A day in the life of… Senior Brand Designer Zoe Scott-Smith

A day in the life of… Senior Brand Designer Zoe Scott-Smith

We caught up with Zoe Scott-Smith, Senior Brand Designer at Threerooms Branding Agency in Nottingham, to find out about the kind of work she does, their projects, the technology they use, what keeps her inspired each day, and which industry trends they’ve got their eyes on…

Tell us about the kind of work you do at Threerooms? 

Threerooms is a digital-first branding agency, so as Senior Brand Designer, I get to work on lots of varied and exciting brand projects. The great thing about branding is that each project is completely bespoke and crafted to the individual client, so even though the creative process can be similar, no project or day is the same. I work closely with clients from the get-go, too – from initial brand workshops, through to rolling out bespoke and tailored brands. Brand workshops are a great chance to truly learn about the client, and understanding how a company or business began is one of my favourite questions. You can delve deep into their personality, ethos and find out what drives them.

What are some big projects you’ve been working on recently? 

I have been working on lots of really exciting top brands, covering everything from universities, the emergency services, charities, packaging for drinks, the beauty industry, and even a brand new aquatics brand. I absolutely love getting stuck into creating a new brand. Even now, I find the creative process such a rewarding journey.

Aside from brand jobs, I have been creating a range of illustrations and wall graphics for one of our clients. It’s a lot of fun working with so many different creative mediums.

zoe_sketch

What technology does your team rely on every day? 

There are lots of different tools that we rely on day to day. Adobe Creative Cloud (everything from InDesign and Photoshop to Illustrator and Lightroom), as well as 3D software such as Cinema 4D and web software like Sketch. Aside from design software, InVision is our go-to presentation software, as it lets us to upload and present our visuals while allowing for easy commenting and feedback.

When it comes to communication and collaboration, software such as Podio, which acts as our main central hub, is key. Other tools like Forecast help us map out different project schedules, while WorkflowMax lets us keep an eye on invoicing and time allocation management. Google for Business is especially handy for collaboration, and – of course – Spotify is my go-to for much needed tunes.

How does this compare to the technology you were using at the start of your career?

I am quite lucky – when I was starting my career, a lot of the other, lesser known design packages were being phased out and I jumped straight into Adobe CS4! Without making myself sound too old, the technology really has evolved so much. When I started in the industry ten years ago, it was a print-dominated world – web software like Sketch wasn’t around and terms like UX weren’t commonplace. The work felt more isolated, so collaborative tools have really paved the way for more unity and open-thinking between designers.

Regarding interaction with clients, back then it was a bit more of a “here’s a bit of paper with amends scribbled on it” approach. Collaboration tools are not just a way for designers to feed back, but are a huge part of client interactions, too. It is essential for this process to be as smooth as possible to avoid hiccups and allow designers more time to do what they do best. Internally, collaboration tools allow the team to quickly provide feedback from everyone’s perspective, and enable us to understand their comments more clearly. Ultimately, this makes for a better project outcome.

What technology has had the biggest impact on Threerooms? 

All the latest technology trends have had a huge impact on the studio. We pride ourselves in keeping up to date with the latest trends, advancements and tweaks as they all add up in their own way, and usually help to simplify and advance the creative process.

There are a few different things we’re excited about, the first being Dimension, the new 3D software by Adobe. We’re also looking forward to Adobe Spark and InVision Studio.

zoe_work2

How do your team stay productive during busy, stressful times?

We’re armed with our headphones! But in all seriousness, when it’s busy and time is of the essence, being able to pull the team together for input and feedback is ideal for discovering new creative routes and re-energising. Working in a close-knit team has some huge advantages, too. We all know what eachother are working on and can offer input, fresh ideas and collaborate between ourselves, which really helps to enhance each project.

What keeps you inspired everyday? 

The main sources of inspiration are obvious – Behance, Pinterest and Dribbble. However, when a challenge arises, team get-togethers provide the best source of inspiration. You find that with several design heads together, problems are quickly resolved.

I have to mention our beautiful surroundings! With our studio being based at Strelley Hall, it’s amazing how much of a difference having a tranquil setting can make to your creative thoughts. I once heard that the Pixar team often take a drive to ‘nowhere’, passing through serene landscapes to rattle through their creative problems – I think we could be on to something!

Of course, music is a huge source of inspiration for everyone. Nothing is better than throwing your headphones on or cranking up the studio speaker and blasting out your favourite tunes for tackling the tricky tasks at hand.

strelley_hall

Do you use any design tablets, and if so, how do you use them?

I used to dabble with Wacom’s a fair bit – I think they’re great to use. I guess I don’t particularly miss the interaction of holding a pen-like device though – whenever I am needed to create bespoke illustrations, I instinctively grab my brush pens and do them raw. Something about this tactile approach is rewarding and offers greater control.

