3D Modeling

Intro to 3D Printing with Cinema 4D and Makerbot

Ryan Boyle is mad genius, and one of the motion graphics leads here at The Hive. In the first of a series of posts on 3D printing, he walks us through the steps of preparing a model in Cinema 4D, and using the Makerbot printer to print it in 3D.

When Ryan isn’t creating motion designs or 3D characters, he’s working on his site Sketchy Pictures, and helping a creepy-yet-lovable hoard of Doodle Monsters wreak havoc on the world


3D printing has become more and more popular these days. Thanks to companies like Makerbot you can purchase your own 3D printer small enough to fit on your desk. In this tutorial we’ll show you how to model an alien space craft in Cinema 4D then take it into Makerbot’s Makerware software to create a 3D print

Influencer Marketing

The Rise of Influencer Marketing at Point of Sale

Yahav Ran—multi-display expert and co-founder of The Hive—shares how traditional stores are starting to look more like trade shows, and why businesses need to master their new channel in this space.

In the last few years, we’ve witnessed a growing trend in customer experience in the brick and mortar world—part of the same trend in advertising known as influencer marketing, which focuses more on “who we are” than “what we sell.” This approach attempts to draw the attention of key people and companies—the influencers—who will then potentially market their product forward to followers. (Don’t miss this great related TED talk from Seth Godin.)

As companies focus more attention and resources on how customers experience their brand in this “last mile,” they’re also investing heavily in making that experience reflect who they are. Point of sale is becoming more than just that place you go to shop, it’s also now a place you go to experience the brand—a brand you might relate to or want to be associated with. In a way, retail is getting closer to the “trade show” experience than the classic shopping experience we’re used to seeing.

The challenge for businesses in this new, unfamiliar “experience” channel is knowledge. The standard channels of communication and advertising—such as print, radio, TV, and Internet—have an entire ecosystem built around them, and knowledge is available. Businesses know how to use them, hire professionals to do it for them, and pay consultants to advise them on where and how to invest in advertising.

The creative infrastructure of agencies and studios is built around these traditional mediums, with the only exception being trade shows—which are mostly considered one-off projects, with typically a lot of money and effort for a short period of time and no long-lasting capacity or sustainability.

Given all of this, it’s very difficult to find someone that can build, support, and refresh a brand experience in retail over a long period of time. You need a web site? Fancy a new TV commercial? Maybe a new big billboard poster? Not a problem.

But if you need a five-screen synchronized video that will exist in a single store location in Idaho, you might struggle to find someone to do the job—and you’ll probably pay much more than you’re used to. And if you open another store in Washington, but with six screens and one is slightly bigger than the others, your studio will make you pay for new work. Now what happens if you have 20 stores? Or 50? And what do you do when you need to update this on a monthly basis?

The current creative industry just isn’t used to dealing with this kind of diversified content format, or keep it in mind during the design process.

So why is all of this so difficult? Two words: channel ownership.

In traditional mediums, the business does not own the channel, they “buy” a spot on an existing one—so they don’t need to maintain and operate the channel. For example, you don’t need to have your own TV channel to broadcast a commercial in primetime, you don’t need to take care of all the logistics, invest in technology, maintain and buy content, get talent, etc. You simply pay the price for a time slot, and provide a commercial video.

This is simply not the case when you try to load a video in, let’s say, the new video wall you just installed in your store. Now, the business has created its own standalone channel, with all the responsibility that entails—from creating the content to deploying it in the store (at the right place at the right time) and making sure it is running.

Many systems have been built around these issues, to try to simplify that management work, but this channel ownership is just not the core competency of the business. Usually, these tools only provide a partial solution, mostly technical, and neglect the creative aspects that need to be solved—so the business must then turn to the normal creative channels, such as agencies and studios, who are not familiar enough with the medium to provide a sustainable, cost-effective solution.

Bottom line, most businesses are not built to manage a channel, and the people that businesses tend to ask to solve these problems (traditional agencies and studios) don’t have a complete solution—and that leaves businesses to close the gaps, some of which they are not even necessarily aware.

All of this is a relatively new problem—but it’s one that we’re solving at The Hive, with a much-needed solution on this new frontier in the advertising ecosystem.

The “big idea” behind The Hive is that we are masters of these new standalone channels. We know how to efficiently create proprietary and diversified content, and support nonstandard formats across multiple installations. We know how to maintain, operate, and support those platforms, by relying on multidisciplinary professionals and tools.

Our “secret sauce,” in short, is simply focus. Under one roof, we hold the knowledge on how to build a channel, we have the professionals that can do it, and we enable our clients to own their channels without disturbing their core business.



