A new installation at Citi Pond at New York's Bryant Park lets you step into a real live snow globe and capture a "frozen moment" of yourself in winter wonderland, with the help of 16 iPod cameras and a little bit of post-production trickery.
The project was developed by Publicis Kaplan Thaler and production company Rehab Studios. It required a giant inflatable plastic balloon and a custom program that uses a bullet-time camera rig outfitted with iPods that take 16 images at the same time to create a nearly 360-degree "frozen moment" effect of its subjects--in the air, kissing, or making general merriment.
Jim Kotulka, creative director at Publicis Kaplan Thaler says that the agency has worked on Citi's Pond at Bryant Park for several years, but for 2013 wanted to give visitors a "way to bring that experience home." The agency also wanted to create something visitors could see from the other side of pond, but at the same time, it had to be an enclosed space, so people could get in and "feel like they're in a safe space."
The agency's integrated production director, Chris Berger, had been familiar with Rehab's work, although they had not worked on anything together. What made it even better was that Tim Rodgers, Rehab's creative partner, is a self-described snow globe collector, who loved the idea. "The 'moment in time' technique was really beautiful, and we wanted people coming off the ice rink to have something they can take home," he said.
The Rehab team created a custom software which is placed on a couple of iPads handled by the 'ambassadors' -- the blue coat-sporting guardians of the Snow Globe. Those ambassadors lead people into the globe, and after they've recorded their moment, check their iPads. The tablets have a connection to the 16 iPods around the Globe, and show when all the images have properly rendered and been downloaded. Ambassadors also spot-check the videos to make sure nobody is wearing logos of brands, or doing something inappropriate -- nobody has been flagged yet, said the agency team, although a few people were making inappropriate gestures and had to re-record their videos.
A couple of "video bookends" record the initial and final couple of seconds of video to set the scene. Then, all the assets are graded -- an important step, since the light keeps changing, and a program adds an additional effect that makes it look like it's snowing inside the globe. Everything gets delivered via a custom link, within a few minutes, to the email addresses of the participants, in mobile-friendly formats.
The most challenging part of the campaign was of course, New York in February -- unpredictable weather that included warm days, driving sleet and a couple of snow storms. The team had tested everything in a studio, but out in the real world, everything changed. The team to had to work on solutions as problems cropped up, fixing the globe, changing around the the camera positions, and so on.
While Mr. Kotulka doesn't know what else they might do with this interesting piece of technology, he said Citi will definitely look to evolve it next year after they close it down for the season on March 3. The possibilities are endless: A travelling photo-booth with twist might be just the thing for summer weddings.
See Creativity's turn in the Snow Globe below.