May 252010

…and the truth about ARGs.

Now that transmedia is everywhere and the Producers Guild of America have turned the ‘transmedia producer’ into a bona fide (or at least recognised) professional role one thing that rears it’s cross-media head is, who and where are the best transmedia producers going to come from? I have spent a good part of the last 15 years mentoring & training traditional & non-traditional media types in multiple platform content and now question where the best producers of this multifaceted ‘new’ content will come from – academia, film, book authors, social media consultants, game designers, TV, web developers, radio, advertisers, young, old, not yet born? Read on, a ‘hypothetical’ interview follows 🙂 and this is an opinion piece I cannot put in my book or lecture about!


Firstly what is it and does it actually mean anything at all? It is fantastic that the term ‘transmedia’ is now so widespread across the industry and with the official credit (attached ironically to film primarily) but is it a bubble about to burst – is what we have come to know as ‘transmedia’ in danger of being blown out of all proportion.

Here are some of the problems:

  1. Everyone is a transmedia producer – yes you’ve made a website that is attached to a TV show, your a TP. Created a mobile game that has a line or two from the comic, you’re a TP. No one will police this – is it a truly integrated story environment, does it have clever plot links or consistent characters?. A TP is a decathlete (multi-skilled, hard to get a one word answer about what they do in a bar!), gone is nice and simple mono media, a TV producer makes TV shows, film director directs films. You can be a TP if you merge your story across two or more media areas? But more on this later in the post.
  2. Transmedia as a concept is not focused. OK I know Henry Jenkin’s original definition has been spread around the web but it is a definition that is too broad. Perhaps I should exercise my floccinaucinihilipilification and suggest that something that tries to describe everything is actually worthless? Transmedia like a black hole in the universe it tries to describe sucks in everything that has come before (cross media, 360, social media, augmented reality, pervasive gaming and so on). At the other end of this spectrum citing Matrix or Blair Witch or other brand to justify the ‘field’ as mainstream it becomes apparent that the quoted definition itself is rather vacuuous. To quote Jenkins again from an LA Times article, transmedia – “means telling a story across different platforms, each element of which may or may not stand on its own but contributes to an enriched, dynamic, more participatory and “lifelike” experience.”
  3. We are still in the hype phase. Basically anything cool and different those transmedia types (and I point the finger at myself too btw) will take ownership of. I even heard the other day someone say Transmedia is the new Social media and augmented reality even gets a look in. I am not surprised those still getting their head around the ‘story’ potential of social networks or a cute mobile game find it all rather, dis-jointed. Also the increase in experimental and experiential ‘event’ based marketing suddenly meant transmedia is now inextricably linked with brand extensions (TV, film, product) – anything that is not a linear, branded film or TV show. I think for those who live in the transmedia echo chamber this has been the case for many years.
  4. It feels rather academic. Trans-media used to be an alternative semi-academic term to ‘cross-media’ (trans, from the latin ‘crossing’) but is now used to describe everything, non-linear, interactive, extension, participatory, social, brand, play, multi-platform, pervasive and so on. The idea that stories would be told in different places goes back thousands of years but in a modern media context a rich target for study and theorizing. Along came Henry Jenkins who coined the term transmedia almost a decade after the first basic cross-media incarnation. Henry admirably self confesses as being ‘too busy lecturing and presenting about transmedia, to partake’ of the industrial flavour of transmedia “some of it is not well done yet”.
  5. It is still a teenager. It has grown up before it’s time and become a troublesome big headed teenager without any true home and turned into a dysfunctional orphan at once protectively nurtured by over possessive academics, hijacked by experimental ad agencies and hardly understood by flailing stuck-in-time broadcasters. Originally cross-media was an intellectually stimulating concept – memories of mid 90s, pioneering BBC days also my old friend Brian Seth-Hurst who is “Referred to as “the father of cross platform” Hurst coined the term in 1998 as MD of Convergent Media at Pittard Sullivan”. Earlier definitions just talked about story based ‘crossing platforms’ element but since the exponential increase in social media as a place for millions to dwell it has suddenly had the participatory/social part added and also a suggestion that it is now a more integrated form of storytelling, I suppose I should have added a level 5 to my 5 year old (but about to be removed!) wikipedia cross media definition!
  6. Danger of being hijacked – Alongside all of this we have a ‘clique’ of so-called experts who try to describe something which is so simple on one hand (stuff on multiple platforms) yet so ambiguous on the other (fragmented narrative effervescence)  – time will expose the Transmedia echo chamber I suppose.

