Alma Mater, a new boutique visual studio specializing in design, live-action and animation, has launched in Los Angeles. Founded by Imaginary Forces alumni Brian Mah, Kathy Kelehan and James Anderson, the principal trio conceived Alma Mater as a place to pursue selective creative opportunities across all media disciplines and platforms, in a fun and collaborative environment.
“The education and experience that we gained with such a broad range of opportunities at Imaginary Forces, and the strong design tradition of that studio, has led us to this new stage in our careers,” explained director Mah. “We’ve now combined our strengths in a focused way in which all three of us can contribute equally and bring something unique to the company.”
Executive producer Kelehan explained the company’s holistic approach to the creative process will enable it to achieve the best results. “We specialize in design-driven projects, and our live-action and post capabilities enable us to offer a variety of options for creative problem solving.”
“We value being able to provide a high level of focused attention and visual execution to each collaboration,” Kelehan added. “Our scale allows us to maintain a more direct dialogue with our clients, while enabling us to thoughtfully craft the details of each endeavor.”
Alma Mater has already rolled out a number of projects, including a launch spot for the Bauer RE-AKT microsite via branding and interactive agency Mode. The creative brief was two-fold: showcase the innovations in materials, construction and design that Bauer’s new RE-AKT hockey helmet line offers to reduce head injuries, and draw in the hockey consumers by highlighting the aesthetics of the design.
“We were extremely excited to work with Alma Mater because they’re masters at their craft,” said John Pietrafesa, creative director/partner of MODE. “They have a tremendous ability to take an idea and transform it into an experience. We needed someone who could help us tell the story of the helmet’s revolutionary technology in a dramatic and believable way. The collaborative experience was fantastic. One of the most impressive aspects of the process was how effectively Alma Mater was able to work under an extremely tight timeline and how much they kept us involved in the process every step of the way.”
Co-directed by Mah and Alma Mater VFX and animation supervisor James Anderson, the duo utilized CG to depict the helmet’s design and development in dynamic 3D.
“We wanted the piece to be cinematic rather than make it too diagrammatic or information-based, so we steered away from using text or typography, and leaned on the armor metaphor,” said Anderson. “We spent a lot of time dissecting the forms, details, and materials in the helmet, brainstorming the various ways the helmet could construct itself with force and precision.”
To set the tone of the piece, Mode also turned to Alma Mater to helm the editorial style, sound design and musical score.
“The entire process was very fluid,” said Mah. “Our interactions with the agency and client were very constructive and insightful, and they gave us a lot of freedom to define the overall tone of the piece. They were extremely helpful in directing us towards the innovative technologies that make this helmet unique, while allowing us to establish the most interesting compositions and angles to showcase them.”
Alma Mater also recently completed work for ad agencies Euro RSCG & Grey, and contributed to the highly touted “Project Imagin8ion” campaign for Canon featuring director Ron Howard.