Creative Inspiration: Chris Milk

The Wilderness Downtown

"You are generating an individual video for each viewer."

Chris Milks’ production style incorporates the latest technology to produce compelling, personalized and human experiences. It would be great to see this type of online experience in a range of fields outside just music videos.

Milk has directed music videos for huge acts such as Kanye West, U2 and Gnarls Barkley. But on his website, his most recent and talked-about projects all fall under the category “Experimental.”

“The Wilderness Downtown” and his newest “3 Dreams of Black” are both groundbreaking productions. The first features Arcade Fire’s song “We Used to Wait,” while the latter streams “Black” from the album Rome by Danger Mouse and Daniel Luppi. Both projects were built in HTML5 in part to showcase this new technology’s potential. But according to Milk, “it’s easy to lose the humanity when you start showcasing tech.”

These productions were in part funded by Google, who wanted to show off the capabilities of their Chrome browser. “Google wanted to highlight the technical… I was trying to figure out a way to have the emotional resonance and context for people that it becomes more than just an example of technology.”

These videos create uniquely human experiences by integrating the emotional connection to a place. The Wilderness Downtown personalizes the video with images from Google Maps and Street View databases based on an address entered by the viewer. The Rome project also gives viewers control over the video’s direction.

The resulting productions are uniquely abile to hold any viewer’s attention, even those accustomed to traditional videos on television or the computer. Milk sees a challenge and an opportunity in reaching these types of viewers.

“We’re so sophisticated in the way that we consume media now. 20 years ago you’d watch a television show, then you went to the cinema, you saw a movie. Now we’re on the iPad while watching television while talking on our cell phone. We’re so much more sophisticated in how much media we can absorb from so many different outlets. I think there’s an interesting future in trying to tell narratives through multiple media points. Transmedia is the buzz word.” – Chris Milk at CaT London 2010

This buzz word has been used for about a decade. But this blurring of mediums has tremendous potential beyond just the traditional media model. This type of personalized and engaging experience is needed everywhere there are “multiple media points.” Plus, there are other fields than can benefit from use storytelling as a means to explain and educate.

In particular, this type of rich media experience should be adapted for health-related websites. The treatment of chronic care diseases such as diabetes require patients to exercise decades of stamina. What patients need is reminders that is essential to maintain healthy habits. But on medical websites, they most frequently get just reams of cold medical data. Photos, videos and other social media variables have the power to connect patients, counteract common feelings of isolation, share treatment knowledge and inspire each other.

from the Johnny Cash Project

from the Johnny Cash Project, another experimental Chris Milk production