Emerging Creative Technology Business Practices that Balance Artistic Vision and Commercial Viability
2:00pm in Studio B
In this talk, we’ll dive into the rapidly evolving technologies that shape many initial client calls for the creative video community. How do we engage our clients on the latest tools while shaping an effective design strategy and smart business proposals? The dynamic intersection of artistic vision and commercial viability within the realm of creative video production requires a smart approach to client communication.
This panel will share effective strategies for developing robust business practices that enable clear communication with our clients. Whether it comes to scalable content generation, optimization, quality control, and sustainable growth, knowing how to support the client and your business is key. We’ll explore the exciting opportunities and potential barriers associated with leveraging emerging technologies such as NeRFs, GANs, automation, and more in the creative video production landscape.
J.T. Rooney 00:11
Yeah, I’m excited for this panel. Lots of fun people, new friends, older friends. And it’s exciting to see things come together. So are you in a good spot with said laptop? I think so. Okay, amazing. Perfect.
Trevor Burk 00:25
Why the old friend?
J.T. Rooney 00:27
I think so. Yeah. Doesn’t mean you’re old. It just means you know, there’s time past. All right, so for the group here, we’ll get this started. We have Alex Porter, Tim, Timothy Porter, Trevor Burke and Adam Peck kowski. With your guys’s talk, so I’ll leave it up to you guys. Thank you so much.
Trevor Burk 00:49
Thanks, JT. Thank you. I think we’re starting with a little brief introduction. All right, yeah, go go down the line.
Timothy Porter 00:57
Sure. So I’m, I’m Tim Porter. I’m the CTO at Mod Tech labs. We do automated optimization and quality assurance, mostly for ice VFX and virtual production. My background, I spent split between games and movies and video games. I was a Technical Artist. And in movies, I was a pipeline technical director. So kind of bringing all of that full circle and trying to make the movie industry see the fun things that we saw in video games about 20 years ago. So like, how do we bring all that tech and all those wonderful tools right back around?
Trevor Burk 01:30
Cool. And Adam?
Adam Paikowsky 01:34
Adam Paikowsky, the executive director of Technology at a studio called dot dot dash, my background is in creative application of Technology, a lot of interactive, permanent physical spaces, and very much these days, living in the virtual world and digital. Dot dot dash is an Innovation Studio. We have offices in Portland, New York, and LA. And we build things for commercial clients, as well as cultural institutions and artists.
Trevor Burk 02:12
Alex Porter 02:13
I’m Alex Porter, I’m CEO at Mod Tech labs. You heard from Tim a little bit about sort of the overview of what we do. But, you know, our real focus is how we empower creatives with tools that take some of the boring and redundant stuff out of your workflows, right? Nobody loves, right, you bribing movies, nobody loves mesh decimation, maybe you do, maybe you’re a glutton for punishment. But ultimately, you know, we believe that there are tools that can enable much more productivity, much more satisfaction and much more creativity. And so that’s the world that we sit in. mod is almost four years old. Now. We are a startup in the media tech space, which is a whole wide world of interesting fun. And prior to this, we had an XR studio for five years, where we actually were doing a lot of augmented and virtual reality tools for businesses, using, you know, Tim’s background, and games and movies, and my background in 3d. From the interior design side, you know, we really have culminated a lot of different tool sets and capabilities and functions in a way that we think will help make the industry more effective.
Trevor Burk 03:15
Very cool. And I’m Trevor Burk, I run a creative design studio called visual noise creative. And we spend a good amount of our time splitting between new projects and new solutions creatively to kind of funky, and unusual prompts, and then split a lot of the other time spent lighting, lighting design on large scale broadcast type projects, a handful of films, we do a lot of stuff in the award show space, both on the creative and on the screen side, kind of come from a theater and a lighting background. So kind of a bit of a creative mind and use that as much as I can to our advantage. So I think the cool thing is, is we all have pretty different backgrounds here. And so we’re going to we’re going to use a handful of questions to kind of get us into into conversation. So here we go. Thank you. First off, apparently, some of off are are early stuff and then we’ll kind of draft off what each other talking about.
Adam Paikowsky 04:22
Cool. Thanks, Trevor. So I’m gonna turn around and read this question. But, you know, one of the questions that we get asked a lot is like, what do you do? And that is seemingly an easy question. But for us, it is so hard to explain. And, you know, for dot dot dash and specifically for me personally, like, we’re positioned as an innovation company, and innovation in my mind is kind of a dirty word. It doesn’t really mean anything. It carries a lot of weight. People throw it around innovation labs, like we are doing this because it’s innovative, but like what does that really mean? Like when you really boil it down, like how do you go to a client or really like go to someone’s grandmother and say, This is what I make?
Trevor Burk 05:08
Like it’s a dirty word because it’s because it’s a buzz, like it’s more buzzword than substance.
Timothy Porter 05:13
Adam Paikowsky 05:14
Trevor Burk 05:15
Right it’s like, you know, people who say like, we want story and
Timothy Porter 05:18
Trevor Burk 05:19
you got it buzzwords
Adam Paikowsky 05:22
It’s like corporate speaky.
