Nov 152013
 
Gary scratches his head - photo by Rosemary Keevil

Gary scratches his head – photo by Rosemary Keevil

I was invited to keynote at the 2013 Merging Media conference in Vancouver last week and it was great to meet up with the wandering band of transmedia/multiplatform ‘global gliterati’ that frequent these events. All in all a top notch affair, well attended, mostly on the ball  in terms of topics and refreshing to take in the effervescent youthful passion that abounded from the attendees.

My next post will be detailed coverage some of the themes of my presentation but what follows below is something I sneaked into my talk last minute – partly as a response to some of the previous speakers on day 1 and the ‘challenges’ that still pervade this fledgling industry, still, after all these years.

The ‘digital’ brochure-ware website/mobile-app industry is doing fine and dandy – quaint silos inside traditional broadcasters, studios and ad agencies make ‘broadcast interactive’ stuff that is proven standard fare for large sections of the mostly passive audience –  but where are the truly original and/or mature multi platform transmedia services and how will we get there? I then thought of a series of scales on which to gauge and see if we can really get a sense of the State of Play in ‘whatever’ we will finally agree to call this thing.

I presented this section partly interactively (well the sort of magician like interactivity we all sometimes despise) – I asked the audience to shout out where we think we are on the scale and then I pressed the magic button and the needle floated across ala an interactive worm (in fact of course these were all my already set valuations – but anyway most of the time it was within 1 or 2 points!). I did tell the audience by the way, although they probably sussed it after the 2nd or 3rd one 🙂

So the State of Play of the Multiplatform / Transmedia Industry across 10 scales of measurement

 

001_Transmedia Multiplatform State of the Industry

 

Language and Grammar – Tower of Babel or Industry Shared – 3/10 – It is critical everyone is singing off the same song sheet for it to be a mature industry, how else can we create a business on something if it is not a shared terminology? Imagine if for example in film we called the editing stage either the compile, the chop, the edit, the merge, etc: depending on who was producing or which country we were in. Chaos.  But as we know in multi platform circles, we don’t have to look far to see the cracks – not only are the transmedia folk stretched from arty fluffiness at one of the spectrum to hard core marketing at the other but there is still across the industry (& academia) no real agreement on what the ‘T’ word actually means. Then on the ‘serious digital production’ side of the fence, whole swathes of the industry who  do bare bones digital ‘cloning’, nothing new, just pure turning the app/site production handle. Every sector from academia to agency to studio to broadcaster all use different terms. 3 out of 10 suggests we have at least another 10-15 years before we settle down into a shared taxonomy – lets hope it is sooner.

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May 132012
 

 

 

Presenting Media140 - Photo: The Cut Creative, Perth

I keynoted at the Media140 conference three weeks ago (26 Apr 2012) wearing my ABC Exec Producer TV Multi Platform hat. Now responsible for non-kids ABC TV online & mobile offerings & TV mobile and social strategy my 20 minute talk was rather focused on the high level challenges for broadcasters trying to truly integrate fiction, factual and entertainment with social, mobile and 2nd screen (or synch services). The transcript, slideshare and more ore detail follow but first…

Absent note

…apologies to regular readers for my long absence from post on this blog. I started an ABC role back in October which overlapped with me running the Screen Australia StoryLabs weeks and as well as tidying up and finishing a range of commercial projects meant actually talking/blogging about all the stuff I have been doing in long form, has been tricky – plus there are confidentialities to take into account. The adage certainly holds true those who can, do, those who can’t, write long blog posts or podcasts on the topic 🙂 Might get flamed on that one, but I think having an hour or two to sit and post is a luxury. In other full time roles I still manage to provide a commentary into the cloud but the ABC is particularly under resourced in multi platform areas with many folk working beyond the call of duty. I am also taking advantage of my partner Laurel Papworthaway, spending a few weeks on a pilgrimage across the Camino in Spain, and doing very well with it.

