Greg Privett and Eric Fleming are the founders of Makeout. Eric is also an adviser to PWRFWD.
In a world where your Instagram feed is proof that you’ve ever done anything cool in your life, combined with the ever-growing investment by brands and entertainment properties in creating ultra-cool events and experiential activations, you would think that by now, creativity and technology would have combined to create some kind of ultimate way for eventgoers to capture incredible content of themselves at these events, and then magically deliver this content right to their phones.
But no matter how many tech startups have taken their own stab at recreating the photobooth, there’s always something missing. The content op is often just a branded backdrop with some cheesy props. Or maybe the content itself is actually really cool, but you have to type in your email address and phone number every time you actually want to HAVE the content once you’ve made it. Or maybe the content would be cool but the tech just isn’t working right now, we’re really sorry, this seriously never happens, try checking back in 15 minutes when you don’t care anymore and have totally forgotten this exists.
After a few years of seeing all these problems in motion, and dreaming up not just improvements but totally new ways of interacting with content ops at an event, we finally just went ahead and made the damn thing. We call it Photoland, and it comes in two flavors: Better Than The Rest, and TOTALLY FREAKING NEW. Naturally, we’d like to start with the latter.
Photoland Premium: A totally new way to create content at events
At its core, Photoland Premium is a seamless and super fun way to create photos, videos or GIFs at an event, and then magically receive them on your phone in real-time – no entering email addresses or phone numbers, ever.
And while we’ve used Premium mostly for single-night immersive events and movie premieres, we think it’s actually perfect for even bigger or longer-running events like music festivals, conferences, even theme parks. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves – here’s how it works.
Step 1: Get your RFID token
When you first arrive to an event, a friendly face with an iPad checks you in and gives you a custom RFID token that’s preloaded with your name, email address and phone number. RFID tokens come in all shapes and sizes — from actual wooden tokens and custom trinkets to simple wristbands and hotel-style keycards.
If the event is based on RSVPs or tickets, we can easily collect this personal info during that process. Let’s say you heard of the event via a mailing list, social media or press coverage and you go to RSVP – in that moment (or in a dedicated email after), we can also request additional info with the promise of it enhancing your experience at the event. And that info could be more than just email and phone —it could be drink preference, favorite musician, etc. What we could do with that info, we’ll save for a little further down.
If pre-event communication isn’t required or desired, it’s also super easy to fill-in your name and contact info right at check-in. Either way, Photoland has a custom guestlist management app that facilitates event check-ins at less than 30 seconds per person (multiplied by the number of check-in stations; we’ve managed up to 18 at once).
Quick note: Photoland also supports Eventbrite integration, which means a guest’s Eventbrite ticketing info can get automatically ported in as the personal info fields for Photoland.
Step 2: Receive instantaneous, personalized communications
As you walk away from check-in, suddenly your phone vibrates with an email and text message that welcomes you to the event and gives you a link to your personal landing page, which will automatically collect and showcase all the photos, videos, and GIFs you’ll create throughout the event — so you never have to type in your email address or phone number to receive a piece of content.
Step 3: Use your token to create content
As you explore the event, you stumble upon all kinds of content opportunities. To start engaging with one, all you have to do is simply tap your RFID token, and a nearby touchscreen magically welcomes you by name and asks if any other friends want to tap into the experience as well.
Once everyone has tapped in, the touchscreen walks you through the content opportunity like a normal photobooth. Except unlike a normal photobooth, the resulting content is automatically saved on your personal landing page, as well as the landing page of everyone who’s tapped in.
Want to try again? No problem, your group can do as many retakes as you want without having to tap your tokens again – and they’re all automatically saved on your personal landing pages, where no one can see them but you.
Want the content texted or emailed instead? Sure, just tap that button on the touchscreen and Photoland automatically sends the content to everyone however you chose. There’s absolutely no manually entering email addresses or phone numbers, since the system already has all that info.
