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Apr 302009
 

Clip above from the earlier Australian version of The Phone in Feb 09 & interview with its producer Chris Berry here

Interesting timing to receive a prod from the publicist of this show as I am in the middle of mentoring groups of AFTRS directing students who are developing ARG/Social Media drama. The tendency is to always over author the story environments and they turn into endless quests through fixed content but in this new hybrid form The Phone, described below, starts to mash-up urban locative quests with high production value TV crime/spy drama – a true development of form & innovation?

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Mar 312009
 

A cross-post from the LAMP blog I also run: LAMP mentored ‘Social Media, Multi-Platform’ Drama Scorched won the coveted International Interactive Emmy Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences last night at MIP TV. The first time Australia has won this award.

A big congratulations particularly to producers Marcus Gillezeau and Ellenor Cox from Firelight Productions. These awards are held annually at MIP TV in Cannes and celebrate the most innovative drama, documentary, informational and entertainment services delivered on multiple platforms.

iemmy-awardThrough these awards, the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is celebrating a significantly growing sector of the television industry and recognize excellence in content created and designed for viewer interaction and/or delivery on a digital platform.

The 2009 Winners.

Fiction category winners “Scorched” Firelight Productions in association with Essential Media & Goalpost Pictures, Australia

Non-fiction category winners “Britain From Above,” BBC / Lion, United Kingdom

Children and young people category winners “Battlefront”, Channel 4, United Kingdom

Brian Seth Hurst (Second Vice Chair at Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and CEO at The Opportunity Management Company) who helps organise these awards sent through this Twitpic of himself (mid left), Chris Hilton from Essential Media and Entertainment (far left), Marcus Gillezeau (mid right) and Mike Cowap (Innovation Head at Screen Australia – far right), at the after awards (30 minutes ago!). Picture from Brian Seth Hurst (actual photographer as yet unknown).

iemmy_awards_scorched_brianhurstpic

The story has also been covered in The Hollywood Reporter, TVAusCast,  TV Tonight, Digital Media, Campaign Brief, ShowHype and NineMSN

Digital Media magazine has a few ‘delegates’ over there at the moment who are twittering events as they happen you can follow them here. This is how we found out about the award over here from several other tweeters…

  • PipRMB: Aussie digital media company Firelight Prods. have won the first ever International Digital Emmy for best drama for Scorched – huge congrats
  • BrianSethHurst: Winner Fiction Int’l Digital Emmy Award “Scorched” Australia Goalpost Media, Essential Media
  • FanTrust: Check out Scorched which just won a digital Emmy— outstanding fictional drama for 3 screens. Live from #miptv

The Digital Media magazine also featured an article prior to MIP TV referring to LAMP’s involvement in the project –

“Meanwhile the makers of NineMSN cross-platform drama Scorched, Marcus Gillezeau, Ellenor Cox, Michael O’Neill and Brad Hayward, have been nominated for an International Digital Emmy Award. The awards ceremony will be held on March 30 at the MipTV conference. Scorched was financed by Nine Network, ITV International, Screen Australia and the New South Wales Film and Television Office 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.”

Other awards winners noted by TV Week

The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences revealed the winners for the International Digital Emmy Awards at the MIP TV opening festivities in Cannes, France.

Australia won its first International Digital Emmy award in the fiction category for “Scorched.”

The non-fiction category went to “Britain From Above,” while “Battlefront” won the children and young people category. Both programs were from the U.K.

