Chris Milk

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Chris Milk
Chris Milk - Headshot.jpg
Milk in 2015
Born1975/1976 (age 46–47)[1]
Occupation(s)Entrepreneur, artist, director, music video director
EmployerWithin (formerly Vrse[3])
Known forVirtual reality, immersive art, music videos

Chris Milk is an American entrepreneur, innovator, director, photographer, and immersive artist. He is co-founder and CEO of Within (Virtual Reality) (formerly Vrse),[4] a virtual reality technology company, and co-founder of Here Be Dragons (formerly, a virtual reality production company. Milk began his career directing music videos and commercials for leading artists and brands, and in subsequent years became best known for bridging the gap between emerging technologies and new mediums for storytelling.

Milk's work has been exhibited in museums worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Modern in London, the Barbican Centre in London, Cent Quatre in Paris, and the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. Milk has been honored twice with the Grand Prix Cannes Lions, the D&AD Black Pencil, the Grand Clio, and SXSW's 'Best of Show' alongside multiple Grammy nominations, MTV Moon Men, and the UK MVA Innovation Award.

Milk was named one of WIRED's 100 Most Influential People[5] in 2016, one of The Hollywood Reporter's L.A.'s 25 Most Powerful Digital Players[6] in 2016, Adweek's Creative 100 list in 2015,[7] as one of the 50 Most Creative People by Advertising Age in 2011 and 2015,[8][9] and one of the "100 Most Creative People in Business" by Fast Company in 2012.[10] Milk presented at TED in 2015 on the power of virtual reality as a medium to advance humanity, and again in 2016 on the birth of virtual reality as a new art form.[11]

Early life[edit]

Milk was born in Glen Cove, New York. After attending Friends Academy High School, Milk studied Music and Film at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and then earned a B.F.A. in Film, Photography and Computer Graphics at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California.[12]


Music videos, commercials, short films and interactive[edit]

Milk began his career directing music videos and commercials for artists and brands including Arcade Fire, U2, Kanye West, Green Day, Johnny Cash, Gnarls Barkley, The Chemical Brothers, John Mellencamp, Courtney Love, Modest Mouse, Nike, O2, Chevy and Nintendo.[13]

Milk's collaboration with Kanye West on the single "All Falls Down" was shot entirely in first person perspective, a technique he utilized again in a commercial for O2's "Can Do" campaign and his short film "The Last Day Dream",[14] signaling his future affinity for virtual reality and subjective storytelling. Milk collaborated again with Kanye West on the video for "Touch The Sky", which was in part an homage to Evel Knievel, a childhood hero of Milk's.[15]

Milk's collaboration with Arcade Fire, Aaron Koblin and Google Creative Lab on "The Wilderness Downtown" in 2010 was one of his first interactive videos that utilized emerging technologies to create new, more personal ways for viewers to connect with digital experiences.[16][17] The browser based video uses HTML5, satellite imagery and Google Street View to incorporate images from a viewer's childhood home mixed with digital footage and CGI elements.[18] At the end of the video, viewers are encouraged to write a postcard to their younger selves.[19] "The Wilderness Downtown" was named as one of Time's 30 Best Music Videos of all time,[20] saying, "It’s the first video that truly harnesses the digital age — and one of the most personal you’ll ever watch." It was also was exhibited[21] at MoMA in New York in 2011.[22]

Screen capture from "The Johnny Cash Project"

Also in 2010, Milk created "The Johnny Cash Project", a collaboration with Aaron Koblin set to the Johnny Cash song "Ain't No Grave".[23] In the interactive music video, users can submit drawn frames to be curated into an animated short film built upon a myriad of frames submitted by different users.[24] As a result, the video constantly evolves and can be arranged by a set of various criteria.[25][26] Users can elect to view the highest rated frames, or all frames that are done in a pointillist or abstract style, for example.[23] NPR suggested that the digital experience allowed fans to connect with Cash posthumously.[27]

Still Image from "3 Dreams of Black"

In 2011, Milk collaborated again with Aaron Koblin and Google Creative Lab on the interactive short film "3 Dreams of Black" based on the track of the same name from the Danger Mouse album Rome, which features Daniele Luppi, Jack White and Norah Jones.[28] Here, Milk used WebGL to turn a user's web browser into a canvas for creating 3D objects within an interactive, CGI setting.[29] When viewing the film, which is also told from first person perspective, users can control the vantage point with the use of their mouse. As the user's mouse hovers over the browser window playing the film, 3D objects appear and proliferate within the world of the film. Users can create additional 3D objects to add to the film within the film's website.[29]

