Augmented Reality so soulful you can feel it.

I originally wrote this think piece for Blippar on June 29th 2015. Here we are a year later and I feel that it's becoming even more relevant now than it was then. 

Imagine sitting in your living room gazing at the giant tree growing in front of you. It begins with a patch of grass on the floor, slowly spreading out to cover the whole carpet. As the grass spreads a small root starts to emerge from the centre. Your ceiling gradually turns a glorious summer blue while the root continues to grow at an incredible pace, creaking and snapping until the entire room is bursting at the seams with a mighty tree. The branches, now thick with leaves, gently sway in the breeze as a glaringly bright sun bursts through from the sky above. Birds can be heard chirping in the distance, interrupted only by the gentle rustling of the leaves above. Your whole body is getting that summer vibe.

You reach for the sky, placing your finger on the sun and dragging it across the ceiling. The season changes as the sun travels towards the adjacent wall. The summer blue drops to an autumn orange. Clouds drift into view as leaves begin tumbling from the branches. The grass on the floor can barely be seen beneath the crunchy fallen leaves. A slight drizzle begins, and a gentle pattering can be heard as raindrops hit the floor. You drag the sun a little further away, until snow begins to fall. The mighty tree is now standing in front of you completely bare. As you touch the floor you hear the crunch of snow. Everything seems so fresh now, with a cool white scene filling your living room. You can sense the chill in the air.

Imagine augmented reality (AR) created with so much soul you can almost feel it. A digital augmentation of the real world with so much delicate attention to detail the viewer begins to believe its presence in their own reality. Most examples of AR are created as obtrusive digital executions, and these often jar with their surrounding environments. Perhaps these executions assist a brand, product or subject to which they are attached, but rarely do they consider the location in which they will be seen. Why not manipulate the entire environment as well as the subject in focus?

A lot of people suggest augmented reality is a gimmick, and I tend to agree that most examples prove this statement correct. (edit: here we are a year later and augmented reality is now very much considered an incredibly important future technology) But what if we move away from gimmick and towards sense? Let’s focus on the reality part of augmented reality. Reality in AR doesn’t need to rely simply on making the tree and its leaves as photo-realistic as possible. I believe paying attention to movement, sound and interactivity between user and technology can create as equally an impactful experience as having a realistic-looking tree in your living room.

People [have been] relying on virtual reality (VR) to provide the most immersive digital experiences over the next few years, but I’m inclined to believe that AR hasn’t yet reached its climax, with hardware limitations and creativity limiting its growth. Surely seeing a well-executed digital experience augmented convincingly into your own reality is more engaging than cutting off your own reality altogether. I’d love to see augmented reality focusing more on the feeling it can produce rather than simply showing off impressive graphics. Neither AR nor VR are able to provide the sensation of touching the experience [yet], so they need to work especially hard on the relationship between sight and sound.

This is where I believe VR is maturing much quicker than AR; the available hardware offers so much more processing power and even physical control methods, allowing more creative freedom. But as wearables become more powerful and commercially available, perhaps now is the time to push augmented reality into the next generation - of sense rather than gimmick.

The best trailers of E3 2016

If you’re looking at my website then you’re probably the kind of person who has heard of E3. That’s because if you’re looking at my website then you’re likely one of my friends giving me pity traffic (thank you, all. I appreciate that.) and probably see me ranting about the art of video games on a regular basis over on Facebook. If, however, you’re here by chance and have no idea what E3 is then let me tell you…

E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) is like christmas morning for grown up, video game loving nerds. 

It’s actually a really boring concept. A trade show for multi-million dollar businesses to try and sell their new software. BUT, this has also become a gladiatorial pit where we, the video game loving public get to watch these companies try to outdo each other to become the Best Show of E3!

Look, long story short (too late). They spend a shit load of money on trailers, gameplay videos and showboating. This blog post is to select my favourite trailers of E3.  “A blog post about adverts. Sounds boring.” Wrong! These are creatively brilliant for different reasons… and probably cost somebody, somewhere a shit load of money to produce.

So, in a very particular order…

LEONS TRAILERS OF E3 2016 

1: Death Stranding

Look, this trailer is simply incredible. What the hell is going on?! Why is everything dead? Why are those people in the sky? Why was he attached by a mechanical umbilical cord to a disappearing baby and why was his stomach stitched up? WHY EVERYTHING?! Its stunning to look at, has an intriguingly mysterious theme, sounds absolutely great and is running in realtime from the hardware. It’s the ultimate E3 trailer for 2016 (ever?)

