Mastering Hybrid Culture: What are the creative tools of the future?

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In the past year, the radical upside-down flip of industries and individual lives alike has caused as much hardship as it’s generated new ways of thinking. Utterly unprecedented constraints have led companies to reassess not just their strategic approach and creative direction, but also their production methods. The shift we’ve witnessed echoes far and wide.

First and foremost, consumption has taken new forms: while home decoration, design and streaming services have seen profits boom, trends have elsewhere shifted, somewhat paradoxically, towards sustainability. Mass-production in the vein of fast fashion is being increasingly questioned, and consuming now needs to be conscious — less reliant on an obsolete, archaic, discriminatory and extractive business model. Consumerism is heading towards endurance, quality and prizes a lasting quality over a quick fix. As a live event production company, we naturally haven’t been exempt from the major societal drifts the rest of the creative sector has had to accommodate. Our (already strong) desire to create memorable, lasting and punctually impactful experiences has been doubled by the unexpected global takeover of digitalized events. When options seem limited and mobility is severely reduced, exiting the standardized, narrow framework of the live stream can be both a stimulating challenge or a virtual impossibility, depending on how you look at it. We chose to go with the former.

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Though it may appear defunct today, our background in performing arts and live events spread over the last decade has definitely equipped us to think with flexibility and be quick on our feet— technology has always been fundamental to our evolution and relevance within the industry, and the COVID pandemic has been no exception. This new era has led us to the term Hybrid Culture: an attempt at neither resuscitating a dead past nor idealizing an uncertain future, but fusing the two into an approach to culture that is fresh and (crucially) ever-evolving. Indeed, change is the only constant we can reasonably rely on, and the Hybrid Culture mindset knows that. Hybrid thinking can apply to virtually every facet of the conceptualization, ideation and production cycle: it can help rethink a corporate philosophy, team work, brainstorming, delegation, and, of course, methods. For us, this has been an unparalleled opportunity to sharpen our knives and interweave new technological developments with our entire creative process.

Interactivity: an answer to contemporary challenges

Already quite present in our modus operandi, interactivity has taken on new formats and meanings during the last months. Lockdown and social distancing have inevitably facilitated a strong digital pivot, predominantly manifesting as pre-packaged digitized visual content that while helpful, does little but engage the audience on a superficial level, condensing a replica of the long-lost and yearned for ‘live’ experience. As it stands, we’ve come to the conclusion that to be memorable, a virtual event needs to be as engaging as a live event, and offer an alternative instead of a facsimile. This logic has powered some serious and highly fruitful technological experimentation with hybrid formats, primarily with tools such as Extended Reality or Mixed Reality, which have facilitated the creation of events for both major Fortune 500 and independent artist clients. At the same time, championing the virtual-reality continuum has also proved to be compatible with our sustainable ambitions, helping save time, energy and the significant atmospheric pollution of countless airplane flights.

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Notch: A graphic boost for a better immersive experience

If the realm of virtual and augmented reality can feel endless and revolutionary, props need to be given to the major strides made in graphic development with new technologies such as Notch — a trusty pillar of our XR conceptualization and immersive productions.

Founded by motion designer and developer Matt Swoboda, Notch is a real-time workflow tool for video production, live visual events, VR and interactive experiences. Swoboda’s background in video games has nurtured the inspiration for the new and highly innovative technology — a desire to apply the real-time and cool graphics of gaming to a broader spectrum of virtual experiences. Notch is just the start, along with a wave of new software providers of hybrid solutions we’ve used, such as Unreal Engine, Disguise, Ventuz and Green Hippo.

“There’s a lot of interesting technology coming,” Swoboda told us back in December. “Mostly ways of making the technology viable — generally, things which would have needed a really complicated setup are now done through software. That’s really exciting.” We couldn’t agree more.

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Breaking the mold of the stage format

Crucially, the virtual spin has emboldened us to experiment with a wealth of new event formats, far less constrained to enclosed physical spaces. Much of our work revolved around the age-old premise of a staged show, and while the traditional framework has never hindered our creatively adventurous nature, the infinitely malleable virtual realm has made it boom. Indeed, a green screen studio can cater to our wildest immersive fantasies. Be it gamified experiences, such as scavenger hunts, avatar creation or interactive chat boxes, nothing is out of reach and no idea too far-fetched. In the virtual real, form can truly follow function, catering to the stories to be told.

As the world appears to be reopening, the future begins to look a little brighter for the live event industry and the creative sector at large. Nonetheless, while large-scale live events may witness a resurgence, it’s our responsibility to think of the direction in which the industry is headed, ditching the obsolete and unsustainable in favor of bold, fresh and innovative ideas. Sure enough, these may (temporarily) unroot us from our habits and comfort zone. But in the long run, we’ll be thankful for it.

Read our first instalment on “Mastering Hybrid Culture” here.

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Award-winning creative studio working worldwide. Digital experiences, cultural activations, A-class concepts and shows.