In 2008, Milk directed Second Unit for "A Mother's Promise", the film that introduced Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention.[30]

Immersive installations[edit]

"Summer Into Dust" at Coachella 2011

Milk collaborated with Arcade Fire, ESKI and Moment Factory in 2011 to create an interactive experience called "Summer Into Dust" for concert goers at the closing of the 2011 Coachella Music Festival. During Arcade Fire's final song, "Wake Up", cascades of beach balls were released onto the crowd. Milk and his team had fit LEDs and IR transmitters into each ball to light paint kaleidoscopic patterns across the audience.[31] The balls physically connected the audience with the band and their performance, and the moment has been widely credited as the highlight of the festival.[32][33][34]

"The Treachery of Sanctuary"

In 2012, Milk created "The Treachery of Sanctuary", an interactive immersive art installation currently touring the world with The Creators Project.[35] It is a large-scale interactive installation that utilizes the Microsoft Kinect to project and manipulate a participant's shadow onto a triptych. In the first panel, shadows of birds congregate to form the participant's shadow. In the second panel, the participant's shadow is torn apart by the birds. In the third, the participant's shadow sprouts wings, allowing the shadow to fly out of the frame as the participant flaps their arms. The triptych created a cycle that according to Milk interprets the universal human experience of birth, death and transfiguration.[36] "The Treachery of Sanctuary" was exhibited at the Onassis Cultural center in Greece,[37] and was selected to be a part of the Sundance Film Festival's New Frontier exhibition in January 2016.[38]

Also in 2012, Milk collaborated with Aaron Koblin to create "The Exquisite Forest", a collaborative online experience that allows participants to create branching animated narratives.[39] In the piece, a series of trees represent a series of narratives, each beginning with the seed of an initial animation. As participants create new animations to add to the narrative, the animated trees branch out, creating a representation of the multiple narratives spawned by user input.[40] The piece was exhibited at the Tate Modern in London between 2012 and 2013.[41]

Virtual reality[edit]

Milk's binaural audio recording instrument
Beck in "Sound and Vision"

Milk's first virtual reality production was a collaboration with musical artist Beck entitled "Sound and Vision".[42] The project was initially released online, giving viewers the choice to watch Beck perform from the vantage point of different 360 degree cameras, and further allowed viewers to use their computer's mouse to change their viewing perspective.[43] Milk invented a binaural audio recording instrument[42] in order to capture sound in a 3D environment to mimic real life human experience. The result allows the audio to shift perspective in accordance with what the viewer is seeing, creating a natural virtual experience for the audience member. In the tradition of his work on "The Wilderness Downtown" and Rome, Milk utilized modern technologies to further expand the viewing experience: viewers could enable their computer's webcam to shift the perspective of the 360 video up, down, left and right with the tilt of their head.[44]

In 2014, Milk and Aaron Koblin founded Within (Virtual Reality) (formerly Vrse[45]), a virtual reality technology company and sister company[46] Within is a leading virtual reality company that builds the technology to create and distribute the most innovative human stories in virtual reality.[47] Sister company Here Be Dragons[48] (formerly has partnered with top talent in film and television and represents a world class roster of directors for virtual reality content creation.[49] The company has already produced award-winning immersive content including Clouds Over Sidra with the United Nations, and work with The New York Times, Vice, NBC, and Nike.[50] is working in partnership with Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures to develop original cinematic work in virtual reality.[51] The Within app is currently available on iOS and Android, works with Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR, and will be available on the Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and HTC Vive when they are released to the public in 2016.[52]

Virtual reality projects[edit]

Through Within[53] and, Milk has explored Virtual Reality as a means to tell documentaries, narratives, and share live experiences.[54][55]

Still Image from "Evolution of Verse"
Still Image from "Waves of Grace"

