Kiwini Oe (aka Steve Nelson, EVP, Chief Strategy Officer) of Clear Ink is a great typist! And beyond that, he is funny, incredibly interesting and opened up a view for us into Clear Ink's production of their machinima segments and "back lot production" for NBC's The Office episode, Local Ad which aired October 25.
Kiwini shared what NBC hired them to do, how the process went and what lessons were learned. He also illustrated out how quickly and unexpectedly a community can form. One lesson - always be prepared for what to do next.
The chat transcript follows below. The SL voice versus chat issue always rears it's head these days. Reporter Draxtor of Life4U was there needing video and audio, but the chat transcripts are so valuable for our purposes. As a compromise, Draxtor will interview Kiwini further this week and that interview will be up on Draxtor's channel on YouTube next week.
A huge thank you to Kiwini for joining us and taking our many questions in stride. Thanks to Pebbles Hannya of Market Truths for hosting us once again - and for capturing the transcript as my machine kept crashing. Thanks to everyone who came to the meeting!...now on to the interesting conversation:
Znetlady Isbell: Everyone, I will introduce Kiwini Oe of Clear Ink.
Znetlady Isbell: He has some fun stuff to share with us today.
Znetlady Isbell: He's going to talk about his project on The Office for NBC - and lessons learned as well.
Znetlady Isbell: It is informal - text chat for transcript purposes.
Znetlady Isbell: Please ask questions.
Znetlady Isbell: And, unless it gets unruly, should we just use chat for q's Kiwini?
Kiwini Oe: that's OK by me
Znetlady Isbell: Great. Thanks sooo much for being here, Kiwini and everyone.
Znetlady Isbell: I'll turn it over to the guy we came here to hear!
Znetlady Isbell: Kiwini..
Znetlady Isbell: all yours.
Kiwini Oe: Thanks, Z
Kiwini Oe: These will be mostly off-the-cuff recollections
Kiwini Oe: and my colleague, Keystone Bouchard is here as well in case I need my memory refreshed
Kiwini Oe: Clear Ink has been doing work in SL for about a year and a half
Kiwini Oe: though we usually take on about one project at a time
Kiwini Oe: the one I'm talking about today was one we did this Sept-Oct over a very short timeframe
Kiwini Oe: we were in the middle of another project - about a week away from an event
Kiwini Oe: with Newt Gingrich at Second Life Capitol Hill
Kiwini Oe: which was pretty time consuming in and of itself
Kiwini Oe: when I got a call from Kent Zbornak, co-executive producer of "The Office' ON NBC
Kiwini Oe: They had a script that included some of their characters getting into Second Life
Kiwini Oe: and could we help
Kiwini Oe: After thinking about a half second
Znetlady Isbell: lol
Kiwini Oe: We jumped into that one. He said it would be a very tight deadline, so we started working on it as soon as I hung up
Kiwini Oe: It was an interesting process -
Kiwini Oe: We never really signed a contract with them - they signed one with us about a week later
Kiwini Oe: but as soon as we hung up, they mailed us a script, and digital photos they took on the spot
Kiwini Oe: of Rainn Wilson and John Krasinski
Kiwini Oe: so that we could start on avatars
Znetlady Isbell: fun!
Kiwini Oe: The script looked good - it was written by BJ Novak
Kiwini Oe: who plays Ryan the temp who turned into Ryan the executive
Kiwini Oe: So we started right away on the avatars, and also spent the weekend location scouting
Kiwini Oe: Kent said basically, "run with this" - saying they were trusting us to do what was right in Second Life.
Goldie Goodman: Nice to have a client like that!
Kiwini Oe: That was the main directive from the get-go, and that was an important thing for him to tell us, and for us to recognize.
Pebbles Hannya: You might want to answer this later, but did they know that SL avatars don't usually look like the RL people? It seems like almost the only ones that do are people who come in for TV things. I wonder if that's a deliberate decision or lack of understanding of SL?
Znetlady Isbell: or branding? heheeh
Kiwini Oe: The script called for Dwight to make an avatar that was *exactly* like himself because he liked his first life so much
Pebbles Hannya: Yes, true about the branding
Kiwini Oe: he wanted his second one to be just like it
Znetlady Isbell: ah- so true..
