I am a Commercial Interactive Director, first and foremost. So I work on projects that have in some way something to do with interacting with a story, as well as just viewing it.
How did you happen to venture into the digital arena?
I have been coding since I was 12, when I started to experiment with Basic. I used to code on a small handheld computer my father had, as well as my Dragon 32, when I was a bit older. But I never considered it as a professional thing.
Much later, when I was working as an Animation Director, around 2005, I felt a very strong attraction to the art and code scene emerging online; there were so many people creating amazing work and using the browser as their canvas. It was the very early signs of a cooperative, opensource community, and everyone was happy to help each other. So I started to learn Actionscript, and from there, became involved with Unit9 to start to apply my experience with animation and visual effects to code-based commercial work. It feels like a very natural development but it’s also been a constant learning curve.
Do you consider yourself as an artist?
I am an Artist, I am a Filmmaker, and I am a Director. It just depends on the project I am working on. And in terms of my process, there’s not much difference. I apply my methodology the same way, across these different types of projects. So maybe what makes those three genres different is where or how final result is viewed? i.e., an art gallery, a website, or in a cinema? I am not sure, in the digital world these are blurred lines!
"We are a young industry, and the way we do things could be better."
We had a very creative decade. It seems that digital creativity is more and more focused on efficiency. Do you think there is a brighter future ahead?
I think digital creative teams are still finding ways to make sure that their efforts aren’t wasted on the wrong idea, or their processes don’t create a conflict between different steps. It’s very hard with interactive because of the complexity the code introduces. And that creates insecurity in terms of process there basically just isn’t a very obvious route to follow.
We are a young industry, and the way we do things could be better. I am not sure it’s all about efficiency, though. But it’s true that film (as an example) has a major head start, so people who make films can benefit from 100 years of learning and mistakes, all carefully written down and explained to them. I am a big fan of watching feature length ‘behind the scenes’ films about films like Apocalypse Now, Alien, etc. There’s so much to learn from those films for us digital folks!
What does VR bring in particular to the user experience?
VR is a unique technology because it can be applied in so many different ways, and to so many different industries. It is not just an entertainment tool it brings to the user experience something that feels totally new but is grounded in existing industries (film and gaming).
How would you define interactivity in VR?
Like in all interactivity, if you can control the story in some simple way, then it is technically interactive. There’s a sliding scale here, you can make the same story only ‘a little bit interactive’ or you can make it ‘very interactive’, and at the core the story remains the same. What changes is how you experience it.
Is there a particular process involved in creating experiences in VR?
Very much so: it requires a new way of thinking about making your project. And teams will have to relearn some skills to be able to function well. It’s interesting to bring a traditional film team in and ask them to make a VR film, they are so used to a particular rhythm on set, and with VR, you have totally different rhythm that you need to maintain. So most important of all, in VR you have to work together much more tightly, and you need to trust one another.
There's a lot of fantasizing around VR. Do you think it will be a way to escape the "real life"?
Yes definitely, but not any more than an amazing book or a good TV series on Netflix which are great ways to escape real life. With VR it’s more visual because it’s on your face, but I think the dystopian vision of human beings stuck in dirty rooms, addicted to the device and never living in the real world they are exaggerated.
Do you think it can be addictive?
For sure, I was addicted to playing games and I am 100% sure that I will be addicted to VR experiences. But the experience itself needs to be very good, it needs to work, I am not addicted to all games only to the ones that are just perfect for me, for the kind of person I am.
Is it more interesting to work on reality or on abstracts subjects in VR?
I am currently working on three VR projects, all of which deal with a visual world that mimics reality. So I think I like that better: in all of my work, I am very interested in presenting reality in a way that you wouldn’t be able to, in real life. I want to surprise the viewer with something familiar.
What do you think of WebGL? Do you think it will the new ''Flash'' ?
WebGL is already the new Flash, but unlike in the old days of Flash, there are now several ways to do the same thing. I think you can achieve many things that Flash used to do in only CSS3, for example. Or you can use Unity 3d, and then export using WebGL support. Many ways to achieve the same result are possible. It’s a much more technical world now, and it makes it harder to be creative.
"Web-VR will soon be a standard."
Do you think WebVR will be a standard one day?
Yes it will be, and that day will come soon. But it won’t replace other existing standards, it just diversifies the market.
Is there a new technology that you find particularly exciting?
HoloLens, or Mixed Reality headset generally, I think will change our world, much more than VR headsets. That is something I am very excited about, the way you can apply it to all different parts of your life is mind-blowing.
One could say the first aim of digital interactions is function.
Many forms of functional interaction came from entertainment. And vice versa. I think the two world feed each other. And sometimes doing things just because it’s ‘cool’ can have very surprising results, and inspire people to do things you never expected.
But interaction that performs both a functional role and an entertainment role I think are the best types of interaction.
Do you think digital can be emotional?
Absolutely but this is the key: the interaction will not make your story more emotional. The story is emotional because of great scriptwriting, good music composition, editing, and of course, your actor's performance. Interactivity itself will not generate emotion without those elements.
Can you name a digital creation that evokes that kind of feeling in you?
Love:DIstance is one of my favorite ad campaigns ever, and it had a strong emotional impact. Especially when the original project was still live.
Any new project in the pipeline? What kind of experiments are you working on?
I am working on a VR commercial, a VR film, and a VR game. It’s a bit crazy and it’s a lot of work all at the same time. It kind of happened by accident that there are three things simultaneously. The first of these three will launch in a month or so, so watch this space.