Below is a shot of the team with Jackie Turnure (far right – now at Hoodlum) back in May 2006 when they started planning the Social Media elements of the experience on a LAMP residential. There were then several follow up sessions with them to help crystallize their ideas. (Pic Catherine Gleeson)

Scorched has received a great deal of attention and commentary from press and also those closer to the project. This is the LAMP post about the launch, here is Guy Gadney at MIPTV at the moment (then head of PBL New Media, Channel 9) and Gary Hayes (LAMP Director’s personal media blog). It is great news that another LAMP connected project has won the International Emmy’s – examples of earlier ones included Jim Shomos (LAMP mentor) with his Forget the Rules projects, the winner of the Ogilvy Amex award by then LAMP mentor Jackie Turner and other LAMP projects such as The Deep Sleep won development awards too.

xeno_cannes01-ghayesPrevious iiEmmy award winners in related categories have included Canadian Xenophile’s Alternate Reality Doco/Drama Regenesis and Total Drama Island plus fellow Canadian’s Zinc Roe with their Zimmer Twins service (now featured globally).

Link to the Canadian’s winning most awards two years ago here and the image below is of the two teams during the awards taken by 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!

Feb 012009
 

What may save TV may also truly grow Social Virtual Worlds. As online audiences continue to ignore TV and vanilla/social virtual worlds suffer from a lack of direction, perhaps the marriage of the two will save both from irrelevancy? A report by Gary Hazlitt in various TV branded virtual world spaces.

twinityspiritThere have been several forays by TV properties (gradually losing their audience and associated ad revenues) into social virtual worlds over the past two years. I don’t just mean branded one-off events but actually setting up shop, building a familiar and representive space for the ‘users’ to play in. These forays range from at one end, simple branded spaces pushing episodes on screens through to actually running variants of the TV format to be played out by participant avatars in a detailed build -with many points in-between. But before the meat of the post (a couple of new entrants) here is a quick list to give you an idea of some of the shows and channels that have tried, had some success or failed. As I have been involved in a few of them and visited all, I have listed ones I think have had most impact (engagement) through to those who didn’t quite get it (reversioning).

  1. NBC’s Gossip Girl
  2. MTV’s – Laguna Beach on There.com (also Hills, PimpMyRide etc)
  3. Big Brother – PersonalizeMedia detailed report & at launch
  4. Showtimes The L Word
  5. CBS -  CSI:New York and from TechCrunch
  6. Weather Channel – Info, simulations and Extreme Sports area
  7. Australia’s ABC TV Island – Channel & some programmes (eg: Librarians)
  8. NBC Universal Media Island – Channel & concerts & events
  9. London Live – the first music show to appear on the cyberchannel: Virtual Life.TV
  10. SkyNews Island – News Set role play
  11. The Money Programme BBC screening
  12. Channel 4 – Radio Station
  13. Sundance Channel – Virtual screening room
  14. Inhabited TV 1997! – BBC, BT, Illuminations and others
  15. many more…0ver to you and comments!

twinityspirit01There is a rule of thumb regarding TV execs and virtual worlds or serious games initiatives – do not let the TV folk take control as they have too much ingrained baggage around non-participatory media and the resultant compromise is often of no use to anyone – get people who understand game play (and be aware that often excludes traditional game developers) and social media involved or face the consequences. The ones above that really worked allowed the participant audience to really ‘live’ in the shoes of the characters either by having activities similar to the protagonists, meeting the ‘fictional characters’, a social space that resonated with the shows aesthetic or a great set with game-like elements. I have talked a lot about Mixed Reality Entertainment in the past and how one of the most innovative uses of virtual space is to extend the TV or Film property into a 24/7, participatory environment. The main reason for doing this is to drive traffic to the TV but also to keep existing followers loyal to the branded property. As an example there is more detail about the reasoning on my post on Big Brother (good and bad) in Second Life (Witnessing the Birth of an Entertainment Form) as well as posts nearby on CSI in Second Life and many of MTVs properties in There.com (TV Property Branded Virtual Worlds – The Beginning). There are moves around the world including BBC and many European broadcasters who are creating worlds alongside and in some cases in front of the TV episodics and this is the important point. Promoting films with games or virtual world spaces has a very limited life span, forging a strong link between virtual world events and TV episodics is to me a virtuous circle – especially considering the 200 plus worlds populated by the youth audience who are typically turning off TV – teens and tweens. Earlier there were many experiments of TV/World hybrids and I was involved, as mentioned before, in the Mirror. Here is John Wyver (then Illuminations) talking about that (remember this is circa 1997!).

