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SILVER OAKS COMMUNICATIONS BLOG

So You Think You’re Ready for Media?
August 18, 2017
Interactive media, videos, games and digital directional maps can be useful tools to educate, inform and entertain -- if instituted in the right way. However, museums, corporate lobbies, hospitals, etc., should not hop on board the media train just because everyone else is doing it. There are a number of things that should be considered before investing the time and money into any type of media. At Silver Oaks, we understand that developing a media project can feel like a daunting task. But it doesn't have to be! Here's a bit of guidance on the subject. First things first Study your audience and community Would your audience and community benefit from a media installment? Do a visitor survey, or simply ask around to find out. Often times frequent visitors pose good ideas for media-based experiences. Look at your institution Will adding media components help your organization further its mission? If yes, go for it! We have a saying here at Silver Oaks — "Never implement technology for the sake of technology." Your content should should always be the driving factor when it comes to media. Would it make sense to have a way-finding map in the form of a VR headset? No. Think about the content, then the type of media that could complement it. Keep in mind that technology is constantly changing, so have a plan for future updates. Nobody likes using out-dated media. Also, consider your internal capabilities. Do you have an IT person on staff who can can fix minor glitches? If not, you might want to consider hiring one. Do your research Study similar institutions that have implemented media. Do a simple online search to get an understanding of what's out there. There are high ends (virtual reality, 3D technology, Disney World-like experiences), low ends (database interactives, touch screen games, digital map guides) and everything in between. Silver Oaks can help you reach your goals if you have a solid idea to begin with (knowing what technology is currently in use is important). Also, look at your content. While you certainly don't need to have all the details fleshed out, be aware of how much research has been done on the subject and how much needs to be done. It's very difficult to create a five-minute documentary with only one photo of the subject. Propose ideas Sharing is caring. Pitch us some of your ideas. Our creative team is, well...creative, but we'd like to hear your initial ideas to get the ball rolling. You're the experts on your content, we're the experts on bringing that content to life. So let us know what you're thinking! Hopping on the media train So you've decided that media is the way to go. Here are some tips from our project managers, designers, and interactive programmers that can relieve headaches and help the project progress smoothly. Audience and Purpose What is the purpose of your media? To educate, entertain, "edu-tain"?   Who is your audience? Visitor demographic research can help ensure your content is age appropriate and targeted for maximum impact. Content Content is the most important component that you can provide us. And the more organized and complete it is when we receive it, the happier we are! "Provide all known information and content (logos, brand guidelines, fonts, etc.) and/or preferences/dislikes prior to the beginning of the project. This will save you time and money in the long run." — Danny and Clint, Designers "Consider how often you intend to update content. If your exhibit needs to be updated on a regular basis, you might consider having us build an easy to use content management system (CMS). Keeping data up to date can be a chore, but it doesn’t have to be." — Adrian and Pete, Interactive Programmers   Organization "Organization of media assets can become very important when working on large projects. Try to use folders with descriptive titles, and even consider including a text file “map” that lists where photos, copy, videos, or sound bites are to be used. That little bit of extra communication can save time and money." — Adrian and Pete, Interactive Programmers "Organization of content is the key to media project success! Oftentimes I think clients are so close to their content that they forget we're stepping in as outsiders and aren't experts in their field. The more organized clients can be in naming and structuring their content, the easier it is for us to be experts in our field in bringing their story to life in an engaging and meaningful way." — Grace, Project Manager Sharing is Caring Please share your budget with us early on. Even if it's a approximate, it helps our team to develop appropriate concepts while respecting your resources. Let us know what sort of time table we are looking at. We're often working on multiple projects at a time, so understanding your schedule will make things go much smoother. Programming Considerations "If this is a new exhibit, clients might consider how they plan to startup and shutdown digital media stations. Having this in mind when programming an application can make an exhibit easier to manage. Ease of access to presentation hardware is tied to this as well. No one wants to use a screwdriver and ladder to access a power button every day at closing time! Also, consider the noise level where you intend to install an exhibit. If it’s a busy place you might go easy on music and audible prompts to lessen the cacophony. Also consider not using sound prompts when running in an attract state as it can annoy staff and visitors alike."— Adrian and Pete, Interactive Programmers Design Considerations "Trust your designer, that’s why you came here in the first place!" — Clint and Danny, Designers "Communication makes everything run smoother, so keep in contact with us during production, and feel free to ask for progress updates. We’re excited to show you what we’re building!" — Adrian and Pete, Interactive Programmers It's all about the experience. If you would like to implement media into your museum gallery, lobby, hallway, etc., and you have quality content, good ideas, and a reason to have it there, we are here for you. Hopefully these tips will make your next media project go smoothly. Good luck!