It helps to know that Kojima is a legend in the industry. He’s completely fucking sideways but in a wonderful “creative genius” kinda way. Not only does he direct fantastic mood-piece trailers but packs them full of teases as to what the hell is happening. (see here for interesting theories)

2: Halo Wars 2

Okay, in the video game realm this style of trailer is a bit cliched. That’s fair. Space marine battles. Things blowing up in slow motion. Moody epic soundtrack. But very rarely are they produced to this level. The pacing of this trailer is superb. The gradual ease of destruction as the scene is set into full scale war builds with a lot of tension. But that would be nothing without the two commanders strolling through the world in a dream-like state. That moment when beast glides his hand down a missile frozen in time simply cuts through the atmosphere like a knife. This is some impressive shit!

3: Battlefield 1

The cinematic quality, the lighting, the moment those bi-planes fly into war! This trailer is packed with beautiful moments that make war look incredibly enjoyable. I love the pace of this trailer. The energy constantly pumping it forward. No shots linger. Just look how colourful and fun war is! 

4: INSIDE

Well that was odd. What the hell was going on there? What’s in that room? Here, let me try to give you a little more context. This is what they showed us back at E3 2014… 

HA! Nothing! I love these trailers. They’re creepy. The muted colours and imposing sound effects build a dank, oppressive atmosphere. I love the tease that something incredibly eerie is going down in this place. I don’t know about you, but these trailers leave me craving to find out more. Great trailers.

5: Prey

Poor Morgan. Things are not looking good. Not only is he living the same routine day after day and not only is he some form of test subject, but even worse it appears as if shit is about to hit the fan in a very alien, very catastrophic way. I love the mood setting before the alien attack. I love the terrifying aliens manipulating their forms when approaching Morgan. But most of all I love the science fiction twist at the end. The glitching mirror and Morgan warning himself that things are about to get a whole lot worse. Great sci-fi story telling.

Digital Camera Magazine Shootout feature

Quick blog update to try and keep things fresh here while I’m working on my ‘Super top secret project’ which is easily the best, most exciting thing I’ve ever worked on. I’ve been having such a hard time trying to keep it a secret, but it will be ready to show you soon!

Anyway, recently I was invited by Digital Camera Magazine to join them for a day out shooting urban photography down on London's South Bank. The idea was to join them and another London based photographer for a 'Shootout' to see how we would interpret their challenges on the day with the results being used for a 6 page feature in the magazine. Both flattered and excited at the invite I jumped at the opportunity to have some of my work printed in the UK's top selling photography magazine!

Why do they all need such big cameras?! And why is my hair so terrible. It's not usually that terrible!

Why do they all need such big cameras?! And why is my hair so terrible. It's not usually that terrible!

"Creative Technologist Leon was determined to explore his urban environment, despite the rain, the wind and a stinking cold. He also loves meeting and hanging out with photography nerds." I'm appreciative of both being asked for my thoughts on the day and their honest portrayal of them in the final feature.

That's right, homies. Shot of the day! Not so keen on their re-edit of my photo. See below.

That's right, homies. Shot of the day! Not so keen on their re-edit of my photo. See below.

"Leon's bold and arresting framing..." No fucking around. Also, some serious photographer stance going down in the bottom corner.

"Leon's bold and arresting framing..." No fucking around. Also, some serious photographer stance going down in the bottom corner.

Most interesting about the day was that we had no idea what the subject, theme or location we were shooting was going to be. Arriving for a photography shootout blind with no way to prepare was a really interesting challenge. The one stipulation I gave myself was that I refused to shoot an obvious iconic building or capture a photograph that a tourist would have taken. So no Tower Bridge, Shard, St Pauls, Millennium Bridge, etc. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if my printed photos were of boring tourist hotspots. Considering the time restraints and how little we knew of the locations I'm really happy with the photographs I managed to capture, which I've posted below.

It was a great experience that has resulted in me having a pretty rad magazine feature to put in my "cool shit that's happened" scrapbook. I seriously hope to have more opportunities like this! I don't really have any more interesting words to say so below I'm going to share the other images I captured on the day including the two printed in the magazine, with their original edits(!)

