Digital creativity with a Japanese twist, an interview with Paul Boyland from Panasonic
Digital creativity with a Japanese twist, an interview with Paul Boyland from Panasonic4 minutes
This article is presented with the support of Panasonic. Xn Québec and Panasonic join forces to bring you the latest trends in technological innovation.
A large number of digital experiences producers gathered to attend the unveiling of the finalists for the NUMIX AWARDS gala on April 13, at Les 7 Doigts de la Main in Montreal.
This event, presented with the participation of Panasonic, coincided with another event launched by the Japanese brand: the Tech Days. For the occasion, the manufacturer presented its latest projectors (and a few surprises!) to local technophiles.
What's more, Paul Boyland, was on hand to meet with the province's digital experience producers. The Canadian, a graduate of York University in Toronto, holds a key position at Panasonic (Media Entertainment Business Division) in Tokyo.
We took the opportunity to learn more about his background, Panasonic's role in the creative cultural industries, and his favourite digital experiences made in Quebec.
Paul Boyland, Panasonic Media Entertainment Business Division. Photo credit: Merryl B. Lavoie.
Hello Paul! Thanks for taking a moment to chat with us!
It's a pleasure!
So, how did you get started at Panasonic?
When I was in high school and in university, I spent some time in Japan and learned Japanese. So, when I was looking for a job out of university, I went to a job fair in Boston for people who can speak English and Japanese. Panasonic was there and they pretty much offered me a job right away. I was expecting to go for a year or two and it's been 15 years now (laughs).
Panasonic is a global brand. What kind of working environment is it?
Panasonic has been around for over 100 years now, but we still have kind of a very strong sense of tradition and a set of core values that we follow. It also can have this feeling of a small company because each business line is meant to run itself as a business rather than Panasonic as a whole.
And more specifically for your division, how do you contribute to the creative industries?
It's not just about the products, it's not just about the hardware.
Our customers need help, for example, with doing projection design. They need advice on what type of servers or systems they need to put together.
So, we try to work with the customers as much as possible from a very early stage of their projects, from the ideation stage into the installation, and then even through the operation so that we can help make their daily operation smoother.
Projectors on display at the Panasonic Tech Days. Photo credit: Merryl B. Lavoie.
So, today, you're presenting new equipment in Montreal. Why Montreal?
I think that Montreal is absolutely unique regarding the number and the quality of creators that are here.
I'm based in Japan and I've been taking care of the Canadian market, especially Montreal market for the last five years or so, and have always been taking the message back to Japan that Montreal is a really special place. At this event, we're lucky to have nine people joining us from Japan so they can see it in person, and they've all been extremely impressed.
Traditionally for Panasonic, our big events have been at Infocomm, ISE and the likes. These huge trade shows where you have 50 to 70 thousand visitors. But at this event where we've had a few hundred people, we've met the same number of high-quality people who are looking to do ambitious and interesting things.
How can the local creative community help Panasonic and its R&D department?
In the past, we were just about creating products and hoping that people would use them.
But we've realized that — especially with kind of the fragmentation of the market — that different people need completely different things. And it doesn't make sense for us to just design a product in Japan and expect that it's going to be useful for people all over the world.
So, it's very important for us to talk to the customers and find out what they need now, what they’ll need in the future and then try to make products based on those needs.
It takes at least a year, but generally two to three years to bring a projector to market. So, there aren't very many people who are really thinking what they're going to need three years from now. But I think the more visionary and ambitious people are, the more likely they are going to be able to have those sorts of ideas.
And how can you help the creative community here in Montreal?
There are so many creators here, but there's only so many projects that can take place in Montreal. So, most companies are really focused on selling projects outside of Montreal, outside of Quebec, outside of Canada.
Some of the companies are big enough that they can do that. But there are smaller companies that can't support a project overseas. As an organization, Panasonic is well established all over the world, so we can support projects everywhere.
For example, people like Jeffrey Acres, who is here in Montreal, can be aware of all the projects that are happening, listen to what each customer needs and then connect to our organization worldwide.
And like I was saying before, we can help anything from the ideation stage right through to the operation.
Can you tell me more about the remote maintenance platform?
Previously, creators would go abroad at the time of the installation, set things up and everything would look beautiful and work fine. But as time goes by, there can be issues that arise and a lot of the time the local staff doesn't really have the knowhow to fix the problems, or they don't even notice if there is a problem.
So, what we're trying to do with this is give visibility. From anywhere in the world. It's a cloud system. So, if you have a project anywhere in the world, you can just pull up the information in your browser. You have the diagnostics on your screen and you can call the local guys and walk them through how to fix the problem.
And in recent years, what Quebec projects presented elsewhere in the world have impressed you the most?
My favorite project that I've ever seen using projectors was Moment Factory’s Kamuy Lumina. It's in the Akan Mashu national park in northern Japan, outside, in a big forest. There are deer walking around.
What’s surprising is that when I visited during the day, I didn't even notice the projectors until they were pointed out to me.
And then, when we went back in the evening for the show, it was transformed into a multimedia playground with a really good story and a digital deer walking around it. That was really cool.
We've had a good relationship with MUTEK both in Montreal and in Japan, and together with them, we did a project called the Eternal Art Space in Tokyo where we help them put together a big immersive space within Panasonic Centre in Tokyo. And then they invited artists from all over the world to create content for the space. And so that was amazing because we could see in the same space all the different flavours of content that could be created.
And then, of course, there’s MAPP. They put our projector on a bicycle and rolled it around Montreal but also in Yokohama for some pop-up — kind of guerilla — projections up all over the place.