Painting (and fooling around) with light.

It’s amazing what an eye for detail, lots of patience and a really slow shutter speed can achieve. Light painting (or light graffiti as it’s also known) is a relatively new artform that uses the movement of light to create unbelievable images. In real time. That’s right, the photographs created by the artists below have all been shot in the streets and in studios in a single take – without any digital manipulation whatsoever. Over to these awesome freestylers.

Michael Bosanko
Welsh artist Michael Bosanko uses an array of LEDs and flashlights – not always in the dark – and captures anything from giant spider-like creatures to organic forms, to even whimsical alien people. Michael says he got inspired to venture into light graffiti 5 years ago, while holidaying in Greece. Hey, thank goodness he took that vacation!

Bosanko 01

Bosanko 02

Bosanko 03

Alan Jaras
An industrial research scientist and microscopist who has, since retirement, turned his considerable expertise towards capturing images of intricate beauty. Alan shoots a targeted light source through a piece of textured glass or plastic formation, to capture the refraction patterns directly on to 35mm film – using no lens in the process.

Jaras 01

Jaras 02

Jaras 03

Patrick Rochon
This globe-trotting artist spends his time between his native Montreal, New York and Tokyo and creates surreal, and definitely eerie, works of light art. His portraits reflect Asian and other influences, with a stunning mix of colours and lasers. Patrick says that his compositions are visualised during the hours he spends meditating. Hmm.

Rochon 01

Rochon 02

Rochon 03

Dean Chamberlain
Dean discovered a passion for light painting while pursuing a degree in Fine Arts at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Using flashlights and coloured gels, he meticulously details out his live, psychedelic canvases, inch by inch. Oh, and the exposures for these sessions can last up to 5 hours!

Chamberlain 01

Chamberlain 02

Chamberlain 03

MRI
From gorgeous to downright goofy. New York-based light painters Ryan Warnberg and Michelle McSwain (MRI stands for Michelle and Ryan Illumination) bring their trademark brand of playfulness and fun to the artform. They believe that light graffiti is for everyone and anyone can participate. So apart from art projects and commercial work, they undertake birthday bashes and Halloween parties. Even Bar Mitzwahs.

MRI 01

MRI 02

MRI 03

LAPP-Pro
The breathtaking, hyper-kinetic work of German duo Jan Wöllert and Joerg Miedza may never have seen the light of day if it weren’t for an accident (or two). Apparently, back in 2007, Jan found himself locked in at an old industrial complex where he was shooting. To kill time, he dabbled in some night photography. And accidentally moved a light source across the frame during a long exposure shot. Looking at the unusual results in the morning, the duo had a pretty good idea where they were headed!

LAPP 01

LAPP 02

LAPP 03

That’s just a preview of the incredible talent out there and I’m running out of space :-). If you have the time, do check out some of the others like Lichtfaktor, Sola, Lightmark and Toby Keller of Burn Blue Photography.

And remember what I said earlier about light painting being a new artform? Not entirely true. It’s been around, but has become popular with artists only in the last 5 years or so. On that note, let me leave you with these early photographs of Pablo Picasso – yes, Pablo Picasso – giving it a go.

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Mind your language. Seriously.

The Rosetta Project

Forget beaming proof of our existence to little green men. With the advent and rise of globalisation (which was a supremely fucked-up idea to begin with!) it looks like we have to undertake a similar task – for ourselves.

Scientists at the rather profoundly-named Long Now Foundation believe that the world’s languages (7,000 at last count) are not just connected to individual cultures but are, in fact, repositories of cultural diversity and human history. Now here’s the scary/true part. These scientists foresee that we may lose as much as 90% of the world’s linguistic diversity within the next century i.e. globalisation is killing languages.

But the white coats have given it a thought. And their long shot – oh, it’s a good one – owes as much to technology as it does to the stone ages.
The Rosetta Project is a monumental global undertaking to develop a contemporary version of the original Rosetta Stone. In other words, to survey, document and create a near-permanent archive of the planet’s languages. To be digitally archived and made available to the public – progressively – via DVDs. But primarily to be transferred and physically inscribed, for posterity, on to nickel disks.