In December 2014, Milk and Spike Jonze captured the Millions March in New York, which protested police brutality for Vice News.[56] Milk launched the Within app platform at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in addition to "Evolution of Verse", a photo-realistic CGI-rendered 3-D virtual reality film, and "Clouds Over Sidra", a virtual reality documentary made in partnership with the United Nations which follows a 12-year-old girl's life in a Syrian refugee camp.[57] After the Sundance launch, captured Saturday Night Live’s 40th Anniversary special in VR.[58] Milk created "Walking New York" with Zach Richter, a VR experience made in partnership with The New York Times which follows French artist JR and his making of a 150-foot-tall portrait of a recent immigrant to NYC that was wheat pasted across the Flatiron Building Pedestrian Plaza for less than 24 hours. recently partnered again with the United Nations to create the VR experience Waves of Grace. The film transports viewers to West Point, the most populous slum in the capital of Liberia, and follows the experience of Decontee Davis, an Ebola survivor who uses her immunity to help others affected by the disease.[59] Most recently, Milk and his team have released music videos for U2 and Muse in partnership with Apple Music. In the video for U2’s "Song for Someone," singers from around the world sing alongside U2 within the virtual environment.[60] In Muse’s "Revolt," viewers watch from the point of view of multiple drones as the music spawns a revolution.[61]

Bono in a still image from "Song For Someone"


Music videos[edit]



  • Beck - "Sound and Vision"


  • Rome - "3 Dreams of Black"
  • Rome - "Two Against One"







Television commercials[edit]


  • Nike "Monument", "Practice", "Grundle", "Leaving", "Passion", "Nicknames"


  • L.L.Bean "Testing for Life", "Mt. Washington", "The Search"







year unknown

  • Sprite "Extreme Is Dead" (spec ad)
  • Calve "Gas Station"
  • CA Energy Conservation "Supermarket"

Personal life[edit]

Of his practice of Transcendental Meditation Milk said in 2016, "There’s a really transcendental quality to virtual reality. ... TM is a really great portal into exploring those states within yourself. Virtual reality is basically an authored dream state."[62]


