CREATOR Q&A WITH SNA DISPLAYS: STRINKO STUDIOS

No matter how big or small a digital signage installation, great content is critical to a positive, meaningful experience. LED display manufacturers often tout hardware specifications and metrics, but for the average viewer it’s the content that grabs and holds attention.  

Few things in the audiovisual industry are more fulfilling than seeing your work connect people to memorable digital experiences.

We proudly support the work of talented content creators in the digital signage space. In this edition of Creator Q&A with SNA Displays, we highlight Strinko Studios, a preferred content vendor for Resorts World Las Vegas. Strinko’s work has been featured on network television, throughout the Las Vegas Strip, Madison Square Garden, and much more. Recently, SNA Displays partnered with Strinko’s design studio to create out-of-this-world content for the Entry Experience at Kennedy Space Center’s visitor complex.

What do you consider your specialty in terms of content generation? Is there a specific type of art direction you enjoy taking more than others?

I would say I’ve always been fascinated with photorealism. Since I was a kid, whether I was drawing or painting, the goal was always to achieve a photographic quality. After being introduced to digital art, that drive to create realistic images naturally progressed into 3D rendering. Realism really scratches my creative itch. 

Who are some of your artistic influences?

I have always admired the greats like Stan Winston, Dennis Muren, Mark ‘Crash’ McCreery, and Phil Tippet to name just a few from my past. These days, BCN Visuals have been inspiring me a lot. There are so many though, it would be a long list.

In terms of the digital art you have created, do you have a favorite? Least favorite?

The one I always go to is my space battle that plays on the 50-foot sphere at Resorts World Las Vegas. It’s a couple minutes long and it features music and sound effects and was just a blast to create. 

If we are talking about bucket list, I would have to say the content I did for BodyArmor on the MSG Sphere in Las Vegas. We unfortunately didn’t have time for anything too custom, but since I heard about the Sphere I wanted to have my work featured on it, so that was a big deal! Also, the hardest challenge of my career as they have one hell of a quality control team.

As far as worst, I’d have to go back to my old freelance days when one of my clients wanted a whole graphics package for each of her food truck businesses. She insisted on hideous branding for each one of her trucks. With each design, I felt my artistic soul dying a little bit.

What is your favorite kind of digital signage content to create?

BIG SCREENS! The bigger and higher quality the better. I love seeing a campaign playing across multiple large screens. I’m excited about some of the opportunities coming up this fall here in Las Vegas and I’m looking forward to doing a Times Square takeover one day.  

What message do you want people to hear about digital content creation?

This is an exciting time to be a designer and digital artist. Yes, there are some things that can worry creatives, but I believe we are finally reaching a point where people won’t be so limited by out-of-reach technology. The advancements in the past 8 years have led to so many of us being able to become independent mini studios, and I believe it’s just the start. I also think demand will continue to increase so there will be a lot of opportunity for artists if they know where to look. Digital OOH signage is a great place to start.

How do you determine what content is best for a specific application?

I think first, you must consider the scope of the project. If budget and time are a factor, get creative with solutions. I’ve spent so much time grinding to do something a certain way but after stepping back, I realize there’s usually a more efficient solution that can give the same result. 

What elements are most important in creating an immersive digital experience / experiential content?

Creating a story. One great tool I use is music, because it naturally tells a story. I’ll even use it if it’s not in the final piece. I just think everything needs a purpose so it’s not just visual noise.

How do you effectively connect with or influence an audience’s emotions?

I’ll use my “Mario Floats” piece as an example. I used several different elements to create something that seems to give people an emotional reaction. I was lucky enough to design it for an LED volume, so the viewer is already immersed in the content. I then made it feel like you were somewhere impossible, like the top of a skyscraper in New York, focusing on lighting to make it feel real. Using an iconic character like Mario goes a long way, too. Again, I used music to set the pace and help tell the story. I then created a climactic point of interest where Mario breaks the glass when his nose bumps into it after bouncing off Bowser. All these things combined invoke a response from the viewer and it’s very rewarding to watch in real time.

What are some foundational design concepts for digital content? If you were teaching a class on the subject, what are some of the key topics you would cover?