Kim Chihuly: did you have a connection with them from some earlier project? How had they heard of you?
Kiwini Oe: We looked at the script for locations, and Kent said to send over shots based on the script, or based on any other locations that would be familiar
Kiwini Oe: Good question, Kim -
Kiwini Oe: I had thought it was a direct reference from Linden Lab
Kiwini Oe: but I think they gave NBC a list of who might be able to do this
Kiwini Oe: and given the quick turn
Kiwini Oe: we were available
Goldie Goodman: how quick?
Kim Chihuly: thanks
Kiwini Oe: Well, we got the call on Sept 21, and the show was to air Oct 25
Maryrose Mariani: ouch
Robbie Kiama: :)
Robbie Kiama: fast
Goldie Goodman: A whole month??? lol
Kiwini Oe: But they had to do shooting for the show Oct 1-5
Pebbles Hannya: :)
iAlja Writer: :)
Kiwini Oe: so they put off the shooting of the SL scenes until the last day - Oct 5
Maryrose Mariani: so a couple of weeks barely
Kiwini Oe: right
Kiwini Oe: The first weekend was location scouting and avatar creation
Goldie Goodman: What were your criteria for locations?
Kiwini Oe: Then that week we narrowed down the locations and did snapshot storyboards
Kiwini Oe: We needed locations that mapped to the script, that would be recognizable in SL
Kiwini Oe: and that were practical for filming - low lag, etc
Goldie Goodman: That last one is always a concern.
Kim Chihuly: recognizable - to whom? SL users or ??
Kiwini Oe: They had one scene scripted as "downtown urban"
Kiwini Oe: recognizable to SL users
Kiwini Oe: I did my location shots at the "Downtown" sim - and the producers really liked it
Kiwini Oe: When I went back for a test shoot - "Downtown" was gone!
Znetlady Isbell: ah!
Kiwini Oe: I IMed the owner, who said it had just closed
iAlja Writer: ouch
IYan Writer: whoops
Goldie Goodman: Yikes
Kim Chihuly: aarrgh!
Maryrose Mariani: lol
Kiwini Oe: so we went over to Amsterdam, which worked great
Maryrose Mariani: truly an sl moment
Goldie Goodman: What type of permission did you have to get from the sim owners?
Kiwini Oe: There was a scene in a nightclub where Dwight plays his recorder
Kiwini Oe: So I talked to Ham Rambler and Sitearm Madonna at the Blarney Stone in Dublin
Kiwini Oe: and we filmed a scene there
Kiwini Oe: There was a paintball scene - we actually filmed a test at Paintball Funhouse - but the producers had something more specific in their heads, so Keystone built one
Kiwini Oe: We went to Boardman to film Dwight just walking down the streeet
Kiwini Oe: That was in the first still shot that NBC put on their web site
Kiwini Oe: and people immediately started commenting on blogs that they recognized it.
Robbie Kiama: cool
Kiwini Oe: So we ended up with 8 locations for shooting, and we did most of the shooting on Oct 2
Kiwini Oe: Tuesday before they needed it in Van Nuys on Friday
Znetlady Isbell: How involved were the producers in that shooting?
Kiwini Oe: The producers had given feedback based on some test shots at the end of the previous week
Kiwini Oe: In addition to Kent, we also talked with Greg Daniels, the showrunner, who created the American version
Kiwini Oe: after that, we were on our own during the shooting and editing
Znetlady Isbell: wow
Kiwini Oe: We did edited clips to fit the time frames they asked for for each scene
Kiwini Oe: and also had all the raw footage
Pebble Hannya: Were all the avatars shown created specifically for this, or did regular SL residents end up on TV as unofficial extras?
Goldie Goodman: It's tough to have a producer on site during shooting, since they can't really see what you're shooting!
Kiwini Oe: we did versions with type chat as well as voice with green waves over the head
Kiwini Oe: yeah - the other thing was -
Goldie Goodman: So they'd have a choice of which to use?
Kiwini Oe: we were getting direction and feedback from the producers - Kent and Greg
Kiwini Oe: and not the director - Jason Reitman - or the writer BJ Novak
Kiwini Oe: which can be a problem
Kiwini Oe: We filmed most everything in one day:
Goldie Goodman: because?
