“Urban Isolation:” a 6-Year-Old Skate Film for Today

This hauntingly quiet short film has been all over social media lately, often misleadingly described as “shot in LA during the stay at home order.”

It wasn’t. “Urban Isolation” was shot and edited in 2014 by Russel Houghten. The skateboarding filmmaker created it specifically for an 11-piece video project sponsored by RED and The Berrics. RED makes exceptional professional video cameras and The Berrics is a collaboration by professional skateboarders Steve Berra and Eric Koston dedicated to promoting the sport through web content and their indoor skatepark.

Six years ago, Houghten’s film earned a Vimeo Staff Pick and eventually became one of Vimeo’s ten best films of 2014. Yet its visuals of a lone skateboarder working highway, ramps, and urban architecture of daytime Los Angeles void of other people make it feel incredibly au courant. This is the same kind of eerie prescience found in Bill Gate’s 2015 TED talk on pandemics. But Houghten created his visuals through extensive post effects, not a government shutdown order. You can see a bit of his process in this behind the scenes video, also documented by RED.

I can’t explain why online trolls put such energy into knowingly misrepresenting things online. But in this case, at least it helped promote an interesting creative project. I hope you enjoy the piece.

The Ever Observant Alan Spindle Posted This During Yesterday’s Broadcast

NFLHe captioned this Facebook update with: “I must say, this Houston Texans logo is quite groundbreaking. I have no idea what inspired them to create such an out-there design.”

Sometimes social media’s biggest reward is a smart observation or witty bon mot. You know, just like you might overhear in some other social situation.

Because engagement strategies notwithstanding, with Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, Instagram, it’s always social first.

Good one Alan…


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


“We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Server Farm”–Amazing Facebook Fact Video

Alex Trimpe studies at Columbus College of Art & Design over in Columbus, Ohio where he’s proving himself to be pretty adept at motion graphics video.  Less than two weeks ago, he posted this Adobe After Effects class project on Vimeo, where it is quickly approaching half a million views. Wow, no one ever seemed that anxious to look at my homework.  Nice job Alex…


Happy Friday to all.  Mine is bittersweet as I say goodbye to the good people and clients of Element 79 Chicago before starting an exciting new chapter at OLSON in Minneapolis on Monday.

Yes, this Monday.  The one three days from now. Scheduling has never been a real strong suit of mine…


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


Kick Off The Week with Another Toe-Tapping Typographic Ditty

My friend Steve Brodwolf of Blu-Sky Ideas (formerly Chicago now–sadly–New York) passed along a link to this video last night.  It combines three fascinating things:

1.  Clever kinetic typography that deftly illustrates a story by Jarrett Heather.

2.  A catchy tune from an unsigned yet flourishing via Web 2.0 musician named Jonathan Coulter.

3.  Over the top branding easily recognized by our post modern, marketing obsessed culture.

Shop Vac from Jarrett Heather on Vimeo.

If anyone can tally an actual count of the brand references in this thing, please pass it along.  I’ve tried doing that three times this morning but I keep getting lost in some new detail that catches my eye.  This really is a nice piece of After Effects work.  Happy Monday!


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


Today’s Friday Video Awesome: The Tilt Shift Playfulness of “Bath Tub IV”

Last week, the Guggenheim Museum debuted “YouTube Play”: an exhibit of twenty-five videos curated from the all but limitless content of this video website which provides over two billion clip views each day.  Seriously: two billion views, every single day.  Try to imagine that for a moment, but understand, you can’t.

Instead, start with this little three and a half minute exercise in tilt shift charm: Keith Loutit’s finalist entry, “Bathtub IV.”

If you want more of this marvelous, miniaturizing effect, check out Keith’s Vimeo page here.  If this piqued your curiosity about the Guggenheim show, check out the other twenty-four finalists here.  And of course, as always, Happy Friday.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


This Weekend, I Saw The Future of Film Rendered In Breathtaking CGI

No, I didn’t see Avatar–though I will.  As a student of culture, I must.  In one month, Avatar’s already become the second highest worldwide release ever, behind Cameron’s own Titanic.  And this despite having a title set, as Element 79 art director Lindsay Stevens first noted, in the horrid Papyrus font.  But I digress…

Instead I saw this twelve and a half minute piece called “The Third and the Seventh” by Alex Roman on Vimeo.  Do yourself a favor and cleave off the time to watch this on your computer in full screen and HD.  If you can’t afford the time but can find a minute and a half, watch this.  And then remind yourself that despite the natural lighting, despite the seemingly hand-made erraticism of some camera moves and depth of focus changes, regardless of the incredible details of wear and tear on vintage film cameras and the botanic splendor of deciduous trees and waving shafts of wheat and grass…heck, notwithstanding even the appearance of a photographer in some of the scenes…none of it is real.

