I showed up at the Smart City Media headquarters around 10 a.m. to be greeted by a couple of guys, Myles and Connor, founders of Smart City Media, as part of our 'RESAAS Talks Tech' series.
Smart City Media is a real estate media company that’s quietly been disrupting the real estate media industry.
Their office was indicative of the vision of their real estate media company they founded three years before - open, innovative and collaborative.
After a few handshakes, we sat down in the Smart City boardroom. It didn’t take long for me to notice all of the old and new cool technology placed around the office. My eyes quickly drew over to the Nintendo 64 tucked away on one of the shelves. I was a big fan of Nintendo 64 in my day.
...And so my conversation with Myles and Connor began:
| Me: So, who are you guys?
| Myles: I'm Myles.
| Connor: I'm Connor
Together, Myles - a business major - and Connor - a video and production graduate - make “Smart City Media”.
| Me: How did you guys become 'Smart City Media'?
| Connor: We actually started out as a digital agency but we were struggling to find reasons to create content for people. The content that was out there wasn't really serving any purpose.
| Myles: None of it [the content] was meaningful. We felt like our work wasn't really being respected or adding any value.
Connor's mantra has always be "no garbage for the internet" and sure enough Connor and Myles felt that what they had been producing was becoming said “garbage” for said internet.
After some brainstorming, the guys toyed with the idea of getting a drone.
| Connor: At the time drones were expensive but we knew that we wanted one to truly evolve our business and so we made the investment.
Now with a drone in tow, a few cool video ideas and some connections in the industry, Myles and Connor landed at the door of one North America’s largest real estate development companies.
| Myles: We had an opportunity to combine filming with drones and creating animations for our first client - Avison Young. They wanted us to produce a video for one of their properties.
Sure enough, the first video spread like wildfire. Buzz from the video after being emailed to different developers, investors and landlords had Myles and Connor’s email all abuzz.
| Myles: People wanted to know who did the video. One video lead to another and we became the video company for the industry.
After the first video came out they wanted to take some time to really figure out who they wanted to be as a brand before getting into the market.
| Connor: We didn't want to be just a drone company and we didn't want to be just a video animation company. We wanted to use our skill sets combined to get our vision across. Since we were niched within commercial real estate, we developed our own visual language. It became a combination of using whatever technology that was at our disposal to get that message across in a shareable "internet-worthy" kind of way.
As Myles, Connor and I continued our conversation about their first video, I became increasingly curious about what exactly that first video looked like. The guys were nice enough to share a clip with me which can be seen below.
As a viewer, the video definitely looks cool. Something that most people in the industry hadn’t seen before.
| Connor: There were a few things about it [the video] that were unique from both our perspective and the industry’s. With a drone we were able to get a lot of perspective but it was almost too much. There's a lot to look at, so, with adding the animation we were able to really guide viewers through the dense information we needed relay. Lastly, the production quality was bang-on while conveying Avison Young’s brand.
Myles went on to explain:
| Myles: These companies spend a lot of money to figure out who they are as a brand and what their voice is. We really wanted to make sure our videos were consistent with what they've already worked so hard to do for themselves. That first video was a perfect storm of aesthetics and very strategic and methodical. We weren't trying to be flashy with our tools but we were just well thought out. We didn't just animate things for the sake of animating things. We knew what needed to stand out.
| Me: You mentioned the aesthetics and strategy. When you're working with a client, what is the process like in terms of getting started?
| Myles: We work with our client’s marketing team to figure out if they’re a good fit. Being on point with their brand is important for us and them. Since we respect their brand, they see that. We build relationships based on that trust.
| Connor: We also develop the client's animated brand package. We provide a two minute video of of explaining what their animated brand will be.
While there was an appeal to apply their skills to residential real estate, they found that commercial real estate was the most exciting for them.
| Myles: What we liked about commercial real estate is that the marketing, and our videos in particular, played on information vs. the emotion we would need to convey for a residential real estate video. Commercial real estate is about the investment, the numbers and the value. The added bonus of our animations just fit the mould better for commercial real estate than it did for residential.
| Connor : We still want to take some of that emotion from the residential side and add it to commercial real estate. We know we're showing you a big empty warehouse but if we can give you that feeling that these spaces could be something that someone's always dreamt of, whether it's their dream clothing manufacturing space or whatever it is - we can add those stories into these videos.
So, what’s in store for Smart City Media after being in business for under five years?
| Connor: Our goal is to offer more to our clients in the future - new pieces of cool, cutting edge technology to tell their story.
After long, I started to understand just how much time these guys would spend reading about the latest tech trends - likely unfathomable to the average person - though for them not only do they genuinely love it, they see the value to know what's up and coming and how that can help shape the visions of their offerings
Smart City Media is no doubt a one-stop-shop. All of the production, video editing and animation is done from their Railtown workspace with just a few other team members and some Mac computers.
| Me: What are some of the tech tools you guys are using to create the videos?
| Myles: Drones, animation, 3D renderings and virtual reality. We're starting to experiment with drone mapping, 360 videos and working specifically with an Oculus Rift. The Rift, combined with immersive hand controllers allows you to both visualize yourself in the space and interact with it.
Even with a team of seven, Myles and Connor are able to turn out about 20 videos per month for clients like:
- Avison Young
- Cushman and Wakefield
I hadn’t ever tested an Oculus Rift before, though Myles and Connor were gracious enough to let me give it a try.
The Oculus was hands-down one of the coolest things I had ever experienced (I don't get out much). With the Oculus on, I was able to virtually walk through museums and interact with a live-action robot.
The robot, let's call him “Steve”, and I built cubes. In this simulation I was able to use my hands to form cubes and different geometric shapes. I touched them, picked them up and even threw one at Steve. He's got pretty quick reflexes.
All the while I could envision how exciting this tool could be for any commercial real estate developer.
Walking into a 20,000 square foot empty warehouse could be hard to sell to a potential buyer. With the Oculus Rift a client would be able to walk through the once empty room and see a completely furnished virtual layout of the warehouse space. Complete with machines and workers.
There’s no doubt that Myles and Connor are onto something. it'll be exciting to these guys continue to grow and how they are able to evolve with new technology.
If you're a tech company providing a new, innovative solution for the real estate industry, we'd like to hear from you!