Oh, and for those of you interested I shoot on either an Olympus OMD E-M10, usually with a 17mm prime or an iPhone 6S. Next time, y'all...

Their "shot of the day" - I actually prefer my edit. It's warmer with far less contrast and grime.

Their "shot of the day" - I actually prefer my edit. It's warmer with far less contrast and grime.

My other printed shot. Dope, huh.

My other printed shot. Dope, huh.

This was my personal favourite from the day. Such a shame the railings appear to be poking her in both the eyes and mouth. Street photography, huh.

This was my personal favourite from the day. Such a shame the railings appear to be poking her in both the eyes and mouth. Street photography, huh.

That shadow contrast, though! Seriously!!

That shadow contrast, though! Seriously!!

The iPhone 6S camera is all that and then some.

Today I took the iPhone 6S camera out for the first time so I thought I'd give it a quick review. Until recently I've only had an iPhone 5C and I wasn't overly keen on the photographs it took. I felt confident the 6S was going to be the always in my pocket camera I needed and initial impressions have blown my expectations away.  This camera is stunning!

London Eye - iPhone 6S

London Eye - iPhone 6S

I have no interest in tech specs. I want a camera that allows me to capture the photographs I'm trying to capture. Simple as that. If I see something I like I want to pull my camera out and be confident I'll get the shot. Wandering around today the iPhone didn't let me down once. Whether I was shooting into the sun, trying to catch some action or looking for true colours it provided me with the exact look I wanted every time.

Leake Street Tunnel - iPhone 6S

Leake Street Tunnel - iPhone 6S

My favourite thing about the camera was the speed. iOS offers a great, simple tap and hold solution for focusing and exposure, and the hardware is powerful enough to always keep up with your actions. As quick as I could tap to focus the camera was already there and waiting. I also gave the burst mode a go and caught roughly six mid air jumps from my friend jumping once. Each burst shot was exposed well and sharp. 

Some snappy bust mode action - iPhone 6S

Some snappy bust mode action - iPhone 6S

I could wax lyrical about this new iPhone camera all night. About the colours it produces, or the speed it takes photos. I love the size of the device, the onboard editing capabilities and how it's always connected to the Internet for sharing. I'm completely in love with it because I know it will always be in my pocket all of the time and always be available to snap away whenever I see a photo I want to capture. Recently I was asked which camera I would advise as a great daily walk around and I said the Olympus OMD E-M10 (my personal favourite camera), but I've changed my mind. The iPhone 6S is the must have walk around camera for 2015!

 

EDIT: I also shot some 240FPS video and a 4K timelapse. Both were incredible quality. Once I figure out how to embed a couple of videos in here I'll amend :) 

Trafalgar Square - iPhone 6S

Trafalgar Square - iPhone 6S

Quick selfie in Nandos elevator - iPhone 6S

Quick selfie in Nandos elevator - iPhone 6S

Crossharbour- iPhone 6S

Crossharbour- iPhone 6S

South Bank - iPhone 6S

South Bank - iPhone 6S

F&F fashion videography

I've fallen in love with a kind of fashion brand advertising. I've always been fond of how a lot of fashion presents itself. It can be fresh, energetic and youthful. Fashion advertising uses beautiful people looking fabulous and often with punchy, vibrant and sophisticated colour palettes. But recently I've been fascinated with how a few brands are using their TV advertising space. I've seen some great adverts from Primark, H&M and M&S, yet it's F&F who are really doing it for me at the moment. Their adverts are simply presented as fashion photography shoots but in moving images. I can't believe how much cooler this makes fashion photography (videography, I guess). A still image of a person looking stylish is cool. But a moving image of somebody looking stylish and moving stylishly accompanied by a great soundtrack and tight editing is fucking next level. These adverts are really tempting me into trying some out for myself. 
 

Creativity in app form

I've always believed video games to be one of the more interesting forms of digital art as they offer the ability to feature cutting edge graphics, interactive sound design and dynamic gameplay that invites a player to explore art in way that can't be experienced via passive means. I can't help but feel the app store is currently the place to be when it comes to this form of creativity. Small teams of artists are able to develop and release app's fairly easily without the need of huge publishers, unleashing the opportunity for creativity without the pressure of return of investment. I'm currently fascinated with apps that adopt gameplay logic but break out of the constraints of a 'game'. Toy boxes and interactive experiences that invite a player to engage with an experience and offer massive creative rewards for smartly minimal effort. Here are my five top picks for must see app's available in the App Store right now.