I then use the Adobe Capture mobile app to snap my hand-crafted illustrations, which then sync instantly into my chosen Creative Cloud library as a vectorised illustration. I love how this app still retains even the slightest imperfections – the smallest splatters of ink or alterations in a line – which all add to the character of the overall look.

Are there any industry trends that your team are thinking about incorporating into your work in the near future?

I think it’s important to always look to the future, and to consider what we need to incorporate in order to keep Threerooms ahead. With logo animations being one of the dominant trends at the moment, we are looking to push animation in all of our work, from logos all the way through to websites. In addition, we’re looking to push modelling advances by using the latest Adobe software like Dimension, and we’re also thinking about the possibilities of VR and how we can shape new experiences in that environment.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your work and how do you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges for all designers is to ensure we are still generating creative ideas and staying ahead of the trends. I often find myself scrolling through the latest and greatest branding examples, questioning why certain things were done in certain ways, what they were looking to achieve, and most importantly, absorbing everything I see.

Outside of the creative process, the biggest challenge would have to be client deadlines, which we overcome by utilising our workflow tools to assist with timeframes. Budget constraints can also be a challenge, however we find our process of in-depth workshops helps us to achieve the end goal quicker by fully understanding the client’s needs from the outset.

zoe_work1

How important is collaboration for your team, and how has technology helped with this?

Collaboration is massively important, and enables us to get the best out of our projects. We never underestimate the value of getting a fresh pair of eyes on our work, and are always doing internal reviews to enhance collaboration on all of our projects. With everyone’s eyes on each project, it allows us to continually push the boundaries in what we create and feedback on each other’s work. Not only does it lead to great results for Threerooms and our team, but also for our clients.

Threerooms are a leading brand and creative agency in Nottingham. They help marketing teams and business owners add value to their brands through impeccable design and effective brand strategy.

threerooms.com

If you’d like to find out more about about any of the creative kit mentioned above, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook. 

How did the creative industry perform in 2017?

How did the creative industry perform in 2017?

2017 has come and gone, and what a year it’s been. Creative agencies have produced impressive content and campaigns during the last 12 months, and we’ve really enjoyed seeing everything they’ve created. But how did the creative sector fare economically, which campaigns have been the most engaging and successful, and what economic factors should you be thinking about as we head into 2018? 

To get a real picture of the creative industry’s economic impact in 2017, it’s worth examining its performance over the last few years. Looking back, the sector’s GDP contribution has grown year on year – from £63.4 billion in 2010 to a whopping £91.8 billion in 2016. 2016’s figure even grew by an impressive £6 billion on 2015’s number, and there’s no sign of 2017 bucking the trend. But why is that? For a start, 2017 has been home to lots of effective creative campaigns – lets take a look at some of them…

Lucozade: Contactless bottles

As part of an awareness campaign, Lucozade treated London commuters to a free trip on the underground back in May. During rush hour, the company handed out bottles of the energy drink that had contactless pins on the bottom, allowing commuters to simply scan the item at the gates and board their train without spending a penny.

Airbnb: Don’t Go There. Live There. 

After market research suggested that 86% of Airbnb users wanted to experience a new place like someone who actually lives there, Airbnb were inspired to launch their ‘Live There’ campaign. Hosted entirely through social media, it focused on Airbnb’s unique service – offering tourists the chance to live in an actual home rather than hotels while travelling, and encouraged deeper integration into local communities during a stay away.

Addict Aide: Like My Addiction

Addict Aide launched a campaign on Instagram to help shed light on alcoholism and how social media can be used to promote and encourage it.  Having caught the attention of the right audience – teenagers and young adults – the campaign ultimately generated 5 times as much web traffic for Addict Aide’s homepage.

Heineken: Worlds Apart

Heineken set out to prove that having a simple conversation over a beer can bring even the most diametrically opposed people together. Having been given three tasks to complete, participants would only discover how different they really were towards the end of the beer maker’s social experiment.

Tesco: Discover app

Having teamed up with Engine Creative, Tesco built an AR app to enhance the shopping experience for their customers. Tesco Discover allows shoppers to scan pages from their brochures, where they can access an array of related information, images, video, competitions and more. The app also builds on Tesco’s successful partnership with Disney, letting users scan Frozen-themed books and stickers to bring a 3D scene from the movie to life within the Discover app. Customers can even take virtual selfies with various Frozen characters within the AR app.

Embracing new mediums

Right now, the creative industry accounts for around one in 11 jobs in the UK, and that number is rising – unlike other industries, the creative sector is one of the least likely to lose jobs to automation. Combine that with industry-wide collaboration, entrepreneurialism and a raft of new trends, and you’ve got a recipe for continued growth. And creatives have been quick to incorporate fresh mediums into their work this year.

