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
UT professor develops algorithm to improve online mapping of disaster areas
29.11.2016 | University of Tennessee at Knoxville
New standard helps optical trackers follow moving objects precisely
23.11.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy