Marti Romances of Territory Studio: “Just do it”

No matter what happens with any of the projects you’re involved in, remember that we are here to make a positive impact. The motivation from each individual in an organization is important, and you need to team up with the best and the brightest to succeed. Always be nice while expecting everyone else to do […]

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No matter what happens with any of the projects you’re involved in, remember that we are here to make a positive impact. The motivation from each individual in an organization is important, and you need to team up with the best and the brightest to succeed. Always be nice while expecting everyone else to do the same. You’ll never change the world alone.

The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on… What’s next? What’s just around the corner?

In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marti Romances.

Marti Romances is creative director and co-founder of Territory Studio, San Francisco. Born and educated in Barcelona Marti draws from a range of influences, disciplines, and perspectives. A motion graphic designer and multimedia artist, Marti’s visual and experiential motion GFX are on display in films including Ad Astra, The Martian, Ex Machina, the Avengers franchise, Blade Runner 2049, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Marti’s continued willingness to experiment with bold ideas has attracted brands such as IBM, GM, Cadillac, Lincoln, and Fisker, while gaming clients include EA Sports, 2K, Warner Bros. Games, and Microsoft.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Sure! I grew up in Barcelona and feel blessed to have always been surrounded by art in many forms. My father is a musician while my mother teaches, so we always had art projects and music in the family throughout my formative years…

I studied Multimedia Design and it allowed me to learn about so many different aspects of media, everything from radio, to film, to design. When I discovered Motion Graphics and Visual Effects I fell in love with the creative opportunities it brought to the table.

I worked in post-production in Barcelona for four years before moving to the UK to work for Activision and Nintendo and became busy creating video games. When I met David and Nick Glover, the founding partners of Territory Studio, I embraced the opportunity to help them grow the London office.

After four years I moved to San Francisco and opened our second office, becoming Co-Founder and Creative Director of the studio five years ago.

I have been fortunate to find my passion in working with film, technology, and games. This is all a reflection of what I loved while growing up, always excited about the latest innovations and deeply curious about the potential of design. I have also been extremely fortunate to find so many great people to work with on this journey, from partners to artists that have helped Territory expand its vision and win forward-thinking clients with incredibly exciting projects.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

There are many! I think one project I’ll never forget was the first time I went onto a film set for Marvel. This was Captain America: The Winter Soldier, our very first Marvel projects. To be there during the production of a film was a dream come true, but to also see my graphics being used on set, captured through the cinematographer’s lens, was even more exciting.

However, it was when both Art Director Alan Payne and Production Designer Charles Wood told me that my holographic designs ended up impacting one of the physical props on set (Loki’s Scepter) that my mind melted. I envisioned our graphics would be more of a background element in the film, but they also had a huge influence on the design of the overall set. This was a real eye-opener for me, realizing the potential and the power of design in a marquee Hollywood film.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I would say people should never fear applying their skills and experience to other industries that are different from their field of expertise and learning. Cross-platform creative professional activity has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my career. This experience inspired me personally to grow a new studio from scratch here in San Francisco and expand our reach as a recognized multidisciplinary creative shop. So, The adage rings true: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Many people have been an influence on my creative journey, many of whom I’ve learned so much from. They were my leads and directors. I could mention quite a few who have pushed me creatively, such as Senior Creative and Compositor Carlos Zapater, Game Designer & Interactive Specialist Jonny Severn, UI Artist & Art Director artist Yugen Blake.

But the main influences would have to be my Territory Studio business partners and founders, Nick Glover and David Sheldon-Hicks, who have trusted me implicitly from the very beginning of our relationships.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We have a good faith work ethic to help both friends and people in need, and a drive to bring positive change to the world through design. Technology is often seen as dystopian when, in fact, it offers so much more when it comes to doing good. We are expanding our reach into new markets all the time. We recently completed full 3D exoskeletal design prosthetics for the Atom Touch, the world’s most advanced robotic arm:

Helping create a mind-controlled prosthetic limb to improve the quality-of-life for an amputee is immensely rewarding for us. As technology and protocols evolve, so do we, working passionately on projects that push the boundaries of the imagination. We’ve managed to create a studio allowing artists direct access to high caliber projects, working with empathy and openness to understand and answer every client’s particular need. This, in turn, brings more business from companies that seek positive change in the world.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting-edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Designing and integrating future tech for Marvel and other science fiction films has given us the ability to flex creatively for products, brands, and IPs in the real world.

Each client offers unique design challenges because the way we communicate changes with the technology that we use. We’ve created user experiences across so many different verticals, and this variety of work allows us to design in new and unexpected ways.

One of the most exciting tech verticals we are working on is the transformation happening in the automotive industry. The introduction of new forms of communication is drastically changing in-car experiences from a user perspective. The future of augmented reality is far-reaching and very exciting; look at the likes of HUD, facial and voice recognition, biometric identification, even hand gestures that will change display modes to suit different driving conditions. These technologies are optimizing the in-car experience up to the point where the driver is now a passenger.

I think AR and VR also have lots to offer across different industries, something we focus on being so close to 3D design and interface creation.