From augmented reality (AR) to artificial intelligence (AI) to social media live streaming to virtual reality (VR), agencies throughout the country have jumped on these tools and used them to create engaging content for their audiences. Inside the creative industry, the best example of this is the rapid growth of a field known as ‘createch’ (which grew 11.4% in 2016). Createch is an area in which technology is used to enable and enrich creativity (particularly for things like audio, video and storytelling), allowing content producers to deliver new services, products and experiences to consumers. As a result, new, immersive technology mediums like the ones mentioned above have encouraged continued innovation in this field and are sure to deliver further growth and development in 2017, particularly as the technology becomes more advanced and readily-available.

What to look out for in 2018

It’s estimated that by 2018, the value of the creative industry in the UK will grow by almost £9 billion to a total of £100 billion. And with the continued success of UK exports in games, design, film and TV, music and more, it’s essential for creative businesses to be ahead of the curve and prepared to experiment with new technology and creative mediums next year.

To help with this, the UK government are investing £500 million in AI, full fibre broadband and 5G (the fifth generation of telecommunications standards). And with over 2 million people employed in the creative sector in the UK, this money is expected to bolster the country’s position as a creative market leader on the world stage.

As the UK moves closer to severing its ties with the EU next year, it’s also worth considering the affect Brexit could have on the industry’s talent pool. While creatives are currently free to travel throughout Europe for business, this could soon change and agencies will have to rely on the UK’s workforce to provide the talent and skills they need. That means businesses will likely have to refocus and invest in the training and development of UK-based workers in 2018 in order to avoid falling behind in the years to come.

If you want to know more, give us a call on 03332 400 888 or email designsolutions@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter, or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

 

Creative trend: Why augmented reality is an essential tool for the future

Creative trend: Why augmented reality is an essential tool for the future

The augmented reality (AR) trend is one of the fastest growing across the technology, marketing and advertising industries. It’s estimated that by 2020, the AR market will be worth £90 billion, and with such impressive financial projections, now’s the time for creatives and marketers alike to explore and experiment with AR, and make the most of it while it’s still fresh.  

These days, iOS and Android devices can power through demanding augmented reality apps with no problem, and developers are more optimistic about its future than ever. Having already proved popular, AR opens the door to a whole new world of technological possibilities, including three dimensional advertisements, immersive storytelling, virtual tours, interactive decorating and style apps, engaging games and much more.

In retail, companies are always looking to create fresh, immersive brand experiences that leave an impression in consumers’ minds, meaning AR presents an incredible opportunity for creative agencies to offer cutting edge services around it. Brands such as Tesco and Ikea have worked closely with agencies to develop apps that allow customers to experiment with furniture in their homes, while Lacoste and Converse created apps that let users try on virtual shoes before buying the real thing. Agencies are also helping brands to liven up conferences and exhibitions with the creation of location-based AR events, where visitors can engage with rich virtual content as they move around. And now that creative agencies are mastering AR and realising its potential, they’re better positioned to deliver unique and innovative campaigns for clients all over the world. As part of this, they’re assisting brands in the development and visualisation of concepts, and are working hard on UI and UX design to produce AR experiences that are both appealing and easy for customers to use.

With Apple launching powerful tools like ARKit, and Microsoft spending huge sums on their HoloLens mixed reality headset (including the billion dollar acquisition of Minecraft-maker Mojang to bring the popular game to the device), it’s clear that industry giants are taking tremendous steps in their pursuit of the AR top spot, and are committed to making the new technology a success. With that being said, it’s apparent the creation of engaging content that provides realistic interactions while offering unique technological value is the way forward for companies hoping to turn AR into the next big thing.

The story so far…

Believe it or not, AR technology was first developed back in 1968 at Harvard University. Although extremely primitive, computer scientist Ivan Sutherland had successfully produced an AR head-mounted display system that used computer-generated graphics to show users basic wireframe drawings. In the years that followed, university laboratories, private companies and governmental organisations began researching and experimenting with the technology, and in 1990, Tom Caudell, a researcher at Boeing, gave it a name – ‘augmented reality’.

Throughout the 1990s the technology advanced rapidly, and by 1998 the NFL adopted AR, using it to display a yellow marker on the field during the broadcast of a live game. Over the next few years, developers became more familiar with AR, and in 1999 Hirokazu Kato developed the ARToolKit. Still popular today, the open-source computer tracking and software library is designed to allow developers to create augmented reality applications that are capable of overlaying virtual imagery on the real world through the use of video tracking functionality. Having already made the jump to entertainment and media, AR was finally ready for consumer audiences by the end of the noughties.

Augmented reality today

By extending live experiences far beyond the screen, AR is proving to be an industry-shifting trend, and audiences are responding well to the technology even though it’s still in its infancy. It’s already a part of our daily lives, with sport and news broadcasters regularly relying on AR to bring statistics, stories, newsrooms and more to life. Games are changing too, and have come a long way since the days of Snake – people of all ages and demographics downloaded Pokemon Go (which had an incredible 45 million daily active users at its peak), and were encouraged to take to the streets in search of their favourite creatures. With such a huge user base, it was a positive sign for AR.