Learn photography! I spent 10 years as a photographer and that knowledge goes so far when it comes to 3D content. I look at 3D software like it’s just a photography simulator, which it is. Lighting is so important. Obviously, fundamental skills in animation are vital. Learn how to get the most out of your software. Tweak render settings and adjust everything so you get the biggest render quality for your buck.

How do you analyze different projects and determine a content strategy?

Time, budget, and expectations. Since every client is different, with varying budgets and timelines, I think it’s important to be flexible with how you work. Sometime clients know exactly what they are looking for but often you’ll need to lead them in the best direction for their situation.

What kind of sandbox environment do you use to explore new ideas or experiment with prototypes?

As far as ideating and concepting, I’ve definitely started playing with AI platforms like Midjourney. My 3D platform of choice is Maya, but I’ve started working more in Unreal [Engine]. I love having access to Megascans’ library and building environments in a matter of minutes.

For a long time, most digital signage content was made for square or widescreen formats, but with new technology, displays are no longer limited in this way. How has that changed your creative process?

I think the easiest thing to point to is anamorphic capabilities on cornered and rounded screens. Beyond that though, there is so much to take into consideration with the canvas size. I really enjoy working with LED ribbons for stadiums and arenas because you get to use the aspect ratio to your advantage. One of my favorite screens to work on is the sphere at Resorts World Las Vegas because of the 360° seamless effect you can produce.

What kind of content do you think is most in demand?

I think the thing that is the most important, especially with advertising, is representing a brand correctly. It’s very important that, when creating content for specific brands, you know how to work with style and brand guides, and you understand where you fit into their creative process. That’s not really giving you a straight answer, but I think it’s what’s most needed in the marketplace of content creation.

What do you think about the 3D/anamorphic content trend? Do you create this type of content? Why or why not?

Yes, I have really tried to put myself into the world of anamorphic content. It’s something I really enjoy doing and the technique comes very naturally to me. There is obviously a time and place for it and in my opinion the most successful screens for this are wide, curved screens because the content doesn’t look as distorted from other angles outside the sweet spot. That being said, the technique is nothing new, so I assume it’s not going anywhere. I think AR will become more integrated into these activations over the next few years.

What are the main things you, as a digital artist, want the LED industry to know?

That I’m here to create uncompromised work with passion and pride behind every frame.

In what ways does digital art drive technological advancement and vice-versa?

It’s hard to say, but the chicken before the egg paradox comes to mind. Content is always pushing the technology but sometimes technology flies so far ahead the content must catch up. I think we are just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to utilizing these screens to their fullest.

What new technology are you using/excited about using in your content creation process?

I really want to start using Unreal Engine more. Aside from that, I’m excited about some of the new machines I’m about to get ahold of. I’m running multiple machines now and last year I upgraded one of them with a 64 core Ryzen Threadripper and it’s just amazing. I’ll be adding more of those soon. I still utilize CPU power more than GPUs in my workflow and the massive processor really helps with After Effects (my compositing software of choice), which is notoriously slow and CPU-reliant.

What would be your dream LED display type to create content for?

I regularly have the pleasure of working on Resorts World’s exterior screens, which are just massive. I think I’ve created some of the largest QR codes in the world. I love LED Volumes [LED panels used to display video footage or 3D content to form a background behind actors] and immersive setups with content that can surround the viewer. I’d like to do more with projections, and I’d love to work on the Fremont Experience LED screen here in Las Vegas. Stay tuned!

What’s the longest render time you’ve had to endure?

I think the longest I’ve waited for a render was a few years back when I was first learning Arnold. I was rendering a bathroom scene and had to pump up the samples really high to get rid of all the noise. A single frame took like 2 and half days to complete. It was mainly due to my ignorance about render settings at the time, but I was also limited on technology back then.

What course of study would you recommend to someone interested in becoming a digital artist/content creator?

It’s important to become an expert in the software you are using, but experience with the fundamentals of graphic design, art direction, cinematography, and photography can really give you an edge. I personally did not have a formal education in design, and I believe that may have slowed my progress in the field I’m currently in so I think you try to learn as much as you can early on in your development and a formal education in design can be very helpful. I do think there are many free or very affordable options if you have a clear direction of what you want to learn, though.

What does the future hold for digital content creation? Any bold predictions?

I do think we will start integrating glasses or contacts more over the next few years, which will allow AR to become a much bigger factor. I think even though it’s still a slow burn, VR is still coming, and I want to get in that game more.

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