Client: Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority
Role: Associate XD Director (ACD)
In 2017, Vegas: Alter Your Reality (VR Art) premiered at Art Basel Miami as a 5-room immersive experience in a Wynwood District art gallery.
2016, I led the design direction of the entire VR program from the animations to the immersive activations between September 2016 to June 2018.
During the project lifecycle, I collaborated with partner companies to produce the VR content, the delivery system, and activation locations.
The program launched in Miami, December 2017 and ended in Chicago, June 2018.
I partnered up with a team of project managers, account directors, producers, executive producers to translate marketing KPIs and researched insights to provide an enriched immersive experience to tour the globe and drive visitation to Las Vegas.
I worked closely with my executive producer on the overall vision and content strategy of the program. I designed a number of rough sketches, moodboards, and prototypes to align our team, evangelize and get buy-in on the vision before being sold to the client for approval.
This also helped communication with our partner agencies to ensure we were aligned and within budget and timing.
On this project, I wore many hats, having oversight on the program branding, motion packages, and print collateral, I also oversaw animation production, working very closely onsite with our partners in LA throughout the project lifecycle. Additionally, I worked with and had oversight on all activation partners producing our immersive activations.
I designed up and presented works to gain buy-in from senior stakeholders internally, as well as, stakeholders and executives on the client-side throughout the project lifecycle.
Las Vegas wanted a content piece to drive visitation to Las Vegas and reach a younger demographic, all while showing the rich culture the city could provide. It was our job to define this new perception and showcase it in a unique and interesting way.
The goal was to create unique content our audience can access anytime, anywhere and see that Las Vegas is more than just gambling.
We proposed creating a series of five short, VR animations, depicting the Las Vegas experience as seen through the eyes of five international artists. Each two-minute animation is a simulated story and experience in virtual reality. Each artist created a distinct and diverse narrative that reflects themes of Las Vegas while staying true to their unique styles.
We then would premier the VR art experience at the world’s biggest art festival, Miami Art Week.
We wanted to create an editorial-worthy experience, unlike anything that had been accomplished through conventional advertising. Each VR animation was designed to entice people to want to experience Vegas, all while providing something totally unique. We partnered with international artists who had their own fan bases and styles, all while staying true to our strategy. Those five artists were able to experience Vegas before creating, discovering their personal Vegas narrative and then forming a visual story that others would walkthrough. In addition to experiencing Vegas, each artist was experimenting with VR. From start to finish, the yearlong project launched at Miami Art Week.
Our partnered artists came from all across the globe bringing with them a variety of color, depth, and storytelling to the table.
Vegas has been perceived as our parent’s playground. Overly embellished as spending money on slot machines and seeing world-class entertainment. However, the younger generations of today values experience over traditional leisure activities. We aimed to fulfill those expectations by providing an unconventional campaign while showcasing what Vegas is all about.
To communicate this, we saw AR/VR as the perfect tool to communicate and share experiences with people. VR can tell abstract stories that are accessible to all, and it was becoming more and more accessible in many homes, as prices of the tech came down it was wildly offered by many platforms like YouTube and Facebook, which provided the right opportunity for us to seize on the trend.
We wanted five short VR animations to delve into the themes of Adult Freedom and what Las Vegas offers with zero judgment. We did that through the work of the five artists. Showcasing their creative visions of Vegas launching their creations at internationally recognized events, which would then be quickly available across multiple social media platforms.
The project was VR heavy, so we moved to onboard every stakeholder on the project to align expectations to the storytelling and production of each story.
We hosted day-long VR onboarding sessions in our Las Vegas office with each artist to get them familiar with the environment, training them to think beyond pen and paper, two-dimensions and a single focal point.
In our LA office, where the animation product took place, I worked with each artist on turning their written stories into for-VR storyboards, which was I templated I put together that depicts the user standing in the center of the frame panel. The artist would not only develop what’s in front of the user but also what’s around them.
Getting the artists to work outside their comfort zone was a challenge, however with oversight from the team we were able to create a shared vision of how the final product should look like.
With sign off from the client on the stories and the completed storyboards, animation production commenced at a feverish pace.