A Billion-Pixel World Q&A

Founders, VPs and Business Developers come together at The Hive to discuss the hefty work being done at their “billion-pixel agency” in a roundtable question and answer session.

Yahav Ran is Lead Multi Display Expert and Co-Founder of The Hive—and a household name in the digital signage industry. Michael Christopher is Production Director and the other founder of The Hive, who is defining new ways to capture and create media. David Tynes is Vice President of Digital Asset Management Services, bringing his digital expertise from a long tenure with outdoor retailer REI. Alison Weber is Business Development Manager, and she brings her unique vision for technology deployments from Cannes, Sundance, and the Microsoft Stores. They share their thoughts here.

What is a billion-pixel interactive agency?

David: A billion-pixel interactive agency is all about the big idea. The Hive takes that, the “big idea” behind a client’s brand, and then manifests that in seamless, engaging customer experiences.

Alison: (Laughs) There’s definitely both figurative and literal meanings here. Figuratively, there’s a world of new potential out there. Our agency is like an empire built on those ideas, where we pour our hearts and souls into the ground of this new space, so we can build these fantastic, larger-than-life concepts that other people get to experience…

And literally, in the case of a retail chain like the Microsoft Stores, we are talking about more than two billion pixels across all the screens in all their stores. This is over a mile of digital content!

Yahav: It’s how we define our breadth of services here at The Hive, and it’s a way to define the scale of our potential canvas…we are going beyond interactive experiences, beyond traditional high-definition content, beyond 4k multi displays. It’s a way to specify that we aren’t limited to a specific number of pixels, the possibilities are limitless…Because we have a magnificent render farm, which was designed for a billion pixels plus. And specific tools and processes to support these projects.

So what exactly does a billion-pixel agency do?

Yahav: We are creating sustainable channels that generate content for smart space experiences. Because of the process and structure of our studio, we can build a half-hour playlist in the two or three months that a typical agency might take to make a one to two minute video. This is doable because of our specific custom toolsets, and the process that we’ve built around this kind of content.

Content is, truly, king. In order for the experiences we create to have longevity, and to provide a good return on our clients’ investments, we create models that allow experiences to be updated throughout their lifecycles. It’s not hard to create a one-off for a two or three day event that will wow clients, but it’s a whole different story to create an installation that survives for years, and keeps visitors amazed for years. And keeps them coming back, for years.

A billion-pixel agency is focused on creating content for unique installations that may not exist anywhere else, and making sure those installations, or those content channels, are sustainable.

Alison: We’re creating content for huge video walls. We build interactive digital signage that puts users in control of an experience. We craft smart space installations.

The Hive is about building those moments in the brick and mortar world when a potential customer interacts with digital content in an experience that he simply has never had before. It’s possible because of our team’s unique talents and expertise, and this focus on unique experiences.

Michael: We’re working across many mediums, from mobile experiences to larger-than-life video walls. We’re also creating new efficiencies in this space. The Hive’s ability to make two minute 600,000+ pixel motion graphics in a month or two (and sometimes in a few weeks) is amazing, even to me—especially considering agencies who create commercials that run for :45 seconds and work in just HD can take 6 months to a year to make.

What’s something that makes The Hive different?

David: One key differentiator that I’m heavily involved with is the way in which we provide a complete content management solution to clients—as well as streamlining production, rights management and distribution. We want to help build management capability in the client’s organization, too, so that their ideas can continue to manifest efficiently long beyond their engagement with The Hive.

Additionally, we follow a rapid prototyping model, which allows us to quickly develop and integrate solutions. It also allows us to be always looking at the latest and best technology and ideas to build into a solution—so if we see something promising, we dive in to prove the concept.

Michael: Another differentiator would be that we are international, we can make animations and designs that work worldwide. And we’re mobile. We have teams in different parts of the world, and we do a lot of on-location shots.

Alison: The Hive has assembled a team and tools that really set us apart as a leader in this space. We’re able to create high-quality content and marry it with experiential consumer engagements (using technology like Kinect, for example) in ways that no one else is doing. We’re in love with ideas, and we have the vision and execution to make them a reality.

Yahav: We’re the only agency that knows how to efficiently create proprietary and diversified content, and support nonstandard formats across multiple installations. We can maintain, operate, and support those platforms, by relying on multidisciplinary professionals and tools.