Talk intro – the challenge, the hybrid and the prototyping

Also like most big media organisations the ABC is a mirror of the external larger world itself. There are silo’s, politics, technical differences across the divisions, resource scarcity, diluted budgets and linear controllers / commissioners who all need to be sold on the importance of Multi Platform and the potential of different types of services. But that means a good part of my role inside the ABC is very similar to my BBC Senior Dev Producer role, to evangelise but also implement new services. That means I am exposed to the key challenges in terms of merging or hybridising broadcast and on-demand TV with some of the key driving forces outside a broadcasters world. Without drilling down into the detail (or breaking any confidentiality!) the top level challenges for all traditionally one-way media organisations is:

  • Sorry too busy to talk – We don’t have enough people resources, social media staff, to engage in widespread, authentic, editorial conversation with our audience/users
  • Bolt on effect – Our massive internal technical infrastructure/s can’t be glued to always new, transient, multiple external services/APIs
  • That’s they way it is done – We have decades old editorial & commissioning processes in place and until any big multi-platform ‘story-telling’ breakthroughs we will need convincing of a reason for changing that
  • Multi platform and social media is really about marketing isn’t it and therefore warrants those types of relatively small budgets
  • Sure everyone is shifting attention to mobile & social but until there is zero people watching our main channels we have a job to do!
  • Rights are not set up for multi platform, period. Expensively produced linear video leads, the rest follows, still.
  • and the list goes on and on

Ok I am being a little provocative and at the ABC, I and many others are very aware of the challenges and getting on with the changes required. Alongside managing producers and resources I am able to run group workshops internally with the key show creatives and together (vs telling what we should be doing!) to slowly move forward. I also have a great role in developing working prototypes (and final services) of synchronous 2nd screen and social mobile services. Being several months into these,  I also refer to at the end of my talk of the key differences between vanilla social TV, content owner social TV, content owner driven 2nd screen storytelling and the hybrid of all of them. When someone is engaged with a great synch story experience of say tablet against TV it makes absolute sense to include social elements, for them to invite and share that experience.

I also mentioned in the talk and interviews around it about the need for content owners and broadcasters to be driving the 2nd screen experience – these have to be truly integrated story experience and although there is value in trying to layer or bolt on these synchronous services. Although voting, polling, surveying type services can work, ideally with presenter driven call to actions, many well written pieces of video do not have much ‘space’ for the interaction (or parallel narratives to ideally slot in). There are two arguments to that. Firstly formulaic storytelling combined with the distractions our already existing 2nd screen habit means we are constantly snacking on our 2nd screen anyway and ‘missing’ the important bits of the show. Secondly, in a world where on-demand, when you want it, watching is so ubiquitous, I am devising several formats where the linear video is simple paused and the interactive component has its own space to breathe in this time frozen moments. I am suggesting in all my meetings with show creatives that if possible, the best approach is to design from the ground up. But that then moves into eons old ‘commissioning’ processes and for now I won’t go there, perhaps later…OK onto the talk

Hello, Good Morning and Welcome

It was great to be in Perth again with a very enthusiastic crowd, which speaking to the folks there, encompassed most of the digital fraternity it seemed. There were many folk live blogging the event and my talk (e.g.: Sarah Tierney and Matthew Allen), I did a few small interviews (e.g.: Western Australian / Yahoo)  and at least 60% of the audience tweeting. Media140 is the brainchild of Andrew Gregson and the event was very well organised, technically and management wise. The slides below were presented on my new iPad (3) so hopefully the formatting came across OK. Transcription follows the slides

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Jan 022012
 

Originally published (& cross translated?) Oct 2011 in Wired Magazine ‘Change Accelerators‘ by Gary Hayes 5 of 5

Image by Gary Hayes

“Anyone up to battle aliens at the local museum tonight?”

It might sound like a farfetched idea at the moment, but this question may soon be another option rather than the old invitation to go see the latest 3D blockbuster at the Cineplex. The previous four posts talked about major experiential paradigm shifts, where more and more people desire to be ‘inside their entertainment’ —literally. The need to watch a show or read a good book in isolation will never go away, but right now, a new form of immersive entertainment is taking hold that sees users hyper active online and more and more participatory outside of their homes in unique, social story locative experiences. These shifts leads us to confront some basic questions, like, “What is an experience?” and “Are some experiences more engaging than others?” as well as some not-so-basic ones, the all-important, “Who will create all these new experiences?”

