Jan 012012
 

Originally published Oct 2011 in Wired Magazine ‘Change Accelerators‘ by Gary Hayes 4 of 5

Image by Gary Hayes

When planning your next holiday to London with the fam, don’t forget to sync up your iGlasses and load up the London experience packs. On arrival, slip on your augmented reality sunglasses and take a look around: Roman-era London appears before your eyes. Slaves and gladiators walk through the streets and chariots rush past. You can add your own comments leaving virtual “We Were Here” graffiti for all time. The experience is part documentary, part user-generated narrative, and entirely pervasive. In other words, augmented reality meets living history.

In our everyday lives, we engage with stories in many ways, whether it’s eye-to-eye contact with a stranger that sparks an instant connection or a well-crafted movie or TV show. But what if we started experiencing those stories in the outernet’s layers?

While online networks are evolving traditional entertainment, such as TV and web series, we are also witnessing the rise of a new form of media called “augmented reality storytelling.” I’ve dubbed this new form of diversion ’ntertainment, as a shorthand for immersive augmented reality entertainment.

At its broadest level, augmented reality is about enhancing the physical world through digital elements, such as images, sound, and information. Now technology is enabling us to further situate and layer our digital stories in places where other narratives can’t reach. Right now, we see this happening when someone holds up a camera on an iPhone or tablet and shares objects or stories from the real world.

The opening Roman London example is based on an existing service called Londinium, which is a collaboration between the History Channel and the Museum of London using augmented reality video layered over real-world streets to re-create an alternate history. Coincidentally, London is also used as a site in the globe-spanning Ghost Tours 2.0. Haunted London encourages visitors to explore the city’s eerie side using locative AR (augmented reality). Likewise, another situated project is Witness, which draws participants into the dramatic and seedy underbelly of criminal Berlin. In this case, players are the hero: They watch graphic video scenes at different city locations and are then sent detective challenges to uncover the truth. But here’s the twist: The story might just bite you back! Augmented reality games and stories can even get physical, like the recent example of Chelsea FC playing the world’s largest Space Invaders game in a stadium using projection AR.

Gaming is leading the way. New consoles, like Vita, allow users to literally take game characters orreality fighters into the streets. Other gaming advances like AR games on Nintendo’s 3DS start to recognize place markers placed around a player’s city, transforming screen-based MMORPG(massively multiplayer online role-playing games) into an LMMOG (location-based massively multiplayer online games).

Augmented reality storytelling is starting to appear across our smart GPS mobile devices. Several marketing campaigns are taking the initiative by spearheading real-time AR challenges, such as Vodafone’s Buffer Monsters, which challenged German smartphone users to download a mobile app to capture virtual creatures and win a lifetime plan. This is only one example, other AR advergames encourage users to competitively run around cities on scavenger hunts for real-world prizes, such as the Droid Bionic AR Game. Similarly, this October, Gundam, the Japanese anime giant, release an iPhone/iPad app called Gundam Area Wars. The game uses the devices’ camera and gyroscopic sensors to show life-size 3D models situated in the player’s real-world landscape.

Given these above examples, I return to my earlier travel scenario and I wonder how commonplace it will become for people arriving in a new location to start experiencing it through augmented reality storytelling and gameplay? The traditional guidebook has already morphed into digital form. The Lonely Planet is already a downloadable app. Is it a big jump to imagine AR and location-based storytelling won’t soon allow travelers to engage history on a whole new level? One might even argue a deeper and more meaningful one than just the 2D sightseeing experience of looking at crumbling ruins. So many guidebooks have been written on the principle of making history come to life—AR actually makes it possible.

One could even take this one step further and question, why do we need to travel at all when we have our own personal Holodecks at our fingertips? Fast Company recently reported on Tour Wrist, a virtual tour that lets iPad users move around a global location with unlimited zoom and freedom. “Travelers” are virtually transported to that place and able to immerse themselves in it becoming the hero in a remotely situated, digital storyworld.

Finally, in the near future, we might all have the capability to create duplicates of our surroundings in 3D for others. This Microsoft R&D initiative to map the world uses the fastest selling piece of tech on the planet, the Xbox Kinect. This would allow everyday people to create unlimited user-generated 3D AR—foreseeable as easily as snapping a digital picture. In addition to this, there is a saturation of location-stamped social stories inside services, such as Google Earth, TagWhat, HistoryPin, Facebook Places, CheckIn+, Foursquare, and Gowalla, among others. What will result from all these stories becoming interconnected and navigable using AR devices?