Of course I have nothing against the term per-say in the absence of alternatives having created transmedia entities/sites like or or – all transmedia in focus – but lets start thinking about the emperors clothes. Indeed the Producers Guild definition of the TP, however bold in its intention, is still a little ambiguous about the precise elements of the role to say the least

A Transmedia Narrative project or franchise must consist of three (or more) narrative storylines existing within the same fictional universe on any of the following platforms:  Film, Television, Short Film, Broadband, Publishing, Comics, Animation, Mobile, Special Venues, DVD/Blu-ray/CD-ROM, Narrative Commercial and Marketing rollouts, and other technologies that may or may not currently exist. These narrative extensions are NOT the same as repurposing material from one platform to be cut or repurposed to different platforms.

A Transmedia Producer credit is given to the person(s) responsible for a significant portion of a project’s long-term planning, development, production, and/or maintenance of narrative continuity across multiple platforms, and creation of original storylines for new platforms. Transmedia producers also create and implement interactive endeavors to unite the audience of the property with the canonical narrative and this element should be considered as valid qualification for credit as long as they are related directly to the narrative presentation of a project.

Transmedia Producers may originate with a project or be brought in at any time during the long-term rollout of a project in order to analyze, create or facilitate the life of that project and may be responsible for all or only part of the content of the project. Transmedia Producers may also be hired by or partner with companies or entities, which develop software and other technologies and who wish to showcase these inventions with compelling, immersive, multi-platform content.


But this post is not just about the word – there are hundreds of blog posts even now still trying to really get under the surface of what transmedia means and it is too easy to fall down the semantic rabbit hole of terminology and the endless subjective splits between academics, industry and wannabes. Perhaps something more concrete can be found in the ‘transmedia stuff’ itself. What is this stuff and who is making it?

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Sep 222009

I have been lucky to know Jim Shomos for nearly five years over here in Oz. The first time I met him I was actually mentoring him at a two day networking event in Melbourne and he had a new project called ‘Forget the Rules‘. Like most ‘pushing-the-envelope’ project discussions at these emergent media development labs around the world, they tend towards a list of ‘feature wish lists, bells and whistles’ that are unlikely to see the light of day – not because they are particularly blue sky but more about the time, effort and funding required to get perceived ‘unknowns’ off the ground. So I was delighted to see Jim and his colleague Paul Baiguerra persevere  during 2004/5 and create this first, notable innovative production.

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Mar 092009

It’s that time of year where things really start to kick-in. So on top of all my AFTRS lecturing, MA Supervision and LAMP R&D work plus commercial work via MUVEDesign and many consultancy sessions here are some nice breaks – seminars and conferences I am speaking at or running.

(BTW most of the LAMP ones can be booked at AFTRS short course pages in the MultiPlatform section – page being updated at the moment)

Tues/Weds 10-11 March – Ad:Tech. Virtual Worlds & Business: What’s The ROI?

adtech-brandsVirtual worlds are maturing at a rapid rate and brands are realising there are valuable business opportunities within them. Whether the objective is engagement, research or brand presence, virtual worlds are proving to be a legitimate marketing channel. In this session our panel will look to provide insights into the business benefits of working within a virtual world. Our panellists will provide:

  • – An overview of virtual worlds and why they’re suitable for business
  • – Insight for brand involvement including what’s in it for both the brand and the consumer
  • – Considerations before entering a virtual world and how to be successful
  • – Identifying the KPIs and how to measure the success of a campaign
  • – Engagement and brand presence
  • – With case study examples, this session will bring to life the importance of engagement and brand presence in a virtual world and how organisations are testing, developing, connecting, and marketing within these communities.


  • Gary Hayes, Director, Laboratory for Advanced Media Production, AFTRS & CEO MUVEDesign
  • Jeff Brookes, Regional Director – Asia Pacific, Sulake Corporation (
  • Mitch Olson, Co-Founder,

Wed 25 March 6-7pm – LAMP ‘State of Play’ Television 2.0: latest innovations in online video

Convergence and multi-platform production is front and centre at MIP TV this year. This seminar will provide background to the terminology, techniques and recent innovations in distributed online video, preparing you for all the key developments. Gary Introducing and speaking.

Fri 3 April – LAMP ‘Interactive Workshop’  Documentary 2.0: Serious Games

Seminar and Workshop Fri April 3. The intersection between documentary filmmaking and games will be explored in this seminar and workshop, providing deep insight into the potential of Serious Games. Both games and stories have long been recognised as powerful learning tools. Their combination in the 21st century has the potential to provide learning experiences that are collaborative and globally connected. What are the best examples of Serious Games and where are they heading? How can Serious Games best be employed by educators, corporations or non-profit organisations? Gary facilitating and speaking.

