Transmedia & Convergence

What is transmedia storytelling & how does it take advantage of convergence in order to create an expansive story world?

Transmedia storytelling is simply, as the name implies, is conveying a story across various forms of media. According to Henry Jenkins (2007), each medium would ideally add its own, unique contribution to the main storyline. Convergence, refers to the flow of content across mediums, the cooperation between the media industry and the media audiences who would go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they wanted (Jenkins, 2006).

One example of transmedia storytelling is Marvel. Originally restricted to comics, today the Marvel Universe consists of movies, tv series, games, websites and more. While most of the content on the platforms are cohesive, and are part of the same storyline, known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), due to the sheer size and span of time in which they were created, there are some content which form their own story totally unrelated to the MCU.

Another example of transmedia is the Lord of The Rings series. Written by Tolkien over the course of several years, it was originally conceived as a series of books. Later in the 2000s they were adapted into films by director Peter Jackson, and received with amazing, positive response. Eventually three more movies based on the Hobbit books by Tolkien as well as several games followed. However in addition to official content, the community also added to the storyline. Fans teamed up and have created virtual maps to explore Middle Earth, as well as extensive resources on the languages used in the story such as, Elvish, Dwarfish and even created movies, stories and apps. The Lord of the Rings series showcases what is possible with technology today and the way transmedia storytelling and media convergence is enabling us to create more content, on more platforms, with more people.

This was originally written as an exercise as part of Research and Development in Digital Media.

Project Analysis – 360 Video

Introduction

This is a short analysis on the selected digital media project. This was originally written as an exercise in analysis before creating a project of my own.

Project Outline

The chosen project is an experimental 360 degree video (Devinsupertramp, 2017). It was created by Youtuber Devin Graham and his team, as a challenge to test out the capabilities of the new GoPro Odyssey, a 360 degree video capable camera.

Project Rationale

Several GoPro Odysseys were given to various companies as a “limited access” pilot program. This project was one of a few experimental videos done by devinsupertramp to test out the technical and creative capabilities of 360 degree storytelling. Most 360 degree videos, while immersive and fascinating to explore, don’t tell a story. Which is why this one is different. This video was conceived with a narrative in mind, where the viewer (the camera) isn’t just a fly on the wall, but rather participates – in a way at least – in the story. The story takes place in a large room, where there is an ongoing party. Gradually though strange things begin to happen and the party turns into a terrifying murder scene when a mysterious figure appears.

Functionality

According to team member and director, Zane O’Gwin (2017), the video was a challenge to produce, due to it’s experimental nature. Before creating the storyline, Zane came up with a list of criteria that the video should meet, to help streamline the video creation process.

The camera shouldn’t cut and change positions.

While this is common and necessary in typical movies, due to the 360 degree nature, cuts and changing positions would look unnatural and jarring.

The actors shouldn’t have to memorize and perform the entire video in a single take.

This is due to technical constraints. Shooting the entire video consumes considerable power and memory, if someone messed up once, it would require re-shooting the entire video, so instead the video was created in different cuts.

There should be an actor who is entertaining enough to carry the viewer through the entire story.

This is partially due to the story, where a primary character was needed. Christian Busath was cast as the main actor.

The viewer should be engaged the entire time.

This is vital to the video, and proposed one of the largest challenges. Zane decided to set the camera up as a character. This lets the viewer be engrossed into the video, while according to Zane, “makes you feel vulnerable and threatened as opposed to just watching it happen to other people.”

Technology

The entire video is a showcase for the GoPro Odyssey, which is an array of sixteen GoPro Hero4 Black cameras. It’s a limited experimental concept created by GoPro to enable 360 degree video capture.

It costs $15,000 and is capable of capturing 8K spherical video at 30 frames per second.  However unlike traditional 360 degree cameras, the footage from the Odyssey has to be uploaded to Google’s servers and using Google’s Jump video assembler, it stitches the sixteen different angles into a single video. This video is later downloaded and edited as needed.

Analysis

The video is an interesting concept, created using fairly new technology. It explores the creative aspects of 360 degree video, with a fairly compelling and engrossing  narrative. Due to the nature of 360 degree videos, it is difficult if not impossible, to shoot it as a standard movie. Firstly, camera (in this particular case) is stationary. This  means there are no cuts or transitions to different scenes. This poses an interesting creative challenge as it makes it problematic to direct the viewers eye to anyone particular scene. The way the team gets around this problem is by making it as realistic as possible by having “multiple scenes”. There are different characters all interacting in different ways at the same time – just like it would be if you were standing in the middle of a real party happening in real life.

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Behind the scenes. (Graham, 2017)

An interesting idea used by the team to engage the viewer is the position and set up of the camera. The camera is configured to be a female character. This gives the audience a sense of being in the action. This is further helped by the having the main character fall in love with the camera’s character and constantly interacting with it – adding a fun element of humor into an otherwise creepy and slightly horrifying storyline. According to Zane it, “makes you feel nervous when you are left a lone in the room with the killer”.

One of the technical challenges involved in the video are lighting – unlike a standard movie, it isn’t possible to place lights anywhere you need it. The entire scene has to look natural and realistic – in this particular case, that meant that the light could only come from the ceiling. To help reflect some light onto the characters face, the camera’s tripod was covered in a white sheet. While this still isn’t an ideal solution it does aid in creating some fill light.

Another technically challenging situation is the way the Odyssey works. It captures sixteen different video streams from sixteen different cameras, which have to be sent onto Google’s servers to be transcoded and stitched into a single video file. This is a time, network , and storage consuming task. However as this is fairly new technology this could potentially become more streamline and easier in future.

Relevance

While it may not be reasonable to use the Odyssey to film in my project, the idea to use 360 degree videos to be able to convey a story is an interesting one, and might be possible. And not just 360 degree video, it would be possible to try different methods and technologies in a way that they’re not being currently utilized. Maybe to use drones to film an entire movie? Or possibly to shoot and record the entire movie using an iPhone? The focus shouldn’t be on the technologies, although they are important, rather it should be on the creativity and the ideas. Like Devin’s motto goes “to get the shot that no one else will.”

References

Devinsupertramp. (2017, February). Terrifying masquerade party in 3D 360!! [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/mb_J_bMor1g

Graham, D. (2017, February). 16 GoPro cameras strapped together – murder mystery! [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/-l6bsWl5xnc