From that point on, we will be co-creating an augmented entertainment eternity. Together. Will you be a part of it?

Dec 312011
 

Originally published Oct 2011 in Wired Magazine ‘Change Accelerators‘ by Gary Hayes

Image by Gary hayes

Grab some nibbles, pour yourself a drink, and sit down. You’re now ready to immerse yourself in a TV show. And then you notice that CSI Miami is placing Facebook photos of your aunt, uncle, and cousins onto the desk of a perp. Lean forward, and keep your eyes peeled, updates from your Facebook page are about to be incorporated into your favorite TV show’s narrative. (Your best friend becomes the suspect!) As you immerse yourself in the story, the story immerses itself in your social world. In this context, online meets offline and your family and friends will never look the same again!

While this opening scenario sounds like pure fantasy, it’s not. It’s actually based on Warner Brother’s Aim High, an upcoming web series that will integrate pictures, music, and information from a viewer’s Facebook page into the video. One might call it the ultimate transmedia vanity blockbuster, where viewers are watching and playing with their own distributed, but connected story fragments. If this trend continues, soon we’ll be interacting with TV and games mashed up with our own social networks on big and small screens everywhere.

Since 2003, tools that allow people to easily create, upload, and share personal content are now commonplace. With so many people sharing their lives through networks, there is a social story revolution unfolding. There are more photos taken every two minutes today than during the entire 1800s and, as my Social Media Counter shows, most of this new content is created by individuals who used to be called the audience.

Since the late ’90s, the vision of interactive TV has been to meld this viewer-generated content into shows, particularly live TV. Today, we are taking the greatest evolutionary steps in broadcasting since the advent of live TV. In my presentation, “The Gamification of Social TV,” I examine the ways audiences are becoming more and more integrated into media, such as shows, films, games, and live events; first, there is the social level, then the participative, and finally, the inclusive.

Real-time conversation about what’s happening on TV has pretty much been with us since the beginning of mass TV in the ’50s. However, nowadays we have advanced well beyond the cord-tethered telethons of yesteryear. Today, advanced technology, like text voting, allows shows to measure the sentiment of the crowd sitting at home, not just the studio audience, in real time.

Andy Warhol famously predicted, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” That future has arrived: We can all be stars in our own lifetimes, even if it’s just among our social network. We have become our own entertainment hubs, around which our friends and media circulate. Broadcasters and service providers have caught on to this trend, and now, entertainment-based social networking websites, like GetGlue, allow viewers to check in to movies, TV, and music. These personalized hubs fueled by recommendation and loyalty are allowing viewers to lock their worlds to TV space.

Not surprisingly, marketers are also taking notice of the advantages presented by social storytelling. A recent example is the Rommy Gulla Facebook video campaign run by Panasonic Australia. To demonstrate a new Blu-ray recorder’s ability to store 28 full days of HD content, the company developed a Truman Show-esque, promotional Facebook campaign encouraging input and social sharing.

Other online services, like Hulu, are also allowing users to bring media directly to their networks and take root inside Facebook itself, creating a forum for friends to share video content seamlessly. At the other end of the spectrum, there are options like Beckinfield Mass Participation TV, which takes social media to the nth degree by inviting users to film themselves as the stars and extend the web show format. This concept borrows from the realm of social alternate reality games, such as a World Without OilTruth About Marika, or Conspiracy for Good, which have been allowing users to write themselves into scripts and become the activist hero for quite some time now. Social media storytelling has deep roots in multiplayer role-playing gaming; in fact, the fastest growing game on Facebook at the moment is Sims, the $4 billion franchise game, where players inhabit and merge with social experiences in an alternate character-driven world.

Is alternate character acting the future? The film industry is not far behind in embracing social films. Earlier this year, Toshiba, Intel, and their ad agency Pereira & O’Dell took a gamble onInside, an interactive film experiment starring Emmy Rossum directed by D.J. Caruso. Now some people are speculating about whether or not social films are the next big thing in Hollywood. Will we see a social film revolution where plot dilemmas are handed over to the audience to experience and solve?