Designing any new media format is challenging, especially when the goal is to create highly engaging pervasive entertainment, that is more compelling than what already exists. Since the grammar has not yet been invented, for many, it presents a quantum creative leap. Right now, there is still conflicting opinion about what to call these new types of distributed stories—and let’s not mention the transmedia wars!

One of the greatest challenges for professional storytellers, who are accustomed to traditional linear plots, is to transition into a new platform. Rather than writing straight lines to be delivered from a stationary stage or studio, they are now being pushed to create content for a shifting stage or multiple shifting stages at once— often in different cities or time zones. Given the growing appetite for this type of connected, collaborative, dynamic content, the well-established line between audience and producer is becoming increasingly blurred. Right now it remains to be seen if conventional storytellers will adapt to these new demands, or if they will be outpaced by users themselves. User who are as voracious (and in some cases as adept) in creating content as they are in their insatiable consumption of it.

I was trawling the web the other week looking for a good description of levels of experience and how to design for them. What I discovered, however, is that, much like the missing lexicon, there isn’t a lot of science to this yet either. To fill the gap for now, I created a diagram to explore increasing levels of experience or engagement: It begins at the first level of physicality as the least complex and builds its way up through mental engagement, then social inclusion, and finally the emotional and spiritual levels. These last two being the hardest ones to deliver. Narrative games, like L.A. Noire and the earlier Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophesy, are brave examples of games trying to develop emotional, interactive responses (albeit skipping most of the real social & physical elements).

For audiences in the developed world, 3D and 4/5D cinema is gradually moving into the home and has the potential to make box office visits unnecessary – not worth the added effort. Audiences are starting to expect more value and more payoff for their play time (and trouble): For many, a trip out of the house to be entertained is a transmedia experience in itself. This forces new entertainment providers to seriously take these “audience journeys” into consideration. Likewise, since marketers have begun to tell more interesting stories across places and platforms, traditional writers need to get up to speed on these changes as well. Take for example, a recent holographic product display for Lego. These types of interactive promotional events work to increase the expectations across the board for what is possible in terms of entertainment.

However, film is also slowly catching up. The internationally renowned artists’ group, Blast Theory created a locative cinema project called A Machine to See With, which is a good early evolutionary example. Less about sensory immersion and more about a healthy combination of imagination and locative storytelling, the project allowed viewers to “live” inside a cinematic story unfolding on the streets of Brighton, England. According to the San Jose Biennale last year, the experience mixed documentary material, stolen thriller clichés, and the films of Jean-Luc Godard to let participants walk through the city and receive phone calls, stepping into bit parts or leading roles.

These steps are evidence that now would be a good time for these types of indie projects to start receiving the big-budget attention that clunkers like Phone Booth did. Entertainment is truly moving toward a variation of the infamous Star Trek Holodeck, a complete surround experience that fools our brains into thinking “this is really happening” or “we are really there.” Experiences can either be delivered through layered digital storyworlds, or peppered your everyday life through fragments and bits so that your real world starts to become the storyworld.

Parallel to this transmedia trend, there are complete virtual screen environments of game driven and socially focused spaces known as MMOGs (massively multiplayer online games). These alternate “worlds” are host millions of peoples ‘minds’, melded into the characters they are playing. Many approach a game with the same gravity as a method actor taking on a new role, wholly losing themselves in an alternate reality. The way people interact with these virtual selves is also rapidly changing – making new interface technologies like the Xbox Kinect and iPad/tablets some of the fastest-selling items in history.

These new forms of entertainment will require creators to become writers of place and time, creating relevant and game-like personal experiences. Let’s imagine a simple future? You are at home watching a story experience teaser on your surround 3D head mounted display. You decide to rent it with some friends and project it on your wall-size, AR home cinema screen. It sets up the challenges; you all become the heroes. You all don in-earphones and sporty AR glasses, which have tiny cameras connected to a 6G network that point out and down, tracking the external world, as well as body movements and speech.

