Eyeball, a small New York broadcast design company, doesn't have any golden arches outside its downtown office, but come next year it could put up a sign that says, "One billion served." That'll be the day after the firm's crucial role in what promises to be the biggest TV show of the century: New Year's Eve in Times Square. The Times Square Business Improvement District, known as the BID, is planning a 26-hour bash, centered in part around the monstrous Panasonic Astrovision screen and seven accompanying monitors, with millennium countdowns for every time zone on Earth -- and all the graphics are being supplied by none other than Eyeball. The estimated global television audience for this event is in excess of a billion; it makes even the biggest Super Bowl look distinctly less than super. Eyeball must've got itself sorely bloodshot vying for a gig like this, right? Blink again.
"We got the job easily," says Eyeball creative director Daniel Fries. "Frankly, it was quite shocking." They didn't even have to bid for the BID. "There was no competition; it wasn't a pitch job," Fries explains, trying not to gloat. In a nutshell, Eyeball was recommended to the BID by a mutual friend, and they were more or less simply handed the assignment on a millennial platter. "They were attracted to us primarily because we do conceptually-oriented work," Fries says. As far as the video imagery goes, "we developed the concept," he adds. "That's what makes us a little different, I'd like to think. There's no agency involved, and no post house. We're it." In its press releases, Eyeball likes to position itself as a "thinking company," but this offer was a no-brainer. Too bad they can't get any onscreen credit during the big show, but "that's the nature of the business," he shrugs. Nevertheless, "The PR value is priceless," Fries says dreamily.
The nature of this particular piece of business is of course yet to be fully revealed, but besides an animated "Times Square 2000" logo, Eyeball has been commissioned to create four "video modules," as they're called: Destination, Millennium, Countdown and Closeout. They'll be doing a generic Countdown module for all time zones except Eastern Standard, which gets the custom treatment. The Millennium module runs the minute before the countdown, then the 60-second Countdown module kicks in.
The imagery itself is based around "gestural activity that will have a universal feel to it," says Fries. To quote from the description on Eyeball's Website (www.eyeballnyc.com/ts2k), the treatment ". . . will be a poetic mosaic of people and their universal body language. Images of people are pieced together to form an image of shared action . . . Light will act as a significant metaphor. It will rise like the sun in the Destination module and set to dusk in the Closing module. It is a symbol for the passing of time throughout the millennium and the dawn of a new age."
Fries says the concept "will express harmony; something everyone can relate to. The color palette is based on the skin tones of all the world's races. It will have a timeless sense, and it will be as humanly universal as possible, but it'll still be cool. On a certain level, it'll actually be pretty slick."
Not as slick as the season Eyeball is having. The company was founded in 1992 by president Limore Shur, who was shortly joined by Fries, a friend from high school. Senior designer Julian Bevan, who joined in '96, is the third partner. Curiously, all three principals are 30 years old and Pratt Institute grads. Equally curiously, after what Fries describes as a "dead summer," Eyeball suddenly finds itself deluged with a Hurricane Floyd's worth of business. Besides the bountiful BID deal, recent jobs include: work for Kodak; a herpes drug called Valtrex; the retailer T.J. Maxx; an HBO promotional package; and a Wieden & Kennedy "NHL on ESPN" campaign. They also did a very cool comeback commercial earlier this year for the British band XTC, in which they effectively stop motion-animated the photographs of Jill Greenberg. Fries is particularly excited about Eyeball's work on Michael Apted's new film, Me & Isaac Newton, for which they supplied the poster, the title sequence and even did second-unit optics.
So the year has turned out to be quite a smash, and it is guaranteed to end with a bang, not a whimper. Speaking of which, what about the possibility of a Y2K disaster? Not to worry. "BID has contingency plans for a blackout," Fries notes, "but even if the power does goes off at midnight, that will just be when our big countdown ends. It'll be the last thing people see before it all goes dark.