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Technology & Design

16 Mahurangimatters April 18, 2018



Kursalon music hall in Vienna.

Skibo castle in Scotland.

Darkroom pushes video technology to spectacular heights It might seem strange for a company at the cutting edge of content creation for advanced video technology to abandon a commercial and cultural centre like London in favour of Warkworth, but Bruce Ferguson and wife Emma Wolf have few regrets. Bruce, the creative director, and Emma, the creative producer, at Darkroom, saw an opportunity to return home, purchase a little land, acquire a few sheep and escape the rat race. At the same time, they established their business on the upper floor of the old BNZ building on Neville Street. Bruce says having a solid reputation among international clients in the United Kingdom means they can

continue to serve those clients equally well from New Zealand. “Having a relationship is more important than where you are based,” he says. Darkroom specialises in creating Virtual Reality (VR) video and Augmented Reality (AR) video. VR normally requires a user to wear a headset and sees them completely escape the real world for a virtual one. AR, on the other hand, involves the overlaying of graphic images over real objects. A typical example would see video images projected on to a stage, or in to the dome, or the side of a building during a big public event.

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The building’s architectural features then become a canvas on which the video is played out. They might be highlighted, modified, brought to life or eliminated, depending on the effect the video is trying to create. Traditional video has been contained within the “box” of a conventional television or movie screen. “We work outside the box. How the video gets presented is as important as the actual content of the video,” Bruce says. The range of effects is unlimited, startling and stunning. Watch a Darkroom show reel and a building’s windows might suddenly become illuminated and filled with musicians

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and dancers; it might be brightly lit up with multicoloured lights like a fairground attraction, or suddenly disintegrate and be transformed into something dark and sinister. Darkroom is the market leader for AR in New Zealand. It’s an area that Bruce is especially drawn to because it allows viewers to share an experience as a group, rather than having an individual put on a headset and disappear into their own world. Major landmarks that have benefited from the Darkroom treatment include Marble Arch and the Imagination building in London, Skibo Castle in Scotland, the magnificent Madrid

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Technology & Design

April 18, 2018 Mahurangimatters 17

More photos online at

Ferry Building in Auckland.

from previous page

Town Hall (Palacio de Cibeles) and the Kursalon music hall in Vienna. Beyond entertainment, the technology has practical applications too. Darkroom has done a lot of work with Les Mills’ gym clubs. Those riding exercycles are presented with a cycle path projected on to a screen in front of them. They might start by negotiating conventional terrain, then suddenly find themselves taken through jungles, up volcanoes or even into space or under water. Bruce says that while finding staff locally with animation experience has its challenges, Warkworth is far from being a backwater in this regard. The Huhu animation studios are a mere stone’s throw away in Snells

Beach and many of Darkroom’s staff trained at Lifeway College, also originally in Snells Beach. Local AR and VR enthusiasts meet regularly at the Tahi Bar to “share ideas, fool around and have some fun.” Bruce says prospects for the technology are bright, with all kinds of medical and engineering applications in the future. Sensors on a patient’s body might be used to present a 3D image of a diseased organ which can be viewed from all angles and manipulated in “real space” by a surgeon, rather than be confined to a video screen. “It’s important to recognise that this technology is not just a fad or a toy or a gimmick. It can be really useful,” Bruce says.

