I spent nearly 8 years as an employee of Apple. While there was much secrecy and many extremely confidential projects during my tenure these are a few I can share.
From early 2002 to mid 2006 I was the Motion Graphics Technical Director on the Graphic Design team. This covered nearly all things moving pictures, except the television commercials. Keynote presentations, retail store product videos, retail window animations, the Genius Bar and concierge system, product animations for the web, welcome to your new mac animation, and professional tools demo reels. I designed the delivery pipeline and project workflow for the motion graphics content creation. The schedules were, at times, rather grueling and 60+ hour work weeks were not out of the question.
In mid 2006 I switched to the Interactive Media Group where I worked on WebKit as the Creative Director of the Rich Media Team until late 2009. As the only creative in the division of engineers it posed interesting challenges of developing practical applications for experimental technologies. This role was part evangelist, part creative and part pollinator. Pitching ideas on how developing technologies could be used in future product releases became an amazing creative outlet.
Ads included: Nissan Leaf, Dove for Men, Campbell's Soup, Adidas, JCPenney, Gieco, Citi Bank, Klondike
From late 2008 - 2009 I was the creative and tech lead for initial launch of iTunes Extras. This coincided with, and was a major feature of, iTunes 9 that was announced and released on 9/9/09. iTunes 9 was the first version of iTunes to implement a fully featured HTML interface for the store and interactive media. Extras and LPs use the Tunekit library I designed. The ability to digitally deliver both movies and LPs via HTML and CSS allowed Apple to go head-to-head with the interactivity of BluRay and DVD by delivering content inside the new iTunes.
While the delivery mechanism has evolved and grown since version one, the core technologies are still based on my original concepts and designs.
Titles included: Wall•E, Iron Man, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Crank 2, Batman, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Wizard of Oz, Terminator 2, Talladega Nights, The Da Vinci Code
The World Wide Developers Conference is a week long event in San Francisco that brings developers in from around the world to learn the latest technological advances in Apple's advancements and how to put them into practice. The Rich Media team was responsible for making animation and interactive advancements in Safari, Mobile Safari. and WebKit. We were the team inside Apple specifically focused on killing Flash. The team and I worked to translate what was common place in the motion graphics world to real time interactive media that didn't involve plugins or third party add-ons. By using WebKit as the abstraction layer between the viewer and the MacOS & iOS core graphic libraries we changed the presentation capabilities to mimic native performance. This research, development, and implementation allowed iTunes Extras & LPs and iAd to be entirely web based. iOS version 1 in 2007 was the first public launch of these, back when there wasn't "an app for that" and everything was web based.
Many of these advances are now referred to as HTML5. While HTML5 has many other things under the hood the general use of the HTML5 term relates to the hardware accelerated interactive functionality.
For MWC we had multiple speaking sessions, multiple engineers on stage and multiple advances for the web platform that needed to be showcased. This was also a primer to what was secretly in development for the launch of iTunes 9. We needed a unified experience for these demos. WILCO provided us plenty of content to get creative.
Apple attended NAB up until 2006 showcasing the Final Cut Pro suite of professional video creation and editing tools. This included things like Shake, Motion, Final Cut Pro, Logic and DVD Studio Pro. The demo reels we created highlighted the industry professionals and studios around the world that were using these tools. I worked with the legendary Kyle Cooper and his, then brand new, company Prologue for the 2004 reel and LOGAN for 2005 and 2006.
Apple introduced their first retail store on May 19th, 2001 and created the signature experience. Many things have subtly changed over the years but one remaining constant is the Genius Bar. The system behind the Genius Bar is known as Concierge and has many layers. The screens on the wall behind the bar host the reservation system, the appointment queue, and the tips and tricks animations. The Genius bar is the help desk for anyone who owns Apple products to get hands on support for their technical issues.
I designed the system, the distribution process, the format, was a lead animator and creative for all the Genius, Studio and iPod Bar animations until 2006. Since it was translated into many different languages and distributed to over 40 stores globally I dubbed the network Apple Retail Television (ARTV).
In larger stores, typically the flagship stores, there is also be a Studio Bar. The Studio Bar is where creative classes and consultations are held to teach customers how to make videos, photo books, slide shows, websites, and music using the iLife suite of products. There was one iPod Bar in the New York SoHo store but that was the only one of its kind.
The animations are updated as the products change and new features are added. The screens keep the customers entertained and informed while they wait. For the stores that have more then a Genius bar the animations are synchronized, landing on the logo, the reservation queue and tips.
The first thing you see when you open your Mac for the very first time is an animation of greetings and salutations from many different countries. This then continues into the setup app guiding you along the way. This series of steps happens inside a first run application nick named Mac Buddy. I worked on the animations from 2000 to 2006, during which time nearly 20 million macs were sold. This covered Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, and Leopard. Despite the namesake reference, Tiger was my most memorable and favorite to create. Tiger was the version of OSX that introduced the Spotlight Search functionality, so it was appropriate to use that as the theme for the intro.
Once the final version of the Tiger intro animation was done Steve Jobs said "We spend more time working on these animations than Microsoft spends on their entire UI."
The third generation of the iPod (dock connector) introduced buttons above the touch scroll interface. Unlike the first generation these were non-mechanical, back-lit, and touch sensitive buttons. A series of animations and videos were produced for the web and these are the two that I designed, directed and created.
iPod - Mood
Music is the transport that takes you from place to place and memory to memory. This piece transforms the interface of the iPod into a visual experience where the scenes move just as they would on screen when navigating the music library.
iPod - Bling Bling
The chrome and plastic iPod became a fashion accessory soon after introduction. This piece was created entirely in 3D and rendered to perfectly represent the mirror reflective surface of the backside. After many studio filming sessions failed to create the perfect look, I created this in a little over a weeks time with many layers and compositing tricks.
A sample of the nearly 20 different layers that were rendered to make the final look photo real.
Seasonally the animations throughout the Apple Retail Store change. From Back-to-School, to product launches, to the Holiday shopping season. I've lost count at the number of animations I worked on or lead between 2002 and 2006 but the most challenging, innovative and fun was the Holiday 2003 window.
The red ribbon became a seasonal icon for the retail stores and looking a variety of different ways it could show up I worked with Kent Oberheu to create a series of animations. One would be played on the Genius Bar screens and the other would be in the store window.
What made the store window so special was this would be a single animation that spanned 5 different laptops. 2 iBooks (12" & 14") and 3 MacBook Pros (12", 15" & 17") sat on a thin platform with synchronized movies running. The effect worked really well, but the process to get there a series of problems. It was created as a single large animation that was then cropped into smaller windows. We had to compensate for the pixel density variance across all screens since both iBooks and the 12" MacBook Pro all had the same resolution, while the 15" and 17" MacBook Pros both had much higher resolutions. Getting the movies to sync required a time clock check on opening of each movie on the selected machine. Each machine had its own specific file to ensure the effect was achieved properly.
The complexities behind the final product are completely invisible to the viewer in the end.
The very first project I did for Apple was when I worked for the agency MarchFirst. This was the animated logo for QuickTime 5 which shipped in October of 2000 inside of the first version of OSX. One of the biggest additions to this release was the Sorenson 3 codec. It is rumored that h.264 was tweaked to make Sorenson files as small as they were. The final shipping animation was 190x240 and a whopping 55kb, well below the target 80kb. Thinking well ahead of the standard definition days the animation was created at film resolution to support future high res needs which came in handy a couple years later when an HD version was requested.
Don't blink, you might miss it.