Trevor Burk 05:23
Adam Paikowsky 05:24
But at the same time, it is like it does carry weight, right? Like, we do want to be on the forefront of Technology. And we want to be doing things differently. Which there is like a practice innovation. And it is like a skill that you kind of like need to lean into and cultivate. But it can, its outputs can be so varied, right? Like if you’re like, I’m a filmmaker, you make film. If you’re a ceramicist, you make ceramics. If you’re like, my medium is innovation, it’s like I do XR, I have done AR I do large scale media Architecture. It’s like, you know, I build pipelines or I, you know, push forward design within the context of performance, like it can really spread across a bunch of different things. And I think it’s, it’s kind of hard for us to communicate that. Yeah, I don’t know what,
Alex Porter 06:18
at one point, we had a business card that was the back of it was literally just like, all of the acronyms right? AR VR, Mr. X, ar, IoT AI, ml IC VFX, VP, and I call it alphabet soup. I like the reality is, you know, we’re all speaking in tongues at some point to people that don’t necessarily intrinsically understand what all these things mean. And I think it is important to start in that place, like you’re, you’re talking to your grandmother, you’re talking to a 10 year old, how can you actually convey these really complex, wonderful, beautiful technologies in a way that is approachable, and in language that is more simplified? And so I think that that’s one of the things that we really struggle with, to be honest, as an industry, how do we bring these to the other pieces and parts of the world and the people that are interested in them in a way that they can understand it the best?
Adam Paikowsky 07:12
I think, too, is like, it’s kind of hard, because something that means one thing in context, a means something totally different in context be. So like, let’s take the word technical director, right, like a technical director in lighting is very different than the rigging TD or technical director in games. And so a lot of what we do is like, try and take the alphabet soup, and like, turn it into its lowest common denominator and say, Okay, this is the thing that we are actually doing, and then bridge those gaps. As far as when we talk
Trevor Burk 07:49
so yeah, like almost have to remove preconceived you like there’s almost a level of defining at every step of the word to like rebuild a common vocabulary.
Timothy Porter 07:59
I mean, entered permanent leaves on is extremely important. That’s something that we saw a lot in video games, and we’re starting to see slowly come over as a technical artists, that was one of my major jobs. So learning more and more of the different speak between different teams, is extremely important. But then as well being able to talk to your clients and do the dissemination, knowing what part of what industry, so our previous company, which was under my students, we would go between different corporations. So we would do something at like Novartis, or we do something with Microsoft, or Intel, and every single one of the groups does have a different speak. So if anybody is not in standards, organizations, that actually helps being able to understand what different industries and what different groups within different industries are speaking about. But I mean, everything’s kind of ethereal until you actually figure out what that individual’s brain and speak is. Communication is so limited, just in general, visuals always helpful.
Trevor Burk 08:56
Yeah, I mean, I guess where else? Because it is so like, timing out. But like, Where? Where does that, like, where does that fall? I guess in everyone’s workflow, like that portion of it, like where in the hierarchy and where in the conversations because it is like, you know, I find like, often as a creative producer, when I’m doing something new, with new people, there’s like, okay, there’s a context of like, well, that’s a rock and roll person. So his view of the stage manager is different than that person over there. Who came from theater who’s different from that guy over there who comes from broadcasts, like I have to know those. And then so is it like, like, where does it where does that fall in your guys’s like ecosystem to like, like, is it your job to decode it? Or like, are you how are you pointing it out? Or are you relaying back to your teams like what all these different? Like what that means when someone says, oh yeah, we need a stage manager
Timothy Porter 09:48
or I mean reduction in conversation is always helpful having some person who is head of communication, or handles at least that communication does reduce the number of issues that you have you find somebody who is extremely skilled hold in the translation between different people in different groups. And then it also allows for when you’re somebody who’s either on set or on the other side, that’s not part of your team, to go, oh, this is my communication person. You know, if I need anything, I go to this person. And then things get handled and much sleep smoother and quicker fashion. But it’s a communication loop. It happens throughout the entire process. One of the big things that helped our company and has continued to help us is sitting down and doing Discovery sessions. So that way, you can understand what think that each one of the different teams has, and then how important certain things are. Because in the end, what we’re creating is magic. Where do we have people look, and then we’re doing put in or energy or information? And, you know, why would you spend so much time on a background asset when the foreground asset is what’s important, maybe for the client, that actually is the most important view for them. But in the end, if you start those communications early, you make sure that you actually control the flow of the narrative. And you do that throughout the entire process, it becomes a much more streamlined and slick solution for everybody involved. And people get exactly what they’re looking for out of a situation because they know, the person that they’re talking to, and what the expectations are.
Adam Paikowsky 11:19
I think something that you said is so important, but also, like, so hard to sell to clients is the discovery phase, right, or like a discovery process. And part of that is, you know, I feel like, when you’re embarking on a journey, like you’re gonna pack before you go on that journey, right? Like, this is like the packing, it’s defining shared vocabulary, and getting into a room and like, really, just like, you know, it would take you a month over email to figure it out. But you’re sitting there and you have like, a sort of a table feed our immersion session, like really getting into it, you’re like, oh, like, I see what you’re saying. That’s not what you’re actually saying, or, you know, whatever. And so part of what we try and do is like, implement that into our process from the get go. And it actually just becomes part of the creative process. It’s not its own discovery. But it’s really like, the way that our predict creative process gets like moving and starts moving towards production.
Trevor Burk 12:15
Yeah, we’ll find ourselves even doing that. Like, super willingly, even before like full engagement has happened, because it’s just so much like, it’s impossible to define. And I guess it’s kind of parlays a little bit into the into the second question, it becomes like, so hard to define where we’re going, and what we’re trying to do. So you know, first conversation is like, you know, who do you Who do you who’s on the other end of the phone think you’re talking to? Like, what do you see that you What do you see in us, and then conversations about it, and it’s like, Hey, we’re wet, we’re we’re here to spin and spool for a little bit, until we kind of find collective footing and figure out like, what the, what the Ark is, is at least the way like we tend to, to handle it. But like, what about your guys’s projects? Like, like, is it a defined phase? Or is it a like after signature? Or where does that fall?