When it is done well, traditional storytelling married to social media is very powerful: It takes those people who want to go beyond a behind-the-scenes DVD extra into the story. While we watch to see if integrated social media entertainment will really take off, there are still some issues to consider, such as, is it invasive for characters from shows to enter an individual’s social networks? and Can a TV blockbuster become too personal?

That said, for now, I’m off to watch an episode of House, where I’m the patient!

Feb 032009
 

rocketoncomedyIf RocketOn grows at its current rate it may be the follow-up to Twitter as a real time, web 3.0, animated avatar, 2D web integrated social application.

It will of course need much more sophisticated friend and group management and the following/followers paradigm would work wonders here. But no doubt the company have lots on the boil along these lines?

I have written for the past year or so about those half-way house virtual worlds, avatars that exist as a layer above the traditional, flat 2D web in posts here and here.

Leader of the pack of these ‘parallel’ virtual worlds (I still prefer layered btw!) by some way is San Francisco based RocketOn which now has 114 000 unique active users of the service that primarily operates as a browser plug-in. CEO Steve Hoffman has told me of some key developments that will lift the service firmly out of beta. First and foremost are six major new partners that will expose RocketOn to more than 2 million potential users.

RocketOn Launches Beta with Comedy.com, Hypster, Online Flash Games, Hotspot, faceDub and Boosh Magazine. Parallel Virtual World Platform Goes Live – “Imagine what it would be like if you could join a virtual world on your favorite site and interact with everyone on that site,” says Steven Hoffman, CEO of RocketOn. “And what if you could also take your same avatar to any other website and meet people there?” The result is a parallel virtual world that spans the entire Internet, where users rocket through cyberspace with their avatars and interact with virtual environments on any site they choose.

rocketontrafficdemoHaving used RocketOn for some time on and off it reminds me of the web equivalent of the flash-mob – adhoc social gathering where you share brief experiences with others, ‘above’ web content, sometimes very compelling. It is fascinating too that there is a strong female demographic (67% in the US) suggesting parallel worlds being seen as (and used) as social vs ‘gamey’ space. More interesting in the stats is the high proportion of 12-34 year olds – often the ages where usage of social virtual worlds tends to dip. So RocketOn is definitely feeding on the traditional Facebook and MySpace network.

So the real time social element is best suited to comedy music, video and casual games where a live, real time’ness is key. Being able to call your friends together for activity and discussion around primary content in this way perhaps turns the back-channel (as in textual chatter) into the front-channel (where physicality comes into play). There is something about synchronous fun (and learning, there is a killer app hidden here for remote learning folks) over full screen video too – so RocketOn over full screen web video starts to remind me where IPTV was meant to be heading back in 2004! Participatory TV via the web back door anyone?

Here is the official press release that is going out today Feb 3rd

rocketonhypsterParallel Virtual World Goes Live

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — February 2009 — RocketOn, Inc., a venture-funded startup located in South San Francisco, is rolling out its virtual world platform by embedding virtual worlds on partner sites. RocketOn’s partners range from comedy, music and game sites to community networking sites and college magazines.

“Our goal”, says Bryan Suchenski, partner manager, “is to build social interaction and community on our partners’ websites, thereby weaving a virtual environment into the very fabric of the Web.”

RocketOn has built a platform for easily embedding virtual worlds into partner sites, allowing their users to interact in real-time with one another. Every partner site is part of the overall community, and with the click of a button, users can take their avatars anywhere they like on the site.

“Imagine what it would be like if you could join a virtual world on your favorite site and interact with everyone on that site,” says Steven Hoffman, CEO of RocketOn. “And what if you could also take your same avatar to any other website and meet people there?”

The result is a parallel virtual world that spans the entire Internet, where users rocket through cyberspace with their avatars and interact with virtual environments on any site they choose.

“What caught our attention about RocketOn is the potential for a new type of real-time social interaction on our site,” says Cahit Onur, CEO of Online Flash Games. “We felt this would help build customer loyalty and extend our brand into the virtual world space. We’re happy to be working with RocketOn and are open minded about new projects and ideas.”

RocketOn is announcing six partners now, with more to come in the near future.

