In terms of recognizability and awards, it doesn’t get much bigger than Taylor Swift in today’s music scene (Swift has won ten Grammys and is the ninth most followed user on Instagram). Known for her talent, and relatability, Swift embraces her whimsical/funny personality. It’s a side of her that Konstantin and Concept Overdrive helped to manifest in the recent AT&T/ Direct TV “Caticorn” commercial. Taylor got the complete treatment from Smola who not only set up the hydraulic equipment and electronics for the Caticorn but also operated the six-axis motion base that animated it. The entire apparatus was placed on a ‘motion base’ platform supported by numerous hydraulic cylinders able to tilt the platform in any angle. All four feet and shoulders moved independently, creating a realistic walking look. With Taylor perched atop, Konstantin was responsible for the safety of one of the world’s biggest pop stars, which was seemingly of no concern to the singer. Smola confirms, “Taylor was very positive and excited to be on the Caticorn for the commercial. She was relaxed and didn’t seem scared at all. Working with her was pretty fun. We had preprogrammed movements into the mechanism and I controlled them making sure to not move too rapidly. The only real safety concern was getting on and off the creature because of its size. We had stunt coordinator to assist with this.”
When not working with those creating popular art, Konstantin finds himself involved in modern high-art such as Don Colen’s “Sweet Liberty” exhibition or Jordon Wolfson’s Art installation. These current day visionaries are utilizing technology in their work to create sensory experiences never before possible. Konstantin (via Concept Overdrive) created an interface between Academy Award Winning motion control software “Overdrive” and 3D motion capture software "Optitrack." Smola wrote a plugin which allows real-time motion control data to stream into the Overdrive software. The captured data is then used to make sure the mechanism is moving as planned in a highly precise fashion. Konstantin explains, “The nature of live art installations requires precision and achieving this in an instantaneous timeframe. The system we created streams real-time data captured by an Optitrack system into Overdrive, which then uses that data to move an actuator into the correct position. Optitrack is a motion capture system, precisely capturing real-time environments. This plugin allows Overdrive to precisely know where things are in the scene if there is no other method available. Usually you would use some sort of encoder or position sensor but with this plugin you can get accurate results even when installing position sensors is not practical.”
Regardless of the lofty aspirations of art or its integration with advertising and commerce, Konstantin Smola continually proves that technology is part of the evolving medium of art. As it continues to progress, those like Konstantin will be an essential facet of the curiosity and the wonderment that is revealed…either on your TV, computer, or in art museums. For this native son of Austria who took a leap of faith into the entertainment (film, TV, etc.) production world, his path to lauded special effects technician is one paved with experiences involving the famous and the intriguing.