“We live in extraordinary times and the last five years particularly, a renaissance of storytelling. We are, as we were pre-printing press days when we equally shared, enhanced and distributed the fragments of our engaging stories. Today’s technology has delivered a new spirit of connectivity, a democratisation of story given back to the ‘many’. Storytelling not at walking speed but the speed of light. You equipped to deal with this?”
OK enough opening fluff and straight to the point. I was having a chat yesterday with a colleague at Screen Australia trying to answer a simple question. Cue music…
If you have a story project, that’s a little bit ‘strange’, who ya gonna call?
Not Fearing to Tread - Photo cc GHayes
(Strange = new format, transmedia, innovative, social, game-like, fragmented.) If you have a film and TV project and you need assistance to develop the script, help with the production, work through the characterisations, get advice on Red or 3D etc: there are a zillion consultants, vocational educational courses and many willing wannabe advisors to draw on. Film, Radio & TV particularly have 100+ years of maturity so it is also pretty easy to incrementally innovate, floating in watertight boats on tried and tested waters. Sadly the options for story rich projects that fall outside the straight and narrow linear path, have a more difficult time.
To be professionally guided or get the skills to create new storytelling formats you can
Get in touch with professional agencies already doing this stuff. But they are often rather busy making ends meet and engrossed in ‘transmedia’ marketing big budget or existing story brands to really give you the time and advice you need.
Find a traditional academic ‘digital story – type’ course (marketed as a world first) in your local area. Spend 6 months or longer working with ‘we need to do this stuff’ academics and theorists or at best, passionate aggregators of the best ‘new story’ project trailers masquerading as educational case studies. Also these course tend to be trials and under resourced – erm not the views of me with lecturer hat on, local employers 😉
Find a local specialist individual who ‘seems’ to know about this new space – very few good experienced, passionate folk about and also a bit hit and miss.
Seek out a handful of seminars, short workshops or networking events around the world. There are actually very few and they are often of the evangelising vs really getting down to nitty gritty ‘storytelling’ processes.
So here we are, a great dawning of transmedia storytelling, innovative new services and products yet still no true, deep development initiatives? Academia and industry either too money-busy, unable to take risk or focused on the past to really fill in this void?
What is Mixed Reality, why is it relevant and has TV become it’s background medium of choice for larger numbers of media consumers who around the world are spending more time in online pursuits than glued to the content breaks in-between the advertising slots of commercial TV. How will TV survive in a world where social and gaming worlds are far more compelling?
Latest video above available as a download (with better audio & creative commons) 50MB MP4 click here
I am up at the SPAA conference in the Gold Coast producing at and speaking on one of only two panels, for TV and Filmmakers, that are really focused on the ‘creative’ vs biz only possibilities of games and virtual worlds and (that oft misused term in these circles) New Media (that internet thang). The topic of our panel is “Where Virtual Worlds Meet TV, Where Films Meet Games” and features SilkCharm aka Laurel Papworth, Keren Flavell aka SL’s Starr Sonic (SLCN.tv)Â and truna a great games evangelist and IGDA leader hailing from Brisbane.
This topic is driven partly by a mass fragmentation and a paradoxical reversal of fortunes at the moment – where TV itself is the actual snacking medium and where the longer form immersion is in online communities, virtual worlds and games. But can the mediums truly cross-over?
I have been talking for a couple of years now about the fantastic potential of the live and by implication shared TV experience to be enhanced by extending the world into online games. Where are we and where might we be in a few years once the ‘broadcasters’ realise that keeping an audience involved in the ‘IP’/programme in-between airings is a good thing. Good for the story creators, the latent creative audience and of course advertisers who need eyeballs/hands/ears/minds. Some older Personalize posts on this topic.
Anthony Zuiker creatorof the CSI franchise was at one point going to join my panel and his perspective is critical in this:
“The advertising model for TV is completely broken top to bottom. I’ve lost 20% of my viewership in a year and a half… where are they? They’re on the web and other platforms.” Despite a “revolution” in television that now delivers some of the highest quality programming in the history of the medium…Zuiker believes that the “technological boom” happening concurrently is negatively impacting the popularity of the medium.