20-30 April – “Innovation & Form Workshop” for AFTRS Students featuring:

Wed 22 April 10am-12pm Open morning seminar “Innovations in Multi-Platform Content”

A selection of leading innovators in multi-platform content present recent projects in the areas of social media, cross platform storytelling, extended entertainment, games and online entertainment. Presenters will include social media strategist Laurel Papworth, 2008 BAFTA winners Hoodlum Entertainment and representatives from Google and other cutting edge innovators and thinkers in global screen media. Gary speaking.

Wed April 29 – LAMP  ‘State of Play’ Seminar “Free & Collaborative: Latest Open Source Creative Tools”

Want to run your own Facebook or YouTube? Want to set-up a cool online video festival or manage a complex project online? What are the best, free tools for collaboration, video distribution and marketing? An insightful survey of tools such as Drupal, Ning, Celtx, WordPress, Mogulus, Joomla and many more. Gary speaking.

Thurs/Fri 14-15 May – LAMP ‘Interactive Workshop’ Machinima Virtual Story: The Art & Craft of Machinima

Games and virtual worlds are now being used as creative tools to make a wide range of films from horror genre, comedy to corporate training and education. YouTube, and scores of other video portals are filled with examples of these new forms of virtual storytelling and some are now being commissioned by mainstream TV. NBC aired a CSI episode in 2008 featuring machinima made in Second Life and HBO recently acquired the machinima series ‘Molotov Alva’.  The seminar will explore the vast range of machinima made with console, PC and online games. It will also look at simple forms of film pre-visualisation now possible using games technologies. The intensive workshop will provide a hands-on introduction to the tools of machinima and the opportunity to work on a short project. Participants are encouraged to bring along a pre-recorded soundtrack (including voice and/or music) to use as the basis for their project. Gary facilitating and speaking.

Wed May 27 – LAMP ‘State of Play’ Seminar “Massively Multi-Storyteller Online Worlds”

Virtual worlds and online games are primarily used for role-playing but they can become host to your own narrative worlds. This session looks at how to locate, take-part in or build rich story environments inside shared online spaces. Gary facilitating and speaking.

8-10 June Banff TV Fest Canada – Still discussing speaking and mentor role!

17-23 June  Games and Entertainment Technologies Conference in Algarve Portugal

Keynoting at the  Game, WAC and Informatics conferences (, and The Keynote will look at major trends and futures of  eLearning, Intelligent Systems, Wireless Applications, Games, Creative Industries, ICT and Society, Computer Graphics and IHCI.

24 June – LAMP ‘State of Play’ Cinema 2.0

Stereoscopic 3D, interactive cinema, games in cinema. Where does the future lie for cinemas and other public screen spaces? Gary facilitating and speaking.

Thurs/Fri July 2/3 – LAMP ‘Interactive Workshop & Seminar’ “The Social Media Campaign: Connecting with your audience”

Aimed at anyone who wants to promote themselves, their product or creation into communities. A workshop looking at how to understand the new audiences, build traffic and loyalty that goes way beyond uploading a 9 minute short onto YouTube but looks at techniques of engaging with online events, social networks and DIY social media. The workshop will examine case studies of successful campaigns from producers and creators doing it for themselves.

Led by Laurel Papworth who is a Power150 media blogger (global – AdNews) and in the top 5 media bloggers for Australia (B&T). She has been teaching for 20 years, mostly in the area of online communities and virtual communications. Laurel is the senior social media strategist in Australia, consulting to companies, not for profits and government departments in Australia, Asia and Middle East including: Middle East Broadcasting (Dubai/Saudi Arabia) – Channel MBC4, Telecom New Zealand, , Fairfax: RSVP Dating Community, Sony Corporation, Universal McCann Erickson WorldWide, CHANNEL TEN: including Australian Idol community, Sulake: Makers of Habbo, Macquarie Leisure, Macquarie Media, New Holland Publishing, Australasian, Performing Right Association (APRA), Peoplebrowsr, unsigned bands community, Australian Businesswomens’ Network, Pink Sofa online community, ABC Australia, National Archives of Australia (gov), Department of State and Regional Development (gov), Department of Primary Industry (gov), Australian Film Television and Radio School (edu), University of Sydney (edu, public), University of Western Sydney (edu, Masters program).

Gary speaking.

Mid Sept – SPAA Fringe, MultiPlatform Content sessions. Planning

Mid Nov – SPAA, MultiPlatform Content Strand. Planning