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!

TRANSMEDIA – AMBIGUOUS CONCEPT?

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 Transmediadesign.org or lamp.edu.au or muvedesign.com – 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.

TRANSMEDIA – CONTENT (THE TRUTH ABOUT ARGs?)

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?

Continue reading »

Jul 302009
 

Running the Australian Laboratory for Advanced Media production I often have to provide a broad contextual background (as well as detailed insights!) to many of our seminars and labs. Over the past few months I have presented across a range of topics suggested in the blog title and lucky for some these have been captured in video form! So the player below contains (for now) seven separate presentations, a mix of free informal evening ones through to more formal full day workshop intros. The video production value is variable so I add the audio only versions at the bottom too and there are links to the other many great speakers at each session, detailed below the video box. These are unedited and contain the usual umms, arrs, errors, coughs & pregnant pauses, oh and I hope some great content. All are 16by9 apart from the serious games in 4by3, Enjoy

  1. SOCIALIZED TV 2.0 – 17m © Gary Hayes Director LAMP @ AFTRS and CCO of MUVEDesign (slideshares here)
  2. GAMES: SERIOUSLY – 35m © Gary Hayes (slideshares here)
  3. VIRTUAL STORY: THE ART AND CRAFT OF MACHINIMA – 42m © Gary Hayes (slideshares here)
  4. (Seminar Intro) THE RISE AND RISE OF SOCIAL MEDIA – 13m (slideshares here) © Gary Hayes
  5. FREE AND EASY (seminar intro) – 10m © Gary Hayes
  6. IPTV FUTURES – 20m © William Cooper Head of Informitv (live Skype video interview with Gary Hayes)
  7. MULTIPLATFORM INNOVATIONS – 22m © Giancarlo A. Mori Senior Vice President, ANIMALLOGIC Interactive. (live Skype video intro interview with Gary Hayes)

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Apr 072009
 

With my Director of the Australian Laboratory for Advanced Media Production hat on I often front our workshops and seminars with a kind of ‘trawl’ across the area being presented by specialist speakers. This means a rather high level view of services, key examples and robust case studies that provide a foundation for the other speakers and also a taxonomy, a shared language, for any later workshop elements. There have been two in the last two weeks on TV 2.0 and Documentary 2.0: Serious Games and I have just put my slides up on slideshare – embedded below. The two below are an interesting pair.

tribalisationI believe that these two areas of transition clearly indicate the major shifts taking place at the moment, already predicated as you see in the Marshall McLuhan clip. The first in this post is the TV form which is now being developed and evolved by global online communities deciding on the more social, tribal (niche) and participatory video format over the regimented, formulaic, commercially focused TV we have seen unchanged on prime time in the past 30 years. The second presentation below is on Serious Games or Documentary 2.0, the nature of learning about real world issues, the evolution from passive through to play. Rather than being force fed a series of edited perspectives in traditional documentary TV style, now we immerse ourselves in the dilemma, the scenarios and understand them by (as I point out in the presentation reference to Edgar Dales Cone from 1946) Direct Purposeful Experience. First though…

Television 2.0 – The Latest Innovations in Online Video The first seminar was looking at the future of online video from a TV 2.0, participatory and socialized TV perspective. Again the issue here was a definition of TV followed by some kind of structure on which to talk about the many and various incarnations of ‘the form’ as it starts to spill out across online communities and portals.

What is TV?

  • The device or screen?
  • The distribution channel?
  • The form, types of programmes?
  • What is that form? “Popularist, often live, linear video or something far more social & interactive?”