Good Design in a Subjective World
August 7, 2017
Ever hear a comment like this in an art gallery or museum? “Look at that! I could have done that!” If you’re an art lover, you probably cringed, or did a silent eye roll. “But you didn’t,” would be one reply. [caption id="attachment_5047" align="alignnone" width="700"] Jackson Pollock is an artist whose work is often questioned like this. Image property of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.[/caption] But the truth is, everyone is entitled to an opinion. Different experiences lead to different perceptions and emotions about the subject matter. “It’s all subjective,” would be another answer. So how do you judge “good art” from bad? Or in our case here at Silver Oaks, good design? Those of us who are not schooled in the rules of design, can only judge based on gut reaction. But there’s more to it than that, as I found out from our team of experienced Silver Oaks designers.   How do you create a successful design when it is judged in a subjective world? What makes art – good? Here are a few bulletproof design tips to help us answer that question. Check them out below!   Knowledge on your subject is almost as important as your artistic abilities Know the “who’s” – Who is the company you’re creating a design for? What are their values. Their past designs/branding, what did they look like? What is the personality of the company? Who is the current audience? Who is the prospective audience? Know the “why” – Why are you creating this design? What is the end goal: to bring in new customers, enhance branding, to sell products or services? Know the “how” – How will this design be delivered to its audience (which medium[s] will be used)? How long will this design circulate? Purpose, Purpose, Purpose Rarely in design is something added just because it looks cool. Each design element should be well-thought out and have a reason for being included. Color, font, position, location – all should be taken into consideration. The Three “F’s” – flow, focus, flexibility Everything must flow. There should always be some sort of connection between every piece of the design. Should there be a central focal point within the design? Understanding the focus of the design and sticking to it is important. Be flexible. Design isn’t always a 1-2-3-step process. Sometimes it’s messy. Other times there are requests from clients that the designer disagrees with. And sometimes the brilliant concept in your head isn’t quite what you thought it would be in real life. Know when to adjust your approach by being flexible. Tiny details are the loudest "Sometimes you can't see the road because of the bugs on the windshield. If a design is full of little errors or problems, it doesn't matter how great the concept is -- all people will see is all the little things that are wrong with it," says Scott Kelty. "You have to look at all the details as well as the whole design, and always pay attention to the details". Translation: You can have the most beautiful design, but if there is something missing or shouldn’t belong, that will completely strip away the overall success of the piece. Look at each individual element of the design. Always pay attention to the details. It’s important to know the rules, but also know when to break them. Design rules (like the ones mentioned above!)  are there for a reason, but it’s o.k. to be a little “rebellious” sometimes. Just remember, when you do bend them, be purposeful and think it though.  The moral of the story? It takes a lot of knowledge, experience and courage to be successful in a subjective world. Thankfully we have three talented designers who are always up for the challenge.
The Power of Sound
August 9, 2018
There is no movie, commercial, or video game that can be considered high-quality without  a professional audio engineer. It's the audio, music, and sound effects that truly tie a project together -- setting the mood, the scene and the emotion.   At Silver Oaks, we're lucky to have one of the best audio engineers in the midwest, Archie Kukarans. With over 25 years of experience, Archie has the tools to  make any project come to life. From interactives and games, to commercials and documentaries, audio is one of the most important elements that often goes unnoticed. And editing sound is surprisingly time consuming. From taking out breaths and passing car sounds, to making sure the sound of crunching leaves is just right, Archie puts time and creative energy into every project he touches. When it comes to music selection, Archie says, “I get the most satisfaction in finding the right piece of music that just fits, it’s very rewarding.” However, he says, “silence is just as important as sound,” referencing French composer, Achille-Claude Debussy who said, “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between them.” So the next time you're moved by the dramatic music in movie, wow'd  by the booming voice of an announcer, or shocked by the blast of an explosion-- thank a sound engineer, like Silver Oaks' own Archie Kukarans, our go-to guy for audio. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLlEkYoXWrw
To Infinity and Beyond! Exploring the Science Behind Pixar
August 8, 2018