A part of the SPAA panel here on the Gold Coast, is looking at the issue of where TV and Virtual Space ‘will’ cross-over, not some wacky installation in a dark art gallery but a new emerging element of the entertainment industry where film and games are joined at the hip and TV and social virtual worlds work in glorious real time – live broadcast driving and linking to highly social environments, what Interactive TV has always tried to be. FYI here is the synopsis of my panel “Where Virtual Worlds Meet TV, Where Films Meet Games”.
“Which side of the wall are you on? Are you ready for the Mixed Reality, Entertainment Perfect Storm? TV and Film OR Games and Virtual Worlds? That wall is about to crumble. This is a wake up call to all entertainment producers and consumers to prepare for an almighty collision. Audiences are already spending up to four times as much of their entertainment time in virtual spaces than they are watching TV. Gary Hayes says “I think we are really approaching a perfect storm, a mixed reality perfect storm, because we are seeing several things happening. The first one is a long history of games based on TV and films. Another ‘wind’ is virtual worlds, particularly the exponential growth of customisable social spaces and the important ability to integrate external media into them. The third force is audience behaviour, who involved in far more simultaneous activity particularly between broadband web and TV. The fourth element to this perfect storm is actually what is happening to TV and film, such as live reality TV becoming more game like and now over 100 feature films in production based on game worlds. All of these forces together are creating a really potent mix that all producers need to be aware of”
What is Mixed Reality?
Mixed Reality is a term that needs a more focused definition, as I believe it is also misused. So I see Mixed (or Cross) Reality as
“a creative or social activity that takes place simultaneously in real and virtual worlds and where the interaction in each are resonant and dependent on each other”
So typical practical examples – a conference that has active audiences in the virtual and real world and both communicate seamlessly with each other or where a kids TV show is broadcast while children collaborate in a virtual world and appear to help the progression of the story or a film on a DVD with clues that as you watch it allow you to progress with other players in an online game. But there is also another key aspect of cross or mixed-reality, that of virtual “˜things’ appearing around us in real physical environments. This is often called “˜augmented reality’ but I believe it sits under the broader “˜mixed reality’ umbrella.
Some folk also call this form ‘blended entertainment’ – but to me that doesn’t specifically suggest virtual space and is more related to the already out-dated ‘cross-media’ RIP (hello – Social Media Entertainment) or Extended Entertainment, which is more in my Level 1 or 2 cross-media definition on Wikipedia.
About the Mixed Reality Compilation Video Above
I think the potential of this two-way flow is significant for education and business but also for entertainment and advertising/marketing. So I put together the short film above that hopefully captures a sense of where we are with this circa 2008. I wrote a rather rushed voice over for the short film, a kind of pretrospective (writing back from the future) looking at a “Dawning of Mixed Reality“. As well as my music and voice over (apologies, it was done at 1am a few days ago)Â it contains many choice clips trawled off YouTube but also quite a few that I have worked on at LAMP, the Format Factory, BBC and various other hats.
Is this reality? Is this fantasy? In 2008 the great transition truly began. Whereas a decade earlier we used to “˜log in’ to cyberspace, now we began to semi-permanently inhabit virtual space and the digital world started to leak out into everyday life. It began to infiltrate our shopping malls and became integrated with our everyday lives. Humanity started the relentless journey towards the natural future where virtuality became a greater reality,Â and where digital fantasy and organic reality were inextricably intertwined.
Through the early 2000s pervasive wearable computing started to break down the walls that used to separate our virtual existence from our physical one. This same technology also allowed us to embed ourselves seamlessly into virtual worlds which is where we could truly experiment with future forms of entertainment, art, education and business.
In these new places we became the real time, living celebrity. Many of us became avatar stars, pixel gods – exalted as those linear film and TV icons. This became the only place for many. By 2007 hardcore gamers were already spending fifty five hours per week “˜inside’ these shared worlds and learned to forgot about the real world. This became the place where their most meaningful hours were spent. Everyone began to blend the two domains, combining them in new ways, driven by an invisible urge. Thus started the global meshing, of today’s mixed reality.
But in 2009 questions were asked. As in the many films that hinted at our transhumanist future, would the physical embodied self ever become redundant? Would we truly evolve as self contained, digital entities? May we as well be slumped in a chair with a cable plugged into our heads? Regardless, as the real world became inhospitable we all started to crave for the immersion and began moving our physical selves into these spaces. Even more than that we wanted our peers our un-virtual audiences to be able to share our experiences there. It became a contagious as the most poignant moments and memories were the ones in virtual space.
