Hush: Interview (2010)
Posted on December 6, 2010 by michael
Previous Video Interview – 2008
Since we last spoke back in 2008 (view 2008 video above) HUSH has taken on several physical interactive installation projects. How would you describe your transition toward this new medium?
Watching that interview makes us smile. It really captures the vibe of the studio, but at the same time reminds us of how far we’ve come and how we’ve grown.
Our first project, in fact, was an installation project for Acura at the Detroit Auto Show – but yes, it certainly wasn’t our main focus. I believe our transition into the medium of installation / interactive spaces / media in spaces was a natural one; partly a result of our affinity of architecture as well as just a natural curiosity to see how design and storytelling changes when you alter the contextfor viewing it. Add the advent of some new, fun technologies and designing content for spaces becomes a wonderful mash-up of storytelling, technology, architecture, physical experience and visceral effect. Simply, physical spaces really affect people in ways that are impossible within the 16:9 frame.
How does your creative approach differ when designing for installation projects?
Our process is pretty conducive to working across media. Lots of sketching, research, reference, no wrong answers, challenging the norms. But, working on installation projects mandates leaving our computers behind for a moment and moving into the real world. It means figuring out how big is big, how small is small, and comparing this against the one factor that simply doesn’t change no matter what the environment: human scale.
What new tools have you explored in implementing physical installation projects?
We haven’t invented some super-secret application or a particular methodology™ that is copyrightable. However, we have parlayed versions of traditional commercial production and interactive development processes into this new medium. By nature, this means our process and product is different than that pursued by pure architects, graphic designers, engineers, or other craftsmen. It’s not better or worse, but it is different because of our unique mix of backgrounds and creative experiences.
How much time is given to experimentation and is this sort of exploration generally allowed within client projects?
It’s funny, the advertising industry at large does a terrible job at accepting that new creative projects inherently involve an element of the unknown – and therefore, the necessity to experiment, to make mistakes, and potentially to fail. There is no room for error. The pitch process, the grueling timelines, and the lack of tolerance for missteps hinder experimentation and exploration.
So, most of this is done on our own time as R&D or “The Lab” as many in our industry have come to call it. Sometimes we get opportunities to experiment on our client’s dime but it’s our responsibility to research, test and understand the opportunities available to us. We bring that to the table.
That being said, we have been very successful at impressing upon our clients the need (requirement?) for an exploration phase that helps answer the tough questions at the beginning and provide an open forum for analysis of our findings. We have to be willing to change course if our experimentation results in realizations counter to the initial directions for the project. Call it what you want, brand it even, but this is just being nimble and honest in an effort to create the best project possible.
How would you describe HUSH’s collaborative process with Third Eye Studios?
Marc Thorpe, principal architect and owner of Third Eye Studios, has been a great collaborator on the last two installation projects. He truly respects our area of expertise while bringing a very strong creative viewpoint to the architectural aspects of the project. Most importantly, Marc, like HUSH, believes that media is a form of architecture. It has the ability to tell a story, transform an audience, redirect movement, act as signage and have a visceral effect on the audience.
He has many years of experience in the field and is incredibly aware as to its convergence with other disciplines, be it interactivity, commercial storytelling, event production, etc.
Please outline the different creative and technical phases involved in designing and implementing:
This project had a very open brief; but as you know this can be a great thing or a terrible thing. Showtime was incredible in giving us room to flex our muscles and bring to the space our personal interpretation of their show. It was up to us to make or break it.
While the brief was blue sky, we did have a myriad of de facto constraints on this project. We used constraints of budget, timeline, physical space, and lack of information about our particular Showtime show (the details were under wraps, to premier soon) tohelp us conceive of a very clear, minimalist installation. We pushed to create a visceral experience defined by bold icons of the show’s themes. We didn’t want the audience to have to work to understand our statement – rather, we wanted to get past that and allowpeople to feel, play and interact with each other.
Creatively, this one really did start out on a napkin. But shortly thereafter, we developed architectural renderings (a mix between our rough 3D blocking and more sophisticated plans from Marc Thorpe), pre-visualizations to test potential lighting effects, animation tests, and interactive sound tests with our talented friends at Antfood Music and Sound Design.
Ultimately, however, all of this came together in the space itself. All the pre-viz and calculation in the world cannot substitute for real tech and location scouts to see how our ideas actually play out.
This project was significantly larger than the Showtime House, and therefore, the creative and technical process to achieve a three-part installation at such a grand scale was much deeper.
I think we pitched on this project for nearly two months. Looking back at our creative treatments, we presented upwards of twenty versions, each with additional layers of creative, technical and strategic detail. This was just to win the job. It was less about the competition and more about the complexities of the idea and how to best convey that to our client.
When we were awarded the job, we were fortunate enough to collaborate with some great partners, thereby allowing us to do what we do best: creative direct. Working with Marc helped us nail down materials of the physical structure, lighting design and the general flow of people through the event space. The event production company, DaVinci, was critical in building the entirety of the space and working with us to craft the key details that make or break an interactive installation of this caliber. Lastly, our technical directors, Karolina Sobecka and James George of Flightphase, were critical in the interactive development and fine tuning of each of the experiences.
What is interesting in all of these types of projects but particularly interesting in this one, is how incremental development, design advancements, and reviews must be presented to our clients. Traditional commercial production utilizes a very proven process: storyboards become design boards, become shooting boards, become animatics, become rough edits, become the final spot. Clients are generally accustomed to this process and the expectation at each stage is reasonable – you can see the goal and each iteration of the piece moves us closer to that goal in a very linear manner.
With installation projects such as this, the majority of elements come together simultaneously at the very end of the project. The development curve gets very steep only in the final weeks, if not days.Therefore, all the iterations prior to the final “build” are pretty minimal in comparison. This does not help to allay client fears, or allow them to provide important and useful feedback along the way.
So, we developed a pretty good process to help this. We combined traditional pre-viz techniques (virtual fly-throughs of the space), browser-based interactive applications that mimic audience movement/gesture by using the mouse movement, and we rented a full-sized studio space to stage the interactive installations. We documented our testing in the space as well as invited clients to experience it themselves at a real human scale, under similar lighting and physical conditions as the final event.
Using all of these tools, we were able to implement a development process that showed key advancements, was open for critique and adjustment, and took some of the mystery out of the final delivery. All good things for a commercial project.
Do you see HUSH keeping a balance between interactive and broadcast projects or do you feel physical installations might outweigh broadcast in the future?
HUSH will continue to evolve. Our focus on design, storytelling and overall visual direction will naturally lead us into unexpected territory. Part of this is natural curiosity and our chameleon-like nature. But part of this is also dictated by industry-wide factors; the interest in installations and physical experiences – be that the pop-up store craze, the ad as theatrical performance, etc. – has sky rocketed in the past 24 months. We’re helping to answer that demand.
There is a beauty to broadcast as well. We love to flex our muscles within the constraints of the :30 because it only makes us better at breaking those constraints and working outside of the television, online, mobile and physical. Each area informs the other. We just hope to keep learning and having fun – we’re lucky to do both on a daily basis.
What are your 5 most played mp3s?