ROCKETON’S PARTNERS INCLUDE:

Comedy.com is one of the Web’s leading comedy sites. It combines the best collaborative filtering tools along with exclusive, original-themed content, best-of-the-best lists, and timely topical material. www.comedy.com
Hypster is a music discovery site, offering Facebook, MySpace and Friendster users a personalized music player and playlists. www.hypster.com
Online Flash Games is a popular Flash games community. www.onlineflashgames.org
HotSpot is a community networking site to meet new friends, where users can store or share photos, create blogs, and share interests. www.98spot.com
faceDub develops fun and easy software that allows users to insert their faces into any scenario.
Boosh Magazine is the newest name in college entertainment. Boosh puts a unique twist on the whole ‘college magazine’ market and comes direct from a network of student columnists across the country. www.booshmagazine.com

ABOUT ROCKETON:

RocketOn is a venture-funded startup that is pioneering parallel virtual worlds. Its management team has worked at top game publishers, including Sega Sammy (SGAMY) and Electronic Arts (ERTS).

If you’d like more information, please contact:

Sep 022008
 

Hats off to the producers, Elenor and Marcus, of this social, cross-media show. Scorched – Australis’s first ‘what-if’ disaster telemovie with a few enhancements. Did they get their fingers burnt, is it really over and was it a little too scarey?

As I have mentioned before in various articles sized posts on this blog and my cross-media item on wikipedia, Cross-Media is absolutely necessary today to reach a fragmented audience. But it is also extremely hard to do, both in terms of scale of production, online rights and also getting the many parts, that make up the whole, to ‘link’ to each other in a meaningful way. To make things even harder we have to consider a new layer today, that of social media and associated networks.

TV IS NOW NOTHING MORE THAN AN EVENT, LEARN TO GROW AROUND IT

I have been running the LAMP initiative for over three years and we have been helping top notch, traditional producers of TV and Film to take their first steps down this road. We were lucky on the third ‘incubator’ residential back in 2006 to have one of the eight projects called Scorched. This had at its core a ‘traditional’ 90 minute ‘what-if’ telemovie about an Australia on fire, no water and interestingly set in a future five years away. It was led by switched-on, Ellenor Cox and Marcus Gillezeau who were really open about trying to bridge the push/pull, shout-at/listen-to divide that permeates a broadcast dominated TV landscape – especially in Australia. Since this laboratory a few things have become much more dominant, Social Networks and particularly Facebook and YouTube have come to lead the thinking of cross-media creators and as much as possible I and others tried to help the team move forward with this, their ‘trial baby’.

(It was interesting that a few thought leaders in Australian cross-media game story design were actually mentors at that LAMP residential too including writer/producer Jackie Turnure now with Hoodlum (who are probably the world leader in this area) and Cross-Media specialist Christy Dena who runs Universe Creation 101)

BROADCAST STILL CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE? WHY BOTHER WITH ANYTHING ELSE?

The telemovie (which aired in Australia last Sunday evening) is without doubt the part that became the focii of the producers and Channel 9’s thinking. Everything else I feel was seen as peripheral and an unknown commodity to the team. Indeed sponsorship issues kicked in reflecting this – but that would be revealing too much! But the Firelight team stuck at it and created a range of alternate distributed media, fictional character profiles and faux web sites that extended (in pseudo ARG style) the story world outside the narrow confines of a scheduled transmission. Why do this? Why put in all those extra hours? What’s the point?

Around a single transmission on a winters Sunday evening, there is a small chance to pull a few 100 000s into your story – much of the audience will be nibbling away on their laptops and home office computers, getting ready for a busy week. These other online elements which often seem add ons actually help introduce the back story into a persistant ‘onine’ world. They spread the narrative across time and space.

Today, any TV show or Film without a range of social media scattered around it is effectively naked, producers must learn to clothe their ‘single-point-in-time’ linear video story in online enhancements. This is nothing new, at the BBC I pioneered a lot of this ‘wrapper’ when eventually all programmes aired had a place for viewers to extend and discuss. This slowly grows your audience towards the ‘event’ (which is what TV is now of course) and keep them entranced and participatory long after – ready for the next ‘event’.

