Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Disciplines merging in transmedia

One of the most interesting and at the same time most challenging aspects of transmedia is getting everything to gel flawlessly. It was pretty hard back in the days of interactive television (try telling an MHP programmer that the interactive set-top-box-game he was programming would need to a) look like the rest of the graphics on the show and feel like a natural part of the show, b) be confined to a certain part of the screen abd a certain size to accommodate for video feed on rest of the screen and c) take the show into consideration, not just work on its’ own…phew!) and it’s still a pretty daunting proposition.

It’s extremely important to identify which platforms make sense to use when developing a transmedia project. This in and of itself will give you some minor headaches. Why not use all of them? You really should build an app, or should you? It is a process that needs to be done, and done thoroughly. Will you be launcing and ARG of some kind? Will you have live events? Are you looking at drama webisodes, or do you need television or newspapers or even billboards to cut through to your audience? How about social media, e-mail and so on? The better you know your story (and your target audience!), the better you can choose platforms. The better and quicker you choose platforms, the easier you will have to find the right people to partner with, another crucial part of any transmedia project.

In a post called The Transmedia Manifest the so called High Flyers group, appointed by the Frankfurt Book Fair, took a look at how stories will be taught in the future. It’s a good manifest, encompassing most of the features that make transmedia methods so effective to use in a disrupted media landscape. The 11th thesis of the manifest reads:

Collaborative work
The story-universe is developed in collaboration by a versatile and interdisciplinary team, whose range of skills can meet the demands of experience-based storytelling.

In my book, all the other points of the manifest are dependant on this one. There will be no intriguing multiplatform story, if you can’t get the right people in to produce, program and create for the different platforms. There will be no ”taking advantage of the strenghts of a medium” if you or someone else your team does not fully understand and master the different media that are to be used.

Nick DeMartino wrote an interesting article the other day, looking at transmedia through the goggles of classic media scolar Marshall McLuhan. His pronouncement that ”the medium is the message” is one that media students all around the world have been indoctrinated with for decades, and in many a way it’s still an apt description of where we are today. That makes it even more crucial to create partnerships around the development of a transmedia project, to fully understand the media involved and thereby be able to convey the message, the story.

To wrap up this short post, I’ll readily acknowledge that things are not as bad as they were some 5-6 years ago, when my role as a creator and producer to a large extent meant acting as a translator between writers/directors and programmers. Today most writers and directors (at least those who have been working with multiplatform content development) understand the importance of knowing the possibilities and limitations of other media platforms outside their own main field of interest. Vice versa, most programmers can look at examples and best practices from previous campaigns and see how the tech and the software can bring about a much more engaging and immersive experience if integrated with the story from the beginning, taking into account all the demands and the possibilities the story and the mythology brings with them to the table.

And to finally conclude; if I could wish for one little thing, it’d be something like the collaborative film community at Wreckamovie, only for transmedia projects. Anyone?

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