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Behind the Work

Reinvigorating the Archives

Reinvigorating the Archives

Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

March 13, 2020

Ekino’s Ky Lân Vu Tong and Kirell Benzi on Ekino’s incredible capabilities and how a 3D data dome brought to life decades of untouched archives to engage music fans.

"The goal of the project was to let visitors relive some of the most iconic concerts in the history of music in an interactive 3​-D data sculpture"

A unique collaboration between Ekino and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) marked the prestigious Swiss university’s 50th anniversary earlier this year. The impressive project drew together EPFL and the iconic Montreux Jazz and allowed celebrants to relive historic performances from the event’s most famous acts (think Miles Davis and BB King) through an immersive and interactive 3-D data full-dome installation. Drawing from a media database, the immersive dome brought the festival’s extensive archives to life, allowing visitors to experience more than 13,000 videos and 5,400 cuts, mixes and replays of major titles, throughout its month-long run in the university’s ArtLab. Atelier by Ekino’s Ky Lân Vu Tong, Head of Innovation, and Kirell Benzi, Creative Data Scientist, talk about the agency’s capabilities and how they brought “Jazz Luminaries” to life.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and why its 50th anniversary was such an important occasion to mark?

Ky Lân Vu Tong: EPFL is one of the ​most prestigious universities in the world,​ and is currently ranked second in the “under 50 year old” institutions. This anniversary represented the first milestone of its continuous growth and was a special occasion to celebrate both its origin and its shining future.

Can you tell us a little bit about what the project aimed to do?

KVT: The goal of the project was to celebrate the partnership between EPFL and the Montreux Jazz by letting visitors discover and relive some of the most iconic concerts in the history of music in an interactive 3​-D data sculpture.​ In essence, this piece also demonstrates that a media database can also be experienced in a fun and emotional manner.

It seems like it was a massive project. What was involved in its preparation?

KVT: Prof. Sarah Kenderdine, head of the Artlab museum at EPFL, and superstar in the field of experimental museology, was the main instigator and coordinator of this project. She asked our team at the Atelier (Ekino’s innovation department) to create an exhaustive visualization of a huge amount of data. To give you an idea – the current database has more than 11,000 hours of video, more than 100,000 pictures and represents more than 3PiB (3000 TiB) of data.

The other challenge was to create a new way to naturally navigate within this kind of visualization. So we built a spherical device specifically designed to control big data representations. Our familiarity with the MJF corpus allowed us to be quite efficient in the realization of the project. Nevertheless it took around five months to complete with several technical challenges that we had to overcome such as the hemierical projection, realtime graphics, and video streaming.

"Organizations are slowly realizing the value of the data they didn’t know they had"

Who are some of the most exciting artists that feature?

KVT: Name any world famous musician or singer, he/she ​has probably played at the Montreux Jazz​! To name a few: B.B King, Santana, Aretha Franklin, George Duke, Quincy Jones, Miles Davis, Etta James, Queen, Sting, Michael Jackson, Led Zeppelin and ABBA.

The project redefined the way organizations archive with technologies like machine learning, computer vision and novel visualizations. 

How do you think this will present a less partial account of history in the future for EPFL?

KVT:  ​One of the most exciting characteristics of this data visualization is that you embrace 53 years of history and can completely immerse yourself within it. This is not a simple “concept art” decorrelated from the data, this is a new way of visually and emotionally interacting with big data.

Kirell Benzi:​ Organizations are slowly realizing the value of the data they didn’t know they had. The field of digital humanities, which consists in exploring social disciplines with science and technology, is changing our perspective of history, economy, philosophy and literature. EPFL is using data and these kinds of algorithms to study the historical roles of the different faculties, the impact of its professors, its demography, or even the market opportunities for its alumni. The power to study topics with such scientific methods offers the strategic clarity needed to be less partial on one’s past and to ensure one’s future.

What was a highlight of the project for you?

KB:​ ​I was really proud to create a data art piece that would help people immerse themselves in this incredible universe, and have a tangible representation of Montreux Jazz archive’s big data. It represents the achievement of a journey that started years ago when I first started working on the archive.

KVT​: We worked on this entire project from France, far from the actual location of the Dome. Seeing the whole experience, and the way people naturally interacted with our controller for the first time was incredibly fulfilling. It demonstrates that our combination of art and science is indeed an exciting way to explore the complexity of topics.