Nickel disks are micro-etched (the project is underway) with each language’s meta information, phonology, grammar, numbers, dictionaries and various related texts. Over 13,000 pages on to a single side, with contents viewable under magnification. Why nickel? Because the metal, although reactive by nature, is slow to react in air under normal conditions of temperature and pressure – due to the formation of a protective oxide surface (it’s used for alloys because of this). Apart from being corrosion-resistant, nickel also exhibits endurance under magnetic fields.

The Rosetta Project scientists argue that such a disk could withstand a variety of extreme environmental conditions and become part of a definitive, analogue representation of each of the planet’s languages. I’ve been following this project for some time now. And if you’re interested, head over to those websites to see how far they’ve taken this awesome task.

P.S. While you’re at it, maybe you should reconsider the LOLs, BRBs and the Hinglish/Benglish/Tanglish or whichever customised language you’ve been using lately. Personally speaking, no complaints. Just a thought :-).

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So you wanna watch a TV spot? – Part 3

COI/British Army – Truck
How do you sell something like the Army? By showing off your officers wielding the latest assault rifles, cruising around in gleaming armoured tanks and partaking in the glamourous life (the army ball, anyone?). The agency here thought otherwise – instead of showcasing the war to prospective recruits, they showed it. They featured harrowing scenarios, depicting the points of view of officers and war victims, and the internal conflicts each of them face. And made one of the most successful military recruitment campaigns ever.

Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Director: Paul Weiland

COI/British Army – Blanket
Another one in the series for The British Army. Rather than glossing over the subject of war, this one too answers some real issues concerning it. It deals with a sensitive subject and so well.

Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Director: Alexandra Taylor

The Times – Bottle
Newspapers, with their articles and columns, always make it a point to inform, educate, entertain and (more often than not) encourage readers to form an opinion. Yet their expensive, and weak, attempts at marketing themselves are an insult to both your intelligence as well as the papers they represent. So it’s surprising when you come across something like these. Two commercials for a newspaper, that are simple, nicely written and well-crafted. And, like the newspaper they represent, they do make you think.

Agency: RKCR/Y&R
Director: Chris Palmer

The Times – Banana
The second one in a series for this London-based newspaper. Another engaging, voice-over based script. Another intelligent piece of work.

Agency: RKCR/Y&R
Director: Chris Palmer

Audi S3 Quattro – Horses
You see a lot of TV commercials these days that set up a series of events, all leading to the big reveal of what the product or brand is. This one for Audi was one of the first that employed the technique. Clever script and great production values, sure, but in the hands of a less-gifted director, all that would have fallen flat. A lovely piece of work from the great (and sadly, late) Paul Arden.

Agency: DDB
Director:  Paul Arden

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Getting in shape for the Prince.

UK-based Maverick Media were commissioned to promote Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones. Maverick created 3 videos, each of which were posted online, all ending with the message ‘’Get Training’’. The videos directed viewers to the now-defunct URL 2december.co.uk – referring to the game’s original 2005 release date. Here are all of them together. More after the jump.

Now how did you like that? Things that go viral on the Internet usually depict extremes i.e. the humour is gross, the violence is too much, the sex is gratuitous. Why? Because the same rules that apply to television and radio programming do not apply to content online. There’s no watchdog (not worldwide at least), and Dad and Mom don’t monitor the PC like they do the TV. More importantly, people don’t necessarily do what’s standard and safe.

Okay, imagine this. You’ve got the video of a triple-hanky, parent-daughter relationship spot for some bank. You’ve also a video of how to get laid on prom night. Which one would you pass on to friends? Let me put it like this: Any guesses, which one is more likely to become popular/viral?

Brands are still trying to get a grip on this whole what-makes-a-viral concept. And it’s generally been a hit and miss. Look at the Prince of Persia videos. They show 2 ordinary guys trying to master the game controls (in this case, a PlayStation) as depicted in the handbook. The twist is that their practice takes place in the real world. There’s enough relatable jargon for gamers. There’s also lots of silly, fake blood and laughs to be had, if you like it that way. But what makes this a truly viral campaign? Because, in the end, the videos feel like online content – and not some plugged-in product promotion.

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Hope you’re having a rocking-good time!