You undergo a physical and mental training exercise in your home to prepare for the outdoor challenges. You walk outside and start to explore your city. The open park becomes a fully rendered fantasy environment; urban streets and buildings are layered with story and critical game information. You have X-ray vision; you can see inside coffee shops and stores. Past and future scenes play out before your eyes. You talk to digitally rendered, artificially intelligent characters who respond to specific questions. You work as a team and add your own story challenges. An iBrain scan afterwards let you record your experience for others in 3D.

Welcome to your personal experiential entertainment Holodeck. Of course, you can turn it off at any time and read a good book or watch a film. But that’s so 2011.

Mar 312011
 

[toc=”2,3,4″ title=”Sections”]

How does a country encourage its creative producers to innovate media projects & services? Many leave it to commercial forces only, where it is an innovate or die, sales driven culture. Some though with small or fledgling production communities have to rely on government subsidy and kick-start funding to get most ‘innovative’ projects off the ground. I have looked and been involved in the latter for many years as Multi-Platform producer devising initiatives, director of training units and lecturer in education sectors which include several European countries, Canada, Australia, UK and US. How can we better divvy up millions of tax payers dollars and spread it between heritage and multi-platform?

Below are a few excerpts of a longer article/paper & book chapter (full of juicy stats & facts!) on public tax payers funding of global multi-platform media projects from a perspective of “are we giving it a ‘fair-go’” – as they say down under. It is focused on all government creative funding agencies who help divide up ‘new and old’ screen culture funds in their respective countries. Its intention is to help multi-platform (as opposed to the vagary ‘digital’) move forward rather than be held back by analog thinking or status quo market approaches. I will PDF and link later…

As some of this sails close to one or two of my ‘day jobs’ (some of my credentials in this area are listed at the bottom of the post) I have kept it as generic as possible, without any intentional finger pointing. I hope some top level ideas I suggest to help fix something that has been broken for decades, may not fall on deaf ears.

Preface – Traditional Media vs Multi-Platform: Where’s the engagement?

To choose an excerpt or ‘why multi-platform’ this old argument about the old vs the new is appropriate here. There are many who say we are in a golden era of TV and Film. Audiences both love and trust these mediums and growth is strong across the board. So naturally “we must find and fund new talent and projects in these areas for the good of our culture”. Telling stories through film, tv, galleries, concert halls and books is the only real media to take into consideration. Or is it? This is the status quo, most public funds for media are for localised film and TV and ‘culturally’ significant ‘art’ projects. The ‘other stuff’ oft called multi-platform or digital or online is still not taken seriously. I suggest it still does not reflect what and how its people are consuming media and how they are engaged in that usage.

To give a sense of this disparity, for example in Australia last years total spend (note this includes commercial investment) on film was US $336mill yet overall funds for ‘multi-platform’ creative projects across all public agencies amounted to approx $12-15mill – with the largest funder in the space Screen Australia about to provide approx $4mill annually for creative multi-platform. If we also add TV funding into the mix and think of other territories also (UK film spend US $1.48 bill) we can get to an estimate ratio of around 9:1 of traditional media funding vs multi-platform. Note this is about creative ‘story-centric’ projects vs digital business or hardware enterprise. That means around 9 times more is publicly granted/invested in Film & TV than Multi-Platform or it’s storytelling child, transmedia. I am still adding up figures from other regions which may alter that slightly and although I would like to, don’t get me started on the balance spent on training and education across these two sectors!

As I presented in my last post/article (Navigating the World of Multi-Platform) the media landscape has now significantly fragmented from the 1970-90s yet those in control of the ‘funding’ & educational mechanisms are, I would suggest, still basing decision from those days by funding what is effectively just ‘linear video stories’ – vs more interactive across multiple media channels. Sure there are a lot of statistics that on the surface back this up – for example, TV viewing has remained static and even growing regardless of the increase of  video watching on the web or games usage and box office is strong even with illegal digital distribution and on and on. But when you look at some sectors, print and music for example, who themselves were saying ‘business as usual’ 2 years ago, it tells a completely different story purely from a sales perspective – due to online distribution (eBooks & mp3 torrents) traditional sales are falling at between 10-30% annually.

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