Alex Porter 13:06
So for us, we decided to separate it into a separate phase. It was a, it’s a paid phase with a value added deliverable. So we do a discovery session, it’s a paid session, it’s in person, we have that feedback, we have those, you know, definitions that we can create together, we can clarify what innovation is what the goals are for the project overall, because it’s not always the thing that they have in their head. That is what they actually need to solve their problem, right. And so ultimately, for us, breaking it into the session, allowed us to do what we call a technical strategy plan is what we would deliver to them after the fact, this was also a great opportunity for us to screen clients, because you do not always want to work with every client, right? I’m sure we’ve all had those, those fun times where we’re like, oh, that that was a really hard, hard one battle. So ultimately, you know, for us, it was a good opportunity to make sure that we were providing value, but also being provided value for our time, energy, effort, knowledge, experience, right, because those things are not free, as much as we have them, and we can give them for free. And the reality and people will take them for free. The reality is, you know, education can only go so far to pay our bills. I want to educate every client and every person in the world about all these wonderful things. But that was a really defining moment for our business. And it allowed us to really hone in on how we could be effective with clients and give them something that they could tangibly use with or without us. They could take the technical strategy plan and actually deploy it with someone else that was developing the product or potentially use that internally or use that externally. So maybe they were a smaller company. They didn’t necessarily have the funding they needed yet, but they needed something concrete to take to an investor. So our goal was always to figure out how they could use this as a The tool in their tool belt to execute their plan and reach their goal.
Adam Paikowsky 15:06
Yeah, I think is like pretty interesting because you know, you’re describing it as a deliverable. These are like deliverable based things, right? Like they come out of it and they’ve got like a plan, or they have, you know, some sort of document that allows them to move into the next phase. And, Trevor for you is probably right. Like there’s, there’s there’s tangible, actionable items that come out of it. I think for us, sometimes, the discovery actually is just like a synthesis of their of like, what’s going on in their mind? So it’s, like, less actionable, it’s just like, hey, here’s a brief this is like, yeah, you know, especially when working with some on the specifically on the two ends of the spectrum, right, when you’re working with like, real creatives who don’t create in a specific medium, and but they have like this vision for what it is that they want to make. Just getting to what the core of that vision is, and being like, you’re telling me, you want a red apple, and we’re like, yes, the red apple, that’s it, it’s like, so hard to do. And that’s like an oversimplification. But then on the other end of the spectrum, you know, like, you guys are a software product, and like, explain to people what a software product is, or like, what the product is, how, what it does, and like how it can be beneficial before implementing it, I imagine is equally as big of a challenge. Because, you know, you have no idea what’s going on in their production pipelines or anything like that.
Trevor Burk 16:24
I mean, I think our our experience is probably similar to yours in the sense that, like, I feel like, you know, he doesn’t usually have defined boundaries and be, it’s less a set of deliverables or an action plan, and it’s more just zero. Like, we’re just trying to get to the start, like, we’re like, we’re all just a different starting lines, and like, it’s successful, if we’re like, okay, we’re at least on the same starting line. Now. It’s kinda like, I know what you want. I know, when you say big, it means that or that, or an audience, or whatever it may be. So it’s that shared vocabulary. Yeah,
Timothy Porter 16:59
we would start with that. And that would be, we typically split it up between two days. And then the first day would be, let’s start thinking about, you know, what our vocabulary is, let’s start understanding each other. And what expectations are when you say, big, I know what big means, of course. And then we would end up having a second day. And the second day was about breaking down what the end goal for the product was or project. And so in the end, it was always on two different ways. Number one, it was either based off of time deliverable, or it’s based off of the amount of funding that the individual group has, you can work it backwards, that way, you can say, these are the features. And these are parts that will end up being created. And you can look at it in a very analytical kind of function. And so for us, the deliverable was taking to the endpoint, what they were actually looking to get out of it, and what they need to buy what time period. So then we would actually give them JIRA tasks and break it down and go, here’s, you know, overarching, these are the ideas. This is the parts and pieces, and then they could take that off to development team if they wanted to.
Trevor Burk 18:03
Should we see what’s on the next slide.
Timothy Porter 18:04
Adam Paikowsky 18:05
Alex Porter 18:05
Trevor Burk 18:07
have another one for Adam, but I think we’re like, like,
Adam Paikowsky 18:10
all maybe in order.