Despite this, British police logged an unbelievable 290 incidents relating to the game in 2016, demonstrating its real world influence and forcing developer Niantic to urge players to “abide by local laws” while gaming. A couple of months after launch, the number of daily users had fallen dramatically and continues to drop, showing that developers need more than initial intrigue and excitement to keep users coming back to their AR apps.

Snapchat filters are used by millions every day to liven up everything from a casual selfie (what would teenagers do without the dog filter?) to large group photos. Snapchat’s AR filters have even managed to become popular memes – everyone remembers the horrifying face swaps with inanimate objects, the dancing hotdog and rainbow vomit, and it’s safe to say that the app’s AR capabilities are a key part of its continued success with younger audiences. In their first proper attempt at taking AR mainstream, Apple’s upcoming Animoji with iPhone X is sure to make traditional emoji more exciting and engaging.

Similarly, ARKit – which was introduced with iOS 11 – is, in Apple’s own words, a new framework that allows you to easily create unparalleled augmented reality experiences for iPhone and iPad. Users can combine digital objects and information with the environment, allowing apps to break free from the confines of the screen and interact with the world in real time. ARKit utilises powerful A9, A10 and A11 processors to provide breakthrough AR performance, and comes packing TrueDepth Camera for robust face tracking, Visual Intertial Odometry (VIO) functionality to effectively track the world around it, and Scene Understanding and Lighting Estimation to ensure everything looks as it should.

What does the future hold?

With so many advancements and landmark developments over the last couple of years, the future looks bright for AR. Powerful design tools are allowing developers to be more creative with the technology than ever before, and evidence and research suggests that audiences are eager for more. It’s estimated that AR headset sales could hit almost £1 billion this year, and with Microsoft going full steam ahead with HoloLens and rumours of other tech companies such as Google, Apple and Samsung following suit, that figure looks set to grow. It’s even starting to play a part in social media strategy, with marketers looking for innovative ways to engage with customers online.

Whatever happens, AR is up there with VR as a soon-to-be essential technology for marketers and content creators (click here for our kit recommendations), and it’s definitely worth striking while the iron is hot to put yourself ahead of the competition.

If you want to know more, give us a call on 03332 400 888 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter, or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Crunching the numbers: How much does it cost to bring VR in house?

Crunching the numbers: How much does it cost to bring VR in house?

Virtual reality is huge news at the moment, and whether you’re dealing with PR teams who want to cash in on the attention it garners or creatives who want to push themselves in a new medium, chances are someone’s already asked if your team can produce VR content. After all, it’s just like video, right? Well, not really.

VR content is very much its own animal, and requires a specialist skillset and kit list. We’ve been supplying equipment to the creative industries for over 25 years, and have our internal video workflow (and those of our clients) nailed down. But in order to start offering VR as a service, we’d have to make some fairly major upgrades to our stash of shooting kit, storage and 3D animation skills – and we imagine many agencies are in a similar position.

It’s an investment worth making though, as it’ll allow you to stay current, help clients take advantage of a major new channel, and avoid losing long-term clients to more on-trend rivals. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what you’ll need to invest in..

First things first: what kind of content will you be creating?

Currently, most commercial VR content falls into one of two camps: 360-degree video (video footage that lets the viewer look all around the setting, rather than just showing them a static shot from one angle) and immersive VR (the interactive, 3D-animated kind that makes you feel like you’ve wandered into a videogame). These need very different skillsets and equipment, and are suited to very different projects.

360 video has been used effectively to create more exciting versions of the traditional corporate ‘explainer’ (here’s a great example from The Verge and Michelle Obama). A similar technique has been used in concert videos to give viewers the sensation of really being there, and Topshop used the technology to let visitors to their flagship store experience what it’s like to be on the front row at London Fashion Week.

If you’re already offering video services, you can scale them up to include the shooting, stitching and editing of 360 video. Many 360 degree videos include graphics and animations as well as live footage, and your team probably already has the skillset and tools needed to create these.

Immersive VR has more in common with 3D animation and games development, with most projects taking viewers on a journey through a 3D landscape and allowing them to interact with objects they encounter. Delivering immersive VR requires a (relatively) expensive headset, and if you want users to be able to move around, you’ll need additional hardware to track their movements and stop them walking into walls. You’ll also need specialist hardware and software to create content.

Despite the high initial outlay, many companies are keen on immersive projects because they’re high-impact and memorable, and because their relative novelty means that a well-staged immersive event can be a big PR draw.

What kind of kit will your team need?

Cameras
If you’re shooting 360 video, there are two ways to do it: stick a load of GoPro or Blackmagic Mini Studio Cameras to a rig, then stitch the images together in post to create a single 360 image, or invest in a 360 degree camera.

While the reduce the need for stitching, many 360 degree cameras are less than perfect: lower cost ones are often function like PTZ cameras and have a limited field of vision. They’re fine for live events on Facebook 360 and similar platforms, but not ideal for anything more polished – if your client wants footage they can reuse, rather than the novelty of a one-off viewing event, we’d recommend investing in something higher-end.