  1. ^ Parkin, Simon (30 June 2014). "Chris Milk: the digital artist making music videos fly into the future". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
  2. ^ "Bio - Chris Milk". (official website. Milk was born and raised in Glen Cove NY, and lives in Los Angeles)
  3. ^ "The VR company Vrse is changing its name to Within, and about to spend $12.56 million of VC money". Wired.
  4. ^ "WITHIN". WITHIN.
  5. ^ WIRED (2016-08-26). "The WIRED 100". Wired UK. ISSN 1357-0978. Retrieved 2019-05-07.
  6. ^ "Silicon Beach 25: L.A.'s Most Powerful Digital Players". The Hollywood Reporter. 13 July 2016. Retrieved 2019-05-07.
  7. ^ "The Adweek Creative 100: America's Most Inventive Talent in Marketing, Media and Tech".
  8. ^ "Creativity 50 2011: Chris Milk and Aaron Koblin". 6 June 2011. Retrieved 2015-12-12.
  9. ^ "Creativity 50 2015 All Stars: Chris Milk and Aaron Koblin". 21 December 2015. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
  10. ^ "83. Chris Milk". Fast Company. 27 April 2012. Retrieved 2015-12-12.
  11. ^ "The birth of virtual reality as an art form".
  12. ^ "Academy of Art University Notable Alumni". Academy of Art University. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  13. ^ "Chris Milk Filmography". Radical Media.
  14. ^ "Last Day Dream". Vimeo. 14 April 2009.
  15. ^ ""How Virtual Reality Can Created The Ultimate Empathy Machine" - Chris Milk at TED".
  16. ^ "The Wilderness Downtown – official website".
  17. ^ Ehrlich, Brenna (August 30, 2010). "Arcade Fire's Experimental New Video Shows What's Possible with HTML5". Mashable.
  18. ^ "Chrome Experiments - Arcade Fire". Chrome Experiments. Archived from the original on 2015-11-19.
  19. ^ "Wilderness Machine". Twitter.
  20. ^ Sanburn, Josh (July 26, 2011). "The 30 All-TIME Best Music Videos". Time.
  21. ^ "Chris Milk - MoMA".
  22. ^ "MoMA - Talk to Me - Wilderness Downtown". MoMA. 2010.
  23. ^ a b "The Johnny Cash Project". Official Website.
  24. ^ "The Johnny Cash Project". MIT Open Documentary Lab. MIT.
  25. ^ Ehrlich, Brenna (October 27, 2010). "Crowd-Sourced Johnny Cash Music Video Is a Work of Digital Art". Mashable.
  26. ^ Kuang, Cliff (April 14, 2010). "The Johnny Cash Project: A 'Living Portrait'". Fast Company.
  27. ^ NPR Staff (February 5, 2011). "A Chance to Work With Johnny Cash Beyond The 'Grave'". NPR.
  28. ^ "3 Dreams of Black". Official website.
  29. ^ a b "3 Dreams of Black". Chrome Experiments. Google Data Arts Team.
  30. ^ "A Mother's Promise - Full Cast & Crew". IMDb.
  31. ^ "Arcade Fire and Chris Milk". The Creators Project.
  32. ^ Gensler, Andy (April 14, 2011). "Coachella to Feature 'Mind-Blowing' Visuals by Arcade Fire..." Billboard.
  33. ^ "Chris Milk Bio". Archived from the original on 2015-12-22.
  34. ^ Ajith, Sanjana (December 2, 2015). "Throwback: When Arcade Fire Stunned The Crowd With Massive Balls That Lit Up". Festival Sherpa. Many have described it as the best festival moment of their lives.
  35. ^ "The Treachery of Sanctuary". Official website.
  36. ^ "The Treachery of Sanctuary". The Creators Project.
  37. ^ "Digital Revolution". Onassis Cultural Center.
  38. ^ "Sundance Institute Celebrates New Frontier 10th Anniversary at 2016 Festival". Sundance Institute. December 3, 2015.
  39. ^ "The Exquisite Forest". Official Website.
  40. ^ "The Exquisite Forest". Chrome Experiments. Google Data Arts Lab. July 19, 2012.
  41. ^ Burton, Jane (July 20, 2012). "Explore 'This Exquisite Forest' with Google and Tate". The Tate Modern.
  42. ^ a b Fera, Rae Ann (February 22, 2013). "A New Vision For Sound: Chris Milk Breaks Down How 'Beck: Hello, Again' Was Made". Fast Company.
  43. ^ Watercutter, Angela (February 19, 2013). "Navigate Beck's Performance of 'Sound and Vision' as a 360-Degree Interactive Video". WIRED.
  44. ^ Robertson, Adi (February 19, 2013). "Watch Beck's lush cover of David Bowie's 'Sound and Vision' with 360-degree interactive cameras". The Verge.
  45. ^ "Virtual Reality Startup VRse Raises $12.56 Million, Rebrands as Within". 16 June 2016.
  46. ^ "Vrse". Official website.
  47. ^ Johnson, Eric (October 2015). "Virtual Reality is 'The Last Medium,' Says Filmmaker and Within CEO Chris Milk (Q&A)". Re/Code.
  48. ^ " Becomes Here Be Dragons, Adds to Executive Team". 29 June 2016.
  49. ^ "The Creators". Archived from the original on 2015-12-06.
  50. ^ "List of Projects". Vrse.
  51. ^ Hipes, Patrick (January 22, 2015). "Annapurna Launching Virtual Reality Division". Deadline Hollywood.
  52. ^ "Compatible Platforms". Vrse.
  53. ^ "Virtual-reality company Vrse redubs itself within, raises $13 million".
  54. ^ Watercutter, Angela (October 27, 2015). "Apple Showcases Its VR Dreams - With a U2 Video". WIRED.
  55. ^ Moynihan, Tim (October 21, 2015). "The NYT Is About to Launch VR's Big Mainstream Moment". WIRED.
  56. ^ "Chris Milk, Spike Jonze, and VICE News Bring the First-Ever Virtual Reality Newscast to Sundance". VICE News.
  57. ^ Watercutter, Angela (October 26, 2015). "At Sundance, The VR Filmmaking Revolution Is Officially Underway". WIRED.
  58. ^ Joyce, Kevin (March 15, 2015). "Vrse Record Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary For VR". VR Focus.
  59. ^ Watercutter, Angela (December 3, 2015). "Watercutter, Angela "Big Hollywood Is Getting Into The VR Game At Sundance". WIRED.
  60. ^ Matney, Lucas (October 28, 2015). "Apple Shows Off First-Ever Piece of Virtual Reality Content with U2 Music Video". TechCrunch.
  61. ^ Trendell, Andrew (November 4, 2015). "Have You Seen Muse's Insane New Video Yet". Gigwise.
  62. ^ Salud, April (2 November 2016). "As Twin Peaks Nears, David Lynch Returns In Full Force". Buzzfeed. Retrieved 19 December 2016.

External links[edit]

Chris Milk at TED Edit this at Wikidata