The Avant-Garde of Interactive Flash Video
Interview with Bjoern Kowalski – Dipl. Ing. Digital Media, Effekt-Etage
FSW: Hi Bjoern, Effekt-Etage did some amazing work for e.g. MINI, BMW, Adidas or Audi. For what part of the projects is Effekt-Etage normally responsible for?
Bjoern: Well, we are normally involved from the first idea all the way to the final product. We create 3D artwork for interactive storyboards, do consultations for the concept and help in case of unclear issues. We also plan and supervise shootings, organizing the right equipment and doing the post production. In projects without a set we are working on the 3D visuals. We also do video encoding and Flash development.
FSW: What project are you currently working on and what are the challenges?
Bjoern: Currently we are working on several projects including BMW and Adidas. Both will be online in the middle of April. Unfortunately I can’t tell you more. 🙂
FSW: What was the most exciting and/or challenging project you’ve worked on so far?
Bjoern: Well, each project is special and challenging in one or the other way. I guess one of the most exciting projects was the MINI Convertible Special. It was the first time that a company did a 5-day shoot for an interactive application on the other side of the world. The shoot and post production were quite tricky as well. Everything turned out well and the application was a benchmark for interactive video websites for quite some time, winning several awards all over the world.
FSW: What software do you normally use?
Bjoern: For the 3D part we use Cinema 4D most of the time. For modeling tasks we also use Bodypaint and Mudbox. And we’ve just acquired Vue, a software which is great for creating clouds and environments. Basically we always use the software which is best for the job. For compositing we use Combustion, which is great for all the interactive applications we work on. You can choose any resolution and it has nice flow graph systems.
FSW: What is the difference between classical post production for a TV commercial and post production for an interactive application?
Bjoern: Well, in an interactive application the storyline is not linear. So a lot of clips must fit seamlessly with a previous clip. That makes it far more complex. And it’s more than only a 30-second movie like in a TV commercial. There are always a lot of small clips, loops etc. and all of them have to have seamless transitions.
FSW: What is the importance of Flash Video for your projects? And if the client provides the idea, how do you make sure that your Flash Video part is integrating well with the interactive concept?
Bjoern: You should not separate the idea and Flash Video part. The video should be part of the idea from the beginning. You shouldn’t use video just because you can. There are a lot of great sites without video. But if you use motion pictures as a design element, as a navigation element or as a way to make the web more emotional, it can be great fun. We always try to expand our creativity using new innovations in the areas of Flash, 3D or camera equipment. A few years ago we had some ideas but we couldn’t realize them, because the technology wasn’t there yet. Now we have those new technologies – which is great… and the development of new innovations is pretty fast now, so there is a lot of space for new ideas.
FSW: What is your favorite video-based site right now? What inspires you?
Bjoern: I like sites with one good idea technically well done. You shouldn’t make it too complex. The user wants to be entertained or wants to obtain information, so he has to understand the application right away. And it is always good trying to avoid video loading times. I mean you are not willing to wait in front of a television looking at a black picture for 20 seconds and then watch one commercial… that doesn’t work. I like the interactive tour we’ve created for the Audi Q7. It presents a lot of information in a nice interactive way. And I like the IKEA kitchen special. Very nice work. What inspires me? I started out doing post production (3D and compositing) and special effects for TV commercials and music clips. I worked on clips for Depeche Mode, Lou Reed and spots for McDonald’s and I’m still getting most of my inspiration from the TV world. There are cool spots, nice little stories told in 30 seconds with beautiful visual concepts. For our online applications I always try to reach the visual and storytelling standards of international TV commercials.
FSW: What do you think will be the focus of online broadband marketing in the future?
Bjoern: Difficult question, but I’m sure we will see more of this in the future. There will be more integrated campaigns (on and offline) and more and more videos. But it’s a fast changing field. Environments like Second Life are interesting. You never know what will be next, but I’m pretty sure that there will be amazing things in the future. It has just started…
FSW: Do you think there will be more demand for post production companies like Effekt-Etage specialized on interactive video based advertisement?
Bjoern: Since we also work on concepts, for instance for the navigation, we are more than just a traditional post production facility. We also do traditional post production for the TV market and since we are quite busy, there seems to be a need for us.
FSW: What do you think is the most common mistake agencies make when they use interactive video?
Bjoern: Even at some great online agencies there is sometimes a lack of knowledge when it comes to video. And the traditional departments consider websites to be ‘just online’. You need a lot of knowledge of different fields to create a cool interactive Flash Video application.
FSW: Some marketers complain that the web shouldn’t become another television channel. Do you think the web will replace the regular television soon and most of the content on the web will be TV like?
Bjoern: Well, like I’ve said, TV is still the standard for video and storytelling. I think the border between TV and Web will disappear. I mean, it’s just a monitor you are looking at’ it doesn’t really matter how the picture is getting delivered. It’s still entertaining to watch a movie without having the need to click and to get involved. But if you like the glasses the actor is wearing, it would be nice to be able to click and buy them right away. Is that Web or TV?
FSW: Thanks for taking the time for this interview.
Bjoern: My pleasure.