As an entry level camera, you could try the Kodak PixPro (£399 ex VAT), which uses a multi-lens configuration to give you close to 360 degree coverage. The Insta360 Pro (£2999 ex VAT) is pricier, but does offer true 360-degree shooting.

If you’d prefer to try the rigged approach, stitching is inevitable (and time-consuming). You’ll need a 360-specific monitoring solution like the Teradek Sphere (£2549 ex VAT), which will stitch your panoramic footage into a 360 format so that you can show clients and directors a rough on-set cut and make sure you have the footage you need – it’s likely you’ll still need to make further adjustments in post, though.

Helpfully, the Sphere includes a rig for GoPro cameras, so if you already have a stash of them and are happy to use them for your 360 work, you won’t have to fork out for a separate rig.

Another option is the Google Jump, a 16-camera rig and asset management system that has the big advantage of allowing you to outsource your stitching. When you sign up to the Jump programme, you get access to the Jump Assembler, where you can send your footage off to be processed by Google (their turnaround is mooted at 48 hours, but users have advised us to budget for a 72 hour wait).

Editing 360 degree/VR footage
Post-production on 360 and VR content is far more intensive than that needed for traditional video. At our recent VR event, Halo Post’s Richard Addis said that VR content is “rarely longer than 20 minutes, but the time spent in post is far in excess of what you’d spend on a 60 minute TV show.”

The key plugin you’ll need is Imagineer Systems’ mocha VR (£865 ex VAT), which brings optimised planar tracking, masking, object removal, and horizon stabilisation tools to host applications including those from Avid and Adobe. Premiere Pro, which you’ll already have access to if you have a Creative Cloud for teams subscription (£708 per user, per year, ex VAT), has its own set of built-in VR tools, too.

Workstations
If you’re producing immersive VR (ie animated 3D environments), you’ll want a top spec workstation for your animators so that they can deal with the sheer volume of footage they’re going to have to render – if your facility has not invested in networked rendering, now might be the time to start looking into it.

Use our HP workstation configurator to see how much your preferred workstation might cost.

What skills will your team need?

While your team may have done video and animation work before, VR is definitely its own niche and VR-specific companies like Framestore and Alchemy are leading the way when it comes to larger, more interactive projects such as this mildly terrifying hiking experience. That said, there’s no reason your existing team can’t take on VR – and particularly 360 video – on a slightly less heart-attack-inducing scale.

If you’re already producing video, you’ll need to find the time and resources to allow your team to familiarise themselves with the new kit, but the main factor is likely to be ensuring that you’re able to perform the extensive post-production and animation work any VR requires, be that stitching, editing, painting out any remaining crew members, creating 3D graphics and, frustratingly, adjusting content so that it can be used on multiple platforms which, as yet, have no common standard (most successful projects have limited themselves to one platform, such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, and exploited that platform fully).

Sub-contracting work to a specialist VR company is always a possibility, but if you’re getting numerous requests from clients for VR work and want to make it a permanent part of your portfolio, investing in your own kit and having control over you own content and deadlines might be for the best. For more about the skills and challenges involved, watch our VR panel with experts from Alchemy, Halo Post, Rewind and The Mill, who have all launched successful VR projects.

 

How can we help?

Aside from hosting Soho’s premier panel on the subject, we can provide all the kit you need for VR – cameras, rigs, software, plug-ins, media, monitors – from one place, with 30 day credit accounts (subject to you passing a credit check) and next day delivery on many key items.

If you’re not quite ready to buy, our longstanding relationships with leading media vendors mean that we’re perfectly placed to advise on the directions different suppliers are taking with VR, and help you find kit, storage solutions and workstations to support the direction you want to take, as well as advice on how to fit them all together.

For more on bringing VR in-house, take a look at this sister article for creative teams. If you want to know more about VR, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. If you’re ready to start shopping head to our design storeFor all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter, or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Creative trend: The kit list – getting ready to tackle VR

Creative trend: The kit list – getting ready to tackle VR

Virtual reality is unavoidable at the moment. Marketeers are praising its immersiveness and versatility as tools to increase engagement; the relative novelty of successful VR projects makes them a hit with PR teams, and creative teams are excited to push themselves in a new medium, as you can see from our panel featuring creatives from The Mill, Halo Post, Alchemy VR and Rewind:

 

All of which begs the question, is this something you should be doing in-house? A case could be made for outsourcing to specialists like Alchemy whenever clients ask you for VR content, but the increased control and agility that comes with doing things in-house – especially when it comes to things like integrating 360 video into a wider campaign, rather than staging one-off VR events – has led many creative teams, including ours, to wonder if they could take this on themselves. Let’s take a look at what you’d need.

What could you be creating?

