Meet Captive


Leah Hacker
Head of Research - Accomplice

Captive is right at a year old and is the animation and experiential studio of the IWDR family. This team is responsible for kick ass digital and visual displays that are both captivating and thought-provoking. I caught up with Ryan Padgett, co-founder of Captive, to talk about the industry of immersive storytelling and motion graphics.

Let’s start with introductions. Tell our readers a little bit about who you are?

I grew up in the woods of Michigan riding bikes, building computers and playing video games. I ended up taking an interest in computer graphics throughout high school and moved to Chicago to study visual effects and motion graphics in college. Playing various musical instruments and growing up with MTV I was super passionate about music videos but soon realized they were a dying breed. I started to focus on audio-visual animation where the music was equally important to the visual associated with it, which eventually led me to VJing and making visuals for the stage.

Since moving to Austin in 2011, I’ve had the opportunity to lead and build motion design teams across various industries and hone my experience with new media technologies. I co-founded the Austin Motion Artists Group, a monthly meetup for Austin motion designers and people interested in learning about motion design that is still growing and meeting monthly 6 years later. It has been a great resource for students and industry veterans alike – we’ve got a great group of folks that come out every month.

How did Captive get started?

I was working with a prominent tech startup in Austin for a few years as well as several big name contracts independently and was really considering stepping out on my own. In 2016, Ben McCraw and Tyler Guidry approached me about a joining their family of businesses and bringing the motion and experiential capabilities of my team and network. The timing was right and considering the capabilities they brought to the table it was an easy decision.

From the start, our vision was to integrate experiential design into brand expression for our clients. We aim for engaging experiences that capture a story and create a memorable experience for your brand. We chose the name Captive because it’s representative of what we strive for with each of our projects. The goal is always to captivate – to engage the audience and establish a personal connection, and to create a memorable experience for the consumer to the brand that will hopefully build the framework for brand loyalty.

What are the capabilities of the Captive team?

We have a solid foundation in motion graphics and visual effects and have a lot of experience with large-scale projection content and projection mapping. Building large, immersive video experiences is what gets us excited. We’ve also had the opportunity to build various interactive installations from kiosks to lobby projection systems, experiential product demos and game/art installations for events. We are starting to explore VR/AR and are really excited about how accessible that’s becoming.

From your experience over the years, why do companies consider building immersive experiences or audio visual animations?

A lot of our industry is influenced by what is happening in the entertainment industry. So as technology emerges, as a society, we begin introducing it into our entertainment. Many companies are faced with the question of how do we use technology to make our entertainment more exciting or captivating? Whether it’s event-based or a permanent installation, often times companies are looking to capture the attention through integrating cutting edge technology to differentiate and make their brand memorable.

Looking back over Captive growth to today, as a founder, what are you most proud of?

We built a permanent interactive projection system for the lobby of a studio in Dallas called Dialexa that presented us with a lot of technical challenges that we overcame. The system was designed as a portfolio showcase for them to be able to show off their work to their clients in an immersive experience. We built the system so that we can easily update, add or remove case studies from the system via SSL right from our office in Austin. The projection required an ultra short-throw distance of just 5’6” to fill a 9’ seamless canvas on a curved wall. That presented us with numerous technical challenges that we solved in the end. The whole system is operated via an iPad Mini communicating with a small Node server running the projection content which was all built in HTML5 and WebGL.

The content includes pictures, video, and interactive 3D models that are all controllable with an iPad Mini, and all of the content parallaxes based on the accelerometer of the iPad. We are super proud of what we built and Dialexa has gotten a great response being able to show that off to prospective clients. (see the Dialexa project here)

What’s ahead for Captive?

We’ve always got motion graphics pieces we are working on for various clients but we’ve also got a handful of large-scale experiential projects in the queue that will be some of our most exciting work to date including multiple full-scale hologram projections. We are building up our game engine capabilities to explore VR and AR, and we’ve also been experimenting with real-time, generative visuals with OpenGL and WebGL that we are really excited about.

We know that today’s consumer is more connected than ever, how does an immersive experience bring value to a brand?

It really is about creating a personal and memorable experience for the audience. We see a lot of installations for events that are built just because it is visually “cool” or “neat” but this approach is becoming saturated. What makes an experience memorable is something that communicates a story and a personal connection for the audience to your brand. If a deep connection is not established the consumer won’t be inclined to share and talk about the experience or feel any loyalty to the brand.

What should companies expect when working with Captive?

Our main focus with our clients is building long-term relationships to provide consistent, turn-key services to help them solve problems. We want to our clients to know they can throw anything at us and they’ll have no trouble sleeping at night. We like to keep things personable and be available at (almost) anytime. We like to build friendships and create a real sense of teamwork to solve problems together. We strive and are dedicated to a solid work-life balance but also like to dip our toes in the adrenaline of tight turnarounds every now and again to keep our hustle sharp. We love what we do and our clients stay grounded and find solace experiencing our dedication to our craft.