Films

Designing the Mad Men opening titles

A very cool interview over at Art of the Title shows how the Mad Men opening titles came to be.

Where we live

This will have to tide me over until Samsara premieres.

I wish I had 4-dimensional HDR eyes.

Minute by minute

A Norwegian cruise line filmed their entire 134-hour coastal cruise, dubbed “The World’s Most Beautiful Sea Voyage”, and put it online. Not bad ambient entertainment…

Perspective

A book read by a thousand different people is a thousand different books.

Quick thoughts from “Make it So”

Nathan Shedroff and Chris Noessel presented a talk about learning from science fiction interfaces. A couple insights:

  • Visual concepts are incredibly powerful at setting expectations for products
  • But they don’t even need to be visual to have an impact: audio and behavioral examples can similarly shift expectations. For instance, R2D2 only beeps and buzzes, and he’s an incredibly emotional and likable character.
  • The fidelity of your representation (especially how human-like it is) should be appropriate to the level of technology you have. Don’t show a realistic person if you can’t back it up with technology.
  • Pay attention to what bothers and impresses you while producing the concept–chances are those same constraints and opportunities would apply to the final product. For instance, while filming Minority Report, Tom Cruise had to take lots of breaks because his arms got tired operating the gestural interface.

‪A Day In The Life of John Lasseter

Really cool insights into how Pixar, and John specifically, makes the magic.

5 things I noticed:

  • The teams applaud after every successful review, even the short daily ones.
  • John sees himself as the head “cheerleader” for his film crew, and his personality reflects that. Even negative feedback is done with positive reinforcement for the team.
  • John uses cool custom-built applications to review work and record feedback. Benefits of close ties to Apple!
  • The “atrium” in the headquarters building perks him up several times a day. Having something inspiring and natural that you pass through regularly seems like a great workspace design principle.
  • His line about “the art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art” seems like something worth aspiring to in a creative role at any tech company.

Notes from The Pixar Story

Notes from The Pixar Story.

The bigger fear was just, can you find that lightning in a bottle again…you realize you have to actually work now at making yourself as naive as you were in the first round, without any effort. – Andrew Stanton, 48:38

We learned the important thing is not the idea; the important thing is the people. It’s how they work together, who they are, that matters more than anything else. – Ed Catmull on making Toy Story 2, 59:55

We were just too spread out, and the groups were developing their own styles. We were growing into several divisions instead of one company. And so the goal was pure and simple. We want to put everyone under one roof, and we want to encourage unplanned collaborations – Steve Jobs on building a new headquarters, 1:00:10

The building itself has helped so much. Because Pixar is its people. And we maintain the same philosophy of an office is an empty canvas. – Lasseter at 1:01

It’s striking that almost every Pixar film draws from a single very personal and emotional experience. John Lasseter’s family road trip inspired Cars; Andrew Stanton’s trip to the aquarium inspired Finding Nemo; Lasseter’s and Docter’s memories of childhood inspired Toy Story and Monster’s Inc. It reinforces for me the value of people expressing their vision and then owning the subsequent development.

The future of Pixar to me is going to be continuing to make these great films with more and more visionary directors, and then give them creative ownership of what they do so they can be proud of it for the rest of their lives. – John Lassetter 1:23:30

Notes from Art and Copy

Some interesting quotes from the Art and Copy film:

A lot of times people think of risk in terms of challenging convention. And that’s one form of risk. I don’t think it’s the most important; I think it’s kind of an easy shot.  I think the real risk comes in being willing to try to be authentic. – Dan Wieden

I think we have higher aspirations for our clients, and are more passionate about what our clients can be, should be, should try to be than they are. We’re trying to tell them…”Hey, you can be more than just a pet food company. You can aspire to loving dogs rather than just feeding dogs”. – Lee Clow

When Americans buy into one of Hal [Riney]’s campaigns, I think many times what they’re buying is what they wish their lives would be. – Jeff Goodby

People don’t mind being sold to if they understand why it’s happening and they enjoy the process. – Jeff Goodby

There are a lot of people in this business, but damn few really good ones. and damn few people get the chance to do good work. – Hal Riney

The frightening and most difficult thing about being what somebody calls a creative person is that you have absolutely no idea where any of your thoughts come from, really, and especially that you don’t have any idea about where they’re going to come from tomorrow. – Hal Riney

I grew up surfing…I was in the army with guys who grew up in New York…they missed the opportunity when you’re young to just revel in your physicality…I’ll be glad until the day I die that I grew up on the beach in California” – Lee Clow

Creative people, rise up! They can’t do shit unless we make ads for them! We should be in charge! – Lee Clow

Advertising should be statements about what the hell you think your life should be about. – George Lois

The most interesting thing about this documentary was the way it shifted my idea of advertising from a way of manipulating emotions and beliefs (a la Century of the Self) to a way of helping both people and companies find something they can identify with and aspire to. Sure, most advertising doesn’t reach, or even try for, those heights–but it can.

He’s back!

My favorite songs

I finally put together a sharable playlist of my favorite music from the past few years. No particular theme or criteria; but at some point I went completely nuts for each of these songs. To paraphrase the Dos Equis spokesman, “I don’t always listen to music, but when I do, I listen to a single song on repeat for days at a time.”

Here’s the list of my favorites, mostly in alphabetical order by artist but leading off with Mr. Blue Sky, my latest obsession:

The only ones missing (from Grooveshark, the service I used) are “The Three Of Us” by Ben Harper and “Solsbury Hill” by Peter Gabriel.

Looking over all of these, it’s interesting to remember where and when I listened to them. Many of them I heard for the first time, or loved for the first time, when they were used in movies (Good Will Hunting, Once, Big Fish, Garden State, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and amazingly American Wedding were some of the most influential); there’s something about music when combined with storytelling and video that is especially powerful. Some I learned about from friends on the cutting edge of new music, and some were simply popular radio songs I overheard and later Googled.

While I still enjoy most of the music, it’s clear that some of the charm is from memories of the situation where I first heard them. Listening again brings back the feelings I had at the time and makes me feel like I’m back in that context. The strongest example of this for me is Nirvana, where listening to Nevermind (and especially “Smells Like Teen Spirit”) puts me right back in 8th grade, on the bus headed to a field trip, where a friend handed over his Walkman and the music blew my mind. I have to be careful listening to music, because certain songs will put me in such a nostalgic state that I’m lost for the rest of the day.

I don’t know if everyone has the same reaction to music, or where exactly mine came from, but I love the ability of music to transform my mood and my outlook. Powerful stuff.