Best of CH 2014: Cool Hunting Video

Highlighting our favorite videos of the year, from street magic to empathetic robots

Cuddling up with friends and family to watch some home videos is a classic holiday pastime, and the CH family can’t help but get nostalgic by revisiting some of our own greatest videos this year. With camera in tow, the CH video team had the fortunate opportunity to explore creative processes, discover hidden whereabouts and participate in some pretty exclusive experiences this year. From a street magician who can print your face on a dollar bill, to an MIT-trained engineer who makes empathetic robots, our minds are constantly blown by the ingenuity that we get to share with you. Choosing the best was hard, but here are six highlights from the videos we made in 2014.

For the second video from our Lincoln Hello Again Series, we spent several days with an enchanting man. Doug McKenzie (who has produced magic for the likes of David Blaine) is one of the world’s premiere close-up magic artists. But Doug’s interest in the illusion goes far beyond typical street magic; he has made it his mission to incorporate new technologies into his work, making a seemingly mundane cellphone the key to a mind-blowing performance. We went out on the streets of New York City with McKenzie to watch him surprise and delight passersby, and we learned quite a bit about where magic comes from in the process.

In a small suburb north of New York City we met Thomas Doyle, a sculptor whose miniature works reveal an interesting view of his characters’ lives. Doyle constructs frozen scenes of surreal domesticity and suburban life that provoke nostalgia and warmth—until one takes a closer look. Maybe the idyllic image of the American family is not as cozy as it seems.

In an unassuming residential building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, lies the studio space of sculptor Barry X Ball. His stunning re-imagined and modified versions of Renaissance era masterpieces begin with meticulous 3D scanning. Ball and his team then digitally sculpt the scans into incredibly detailed files, which are then 3D printed from stone before being finished by hand. The artist spoke with us about his fascinating process, digital innovation and how he wants each piece he creates to be magic.

In a room piled with resistors, circuit boards and projects in various states of completion, we spoke with talented artist and engineer Alex Reben about his body of work. Reben—an alumni of MIT’s Media Lab and NASA—has moved away from his traditional line of work to apply his engineering expertise to his art. Often exploring the blurred lines of human-machine interaction, Reben’s work is incredibly insightful, humorous and—at times—a little dark.

As a deeper appreciation and understanding of craftsmanship continues to permeate our culture, it becomes more and more challenging as a consumer to identify value—something that is now more often about personal appeal, rather than price. When holding a handmade item, we relate to the energy, creativity and effort that went into making it, all three of which are evident in the work of ceramicist Helen Levi. With a diverse line of goods, Levi’s work is imaginative and charming, using creative methods to enhance an age-old medium. With a strong focus on collaboration, she made dinnerware for NY Sushi Ko and has done custom work with Of A Kind and several others, yet Levi is always looking for something new. We spent some time with Levi at her Brooklyn studio and discussed the creative process and the challenges of a young artist turning a hobby into a profession.

Several years ago, we visited artist David Sena‘s studio to peep behind the curtain and find out about his unique process. Sena (who has given a few CH staff members tattoos in the past) creates large-scale artworks using an unusual method: the Cooper Union graduate “paints” almost exclusively using fireworks. The results are fantastic. The artist translates rough burn marks and leftover trails from smoke bombs into mesmerizing pieces that viewers would never believe were born from roadside explosives. We donned respirators and went back to visit Sena—and finally capture his work on film.