Storytelling Through Immersive Media Experiences

David Crites, Immersive Media Specialist

Imagine using computer-generated imagery (CGI) to plunge visitors into the teeming life of the Devonian Sea more than 400 million years ago—or figuring out how to project films onto the “exploding” fragments of a house during the Battle of First Manassas and a stylized “cave” during the American Civil War Siege of Vicksburg. David did all those for Solid Light—created experiences—and wrote the music too. A longtime collaborator with Solid Light Owner/President Cynthia Torp and Executive Creative Director John Murphy, David brings a diverse skill set to our clients’ projects. 

“Humans have relied on storytelling forever. I can basically take a script and a file of pictures and turn a story into a film—in some cases, an immersive experience—that many times will play across multiple screens at once.

I’ve always connected very much to the way music is used in films. When I was about 10 years old, my dad took the family to see 2001: A Space Odyssey. Even at that age, I was struck by how Gyoergy Ligeti’s music worked with the visuals and the story—the emotional impact that music can add to a film.

I was a composer originally. After college, I went out to Los Angeles to study music. I spent about a decade doing session guitar work and composing music for films and television. After we moved to Louisville to raise our daughter, I began teaching myself what I do now. I’ve worked on Solid Light projects for 18 years.

How do I determine the appropriate music for a scene in a Solid Light film or experiences? My music has always been driven by a sense of the visual, and the visuals I create have always been driven by music. It’s a symbiotic relationship.”

Learning From Every Project

“The challenges are different in every project. The vastness of what we were trying to communicate with the film for the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center [in Clarksville, Indiana] was daunting. The story begins four and a half billion years ago in space, comes down through the Devonian Sea, and goes into things beyond. So that film had a lot of high-resolution CGI stuff that needed to be created from nothing.

Over the years, the bulk of my editing—at least 80 percent—has been for unusual and unique format screens. The Henry House and the Vicksburg Cave media in the American Civil War Museum [in Richmond, Virginia] were technically challenging because of the 3D dome lens we used and the unusual-shaped screens.

During our testing, I learned that the 3D physicality of the nine screens in the Cave broke up the images in ways I couldn’t anticipate when looking at them on a flat screen. It’s very different when you’re in the actual space and you have this image broken up into these different planes on the Z axis, the depth axis. (There’s a lot of geometry in this job.) The first time I tried to move a still image across the screens, my brain didn’t like it. I had to do some specialized projection mapping onsite for the film to work.”

David’s Advice:

“Film is still the most powerful medium to get across your message and what you’re trying to communicate to the world. Even when we start talking about virtual reality and augmented reality, those encompass a crafted media experience. Since the advent of film more than 100 years ago, the combination of visuals, music, and story has done nothing but grow, expand, and become more powerful. It will continue to do so as the technology develops.”

David Crites, Immersive Media Specialist, is a nationally recognized and award-winning composer, audio engineer, film editor, and visual effects artist whose work includes the World of Coca-Cola’s “Everywhere Coca-Cola” and the National Constitution Center’s 360-degree orientation film “Freedom Rising”. When he’s not crafting immersive media in his darkened office, you might find him at the swimming pool or playing his guitar.