Sunday, February 21, 2010

Digital Kitchen: process, passion, and layers.

Digital Kitchen (Bryce Wymer and Rama Allen) introduced us to the art of process through the ADCD last Thursday night. DK is known for their outstanding title sequence work. They have a way of saying everything while revealing nothing. I'm a fan of layers. For example, when an innocent morning routine becomes "serial." When there is more to something than what you initially see on the surface. I still remember the first time I saw the opening titles for Six Feet Under. Everything was perfect. The tone, the transitions, and the concept worked together in a way unknown to television previously. Every surprisingly elegant detail pulls you in, even the turn of a gurney wheel. I dropped whatever I was doing and was completely captivated.

As with most killer projects, there is not a lot of money in title work. In fact, even DK bills less than 15% of their yearly jobs in this category. Titles are definitely what they call "passion projects." Creatives get a halfway giddy adrenaline rush when they come in the door. (Tight deadlines and constraints aside, they are willing to give up any sense of a normal life routine to make them happen). Account people, well, not usually as excited.

They went into process details for one of their more current passion projects, True Blood. Working with the genius Alan Ball again, they decided to stay away from the expected vampire direction. No fangs or capes. Rama and his team were influenced by Harry Crews novels and the show's location, deep in the gritty Louisiana underbelly. Juxtapositions between the sacred and the profane along with the tempo and effects increasingly build tension. The sexual and religious pairings are further connected with implied violence. They explored nature as a predator or a parasite, which led to road kill (they assured us it was stock imagery, no one had to "live" with that fox). All of that is layered with subliminal effects, speed shifts, human elements taking on beast-like qualities, and the implied supernatural. The documentary assemblage of chemically-altered, Polaroid-style footage adds to the rawness. It's like pure evil emerges from The Bayou and assaults you. Originally, DK had a different soundtrack in mind. They presented their original love letter to the Gothic South. This was thankfully followed with a "chaser" photo (a cute pile of happy puppies).

DK is heavily influenced by music. They will make an extensive playlist before even starting work for a new client. This helps set the tone for the work. Here's a Devo-enhanced side project from Wymer, who keeps multiple sketchbooks. He advises creatives to constantly be creating.

"Flat Earth" Time lapse, Vol Two from Bryce Wymer on Vimeo.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Perfectionism and the adaptability course.

Is perfectionism really such a bad thing? Is it something that should always be preceded with "how to overcome?" As the winter Olympics kick off, I'd like to explore the benefits of adaptive perfectionism.

Olympic athletes live the idea of perfection. What they sacrifice and endure in pursuit of athletic perfection is inspiring. What truly drives them? Sure, everyone wants to win, but why? Self-worth? Fame? To impress their family and friends? Fear of failure? Sheer love of the sport? To avoid the wrath of their coach? Ending up on a Wheaties box or cashing in on endorsement opportunities? As with any career path, those who work toward achieving a big-picture goal are driven by a mix of motivators. However, self-motivated perfectionism is much more productive than anxiety-driven perfectionism.

Olympic athletes no doubt have natural talent, but dedication and persistence are their defining attributes. In Scott Young's post he states, "Stopping at “good enough” is an easy way to ensure you’ll never accomplish anything remarkable." He goes on to describe the two types of perfectionism:

  1. Short-term perfectionism on a particular project, task or goal. (Stifling/bad)
  2. Long-term perfectionism on projects, tasks and goals, in general. (Crucial/good)
Let's face it, there's a big difference between doing something just to get by and doing something with longevity in mind. By throwing the word adaptable together with perfectionism, we can encourage detail-focused movement (instead of completion-hindering idealism). Today's branding environment is in flux more than ever and adaptability is key. Put the energy into getting the idea right and go from there. Then react and realign. Stay fluid, but don't force media outlets if they make no sense for the brand. At the same time, don't be afraid of failure. It's part of going big. Some of the best ideas are born from heading back to the drawing board with new insight.

[Side note: As you may have guessed, I fall into the perfectionist category. If birth order has anything to do with it, I'm the first born of two first-born parents. Doing my best to stay on the functionally adaptable side.]


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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Brand trifecta, fail.

Why are we so underwhelmed with the Super Bowl spots? Let's start with the bar. It's exceptionally high for these coveted time slots. Big investment for a huge, diverse, and captive audience. Buzz kicks in early to hype potential front-runners. Any time I am told how amazing something is going to be, I automatically expect more from what it actually delivers. But, it's always fun to watch what brands do when they step into the ultimate advertising cage match.

Overall, the spots failed to effectively portray what I'll call the brand trifecta: brand culture, creative idea, exceptional execution. Most spots attempted to present at least one or two of these categories, but I don't think any of them completely nailed all three. Although Google took their simplicity angle to the next level. The product demonstration "story" was an obvious, but successful masterpiece. However, maybe a bit too quiet and deep for much of the Super Bowl crowd. There were some fun ideas, that were not targeted at the expected audience. Then some misguided ideas that were executed brilliantly. And also, lots and lots of just plain bad stuff. Nothing stuck with me as being an industry-changing campaign.

But hey, the game was excellent.

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