The Wilderness Downtown was not only a showcase for Google Chrome and HTML5, a music video for Arcade Fire and a product of true collaboration between Google Creative Lab, Arcade Fire, Chris Milk, Radical Media and B-Reel but also a truly emotive piece of digital marketing.
In the first of a new series on FWA, we talk to some of the team behind one of the most memorable pieces of digital creative of 2010.
Firstly thanks for taking the time to speak to FWA about Wilderness Downtown, its much appreciated.
Lets start at the beginning and talk about the brief. Where did this idea come from? Was it Google thinking about how to promote Chrome, or Chris Milk- Writer/Director- wanting to do a music video in a new way, or did Arcade Fire come to you?
Aaron Koblin- Technology Lead, Creative Lab at Google:
I think it was a combination of different discussions really.
Chris Milk and I- started talking about what was next after finishing up the Johnny Cash project we did together. We wanted to push the music video beyond a traditional made for TV experience, to something truly made for the web.
At the same time, we were having lots of conversations inside Google about how Chrome was capable of amazing things and how we could do something with those.
The real kicker for this project though, was to make something data driven and customisable, but at the same time incredibly personal to each individual user.
Chris really wanted the experience to be based around Google Maps and Street View, so we met up with the band and did a demo with Google Earth where we zoomed in on their childhood homes, and we all knew this was what the experience should be about.
Thomas Gayno- Marketing Manager, Creative Lab at Google:
It was really organic and easy. It was a convergence of different conversations we were all having separately and so we joined up really quickly and easily around this project.
Ben, when did you guys at B-Reel get involved?
Ben Tricklebank- Creative Director at B-Reel:
The guys approached B-Reel with the treatment and asked us to get a team together. Things like this don’t come along very often and we jumped at the opportunity to do it.
We put together our team in New York, but we also wanted to tap into the community of HTML5 guys who have done so much experimentation recently and of course Aaron had already worked with Mr. Doob and he became an integral part of the team too.
The really unique thing about this piece is the emotional response it gets from people, it isn’t often you get people close to crying whilst interacting with something on the internet. Did you know you were going to get that response?
That was the hope, yes. You could see the potential it had to resonate with people and to catch take them by surprise. When we showed the prototype to people outside the project, you could see by their reactions that it was going to be so powerful and personal
From a technical point of view, how much of this was a punt in terms of what you would be able to do with Chrome, Streetview and Maps?
It was definitely not obvious that everything would be possible from the get go. The guys at B-Reel built some tools that helped us choreograph the windows and Mr Doob had a real break through half way into the project, with a new custom portal for Streetview content.
I guess you have a pretty good idea of the capability of your technology, but it sounds like that uncertainty about whether things are possible is part of your remit in Creative Lab?
Actually I don’t think we do always know exactly what our technology is capable of and we are definitely excited by pushing the web and seeing where the real limits are
The creative lab mission is to remind people what they love Google for, so we are always trying to find projects where we can use our technology to really move people. Part of that is using breakthrough technologies in new ways even if we don’t know where things are going to go from the start.
What did you think this project was going to achieve, beyond creating a beautiful showcase for your technology? Were there are any defined metrics on this project?
No, not really. We really just wanted to make this as awesome as it could be and hoped that it got the attention it deserved
And to get that attention, what did you do to get it out there?
For us paid media wasn’t important. We did a really small media campaign for 3 days on some key sites like Pandora, Wired and Pitchfork . The real traffic came from social sites and people sharing it, which obviously made us really happy.
And did you target any key influencers or social sites to get people talking about things? Did anyone get any sneak previews or anything?
No not really, the only thing we did was do a Google blog post and ask Arcade Fire to tell their fans about it, via Twitter and their site. We were all so happy with it, that we talked about it all we could too!
What is the biggest learning you’ve taken from this project? Has it changed how you think about users and how they interact with your work?
HTML 5 rocks
That’s a great answer to be honest, but I’ll fish for another one!
We talk to a lot of agencies looking to repeat the success of wilderness with large media budgets and relatively small amounts for production. Now Wilderness was in some ways unique, in terms of the combination of Arcade Fire and Google, but our learning is that with great content and a great execution you can get a lot of traction.