Trevor Burk 18:11
No, no. But I think this is cool, because I think this is an interesting question that I think breaks down differently across like the three different and it kind of starts to play around with that. But, you know, how do you respond to a project brief requiring use of a particular Technology, because I think this found its way into this deck, because I like, kind of had a gag reflex to it is like, No, you need to have a creative outlet. And you’re like, actually, like, you know, like, it’s like, so
Adam Paikowsky 18:38
it goes back to that question of like, what is innovation and like, for some people, innovation is creative ideas, and other people it’s process. And some people just want to use the Technology because it’s cool, right? Like we’re seeing that. We saw that with web three. And the metaverse and blockchain like it was so low, so hot, right. And now, it’s like, AI. When was the last time you were in a creative conversation with a client where they like, didn’t mention AI this or that. And so I think it’s important to recognize that some people come at it from wanting to use a specific tool or Technology. And there are we have, like some really interesting ways that we go about doing that. And if a project wants to use the Technology, the first thing to do is like, do they actually know what Technology they’re asking for? And if the answer to that is yes, they’re like, very educated, and I’m like, This is what we want. We’re like, cool, we will absolutely structure this and build you something amazing with it. And then we’ll sort of post rationalize, not post rationalize, but we’ll figure out a creative idea that fits into that to showcase that Technology in the best way possible. Like we do that all the time. It’s like you know, you see that on tradeshow, floors, in, you know, infrastructure, companies wanting to explain what they do. And what their product does. There’s like this distillation of really complex ideas into tangible or simple things that people can understand. But then I think the second side of it is like, how do you just if people don’t necessarily know what the Technology is like, how do you give the space for exploration to like, show what what that what could possibly be, I feel like that’s when it gets into, you know, prototyping and making really, really quickly, and providing some constraints to make within. And that’s honestly like one of my favorite places to play when there’s like a new Technology that’s coming out or a product that someone wants to use. And it’s like, okay, cool. Like, let’s, let’s build a framework to build you the coolest AR spatial audio demo that has generative AI, human input into it. And we’re like, cool, we can figure that out.
Alex Porter 20:48
For us, we sit in an interesting space, right, as a software product, we use AI in the background, right? So I’m like, we’re that AI, not that AI. I actually have had this conversation a bunch of times that I was on a panel recently, in Buffalo, where we’re from, and I had someone else talking about ways that AI is being used in movies. So we’re placing extras, right? And I was like, we don’t do that. She’s like, like, Alex was coming. I was like, we don’t do that. And then she was talking about backgrounds. And I was like, we do that. I was like, we do virtual backgrounds. And so it really is it it really is a matter of understanding how to be effective with the use of these innovative tools, right? Where is it actually a value add, whether that is like a brand recognition, hey, we’re a brand, we’re engaging with this new Technology. And that’s important to us, we want to be on the forefront of this adoption, right? That’s one way or it could just be like this is a really meaningful business opportunity that will help us be more productive and more effective. And we said a bit more on that side. I don’t think that we’ve had a lot of clients come to us, in this company, as a software solution saying, we want to use AI, you have AI, that’s that’s not where we sit currently. But it’s definitely like, you’re doing automation, and you’re making tasks faster, and you’re making people that work with us more effective. That’s a value add for us. And so we see a little bit more on the benefit side, rather than sort of like the functionality side the feature side. But that’s just, that’s this world that we’re in today.
Adam Paikowsky 22:26
I guess like a question for, like, related to that is, do you find it beneficial to say that, yes, we’re using in the background? Is it like, even important, I mean, to the creative process as well, right? Like, is it like, yeah, we use Photoshop, like, Photoshop is great.
Trevor Burk 22:42
Exactly. No, it’s like, it’s like being excited about like, oh, this was a table saw, it’s like, that’s a beautiful table, like, like, I mean, I think like, like the, I think the interesting like, kind of rounding out, like the three different perspectives on this is, you know, like, where we come from, often, when people come with, you know, this is a tech that I want to use, I like, it’s kind of like, you know, reading the stage directions, the first time you read a play, you’re like, I’m gonna ignore those because I’m gonna make up my own, like, when I’m gonna do it. And so it is interesting, like to hear the difference. And if it’s from like, where I sit, it’s like, I try and think about it more about backing into like, like, what do they think that this makes them feel? What do they think this makes the guest feel? What is this impact the experience and like, you know, for me, the one I like always, like anecdotally use was when you know, interactive installations were like, the buzz of whenever it was, and you’d have creative meeting after creative meeting where you have, you know, a reference deck and someone all excited about this interactive installation. And the the point that it goes like, Well, okay, like, that’s a beautiful thing in a museum where eight people a day can see it. But like, where we were putting this on a trade show floor where you like, it’s anything short of, you know, 1000 is unsuccessful. So like, let’s back into what that we don’t give this touchy feely with people. But it’s like you’re thinking about it in the sense of like, what is that end user experience? And what is that like, emotional and creative response to the prompt? And then how do you create that in the experience and in the environment that you’re participating in? And then it’d be like, that’s when you get into it. Like, you know, you did an Electrical Parade where the idea was like, we’ll have guests, people who control the color of the brake foot. It’s like, well, there’s 18,000 people on the parade route, like, how are they going to know? Like, hi, like, hi, like, there is no cause and effect. There’s no emotional connection, but what is the feeling that you want to get out of it?
Timothy Porter 24:43
And that’s something that’s a little dangerous for us. It’s kind of a double edged sword. We do want people to be excited about AI. We do have also perceptual quality control. So as we do optimization, we make sure that perceptually through an artificial intelligence engine that we built, it’s a competition winner. All the way down the deep that it maintains quality. But at the same time, we also have to continue to speak that it’s not going to replace somebody, its entire thing is a safety net, it is a speed up solution, it is how you get the dollar and cents to actually come across How do you make the stage profitable. And that’s how we try to help. But once again, you still have to have them feel go, Oh, you’re optimizing, you’re reducing my quality, but and then that’s where the heartfelt comes in. We are also maintaining it by keeping the quality high, but not so deep that they feel like they’re losing their jobs. How do you do that? The other.