I was three years old when Pixar released Toy Story. I was introduced to Flick from A Bug's Life when I was five. At eight, I fell in love with the big blue furry monster, Sully, from Monsters Inc. I grew up with Pixar, its adorable characters, amazing animation, and storylines that hold deep meanings that even adults can understand and appreciate. Pixar characters became my very best friends. So when I heard that Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry was hosting the exhibition, The Science Behind Pixar, I knew I had to go.  As a self-proclaimed 'museum nerd', I always try to see as much in a museum as I can in one day. But that's like trying to fit a month's worth of clothes into a weekend suitcase. This time, however, I decided to just attend the Pixar exhibit to make the most of my time -- and I'd encourage die-hard Pixar fans to do the same. Take the time to enjoy the experience without the rush to move on to the next thing! With that said, here are my Top 8 favorite parts of this exhibition: Two galleries. I'm not sure if every institution lays out this exhibition in the same manner, but MSI did it right. This exhibit has A LOT of content. By splitting the content into two separate galleries, it allows visitors to take a break before visiting the second half (especially if you really want to visit a different area of the museum). In addition, entrance to the first gallery is controlled to limit the number of visitors at one time. Photo-ops. Life-size Pixar characters? I'm in! These photo-ops fill wait time and create something fun and memorable for all ages. Interactivity. There are plenty of touchscreen interactives that allow visitors to learn what it takes to animate, add texture, manipulate lighting, and make elements like hair and grass move just right. There are also plenty of opportunities for very young children to interact with physical objects, such as building magnetic robots. Text. Highly technical concepts are presented in this exhibition -- rigging, lighting, virtual modeling, programming, and set design. And yet all of the text is presented in easy-to-understand phrases. Standing video stations with commentary by actual Pixar employees helped to fill in the gaps of information. Flow. The flow of the exhibition is 'station-based'.  That means self-standing stations are dedicated to specific concepts. This approach allows visitors to sit and learn about each element in no particular order. In addition, there are duplicate interactives at each station. Sometimes there are three separate touchscreen kiosks displaying the exact same activity, or eight hands-on magnetic robot building stations. This drastically reduces the amount of wait time at each station. Dwell time. All of the touchscreen interactives in this exhibition allow visitors to 'play the role' of an animator just enough to understand the general idea. Content can be customized within a short time frame. I would say most visitors spend 2-3 minutes at each station. ADA accessibility. I give high praises to the The Museum of Science, Boston, the creators of this exhibition, for making ADA accessibility a priority. All of the kiosks include free-standing stools that are easily moved to allow a wheelchair access. All videos are captioned. And each video station, featuring Pixar employees, have speaker audio, but also have a small phone that can be used to listen to the audio if needed. There's also an audio button that will read text aloud on each kiosk. STEM oriented. This exhibition is clearly STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) focused. The creators did an incredible job of making math and science 'cool' by relating the concepts back to the beloved characters we see on screen. The concepts are tangible. For example, visitors can see the results of complicated mathematical algorithms and geometric coding in the way blades of grass in a field or hair on someone's head behave.  Not-so-favorite parts of the exhibition: What about script writers, voice over talent, and music production? As an employee at a creative media company, I know the talent and importance of script writers and audio engineers. I would have appreciated just a slight nod to the creative minds who write scripts, produce voice over, and write the musical scores of every Pixar movie. While the exhibition was STEM focused, an acknowledgement to other creative roles would have been nice. Team-oriented interactives. I feel like there was a missed opportunity to highlight the teamwork that's necessary to pull off a large exhibition like this. There were no multi-touch tables and no group activities. It would have been a great lesson to work together to create something, just like the real team at Pixar has to do. A gap in levels of understanding. While the animated characters appeal to a very young audience, the content and messaging is very technical and caters to a more mature audience. Many kids just wanted to touch buttons, not learn about what the buttons do. No take-aways. At Silver Oaks, we're constantly trying to come up with new ways visitors can take their experiences with them. This exhibition did not provide any opportunities to email creations back home, or print anything out. [gallery columns="5" link="file" ids="5578,5576,5581,5577,5582,5583,5584,5585,5586,5587,5592,5593,5596,5597,5598" orderby="rand"] Overall... I LOVED THIS EXHIBITION!! And I realize that I'm a millennial who grew up with these characters and can recite movie scripts in their entirety by heart -- so I'm biased! But not only did I get to experience the characters and sets from my favorite movies in real life, I also learned about the technicalities of how the movies were made and how the characters came to life. All the intricacies of every single element were discussed, which added a level of appreciation to the creative minds behind these beloved films. At the beginning of the exhibition a quote from the President of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, Ed Catmull was displayed on one of the walls, that spoke to me: At Silver Oaks, we solve problems every day. And we're creative in how we solve those problems. That's what I love about working at Silver Oaks. We're creative people using creativity to solve problems.  The Science Behind Pixar is on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago through January 6, 2019. You don't want to miss it!

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