Whew! Just realised it’s been a month since I started this blog. Believe me, it’s been the best experience ever (apart from the Hard Rock Café at Bangkok). And like they say, good things should get better… I’ll soon be posting an article on new-age photography, should be a blast. Also, the next installment of TV spots includes some of my personal favourites that are, oddly enough, all from the UK :-). And, oh right, I’m planning a brand-new category too. Exclusively devoted to viral ideas – with yours truly commenting on what makes each one special (or suck)… So watch out for all those groovy posts. Thanks for keeping me company y’all and, hey, keep dropping by.

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Advertising Vs. Product

Barcode Revolution

Note: The events described in the following post took place a few years ago. Although they were talked, bitched and bitched about a lot in advertising and design circles, just thought I’d add my two bits ;-) More on that later.

If Japanese design firm Design Barcode, Inc (and just for kicks, here’s a link to their weird Japanese website)  have their way, the barcodes we know of as those insanely boring black and white strips on packages are on their way to becoming information tags with plenty of cool.

Their plan: Add graphic elements of all kinds on to the basic barcode on the product, in a way that reinforces the product category. So for instance, if the product is noodles, the barcode itself is a graphic of chopsticks holding noodles (which in this case are the bars in the code). Or the barcode takes the form of a Jacuzzi for, oh let’s suppose, soap.

Design Barcode's Work

Of course, the designs themselves aren’t means to an end. They have to work. Well, the company vouches for the quality of their customised barcodes and zero instances of false reading by barcode readers. Also, the designs conform to international barcode standards such as UPC-A and EAN-13 – which is no mean feat. Here’s a video (complete with cheesy music!) of their work, more after the jump.

Back to the controversy. The work from Design Barcode caused quite a furore at the Cannes Lions 2006 by winning its coveted Titanium award – and I think for reasons never fully discussed at the time.

Now, this sort of honour is usually reserved for advertising-related work. Meaning usually, a massively-integrated campaign for a brand or a hugely-popular viral exercise – again, for a brand. Product/Industrial design or any effort in that general direction is rarely, if ever, given recognition at these shows. In fact, not since the original Apple iMac (remember Bondi-Blue and its eye-candy cousins?), which won the only gold at the 1999 D&AD Awards and many more since then, has a product-oriented piece of work won any major award at an ‘’advertising ’’ show. Then again, everyone in the ad and design industry holds a torch for Apple – no such love for an obscure company from Shibuya. Though both, in their own ways, are transforming the way we interact with products.

Makes you wonder, huh?

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So you wanna watch a TV spot? – Part 2

Lincoln Blackwood – Fish
Does a TV spot always have to be self-explanatory and neatly tied-up? No. Sometimes, you’re in just for the experience. Strange, sensual, sensory or even surreal. This here is one surreal fucking ride. Featuring a cool track from one of my favourite lounge acts :-)

Agency: Young & Rubicam
Director: Andrew Douglas

Centraal Beheer – Hypnotist
Finally, an insurance company that takes itself seriously. By making commercials that are anything but. Centraal Beheer’s TV commercials (explained here) are famously entertaining, witty, memorable, in Dutch and in English, and here’s my pick of the lot. As with most of their spots, it’s well-made and actually unpredictable.

Agency: DDB
Director: Rene Eller

Lego – Box
I’ll keep my introductions for this one brief. If ever Lego needed a TV spot :-)

Agency: BBH
Director: Frank Budgen

United Airlines – Dragon
United Airlines is not what anyone would call a ‘sexy’ advertiser. They don’t make adventurous choices with their communication. No hopefully-viral videos. No trippy microsites. No smack-in-your-face promos. No, Sir. They make straight-forward television commercials – except that all their quaintly sophisticated commercials are executed with animation. Each one showcases a different style, a different animator. That’s something to think about, isn’t it?

Agency: Fallon
Director: Jamie Caliri

Sony PlayStation – Double Life
You’re this person in the real world. And this vastly-edited, wholly-glamourised version of it online. And all that would have remained a random marketing statistic. If it weren’t for this nifty little piece of (although it’s much more than that) advertising – which tapped into the whole online/gamer psyche. Here’s the virtuoso spot that launched a landmark product: the first PlayStation.

Agency: TBWA
Director: Frank Budgen

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