Submarine Channel


Playgrounds Festival

‘Imagine Whatever’ was the theme of Playgrounds Festival 2015. Maria Dicieanu submerged herself deeply in the festival’s activities for three whole days. Here’s her top 5 most inspiring presentations.

Part 2/2. In Part 1, Maria talks about her 5 favorite projects from Playgrounds.

Whether they were creative directors, animators, sound designers, interactive multimedia performers or vfx artists, these guys proved they can not only produce stunning works, but also present them in ingenious ways.


1. PIPS:LAB (@pipslab)

PIPS:LAB‘s work revolves around multimedia installations, performances, data mining projects and other mixed media mashups. During Playgrounds they entertained the crowd with a live interactive data mining performance. Each person in the darkened room was provided with a tiny flash-light to be used as a tool for light-painting. PIPS:LAB’s moderator gave us instructions on what to write. We were asked to ‘light paint’ our names as well as the answers to deep questions, like: Do you believe in an afterlife or not? Answers were recorded, processed and then all answers were displayed on the screen superimposed on a photo of each specific individuals from the audience. Guess you had to be there, but it was incredibly spectacular and captivating. The performance kept everybody one hundred percent engaged and at the edge of the seats. The true revelation, however, came all the way at the end. The question of whether there is an afterlife is irrelevant in an online environment where there is no heaven or hell and everybody goes on “living” as data for all eternity. PIPS:LAB’s brilliant stunt left me pondering the paradoxes of our online existences. Who knew writing your own name with light in the dark could be so insightful?


2. GMUNK (@gmunk)

Bradley G Munkowitz‘s was by far the most popular presentation at Playgrounds this year. The motion graphic artist known as Gmunk must have included at least 300 slides (not that I actually counted them!). And what he showed blew my mind. At the end it felt I’d been hit by a wrecking ball of knowledge. Right from the start, Gmunk stressed that “only freaks survive in the creative audiovisual field” and that in order to “make things happen you need to throw your work out there.” This seemed to be a recurring theme at the Playgrounds talks this year. Gmunk also believes that you should take inspiration from the works of others, but to always make sure you add your own flavor, to reinvent it and make it live forever. (What is it with creators and eternity?). He made another valid point regarding expectations. Case in point, his music video “Pearl 7” for Tycho – See. An unexpected flop despite the beautiful visuals, Gmunk re-shot the entire video.

This presentation simply had it all: quotes from famous people, exciting visual references and examples, fascinating “making ofs”, and every now and then a pornographic element to keep the audience in check. It was all totally befitting this intellectually orgasmic experience.


3. White Noise Lab (@wnlab)

With so many beautiful examples of visual artwork, we sometimes forget the audio component. White Noise Lab‘s talk was a much needed reminder about the power of sound. Roger Lima also stressed the importance of “getting your projects out there,” and that we should be “willing to learn by failing” and not wait for commissioned work to create something. As an example, he played a cover version of the Game of Thrones Theme – a project just for fun in which he combined his love for the HBO show with his love for heavy metal. It went viral on YouTube and helped him make valuable connections which ultimately got him booked on various projects.

A highlight of the presentation was the breakdown of the creative process behind the sound design of the Under Armour “Calling All Spurs” ad. We got to experience the project from the brief’s stage and then we listened to different versions of the mixes. Right under our very own eyes and ears we witnessed how sound influenced, and was in turn influenced by the images. It was a real treat to acknowledge how much the audio and video can shape one another, especially considering that in the media industry sound design tends to come in only after the image is on lock. And about luck, Roger Lima says: “There is no such thing. The more you work the more luck you have”!


4. Ustwo (@ustwo)

Ustwo‘s major breakthrough was their game “Monument Valley,” which was featured in Netflix’s popular “House of Cards” series. The amazing game app was subsequently downloaded many times prompting “Monument Valley” to be crowned the Apple Game of the Year and win an Apple Design Award. Well deserved, me thinks. The game’s architecture design is incredible. I was of course intrigued by this story and curious how Ustwo’s Neil McFarland would tackle the circumstances that brought fame to his indie game. but he didn’t mention House of Cards at all.

Next, Ustwo focused on how to take Monument Valley to the next level. VR offers interesting possibilities especially when paired with Samsung Gear. According to McFarland this will be the first time users will be able to move things using the power of their head/mind – “a pretty cool feeling.” A very exciting prospect and I’m super curious to see how the mesmerizing Escher-inspired spaces of Monument Valley will look when one can actually walk through them.


5. Framestore / Edwin Schaap (@EdwinAnimation)

Edwin Schaap is no stranger to Playgrounds having won the Playgrounds Award in 2013 with his beautiful emotional animation Little Freak. I found his talk to be one of the most honest presentations I’ve ever witnessed. While most creators would show the audience the works they are most proud of, Schaap took us on a journey down memory lane and presented his very first animation projects. Nothing very impressive or glamorous, but Edwin was able to pinpoint exactly what he learned from each project thus perfectly illustrating his growth as an animator. Super useful info for any aspiring animator.

Next he showed some of the current work he did for Framestore studio. The challenging work he did for the live action/CGI movie “Paddington”, making the ‘invisible’ creatures for “Jupiter Ascending“, and even the CGI bats from “Dracula Untold” no longer seemed out-of-reach, since Edwin so perfectly showed us where he came from. Edwin’s inspirational tips: “Step out of your comfort zone; Keep it simple where you can; Don’t be afraid to just start something; Don’t be afraid of making mistakes; Don’t get lost in the small detail; Stay passionate!” Overall, a fearless presentation.


By @ricutza

Former editor and now guest editor Maria Dicieanu is our right honorable movie geek. She is the living manifestation of a multimedia app and loves trawling the world wide web for the finest music videos, likes to get her digital mitts dirty with conversions, uploads and video edits for Submarine Channel, and also flirts with transmedia-related journalism, reporting from festivals like Cannes, Berlinale and IDFA for European Cinema collective NISI MASA and Submarine Channel.