Alex Porter 25:39
The other piece, I’ll briefly add to that is that, you know, definitely different, you know, sort of sales processes, it is important for us to talk about like the undercarriage, if you will like what Technology we’re using, how we’re using it, because we typically have three types of buyers that are involved in a purchase decision for our software, right? We have a technical person who’s like a bad VFX, like somebody who’s in charge of like the technical implementation, right? We have a producer who’s in charge of your budgets and your you know, team making sure everyone’s happy with what’s happening. And then we have likely an executive who’s like, Oh, we’re making an infrastructure change or an addition, that will potentially change other things in our workflow. And that typically has some sort of buy in as well. And so for us, like for those technical buyers, we absolutely have deep down conversations about what types of Technology we’re using, how they’re being implemented, what they’re displacing, or replacing, or augmenting, because it is very nuanced and specific, and important, because they want to know all those details. The other two don’t want to know all those details. Definitely. And it is sometimes it’s kind of, you know, splitting hairs to figure out exactly how deep people want to go, right? Because I’m sure you guys have experienced that as well. Like you have some people that come to you. And they’re like, I just want to know all of the like all of the nitty gritty. And other people are just like to show me the magic.
Timothy Porter 27:03
The some people don’t want to know how the sausage is made.
Alex Porter 27:07
Adam Paikowsky 27:09
Yeah, it’s like context is so key. Yep. And what context are you providing to? At what point in time? no easy task?
Trevor Burk 27:19
Here we go. What is your approach to building trust with a new client, especially one having difficulty finding what they want to achieve? I think we can probably all get into this one a little bit.
Adam Paikowsky 27:34
I mean, I like taking someone out for drinks. Yeah, that’s a good first step. Maybe an introduction first? No, I mean, I think it’s a it’s a really important question. It’s a really hard question to, especially, especially when they’re pushing into new territory, which is, I think, you know, a commonality between what we all do up here is either trying to realize an idea or improve upon a process or build something that hasn’t been built hasn’t been built before. It requires such a level of trust. I mean, one thing that speaks for itself, to some degree is some of the work that you’ve done in the past, right? Like, that’s always I find super helpful, especially if it’s relevant and tangential to like, what it is that they’re trying to do is like close, but not the exact same. They’re like, okay, it’s close enough that I can like, bridge that gap and make that jump in my mind. But I don’t know, I think, I think it’s trust doesn’t just like happen, it takes time. And people want to move fast, especially these days, they’re like, We want something yesterday. And establishing that trust. Usually, for us, at least, we do have a lot of repeat people that we work with both, you know, staff that we work with, and partners that we work with regularly as well as clients. And it’s because that trust is sort of built over a long period of time.
Timothy Porter 29:00
For me, actually, before I got into the industry, actually, I sold cars for a living. And so something that was taught to me was because I actually saw Toyota’s there were three different things that buyers were coming in for. They’re either coming in for performance, safety, or price. And that has actually led me to be able to go ahead and help define in how you do communication with certain clients and making sure that you can actually get trust. Limiting the amount of solutions or decisions that they can go towards tends to lend themselves to feeling like they’re driving the decision. They’re helping you drive the decision, but at the same time, you’re also limiting it towards what your skills capabilities and what your team is going to be able to do. So something has worked fairly well for me is as you’re coming into a new communication, you end up having a couple of different solutions. Go back and lean on previous projects that you’ve had, and go, which one of these looks like what you’re interested in and then let’s talk about the specifics and particulars and the things that you like The sugar that you want on top of it, and then how do we go ahead and add that to make it something that’s amazing and beautiful and all your own. But it’s on my end, obviously, because I come from a more technical side of things, I have to make work, it comes from a much more driven decision and how you can drive the conversation to bring people into trusting you. And then as well, understanding that things are, are competent and capable. So for me, I’m the person they need to trust Him that will happen, and that we’ll find a solution for them.
Alex Porter 30:32
I think I think it boils down to show show not tell, there are a lot of people that say a lot of things, but whether it is you know, prior work, whether it is you know, partnerships, whether it is you know, existing clients that can do referrals for you that sort of thing, I think that there’s a lot of tangibility and, you know, building those relationships over time, but also plugging into relationships that they already have existing. For us as this company is almost four years old, relatively fresh in the span of companies. You know, a lot of what we learned running a service based business is that partnerships are really key for us. One of the reasons that we got a lot, we actually had a lot of inbound coming because we had a partnership with Intel, we were part of their innovation program. And because they did featured stories on this, and we were able to sort of create this opportunity there was this knowing that people had because we were associated with them in a deeply technical manner that helps them understand that we were, you know, already sort of pre vetted, if you will. And so I think that there’s a lot to be said about establishing trusted connections with well known people in the industry, whether that is, you know, advisory mentorship, partnership, clients, etc? or people that you hire internally? I think that’s really important.
Trevor Burk 31:49
Yeah, I mean, I think the biggest like it is the hardest part, I think, especially where we sit usually is, you know, because you kind of have to get through a couple, you have to get through basic report, then you also have to understand, like, it’s less about for, for me, like when you’re dealing with someone like less about understanding how they’re articulating what they want to do, but more understanding the landscape of what they’re, like, you know, they will often try it. Again, it’s not dissimilar to like coming in prescribing it, they’re like, I want to use something interactive, it’s like, you know, I think I want to, you know, and again, we don’t have a shared vocabulary now. So when whatever they call what they want, doesn’t necessarily mean anything until we get through that basic report. And then from there, then it becomes about trying to understand and somewhat be a chameleon inside of what you’re hearing and what like and the way you can be the harmonious counterpart to that, or the solution to it. So looking at, like, and it depends on what it is. But often, it’s like, you know, we find ourselves, you know, once you’ve kind of figured out is like, okay, great, you face that way, and I’ll face this way. And we’ll go back to back and we’ll support each other in that way. I don’t need you like, we don’t need each other to both be like facing the same direction. It’s kind of, you know, the, the esoteric way to think about it.