LoopimalYatatoy (website)

Yatatoy has made two previous apps (Miximal and Drawnimal) for children with wonderful illustrations and animated characters but it’s their latest app Loopimal that I felt needed featuring. It offers an incredibly simple introduction into music sequencing that utilises their previous skills in character art and animation to create a an adorably entertaining experience. Loopimals features a few options for remixing the tracks and rhythms, and offers a lot of reward for very little effort. It’s clearly aimed at children as a ‘my first sequencer’ type app, but there’s a lot in there to enjoy if you appreciate interactive art.

 

Toca NatureTocaboca (website)

I can’t praise this app enough. I’ve been under the impression that Tocaboca are the best app developers in the game and can’t shake the feeling that Toca Nature is quite possibly the best app available. Like, out of all of them. Not only have they managed to create a beautiful interactive experience that children and ‘grown-ups’ will enjoy, but they’ve also delivered an entire eco system in an endlessly adaptable environment. From it’s humble beginnings as a tile of earth in space you’ll very soon have mountain ranges full of hungry bears looming over a giant beaver lake, surrounded in dense woodland full of wildlife. Everything you create provides purpose and sustenance for each creature that is born. You are offered the power of a god to nurture the well being of the life you have created. No, seriously.

 

Alto’s AdventureSnowman (website)

The first thing that caught my attention was a snowboarding game with a vibrant colour pallet. But after about 4 months of playing it I can confirm that it’s a perfectly refined, extremely exciting snowboarding game with a persistent day/night cycle, gloriously dynamic weather effects and great sound design. I don’t want to dig into game mechanics here (however much I would love to) but instead want to explain the feeling of this game. Imagine carving down a fresh powder mountain with the sunset falling in the sky, the flares from the sun glinting in your eyes and the snow gently drifting past. You hit a ramp at full speed and glide through the air into a graceful backflip, perfecting your landing and continuing into night. Moments later the clouds have rolled in and a thunder storm is rumbling all around you. Lightning snaps and crackles in the sky as you cautiously navigate you way through candle lit mountain villages. You fight your way through the stormy night hoping for dawn to break. Eventually the sun bursts from over the mountains and your snowboarding adventure continues as you hurtling through forests, pulling the biggest airs you can imagine. That is where Alto’s Adventure excels.

 

Metamorphabet - Vectorpark (website)

Although this app may sell itself as an educational, alphabet app I think where it really shines is as an outrageously creative, interactive vector art and sound design showcase. The content of the app is an animated alphabet with each letter interacting to your touches. But the wonder comes in when you discover the varied and often quite darkly humorous possibilities that each letter can present and the way that each transition reacts to your touches. It’s all about how it feels. And it feels great playing with each letter to discover its related words. I’ll never tire of inflating the ball inside the igloo on an iceberg.

 

Hair Salon MeTocaboca (website)

I have to feature a second Tocaboca app (although would love to feature them all) because this app has entertained me for countless hours and train journeys. The Hair Salon series has been through a few iterations and building on each release until this latest version, which I believe has perfected the concept. Hair Salon Me invites you to take a photograph of your friend or yourself then opens up the salon as a toy box of things for you to do with your clients hair.  You can wash it, colour it multiple colours, straighten it, twist it, cut it, shave it, blow dry it, shave it again, curl it, colour it, etc.. The creative possibilities are endless. The charm comes from the app recognising your photographs eyes and mouth then animating your friend while you perform outrageous feats of hairdressing on them. Once your artistic vision is complete you’re invited to accessorise your client and photograph them in front of a backdrop of your choice. Try it. You’ll be hopelessly hooked, as I am.

 

Monument ValleyUsTwo (website)

I’m sure you’ve already heard somebody, somewhere waxing lyrical about this app. I think it’s won multiple awards and been featured on the app store more than once. If you haven’t already experienced it then you really must. The game takes the form of a mysterious adventure in which you’re tasked with guiding a small girl through multiple levels of M. C. Escher-esque puzzle rooms. Each level features vibrant, intriguing architectural structures of pathways, platforms and ladders, often forming shapes that at first glance seem impossible to navigate. During your adventure you’ll meet and befriend wonderful characters, achieve the unachievable and quite likely fall hopelessly in love with the creativity on display. It’s really that good. Just ask the internet. 