The other key element that contributed to the success of The Mirror, much as in real life, was the provision of regular “hosts” for the space. These needed to be frequent visitors who spent a significant amount of their time in the world, and whom users could have some reasonable expectation of encountering when they logged on. These hosts would greet new entrants, introduce people to each other, point out activities and generally help people around. More than this, however, over time they became the core of the community of the world, encouraging people to return and beginning to develop the particular language and culture of The Mirror. Needless to say, they were the saddest to see it turned off after seven weeks – although a number of relationships begun virtually have continued in the real world – including at least one marriage and one recently born child.

Recent company start-ups or collaborations also suggest that there are moves afoot. Icarus studios are squarely aiming at the TV/VirtualWorld hybrid and about 18 months ago Endemol & EA teamed up to create Virtual World TV formats (VirtualMe) based on Deal or No Deal and Big Brother. Also there have been a plethora of immersive film launches (play-in-the-set-type builds) across the metaverse and I Legend, Digital Hollywood, Iron Man, Quantum of Solace and Transformers spring to mind as I write – but as I said this post is more to do with a continuous, what happens on TV resonantes into the virtual world and what happens there is reflected into the TV episodics. (I regularly consult on this specific area so won’t go into any more detail!)…

habbo_heroes_image2

So, it is interesting to see this trend continuing as new world Twinity starts to do more experiential ‘film’ property marketing and even more ‘demographically focussed’ the current series of Heroes being extended into Habbo

The agreement was brokered by the William Morris Agency and marks the first time ‘Heroes’ has partnered with a virtual world.

..but not in the usual way. As reported by LA Times “‘Heroes’ hops on to Habbo’s virtual world” they will be introducing a virtual-only character Syn Anders who will act as a bridge or guide to the TV series. NBC themselves give more detail here.

While following directions from a mysterious virtual messenger, the new character will take the audience on an adventure as she discovers the history of ‘Heroes’ through a journey that travels back and forth between Habbo.com and the ‘Heroes’ Evolutions site. “We’re excited to work with Habbo to introduce a new character that will extend the enormously popular and Emmy® Award winning ‘Heroes’ interactive story beyond the official Web site on NBC.com,” said Stephen Andrade, senior vice president, Digital Development and General Manager, NBC.com. On Habbo.com, fans of the show will be able to interact with the new virtual hero through a variety of in-game activities. Habbos participating in a weeklong quest will discover their own special powers and will be recruited as new heroes. Those who successfully complete the mission will be awarded various virtual prizes. On the ‘Heroes’ Evolutions site, the new virtual hero will be woven into several of the in-universe, interactive extensions of the on-air show, including a character profile, the Primatech Paper Assignment Tracker and new chapters of the ‘Heroes’ graphic novels.

One of the more obvious links between TV and film of course is simply to broadcast a seed back story as a series, animated makes most sense to keep a strong visual link and then run a MMOG alongside it. This extends, involves the audience more in the narrative and allows them to personalize the experience. We are seeing this about to play out (in Asia at least) with Fusion Fall on the Cartoon network.

This is a great use of virtual worlds and it also shows that you don’t need richly rendered environments to be able to engage with participants in these spaces. Also in terms of the ‘linking’ paradigm, it is close to ‘my’ level 3 wikipedia cross-media definition

Excerpt “Cross-media 3.0“ Bridges. – The truest form of cross-media where the story or service structure is specifically authored to drive the audience using strong Call-To-Actions, across media devices to continue the journey. The content placed on the other platform is critical to staying in touch with the experience and the narrative bridges tease you towards investigating or moving to another media form/platform. Obvious examples include a TV show that ends suddenly and gives you a URL to explore more. It may be an SMS that teases and points you towards a live concert in a city square which then leads you to a TV show, then to a podcast then to subscription emails. The trigger, or bridge, is the critical component of this in motivating the cross-media action.”