Kiwini Oe: A scene at Ginny Business Systems
Kiwini Oe: (I'll get to that, Goldie :-)
Kiwini Oe: which was a great office complex
Kiwini Oe: Dublin was fun
Kiwini Oe: because the audience was already there for Kiki Dee at the real Blarney Stone
Kiwini Oe: and when she was done, I got on stage and said
Kiwini Oe: the next act won't be so good
Kiwini Oe: in fact you'll boo him off the stage
Znetlady Isbell: lol
Kiwini Oe: and then he'll take out his paintball gun
Kiwini Oe: and spray the lot of you
Goldie Goodman: Bet they loved that!
iAlja Writer: lol
Kiwini Oe: yup
Kiwini Oe: we filmed at boardman, and at amsterdam
Kiwini Oe: then we needed to create 3 sets on our "backlot"
Kiwini Oe: which is actually the Clear Ink dev island:
Kiwini Oe: The paintball arena that the producers envisioned
Kiwini Oe: Dwight's "apartment"
Kiwini Oe: and a bar.
Kiwini Oe: Not that there aren't a lot of bars in Second Life, but we made our own.
Kiwini Oe: As soon as each scene was shot, the files went to our editors, who worked to get them in shape to send to NBC
Goldie Goodman: So you did rough editing of your raw footage, before sending it out.
Kiwini Oe: we were going to do it all electronically, but of course the files were so big that really wasn't practical
Goldie Goodman: Did you capture in HD?
Kiwini Oe: we actually edited into specific lengths:
Kiwini Oe: 30 second scenes mostly
Kiwini Oe: So they could load them up on the computers on the set
Kiwini Oe: and run them during filming
Goldie Goodman: Good idea.
Kiwini Oe: Because the scenes played out on the computers in "The Office"s office
Kiwini Oe: we didn't do HD
Kiwini Oe: and they weren't really to look like machinima as much as look like someone actually in SL
Kiwini Oe: which means that it was all shot from first-person perspective
Znetlady Isbell: and they did!
Kiwini Oe: which means driving the avatar that does the filming, for the most part
Kiwini Oe: and coordinating directing the extras. TROI Timtam and Keystone were at each scene,
Kiwini Oe: making sure things were prepared and lined up
Goldie Goodman: how did you communicate with the extras?
Kiwini Oe: We mostly did that over open chat -
Kiwini Oe: setting up the scene before hand
Kiwini Oe: and communicated among the crew over voice IM
Kiwini Oe: I had to learn to say "cut" instead of "crap" when I needed to do a retake
Goldie Goodman: ha ha
Znetlady Isbell: LOL!!
Pebbles Hannya: lol
Kiwini Oe: but they knew what I meant!
Robbie Kiama: :)
Joi Koi: :)
Keystone Bouchard: lol! =)
Kiwini Oe: We were doing edits until Thursday PM
Kiwini Oe: they wanted the files by about 8 AM on Friday.
Znetlady Isbell: yikes
Kiwini Oe: So at 10, we were on the phone with the producers
Kiwini Oe: and our Clear Ink project manager, Nicole
Kiwini Oe: whose IM icon has *always* been Dwight from the office
Kiwini Oe: and was still in our office at 11PM
Kiwini Oe: coordinating the edits
Kiwini Oe: decided she could probably see fit to deliver the hard drive in person the next morning
Kiwini Oe: so she, without any sleep, having worked till 11 - went and changed clothes and got on the 6am to burbank
Kiwini Oe: hard drive in hand
Kiwini Oe: Kent picked her up at the airport and took her to the studio
Kiwini Oe: where she loaded up each of the computers in "The Office"
Kiwini Oe: met the crew and cast
Kiwini Oe: and got to hang out all day.
iAlja Writer: nice :)
Kiwini Oe: It got interesting when the director tried to continue directing the machinima
Znetlady Isbell: lol
Pebbles Hannya :)
Kiwini Oe: as though Second Life were a module within Final Cut Pro
Tynan Clary: /now that's the best part of the story
Shred McMillan: hilarious
Znetlady Isbell: hilarious
Kiwini Oe: "Can Dwight walk a little slower ther... or go backwards?"
