Working to reimagine IBM corporate headquarters.

Transforming IBM Headquarters

Case Study

Filming in 8 Cities

Across 4 countries

Over the course of 3 months

Producing 10 client stories, 5 research projects, 4 documentary videos, 3 soundscapes

Creating a collaborative space

The executive floor of IBM Headquarters in Armonk, N.Y. was getting a huge makeover in 2016. IBM hired the architecture firm Gensler to take the current space—filled with wood paneled halls and historic calculating machines—and reimagine it as a modern collaborative space where insights from real-time data provoke discussions and insights. The idea was to transform the space to match the transformation of IBM itself.

In addition to the architectural changes—most notably the executive space which has transformed from closed off offices to open area with no doors—Gensler and IBM imagined several video walls where thought-provoking content would play throughout the day. The main wall—a 32 foot long by 8 foot high screen—greets VIP visitors in the lobby as they wait to speak with senior IBM executives. VIP visitors include heads of state, CEOs of global companies and thought leaders around the world.

With the opening of the new space just three months away, IBM immediately turned to Centerline to consult on the content experience, and to partner with Gensler throughout the process. IBM wanted to highlight industry-transforming client stories and cutting edge IBM research that would play in a loop, along with data visualizations created by Gensler. IBM and Gensler also asked Centerline to create audio soundscapes to play under the data visualizations.

We needed to produce the highest quality, showcase client and research stories to be featured on the video wall – on a huge scale.

Content for the big screen

IBM wall

We needed to create:

  • Unique look and feel
  • Consistent storytelling platform
  • Methods for repurposing existing stories
  • Soundscape for stories & visualizations

There were a number of unique challenges to tackle in order to create content for this huge video wall. We had to figure out how to tell complex client and research stories on a very wide canvas without relying on audio. We also had to come up with a look and feel that would work with the Content.

We got to work by figuring out what would (and would not) look good on such a wide screen. We knew that we could not use traditional client reference techniques of interview footage and b-roll and we also realized that fast moving footage, pans & tilts and handheld shots would make people watching feel sick.

We explored several different visual styles and landed on an approach that used a few key images (usually slow-motion footage) over blurred image backgrounds and very sparse, punchy text. This style allowed us to focus audience attention on key messages and not have them get overwhelmed by too much visual information. Conceptually, the blurred vs. clear footage let us tell the story of insights appearing through the connection and understanding of lots of different types of data. Practically, it allowed us to cover large swaths of screen so our clear footage wouldn’t get degraded through too much up-rezzing.

Each story was split into four parts to work in the modular style necessary for the CMS: Provocation, Challenge, Insight and Transformative Idea. In each section, we had allowed only 2 sentences of copy with no more than 12 words in each sentence. This forced us to be very sharp with what we wanted the audience to get from the stories. We adapted this approach in the research stories as well.

Schaeffler Example showing all four phases.

Our composers also started exploring what this experience should sound like. They created ambient soundscapes that balanced data-inspired sounds with some real-world elements (instruments, sound effects, etc) They found the right tone to underscore the the challenges and opportunities that these stories—and the Gensler data visualizations—were describing.

“We were proud to be a trusted partner of IBM as they revamped their most prominent physical space,” said Erin Craft, Vice President, Accounts. “I am so proud of the content we produced, and how well we represented the IBM brand and spirit in the stories created.”

Ginni Rometty headshot

Ginni Rometty, President, Chairman & CEO, stands in front of the revamped headquarters. Image courtesy of IBM.

In less than three months, we delivered:

  • 10 client stories, including Schaeffler, Citi and Walmart
  • 5 research project stories, including Watson Imaging, Green Horizons, TrueNorth, Blockchain, Quantum Computing
  • 4 deep-dive documentary-style client stories
  • 3 soundscapes for real-time data visualizations of IBM and non-IBM data sources