Attack of the Giant Interstitials

By Tk Published on .

Jennifer Miller, a designer at Blur Studio, has had a hand in many cool video projects in her four years at the Venice Calif., animation/effects/design house, but the recent Universal Studios CityWalk job marks a first. CityWalk is a gigantic entertainment, dining and retail center in Universal City, adjoining the Universal theme park; "it's a glorified outdoor mall," says Miller, and it required a glorified outdoor visual display along the lines of the jumbo screen in Times Square.

The project, a collaboration with Fresh Technologies, the designer and builder of the video installation, is known as "A Sight and Sound Experience"; it's "a very large-scale combination of signage and TV," Miller explains. Universal shows music videos, movie trailers and TV promos day and night and Blur's job was to "create bumpers between the other stuff."

But the resulting footage is rather offbeat for a corporate, public-works type of project, with a slightly mock-Big Brother feel; voices intone commands like, "Stay safe. Stay saved. Stay Simple," and "Don't walk. Don't run. Don't fly," over techno beats as viewers are bombarded by random bits of text, clip-artsy images and continual hocus-pocus with the focus. "We had to brand it as young, hip and irreverent, hence the quickcuts and the edgy, gritty feel," Miller says.

There's one screen up now, three others may be in the works and there are indeed technical considerations on a project of this size. "LED screens are fairly low-res and we wanted to minimize detail, but we didn't lose any impact," Miller notes. "In fact, at night it looks brilliant, the colors are intense."

Is there any unusual ego satisfaction attached to having your work running constantly before the milling throngs? "Nah," she pooh-poohs. "Maybe I should feel that way, but I don't." However, "Early one morning I did see a busload of Japanese tourists dancing to the music and pointing at the screen," Miller recalls. "I don't think they spoke a word of English, but they were having a great time. That was kind of gratifying."

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