The art of video

I've always been fascinated in video. I've shot and edited a few videos before but never tried to really push the medium in any meaningful way. Hopefully one day I'll come up with an interesting concept and my journey will begin, but until then I'll forever be researching other artists. 

With this post I've put together a quick showcase of video art that has been playing on my mind right now. I believe that video art demands a certain level of investment from the viewer. Unlike a lot of traditional art forms video runs along a predetermined viewing time and more often than not needs to be appreciated in one sitting. A lot of video also leans quite heavily on its soundtrack. I implore you to put a few minutes aside to appreciate these and especially for the last two videos use headphones.

Seconds Of Beauty

A showcase of how powerful video can be even when the artist is restricted in time. This compilation shows a series of moments lasting only one second each. The emotion some of these clips express is incredible considering the length of time we're allowed to witness the scene.

Night Stroll

This video shows an artist who has a great eye for urban streets and composition, and who has taken a beautifully simple concept then perfected its execution. Through use of handheld camera shots and some incredible lighting composition tricks they've managed to make this video seem very real and playful. 

Static No.12 (Seek stillness in movement)

Now we're into some real 'art' territory. Please put your headphones in, sit back and relax. This video is by an extremely talented video artist named Daniel Crooks. The scene is simple yet beautiful, an elderly gentleman practising Tai Chi. But then Daniel begins to manipulate the video and the true expressive beauty of this piece is revealed. The video author does not allow embedding but you can view it here https://vimeo.com/77654682

An Embroidery Of Voids

Another piece by Daniel Crooks. With a running time of 9:35 minutes it's an investment of your time and at first you may find it's pace confusingly slow. But very soon the cleverness of Daniels creative editing once again becomes clear and the art of the video reveals itself. This ambient video is a wealth of urban exploration compressed into a fascinating 10 minute journey. Make sure you're wearing headphones!

How it all begins.

So I've been thinking about how I'm going to start my new blog. I don't want to simply leave it here as a diary of what I'm doing. I can't imagine I'm that interesting. Instead I'm planning on running this as an insight into my creative inspirations over time. As anybody creative will tell you, their inspirations change frequently. It's how we evolve as artists. I find my inspiration can come from many angles including photography, digital art, films, music videos, fashion, television, advertising and everything in between. For that reason this blog could go in any direction at any time. But I'll always strive to make it creatively interesting. I hope you enjoy it!

Dylan Maddux  www.dylanmaddux.com

I'm going to kick it all off with a photographer who was my inspiration to take my own photography more seriously and who is still my favourite photographer now. I already had a camera but until I saw his work I always saw photographs as just pictures. It was his work that made me realise how cool, stylish and real photography could be.

Dylan Maddux - The American Dream

Dylan Maddux - The American Dream

I find Dylan's images are the epitome of style and scream attitude. He takes a great deal of street shots and has a great fashion portfolio on his website. But it doesn't matter what he's shooting everything is always seriously cool. If there's one thing that he's a master of its finding the most incredible subjects to shoot. These people are street level culture. But unlike a great deal of street photographers who shoot from the hip or lurk for their shot, Dylan manages to set these people up as if they're models ready for studio shoot. Like, these people are fascinating, and once again always really fucking cool. Even his street shots look perfectly composed and magazine ready. To say I'm jealous of Dylan's work is an understatement. 

Dylan Maddux - Kingston

Dylan Maddux - Kingston

I'm not saying I'm anywhere near as good as this guy. But I think a great deal of my own work has been directly inspired from his photographs. I always try to remind myself of the casual attitude and realness of his images and am always on the look out for the right people to shoot.

Recently Dylan has relocated to Thailand where he's continuing his fashion work and still shooting the streets. Once again the subjects he's shooting are incredible and I'm always envious of his skills at capturing them in his usual stylish way. According to his website Dylan is currently working on his first book and I'll 100% be buying it when it's released.  

Oh and Dylan, if you're reading this drop me an email and offer me some tips! Or just say hi, I'll be equally as excited by that.

Dylan Maddux - The New Life

Dylan Maddux - The New Life

Source: http://www.dylanmaddux.com