Pioneering Art and Technology in the First Ever Interactive WebGL Film
When director Chris Milk was approached by Google to create an interactive film to mark the release, and illustrate the capabilities, of WebGL in Google Chrome, Chris enlisted my team’s to design and create the surreal animated world and characters for the groundbreaking project, “3 Dreams of Black.”
3 Dreams of Black is a transmedia extension of the concept album ROME, produced by Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi, featuring Jack White and Norah Jones. The song "Black," sung by Norah Jones, is a dream-like, first of its kind interactive music video. The first of the "3 Dreams"—written and directed by Chris Milk—allows Google Chrome users/viewers to actually navigate and interact with the virtual landscape – to take the journey, themselves, through the dark fantasy-in-motion unfolding before them. The beautiful, darkly poignant live-action opening segment, shot by Milk, evolves and transitions effortlessly into dynamic sequences that integrate rich 2D illustrated cel animations with interactive 3D animations, built entirely in WebGL.
Our art, design, and tech teams set about converting Milk's incredible vision into a practical, real-time user experience that could run smoothly on any computer or tablet, utilizing the 3D graphic interactivity of the new WebGL game engine – a platform that had never been used before. An incredible amount of R&D was required to breath life and character into the strange low-polygonal creatures in the story: "Life Animals" (deer, rabbits, dogs, butterflies, etc.) and "Black Animals" (bears, scorpions, tarantulas, and buffalos). The team leads studied animal run cycles, herding behavior and patterns, and programmed this information into the creatures’ actions. And because the animals change seamlessly from one creature into another, we also programmed morphing attributes into the herds, packs, and flocks.
The focus was on giving fluid simplicity the appearance of complexity—turning what might have been mere 3D abstractions of animals into creatures that feel organic and alive—in a kinetic-aesthetic fashion that could be controlled by the user/viewer in real time. We designed and built the fantastical CG scenery and elements, including: a pop-up lighthouse; a floating city; the train on which the user travels; a flock of birds that fly with us, like pilot fish with a shark, always in front of us, no matter which direction we steer our course; and the post apocalyptic desert landscape—the final stage of the journey—into which users can actually insert their own story elements, and thus contribute to the dream themselves, by building their own art, relics, and other surreal forms using a 3D model creator.
Pushing the boundaries of interactive storytelling using bleeding edge technology—harnessing the power of WebGL in collaboration with teams from Google Creative Lab and North Kingdom, and problem solving complex design, animation, and coding challenges for this untested platform—3 Dreams of Black received two million views within its first week online.
AICP / NEXT: Won NEXT Experiential and shortlisted for Viral/Web Film.
CANNES: Won Gold for our Cyber Lions animation. Won Silver for our Cyber Lions illustration and graphic design. Won Bronze for our Cyber Lions best video
Creative Review: Featured in the 2012 Annual
D & AD: Won the yellow pencil for animation for websites and digital design
One Show Interactive: Won gold pencil for Interactive Advertising/Other Interactive Media

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