Kiwini Oe: "No."
iAlja Writer: lol
Znetlady Isbell: lol!!
Goldie Goodman: Re-shoot time, huh?
Znetlady Isbell: too funny
Kim Chihuly: that's a great picture<G>
Robbie Kiama: :))
Kiwini Oe: so one lesson - let the director in on it a little earlier
Goldie Goodman: Surprised he didn't insist on it!
Kiwini Oe: but at the end of the day - they had their scenes shot - and Nicole left there around midnight
Tynan Clary: or add another month - which you didn't have
You: Is the story line such that they'll go back to SL (I don't watch the Office)?
Kiwini Oe: and we waited...
Kiwini Oe: Well, they didn't use all the scenes
Kiwini Oe: next thing we heard was that the edit on the 21 minute episode was down to 41 minutes
Kiwini Oe: and that maybe all the SL scenes would be cut
Goldie Goodman: oooohhh
Tynan Clary: groans
iAlja Writer: :(
Kiwini Oe: and we'd know the next day.
Kim Chihuly: how awful!
Kiwini Oe: yeah
Znetlady Isbell: oh noooo
Kiwini Oe: But the next day, Kent said that they managed to keep bits of about half the scenes - and by that time, for me the glass was WAY half full!
Kiwini Oe: having been ready to hear the worst
Shred McMillan wishes he could see the whole 41 minutes
Kiwini Oe: And NBC had already released a still photo from it
Kiwini Oe: and that's where it got interesting
Kiwini Oe: And about the question about real SL avatars aren't really photorealistic
Kiwini Oe: After we had filmed it all
Kiwini Oe: Kent asked if we could use the characters real names for avatars
Kiwini Oe: Dwight Schrute instead of Dwight Shelford
Kiwini Oe: etc.
Goldie Goodman: you mean, visible over their heads?
Kiwini Oe: "no"
iAlja Writer: lol
Kiwini Oe: right - which of course would have meant reshooting
Kiwini Oe: and getting the names from Linden Lab overnight
You: Good luck with that.
Goldie Goodman: Or, they could composite new graphics in post, lol.
iAlja Writer: ia anyone from the cast or makers of the series an SL user?
Kiwini Oe: But as soon as NBC put a photo out with "Dwight Shelford"
Kiwini Oe: people started IMming him, friendship requests, etc.
Kiwini Oe: This is part 2:
Pebbles Hannya: :)
Robbie Kiama: :)
Kiwini Oe: In order to give Dwight and Jim the right titles,
Maryrose Mariani: lol
Kiwini Oe: we made groups
Kiwini Oe: and TROI made them very realistic groups and profiles
Kim Chihuly: i know my students went right in the next day in class looking for dwight
Kiwini Oe: Like the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc. group
Kiwini Oe: with dwight's title "Assistant to Regional Mgr"
Kiwini Oe: and did detailed profiles for others
iAlja Writer: nice touch :)
Robbie Kiama: yeah
Kiwini Oe: This turned out to be important for the viral aspect of this.
Goldie Goodman: the after-life, so to speak?
Kiwini Oe: NBC never engaged us to do promotion, viral marketing, etc.
Kiwini Oe: But when a viral phenomenon happens
Kiwini Oe: you don't ask questions - you just follow your instinct
Goldie Goodman: it can't be stopped!!
Kiwini Oe: I had said that Luck = Preparation + Opportunity
Kiwini Oe: and because of the details that went into the profiles and groups
Kiwini Oe: people connected
Kiwini Oe: We were trying to be true to two passionate communities at the same time:
Kiwini Oe: Second Life residents
Kiwini Oe: and fans of "The Office"
Kiwini Oe: and in the end, we heard from SL people who had never watched "the office" until then
Kiwini Oe: and from Office fans who had never heard of SL
You: And you also created an opportunity for them to come back and pick up on some of those groups in a future episode :)
Kiwini Oe: and each got from the experience what they thought it should be
Kiwini Oe: I read about someone's kid who laughed for 4 minutes, just because Dwight was flying
iAlja Writer: lol
Robbie Kiama: hehe
Kiwini Oe: So we understood from about a two weeks out, when the first picture was up
Kiwini Oe: that fans would get hold of Dwight, Jim, etc
Kiwini Oe: so we decided that after the show aired
Kiwini Oe: we'd open our "backlot" for the night
Kiwini Oe: and invite people to party there
Goldie Goodman: nice of you.