As Facebook, YouTube and other large platforms add support for 360-degree video, it’s becoming an integral part of many social campaigns, an extension of the traditional video content you might produce for a cross-platform project. It’s also become a popular alternative to corporate ‘explainers’ among companies who want to seem cutting edge and, as in this well-regarded example from Michelle Obama and The Verge, with publishers and journalists who want to ensure their content stays relevant as users move to new platforms. (The New York Times also got a massive publicity boost when it gave away a million Cardboard headsets and started making startlingly good immersive journalism).

‘Immersive VR’ – the kind that uses an expensive headset and motion tracking to make you feel like you’ve wandered into a video game – has more in common with games development and 3D animation than traditional film production, although as our panel pointed out, the sense of narrative and need for careful direction remain.

In the commercial sphere, immersive VR has proven to be a great tool for attracting PR at one-off events or tours (this mildly terrifying hiking experience from Merrell, for example or Sotheby’s offering you the chance to climb inside a Dalí painting. You can also climb inside your own sketches with help from Gravity Sketch). However, as VR technology becomes more readily available (and affordable) we’re seeing the rise of more apps for end users.

This is especially true of content that can be consumed via cheaper headset solutions like Google Cardboard. Cardboard-compatible apps have received a mixed response in the past because until recently many of the smartphones it worked with struggled to sync streams of 3D sufficiently well to avoid lagging and motion sickness, but the times they are a-changing, and the chips in phones they are a-getting more powerful.

So what kit do you need to invest in?

When it comes to shooting 360 video, there are two ways to do it: attach multiple action cameras (GoPros are popular) to a rig, then stitch the footage from each camera into a 360 degree panorama, or buy a camera designed to shoot 360, or go all the way and invest in the Insta360 Pro for true 360 filming.

We’d recommend shooting native 360, but if you’re wary of investing that much upfront, Teradek’s Sphere solution comes with a GoPro-compatible rig and a monitoring solution that’ll let you see your stitched footage on-set, which is a huge advantage if clients are going to be present for the shoot. There’s also Google’s Jump programme, for which you’d need to purchase a Google Jump rig, then use the Jump Assembler to send your footage to Google, who return it to you 48-72 hours later, fully stitched.

However you choose to shoot your footage, you’ll want to add Imagineer Systems’ mocha VR plug-in to your editing software, as that makes it possible for you to perform tasks like optimised planar tracking, masking, object removal, and horizon stabilisation directly in your NLE.

Adobe have been quick to add VR tools to Premiere Pro, too, so if you already have a Creative Cloud subscription then it’s well worth exploring those. With the Premiere Pro CC 2017 update, Adobe added native QuickTime DNxHR/HD codec support, so you can create VR media files which play back more efficiently than H.264. They also added VR properties to Clips, meaning Premiere Pro will look for the same metadata added during export, which allows 360 playback in YouTube and Facebook. In June, Adobe acquired Skybox plug-ins by Mettle, for 360 video and VR, which will integrate their functionality natively into Premiere Pro and After Effects, and should be available by the end of the year.

One of the key things from the panel we held (seriously, scroll back up and give it a watch), is that while virtual reality projects tend to max out at around 20 minutes in length, they spend longer in post-production than a 60 minute television programme, as the challenges of stitching footage, mixing audio and performing all your usual corrections and grades now has to be done on far more footage, which is far more difficult to match, may contain 3D animated elements, and potentially contains a crew and other equipment that need to be painted out, because there’s nowhere to hide them in a 360-degree shoot. Even adding motion graphics, as you might want to in a corporate video, becomes much more difficult when they have to exist (and follow the viewer around) in a 3D space.

Doing all this means you might need to invest in higher-spec workstations (asked to describe the ideal spec, our product manager simply said “beefy”, which you’re free to take however you want, but which we think means “the sort of thing you’d work with 4K footage on, why not explore your options in our workstation configurator?”).

How can we help?  

Aside from hosting Soho’s premier panel on the subject, we can provide all the kit you need for VR – cameras, rigs, software, plug-ins, media, monitors – from one place, with 30 day credit accounts (subject to you passing a credit check) and next day delivery on many key items.

If you’re not quite ready to buy, our longstanding relationships with leading media vendors mean that we’re perfectly placed to advise on the directions different suppliers are taking with VR, and help you find kit, storage solutions and workstations to support the direction you want to take, as well as advice on how to fit them all together.

For more on the cost of bringing VR in house, take a look at this sister article for finance teams. If you want to know more about VR, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. If you’re ready to start shopping head to our design store, hereFor everything else, including the latest news and reviews, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter, or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Five creative trends we’ve got our eye on

Five creative trends we’ve got our eye on

From AR to VR and every acronym in between, there are lots of fresh creative trends on their way up this year that we’re getting pretty excited about. 

As you’ve probably figured out by now, we’re celebrating 25 years of being a leading creative technology provider. As part of the festivities, we’ve been looking back at retro tech and old school design work, but as fun as its been to enjoy some nostalgia, we also like to keep our eye to the future and stay right up to date on the hottest industry trends.