Adam Paikowsky 33:12
Do you guys use the word counterpoint, which actually, like brought a thought to my mind? But do you guys ever find that it’s actually a fast path to trust by saying no, sometimes? Absolutely. Oh, yeah. Like 100%. Right. Like, sometimes everyone wants to say yes to everything they like, want to be yes, people because you like, never want to shut an idea down. But sometimes, actually, I’ve found that if you say no, but or no, and this is why, and it comes from, like a place of experience that has a much faster track, sort of establishing credibility.
Trevor Burk 33:47
Yeah, it’s that. Yeah, you’re not dismissing and it’s similar to like, the interactive ideas, like, you know, no, that’s not what you actually want. But I think what you’re saying is or, you know, no, that’s not going to achieve the goals that you’re looking for. No, that’s a scary idea, and like unsupportable or that doesn’t, you know, physics doesn’t help that but there were some but once you but like, but it’s not just like, you’re stupid, and I’m gonna shut it down. It’s like, let’s let’s bullets come at the problem differently, is what it is like an opportunity to like actual, it’s way more of an opportunity than just like, yeah, we can do that.
Timothy Porter 34:22
Yeah, it goes back to driving that decision process. You want them to feel like they have ownership but at the same time, you know, like you said, we all have to cover physics like people fall. Yeah, that works.
Trevor Burk 34:33
Alex Porter 34:39
Alright. How do you balance project speed versus time for innovation? So I mean, one of the things we sit very much on the bleeding edge, if you will, right, in that that dirty word of innovation. Exactly. I like we have we have been In that space on sort of the the precipice the cusp of industries for the last eight years, so this, I mentioned already, we had five years as our XR studio. And this year, this one’s almost four years old. The The reality is like we have been innovating and hammering on solutions in novel ways for a long time. And there are a lot of interesting trends that you can see sort of happening over time, right, you let you think like Gartner Hype Cycle, that sort of thing. Those things are legit, that happens, there’s peaks, there’s valleys, there’s opportunities, and there’s also really great ways to say no. But speed. And innovation don’t always match. Where you’ve actually experienced this semi recently, and one of the new tools that we’re in the process of finalizing, which is an unreal plugin for virtual production. There are, you know, a lot of we have great ideas, great execution, the reality is, as much as you pre plan as much as you process, these sort of things, it doesn’t always match the timelines and the expectations, we have a different set of problems, we have our stakeholders at this juncture, you know, the people that are waiting for this plugin, are not currently paying customers, right, they’re gonna be paid, we’re in the process of moving them toward that goal, working together with them. But we have, you know, our investors who were, you know, saying, Hey, what’s going on? What’s happening with the new product, that’s, you know, so we don’t have project timelines that are the same as a service based business. We’re on our own sort of internal innovation track, if you will. That being said, no company can exist without generating revenue, and without, you know, pushing forward and moving forward in that process in that cycle. And so it’s a very different world that we sit in, versus project based work. I think that there’s a lot of opportunity to learn from project based work and bring those processes of planning and production and execution into a more product based business versus service. But I think that there’s also, it’s hard, it’s hard to reconcile that.
Trevor Burk 37:12
What do you see those virtues as because like, you know, from our side of it, like, there’s, like we bet, like, it’s all timelines, like, and they we don’t know how to think otherwise. So it’s just I’m curious, like, what are some of those that have virtue? And like, I guess vice versa? Because you’re because your guyses projects probably sit on the edge of both of them, right? Both directions. So like,
Adam Paikowsky 37:33
almost always have like, a hard end date, though. Or, like, we need this by,
Trevor Burk 37:37
right. Yeah. Versus like you guys are? Like, that’s a terrifying thing in software, right? Like, it’s never gonna never gone. Right. So
Timothy Porter 37:48
always, always and for us, I try to stay as much as we can, in you know, what we would do is, here’s a deadline, here’s a timeline, let’s work it backwards, how much time that we need, what are your ABCs. And so that’s why I always tell all of our employees like, you know, this is your min spec, this is what we’re going to hit this is what our, our actual deliverable actually really needs to be. And then here’s a B thing. Okay, that would be nice to have, you know, it’s a wonderful feature. Great. And here, C, let’s start dropping the seas, when we hit this timeline, let’s start dropping the bees once we hit this timeline, and then you know, that’s how you end up hitting a deadline. But once again, when you’re literally living in the world of innovation, not always to all the products and artificial intelligence engines and everything in between, want to play the way that you want to, and then you ended up having to beg, borrow and steal from your investors, please let us have more time, because the train never ends.
Alex Porter 38:43
I mean, I would love to know from both of you how it works on your end, right? You’re You’re very deadline oriented work. You know, how do you navigate innovation? Versus deadlines?
