From its home base in automotive work, the fast-growing company is expanding boldly into new product, content and media categories.
The Mars Rover doesn’t have a lot in common with the Jaguar F-Type
or the latest pulse-throbbing iteration of Chevy’s Corvette Stingray Coupe
. The Rover, for example, has six wheels, and runs on what’s probably a little nuclear reactor. It also can’t go from zero to sixty in under five seconds. But don’t tell that to the folks at MindOverEye
. For them, if it moves, reflects light, has curves and can shine, then they’ve got it covered.
Of course, that description fits a lot of things besides Martian land craft and muscle cars. Just about any consumer electronic gadget would fit nicely, as would any manner of recreational gizmo that has a modern, high-tech and ultra-sleek look to it. Frankly, it really doesn’t matter what your hero product might be. When it comes to finding new ways to make it look simply awesome, MindOverEye and its cadre of artists, programmers, producers and directors are up to the task.
They’ve done it for the aforementioned Rover (as part of their work for TV’s “Cosmos” series, an image from which appears above), as well as for just about every automotive model you’ve ever lusted after while sitting at a stop light. But they’ve handled more than just sheet metal, shooting VFX-infused, integrated live action work for a range of brands.
When last we checked in with MindOverEye back in the fall of 2013 (you can see that story here), the studio was riding high on a number of interesting projects for brands such as Jaguar and Microsoft. In the case of the former, the studio was asked to shoot a few effects-oriented inserts. In the process of capturing live action footage for the assignment, they shot added content and transformed it, on their own, into a fast-paced, design-driven standalone commercial. They showed it to the client and its agency, Spark 44, and it was met with open arms (not to mention the smell of burning rubber). The spot has gone on to run around the world, with the client recently re-upping to use it for a second year.
Since then, MOE Founder and ECD Bill Wadsworth says the studio has simply exploded. They’ve experienced growth in the area of 60 percent since moving into their current complex in El Segundo back in December of 2012, where they operate out of a 15,000 square-foot nest of shooting stages, edit rooms and workstations.
MindOverEye is still an integral part of parent company Source Interlink, publishers of iconic titles like Motor Trend. Earlier this year Source Interlink rebranded its media division as The Enthusiast Network (TEN)
, home to a range of online video content sites that cater to everyone from car buffs to the burgeoning action/sports market.
From the initial success of its Jaguar spot, MOE has been commissioned to produce a half-dozen more long-form pieces, including a series that puts the F-Type through moves and settings straight out of an action thriller.
Wadsworth and MOE’s Director of Integrated Production Paul Babb – who first worked together at Ogilvy & Mather in Los Angeles, along with MOE Executive Producer Dave Wein, back in the 1990s – report that the studio has worked for close to a dozen major automotive brands in the past two years, including Ford, Lincoln, Hyundai, Dodge and others.
The company was tapped by Infiniti to produce a dark and foreboding short film titled “The Beast Within,” to introduce its sexy Q50 Eau Rouge concept car (which was created completely in CG), and created an experiential event for the model that was mounted at this year’s Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, California, the preeminent luxury car show in the US.
And they were brought in by the VFX supervisor on the aforementioned Fox/National Geographic series “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” to produce a number of shots for this critically-acclaimed series. What started as a small assignment quickly ballooned to over 150 effects shots, says Babb, with a number of them being part of the work that earned “Cosmos” an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Visual Effects.
Much of MindOverEye’s automotive work, Wadsworth says, arises out of the studio’s connection with TEN, whose automotive channel on YouTube has over 2.6 million subscribers. In fact, MOE produced a live installment of TEN’s popular YouTube show “Wide Open Throttle” during the Pebble Beach show. If anything, these kinds of projects represent the future of where MOE is headed. Wadsworth and Babb report that the company’s volume of live action production has taken off in the past year. “We’ve shot in 15 different countries, creating over 100 hours of original content working with just about every kind of image capture device out there,” says Wadsworth.
This explosion of work is being fed into a slew of media projects MOE has undertaken, and the list is dizzying. They’re creating commercials, branded content, original programming, apps and games and for some of the top users of design and effects-laden imagery out there.
