The changes wrought by the internet, by broadband and by IPTV on media distribution are immense. User experience, too, is undergoing a sea change: high-definition, flat panel displays with surround sound are becoming the norm and the industry is struggling to adapt its business models to the new world.
Yet, peculiarly, storytelling remains quite the same. The standard, linear narratives, free of interaction or personalisation from the user remain, well, standard. Story arcs and plot points are pretty unchanged since Shakespeare’s time, or Beowulf’s in the 12th century for that matter, though the effects are prettier. Stories are mainly fixed; one size fits all.
But not, perhaps, for much longer. New Millennium, New Media (NM2) set out with the extremely grand vision to create new tools for storytelling in the new media landscape. Stories that are non-linear, interactive, multimedia, and personalised to the taste and interests of the viewer.
NM2 calls them ShapeShifted narratives, a term created by NM2 to describe media made to adapt to user choices on the fly.
It is a huge challenge, particularly on the creative side. Imagine a story that evolves to satisfy the curiosity of millions of viewers, each with their own interests. “Imagine someone with ten spare minutes plugging into the news for the first time in three weeks: they want all the relevant updates quickly,” says Doug Williams, technical director of NM2.
One pilot programme for NM2, Accidental Lovers, told the love story of a man in his 30s and a woman in her 60s. It is a challenging topic and, most challenging of all, the viewer decided how the story developed. That means writers must develop multiple plotlines.
This is a simple example, but it already presents a major task to develop useful production tools, for editing and storyboarding. Ultimately, though, the NM2 vision calls for simple tools so storytellers can create narratives that users can change on a whim. The story elements must be capable of being mixed and matched, and by a machine. And that’s where the scope of NM2’s vision shines through.New media, new tools
“The tools are derived from a close understanding of the workflow in developing interactive narrative. They are designed to augment current production practice so work with existing media asset management systems and non-liner editors,” Williams emphasises.
So NM2’s Script Logging tool annotates scripts and rushes – the raw film – with relevant, structured descriptions. An Authoring tool, easily used by people with little or no technical background describes the narrative structure of ShapeShifted programmes. A Description tool tags media objects, while a Preview tool can test the effects of user input, to make sure everything works.
Central to the new tools is the ability to describe narratives. NM2 developed a way to describe story elements and media objects. “We’ve developed a narrative structure language with its own syntax and rules. It enables people to describe a story in which users can shape the narrative,” explains Williams.
The tools support the concept stage, before any recordings are made, with Placeholder Narrative Objects defining and representing storyboard elements. Story creation and editing uses NM2 tools working alongside non-linear editors (NLEs) – film editing software importing metadata and media.
“Plot frameworks are created on a narrative canvas; on playback these frameworks are populated with media using narrative rules that respond to choices made by the viewer, but also on chance operations that could, for example, show any three of nine possible clips illustrating a particular point in the narrative. It ensures constructed narratives make sense and are visually appealing but also that they can remain surprising and non-declarative,” notes Williams. The workflow is rounded out with a test function that allows creators to test viewer choices and preview the emerging story.Conceiving the unimagined with a blank map
So NM2 created one. And then developed the tools to execute it.
It was a major effort. The project regroups 13 partners, six technical, five in media production and one apiece in consumer research and project management. At €7.5 million, it is one of the largest concerted efforts to develop a new way of storytelling.
But does it work? Well, yes, perhaps better than could be expected. Feedback indicates the tools need more refinement, particularly the user interface. In some areas, it is already very strong, like an interactive, truly multimedia encyclopaedia. In other areas, it could be very important. But, vitally, NM2 has created a suite of tools and a workflow that makes new ways of storytelling possible.
And as the history of storytelling shows, that is just the beginning – it is a tale of evolution. From the early oral tales of Homer through to the frenetic editing of The Bourne Supremacy or the layered scriptwriting of Toy Story, storytelling always evolves to push the capacities of its medium – the human voice, the written word, the moving image – to the furthest of its capabilities.
Digital storytelling faces a long evolution before its limits are fully conceived, never mind explored, but NM2 has already taken new media storytelling a giant step forward.
Christian Nielsen | alfa
Fraunhofer FIT joins Facebook's Telecom Infra Project
25.10.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions
21.10.2016 | Stanford University
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
25.10.2016 | Life Sciences
25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences