From time to time we run across creative ideas and projects that blow our minds and truly showcase what can be done when Adobe products are pushed beyond the normal boundaries. And we know that this kind of thing gets most of you pumped up as well. So here’s the first in an ongoing series … jump in and ride along with us as we go behind the scenes and peek into the worlds of these digital imaging mavericks.
Jake Friedman is the creative director and co-founder of Wildlife, a Los Angeles-based digital creative agency specializing in interactive and motion graphics. Wildlife works with companies like Google, Hyundai, Electronic Arts and Sony to build meaningful experiences for consumers. Work is never dull at Wildlife, where Jake and team will find themselves challenged by a touchscreen installation one week, and then building a website or directing a live action shoot the next.
Jake has used Adobe products since Photoshop 5 – longer than he’s been driving. Leveraging the power of Adobe tools, Jake led the interactive production for the ingenious and hilarious Old Spice “Muscle Music” video, featuring a shirtless Terry Crews covered with sensors that trigger an array of musical instruments anytime he flexes one of his muscles. If it sounds interesting to you, check out the finished product below:
What/who inspired the Muscle Music video?
Jake: We had the good fortune of Wieden+Kennedy and Vimeo bringing us in on an idea that, conceptually, had all the makings of a great piece. W+K has been doing great work with Old Spice and Terry Crews for years, and having now seen him in the flesh (literally), it’s easy to see how his awe-inspiring muscles made for a great jumping-off point for such a fun, absurd idea.
Which Adobe products did you use to create Muscle Music?
Jake: We worked with Adobe Flash, Flash Builder, After Effects, Photoshop, and Media Encoder. There were a huge number of assets moving back and forth across these products, so it was important that they could integrate to the pipeline seamlessly. We also benefited greatly from Photoshop’s recent addition of video integration and support.
Describe the process of building a video with this many moving parts.
Jake: A project like this lives and dies in pre-production. It’s essential that all of the live action elements are captured properly for interactive use, and that everything is approached with an eye toward final implementation. We worked hand-in-hand with director Tom Kuntz and VFX house The Mill to provide on-set supervision and carefully define the parameters for delivery. Even so, we had our work cut out to refine these elements for integration into a single canvas in Flash and Wildlife’s video and motion graphics skills were invaluable here. There were countless hours of pixel-by-pixel tweaking and creative compositing both for the front-end Flash client and the back-end HD video encoder, getting clips to sit on just the right half-pixels and trimming them to the perfect frame count.
We also had to crop these videos to their minimum canvas area in order to speed up performance for both pieces of software and avoid layering dozens of full-screen clips over one another. Photoshop was a champion here, as we could bring in our Quicktime Animation MOV’s with alpha, and quickly resize the clips, then use a combo of the animation timeline and the Trim tool to see the minimum dimensions we needed to maintain, so as to not cut off any clips when muscles flexed and instruments moved in the frame, throughout the duration of each clip. From there, we pushed them through Adobe Media Encoder to create nearly lossless FLV’s with alpha channels (and surprisingly great file size!), and brought them into Flash.
Of course, we had a lot of code to tie this all together, including a custom script to record users’ songs into an EDL (Edit Decision List) like you’d export from a typical editing suite, before passing them through our server-side rendering software and back onto Vimeo.
What was your biggest challenge with this project?
Jake: This project was full of unique challenges, but one of the most surprising was getting each individual muscle and instrument to line up seamlessly together. In converting 1080p HD video down to web sizes and formats, pixels and colors get scaled and interpreted in unpredictable ways. Photoshop’s video support was invaluable here, as we could manipulate and adjust the clips with the precision of a true photo editor. Once we overcame the front-end hurdles, we then had to have a solid game plan to handle the server load of rendering custom user videos frame by frame, essentially like a server-side version of Adobe After Effects, with software that was only experimental prior to this project.
From idea to completion, how long did it take to finish Muscle Music? Did you get distracted and lose any time playing around with the sound board?
Jake: We first started conspiring with Vimeo and W+K in May, shot and began development in early June, and launched at the end of August – three months of production in total. No doubt that along the way we had a blast creating Muscle Music remixes of our favorite songs, and getting in-office Muscle Music bands going across multiple machines! Mostly it was a lot of long days and nights, and extra-strength energy drinks in the final week leading up to launch. It was all well worth it.
What types of responses have you gotten to the video?
Jake: The response has been overwhelming and extraordinarily positive. When the project first came to us, it felt like a very special opportunity. But once you’re in the trenches for a few months it’s easy to lose perspective. You’re focused on battling the realities of timeline, budget and technical limitations. Achieving the vision in your head is always difficult, and usually impossible, but it’s also what drives a project not to settle. We’ve been truly humbled by the level of virality, and the combination of industry and pop-culture celebration that Muscle Music has received – things we could never have anticipated. Last month, we were honored with The FWA’s Site of the Month award, which puts us among highly respected company. It was a little odd, but very cool, trying to share this project with friends only to find out that they had all already seen it. That doesn’t happen too much in a career.
Did creating this video inspire you to work on any other creative projects?
Jake: This project has only further whet our appetite to push the boundaries of interactive video. We’re starting to see a lot of brands that are eager for something similar yet fresh. With a strong concept, the possibilities are immense, and every day feels more and more like technology is transitioning from an inhibitor to a catalyst. We’ve got a handful of internal experiments looking at ways to build on Muscle Music and continue to push toward a new standard of video and interactivity on the web, but we’re most excited about the potential of our next brand collaborations.
Can you describe any other past projects you’ve worked on, in which Adobe products proved invaluable for you to achieve the results you needed?
Jake: There’s not a single project we work on in which Adobe’s Creative Suite isn’t fired up daily. There’s really no substitute. We’ve found on a few occasions that the latest CS release or Flash update has made a project possible that couldn’t have been done just a few weeks earlier, and that makes for one thankful project team!
Do you have any other exciting new projects coming up in the near future that you’d like to (and can) share with us?
Jake: When we founded Wildlife, it was with the belief that there was a big opportunity to bring broadcast quality motion graphics and video together on the web. Muscle Music was exactly the type of project we were built for, and we hope to have opened a lot of minds to the potential of video and interactivity on the web. This is only the beginning of a new wave of high-end digital experiences.
We’re playing around with some exciting developments around mobile technology, the gaming space, and reducing the division between the digital and physical worlds. Unfortunately, given the nature of our work we can’t share what’s next quite yet, but if it’s done right we hope you’ll be discovering it soon enough!
Thanks to Jake for taking the time to talk about this exciting project and inspire other Adobe customers to be creative and ambitious in the work they create. Check out the Muscle Music video for yourself and see if it inspires your work.
We’d love to hear about more examples of our customers’ creative use of Adobe technology. Please post a link to your work or work by someone you know in the comments section below … who knows, we may feature the work in a future customer spotlight!
For additional information on using the new video features in Photoshop, check out this video on the Adobe Photoshop YouTube channel.