Znetlady Isbell: smart too
Maryrose Mariani: yes very cool
Kiwini Oe: Because of the response, we kept it open for the next week, until the next episode aired
Kiwini Oe: we hated to close it down, but we had to get back to our development - and we didn't want to be running NBC's 3D fan site forever!
Kiwini Oe: Though we let them know what the response was, they didn't pick up on any followup
Kiwini Oe: for several reasons, I'm sure:
Kiwini Oe: Immediately after the show, they had the first Real Life fan convention in Scranton
Kiwini Oe: most of the producers were there, and that was keeping them busy
Kiwini Oe: They have their own community site: dundermifflininfinity.com
Kiwini Oe: that was giving them some fits
Kiwini Oe: and I think they wanted to attend to the one that they probably paid big bucks creating and promoting
Kiwini Oe: (I almost typed "big bugs")
Kiwini Oe: and finally:
Znetlady Isbell: lol
Kiwini Oe: they were distracted by the writers strike that was about to hit th em
Goldie Goodman: (could have paid you big bucks to continue the SL promotion :-)
Kiwini Oe: I saw in EW magazine that "the office" had the least amount of finished scripts before the strike
Znetlady Isbell: such a shame they didn't too Goldie
Kiwini Oe: The SL group has about 840 members
Kiwini Oe: based on word of mouth
Pebbles Hannya: Wow
Robbie Kiama: wow
Znetlady Isbell: 844
iAlja Writer: impressive
Kim Chihuly: Man - nbc missed out!
Kiwini Oe: the dundermifflininfinity.com site is based on people creating "branch offices' based on their city
Znetlady Isbell: Big time.
Kiwini Oe: without any promo, the SL group would be in the top 25% of their "branch offices"
Znetlady Isbell: Wow - so easy to extend that into SL.
Salt Voom: Sorry to interupt but Kiwini Oe your 1st life website has some of the smartest marketing i have seen in a long time!
Pebbles Hannya: I'm guessing you pointed that out to them?
Goldie Goodman: There's a brief window of opportunity, and it sounds like they lost it.
Kim Chihuly: yeah - since they could actually "build" the branch ovffices
Kiwini Oe: I agree - though there are some other fan groups that have formed
Znetlady Isbell: Clear Ink rules!
Keystone Bouchard: ;-)
Kiwini Oe: We did what we did because we thought it was the right thing to do in SL
Goldie Goodman: Can I ask again about the permissions thing?:
Kiwini Oe: but we can only go so far
Kiwini Oe: sure, Goldie
Goldie Goodman: Did NBC give you legal release forms to have "avatars" sign?
Goldie Goodman: And location owners to sign location releases?
Kiwini Oe: As I said, our client was not very formal in any of this - they did not do any avatar or location release management
Goldie Goodman: Did you?
Goldie Goodman: To protect yourself?
Goldie Goodman: Or just informally by asking?
Kiwini Oe: we asked permission of the property owners, and announced to anyone in the scene that we were filming
Kiwini Oe: so that they would know to leave if they didn't want to be in the scene
Kiwini Oe: the only "crowd"' scene was at Dublin
Kiwini Oe: One lesson learned:
Goldie Goodman: OK, thanks. Curious that NBC wouldn't pay attention to releases in this situation.
Kiwini Oe: I don't think this whole endeavor rose through the corporate machine at NBC
Kiwini Oe: that was part of the quick turn nature of it
Goldie Goodman: ahhh, the content police didn't even know about it, then, lol
Kiwini Oe: And from the other side, we were careful in how we used NBC IP
Goldie Goodman: That's the way to do it -- get in, do it, and get out before they even know what's happeing.
Kiwini Oe: that everything we did was an extension of the assignment
Kiwini Oe: the group, the sets, the avatars, etc
Kiwini Oe: and informing them along the way
Kiwini Oe: So a good lesson was:
Kiwini Oe: when the client says they trust you to do the right thing -
Kiwini Oe: that means you'd better pay attention -
Kiwini Oe: and use that as a real opportunity
Goldie Goodman: and earn their trust.