One thing that really reduced the effectiveness of the Scorched Social Media Entertainment campaign was the timing. The original plan, was to slowly build the interest in the show over 2-3 months but the broadcast TV schedulers decided, in their wisdom, to transmit a full 2 months ahead of schedule. This obviously threw the social web production into turmoil – some things you can prepare for, others make it even tougher than it needs to be. I feel for them, as I have created many cross-media packages in the past and I know they had prepared a range of crafted online layers that would have made the TV event much more compelling for by then, a ‘potentially’ captive and engaged audience.

SCORCHED HUB -THE CPN STORY WEB

http://www.scorched.tv

The centre of their online cluster was a media channel site which acted as a hub. A faux news channel called CPN, or Cross Platform Network. OK a bit of an ‘insider’ name and with NineMSN branding sitting above it, it felt rather half-way house. But it served it’s purpose and gave a good sense of the story style with a range of fixed video, studio style news content – set off in the future 2021. What didn’t work well for me was embedding too much ‘viewer content’ and character supplements on this channel too. The whole front page was very busy and turned into a bit of a ‘video catalog’ site and played down the ‘viewer’ contributions. Give them their own space and make them feel ‘important’ vs literally buried underneath the ‘professional’ stuff.

SPREADING THE WORDS

Where this project really started to work for me was in the characters and story threads that had just started to permeate the web. Although many of the sites were blatantly ‘under cooked’ it had all the hallmarks of traditional Alternate Reality Entertainment (or ARGames) – some political conspiracy, a few ‘personal’ websites but also real characters reaching out to us on YouTube and with profiles on Facebook. Cassie (the lady featured in the embedded clip above) as the main link to the show and her YouTube channel and personal website have within it something that the producers could develop further, a post apocalyptic story. There are some interesting comments on the YouTube site, but little conversation back from Cassie which is absolutely critical. Given time I believe this conversation between a knowingly fictional character and a real ‘participatory’ audience would have been the most compelling part of the whole package. The two existing sites are highlighted below:

http://www.youtube.com/user/Cassiehasdreams

http://www.cassiehoffman.com

DIGGING THE RABBIT HOLE

Once you commit to creating a cluster of fiction online the hard part is deciding how thinly to spread yourself vs how deep to go with a few threads. The Residents Against Water Theft is an example of somewhere in the middle. Like Cassie above they have a few videos and their own 5 or 6 page site and again over time this could have grown into something far deeper and may have sprung (excuse the pun) a life of its own. The two Residents Against Water Theft are linked below.

http://www.youtube.com/user/RAWTERS

http://www.rawt.org.au

And now to the strongest links to the main Telemovie. A site about a premier Angela Boardman and the energy company with whom she had been very naughty with. OK I actually went to these sites after the TV transmission and found they were true to the narrative but left me wanting more – they are a veneer but nicely designed and ready for growth. Again I would have loved it for Firelight’s sake (the production company) if they had had time to develop this and allowed some conversations from ‘players/audience’ with the crooked premier. Perhaps she could have shown her flaws outside the drama so on TX we felt we already knew her. Simple and no doubt planned. The simple pre-tx character portraits are very nicely done regardless of the depth and I love the look and feel of Argon energy – it has a proof of concept feel but then I popped over to a few similar energy sites, many of the new ‘save the planet’ ones exhibit a similar nievity in design too.

http://www.angelaboardman.com

http://www.argon-energy.com

One site they linked too that provided a considerable element of depth was H20 transport. This was a 2012 site with some deep links and history about a scarily likely business in the future, water haulage. This element of the story arc was not apparent in the telemovie as it was linked from the Argon company aboce and one wonders (without spoiling the film) if this element is altered by the story itself if the site needs to update somewhat? After all the corrupt dealings between government and Argon corporation was exposed. Something about the company below:

Established in 1997, H20 Transport Group continues to offer our customers a superior level of service and solutions for the great environmental challenges of our time.

Our emphasis on customer’s needs has been the focus of our business since it originated over fifteen years ago as a small, family-owned water transport group.

Today, having grown to be one of Australia’s leading and largest transport logistics groups, we have built on our traditional base to become a widely recognized and award winning logistics provider in the national market place. Our comprehensive fleet of trucks and storage facilities, coupled with the friendliness and ‘can do’ attitude of our staff means whenever you need water in a hurry or need to move water, H20 Transport Group are well equipped to provide you with a total solution, at a very competitive price.

