Hello London. I’m back.

It’s Sunday evening and I’m a bit all over the place. My wife and I took a Virgin Atlantic flight on Thursday night from New York and landed at Heathrow on Friday morning. It was a one-way trip.

Wait? What?

After nearly three and half amazing years in New York, I’m back in London. I’m excited to say I’m starting a great new job and will be joining a fantastic team as Head of Production at Google.

Writing that it I can’t help but think I’m about to get found out in the biggest way possible. We’ll see…..

I’m going to miss the team in New York and the city. I don’t have the superlatives to explain how fucking awesome it was (yes, I said awesome… I’m allowed). During my time there I worked on 60+ projects; some big, some small, some successful, some failures. I never thought I’d be given the opportunity to create a new brand for [one of] the biggest companies in the world. But I was. And we did. Along with a bunch of other amazing stuff.

“It also felt like a good moment to tidy up and hit reset on a bunch of stuff. Especially digital things like email, tags, folders and social. I ran FullContact on iCloud, Google, and LinkedIn to merge and de-dupe the data – and hit delete on the old shit. After that I killed Angel List, G+, Instagram, Product Hunt, Snapchat, Squarespace, Tumblr, Twitter, Vimeo, Vine, Youtube and more. From today @hellokinsella is dead. A new and shiny @kinsellaxyz is alive.”

But this isn’t about the work I did. It’s about the work I’m going to do. I’m super excited to be joining a team that is already knocking it out of the park. Here’s a snapshot:

In September 2015, the team worked on a project called Assembly of Youth, which used feature phones and SMS to bring the voices of children around the world directly to their representatives at the United Nations General Congress. It presented them to some of the world’s most influential people in a powerful display in the atrium of the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

In response to the Syrian refugee crisis, the team worked alongside the International Rescue Committee and Mercy Corps to launch the Refugee Info Hub. Built and launched in just 36 hours, the portal brings valuable information to the thousands of refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria and making their way to Europe. Within four months of the Hub’s launch the platform had been used in 18 locations across Europe by more than 30 NGOs, and helped more than 100,000 refugees.

More recently Project Jacquard, which “makes it possible to weave touch and gesture interactivity into any textile using standard, industrial looms”, won the Cannes Product Design Grand Prix.

And this week they launch Project Bloks, “a research project aiming to create an open hardware platform to help developers, designers, and researchers build the next generation of tangible programming experiences for kids”.

I start tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Hello Google

It’s Sunday evening. I’m a bit all over the place after getting off a plane late last night – flying to New York to start a new job, tomorrow, at Google Creative Lab.

Yep. It feels strange to write that. I’ve talked about it before a little bit; but have only just found the breathing space to get something a bit more long-form down. As well as finishing a job I loved, I’ve also just got married, been on honeymoon, and am selling up and moving out of London. It’s been a crazy few weeks.

So, some history.

It’s only been 15-months since I joined Stinkdigital; I honestly loved being there and it stills holds a very special place in my heart. I was surrounded by a bunch of talented and fun people. I learnt loads. I made some mistakes. We did great work. We did it with a smile on our faces. I was slightly in awe at the quality of the place when I joined – I still am now.

So, why did I leave?

I’m a lover of creativity and technology; I’ve always thought Google is one of the most exciting and forward-thinking companies on the planet — and that Google Creative Lab is doing some of the most amazing, ambitious, and interesting work out there.

I could get all wordy about it, but you don’t pass up an opportunity like this.

I spent a bit of time with a few members of the team last week, taking about the work. They’re so switched on it’s unbelievable. It’s also exciting for me personally to be part of a team at Google that already includes some amazing people.

Iain wrote something when he joined that really struck a chord: “Everyone I’ve met who works at Google and Google Creative Lab feels like they’re part of a company that is both a great business AND can change the world for the better. I’m overjoyed to share their beliefs and look forward to joining them.”

That’s the feeling I got when I spent time there.

When I talked with Kevin about things he casually dropped in: “This place is a bit like the Butterfly Effect – everybody who joins has the opportunity to make a difference.”

I hope I can make a positive one.

So it’s been an absolute joy to be part of the unfolding Stinkdigital story; I loved every minute of it. And here’s to the a next adventure with Google. I’m excited by the future that lays ahead – and that’s all you can ask for, right?

I start tomorrow. Wish me luck

1 month in at Stinkdigital

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Some (not very good photos) of Stinkdigital London.