Technology & Design

18 Mahurangimatters April 18, 2018

Getting noticed online By Grant Henderson, Free Range Media

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As our community grows, and with the influx of tourists each holiday, ensuring your organisation or small business can be found online easily is critical for capturing attention. The good news is, the tools are available. Manage your Google listing If your business is not coming up in Google Maps or Google Search, or the information is out of date, you’re missing out. To update this yourself, open a Google Business account ( then click “Info” on the menu. Now you can update your address, contact details, hours and more. Update your Google photos Have you changed the signage outside your store? Or updated the interior? In Google Business, click the Photos link. Here you can add new photos, videos or even a 360-degree shot, which you can take with your smartphone. These new images will appear when people search for your business, helping create a great first impression. How’s your website? Speaking of first impressions, a professional website is critical for creating a great online presence. Relying on a Facebook page, which does not come up well in Google Search, is a poor substitute. Google may also penalise you if your website is old and doesn’t work well on mobile devices. The good news is that you can build a website yourself if you have some ability with words and photos and an eye for layout. Google offers a free tool under Google Business, and there are other online services too. Or, you can hire an agency to take care of this for you. Make the most of Google search With a good website in place, it’s important to get as many visitors to it as possible. When people search for your goods or services, they’ll find you on Google through either Paid Search (SEM) or Organic/Free Search (SEO). SEM gets your business into the four paid slots at the top of Google’s search results. For this, you’ll need an AdWords account ( and a daily budget. You can do this yourself, though it gets complicated quickly, or you can outsource it to an agency. SEO is free, but takes time and effort to develop. It comes down to many factors, including how well your website is built, if it’s mobile-friendly, the content, its relevance to visitors and many other details. You can open an account Google Webmasters account at webmasters/tools and start exploring. Chairman of the Jane Gifford Restoration Trust Steering Committee Dave Parker receiving a cheque from Warkworth Lions president David Little for $1300. Warkworth Lions hosted Kowhai Coast Lions, Mahurangi Rotary, Warkworth Rotary and the Kowhai Festival committee on a 3-hour cruise to Scott’s Landing with the goal of raising funds for a new sun shade for the Jane Gifford boat deck. Warkworth Lions Club is a long-time supporter of the Jane Gifford and carries out a quarterly clean of the vessel as an ongoing project.

Technology & Design

April 18, 2018 Mahurangimatters 19

Although physical audiobooks on CD are still a popular resource at Warkworth Library, they may become a thing of the past.

Auckland library patrons join global eAudiobooks boom it’s on the decline,” Catherine says. This growth is an international trend, although NZ is leading the charge, with growth in Australia over the past year at 36 per cent, United Kingdom 28 per cent and Canada 24 per cent. “I think the growth in this area is partly due to the content being made available in this format and the growing use of mobile devices. “You can also listen to an eAudiobook while doing a number of daily activities, however research is showing that more people are starting to use them while they relax.” Globally, 57 per cent of people listen to their eAudiobooks at home, while

32 per cent listen to them in the car. Adult fiction has proved the most popular genre for eAudiobook listeners, followed by teen fiction and then adult non-fiction; similar to ebooks. “The one difference we do see with the genre is that adult non-fiction makes up a significantly bigger proportion of check-outs in the eAudiobooks format compared to ebooks.” Despite eAudiobooks becoming more used than audio books, Warkworth Library senior librarian Heather Jackson says physical check-outs are still popular. “People who are not so confident with technology are more likely to take out CDs,” Heather says.

“We see this particularly with our homebound service, where we deliver audio books to people who may struggle to read but can still listen.” She says the digital format has the benefit of customers not being able to lose or scratch discs, and encourages people to try out eAudiobooks. “The Auckland Libraries website makes it simple to get set up with eAudiobooks and if you’re having difficulty, you can call the library and book time with a librarian to get set up,” Heather says. Visit eAudiobooks.aspx or call 09 377 0209

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People are closing their eyes and opening their ears across Auckland Libraries as eAudiobooks become the fastest growing material to be checked out. Over the past year, the increase in check-outs for eAudiobooks in New Zealand was 40 per cent and overtook check-outs of physical audio material for the first time in Auckland. Auckland Libraries head of content and access Catherine Leonard says the content has been well used since its inception in 2013. “We’ve consistently seen a growing popularity with eAudiobooks since their introduction. Although our physical audio material is well used,

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Mahurangi Matters 18 April 2018 - Technology and Design  

Mahurangi Matters 18 April 2018 - Technology and Design

Mahurangi Matters 18 April 2018 - Technology and Design  

Mahurangi Matters 18 April 2018 - Technology and Design