"The goal of the project was to let visitors relive some of the most iconic concerts in the history of music in an interactive 3​-D data sculpture"

A unique collaboration between Ekino and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) marked the prestigious Swiss university’s 50th anniversary earlier this year. The impressive project drew together EPFL and the iconic Montreux Jazz and allowed celebrants to relive historic performances from the event’s most famous acts (think Miles Davis and BB King) through an immersive and interactive 3-D data full-dome installation. Drawing from a media database, the immersive dome brought the festival’s extensive archives to life, allowing visitors to experience more than 13,000 videos and 5,400 cuts, mixes and replays of major titles, throughout its month-long run in the university’s ArtLab. Atelier by Ekino’s Ky Lân Vu Tong, Head of Innovation, and Kirell Benzi, Creative Data Scientist, talk about the agency’s capabilities and how they brought “Jazz Luminaries” to life.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and why its 50th anniversary was such an important occasion to mark?

Ky Lân Vu Tong: EPFL is one of the ​most prestigious universities in the world,​ and is currently ranked second in the “under 50 year old” institutions. This anniversary represented the first milestone of its continuous growth and was a special occasion to celebrate both its origin and its shining future.

Can you tell us a little bit about what the project aimed to do?

KVT: The goal of the project was to celebrate the partnership between EPFL and the Montreux Jazz by letting visitors discover and relive some of the most iconic concerts in the history of music in an interactive 3​-D data sculpture.​ In essence, this piece also demonstrates that a media database can also be experienced in a fun and emotional manner.

It seems like it was a massive project. What was involved in its preparation?

KVT: Prof. Sarah Kenderdine, head of the Artlab museum at EPFL, and superstar in the field of experimental museology, was the main instigator and coordinator of this project. She asked our team at the Atelier (Ekino’s innovation department) to create an exhaustive visualization of a huge amount of data. To give you an idea – the current database has more than 11,000 hours of video, more than 100,000 pictures and represents more than 3PiB (3000 TiB) of data.

The other challenge was to create a new way to naturally navigate within this kind of visualization. So we built a spherical device specifically designed to control big data representations. Our familiarity with the MJF corpus allowed us to be quite efficient in the realization of the project. Nevertheless it took around five months to complete with several technical challenges that we had to overcome such as the hemierical projection, realtime graphics, and video streaming.

"Organizations are slowly realizing the value of the data they didn’t know they had"

Who are some of the most exciting artists that feature?

KVT: Name any world famous musician or singer, he/she ​has probably played at the Montreux Jazz​! To name a few: B.B King, Santana, Aretha Franklin, George Duke, Quincy Jones, Miles Davis, Etta James, Queen, Sting, Michael Jackson, Led Zeppelin and ABBA.

The project redefined the way organizations archive with technologies like machine learning, computer vision and novel visualizations. 

How do you think this will present a less partial account of history in the future for EPFL?

KVT:  ​One of the most exciting characteristics of this data visualization is that you embrace 53 years of history and can completely immerse yourself within it. This is not a simple “concept art” decorrelated from the data, this is a new way of visually and emotionally interacting with big data.

Kirell Benzi:​ Organizations are slowly realizing the value of the data they didn’t know they had. The field of digital humanities, which consists in exploring social disciplines with science and technology, is changing our perspective of history, economy, philosophy and literature. EPFL is using data and these kinds of algorithms to study the historical roles of the different faculties, the impact of its professors, its demography, or even the market opportunities for its alumni. The power to study topics with such scientific methods offers the strategic clarity needed to be less partial on one’s past and to ensure one’s future.

What was a highlight of the project for you?

KB:​ ​I was really proud to create a data art piece that would help people immerse themselves in this incredible universe, and have a tangible representation of Montreux Jazz archive’s big data. It represents the achievement of a journey that started years ago when I first started working on the archive.

KVT​: We worked on this entire project from France, far from the actual location of the Dome. Seeing the whole experience, and the way people naturally interacted with our controller for the first time was incredibly fulfilling. It demonstrates that our combination of art and science is indeed an exciting way to explore the complexity of topics.

Patricia Murphy joined Havas Group in October 2019 as a Senior Editor and Writer. She has a background in digital journalism and content creation.

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