Kiwini Oe: Also, know the routes of amplification of the story
Kiwini Oe: I had my Google Alerts well tuned
Kiwini Oe: and made sure to comment on blogs
Kiwini Oe: and track how the story progressed
Goldie Goodman: You're very conscientious.
Kiwini Oe: And to let fans know what was going on
Kiwini Oe: It's all been interesting in the context of the writers strike
Kiwini Oe: that NBC is showing the episode we helped them create
Kiwini Oe: on the web
Kiwini Oe: selling advertising
Kiwini Oe: but not compensating the writers for that
Znetlady Isbell: yeah...
Kiwini Oe: The Office was one of the first staffs to get laid off
Goldie Goodman: that's the writers' key gripe, i sn't it?
Kiwini Oe: so beyond the stars, the writers, etc
Kiwini Oe: there are 102 people who have lost their jobs, just on the Office
Pebbles Hannya: Wow
Znetlady Isbell: wow...
Kiwini Oe: Not to make too blatant of a pitch, but a fan is working with Kent Zbornak on a Office Fans Christmas Fund for those 102
Kiwini Oe: http://www.myspace.com/ofcf
Kiwini Oe: like the props people, the crafts people, the medic, the interns etc., fired without severance
Znetlady Isbell: great idea!
Kiwini Oe: but that's enough of my soapbox :-)
Kiwini Oe: any more questions?
Kiwini Oe: I feel I've scratched the surface of a lot of the experience
Znetlady Isbell: Kiwini, this was soooo interesting!
iAlja Writer: yes!
Goldie Goodman: Very nice presentation. Thank you very much.
iAlja Writer: is the writer of the episode in SL?
Robbie Kiama: thank you a lot
Znetlady Isbell: I can't thank you enough for everything you've shared.
Robbie Kiama: that was very interesting
Kiwini Oe: iAlja -
Maryrose Mariani: Thank you so much Kiwini.
Kiwini Oe: I don't know - someone there is
Kiwini Oe: because the script really showed knowledge of it
Tynan Clary: I'm still realing at the short timeframe you had
iAlja Writer: yes, that's why I asked :)
Znetlady Isbell: Kiwini, i there anything I shouldn't publish on the blog?
Kiwini Oe: No - it's all open, Z
Znetlady Isbell: thanks - just making sure.
Goldie Goodman: Thanks for setting this up, Znetlady.
iAlja Writer: yes, thanks for sharing - interesting story!
Znetlady Isbell: Please thank Kiwini, who has been so generous.
Pebble Hannya: Yes, this has been really interesting!
Kiwini Oe: If anyone has any other questions, just IM me
Znetlady Isbell: An Pebbles for letting us meet here.
IYan Writer: thank you for an interesting insight into the project
Goldie Goodman: applause
Tynan Clary: /claps
Kiwini Oe: Thanks everyone
Znetlady Isbell: Yay!!!
Znetlady Isbell: Thank YOU!!
Znetlady Isbell: Thanks everyone for coming.
Joi Koi: cheers
Tynan Clary: :)
Tynan Clary: thanks you for having us
Znetlady Isbell: Since I've been crashing Pebbles is giving me the transcript and it will be up on the blog later today.
iAlja Writer: awesome!
Znetlady Isbell: Thanks, Pebbles.
Tynan Clary: and sending me a landmark when I emailed a few days ago - that was helpful Z
Znetlady Isbell: np Tynan
Znetlady Isbell: Thanks for spreading the word.
Tynan Clary: Love to
Znetlady Isbell: Check out Clear Ink's site too....they are awesome.
Tynan Clary: Nice to see you again too Joi
Robbie Kiama: yep they realy are :)
Joi Koi: u2 Tynan ;)
Kim Chihuly: thanks znet - another good talk
Znetlady Isbell: Every event I have been too that they have held has been so well handled - and just smart.
Znetlady Isbell: smart, smart, smart.
Znetlady Isbell: Thanks again, Kiwini for taking the time.
Kiwini Oe: yw, Znet
Kiwini Oe: I'll see you all later!
Next month SL Business Communicators are slated to meet with Orange.
November 20, 2007