Breaking the hundreds of examples of TV moving from broadcast to shared, socialized and participatory into meaningful categories was a problem so I stuck to three simple ones:

One-to-many broadcast

  • Reversioned TV
  • Socialised TV

Many-to-many & 2 way

  • Participatory TV shared video content. Democratized, disintermediated, de-attached

Measurability – New Monetization models – value add & innovative services around the video content e.g.: personalization

Before my embedded slideshow (which includes ‘comic-style bubble’ commentary done quickly after the event!) I embed a short clip (which I showed from around 3:38 onwards) featuring a real futurist Marshall McLuhan whose now ancient words provided some sobering perspective to my talk about the disintermediation of TV and other media forms. We all talk long and hard about the new social paradigms but 50 years ago this was already clearly in the zeitgeist – albeit referring to rather scarce distribution channels but highly portentious of where we are close to being now (thinks ‘twitter’ as the drumming 🙂

and for those who think the decline of print is a 2000’s thing here is some of the latter part of the interview (remember from 49 years ago!) that I didn’t have time to show –

Interviewer “Look lets back up a bit Marshall. If more books are being used, more being sold, the libraries are crowded they are busy, how can it be said, aside from what ever else is happening, we are moving out of a print culture?

McLuhan “As John said books are still very important but their role is changing. The nature of their importance is changing. Remember that books were our first teaching machine and during the Renaissance our only teaching machine. Books are what gave the renaissance its peculiar stance. We had to see the world and others through the printed line on the page but today there are many media of information, many teaching machines.”

Interviewer “By teaching machines I presume you are not only referring to those found in the classroom?”

McLuhan “No, we learn everywhere. The books role has diminished. Because of all the other actors it’s no longer King but subject…Notice the shift in the image. From the assembly line stretched out, events taking place one at a time to the modern automated complex where things happen all at once. Bang. Not a line but a field. This applies not only to products but to people. The line, the individual, the event was the book. The field, the all-at-once, the tribal drum – the new medium”

Documentary 2.0 – Serious Games Seminar Workshop

My introduction to the wonderful world of Serious Games wasn’t without its challenges. Firstly the deeper you look into the area the more you discover a veritable black hole of titles. Literally thousands of console, 2D web based, 3D MMOGs, CD ROMs, locative play, connected DVD’s, Social network widgets, educational virtual worlds – endless places that serious play or games exist or have existed. But as well as the quantity problem we have the issue of how to classify them, break them down into meaningful ‘chunks’ so we can understand them. Finally there is the problem of definition – what exactly is a serious game? So before the embedded slideshow – I pulled out a little definition I came up with and more importantly a taxonomy which we used in the workshop.

Generic definitions from others

  • Games that are NOT entertainment ?
  • Games that are simulations ?
  • Games that are: infotainment, edutainment, advergames, therapeutic, propaganda…?
  • Games that are used by education, training, health, public policy, defense, and strategic communication ?

My definition

  • Goal orientated ‘play’, often in real world scenarios, intended to ‘improve’ the player/s knowledge, awareness or skills

OK my definition could feasibly include ‘entertainment’ titles but it does raise the question, is a game such as GTA4 or Mirror’s Edge or Assassins Creed actually providing real world training? I would say to a large extent yes – so the field is even broader. So the taxonomy I developed is focused on the intention of the game. What did the creators ‘intend’ the game to achieve, what result would be achieved for the player/s. I developed this list and naturally found a few games overlapped across some of the areas but surprisingly a lot less than broad definitions such as ‘edutainment’! Here is the list (followed by the actual slideshow with examples of each area):

Gary’s Top Ten – Serious Game Taxonomy YOUR INTENTION WITH YOUR GAME IS TO:

  1. raise AWARENESS of issues
  2. train MOTOR functions
  3. develop SOCIAL skills
  4. develop sudden onset CRISES response skills
  5. develop HUMAN CAPITAL and workforce
  6. improve MIND & BODY
  7. develop BUSINESS prowess
  8. improve ORGANIZATIONAL management
  9. improve CREATIVITY
  10. impart KNOWLEDGE
View more presentations from Gary Hayes.

View more presentations from Gary Hayes.

Mar 212009
 

tracey-02

There are a multitude of sites out there asking the ‘audience’ (grrr)  to submit films, music, scripts, stories, bits of their personal life and anything the brand or property feel will draw them into their branded world. Many go about it in a really poor way, providing virtually no incentive, a pretty small audience (as regards the actual community that will likely see their work) and often give little or no encouragement to learn and improve on their original submission. Many even resort to seeding the ‘competition’ with faux community created videos (made by pros deliberately shaking the camera!) – to pretend to kick-start it – they have no idea how easy it is for the community to sniff that out.

