What sort of a year has it been for Firstborn? "Well, shooting a guy in an animatronic bear costume was definitely a first," senior vice president and executive director Dan LaCivita says with a laugh.
"This year marked the growth and emergence of three different departments that we've always had, in ways, but have never really blown out," he says. The company moved to a bigger space in New York City's Film Center, where it's been since starting 11 years ago. "We now have a green screen in-house," LaCivita says, "so we're doing a lot more live action video work. We're also doing a lot more 3-D and motion graphics work. The third arm of the company that has continued to grow is our software engineering and service-side development."
With video, 3-D rendering and Flash development all under one roof, the agency is capable of developing unified experiences under tight timelines (and with by its own ultra-smooth user-friendly CMS). Firstborn has consistently produced bleeding-edge creative work that could only be done online, but approaches traditional media quality, with high-def and sometimes dizzying 3-D. The team creates full environments, and though dramatically different in style and function, there is always something uniquely Firstborn about them.
The site that best embodies the collaboration between their 3-D and motion group and the live-action department is the Sunnyville experience, created with Tribal DDB for Lowes. Firstborn cast, shot and directed all the live action (a two-day green screen video shoot), created every environment and product on the site in 3-D, and worked through post-production. The development team put the pieces together in Flash to create an engaging and immersive interactive experience. The site contains more than 80 video clips and 45 minutes of footage. During the first six weeks of the campaign, the average user spent 12 minutes exploring the site.
In stark contrast, a site created for the U.S. Treasury told the cautionary tale of the Bad Credit Hotel in moody noir - a 180-degree turn from the vibrant and hyper-colored world of Sunnyville. For the Bad Credit Hotel, the agency went for an old horror-movie vibe. "We took this 1950s, film noir, black and white, kind of Hitchcockian approach to everything," LaCivita says.
For Microsoft Office:Mac, with agency partner McCann SF, Firstborn created an animated playground where Mac and PC could get along. But the piece of work for Microsoft (for the relaunch of Windows Live) where Firstborn, along with Digital Kitchen, really got to play was an installation at New York's South Street Seaport honoring Operation Smile. The seven-story sphere displayed generative art projections composed entirely of smiling faces captured on digital cams in a nearby kiosk. They used a database of the photos, custom processing and four projectors to achieve spectacular effects.
Firstborn built an online lighting workshop for GE that allows users to play around with mood lighting in a number of virtual rooms with astoundingly realistic and complex options ranging from dimming the lights to switching bulbs and changing lamps. The team even made life insurance look fun with the exhilarating Let Your Worries Go microsite and Facebook app for Northwestern Mutual (in which "worries" are launched through realistic landscapes or to the moon). And working with Mullen, they created a fun and educational interactive arctic landscape for client National Grid. The work was leveraged against the traditional side of the campaign and brought the campaign to life on the Web, where users could play games, (such as throwing fish to the polar bear from the print ads) or explore the effects of energy on the environment (and watch as the ice floats melted).
Continuing its tradition of attracting top-tier international talent to the Film Center, Firstborn brought on talented Flash designers Mathieu Badimon from France and Brazilian Zeh Fernando, both well-respected within the design community for their experimentation and open-source contributions.
To cap off the year, Firstborn went head-to-head in December with Brooklyn's Big Spaceship in matters athletic (if you count foosball and ping-pong) and emerged victorious in the first-ever high-(okay, no)-stakes inter-company sports tourney.