Get Wadsworth talking about these gigs and it’s hard to get him to stop.
He’ll tell you, for example, about the work they’ve done with Dodge, drifting a rare Viper sports car across the desert flats near Barstow or racing it through the closed-off streets of downtown Detroit. (And if you’re up for it, check out MOE’s Dodge “Revolution” driving app, which you can download off the iTunes store.)
And then there’s the Augmented Reality work they’re doing for both racing games and other digital entertainment genres. Again, if you get Wadsworth rolling on this I advise you to start taking notes. He’ll explain mobile shading algorithms, physics-based user interfaces, extended tracking systems and lot of other technical jargon, but keep in mind that all these terms usually add up to one thing: awesomeness.
“It’s kind of like the nerds have been left to their own devices, and they’ve simultaneously generated all this cool stuff,” he says with a laugh about his studio’s diverse output. And it’s easy to share his enthusiasm.
So what’s driving all of this work, we asked? “It’s because we have the talent and we’ve shown we can do really outstanding stuff,” says Babb. “On top of that, we deliver what we say we’re going to deliver.” More importantly for ad agencies is their ability to take macro views of a brand’s content needs and figure out smart ways to satisfy them, says Wadsworth. MindOverEye has been investing heavily in building up its storage and render capability, bulking up its pipeline and adding to its fiber backbone, all geared to handle the multi-genre, multi-platform, multi-media needs of advertisers. “When you need to get as much of your production budgets as you can, then it’s all about harvesting data,” Wadsworth says. “It’s important to capture as much as you can going in, and it’s how we’ve always worked.”
This methodology has particular value for automotive brands, he points out, given their voracious needs, “but our process can benefit almost anyone,” he points out. “And we’ve been on a tear getting people to see what they can get out of their production budgets for just a little added effort or money, and how much value that adds. It really drives the cost of everything down when you look at the economy of scale.”
The work the studio did on “Cosmos” has opened doors for them outside the automotive category, says Babb, which the studio has welcomed as a balance for its automotive work. One area they feel particularly well-suited for is the growing action/sports genre, an important category for The Enthusiast Network. MOE is positioning itself to work on brand integration content for advertisers that are interested in connecting with this audience, which skews younger and more upscale, and they’ve already produced online videos for both Ford and Subaru tied to activities like surfing and kite sailing.
Lots of things are on the horizon for the studio, Wadsworth adds. They’re actively negotiating for more space in their current campus, where the 80-or so people who work there every day are busting at the seams. This, of course, will give them an opportunity to retrofit their existing studio space and build out new space, which is something of a specialty for Wadsworth. MindOverEye has been his baby since he began to devote himself to it full time after leaving his position running the graphics and design studio at O&M in 2004. (Up until then it had been his agency-sanctioned sideline, a place for him to experiment with new graphics and effects technologies, many of which he brought back to Ogilvy.)
“We have such a good, solid, strong company now, and it’s so different than the one that moved into this space almost two years ago,” he says with pride. “There’s an eclectic array of things going on here every day, and we’ve taken our strengths and stretched them really wide. We have an actively curious community of people here, and one of their favorite things to do is share, so there’s a lot of cross-pollination,” not just among the MOE staff but between them and other elements of the TEN media team.
It’s all paying off big-time for Wadsworth, Babb, Wein and other senior members of the MOE management team. That they’re having this much fun at this stage of their careers isn’t lost on them, either. “We’ve got great support from our corporate parent, and lots of latitude to pursue some unorthodox things for a visual effects and CG studio, but we feel it’s reaping huge dividends for us,” Wadsworth says.
For now, they feel as though they’re sitting on a goldmine. They’re being tasked with new challenges, broadening their client base and producing more original programming – all part of their long terms plans. More immediately, the joint promises to stay super busy: “Over the short term I can see us doubling in size,” Wadsworth sums up. “We’re out to build a one-of-a-kind facility here, one that will function as a unique content engine. We can’t wait to turn it loose.”