So talk to the company where great service is simply second nature – H20 transport group.

http://www.h20transport.com

PLAYING OUT THE ONLINE DRAMA

Finally a little icing on the cake as Jade Hall aka Bushrangerhall, is Cassie’s boyfriend and has his own YouTube channel. He provides a little extra ammunition for Cassie’s story and gives it credibility. It would have been great to see a longer format drama play out online between these two and it might still. This was the intention and it had started on Facebook (see image below).

http://www.youtube.com/user/Bushrangerhall

AN EXIT STRATEGY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE ENTRANCE!

I am sure the Scorched team really started to consider what happens to these online living, approachable characters ‘after’ the TV event. It shows that you respect and want to engage with the audience if you take into account their ‘needs’ once they are engaged. So many times in the past we have seen a big viral campaign lead up to a TV show and then the whole thing is left to rot and die – indeed several social virtual world spaces, especially generically branded ones have succumbed to the same fate. In many cases the online drama is switched off but the worst case scenario is actually something that really makes me very sad – to see eager and loyal ‘fans’ and participators creating content, wanting a dialogue yet they are presented suddenly by silence at the other end. A relationship dies.

NOW THE SMOKE HAS CLEARED

Admittedly there were many things ‘I’ would have done differently, and unlike more innovative stakeholders, NineMSN seemed pretty insistent on making sure the ‘extras’ didn’t stray too far from its shores, hence a fourth wall breaking, branding situation on the main hub. I know many participants would have worked out that this was a fictional ‘package’ but they are also willing to suspend their disbelief if you don’t spoil it at every visit by having ‘real world branding’. I also know the effort, the 24/7 requirement of being in a hundred sites at once, and trying to do this scale with a small team can be back-breaking. For the larger scale ARGs a pyramid structure of puppet masters are put in place of course to handle large numbers of ‘participants’…remember cross-media services such as The Beast and I Love Bees were getting 3-5 million players, you are not going to manage those with a team of two!

The views on YouTube and visits to the websites are pretty small in real terms, but remember this is about engagement and dwell. Imagine you spent millions and months creating your 1 hour TV movie. Perhaps 500 000 intensely watch it (I say that as meaning, deeply engrossed vs background). So simple calculation 500 000 viewer hours. By comparison online is seen as minimal but hold on. Lets say only 20 000 are active online followers. Each spending about 60 minutes a week plugged into your distributed show which has been going for 6 months (24 weeks). Do the math. 20000*1*24 = 480 000 ‘user’ hours. But remember these are engaged and non-passive contributors, creating impressions across the social web that spread to another 500 000 and it grows and grows. The show is a blip – OK DVD sales for the main film and 160 minutes of HD extras increase that ‘dwell’ with the IP, but even that is generally only doubling the engagement with the story.

So what we have in Scorched is something that has real R&D value for all concerned, especially rather ‘heritage’ media, Australian commercial free to air TV. It was not as slick, deep or well managed as some of the higher end ARGs or online stories we see from the likes of Jane McGonigals (Serious ARGs – World Without Oil, Superstruct) or Hoodlums (Lost, Emmerdale, Fat Cow Motel, Spooks) of the world, but that is not unexpected considering the low budget that Scorched had compared with the others mentioned. Overall though something that will definitely open a few more Australian minds to alternative story telling and to be honest Australia is a world leader already in this space. Ellenor and Marcus now join those ranks. Well done to all.

FOR MORE INFORMATION THIS IS A CUT AND PASTE FROM A POST I DID ON THE LAMP SITE A FEW WEEKS AGO

Matt Costello 02SCORCHED is Australia’s first ‘what-if’ disaster telemovie. – “The Year is 2012 and Australia has run out of water.”

There is a lot more than meets the eye to Scorched, destined to be Australia’s biggest landmark doco-drama event this year. The social media, community generated story elements that build up to and after the 90 minute tele-feature being transmitted on Chn 9 in December have been work-shopped through LAMP workshops, on-going consultancy and the 3rd residential in Perth back in 2006.

