Silverlight 2 Shines on Hard Rock Memorabilia

LAS VEGAS — March 5, 2008 — Since its inception in London in 1971, rock fans have been visiting Hard Rock locations worldwide to get an up-close and personal look at pieces of Hard Rock’s unparalleled memorabilia collection, and experience the music history that goes with it.

This world-class collection of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia has become a major part of the iconic Hard Rock brand as it has grown to includes 126 restaurants, nine hotels and casinos and four live entertainment venues in 48 countries around the world, each proudly displaying prized pieces of the collection.

Hard Rock has amassed more than 70,000 items, including historic instruments, wardrobe pieces, public records and other priceless objects displayed in locations around the world. The collection spans everything from famous guitars played by Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and The Edge, to the wicker settee where John Lennon penned many of his songs, to a pair of Buddy Holly’s eyeglasses, to the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” bus.

Hard Rock Memorabilia 2.0, an interactive Web experience based on Microsoft Silverlight 2, allows users to browse through thousands of rock ‘n’ roll artifacts online. Hard Rock launched the new online experience at MIX08. Las Vegas, March 5, 2008.

This week Hard Rock announced a new milestone in its mission to bring these pieces of rock ‘n’ roll history to the public: an interactive Web experience based on Microsoft Silverlight 2. Dubbed “Hard Rock Memorabilia 2.0,” the company is launching its new online experience at MIX08, Microsoft’s Web developer and designer conference in Las Vegas. ”Hard Rock Memorabilia 2.0” serves up high-resolution images of Hard Rock’s memorabilia and allows fans the ability to zoom in on tiny details.

“Hard Rock is always looking for innovative ways to allow more fans to experience the rock ‘n’ roll history it represents,” says Sean Dee, Hard Rock’s chief marketing officer. “But of course the memorabilia is extremely valuable and difficult to move, so we wanted to find a more practical way to bring the collection to a broader audience around the world. With Silverlight, we were able to build an application that allows us to make our collection accessible and highly interactive for millions of fans worldwide.”

To develop the solution, Hard Rock worked with two vendors: San Francisco-based advertising and design firm Duncan/Channon, and design and development house Vertigo, which have long been involved in strategic projects with Microsoft.

Vertigo CEO Scott Stanfield immediately saw an opportunity to use Microsoft Silverlight 2 for this project, specifically to employ its new Deep Zoom feature, which allows users to quickly and seamlessly zoom in on high resolution photographs. According to Stanfield, Deep Zoom lets developers use tremendous depth and quality, allowing them to deliver the kind of detailed, rich interactive user experience via the Web Hard Rock wanted for its customers.

“The user experience is turned upside-down,” says Stanfield. “This was a big, big jump in terms of what we can create and offer to our clients and their users. We’re down to the grain of leather on somebody’s jacket or the individual wire wraps on the ‘E’ string of a guitar. You can see inside Buddy Holly’s glasses and see the inscription from the manufacturer.”

Silverlight 2 makes such detailed views possible by delivering photos through a Web interface that allows visitors to experience them in a very natural way, to pan and zoom across them and get a feel for the items as if they were in the same room.

Using the new Deep Zoom feature in Silverlight 2, Web users can pan and zoom to see images up close, such as this jacket belonging to John Lennon, from the Hard Rock Memorabilia 2.0 experience. Las Vegas, March 5, 2008 .

“When Deep Zoom became available, there just wasn’t a debate anymore about which technology we would use,” says Duncan/Channon’s Mike Lemme, creative director for the firm and lead designer on the project. “What Deep Zoom allows for the content we have, this memorabilia, I don’t know of another way to have that kind of experience. There isn’t one.”

As an example, Lemme points to a guitar, hand-made by Bo Diddley, which features a TV tuner knob used for volume control, a detail that wouldn’t necessarily be visible on a guitar hanging on a restaurant wall. Another unique experience for visitors will be the chance to view the lyrics to John Lennon’s song “Imagine” in the artist’s own handwriting.

“No pun intended, but imagine being able to zoom in on that handwriting and see how he wrote each word,” Lemme says. “There’s something truly magical about that.”

Stanfield says Silverlight 2 gave his developers the chance to do what they love best — be creative using technology.

“This really took us back to the drawing boards,” he says. “It gave us the freedom to go back and rethink how we really want to do this.”

Stanfield admits that starting from square one to build a truly unique, interactive experience was not without its challenges, and the design considerations for Silverlight 2 and Deep Zoom span the gamut — from user experience to software engineering to the architecture and IT itself.

“You’re playing with a system in a browser that’s trying to run at 30 frames per second as you pan around the image,” he says. “It’s making a lot of requests back to the server. So, there’s a bit of IT behind this; you need to make sure you have the infrastructure so that your images can come off the server as fast as possible to the client.”

When it comes to developing the code itself, Stanfield says the move from Silverlight 1.0 to 2.0 is pretty comfortable, because the Silverlight 2 supports code in C# or Visual Basic, in addition to JavaScript.

“That’s a big plus,” Stanfield says. “The developer is on familiar ground.”

With all the work that’s gone into the supporting technology, Stanfield and Lemme say the biggest validation for the project’s success will be if the technology behind the experience itself is transparent to users.

“The proof of whether we did a good job is if we can watch people just fall into the screen and spend time moving around the site looking at different pieces of memorabilia or connecting with a piece of music or an artist that they grew up with and love,” says Lemme. “We think that’s exactly what we’ll see with this.”

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