twinityspirit02Onto Twinity and the images here and above are me playing around in the pre-build set of the recently released and not universally praised film The Spirit. Although it grossed $10 million in the first 4 days it was pulled up for being unemotional and 2D. Well part of the problem generally with many big features now is that audiences have changed and want something more experiential – especially with ‘comic-noir’ films – why not let them ‘live’ in the story environment (my wikipedia item)? Twinity though have teamed up with Will Eisner studios to do this event (not in any way my ideal episodic but potentially a way for the Twinity user base to ‘create episodic, comic-noir’ machinima on-going?

CineStar Spirits you Away to Another World – CineStar’s CUBIX cinema in virtual Berlin is the premiere address for all movie-related events in Twinity. The cinema is currently showing the trailer and other exciting movie material from the upcoming premiere of The Spirit, a movie based on Will Eisner’s cult 1940s comic book series, which will be coming to a cinema screen near you from 5 February.  Fans of the movie can get their hands on exclusive Spirit merchandising: including posters, standees, and an incredible Spirit mask that lets you see special visual effects inworld. Find more information here. Save the date and come to the opening party!
Date: Monday, 2 February
Time: 17:00 Berlin, 11am NYC, 00:00 Singapore
Where: CineStar CUBIX

twinityspirit03Twinity (by Metaversum, the German created virtual world) are a long ways from a mature stable platform, hence being in beta for the past 12 months or so, but are already exhibiting the best ‘world-led’ event-based, user activation. This in my mind is high on the list of reasons for likely success over many of the areas that over-hyped Second Life suffered from in the early days. OK the world is quite big and empty and many ‘social’ tools are not yet available inworld but the kind of activity quoted below (calling for videos, images, stories etc: attached to some well know brands) is great first step community building and more importantly getting a growing community to market for you. Even I had a go at one a few months ago – video embedded below 🙂 BTW Metaversum you really need to improve the video tools (detached camera please!).

Submit Your Artwork and Win! – Take part in The Spirit Screenshot and Machinima Contest and win an exclusive film poster signed by cult film director Frank Miller or The Spirit action figures.
Things Are Looking A Little Different Around Hereos
Wear the mask and see Twinity through the eyes of the Spirit! – Use Twinity’s screenshot and recording tools to create incredible Spirit- inspired images! To be eligible to win the contest, screenshots must be created while wearing the Spirit Mask and its visual effects must be demonstrated in your machinima. Screenshots may be submitted in jpg, png or gif formats.
Sensational Prizes – You have the chance to win sensational The Spirit prizes! Three prizes will be given out to the lucky winners of the Screenshot and Machinima Contest:
* 1st prize: The Spirit action figure and film poster signed by Frank Miller
* 2nd prize: The Spirit film poster signed by Frank Miller
* 3rd prize: The Spirit action figure
To take part in the contest, all you have to do is:

  • Submit your screenshots together with your Twinity name to quest@twinity.com or
  • Upload your movie to a video sharing website, for example “YouTube”, then submit the link to your uploaded video together with your Twinity name to quest@twinity.com
  • Competition deadline: 28 February 2009

We’ll celebrate the winning entries with a Winner’s Gallery party in the CineStar Event Hall! Artwork will be displayed in the CUBIX cinema during The Spirit promotion. Keep an eye on Twinity’s Event Calendar for further details!

Of course I would encourage all TV producers to think about their current audience and whether they want to reach them this way. More importantly you need to think of the appropriateness of creating inworld characters or environments for them to exist in – serious games (from documentaries) and childrens episodics are hot ones at the moment . The real effort is more about having great characters that are persistant in the space but beware of bots or NPC’s (non player characters) pretending to be real, this can have a strong counter productive effect. More later.