Marcus Gillezeau and Ellenor Cox are the co-directors of Firelight, the creators of this groundbreaking drama format. They are wonderful example of leading independent producers who have embraced the significance of creating entertainment that spreads across platforms and time but also draws in content from the audience and makes the whole ‘experience’ more collaborative and engaging.

The surrounding online service is a hybrid of an Alternate Reality Game, an Episodic drama delivered via social media sites (such as Facebook and YouTube) and a range of fake (faux) websites that are part of the futuristic element of the story. The main hub site is CPN News, a 24-hour live news channel broadcasting stories from 2012 and including many of the lead characters – these include notable actors Vince Colosimo, Georgie Parker, Rachel Carpani, Cameron Daddo and Les Hill. You can already follow one of the characters, Cassie, on her own YouTube channel Cassie Has Dreams – which follows her ‘accelerated’ story up to the beginning of the tele-movie. More from the team and the official press release below. More coverage here:

Good luck on this project, there will be a great deal of expertise gained from this journey – for audience and producers alike!

SCORCHED is a groundbreaking all-media event incorporating television, online and user generated content that will revolutionise the way Australian’s engage with television drama. A gripping 90 minute tele-feature broadcast on the Nine Network will be augmented by an extensive 8 week interactive online drama series that will lead into and ultimately conclude the drama surrounding an ensemble of characters who find themselves engulfed by raging bushfires in a futuristic Sydney that has, due to the effects of global warming, completely run out of water.

In the two months leading up to the TV broadcast of SCORCHED the audience are invited into this future world-without-water through www.scorched.tv (which will be promoted and co-located at ninemsn). Upon entering this online world the audience is introduced to CPN News, a futuristic 24-hour live news station broadcasting stories from 2012. Our CPN news anchors guide the audience through the headline stories of the week focusing attention on how the ongoing drought and water scarcity across Australia has permeated all aspects of life as we know it. CPN’s main reporter Susan Shapiro (Rachel Carpani) is one of the main characters in the tele-feature. Many of Susan’s online interviews are with characters the audience will again meet in the TV broadcast.

CPN encourages the audience to send in stories and videos of what life is like for them in these hard times. These videos and postings are a featured part of the www.scorched.tv website and provide a novel way for the online community to interact with the future and see their offerings posted on a high-profile website. CPN also points viewers to their featured viewer of the week – Cassie Hoffman, an 18-year-old girl living in Bourke who has become obsessed with diarising her life on her website ‘Cassie Has Dreams’ to compensate for the loneliness of being one of the few remaining teenagers left in her dying town. The audience can interact with Cassie and the other characters via email, watch faux news reports and read numerous stories which set the scene on a national and global level

With potential synergies alongside Jane McGonigal’s Superstruct (“the world has 23 years left” collaborative ARG) happening in similar timeframe, SCORCHED is produced for the Nine Network by Goalpost Pictures Australiaand Essential Media and Entertainment, in association with FirelightProductions. It is financed by the Nine Network, Granada International, the Film Finance Corporation, the New South Wales Film and Television Office and the Australian Film Commission, and was developed through the Australian Film Television & Radio School’s Laboratory of Advanced Media Production (LAMP).

FIRELIGHT PRODUCTIONS SHINES LIGHT ON ALL-MEDIA SCREEN CONTENT CREATION

Firelight Productions are the original concept creators behind the multi-platform delivery of Scorched, a major 90-minute feature-length television and online event that will be broadcast via the Internet and on Nine Network Australia.

Scorched, produced by Goalpost Pictures Australia and Essential Media and Entertainment, in association with Firelight Productions, will revolutionise the way Australian’s engage with television drama. A gripping 90 minute tele-feature will be augmented by an extensive 8 week online drama series that will lead into, provide clues for, and ultimately conclude the drama surrounding an ensemble of characters who find themselves engulfed by raging bushfires in a futuristic Sydney that has, due to the effects of global warming, completely run out of water.

Starring Cameron Daddo, Vince Colosimo, Rachel Carpani and Georgie Parker, the Scorched experience will include the most sophisticated and comprehensive cross-platform element yet created for a television event in this country. The interactive online component will launch in mid August, leading up to the tele-feature broadcast later in the year.

