8 minutes

Playing In The Event Playground for the first time.

We're creating the best content pre-visualization software in the world. We've just completed our first events that were run through the system and we've learned a lot!

May 26, 2024
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The Event Playground is the world's best content pre-visualization system.

The event playground started from fear. Fear that a work we had dedicated so much time to would flop. It was a 400 foot 360* video experience in Gotham Hall for the launch of the OnePlus 10T and I couldn't picture what our content would look like. As the dozen or so projectors placed our video up on the walls - emotion filled me because it worked - but no one knew how little confidence I had that it would. This moment spurred years of thought around content pre-visualization and an eventual evolution to a previous software product we had created (The Brand Playground) in order to bring the best content pre-visualization system to life.

The Brand Playground is an idea I conceived of 10+ years ago. At the time I had clients who needed very simple photo and video production of products. You can picture it - single product on a mono-color background that's used for social and e-commerce. It felt very boring and silly to do these over and over. I conceived of a 3D environment where a virtual photographer could capture these types of visuals and it played as easily as a video game. Think of a first person shooter but you shoot photographs instead of bullets. Initially the real-time 3D systems were not high fidelity enough. Once they were - the need for a gaming PC meant that many clients couldn't use it. Once streaming the experience became possible we created the Brand Playground and began to shop it around. It was easy to get attention, but hard to sell the product for any amount that felt reasonable given the development and server costs. Around this time, some of our events clients reviewed The Brand Playground and asked us about event pre-visualization. Instantly, my mind went back to that 360 video experience and we were off to the races.

To get attention, you have to offer something that is 1 of 1. CGI product photos were not that, especially in a world increasingly filled with AI visualization. It turned out that virtualizing events is. Virtualization for events content is something wholly unique. All pre-vis in the industry until now has been much more dedicated to lighting or it's a highly bespoke, custom, and insanely expensive offering. Being able to watch the show before you arrive removes a core obstacle - lack of certainty. Certainty of what the show will look like is worth millions to brands. If you don't believe that - it's worth realizing that said brands spend millions for more prep days on site specifically because they haven't had tools to truly understand what they're walking into. They spend millions to "see" it as early as they can ahead of show day.

Our first software deployment was unlike anything I've ever experienced. Instead of a small brand, a small show, and a true alpha/beta test - The Event Playground was thrown squarely in the deep waters of Amazon's first ever Upfront presentation. A multi-million dollar event with something like multiple million people who have a need to view and understand with certainty what their show will look like. The usage was baffling. The content producers let go of their own delivery tracker. They fully immersed themselves in the run of show and comments systems built into EP (Event Playground). I expected it to be a slow pick up, but almost instantly we needed more servers. Even script walkthroughs were ported to EP because it allowed the audience so much clarity about what will happen on stage. For the first time ever, they saw the show before visiting the venue.

Once we were on site I became worried about the precision of EP. Everyone had become far more reliant on the software than we ever expected - now my worry was...what if this didn't work as well as we thought? What if it didn't reflect the physical world as closely as we believed it would? Thankfully - the outcome was EXACTLY what the system showed. Of course - that is what SHOULD have happened, but when you're deploying complicated software for the first time ever, you never know.

Actually - there was 1 "issue." Our agency partner had based a set of relay screens on seeing the sight lines within EP. It turned out that the images collected from the EP weren't accurate to what was built and therefore led the agency to believe that certain seats had better sight lines than was the reality. Immediately I was worried we had made a mistake. Immediately we were blamed for this problem, but after double checking we confirmed that some of the CAD data we received about seat height in some bleachers was inaccurate and responsible for the issue. Once we updated our model against accurate math, everything checked out. Luckily, the client was able to pivot and place the screens in another location that worked out better in the long run anyway. For me - this "issue" was potentially the most obvious demonstration that the software worked. It was so accurate, that receiving incorrect math in the CAD file led to a mistake on site. If the math is correct in the CAD - the math is correct in the EP. We had built a system for accurately reflecting the reality of the show 1:1 with the architectural plans in place for the build and the content created by the content team.

We ended the first show with a fully clickable end to end show within EP. It effectively became a metaverse version of the event. The degree to which the virtual experience matched the physical experience blew my mind. I knew it was supposed to - but seeing it in real life was next level. And the software became so intimately involved in the show prep and content review process, EP was treated like a system that had always been around and always been needed to bring a show of this scale to life. In no way did it feel like something untested, new, and effectively still in the alpha stage.

While Amazon's Upfront was in full swing, we onboarded Cisco Live 2024 onto the platform. While it has only been used for a handful of videos and not the full show, EP has yet again been treated as a tool that has always existed, and something crucial to the success of the show. I haven't even mentioned that to get this up and working so quickly, we didn't even have time to build a proper database. Instead we've been working with a Google sheet for a database. Wild.

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I write this Memorial Day Weekend 2024. Amazon's Upfront was completed to rave reviews, and Cisco Live will happen in the next week. This coming week we'll get onboarded to the next show that will use EP - Oracle's Cloud World 2024. I've made many software tools across my career and never before have I seen this type of usage. High end users, working on multi-million dollar projects, instantly inviting this software into the fold as if it's as tried and true as some sort of Adobe product.

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I not only have no doubt about the success of EP within the events world. I also see it as the first stepping stone for pre-vis and reviewing the next wave of content. While it won't all be on large LED walls, the next stage of content will be free of the confines of TVs and phones. Content producers need a way to make sense of not only AR/VR storytelling, but of any content that lives outside of traditional screens. EP is set up to take over the events space, but it's also the first step to content review which is independent of the phone, computer, TV, or theater. Content of the future, like content for events today, exists within our world - weird shapes, aspect ratios, and strange platforms for the projection. It's not just 9x16 or 16x9.

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I'll finish with this - I'm blown away that our team built this. I can't wait for what comes next!

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