Adam Paikowsky 38:57
I think it’s like, so in software development, right? There’s like agile development methodology, which is like sprint planning, you’re like, Alright, we’ve got two weeks, we’re gonna try and accomplish, you know, this thing in two weeks. Let’s say we get half of the way that then moves to the next sprint, and then you reevaluate. And so you’re consistently sort of like updating timelines, that works in product, which is probably how you guys work. There’s also or like, most like, it’s product development, then there’s like waterfall, which is like, hey, we need to get to this whole list of things by the state, also very hard to do. And when you like, we take what we call a hybrid approach to this in order to hit like an MVP or minimum viable product. So we work in Sprint’s constantly reevaluating where we are, what we’re building, how we’re doing it, but we do have a target at the very end. And that target is usually an MVP, which is all the feature all the things that we need to get in no matter what and if we need to staff up or change paths or whatever, in order to hit that MVP, we will. But then there’s also the fun stuff, which is like the stretch goals. And let’s say you’re like ahead of your timeline and cruising and you’re like, we’re actually going to make this do breathe fire right now, because why not we can. And it’s like, that’s when it gets really fun too. But I think it’s, it’s like an kind of an idealized production practice, that takes some of the best things from all of them. But it does require this like constant shepherding of the project along. And it’s interesting, because we’ve actually applied a relatively similar methodology, like, you know, whether the creatives realize it or not, to the way that we run our creative process to. And it’s nice, because all of the teams, we, you know, we have very multidisciplinary, sort of cross functional teams. And they’re all working in the same sort of iterative cycle, which allows us to get into like a really nice flow for delivery is moving back and forth. And that’s, I think, once once the team gets into a flow, that’s where you really start to see things push and like, like really pushing on the innovation and really pushing on what’s new. And that’s like on a project level, but then you go like, one level up and you’re like, okay, like on a practice level as a whole or on a studio level as a whole. What What things are you identifying? As, you know, you talked about like Gartner Hype cycles, and you know, we look at tentpole events each year. And we’re like, okay, like, what are the things that come out of those events or product announcements that we like, want to slot in on a calendar and be like, Hey, we’re gonna start to like, play with these things now, and not have them on a project, but like, be thinking about it much larger to the point when we’re like, Alright, we’ve got to hit go on AI this or Metaverse that we’re like, cool. We already like know how to do this to some degree. And then it makes it much more practical to put into a situation that has a firm deadline.
Timothy Porter 41:57
So you can also show it to clients as well be like, hey, look, we actually did some r&d here. And that cool, you know, and it leads to credibility.
Adam Paikowsky 42:04
Totally. And it’s like, I mean, the tricky thing is, it requires investment to do the arm r&d. And Where’s that coming from? And like how you can either now or later, and effort and effort, right? Like, that’s
Trevor Burk 42:15
a terrifying part to like me? Because, you know, like, we never have to think about deadline we have didn’t we never have to think about the finish line is, like, unequivocal. Right. So the thing that we have to figure out like from the jump is what the what the value system is specifically related to time, right? is like, you know, a kickoff phone call is like we want to do, buzzword, buzzword keyword. Wow. That’s a bit that’s ambitious, like, Second. Second question. Yeah. Well, the second question is, what’s the timescale? And like, the like, it doesn’t have to be necessarily off putting, but it’s like, if this is three year project, we’re looking at a whole different set of toolkits than if it’s a eight month project or three weeks, right. And it’s the same thing is like, and it’s the same thing as it was like Discovery sessions, when you’re when you’re sniffing out what the common vocabulary is, and what the common like workflow is, when you figure it out is like, Okay, you want buzzword, buzzword keyword, and you want it in a shorter timeframe. That ergo, like, okay, all that stuff’s gone. We’re using now we’re now we’re using money, and we’re using, you know, horsepower to like to do that. Because that’s, that’s the ingredient that other people don’t have access to.
Alex Porter 43:28
It’s the Golden Triangle, right? Money, time quality. What are the two that you want? Pick two. You cannot have all three. Yeah, but I
Trevor Burk 43:36
like I think, yeah, we all came from that at a certain point. But at another point, like, the empowering thing is is like how do you hyper leverage them for yourself, right, when it’s not a limiting factor, but it’s like, alright, well, let’s go. But then, you know, the other part of it is because we tend to be less, like driving ourselves in downtime, it’s project to project to project, like, the time spent in between is really just like, it’s like a fighter getting ready, like at the gym, right? Like, all we’re trying to do is like, Okay, the next time we do that, how do we do it faster? How are we more responsive? Not like, we’re not like, we’re building systems that can like come back and be deployed again. But it’s less like, I don’t know, like, it’s less self motivated like, than what you guys are describing.
Adam Paikowsky 44:20
I think like, also to like, the promise of a lot of the current tools coming out and current workflows coming out, are to deliver on the Golden Triangle, right? It is like better, faster, cheaper, which is kind of interesting, but it takes time. And the thing one of the things that we’ve been seeing a lot or I’ve been seeing a lot lately is like the things that are that are actually maybe not slowing things down, but the largest sort of barriers are actually process related in terms of like how things who needs to approve this and like who is the decision maker there and we where are we getting the staff at? Like not doing the thing
Trevor Burk 45:01
that you’re saying your process or like client process or both? Because yeah, like, Finally, like, client process is the hardest thing to win, you know, by ourselves in a vacuum, we wouldn’t do stuff pretty fast. But like, you know, once learning, you know, what, all stakeholders and approvals and who gets to vote, which has its own set of figuring out like that can like get in the way
Adam Paikowsky 45:21
partnering with another, or partnering with another group or bringing in new individuals, like all of it takes off, like the process on in general, like as a whole tends to be, you know, the biggest barrier to speed.