An easier and more enpowering way in for the co-creative community is to give them ‘great’ assets to create great content – it gives them a big kick-start. Giving them the same stuff that the pros get generates the real big incentive – it lets them show how ‘they’ are as good, if not better, than the pros! It also shows a willingness on the part of the usually out of reach ‘creative production’ to expose some of the real behind the scenes’ness and draw communities into the brand firstly from a ‘trust’ perspective. Secondly as the ‘creative audience’ members themselves will be spending many hours with the assets and this creates very strong brand/story loyalty. Often these creative types are pretty active influencers on the web anyhow and will draw their own communities into the brand. The list of benefits goes on.

Below are relatively recent examples of professional film and music folk throwing top draw fragments of content (rushes, isolated tracks etc) over the wall for the wannabee’s to work their own magic.

cut-own-scene

I have written about this subject a few times in the past but Bronwen Clune on Twitter pointed out her brainchild initiative, a Disney / AFTRS Film  “Two Fists One Heart” making available some rushes for the community to re-edit.  Cutscene site has all the information on the project and a mention should go out to my colleague at AFTRS, Bill Russo who has the enviable task (yes enviable as it is a joy to see community wisdom like this) of viewing potentially hundreds (see examples below) of alternately edited scenes.

We are giving you the chance to download and edit rushes from the international film TWO FISTS ONE HEART. This is the footage that editors work with and it is free for you to use under creative commons as long as you acknowledge the source and link back to the official movie page. We€™ve tried to give you a mix of scenes so that you can even download all of them and put together a short film of your own. When we told the folks at AFTRS and Disney what we were doing they were so exited they wanted a way to recognise some of the best videos that are created. SO €¦

The best 5 scenes will be posted on Disney€™s promotional TWO FISTS ONE HEART site. This is a great opportunity for some exposure to high-profile people in the film industry. The 5 best scene cuts will be selected by Bill Russo head of Editing at the AFTRS and the creative team from TWO FISTS ONE HEART. TWO FISTS ONE HEART Director Shawn Seet, Editor Milena Romanin and Cinematogropher Hugh Miller are all graduates from AFTRS, Australia€™s premiere Film and Television school.

The WINNERS will be personally contacted by Bill Russo who will give them editing advice and help with their editing careers. All you have to do to enter is post your video on YouTube, link to the Two Fists One Heart site for the movie in the info section and tag it TFOH, then email the link of your entry to competition@cutyourownscene.com

DE-FRAGMENTING TRACEY

tracey-01

Of course this is not a new idea and I recall at least five major projects at the BBC I was involved in from 96-03 that did a call out based on downloading and then re-editing, ‘professional’ footage (and at least 20 other ‘mash-ups’ using web interfaces). A recent non-BBC, feature example (Jan 08) that springs to mind is Tracey Fragments – a sort of timecode’esque Canadian film that gave away the ‘whole’ film to re-edit and again used YouTube to show the re-fragmentation. These are still available on the site – click refragmented. Here’s one example of a re-edit that have around 10 000 views each on YouTube.

Tracey: Re-Fragmented made available all the footage from the shoot of the film for users to download and re-edit their own replated projects including music videos, new trailers or to re-redit the entire movie themselves. A contest for best use of the footage has just closed at the end of January and judging will commence soon. The re-reditng initiative also has a competititve elements with Bruce McDonald and his editors selecting the best from the pojects from Canadaa to win an Apple Final Cut Pro prize pack. The winning project will also appear in the bonus features on the DVD release of The Tracey Fragments.

