London 2017

In april 2017 I spent a couple of days in London on a short excursion. I am still processing my impressions and collecting my thoughts on the experience but I will try to briefly summarize the first results from the trip:

I conducted two interviews with visual effects artists that work in London. Together with Vancouver, London is the biggest visual effects ‘hub’ in the world. A huge amount of visual effects work is done within the Soho area in London. I have recorded the conversation in audio and video. To not have to worry about framing the camera I recorded using a 360 degree video camera. This results in a full panoramic image with both the interviewee and myself in the frame.

Ant Walsham and I at Electric Theatre Company in London.

Ant Walsham is a veteran visual effects artist and compositor who co-founded The Mill Рone of the leading postproduction studios in London. After spending years in that studio he has been freelancing  in London and Los Angeles since 2009.

Rudy Massar and I in the lounge at ILM London.

Rudy Massar works as a creature modeller at Industrial Light & Magic. ILM is arguably the leading visual effects house in the world. Rudy is part of a team of hundreds of artists working on huge films like Star Wars and the new Steven Spielberg movie. Before working at ILM Rudy spent a couple of years around the corner at MPC working on Jungle Book and other films.

I talked to Ant and Rudy about the work environment, what they need to do their best work, and their hopes and ambitions for the future.

The biggest revelation was when Rudy described the feedback system in place at ILM: every week the director (at that moment Steven Spielberg) would record feedback on all the work done on video. So every weel Rudy receives a video message from Steven discussing the work he has been doing. But Rudy can also view the feedback videos for every other artist, and that way get a really good impression of the way of thinking of the director, beyond the specific task Rudy is working on.

There were two studio visits that resonated with me: there was a presentation at Rehab studios where the ‘creative technologist’ presented his views on the future of social media and the dissapearance of displays from our daily life. The way we interact with social platforms and technology will be much more integrated and seamless.

The other visit was SixThirty, a two-man graphic design agency that has initiated a group project “Unread Messages” that invites artists and designers to speculate on the future of our relation with technology.

In short what I have slowly become to realize is that my work on films could also be framed as a kind of ‘speculative design’. In rethinking my position as a designer and collaborator on film, this could provide a good framework.

By interesting co-incidence I hooked up with old friend and former colleague Bas Leurs. I have worked with Bas Leurs when we were both teaching interaction design at the Willem de Kooning Academy and we spent a couple of years developing the curriculum of a new program together. But then our ways parted and we’ve not had much contact for a couple of years.

It turns out in the mean time he has spent a lot of time researching the design of creative collaboration: developing tools and techniques for organizing and facilitating creative processes in teams. During our 5-hour long diner we realized that there is a lot of overlap between the challenges I am facing as I aim to develop my professional practice and his expertise and research area.

As a direct outcome I have received a lot of reading materials and tips from Bas, and will have a good conversation partner during the continuation of my research.

Interestingly – apart from his work on creative collaboration, NESTA (his employer) has a strong focus on innovation, and in that role organizes an annual festival FutureFest which centers around speculative design!