We’re not just a studio. Some of us are channel experts. Some of us know how to assemble content so it plays seamlessly on a video wall. Some of us are software engineers, and some of us are integrators between the software engineers and the designers…We can push an installation forward by creating new concepts, functional proofs of concepts, and driving a content schedule that matches someone’s marketing calendar. It is possible to create something totally new, utilizing a structure a client might already have or creating a new structure. Whatever initial investment a client might have made, we can help them make the most of it. We can help ensure a return on that investment.…

Aerial Videography

The Hive Does Aerial Videography, On-Location

Here’s a candid of Hive photographer Andrejs Lazdins “on-location” during an aerial video capture session. He used a RED Epic and a Canon DSLR to capture scenes of San Francisco’s distinct skyline, on day 12 of a 25 day shoot. The assets they captured represent the vibrant local aesthetic, and were delivered as 5k videos (5120x2700px) and 21-megapixel still images.

Andrejs and his colleague Arturs Daukulis had to use gyro-stabilizers to enable capturing media from a private helicopter. The pair also used safety harness, as the pilot had removed the doors and they were hanging out of the helicopter for portions of the shoot.

They say that while flying in a helicopter above downtown skyscrapers and beneath the Golden Gate Bridge was the highlight of the project, it wasn’t the only adventure. Day 21 required a mile-long uphill hike in the moonlight, where the pair carried two suitcases, two backpacks of equipment and a couple of tripods, which, they tell us, was memorable for entirely different reasons.…

sensor cable

How-To: Extend the Kinect Sensor Cable Length

An out-of-the-box Kinect sensor cable only gives you about six feet of range. If you need more than that—like we did—you have a few options, some better than others. Here’s what we explored while working on The Hive/Gensler Multi Surface Experience:

In that collaboration, we were creating a smart space in the lobby of Gensler’s Los Angeles Headquarters, which reacts to users and user interactions in real-time.

The centerpiece of the lobby is a large table with a book on it. As visitors approach the table, an animated interface appears, digitally augmenting both the book and the table. Visitors can then explore content physically, through the book, or digitally, through the interface, which allows guests to browse Gensler’s portfolio on a connected 4K video wall behind the table.

The entire experience is based on motion and touch—enabled mostly by Kinect for Windows, which tracks user interactions. We mounted a Kinect for Windows sensor (i.e., camera) by the video wall, and we installed a second Kinect sensor and a Canon REALis Projector in the 15-foot-high glass ceiling.

The two sensors are used to track the user’s interactions with the interface, and his/her interactions with the book. All the processing is handled by an HP Business Elite, which lives in an AV room over 20 feet away from the Kinect cameras.

This is where things got tricky. The total distance we needed to cover between the Kinect cameras and the computer was approximately 32 feet, and the USB cable that ships with the Kinect sensor is approximately six feet long.

There is a Microsoft-approved Kinect Sensor Extension Cable, but that would have only gotten us an additional 10 feet. In the past, teams have used small, nearby computers to capture the signal then relay it over a longer distance to a server somewhere—but here, we needed a seamless experience, and a computer, no matter how small, would have detracted from that.

The Kinect for Windows sensor comes with a cable that splits into two separate cables, one for power and one for signal. The Kinect signal is relayed over USB 2.0, so anything that would extend that signal should have, in theory, worked.

We needed something unobtrusive, durable, and cost effective—so we discussed several potential solutions, each with its own pros and cons:

  • Passive (or standard) USB 2.0 extenders are inexpensive and widely available. They are limited to 16 feet, but most come as 10-foot cables. Not long enough for us.
  • A powered USB 2.0 hub used to daisy-chain the cables worked—and it covered the distance we needed—but it had too many drawbacks, namely the risk of power surges and the need to plug the hubs into outlets.
  • USB over CAT5 presented a durable and professional-grade solution, but along with a high price point. This solution costs more than the Kinect sensor itself, but it allows a signal relay of up to 330 feet.
  • USB 2.0 over Fiber Optic can enable a relay over 6,500 feet, but it’s very expensive. This wasn’t necessary for the Gensler deployment, but it’s an option worth exploring for extreme scenarios.
  • An active USB 2.0 extender was available in 12, 32, and 64 feet lengths, which gave us the distance we needed. This option was easy to use and very cost-effective—although in our early tests, we noted issues with chip stability. As these chips are produced in mass quantities, sometimes they have a bad signal or cause the USB to continuously disconnect, so be sure to test if you go with this option. In the end, we implemented an active USB 2.0 extender for The Hive/Gensler Multi Surface Experience. It proved to be reliable and cost-effective—but we also created a CAT5 infrastructure, should we ever need to change the installation to cover an even larger distance.

We hope you have found this helpful! Watch for more of them on our blog. Do you have other questions about the installation, or about Kinect-driven user experiences?