I’m 1 month into my new role as Exec Producer: here’s 10 things I’ve noticed.

  1. We work direct with brands and in partnership with agencies.
  2. We get lots of enquiries.
  3. We are lucky enough to be selective about the work we take on.
  4. We have a core of fulltime staff backed-up by a pool of trusted freelancers.
  5. We run the business on Google Apps. (Gmail, Google Calendars, Google Docs)
  6. We use Google Talk in the office and Skype for international calls.
  7. We use shared docs and collaborative editing… a lot.
  8. I haven’t opened MS Office since I started.
  9. I have 2 regular meetings a week (one at Stinkdigital, one at Stink) and a call with NYC.
  10. The meeting room is usually free.

The thing I’ve really noticed though is how fast things move. No I mean it…. really fast. It’s built into the DNA of the place. Part through necessity, part through planning. Obviously that brings it’s own subtle challenges; but on the whole it’s been really refreshing.

Apart from how we work; the actual work is pretty great too.

We started the year off by winning FWA Site of the Month for CNN Ecosphere, we then launched Wrangler Europe SS12 Directed by Arno Salters. and we’ve just been rated in the Top 5 Production Companies Worldwide in The Gunn Report. There’s much more great stuff in the pipeline too.

I can’t believe it’s February already.

I’m Still Here

Sorry about the lack of updates recently. Work has been mad busy.

After 10 great years in Shoreditch – glue Isobar are moving to new offices near Regents Park. We’re moving into a brand new space with other Aegis Media agencies, such as Posterscope, iProspect, Carat, Vizeum, and more.

We made the “Ultimate Moving Card” to spread the news – http://moving.glueisobar.com/

glue Isobar Moving Card: 100’s of clips – Which one will you get?

Glue-moving

We also made a new election broadcast for the Green Party.

“No Joke” – Green Party Local Election Broadcast 2011.

Brave stuff from Caroline.

Please get involved. http://www.facebook.com/thegreenparty

Finally, we’re also launching our new website, blog, and glue loves next week. Stayed tuned….

For now though it’s….

Goodbye Shoreditch

The OAP pub and the famous Old Nics orange office door in one trendy music vid.

What a way to go…

Our Path To Truly Rich, Personalised Video Experiences

Dom wrote this feature for the 1st anniversary of the rebranded Revolution magazine. This is a copy+paste of the expanded version posted on his blog.

It gives you a glimpse into a some of the projects I’ve worked on at glue, and the technologies we’re looking into at the moment.

Little did I know it at the time, but a project for Mars’ sponsorship of Euro 2006 was the catalyst for a new approach to personalised video content here at glue.

What we did was crude and simple: we allowed people to create a fan by choosing a head, body and hands. These individual assets existed as PNGs on the server and depending on what was chosen, a JPEG was created using ImageMagik. Thinking not too much more about it, we moved on to the next project.

A year later our Get The Message recruitment campaign for the Royal Navy was born:

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We quickly realised that the audience likely to want to recruit weren’t exclusively those behind PC’s all day. In fact the bulk of them weren’t. For this audience the only real channel available at scale was mobile.

The problem was we’d become experts in interactive video using Flash, but Flash wasn’t (and broadly still isn’t) compatible with many handsets. The file format of choice was / is MPEG video so we needed to replicate the browser experience using it.

We scratched our heads and fairly quickly came round to the idea that if we can create individual JPEGs on the fly, stitching them together would create video. So that’s exactly what we did – this time combining ImageMagik with FFMPEG.

The video message is delivered as an SMS. The recipient downloads and watches the video, and also has the ability to respond direct on handset:

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=7395885&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=00adef&fullscreen=1

Get the message mobile video from Dom O’Brien on Vimeo.

At the time this was a first and we all felt pretty happy and gave ourselves a slap on the back like only the ad industry can. But almost naively, and for a second time, we’d stumbled on the door to a much bigger opportunity:

Replicating the flash experience had fulfilled the requirements of this project, but we soon recognised that by automating motion graphics or 3D packages it’s immediately possible to generate video without creative limits.

Enter DYNAMIC VIDEO (a phrase we’ve banded about the agency for a few years now that REALLY needs a better name…)

Whilst traditional video is shot with a camera and broadcast, dynamic video allows for content to be generated specific to the person watching it, at the moment of viewing.

To help understand this complex concept, think about the gaming world where a game is produced but each game-play is unique to the actions of the game player. With dynamic video the same is now true for brand experiences.

