Storytelling Was Just the Beginning

Take a peek behind the scenes of 48 HOURS: NCIS with the visionary team as they talk about bringing stories to life with Mezzanine.

Susan Zirinsky, senior executive producer of the award-winning crime and justice series 48 HOURS, was working up another of her periodic side projects, dubbed “real NCIS.” The idea was to look back at real-world crime cases of the Naval Command Investigative Service (NCIS) upon which the popular CBS series NCIS starring Mark Harmon was based. 

Zirinsky’s initial concern was how to make historical content come alive. 

It was after director Rob Klug had his first meeting at Oblong that he convinced Zirinski to buy into Mezzanine based only on how the three-dimensional immersion of Infopresence transformed their source material. As Klug put it, they decided to put the viewer at home inside the Mezzanine control center of NCIS. 

It's no surprise to us at Oblong that Mezzanine also streamlined the very creation and subsequent production of the CBS news division documentary series, but for Klug and Zirinski, it was a revelation. 

The efficiencies exceeded their expectations. “We can load all of our information into the computer and use it immediately,” Klug said. “It happens really quickly.” The team also realized how much they could do live that would normally require postproduction. “We're able to manipulate things and change things on the fly in real time all day long.”

The amount of time this has saved is immeasurable,” agreed Ron Hill, CBS director of photography. “It enabled us to move elements in and out of frame,” he continued, which is usually done in post. “Doing it real time allows so much creativity.

We at Oblong are big fans of excellent storytelling. To see the award-winning 48 HOURS team bringing forward true stories of the NCIS with Mezzanine is really exciting. Join us in watching the series premiere on April 25, 2017, 10pm ET/PT. watch on Vimeo

Working with Watson

The goal of each Watson Experience Center—located in New York, San Francisco, and Cambridge—is to demystify AI and challenge visitor’s expectations through more tangible demonstrations of Watson technology. Visitors are guided through a series of narratives and data interfaces, each grounded in IBM’s current capabilities in machine learning and AI. These sit alongside a host of Mezzanine rooms where participants further collaborate to build solutions together.

The process for creating each experience begins with dynamic, collaborative research. Subject matter experts take members of the design and engineering teams through real-world scenarios—disaster response, financial crimes investigation, oil and gas management, product research, world news analysis—where we identify and test applicable data sets. From there, we move our ideas quickly to scale.

Accessibility to the immersive pixel canvas for everyone involved is key to the process. Designers must be able to see their ideas outside of the confines of 15″ laptops and prescriptive software. Utilizing tools tuned for rapid iteration at scale, our capable team of designers, data artists, and engineers work side-by-side to envision and define each experience. The result is more than a polished marketing narrative; it's an active interface that allows the exploration of data with accurate demonstrations of Watson’s capabilities—one that customers can see themselves in.

Under the Hood

Underlying the digital canvas is a robust spatial operating environment, g‑speak, which allows our team to position real data in a true spatial context. Every data point within the system, and even the UI itself, is defined in real world coordinates (measured in millimeters, not pixels). Gestures, directional pointing, and proximity to screens help us create interfaces that more closely understand user intent and more effectively humanize the UI.

This award-nominated collaboration with IBM is prototyped and developed at scale at Oblong’s headquarters in Los Angeles as well as IBM’s Immersive AI Lab in Austin. While these spaces are typically invite-only, IBM is increasingly open to sharing the content and the unique design ideas that drive its success with the public. This November, during Austin Design Week, IBM will host a tour of their Watson Immersive AI Lab, including live demonstrations of the work and a Q&A session with leaders from the creative team.

Can't make it to Austin? Contact our Solutions team for a glimpse of our vision of the future at our headquarters in the Arts District in Los Angeles.

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