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08 26 2013

Using “AR” Solomon Group helps bring the cover of New Orleans’ favorite print publication to life.

Using “AR” Solomon Group helps bring the cover of New Orleans’ favorite print publication to life.

When Jeanne Foster reached out to Gary Solomon Jr. for help with Gambit’s annual “Best of New Orleans” issue, things came full circle... in more ways than one.

Foster, Associate Publisher of Gambit Communications, Inc., had been reading about a technology called “Augmented Reality” for the past few years.  And though the award-winning, locally owned newspaper is one of the most successful weeklies in America, Foster knew it would take some time before the technology was available for a relatively small publication like Gambit.

Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world.  The resulting composite view has exciting potential for everyone from doctors and soldiers, to publishers and tourists. 

“I had purchased a copy of Inc. Magazine’s “30 Under 30” issue after reading on a tech blog that they had partnered with a company called Layar to make their special issue interactive,” says Foster.  While reading the cover story, she saw that a local New Orleanian was one of the young entrepreneurs featured.  It was Gary Solomon Jr.

“As I watched Solomon Group’s video from the issue, I remembered Gary saying, ‘We bring stories to life.’  And I had a light bulb moment,” Foster remembers.  “I wanted Solomon Group to help us bring our annual ‘Best of New Orleans’ issue to life.”

It wasn’t Solomon’s first experience with the publication.  He happens to be a past Gambit “40 Under 40” honoree.  And when he got the call from Foster about helping to create what may be Louisiana’s first interactive printed cover, he didn’t hesitate.  “This is the kind of groundbreaking work that Solomon Group is known for and loves to do,” he says.

Together with the team at Contrast Films, a Baton Rouge-based video production company, Solomon Group got working on the project.  They had less than a week to help deliver an Augmented Reality cover for Gambit’s biggest issue of the year.

The creative team at Gambit came up with the idea of featuring a dog who had been adopted from the LA/SPCA on the issue’s cover, since they were the most popular non-profit for 2013.  The idea was that the cover image would come to life, and readers would see the dog visiting some of the locations that made the issue’s “Best of” list.

Besides the quick turnaround time, the project brought some interesting creative and technical challenges.  Readers with the Layar app on their tablets smartphones would be able to scan the publication’s cover and view a short video of the dog (Tallulah) visiting five different New Orleans locations.  But since the cover photo needed to be drawn from a perfect, still frame of the video, it had to be shot a certain way.

First, the team at Contrast had to use the right camera for the job.  “We shot this piece on a RED EPIC due to its high resolution sensor and compact size,” says co-owner, Jordy Wax.  Second, in order to match the aspect ratio of the print cover (think portrait vs. landscape), the entire video had to be recorded with the camera on its side.  “We had to really focus on how to compose each shot,” he adds.  “We’ve been tilting our heads ever since.”

Finally, there was the creative and technical challenge of crafting a short video with a circular story.  “Essentially, we had to produce a piece that ended the same way it began,” says Solomon.  “And in the middle of that sequence, we needed to capture an ideal moment with Tallulah that was worthy of Gambit’s cover.”

“We are so grateful that Gary and his team could get this done so quickly,” says Foster.  “Working with Solomon Group and Contrast Films has been amazing and inspiring.”

To see it for yourself, download the Layar app on your smartphone, available free from the App Store and Google Play.  Then pick up a copy of Gambit’s “Best of New Orleans” issue (seen in the image at the top of this story), scan the cover, and watch the story come to life!

You can read and watch videos to learn more about the project HERE.

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