But we needed to look beyond these screens and into our own souls. Find the truth written along the “˜thin white line’ that separates analog from digital, person from avatar. This was the beginning. It always was. As far as the meshing or blending of reality and virtuality, in 2009 they were the equivalent of grainy black and white movies seventy years earlier. Our experiences were simultaneously part real, part virtual but it didn’t matter which was which anymore. Both were valid and they depended on each other. Those early parallel existences of twenty years ago started to move humanity forward, released our imaginations and we coexisted with our precious and ultimately fragile, physical selves. The great crossing had begun.
I was particularly interested in several new developments that are allowing “˜minority report’esque’ eye-catching. holographic human figures into real space. You will spot these in the film, the live Telstra conference or the models trying on clothes in store windows and closed displays. I tried to list most of the items below and have copy paste some of the text that describes the videos. If there are others you think are significant or that I have missed, please comment and as I do with other compilation films I will be updating regularly, particularly on the download versions.
The various clips in the film are detailed below:
InLimbo Blended Reality – A.M. Architect sits In Limbo to converse and showcase their electronic music. Simultaneously to the broadcast, the show was recreated in the KRTU-Second Life complex, the audio streaming and photos of the studio dynamically updating
Metaversatility brings Frogg Marlowe (Jeremy Works) to TX for a couple blended reality music performances. Footage from Limelight in San Antonio & Mozart’s in Austin, for the Second Life TX Meetup, hosted by Metaversatility. metaversatility.com
A short 3 hour Mixed Reality Game I devised for a LAMP residential – called the Old Forest more details on UTube
Gizmondo Augmented Reality Game – Catapult. Please not this was never released it was in development when Gizmondo went under. There is no sound on this clip.
Motion Capture & Augmented Reality. Virtual Dancers Part 1- A good sign the tracking is okay is that all this has been obtained on the first test and with no feedback for me when I held the camera. In brief, as long as it is a bit smooth, the real-time tracking is okay.
Tim Johnson’s presentation was held at the Centre for Digital Media at Great Northern Way Campus – home of the Masters of Digital Media program. The event was simultaneously broadcast in Second Life at the school’s virtual world campus located at University Project.
A re-invisioning of a 1916 Italian Futurist film using Second Life Augmented Reality Technologies, being developed at Georgia Tech. The short film is a hybrid live action and machinima captured in real time. There are no use of Green Screens. Pos-production is not used to composite the Second Life image and live image.
Aussie talkshow host Rove McManus made history yesterday at Auckland’s Vector Arena as the first person to have his hologram beamed across the Tasman. Multiple cameras beamed his three-dimensional image from a studio in Melbourne to the paper-thin Auckland screen, accompanied by sound effects from Star Trek’s transporter beam, enabling McManus to have a live discussion with Telstra-Clear chief executive Allan Freeth.
2004 Video, computer, pneumatics. A stack of books sits in a chair and, on them, a monitor abuts a small table. The surface of the table holds water, forming a small rectangular pool in front of the monitor. The monitor depicts a woman’s face, her chin resting on her folded hands.
http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=Jd3-eiid-Uw – Using the infrared camera in the Wii remote and a head mounted sensor bar (two IR LEDs), you can accurately track the location of your head and render view dependent images on the screen. By Johnny Chung Lee, Carnegie Mellon University. For more information and software visit http://johnnylee.net
Larngear Technology’s story in the research and development, designing, and marketing of Mixed Reality technology is well describe and illustrated in the TV program Clickzone, supported by SIPA. The show is hosted by Tai, Chutima, from the movie Season Change.
More to come…
There are several companies around the world developing Cross-Reality forms. One that I am heavily involved with, The Format Factory, are pioneering formats that bridge the space between compelling participatory TV and online game worlds. This is a kind of teaser video I created that metaphorically demonstrates some of the ’embedded’ world-within-worlds. Their sister company The Project Factory have been doing some basic but interesting cross-overs in Second Life too.
I also talk in more detail about Mixed Reality potential in this early 2006 seminar, here are the slides from that one containing many cross-branded vs cross-reality examples.
I will leave the final word again to Mr ‘CSI’ Zuiker who instinctively points out that particpant audiences expect to be involved in the story, to be the hero, the villain and to feel they are partly in control of their own personalised route through it. Customisable and game worlds with existing culture are the best tool at film and TV makers disposal.
