Digital calling for D&AD and AMX

Paul Murphy finds out what the D&AD Annual on DVD is all about and talks to Malcolm Garrett at AMX Studios about the implication of digital discs

Earlier this month, British Design and Art Direction released its D&AD Annual CD-ROM which, for the third year running, was designed by AMX Studios (formerly AMX Digital).

It may be unusual for a design group to keep such a good long-running relationship with a client, but it isn’t that surprising. After all, the idea of taking the moving bits of the awards and making them part of an interactive offering, pretty much came from AMX’s Malcolm Garrett in the first place.

Despite design consultancy Real Time Studio’s acquisition of an interest in AMX earlier this year, not a great deal appears to have changed. In press releases the group is now called AMX Studios rather than AMX Digital, and the Shoreditch basement office is a lot tidier, but that’s about it. At the same time Garrett says: “What we did this year with the CD-ROM, which was essentially to produce a companion DVD (digital versatile disc), wouldn’t have been possible without Real Time’s involvement and investment.”

There are basically three ways of using the above-mentioned discs: the CD-ROM plays in a regular CD-ROM drive on a Mac or a PC and uses the same look and feel of the previous two years (“which is a sign of successful design,” says Garrett), but fits all the material on to just one disc rather than four, due to improved compression techniques. The DVD, on the other hand, is slightly more complex both in its use and implications.

The DVD is “the first multi session disc pressed in the UK”, as it says on the press release. Basically, this means that with the right kit the same disc can be played on both a computer and on a regular TV set, with the experience tailored to suit whatever viewing hardware is used. So, in a computer’s DVD-ROM drive, it’s essentially the same experience as the CD-ROM version. Here, the chief advantage is the DVD’s 4.7 gigabyte capacity – seven times the capacity of a CD-ROM.

The same disc really distinguishes itself when you slip it into the domestic DVD Video player in the boardroom. All the ads and pop promos are there – as they are on the CD – but in full-screen high resolution audio and video, along with extra material, shot by AMX.

The interface is scaled down for the much simpler controls available on DVD video players which means that, in this mode, it doesn’t have the advanced features, like searching, available on the CD-ROM. But this isn’t a problem as we tend to expect greater interactivity and control sitting in front of a computer and appreciate a minimal simplicity when faced with a video player, a TV set and a comfy sofa.

Having solved a lot of the production problems in previous years, AMX was left to concentrate on the production of the DVD, which largely involved Sonic Solutions’ DVD mastering software. As James Whitmarsh, content manager on the project, says: “Last year was the first time we approached it systematically, and this year the experience gained from that was in place. What we did this year was advise the D&AD on how it should manage its data.”

Having gone digital, there’s no real limit to how far D&AD can extend the presentation of any entry in the annual. To take a slightly crass example, with DVD there’s no technical reason why each shortlisted entry can’t be accompanied by a videoed presentation by the entrant saying why they should win – the only limitations coming in terms of production resources.

So what has the DVD experience given AMX? Despite everyone talking up the potential for interactivity around digital TV, so far we’ve seen very little aside from the ability to pay over-inflated prices for premium events (Boyzone v Arsenal at Wembley, I seem to remember).

For AMX the DVD aspects of the project are an investment in this future not only in its timely convergence of design and technology, but in its understanding of how people might want to interact with their TV. As Garrett says: “I’ve always believed that everything we ever did was taking us towards interactive TV.”

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