Transmedia: The Art of Storytelling Through Multiple Platforms (panel)
This entry was originally published on November 8th, 2011. I am re-posting it to the top as I think it’s relevant to the Writing and New Media class I am currently taking.
1. A new brand of storytelling involving multiple platforms and interaction components (Panel definition)
2. The technique of telling stories across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies (Wikipedia)
How do we make something compelling for the internet, which is full of artists and creatives themselves?
Adam Neuhaus, Senior Director of Development, Radical Media
Greg Brunkalla, SCAD alum, creator/developer of T-Mobile’s Angry Birds Live
Evan Schectman, CTO, Radical Media, developed The Johnny Cash Project
Zach Lieberman, filmmaker, The West Side webisode series
I’m just going to dive right in here, interweaving background info on the panelists’ various projects with quotes and Q&A topics discussed throughout the panel. Please keep in mind that I tried to write down what everyone said as accurately as I could, but you can assume that most of this is paraphrasing. Here goes!
The Johnny Cash Project created the first “crowd-sourced” music video. Crowd-sourcing draws from regular people, usually an intended audience, to create the content that is to be directed at them. It’s a new phenomenon with the onset of the digital age, and this project (developed to sell a posthumous Johnny Cash album) was the first to do it on such a level. While the project invited anyone and everyone to create the content, the importance of directed creativity was stressed. Moderators sifted through the thousands of submissions to weed out any that were inappropriate, or not derivative of the original Johnny Cash image they were to have created art from. After the project’s popularity exploded, other corporations like Coca-Cola were quick to jump on the bandwagon – asking Radical Media’s creatives to do the same sort of thing for their products. But a singular digital medium is not a one-size-fits-all sort of thing.
Evan: “We’ve seen user-generated content without the right curatorial control go south really quickly. The Johnny Cash thing wouldn’t have worked right with Coca-Cola. As a CTO, I not only am a creative director, I direct people.”
Throughout the project, the developers had (and still have had) to continually tweak the program, track the users, and find alternative ways to pull the whole thing together. Transmedia is fluid, and like the files in your computer’s Downloads folder, it isn’t permanent.
Evan: “The greatest thing about the internet is the ability to course-correct.”
Q: Have you noticed any particular trends that people are demanding?
Greg: “Yeah, I noticed that one thing people have been doing are the flash mobs. It’s our job to say, you don’t want this – it’s already been done. Or, we have to make it different, really special. Stop thinking it has to look like the old thing, just reboot…”
Evan: “People [clients] ask, ‘We want to make a viral video.’ And that’s just not how it works! You don’t make something viral, you make something great and unique, and it becomes viral.”
Q: What is it exactly that you do? How did ‘Angry Birds Live’ come about?
Greg: “I make commercials as music videos and short films. But it’s more than that, and hard to explain. There’s a lot of ‘maybe’s’ on creative calls. They ask you to write a ‘treatment’ (a write-up, possibly a mock-up, of your proposed ideas). You have to take control, have a confidence. What do I want to see?
Adam: “[This] gave people a different way to interact with something they already knew.”
Q: Talk about LBE’s (Location Based Experiences).
Evan: “Projection technology; multi-touch has become a really isolated activity. In [one of] our case[s] [we created] this digital aquarium. (ed: from what I gathered, this was a traveling exhibit) You can’t have a whale in a traditional aquarium, but now digitally with projections, we can. So mixing these traditional ideas with new technology allows you to do new things. We can have coral reefs, fish that change when you walk into the room depending on what part of the world you’re from, etc. Our joke is, ‘you still have to exit through the gift shop.’”
image from West Side production blog
The West Side internet series is like an independent take on what ABC did with Lost. Remember that show? Aside from the regular episodes airing every Wednesday, ABC launched a viral virtual experience – viewers and fans could watch webisodes online for extended character background info, and also official “Dharma Corporation” web sites, etc. If you weren’t in on the show, you’d have no idea they weren’t real. It was genius and made watching the show that much more fun – you got to be involved, you got to investigate on your own. The panelists mentioned some kind of West Side interactivity involving the subway system, so not only is it web-based, but location-based interactivity.
Q: Talk about the ‘West Side’ webisodes.
Zach: “It started as this independent thing, an urban western, and we got a lot of attention. So we got an agent in L.A. and came up with this big urban mystery interactive (a murder mystery that evolves real-time) on multiple platforms… We spent a lot of time developing the idea. We took a script and a treatment around to various studios. When you’re in a meeting trying to explain what transmedia is, you know you’re facing an uphill battle. We have a cell phone app, and a web video series…”
Q: What kind of skills do you recommend someone who wants to get involved in transmedia develop? What kind of steps should one take?
Adam: “The TriBeCa Film institute and Bay Area Collective are two great resources for [transmedia] artists; ways to connect with others.”
Evan: “Be a student of your field. Have an opinion about it. Have tastes and likes and interests.”
Someone: (Don’t remember who said this, sorry) “I would recommend the book The Art of Immersion, by Frank Rose.”
Quotes I loved:
Evan: “We don’t release things on an iPad because it’s a trendy thing to do, but because it enables us to interact. I have to explain to the older generations, it’s not technology for the sake of it, it’s technology as an enabler.”
Zach: “I think that fundamentally, film is the most collaborative platform, and transmedia is even more collaborative than that.”
- Alternative Techniques
- Concepts & Storyboards
- Concepts in Motion Media
- Design for Motion
- film fest
- motion media
- Motion Media Techniques I
- SAMT SENIT
- Senior Film
- Time Based Typography
- Visual Effects