Here’s one such example we created in 2008 for Bacardi using their existing endorsement of UK beatboxing champion Beardyman.

The project was initiated by the simple thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great if everyone could beatbox as well as Beardyman.’ And from there a project was born.

It’s a simple upload your face mechanic, using Kofi Annan here for the purposes of demo:

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=7393426&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=00adef&fullscreen=1

Bacardi Beatology from Dom O’Brien on Vimeo.

kofi_annan-150x150.jpg

There’s all sorts of complex things going on under the bonnet.

There’s proprietary image recognition software interpreting the uploaded photo, identifying facial elements and stripping it out from its background (no need for manual intervention).

Then using 3DMax the video is generated by mapping the face texture onto existing wireframe animations.

This technique has 2 immediate benefits:

1. Visually pretty much anything is possible (at least anything that’s possible within motion graphics or 3d applications)

2. The generated file is the ubiquitous MPEG – enabling distribution across channels without the need to re-engineer

However the technique is fairly processor intensive – taking around 20 seconds per person to generate. This gives a through-put of 4,320 videos per processor per server per day. Whilst this is ok on a smallish campaign, the only real thing you can do for larger ones is throw more hardware at it which can be costly and only becomes viable once a client really values what is creatively being achieved.

The emergence of cloud computing farms and the rendering capacity these offer to an extent solves this issue, but it’s early days. These cloud farms not only offer scalable rendering capabilities, but with the proliferation of smaller devices in all our pockets, enable richer experiences to be created remotely and be viewed on device.

Another sector dabbling in using cloud farms in this way is the few virtual rendering games companies that have recently emerged, which negate the need for a console by rendering content virtually and bringing it into home via your broadband. (can our broadband really cope with realtime 1080p video content? Or is this partly the reason these services haven’t yet taken off). Definitely one to keep an eye on.

As is the recent emergence of open source video specific rendering farms like PandaStream.

Or potentially the answer is in not saving the generated video to file, but rather to dynamically construct the video within stream as done here:

audicar.jpg

It’s a neat solution, but the SDK means the production process is alien to existing skill sets in the short term.

So generally speaking it would be fair to say there’s lots of trial and error needed. And I can’t help but notice the aforementioned gaming industry is set on collision course with the digital industry – both attacking a similar problem but from different angles. This is a most exciting prospect. (Here’s the closest example of the two together I’ve seen to date).

In the mean time it would be great to think that the Adobes’ of this world, or maybe more likely the hardware guys of the world like nVidia or AMD move into this space and create a tool to ease the production process, but until they do these experiences will be built by ingenuity in combining niche technologies together to the needs of the project.

It therefore becomes apparent that to stay ahead of competitors R&D can’t be undervalued. The same goes for having the time and freedom to explore, trial and learn new technologies and techniques on paid for work. As we’ve testified here, bits of work that at the time may not seem like much, may in the future prove to be invaluable by re-emerging as a wholly different entity.

So collectively we (the industry) have come to a juncture where new creative opportunities exist. With this brings the need for internal re-education both on how we approach briefs conceptually, but also in how we approach capturing the assets in a new way that enables them to be manipulated with these techniques.

And with an eye on the future: glue recently ventured into the world of TV. I for one am really excited at the prospect of the day that the archaic TV broadcasting infrastructure is modernised and we can apply our digital know how onto the currently stagnant format. It defies belief that everything is still run from BetaMax. Admittedly I don’t know the setup intimately, but I’d have thought all it needs is for systems to be driven by an internet enabled computer – which happens on occasion, but not enough.

Here’s another more dynamic example that the clever boys and girls at MiniVegas were able to negotiate for a special short term deal for S4C a few years ago:

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=7396307&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=00adef&fullscreen=1

S4C ident by Minivegas from Dom O’Brien on Vimeo.

We’re undoubtably in exciting times, and hats off to the team here driving all of this forward @SuperScam @BananaFritter @hellokinsella

Bring on the next project..

Do Something To Get Noticed

Meet Chris Kahle, who Tweeted his way into Crispin.

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So there you have it. Blogs and twitter picked it up, over 80 tweets were sent, and he got the cut through.

It’s not something that anyone can do again. But he get their attention and seems to have the skills to back it all up.

Fair play.

Interview with Alex Bogusky.

Bit more about his effort here – http://thisischriskahle.com/projects/cpbtweet/