How do you think this might change the world?

It will finally disrupt the concept of the “screen” and the way we frame information. We are accustomed to looking out at the square box since television was invented back in 1927, but are beginning to look inward to embrace first-person experiences. This will change how we see and control digital layers and change the way we interact with others; how we play, drive a car, or do anything that involves a deeply curated user experience.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Any of the innovations we see that are created for the greater good can always fall into the hands of bad actors… but then again there will always be bad case studies for new technologies no matter which one you focus on.

The most important thing is to anticipate potential events before they happen. We’ve seen how private data has been badly managed by centralized monopolies, all without anyone knowing what was happening. It was a new paradigm shift, how were we supposed to know? Every week it seems as if new security breaches are hitting the headlines…

But I believe we can be better at speculating on “what could happen?” Even if we use AI to simulate events to decipher where things will go, that (to me) could be an interesting approach. Humans are pretty predictable after all.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Nothing specific, it’s more about embracing change and seeing how so many new technologies are rapidly evolving. Living in San Francisco for the past five years and working so closely with new tech and innovations has definitely impacted my way of thinking.

As creative specialists, we thrive on future vision challenges. There was one client I will always remember, an eye-based tech company that requested speculative designs and animation for its new Augmented Reality technology. Nothing new, so we experimented with headsets and applications featuring AR capabilities. The shock came when they explained how their product worked; a prototype AR contact lens with a tiny embedded display using micro “heaters” to project images onto the retina, effectively heating your cones to send an RGB signal to the brain! This allows for the ability to project graphics onto the retina using the contact lens surface.

Brilliant yet scary tech, but if we can get to that point of communicative precision it would be an easy task to “hide” that augmented layer from the rest of the world, thereby avoiding any social friction. If you imagine this connected to a Neuralink chip with other hardware to expand and further augment the experience we are approaching superhuman cognition.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Look at Apple and Facebook who are just now trying to build AR and VR experiences, and hardware. The market is already there. Technology is advancing faster and taking less time to be widely adopted than ever before.

Visionaries with money and patience will continue to find talented people to create products for general adoption that improve the quality of our lives, regardless of who we are, where we come from, or what we believe in.

A decentralized mentality to move forward with self-governance systems is also an important next step. Nobody should be forced to sell their data to powerful entities with questionable motives just to participate in and use technology. People’s basic rights of freedom need to be respected.

I would also say that technology needs to evolve and improve at a realistic rate, not set externally by powerful tech companies slowly dripping features and tech, following scheduled plans to monetize business above everything and everybody else.

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?

I believe fully integrated AR, VR, and MR systems can allow us to be everywhere. The idea from the very beginning was to transport people to faraway worlds. In terms of entertainment we’ve seen video games and experiential experiences evolve rapidly over the past 5 years.

However, the same amount of effort and lessons we’ve learned from creating technology needs to be applied to our everyday needs, especially telepresence. Working environments have changed to the point where new and novel ways to cooperate in a virtual environment have to be embraced and used.

We had to envision these types of cooperative environments for many films, especially Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One.” This was a moonshot vision examining what it would look like to have a high level of sensorial virtual experiences. We’ve also worked with people who are translating that kind of future vision into more practical applications, such as the X-Prize project that would allow telepresence to jump to the next level by merging virtual controls with robotics.

Instead of controlling elements in a virtual environment imagine remote robotic technologies controlling elements in another real environment from afar. When a pilot is flying a real jet from their armchair, or a surgeon performing numerous operations each day in five different countries without leaving their home, you begin to realize the opportunities that AR and VR offer us.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1 — I wish parents were more open to letting their kids explore new worlds through video games and other new mediums of communication. I believe there is no point in limiting a child’s development by doing so or thinking that video games are a bad idea — obviously within healthy limits.

2 — For young generations to not be fixated on the ultimate goal in the future, but to realize that it is about experiencing the journey, one of self-improvement and finding your purpose in a more organic way. We don’t live in the industrial revolution or any era that previous generations were shaped to. You have the golden opportunity to think differently.

3 — No matter what happens with any of the projects you’re involved in, remember that we are here to make a positive impact. The motivation from each individual in an organization is important, and you need to team up with the best and the brightest to succeed. Always be nice while expecting everyone else to do the same. You’ll never change the world alone.

4 — Just do it. Embrace that mentality of actually doing things you believe in rather than sitting in meetings for hours talking about that idea. Go out there and make them happen, even as a low-fidelity prototype to prove some points.

5 — I wished someone told me I could get rich by selling my digital art as NFTs! 🙂 (just kidding, I love what I do)

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Probably convince people about the importance of self-governance solutions for most of the things that are important for modern society to function. We are seeing this happen with decentralized finance solutions such as Bitcoin as a store of value as trillions of dollars continue to be printed.

Other exciting decentralized opportunities include SIA, an open-source network solving the storage solution while building a free internet called Skynet; Cardano, serving underdeveloped nations and banking the unbanked; and SingularityNET whose vision to democratize AI using the world’s first decentralized AI network holds promise. There are better solutions ready for acceptance that can create a better future; we just have to embrace them.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.

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