Co-directors of Firelight Productions, Ellenor Cox and Marcus Gillezeau, who engineered the cross-platform delivery of Scorched over 2 years, are enthusiastic screen content creators with all-media capabilities who are at the cutting edge of cross-platform content generation in Australia. Their business began in 1997 as a production company specialising in adventure and social political documentaries for international television, but is now focused primarily on all-media projects after the couple identified a considerable niche in the marketplace.

Gillezeau states, “The emergence of new screen technologies created strong demand on content that can deliver across a multitude of platforms. In addition to that, audience interactivity has become paramount to engaging the widest possible audience. Firelight has spent a number of years researching and experimenting in all-media content. Scorched is a breakthrough all-media event that is the culmination of our work to date in this area.”

Scorched is their flagship project, financed by Nine, Granada International, the Film Finance Corp, the New South Wales Film and Television Office and the Australian Film Commission, and developed through the Australian Film Television & Radio School’s Laboratory of Advanced Media Production (LAMP), which is Australia’s premier emerging media research and development production lab.

“When we started to develop the all-media concept for Scorched there was little that had been done before in Australia that combined such an extensive new media proposition with such a significant television offering as a prime time movie on Australia’s leading network.” says Cox. “We looked at overseas projects and were really making it up as we went along. The knowledge we have gained about all-media delivery through developing Scorched now informs all of our future projects and Firelight has become a leader in cross platform content creation.”

Scorched hooks the viewer in with an intriguing conservation message – the reality of global warming makes the idea of a city that has run out of water seem a likely possibility. Gillezeau and Cox wanted to bring to the mainstream audience’s attention the issues of water scarcity and drought in Australia but needed to find a way of making these subjects seem ‘sexy and entertaining’. Hence the concept of Scorched was borne. In the weeks leading up to the Scorched television broadcast, audiences are invited into this future world without water through www.scorched.tv to meet Cassie Hoffman – an 18-year-old girl living in Bourke who has become obsessed with diarising her life on her website ‘Cassie Has Dreams’ to compensate for the loneliness of being one of the few remaining teenagers left in her dying town.

Gillezeau explains, “Once you enter www.scorched.tv, you can follow a serialised drama (60 minutes of 2-3 minute webisodes) which unfolds on a daily basis. The prequel drama takes the viewer right up to the very first scene of the telemovie. Web enthusiasts will be able to participate in an interactive conspiracy-style investigation online, which will arm them with bonus material with which to enjoy one of the unfolding storylines in the telemovie when it airs. After the TV broadcast the drama continues with the sequel to the online story and continuing news reports.”

Firelight is currently supervising producer on Storm Surfers, Dangerous Banks – a documentary about big wave pro-surfers that will also have a significant cross platform delivery. Storm Surfers, financed by Red Bull, the New South Wales Film and TV Office, Discovery Networks Asia and Off The Fence (Netherlands) is one of the first documentary projects in Australia to utilise the new producer’s tax offset. It will air on the Discovery Network, prior to which fans and surfers from all over the world will be able to follow their heroes’ journey comprehensively online and, like the pro-surfers themselves, track the storm that will generate the big waves, and ultimately predict when the waves will hit.

Firelight’s mission is to produce innovative programming for all-media, multi-platform delivery, and to remain at the forefront of cross platform screen content creation in Australia and internationally. Upcoming projects include the interactive online drama series Innocent which follows the story of 6 accused young drug traffickers and the reality TV series Kids in Charge where a team of tweens has 10 days to deliver a Rock show spectacle.

Marcus Gillezeau is also the author of the critically acclaimed book ‘Hands On – A practical guide to production and technology in Film, TV and New Media’. The book has been an instant hit at universities and several major conferences across the country.

Since 1997 Firelight have produced more than 20 programs and series including My Home Your War (SBS), Cave in the Snow (SBS), Breaking Bows and Arrows (SBS), The Artist The QC & The Refugee (ABC), Painting with Light in a Dark World (SBS) and Afrika: Cape Town to Cairo (ABC and National Geographic). In 2001 they produced Australia’s first fully convergent, multi-platform documentary project Little Dove Big Voyage for Network 7. Their films have won numerous international and domestic awards and have screened all over the world on television and in film festivals.

For more information, please contact:

Angie Fielder
angiefielder@iinet.net.au
0403 819 644