You really have to force yourself to fully absorb that.  None.  Of.  It.  Is.  Real.

Should you doubt that, watch this.  And if you want to see exactly how the filmmaker uses 3dsmax, Vray, After Effects and Premiere, he shows you.

In these times of Harry Potter and Transformers, the most remarkable cinematic effect of all is to see something utterly believable rendered staggeringly perfect through entirely artificial means.  The very invisibility of the effects in this piece will blow your mind.  What it means for the future of Hollywood and commercial set building remains to be seen, but this will be used.  And we’ll have more actors scampering across blue screens, only later to be turned into fantastic images and landscapes.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Alex Roman (real name Jorge Seva) is a classically trained painter who spends his days working in the world of arch viz: architectural visualizations created through computer graphics.  Some amazing masterpieces of architecture appear in his film, including MAM, Milwaukee’s fabulous art museum designed by Santiago Calatrava.  For more information on this filmmaker, here’s the only substantive interview I could find, conducted early in the process as he was creating various pieces before they all coalesced into his final film.

“The Third and the Seventh” refers to pillars of Art: Architecture (third) and Cinema (seventh).  I’m not familiar with the entire list of pillars or their ranking, but I can speculate on the foundation of Art…


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

The New Marketing Challenge: Mastering Perpetual Beta

Picture 1Last week, a post on iMedia Connection with the incendiary headline “Why Twitter Will Soon Become Obsolete” , caused a bit of a stir. Jason Clark, a creative director at VIA Studio, made a rather compelling argument that despite the hype surrounding this platform, people shouldn’t consider it a final destination as a social network.  Referencing the constant stream of new platforms that have sprung up on the net these past twenty five years, Clark argues that all have been social networks of one form or another, from the late 70’s bulletin boards and usenet groups, to the rise of email in the 80’s and then the increasingly rapid iterations and adoption of blogging and AIM to the more contemporary platforms like Friendster which begat MySpace and eventually Facebook, along with all the recent graphic networks like Flickr, YouTube and Vimeo.  The only constant throughout has been change; as soon as one platform captures the attention of a large group, a technology and needs-driven iteration develops and if it proves useful, the herd quickly adopts it as well.  Or more depressingly, once the signal-to-noise ratio becomes unbearable with marketers spamming the platform and chooching up the interface, people look for something new.  He points to Google’s Wave as a potential next destination.

Despite the pugnacious headline, Clark’s argument makes fundamental sense, even as iMedia simultaneously posted a story on how Nielsen measured Twitter’s user base growth at an astounding 1444% this past year: as of May, 18.2 million accounts had registered on the service.  Marketers now must evolve their tactics to keep up with internet time, creating an uncomfortable cycle of constant reinvention to keep pace with engaged audiences.

Our business challenge now is to sustain a constant sprint, to keep tabs on critical consumer markets that migrate with quicksilver speed in a constant movable feast.  This is the phenomenon guest blogger Tim Mauery wrote about this past Tuesday: today, Fastest/Smartest wins.

The trick however, is keeping an eye on the one marketing goal that never changes: building client brands.  You can lose hours of the workday, surfing the web and social ‘NOTworking’ under the pretense of understanding the market.  But the business of brand building has also become more time consuming, particularly today when the participatory Web 2.0 has essentially provided consumer opinion with a mass distribution channel.

Brands are opinions, and we need to continually shape, steer and improve those opinions with clever, strategic engagement across more consumer touchpoints than ever.  Against our shrinking timeframes, picking which touchpoints to engage given finite marketing dollars will decide who soars and who stumbles.

If anyone has any tips on doing that successfully, the comment board is open.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79