Well guys, I think that's a great way to end. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat to FWA about Wilderness.
About the Author
Lawrence Weber is Head of Digital Production at The Brooklyn Brothers London.
Google Creative Lab
Written and Directed by Chris Milk
· Win Butler
· Régine Chassagne
· Richard Reed Parry
· William Butler
· Tim Kingsbury
· Sarah Neufeld
· Jeremy Gara
· Creative Director Maureen Towey
· Band Assistant Chantal Vaillancourt
· Management Scott Rodger/Quest Management
· Management Jennifer George/Quest Management
A Radical Media Production
· Executive Producer Jennifer Heath
· Executive Producer Jon Kamen
· Executive Producer Frank Scherma
· Aaron Koblin
Interactive Production by B-Reel
· Creative Director Ben Tricklebank
· Designer Evan Anthony
· Producer Nicole Muniz
· Development Lead Eduard Prats Molner
· Front End Development Jaime Sánchez
· Front End Development Guille López
· Front End Development Xavier Rubio
· Back End Development Eric Heaton
Google Tech Team
Aaron Koblin, George Brower, Michael Chang.
Special Thanks to our friends at Google
Thomas Gayno, Valdean Klump, Min Li Chan. Bethany Poole, Eric Antonow, Robert Wong & Andy Berndt.
· Executive Producer Jennifer Heath
· Producer Ari Palitz
· Production Supervisor Amy Filbeck
· 1st AD Lee Blaine
· DP Shawn Kim
· 1st AC Kevin McGill
· 2nd AC Diona Mavis
· Gaffer Randy Dye
· BB Electrician Kyle Bryson
· Key Grip Colby Dunford
· BB Grip Tracy Satterfield
· Camera Car Driver Matt Moss
· Head Tech Jeff Comfort
· Pursuit Crane Op Eric Holzer
· Stylist Inga Grimmett
· Make Up Cintia Kumalo
· Location Manager Brian Deming
· Medic Norm Jones
· Moho Driver Matthew Ballard
· Storyboard Artist Brad Arnold
· Vis. Reference Darrin Noble
· PA Shawn Loh
· PA Mike Downs
· PA Kristina Carucci
· PA Bryan Harlow
· PA Kyle Padilla
· Casting Director Carmen Betancourt
· Casting Director Dustin Blackburn
· Runner Stephen Enloe
· Runner Doug Carley
· Runner Nicholas Alvarez
· Telecine Company 3
· Colorist Dave Hussey
· Editor Livio Sanchez
· Asst. Editor Vic Barczyk
· Editorial Post Producer Tonya Schabacker
· VFX Gryphyn VFX
· Senior VFX Artist Scott Bravo
· Assistant VFX Chris Caravella
3D Production by B-Reel with Magoo 3d Studios
· Creative Director Ben Tricklebank
· Producer Anders Törnquist
· Lead 3D Art Andreas Östlund
· Senior 3D Artist Henrik Sandberg
· Senior 3D Artist Per Nyman
· 3D Artist Elias Dahlström
· 3D Artist Fredrik Bjurhager
· 3D Artist Thomas Checa
· Camera Colin Smith
· Camera Bobby Bates
· Editor Ryan Palmieri
· Joan Aceste / Radical Media
· Yakshi Campf / Radical Media
· Glen Westerback / Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC
The Wilderness Machine built by World Power Systems
· Tom Jennings, Brett Doar, and John Wee
Moderation by CrowdFlower
· Joseph Childress and Mark Erdmann
· Chris Kim
· Emily Hawkins
· Cody Heller
· Warren Dern
· Jason Lyon
· Samantha Storr
· Mark Lawson
· Markus Dravs
· Simon Scott
· Greig Fraser
· Sandra Nam
· Angela Tricklebank
· Soledad Penadés
· Tony Cabello
· Gemma Ros
· Lorraine Yurshansky
· Jessica Brillhart
· Gina Weakley
· Jesse Friedman
A Milk+Koblin Project