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Creative

Whoah! It's like I;m really there!

The UK’s creative talents have inspired and dazzled the world for centuries — expressing ingenuity on stages, screens, and new media platforms.

Its globally recognised film studios and effects houses in London, Belfast and elsewhere, have sustained a long-standing practice of joining forces with international counterparts from Bollywood to Hollywood. The UK’s worldwide output of film industry services alone is nearly £2 billion a year.

The influence of British imagination is sparking innovation in digital games with 23% of this industry’s top development studios based in the country. Challenging conventions and reshaping our landscape, renowned UK architects are also helping other nations craft a future of firsts through work on groundbreaking spaceports and smart buildings.

Running man installation

What if a man’s Twitter followers came to life, prompting a crowd of people to swarm around him? Imagine a 3D piece of architecture continuously changing shape and texture as it charges forward on two legs.

Such surreal scenarios are not just the stuff of dreams. They are two examples of 21st century masterpieces by Universal Everything, a Sheffield digital design studio breaking new ground in creative visualisation through visionary thinking and high-tech tools.

The aforementioned architectural ‘video sculpture’ was shown at Beijing’s Museum of Fine Arts, Ars Electronica in Linz, and other art spaces, and ultimately caught the attention of Hyundai.

The Seoul automaker commissioned Universal Everything to create a bespoke adaptation of it to highlight the brand’s recycling process.

The result: Running Man, a riveting motion capture video and musical score which visualises the evolution of smouldering steel in human-like form into automobile and then back into steel again. The work was displayed in three locations, including New York’s Times Square.

“A significant proportion of our time is spent developing our own art pieces, prototypes and concepts and releasing them into the world in museums, exhibitions and galleries,” says Matt Pyke, Universal Everything’s founder and creative director, “Then they get seen by brands and turned into commercial commissions.”

“We’re trying to find new tools that we can use to create new forms of expression that could only be achieved by, say, motion capture, body tracking technology or holographic screens.”

Immersed in Tech

Likewise, the latest advances in video displays have piqued his interest, among them both irregular-shaped and transparent screens. Universal Everything is relentless in keeping up with emerging tech.

“We’re trying to find new tools that we can use to create new forms of expression that could only be achieved by, say, motion capture, body tracking technology or holographic screens,” he says.

He and his team have used Microsoft’s Kinect body tracking hardware to reshape human body movement into abstract real-time animation.

Joining forces with renowned French choreographer Benjamin Millepied, they captured dancers’ moves and transformed them into non-figurative digital art for a London Science Museum installation.

“We’re trying to find new tools that we can use to create new forms of expression that could only be achieved by, say, motion capture, body tracking technology or holographic screens.”

The Next Level of Design

One of Universal Everything’s newest creative forays has led them back to an exploration they began over a decade ago. Pyke and his brother Simon, a sound designer, had been researching synesthesia, a sense-crossing condition which makes people hear colours and taste sounds.

They now have plans to produce a series of immersive 360-degree films which visualise Simon’s music and take it to the next level: virtual reality. Pyke is in talks with a VR company and headset manufacturers to make this happen.

“VR is the ultimate way of creating these fully immersive, expressive all-encompassing ideas, which are very different to the narrative of traditional cinema,” he says. “We’ve got a lot of plans for VR in the future. It’s definitely going to be a big part of the studio.”

Even while embracing such tech and speeding ahead towards new frontiers, the Universal Everything team is keeping its eyes on perhaps the most precious innovation of all: creativity.

Pyke adds: “The most important thing for us is that the technology is invisible or very distant and the creative expression remains in the foreground.”

Art installation
“The most important thing for us is that the technology is invisible or very distant and the creative expression remains in the foreground.”
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