For the next six months, I worked closely with our production partner and their handpicked 3D animation team of 17. The animators were divvied up and placed in pods dedicated to a particular animation.
To work efficiently, the animations were arranged in a hierarchal list based on difficulty and overlapping production schedules.
I worked with each pod on maintaining the integrity of the vision, while looking for innovative ways to improve the user experience. Whether it was additional details and excitement or flagging potential motion sickness triggers.
Within the first half of the production lifecycle, each artist was invited to collaborate with the team during a two-day working session. It was a chance for the artists to connect with the production team, form bonds and jam on ideas and figure out solutions in person.
During the working sessions, members of the production pods would present their rapid prototypes to the artists. While in a headset, the artists would critique the prototypes, as producers and project managers hovered around a computer monitor looking at what the artist was seeing, capturing notes for the next rounds of revisions.
These rapid prototypes took hours to render through, requiring our team to implement a process for the needed turn around.
To manage everyone's time efficiently and keep our team accountable, we had a rigid schedule of two-daily animation check-ins in the morning and afternoon.
Because of the time needed between renders, new and more substantial scenes were prepped the night before to be reviewed in the morning.Any feedback received would be revised for the afternoon review. I found this cycle of prototype, review and revise quite effective over the production lifecycle.
Conducting full VR walkthroughs with all members of the production team allowed for free and easy collaboration of different disciplines and perspectives. This collaboration helped align the collective vision, get quick buy-in internally and see production update faster.
Having many eyes reviewing together allowed the team to discover and solve potential issues quickly, ensuring we have fewer revision iterations. This made the production process enjoyable as everyone has a shared enthusiasm for the best approach to solving a problem.
Finally, breaking down the production process into milestones allowed for updates to the visual or narrative direction without upsetting the entire production schedule. Having this flexibility gave us the freedom to swap in/out animators with ease, tackle scenes with complicated components efficiently and manage resource time and scheduling.
Even with the most powerful computers and render farm, we couldn’t produce prototypes and revisions as rapid as the name suggests.
It was an imperfect method. However, we still discovered how to build a successful process using our pods through trial and error.
We wanted to create an immersive experience that best showcased each Vegas VR story, while creating opportunities of shareable moments throughout the space.
In addition to applying their art in the 3D medium, we tasked our partnered artists to create a space in the gallery that transported the viewer further into the story. We wanted the spaces to feel cohesive to the VR experiences, creating this circular motion of digital taking over the physical, the physical taking over the digital, and so on.
We launched our experience in Miami, during Art Basel in the heart of the Wynwood Arts District.
The installation overall told each artist's unique Vegas story, their individual style brought to life, and the freedom you have to experience the art in VR is an ode to the freedom you have when you visit the destination.
Designing the optimal flow of traffic was crucial to ensuring attendees had the opportunity to experience each room at their own pace, while making it safe during peak operating hours.
Working with the natural flow between rooms, I designed an order of which experiences would best segue to the next keeping the attendees engaged and intrigued with a hint of mystery and allure.
Each story varied in subject matter, visual intensity and pace. The EP and I wanted to design the optimal order of experiences our guests would journey through room-by-room.
Needing to avoid an uncomfortable start or a less impressive finish, we created an order that would gradually build up in fantasy and intensity, then slowly come down to the perfect finale, leaving our guests wanting more.
The order created segued best from room-to-room. Discovering new rooms and themes, our guests couldn't hide their elation. The surprise and delight was the great takeaway that this activation.
From ideation to delivery, the project took over a year to complete, and half of that time was spent with animation production and testing. We were able to partner with a hardware company to provide headsets and 50 mobile devices to create a completely mobile, wire-free experience. The project launched in Miami, then was made available on social media channels like Facebook and YouTube, as well as on a curated Vegas VR app.
During the four-day activation at Miami Art Week, there were 11,837 total views in the VR headsets and 23,662 minutes were spent viewing the five two-minute experiences. Aside from the numbers, the overall tone from those who experienced the creative was positive − many of them shared that they loved the experiences, watched several times, and left with a different view of Las Vegas.
Another positive observation from the campaign was the freedom that the headsets provide. This was achieved through the wireless headsets Samsung provided, which allowed the user more freedom within the interactive experience.