“In the gaming area, you want to give people tasks, to shoot things and upload pictures… You’re doing this because you want these people to be creating their own story and it will be part of the crime on the broadcast… Even if it’s not the actual thing I shot, I was part of that experience, that community, that narrative.”
PS: BTW I think the term ‘participatory audience’ used in the title of this post/article, is a bit of an oxymoron. Audience as a term suggests passivity not participation…but I am sure you will let me off for that one?! Please.
I have posted prolifically about MUVE’S (Multi User Virtual Environments) in the past, concentrating mainly on the ever customisable Second Life. It is interesting to watch the buzz spreading and consider if virtual worlds are really web 3.0, I think so. A quick look at the evolution of the intraweb from the mid 90’s. From text and graphics dominate 2D environments, immersive web sites with flash quickly followed combined with ubiquitous communication via IM and IRC chat. Then the early 00’s with the expontential growth of self publishing, blogs and wikis. From 2002 onwards the massive sharing social network communities of flickr and YouTube in sync with the explosion of portals containing all of the above in services such as MySpace, Yahoo and MSN etc: We are heading towards a rich media personal hub that points to and houses all of our ‘shareable’ content. But the current 2D web, mostly linear to linear linking, is about to be enhanced by virtual environments in which we meet as avatars, interact as 3D moving objects that takes sharing, co-creation and communication to the next, predictable level. The important component here is real time collaboration and communication as the paradigm shift.
Web X.0. To me evolution of the web can be defined in single sentences:
1.0 the pushed, one way only web
2.0 the two-way shared web
3.0 the real time collaborative web (3D, isometric or just 2D)
Major companies such as Major League Baseball, and institutions such as The University of Southern California, have already turned to Second Life to host virtual events synched with live real-world events. Organizations such as the New Media Consortium are using Second Life to convene meetings and conferences. Wells Fargo is teaching kids about finance in an engaging manner through Second Life. Clothing designers are using the community to prototype their designs and get community feedback and build buzz before they have to manufacture.
In 2 years time will the most effective way of communicating be through a variety of MUVEs rather than 2D web? As Second Life subscribers go above half a million, from less than 100 thousand less than 6 months ago one can see other players beside Linden Labs taking part of the action. Here are the Second Life stats from yesterday to give some idea of the scale
Statistics from 3:20pm Saturday 26 Aug 2006
Total Residents: 568,856
Logged In Last 60 Days: 256,425
Online Now: 8,369
US$ Spent Last 24 Hrs: 357,140
Many of the projects we are doing in LAMP start from a position of ‘experience design’ that has its ultimate incarnation in letting the users ‘live’ the story. Personalizable MUVE’s will shortly have real potential to enable any experience requirement you can throw at it. As the gaming generation take up lead roles in society (the average age of a Second Lifer is 32) I really believe that remote communication will exist more and more in virtual worlds. Entertainment, education and business is already taking root. The article continues by even pointing to the political engagement these environments afford…
Imagine a wiki-based web community now being able to collaboratively design detailed 3-dimensional objects, complete with nuanced permissions, instead of just text documents. …Imagine a dark horse political candidate with a virtual campaign headquarters in which campaign volunteers can collaborate regardless of geographic location and be trained personally by the avatars of real campaign staff, and where the candidate can conduct a virtual whistlestop tour to test new stump speeches and conversations with highly educated, affluent, and socially networked focus groups
Current MUVE’s do require decent computers, graphics and bandwidth but many millions of terminals are already capable. There are many posts that talk about a ten year from now predication of what a Virtual World may be, many not looking too deeply into the ethical or moral issues as that really is an unknown as this quickly cobbled together chart above suggests I think we are lucky to be at the dawning of ubiquitous MUVE’s across all devices (mobile devices are part of distribution in this context – not a movement in itself). The next challenge as I always point out is interoperability – how our personalized digital fingerprint can exist across an ever growing range of portals. To put it another way using the present day, can out MySpace profile work with our Second Life avatar, our flickr and YouTube accounts. Will our eBay positive rating be carried into World of Warcraft, can Amazon engines learn what we are buying in Second Life to recommend things to buy from eBay and so on. The brand and advertising targeting potential goes off the scale here. The first company that comes up with a profile engine that combines all of the above, sits above them, cross-relates them but needs to get started right now before it becomes way too complicated 😉