TEASING TEASERS

As mentioned the BBC has a long track record of opening up its rushes to the public (well it would do because the ‘internal’ BBC av assets are effectively owned by the taxpayer!) as well as providing community filming skills to a vast audience with 15 year old initiative such as Video Nation. Another recent example (2006), was when the BBC Commercial Archive opened up some of the rushes from its natural history section and asked the audience to re-cut or rather creatively make a brand new trailer for Planet Earth. Here is one example entry to the BBC Planet Earth video editing competition

To highlight the creative potential of the Open Earth Archive the BBC is also running a competition to make a short ‘advert’ for Planet Earth. Novice editors can enter the competition through the Easy Edit Suite, an exclusive application available free on the Open Earth Archive site allowing users to create a short video with a sound track using some of the best bits of the archive. The competition closes on 30 April 2006 and winners will spend time in an edit suite with experts seeing how the professionals edit for BBC Television. The Open Earth Archive is made freely available for the UK public to use under the terms of the Creative Archive Licence. The Creative Archive Licence allows people within the UK to watch, download and edit material released for non-commercial purposes, using it to inspire and create their own creative endeavours.

MAKE IT A GAME TOO

insectmen02At LAMP there have been at least 20 projects based on the call for creative contribution. This includes the iEmmy nominee Scorched as well as a Gruen Transfer’esque ‘Sold in 60 Seconds‘ and most of our ARG variants. One really cool ‘video fragment’ example was on our very first residential workshop lab in late 2005,  Insect Men. Insect Men was a video fragment scavenger hunt. The mind of a character (of course represented by a linear film sequence) was shattered in a freak lab accident and his mind spread all over the web, outdoors and on linear channels (these things happen!). The audience had to find, collect them and put it back together in a meaningful way. This predated Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and other similar recent play’s on fragmented memory but this is less about story and more about bringing a game-play element into the re-cut too. The team were clear that there was no right or wrong way to put this unfortunate characters mind back together but rather courted community compare contrast – which is the best way forward.

BE PREPARED FOR A TIDAL WAVE

What to do when all this great stuff comes back?! Looking at exactly the same methodology of – here are some professionally created assets by your heros for you to rebuild in ‘your’ wayImogen Heap (who I keep going on about?!)  in the past month gave away a song in the form of lead and backing vocals for the co-creative fans to provide their own music. This takes it a step further as the backing to the vocal tracks truly represents the genre and style of the contributors vs the more subtle ‘persona’ that comes through a pure film edit. Imogen and team got back nearly 400 completely rebuilt unique 3 minute songs and you can listen to 219 of them here on the Twestival site. They were so overawed by them they are going to release a special EP with the best ones on. Shame that wasn’t part of the original incentive – but it probably didn’t matter in the case of a loyal fan base already!

EASY TOOLS

OK there are folk out there who use ProTools, Final Cut, Logic, Cubase etc etc: There are even more who are now familiar with iMovie, MovieMaker, Garageband etc: But although these will produce much better and original results it requires a significant amount of extra effort than a browser based tool.  I was a little derogatory about web based editing or mash-up tools earlier but there have been a few good examples over the past 12 years on the web we know today – yes folks they have been around for that long! Even I did some in 1995 when I put the first audio and video on the main BBC sites in the UK – simple quicktime based mixers which worked even in the days of 28k modems!

A recent one that works because it is so integrated with the TV component is ABC Australia’s Gruen Transfer. The thing that really works for me (above and beyond the AdMixer interface and usuabilty – yes they are getting better) is the fact the call out from the show gives a very specific task – this week/series for example the presenter said – go and create using a bunch of pre-built clips/audio and text, a promotional advert to sell Australia. Simple, a bit limited tool and clip wise, but really easy for an audience to quickly produce something meaningful with very little effort.

gruen

THERE’S A LOT OF IT ABOUT

As regards remixing, mashable content there are many others worth investigating if your into the subject and a quick look around will reveal the likes of

But a last point I shall leave you with is make it accessible. If only 1-2 % of the audience will get off their a$&#s and make something and send it in then make it easier for them – grow that to 10% or more. I covered the sort of splits of the co-creative audience on my post Web 2.0 and the Myth of Non-Participation. Allow them to search and embed other peoples work, allow them to just vote or rate (obvious and used a lot of course) or give them some really good material so they can create something ‘they’ will be proud of – like most of the examples above here.

OK there are lots more examples of this including community driven film sites like my fav triggerstreet and I have probably missed the ‘big’ ones (so tell me in comments!) but the last message –  Throw good stuff at your collaborative, co-creative audience and they will reward you many times over!

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