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Happy Finish gears up with augmented/virtual reality for seamless brand experience

Stuart Waplington, Simon Gosling and Ashish Limaye talks about how augmented reality and virtual reality can lend a direction in brands’ search for credible innovation

Aanchal Kohli | Mumbai | May 21, 2015

(L-R) Stuart Waplington, Simon Gosling and Ashish Limaye (L-R) Stuart Waplington, Simon Gosling and Ashish Limaye

While innovation is the war cry for all brand managers as well as creative folks at agencies, many such ideas fade away when it comes to making the innovation stand out on parameters like scalability, affordability and being immersive.

Augmented reality, where a mobile device is used to overlay real world objects with digital content, and virtual reality, which enables viewing digital content through a wearable device that completely blocks out the real world and immerses you in an alternative universe, are two offerings that promise to lend a direction in brands’ search for credible innovation.

Happy Finish, a decade-old post-production studio which started in SOHO London, has today transformed into a global post-production studio known for its high standards on quality of creative execution.

BestMediaInfo caught up with the top level team – Stuart Waplington, Chairman and Founder, Happy Finish; Simon Gosling, CEO, Happy Finish; and Ashish Limaye, COO, Happy Finish, India to understand how augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) can help brands. The Happy Finish team also shared their vision and mission, the growth scope for AR/VR and more. Stuart Waplington and Ashish Limaye are speakers at Kyoorius’ two-day advertising festival MELT 2015, which gets underway in Mumbai today. Excerpts:

You started in 2004 and entered India in 2011. How has the voyage been?

Simon Gosling: Founded in 2004 by Chairman Stuart Waplington and Creative Directors Rainer Usselmann and Chris Roome, Happy Finish was set up to represent the best digital artists in the world, allowing art directors, photographers and brands the freedom to develop creative ideas and unique visual styles, often pushing the boundaries of what is possible to set new standards in the industry.

Since then, the journey has been exciting and encouraging. We entered India with an aim to deliver quality post production services in areas like creative retouching (fashion, beauty, skin, hair, product, automobiles, etc.), CG still (modelling, texturing, lighting), CG animation (web films, 2-D and 3-D animations), and the latest offering in the virtual and augmented reality space (VR/AR).

What is the vision and mission?

Simon Gosling: To create awareness among brands and creative minds as to how virtual reality will transform the advertising industry. It may not be too long when we’re all having virtual experiences by having images projected onto our retinas. From the very first retouch, we have kept our philosophy the same, which is an uncompromised dedication to quality, which is why we are trusted by some of the world’s top brands, advertising agencies and photographers, creating some of the past decade’s most iconic advertising imagery.

What prompted you to foray into India?

Stuart Waplington: We’ve come a long way, but our objectives remain the same, which is to create inspiring visual content for our brands. India is a great market and has a lot of potential in terms of advertising and media. The technological acceptance is quite rapid in this. When I started Happy Finish, our motive was to expand the business in potential markets.

How do you think AR/VR will change the ad-world?

Stuart Waplington: It is very simple! If someone tells me something, there are chances that I might forget, but if at the same time someone shows me or engages me with something, there are high chances that I will remember it for a long time. Also, if I am involved and engaged, I will understand the brand better. This is a simple human nature that we all are aware of hence, augmented and virtual reality are two things that will help in terms of bridging the gap between the consumers and the brands, which, in turn, will change the way advertising is being perceived worldwide.

How many markets are you present in currently and what is the target that you are looking at?

Simon Gosling: Happy Finish has now grown into a global creative production house, with international studios in London, Shanghai and Mumbai offering a wide range of integrated creative services, including Retouching, CGI, CG Animation, Grading, VFX and Interactive Solutions.

Please give us a perspective of AR/VR in the Indian market.

Ashish Limaye: The space where we are in is an amalgamation of digital, entertainment and gaming. Thus, there is bound to be a bit of overlapping of figures in terms of industry size for AR/VR stuff. AR/VR uses live action or CG asset, which could be in the animation space and hence, a good chance of overlap of these things. In our own assessment, two points that put the AR/VR space in a big way in India are:

  1. Total mobile phone penetration in India is 900 million out of which only 120 million have smart phones. This gap between 900 million and 120 million will bridge very fast and will provide an opportunity for brands to place their messaging smartly packaged in the hands of consumers using smart phones.
  2. Consumers would opt for better imaging and not necessarily technology behind the app. This puts us in a unique position to offer the solution for brands and our core DNA is in imaging blended with right technology.

What clientele do you have in India?

Ashish Limaye: Happy Finish is very excited to be in India and look forward to adding value towards execution of great creative concepts for brands like Renault, Maruti, Hindustan Unilever, P&G, Johnson & Johnson, Marico, Lenovo, Nike, Diageo, Raymond, and ITC, and so on. Our association with agency partners like Ogilvy, JWT, Contract, Mudra, Famous Innovations, Grey, and Leo Burnett helps in delivering quality post production with European standards but at Indian prices.

What excites you the most?

Simon Gosling: The way consumers are accepting technological changes that the world is witnessing. At the same time we are really proud to offer what makes our clients reach newer heights and stand ahead of the curve. We have been offering solutions across all media formats, including engaging/ interactive and still.

What are the challenges that you face?

Simon Gosling: The biggest challenge in this industry is hiring the right people who are passionate about delivering out-of-the-box solutions for our clients. Our team of top digital artists, developers and designers work together over the different disciplines to help deliver inspiring multi-platform content, from a single image to international integrated campaigns.

Since you have been talking about the innovative solutions that you have created for your brands, could you share a few of them?

Ashish Limaye: We are proud of the projects completed at Happy Finish. Take a look at some of our recent campaigns and find out more about how they were created.

We created Virtual Reality Cricket, which places you, the batsman, at the crease, at the heart of the action. Put on the Samsung Gear VR Headset and swing your motion-censored cricket bat. Will you be out for a duck or smashing a six? Blending video footage with the interactivity of a game, users are invited to take part in a cricket match using a virtual reality headset and cricket bat.

We also created CG animation from HFIN for Renault Lodgy, which is one of Happy Finish India’s biggest clients. The film focussing on the ‘power’ of the new Renault Lodgy is the first of three films being used to promote the launch of the new Lodgy model. Working on brilliant imagery using CG stills, alongside L&K Saatchi & Saatchi, it is another piece of fantastic automotive work from our Mumbai studio. The second and third films are now also released and can be viewed.

These are just a few, but we have been doing a lot of work in the fields of CG animation, CG still advertising work and still retouch automotive work.

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