The Creative Magic of Curiosity Shoppe

Tech Tour

Name: Dan Brown/Craig Denham (Curiosity Shoppe)
Location: Downtown Austin, TX
Size: 2,500 square feet, six room collective space
Years lived in: Since Jan 2012

Welcome to the Curiosity Shoppe — a hip multimedia outfit housed in the BLK MKT Filmmaker Studios. The converted warehouse contains just about everything great about Austin — creativity, independence, personality, and soul. We go behind-the-scenes of this collaborative tour de force to see the workspace and technology used to create industrial magic.

Craig Denham and Dan Brown were high school friends who always shared a fascination with art and film. The wonder years of life charted them on separate courses through Oklahoma and California. But they never kept out of touch, never lost their imagination, and finally formed Curiosity Shoppe in Austin, TX — a production-house whose creativity and talent can be seen in works for Whole Foods, Harley Davidson, Sweet Leaf Tea (Craig designed the famous logo), and PBS (where Dan won an Emmy for the "Downtown" documentary series).

The duo recently moved their workspace to the BLK MKT Filmmaker Studios headed by Jason Blair. Jason impressively took an empty warehouse and converted it into a modern industrial workspace with his next-level craftmanship — felt throughout the space's steel-lined baseboards and suede-lined vault doors. His ingenuity can also be seen in the decor — such as a metal frame that houses fluorescents tubes, not for light, but for diffusion of a ceiling mounted LED. Ideas like these now flow freely through the halls of the six room collective space, each crafted and tailored to its purpose for editing, sound mixing, color correction, photography, and video. With so much talent under one roof, this place reminds us a little bit of old 901.

Tech Tour Survey:

Our Style: Modern and mid-century mix with emphasis on comfort.

Favorite Element: Though it's still a work in progress, I like our small studio space. We have a ping pong table there now but it'll be easy to roll that away, hang a green screen and use the space to film smaller insert or table-top work.

Biggest Challenge: Jason Blair of BLK MKT, who built the space, had the idea to make room for a lot of talented people, so the biggest challenge is incorporating different people with different styles and still making the collective space look uniform.

What Friends Say: It's a much nicer and more professional space for us. Our previous space was in an old piƱata factory. It had lots of room to create, but it wasn't the most ideal space for meetings or presentations. They also like how we're now a one stop shoppe, thanks to our friends who share the space. We can shoot something, edit (with BLK MKT), do a sound mix (with Everywhere Audio) and color-correct for broadcast TV (with Finland Finish) without ever leaving the office.

Area where there is room for improvement/future projects: We're still working on our entryway/lobby. We'd like to do something architectural with the front entry wall.

Proudest DIY: In our space, we modified several Ikea fixtures, like our bookacases and kitchenette. Jason built a lot of the space himself (this was just an open warehouse a few months ago), from the vault doors on the audio suite to the tile in the entry way

Biggest Indulgence: Great location. Walking distance to downtown and Whole Foods Market. We're blocks from a couple of the premier advertising agencies in town, GSD&M and McGarrah Jessee.

Best advice about organizing or incorporating tech into the space: We stare at monitors for a good portion of the day, so it's important to make the surrounding space feel comfortable and non-distracting. I also like how our space is open enough that there's a lot of creative collaboration here.

Dream Sources:We like Modernica a lot. Uncommon Objects is a great place to find vintage accessories.

Resources of Note:

TECH HARDWARE

    • We each have a Mac Pro tower as well as Macbook pro laptops which we use to edit (in Final Cut Pro) and animate/composite (in Adobe After Effects).
    • Two Canon 5D MKII rigs for smaller shoots with a SmallHD monitor.
    • Several GoPro Hero waterproof cameras.
    • To project work on our wall, we have an Epson projector hooked to a DVD player and an Apple TV.
    • The entire office is filled with various monitors to showcase work or for presentations. • iPad 2 for presentations and screen video captures.

APPLIANCES

    • Mini drink fridge from Home Depot

FURNITURE

    • We have a lot of Herman Miller chairs as well as a Herman Miller conference table.
    • We custom built our desks with plywood and Ikea legs.
    • The couch was a mid century reproduction based on a sofa made by Knoll and purchased on ebay.
    • Our Eames surfboard coffee table was bought on craigslist.

ACCESSORIES

    • Astronaut helmet given to me by a friend in college
    • Remote control car we turned into an extremely fast moving camera for a Jeff Gortdon shoot.
    • Puppet masks that we had built for an upcoming personal project.
    • Camera Lens shot glasses from Photojojo
    • The Emmy (won on the PBS show Downtown)
    • Dozens of awards won for advertising and films

LIGHTING

    • Halogen track lighting
    • DIY light bulb extender chandelier in meeting room (home depot)
    • DIY fluorescent tube diffuser
    • LED ceiling lights throughout

ORGANIZING TOOLS

    • Mostly digital. Vintage lockers bought on craigslist to shelve equipment we don't want in plain sight.

ADDITIONAL ELEMENTS

    • Apollo capsule set piece that we created for a Lone Star Beer commercial. We couldn't afford to build it so Craig painted it in photoshop and for the finished piece, you wouldn't notice it's only 2D.
    • Command Center prop piece also 2D, with a few 3D elements like switches and buttons to look real (see 0:41 mark on montage video above)

Thanks Dan, Craig, Jason, Marty, Gary and Nick!

Just can't get enough of this space? Find out more about all the great companies involved in this tech tour in the links below.
Curiosity Shoppe - Dan Brown and Craig Denham
Black Market Digital - Jason Blair
Everywhere Audio - Marty Lester
Finland Finish - Nick Smith
Pixel Peach - Gary Dorsey

(Images: Chris Perez)

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