unobscured

Just came across a great article in Fast Company about Obscura last night. Many of the Do LaB’s collaborators and friends from the El Circo collective work with this San Francisco multimedia design lab that Fast Company likens to “an alternate universe dreamed up by someone who’s been mainlining Pixy Stix.”

[Obscura] create[s] visual spaces and displays so groundbreaking that other design studios not only can’t emulate them, they never would have conjured them in the first place. The largest projection dome on the planet, equipped with a real-time video stream? A 10-story, 60,000-lumen projection of a Michael Graves painting? If you can dream it up on an acid trip, Obscura can reproduce it — on a seismic scale. The company’s engineers have devised software programs that seamlessly combine images from multiple hi-def projectors, making mathematical corrections to account for irregular screening surfaces (a complex image given a fish-eye tweak, for instance, will look appropriately flat when projected onto a curved wall). The proprietary algorithms that drive these programs allow the team to display virtually any image on any surface — a brick building, a jumbo jet, or the hood and windshield of a new Saturn hybrid — with no distortion. “We’re into the immersive experience. It’s a holodeck kind of thing,” Connolly says, referring to the computer-simulated architecture first imagined in Star Trek. “I can turn this room into the south of France. I can turn this pillar into a waterfall.”

….As Obscura grew, Threlkel played the Pied Piper, convincing a motley crew of builders from Oregon to move to the Bay Area and construct über-domes, jumbo touch displays, and other fantastical video-projection treatments. “In 2000, I was running my family business in Oregon, Pacific Domes,” says Chris Lejeune, Obscura’s head of production. “Travis’s first project with Obscura involved surround projection, so he called me up and we hit it off. I was intending to move to San Francisco anyway, so the timing was perfect.” Lejeune and his building crew, who call themselves G-Bohs (for gypsy bohemians), feature dreadlocks, multiple piercings, and a postapocalyptic style. But their guiding ethos is straightforward: Failure is impossible.

In part, the G-Boh work ethic is based on a code of having one another’s back. “We’ve been working together longer than Obscura’s been around,” Matty Dowlen says. “We’re a family.” But it’s also a testament to the genuine respect they have for Threlkel and Connolly’s vision. Says Dowlen: “There’s a sense that we’re building something unique and beautiful. Yeah, we do work for corporations, but we’re giving them a piece of what we love.”

“In the past, it was either products or services, black or white, but there may be this evolving hybrid where we can do both,” Connolly says. “Right now, it’s like we’re a Labrador retriever in a room full of tennis balls, and we can’t stop picking them up.”

And what, really, is so wrong with going after every ball? The Obscura crew is reveling in the moment. “We’re so booked right now it’s crazy,” Connolly says. “Last week, I went from Detroit to Dubai, then to Minneapolis. I was in, like, five different time zones. I just heard from a guy who owns one of the world’s largest megayachts — he wants us to go out there and do a multimedia retrofit of the entire vessel” — complete with touch whiteboards that will serve as a digital concierge to manage everything from GPS to weather mapping, not to mention popcorn delivery to an onboard theater (total price: $10 million). “How frickin’ James Bond ’80s is that, man?!” At moments like these, it’s clear that Obscura’s 10-year plan — or lack thereof — is utterly beside the point.

Whole Story HERE>>

Best part about the piece was how refreshing it is to see the culture take a backseat to the actual creative work. I’ve seen so much stuff written about organizations that involve this culture paint its output not as the results of intensely talented individuals and creative teams, but as if it were some kind of bizarre or untouchable or, worst of all, elitist statement. The reality of excited, dedicated, innovative creators, just doing what they do, without the imposition of some cultural divide, is a welcome departure.

Though I gotta admit, “Failure Is Impossible” totally sounds like a fantastic superhero tagline.

 

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