Alex Porter 45:33
Did we want to open it up for Q&A? I think we have time for like,
J.T. Rooney 45:36
Yeah, I’m hovering. But you guys don’t have time. It’s okay. But yeah, if you guys are cool for questions be great. Do it up for anyone. We have a couple of mics here.
Alex Porter 45:45
Any takers? We can keep talking. Just want to hear as waxing poetic or poorly. Yeah,
J.T. Rooney 45:51
I have one because I’m annoying. Whether it comes to developing tech, or like, Oops, or executing it. Sorry, Madonna, Mike in the way. When it comes to like developing tech or executing on set like, you talked about this a bit, Alex on your side. But when you’re executing both, I think that becomes a really interesting conversation. And, Trevor, you’ve, you’ve all dealt with that in so many different ways of like, Hey, we’re not doing this as a business model. We just have this show in two weeks. And there’s something brand new that’s ever happened before. Like, is there anything super specific in that side? Where some of the your normal guards that you put up about business or execution like kind of change, like when you’re on that bleeding edge? Sometimes? Is there a moment where you’re like, we’re on this train? Now? We totally
Alex Porter 46:33
put NF T’s in our pipeline. It was brief. It didn’t, it didn’t go quite the way that we thought it would. In, let me clarify what I mean. So we had a bigger, broader workflow for 3d asset generation, and delivery. And so at the end of the pipeline, you could opt into having it, you know, minted on palm IO, and have it delivered. Pre NFT. Right. We did the work, we added it into the pipeline. And then very shortly thereafter, that became a cool, yeah, I’m cool. That’s awesome. I still think there’s, I still think there’s a lot of functionality. Tricks are good ish markup, I still think there’s a lot of functionality, but the reality is, you know, that sort of like that boom, and bust happened relatively quickly, when we were moving sort of into that space. So that space was always tangential to like where we were at anyway, with Content, you know. But absolutely, we have done that. And I think in general, you have to evaluate what lift versus ROI, right, which is challenging, it’s always challenging, there’s always there’s no lack of things that we have on our to do list. And so we really are trying every day to be better at how we manage our resources and how we effectively deploy them in a way that’s meaningful for our company and meaningful for our clients. And so we do also typically run on like a rule of three. So if we have three clients that are asking us for something specific, that’s when we start figuring out like how we can move it up in the roadmap of development, because it’s really important to us to be listening, and be aware of what’s happening around us. We didn’t we don’t want to build a bubble, we want to build in a way that’s really helpful and meaningful for the people actually using our software.
Timothy Porter 48:27
But we also move at the speed of money, speed of money.
Adam Paikowsky 48:31
I don’t know JT, I think that’s like a really good question. Like, when do you pull some of the guardrails for doing something innovative or something different. And it’s, it’s not a it’s never a one size fits all. But almost not every but almost a lot of the productions, that you end up being super proud of you’ve, you’ve adapted in some way to do something that you didn’t really want to do. Or you had to do it in a different way than you wanted to do it. Because there’s, you know, the right and I’m putting that in air quotes, because it’s, there’s a right way to do something. But then there’s also the way that you practically need to do it in order to get it done for your client in that amount of time. And I think the more that you do something repeatedly, or a specific project typology repeatedly, you learn what those things that you can maybe skirt around the edges, if you’re especially, you know, I would say 70% of the stuff that we build is ephemeral, meaning it’s up for a period of time, and then it goes away. The way that you build a femoral activation versus the way that you build permanent activation is totally different. Like my background, I got started in permanent infrastructure for like museums and you know, Empire State Building, like what we built for the Empire State Building, way way different. Like, you know, the amount of engineering the amount of hardware the quote like not quality isn’t even the right word, because it’s just different than what you would build for like a pop up store. or like an activation that’s going to be up for two weeks. And I think, you know, having experience in both of those realms, it is really about choosing the right tool for the right job, like, do you need to build it from scratch? Is there something that exists that you can sort of wrap within something else, like, I feel like, early in my career, I was, I was like, I want to build everything. Like, literally, I’m reading all the software to do all of the pieces of this pipeline, because that’s like, you know, it’s got to be mine. And then, as I, you know, have gotten older, and as I’ve delivered, you know, however many projects, and the more you like to sleep, yeah, sleep is important. And also having support is important, like working with companies who make great products, and figuring out, I was calling myself middleware man for a while because I was running so much middleware. And it was just like linking a bunch of different things together and developing workflows that are repeatable, and deployable. And I think those are the shortcuts that you like, learn to take, in order to deliver things at the speed that you need to deliver them at.
Alex Porter 51:00
It’s not reinventing the wheel, right? It already exists. You don’t need to make it again, it doesn’t need to be a special sauce version of something that’s out there that you can put in place. I completely agree. And we do a lot of that too.
Adam Paikowsky 51:14
Although sometimes it is super fun to build your own custom render engine and see beautiful graphics like
J.T. Rooney 51:20
don’t reinvent the wheel until that wheel doesn’t exist knew exactly
Trevor Burk 51:23
where it falls off and exactly Thank you though, right
Alex Porter 51:26
flying the plane while building it. Something to that effect all the all the analogies
Trevor Burk 51:30
So thanks, everybody. Really appreciate the time we’ll be around.
Timothy Porter 51:35
has been great.
J.T. Rooney 51:37
Thank you, everyone. Next talks
project, clients, innovation, people, talking, deliverable, creative, workflow, build, figure, ai, important, question, pipeline, tools, feel, part, hard, work, solution
J.T. Rooney, Timothy Porter, Trevor Burk, Adam Paikowsky, Alex Porter