Step 4: Engage with your shareworthy content
Here’s the thing about the content that comes out of Photoland: it seems like people just want to engage with it more.
Partly that’s because it’s so easy to engage with – it’s automatically on your landing page, you can download it or email it to yourself in one tap (no typing in your email address required).
But the other big reason people care more about Photoland content is because it’s often more meaningful than a simple photobooth image. We encourage event creators to approach each content station as a “content stage” — sure, a simple seamless backdrop is sometimes appropriate, but what about something more immersive like a full-on set build? (We actually recreated sets from the Nice Guys film for its premiere.) Or what about hiding the camera behind a wall or in a prop so people feel inspired to act more naturally? (We’ve even built cameras into old-school arcade basketball backboards and boardwalk games.) Or what if we installed the camera overhead or far away, to capture an angle people truly never could with their phone?
And then there are the technical effects – on-the-fly GIF and Boomerang creation, real-time video editing, custom photo filters and image overlays. If you have an idea, we have a tech to bring it to life.
These are the kinds of additions that result in content people care about more deeply and share more often — and makes the followers who see these posts actually pay attention.
The results go beyond Instagram impressions
Remember when we said an event might ask for your drink preference or favorite musician? That’s because while the platform is called Photoland and seems to revolve around creating content, it’s actually a much deeper interaction between data and technology.
While we mostly use the RFID to trigger content stations, we could also use it in virtually endless other ways. Maybe you tap your token at the bar and it tells the bartender what kind of drink you prefer. Maybe you walk into a sound-based activation and the music suddenly switches to your favorite artist. And while this is a cool experience for you, it’s also incredibly valuable data for the event creator.
But even if the experience remains content-focused, the results of Photoland are still entirely greater than a typical event photobooth:
- Greater amounts of content generated based on how easy and fun it is to create
- Higher content interaction based on the quality of the resulting content, as well as its seamless delivery (no entering email addresses or phone numbers each time to deter sharing)
- Meaningful brand keepsake in the form of an RFID token that guests want to hang onto long after the event is over
- Better marketing opportunities thanks to a content-rich personal landing page that can also include other brand marketing and information
- Unparalleled post-event engagement because we can send a follow-up email a few days after the event, reminding guests to revisit their content on their personal landing page
Photoland Studio: More familiar, just better
If you’re looking for something to support a single content station at your event, Photoland Studio might be a better fit for you. This is our dead-simple workhorse for photo, video or GIF creation at an event, and it essentially just removes the RFID ecosystem. Here’s how it works:
You jump in front of a backdrop (or into a feature film-quality set, which we can build), and based on the event creator’s choice, either a professional photographer (that we can provide) takes your portrait, or else you trigger the camera yourself like a standard photobooth experience. Then Photoland automatically adds whatever filters, overlays, video effects, and more the event creator dreamed up.
And suddenly there’s your finished product on a touchscreen, which you can send to yourself via email and/or text message — and if it’s a photo, walk away with a professional-grade print.
More than likely you’ve seen some version of this before. So why is ours better? Because of all the little (and not-so-little) differences in ours:
- Overall experience flow and touchscreen design: It just works faster and feels better than the rest of what’s out there.
- Customization: We welcome custom requests and never over-promise you on what’s possible.
- Customer service: Photoland Studio is coming from a small team of creative problem solvers who typically work on super hairy productions, as opposed to a sales team and dev team who only know their product. We understand that this is just one piece fitting into your bigger event, and you‘d appreciate a general sense of helpfulness and ease as much as possible.
- Tech stability: The single main reason we created Studio was because our brand partners kept complaining about other companies’ versions glitching out during their events. And for every minute a photobooth doesn’t work at an event, that’s a minute you’ll ever get back in terms of potential social media reach and brand reputation. We knew we already had the stable tech this kind of system needed, so we went ahead and built it out. Hey, might as well help a friend if you can, right?