshot with their line. Then each one would animate onto the screen after a few seconds, trying to mimic a conversation, and essentially allow a viewer in this corporate lobby to see this really cool visual piece and then follow along with the text-based conversation.
Here’s a couple examples, the text on the right is too small to read, but it animates through the conversation/audio:
I love Netflix and I don’t mean just lounging around with my iPad or my Roku at home, binge watching shows and movies (although I do love that too) but their innovative approach to their business, products and now show production and strategy. Even their strategy to go after original programming and then how they executed on creating such amazingly addictive shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Daredevil, and Peaky Blinders (a little less known buy my favorite).
Their latest move that got my head spinning and yelling “genius” in my apartment to myself is when they had a new Marco Pollo episode at the top of my Netflix home page under Shows Recommended For You. I had watched the full first season of Marco Pollo (which is amazing) but I knew the second season couldn’t be out this soon. So I obviously clicked on it and was surprised to see the description saying something about it being a special feature episode on the back story of one of the main characters. Genius! Who does that? I’m guessing they filmed it during season one and just planned on having it in their back pocket drink the wait for the next season.
It did remind me of some special feature stuff you’ll see online or on YouTube for certain shows. Like having the show staff do some speaking about the shooting of the new season and maybe show some raw footage. But there’s something that always bugs me about seeing the actors and actresses out of character, and it seems to lessen my connection to the show since it starts to emphasize how its not real. The accents are gone, you see the set creation (making the realistic settings crumble back into the real world) and instead of getting me excited about the next season, I’m now feeling disconnected with the show I once felt was real.
I do feel like I need to say that I feel their business model around their original programming could be optimized a bit. I’m a little scared to say it publicly in case it catches on and it comes to fruition and then it ends up costing me way more money in the long run. Hmm… why do they release an entire season at a time? What benefit do they get for me to binge watch an entire season at once, over one weekend or one night? Do you see where I’m going here? We all know you have the whole season ready at that time, but why wouldn’t you release like 1 a day, and then possibly charge a very small nominal fee to watch the next one early? And to explain it in a dramatic way, when House of Cards season 2 came out and after episode 1 killed off Zoe Barnes, how much would you of paid to watch the next episode right then immediately? $.99? $1.99? $9.99? $49.99? Personally, if I knew that next episode was done but not being released for a whole other week, I’d for sure pay up to $100 (or if you know me, it might be more even) to watch that sucker.
ESPN created a new studio set and did it right with some innovative digital experiences. It really seems they wanted to push the limit with the environment and have multiple areas where associated branding, graphics and color could be shown. I absolutely love it, and don’t think its distracting (which would be my worry if planning it). Even though the new host desk seems a little Star Trek-ish, I’m ok with it because the overall feel isn’t too futuristic … which is ironic since Star Trek came out in the 60’s.
One of the signature areas is the large media wall that is the backdrop for one of their main discussion and interview areas. It seems to be around 10 displays wide and 7 displays tall, and have them jutting out at inconsistent levels from each other. At first glance, it seems like a hard idea to swallow with all the extra dimensions, but then I realized that the sides of the displays seem to show (or mirror) the content from that display (or the display next to it). And even though it might just be mirroring some of the content, it still gives the impression of a seamless piece of content and comes across really nice. I will work on getting a tour and seeing this bad boy up close.
I had to do a double take at a bar when I glanced up at the TV and saw ESPN’s SportsCenter which had a new look to it. I’ve always wondered when ESPN would do a rebrand, but I fully understood how much work it would be to re-configure all those graphics (static and motion) which are dynamically set per all those various templates and transitional pieces. But for one of the most influential media networks in the world, I think they could have done a better job. It just seems like some elements of it are amateur in executing a semi-flat style that relies heavily on type treatment and simple colors.
I admit, this is one of the more challenging design styles to really do well, but tons of designers and teams are mastering it, and ESPN appears to have some junior designers having trouble with spacial connections and data driven components fitting in seamlessly with the animated interface. There’s just a couple elements, like the current topic on the bottom left with this white outline on the red shape, that just makes me cringe everyone time I see it. I will at least say that their new sets and media walls are great, so at least they have that going for them during this transitional period.
My old wise Chinese design professor said if I didn’t write this shit down it would vanish in thin air. Note taken, here is my daily discoveries of the ever evolving design world around me.