From around the world, almost 20,000 people chipped in on a five-minute animated film that features a love story between a guitar and a violin. You could have been one of them. All you needed was a Facebook account and an itch for computer-generated animation. The Mass Animation project, led by Yair Landau, is showing how much further crowdsourcing can go, and how traditional production methods may get left behind.
David Perry is also pushing the limits, and expectations, of just what's possible by tapping the brainpower of the multitude. Project Top Secret, which Perry began in early 2007, has elicited contributions from 60,000 people who have signed in to help create a giant multiplayer online game. Like Landau, Perry is a novice in his new creative role. Both still have their day jobs: Landau, 45, is head of Bedouin Media, a production company; Perry, 41, runs Gameconsultants.com. And both claim their concepts have proven wildly successful. So how did they do it?
After seven years as president of Sony Digital Pictures (SNE), Landau didn't need to take a big jump to launchMass Animation, a three-way partnership of Intel (INTL), Dell (DELL), and Facebook. He got interested after a friend at Facebook told him how easily Facebook was able totranslate its Web site into different languages by simply letting users do the work. Facebook, meantime, was interested in seeing what other crowdsourcing projects it could come up with. Familiar with Landau's work in digital movies, Facebook approached Landau about crowdsourcing a movie via its site and Live Music, the animated tale, was born in Los Angeles.
HARNESSING GROUP POWER
Perry, a 26-year veteran of the video-game industry with several No. 1 titles under his belt, was looking for ways to include the video-game community into the production of games. Working with Acclaim Entertainment, the Beverly Hills resident had also seen how crowdsourcing made translation easier: On their own, users would record game dialogue in different languages. Perry and Acclaim figured gamers could do much more. On a plane ride from Korea to the U.S. in November 2006, Perry and Acclaim Chief Executive Howard Marks agreed to launch a contest that would crowdsource a full-fledged game. "We just decided to give them the rope to let them hang themselves," he laughs. In early 2007, Project Top Secretbegan.
Landau and Facebook spent less than $250,000 creating the Mass Animation application that would run on the site and host the entire contest. It was built by AniBOOM and SpreadApp and designed by Noise New York. Autodesk (ADSK) was brought in to provide a trial version of the industry-popular Maya animation software. To help users along, Landau created storyboards, character models, and broke the movie into 107 shots for the crowd to animate.
Within two months, 50,000 people became "fans" of the project on Facebook. A third of them stepped up to either animate a segment, uploading QuickTime video files to the Facebook app, or vote on submissions through the application or by creating their own fan pages. In the end, people from 101 countries contributed animated shots. Each person with a winning clip won $500. In addition, Dell and Intel, which used the contest to promote its Core i7 processor, gave away a Dell Studio XPS computer every week. In all, the sponsors spent about $1 million and eight months on the project. Landau says producing the same five minutes of film by traditional methods would have cost millions more and taken at least six months longer.