Check out our top five creative trends to look out for…

Animation and video

More and more websites are leaving static imagery behind, hoping to capture the imagination of users through animation. Advancements in web browsers, CSS and HTML5 have made the creation and implementation of animation online much simpler, and web designers are utilising its ability to tell dynamic stories to customers as they browse online.

Video is already hugely popular, but it’s becoming even more so as developments in live streaming via social media take hold. Video is so effective because it allows companies to communicate fine-tuned product narratives to viewers in a way that engages and excites them. If you haven’t adopted it yet, now’s the time!

Did you know? By 2018, 79% of all consumer internet traffic will be video-based.

UX design

Thanks to the fundamentals of human psychology and visual perception, ensuring the effectiveness of your visual communications is key – that’s why usability and accessibility are so important to any digital or online experience. Linear, easy to use interfaces, intelligent personalisation and specialisation should be your top priorities when it comes to UX, and with apps like Uber, Snapchat and Pokémon Go perfecting the practice to great success, its uptake among design teams looks set to continue. 

Virtual reality

You probably guessed it’d show up at some point. VR has only just started infiltrating our lives, and the creation of groundbreaking immersive experiences is definitely on the up. In this year alone, we’ve seen the introduction of virtual tours and VR-themed stage productions, the creation of dementia-friendly virtual environments, VR sketching software for creative professionals and virtual reality apps for reading the news. Not only that, but digital marketers are jumping on the bandwagon as they look to capitalise on a fresh, fully interactive medium for customer engagement.

Minimalism and modularity

As a designer’s job becomes ever more technical and complex, it’s kind of ironic that we’re striving for less in how we present our content. Brands are competing to appear elegant and refined, and a great contemporary example of this is conversational interfaces. News apps in particular send small, digestible pieces of information (usually based on what you’re interested in) straight to your smartphone. From there, users can choose to interact with the notification if they wish to see more content, but otherwise it’s presented in a clean, concise way that doesn’t clutter your home screen.

We expect this trend to continue to grow, so it’s worth bearing a few things in mind if you want your design work to keep up with the competition. We’d recommend breaking your layouts up into digestible chunks and making them easy to engage with, rather than forcing users into walls of text and information. It makes the design process more manageable and goes hand in hand with that sleek, minimalist look we were just talking about.

Typography

Experimenting with typography is key to the design process, and the importance of selecting something that both compliments your work and adapts nicely to your design layouts can’t be understated. Whether you’re using it to help represent complex ideas and abstract concepts, bolster minimalist page designs with a dash of creativity that make them more exciting or just trying to make your work look prettier, designers are now spending more time than ever mulling over their typographical decisions.

These days, the use of larger fonts is becoming more prevalent thanks to the need to optimise websites for mobile screens. Similarly, designers are being tasked with creating responsive logos, which are designed to keep up with the ever-growing selections of formats and scales available to users. Preferably, a good responsive logo will be simple and malleable, and react naturally to its environment while still being functional. This means that we could see creatives move away from hand drawn typography, as these logos are likely to be intricate, much more complex, and less flexible and responsive.

Want to find out more about about the latest creative technology? Give us a call on 03332 400 888, email sales@Jigsaw24.com or pop your details in the form below. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook. 

 

The view from the front: Post with the Pros tackles virtual reality

The view from the front: Post with the Pros tackles virtual reality

Post with the Pros pulled together its most impressive roster yet for our virtual reality showcase. Demos from manufacturers HTC, NVIDIA, HP, Imagineer, Dolby and EditShare were followed by an expert panel led by our very own Jamie Allan, featuring Mike Davis (Creative Director at Alchemy VR), Oliver Kibblewhite (Head of Special Projects at Rewind), The Mill’s Creative Technologist Kevin Young and Halo’s Head of Audio Operations, Richard Addis. 

Highlights of the night included workflow tips from EditShare (above and beyond “use EditShare”, they recommend an Adobe editing workflow aided by Mettle’s SkyBox Studio 2 plugin), previews of of NVIDIA’s upcoming offerings (a VR WORKS 360 Video SDK that enables realtime stitching of 4K; Pascal architecture that’s up to 95% faster than the previous generation and capable of rendering out both ‘eyes’ of content for a head mounted display simultaneously), and the chance to try out immersive content from a range of our customers, as well as sampling content from the manufacturers themselves.

Story telling vs story living

While the VR market is growing massively, it’s still a relatively new medium, and our panel were keen to pin down how it should and shouldn’t be employed. Our experts were cautious of projects that treated VR like a new version of 3D TV rather than a unique medium, insisting that it needs to be applied to projects where “you think ‘there’s no way this could be any better in any other technology’.”

Rewind’s in-house philosophy makes a clear delineation between story telling – linear narrative, often delivered via 360 video – and story living – immersive experiences delivered via devices like Oculus Rift and HTC VIVE, where the user chooses their own path through the world and the creator’s job is to make sure that a) there’s somewhere for them to go and b) it can be rendered quickly enough when they get there.

Know your technology

Another challenge posed by VR, and often not realised by clients, was the cost of post-production. Not only is there a lot more footage to process, as rigs can run up to dozens of cameras, but as Mike pointed out, “A lot of people don’t think about the cost of painting things out of shot [when shooting 360]”. In Richard’s experience, “VR is rarely longer than 20 to 30 minutes, but the time you spend in post is far in excess of what you’d spend on a 60 minute TV show.”

The challenges aren’t limited to post-production, however. Different cameras will have fractionally different start times and colour differences that need to be compensated for; different brands have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to stitching several shots together to make a single VR space, and lengthy testing is needed to find out whether, for example, your actors can walk across one of these stitch lines without their face warping, or if you need to set up very specific marks and limits.

There’s also the fact that stitching the individual camera outputs together to make the final shot can take several days, so a director used to seeing instant playback will have to deal with long delays before they know whether they have the shot they want. (This can be sidestepped by strapping a handful of secondary cameras on top of your rig to give them a very rough onset stitch, according to Oliver.)

Devices and delivery

Richard predicts that over the next few generations, the hardware market for VR – which is currently very segmented – will coalesce, allowing for content to be delivered to multiple devices, or be optimised for one platform “so it’ll be like delivering for PlayStation or Xbox” rather than the current system, in which you need to know your target device and its limitations before you begin pre-production.

Oliver’s hopes for the future include “a target baseline level of controls – your HMD should include some sort of haptic feedback, it should have positional tracking, and you should make sure that you can meet a minimum level of experience, especially for interactive content.”

Is it worth it?

While Mike and the rest of the panel were aware that we hadn’t found “the ‘must-have’ content for home VR, like the Queen’s coronation was for television”, they were adamant that tackling the challenges of VR was worthwhile, and that rather than “3D, which got in the way of TV, which people were already comfortable with”, it offered a unique experience for the viewer that was distinct from any other media they have access to. “People are moved by VR in a way that they’re not by TV,” Kevin told us. “It’s something quite special.”

Here’s the full panel, for anyone interested:

Want to know more about how we can help you incorporate VR? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

VR headset firms come together to form virtual reality alliance

VR headset firms come together to form virtual reality alliance

Virtual reality’s march to victory continues, as Google, Facebook, HTC Vive, Samsung, Sony and Acer Starbreeze come together to form the Global Virtual Reality Association (GVRA).

The worldwide cabal of headset manufacturers has been set up with the aim of promoting the growth of the global VR industry by developing and sharing best practice. It will also commission international research, create educational materials and host and participate in discussions about VR.

Taking his headset off for two minutes, general counsel for Oculus at Facebook Jordan McCollum said: “We’re still very much in the early stages of VR, so it’s critical that industry leaders work together to create and share ideas on how we can safely build this industry.

“I’m looking forward to working with other hardware makers to proactively address the challenges we need solve to make VR a success over the long term.”

HTC Vive senior vice president Rikard Steiber added: “It is important that we as an industry are working together to establish best practices and common resources for our industry that will drive toward the $120 billion projection by 2020.

“The GVRA represents industry leaders and hardware manufacturers across the globe who are creating the best VR experiences available.”

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Want to know more about virtual reality-ready solutions? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Get immersed in the Sennheiser AMBEO VR mic

Get immersed in the Sennheiser AMBEO VR mic

If you’re creating virtual reality video and want to match your VR video content with proper VR audio too, take a look at Sennheiser’s new AMBEO VR mic, designed to seamlessly record 3D immersive audio for captivating VR experiences.

 
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From the outside, the AMBEO VR looks and feels like any other Sennheiser mic, but it’s the clever bits inside that give it its VR capturing capabilities. Fitted with four matched KE 14 capsules in a tetrahedral arrangement, the ambisonic mic captures the sound that surrounds you from a single point, giving you fully-spherical, 360-degree sound to complement your VR video content – all in an easy-to-use, elegant design.

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The Sennheiser AMBEO VR has been developed in conjunction with virtual reality content creators, and with cinematic VR in mind, as well as live action capture for traditional film. Other uses also include live-streamed virtual reality content, live-streamed content for sports or current events, and audio capture for virtual reality games and other interactive VR content. Bundled in with the mic is also Sennheiser’s A-B encoder software plugin, which can be seamlessly embedded in your post-production process. Check out the recording workflow diagram below for an idea of how it all works:

Sennhesier AMBEO DIAGRAM 2016

Those Sennheiser AMBEO VR key features at a glance:

– Single-point microphone for Virtual Reality content.
– Four matched capsules in a tetrahedral cluster.
– Captures spherical, fully spatial audio in Ambisonics format.
– Pairs well with 360/VR video capture.
– Portable and rugged for various recording conditions.
– A to B format encoder included: VST and AAX (for Mac and Windows; a standalone version will be available at a later date).

Want to know more about the Sennheiser AMBEO VR microphone? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email audio@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and reviews, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.