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
Brain-Computer Interface: What if computers could intuitively understand us
18.01.2017 | Technische Universität Berlin
New technology enables 5-D imaging in live animals, humans
16.01.2017 | University of Southern California
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
18.01.2017 | Life Sciences
18.01.2017 | Information Technology
18.01.2017 | Life Sciences