Cross-media content for leisure and entertainment New storytelling for new media
A European project has created an entirely new way of developing TV shows, movies and interactive multimedia. It could revolutionise the way stories are told and narratives developed, with the user or viewer as the controlling the action.
The NM2 project, short for New Millennium, New Media, created a suite of tools for a totally new form of media creation. And, over time, it will mean storytelling develops in new, completely unimagined ways.
Up to now, stories have been developed on simple, linear lines, where the authors relate a cause and decide its effect. But for ‘new media’ to be truly new, researchers must develop a new way of storytelling, one that can adapt to and interact with the audience.
Same old story
Media channels have become two way, where the audience can send as well as receive. Such interactivity provides a clear demonstration that we have entered into a new millennium. But despite the powerful alliance of computers and communications, storytelling remains the same.
Game and multimedia developers struggle to develop interactive stories. Their creation is difficult and, most often, experimental. The results tend to be hit and miss. And when it is time to tell a new story, developers have to start all over again, from scratch. The process is time consuming and costly and has impeded the development of truly interactive media for years.
But not, perhaps, for much longer. NM2 took as its starting point a new type of narrative development, a type the researchers named ‘ShapeShifted’ narrative, to reflect its adaptable nature.
The users decide
One demonstration of ShapeShifted narrative, a pilot programme called ‘Accidental Lovers’, told the love story of a man in his 30s and a woman in her 60s.
But the production team shot and prepared the narrative with a variety of developments. For example, did the lovers live happily ever after, or were they tragically doomed? The viewers decided.
Once they did they were served with the plot development of their choice as part of a seamless narrative. The film was a popular and critical success. It demonstrated the power of NM2’s toolset to script and produce ShapeShifted narratives.
The tools fit into a typical film-editing workflow. A script-logging tool annotates scripts and film rushes with relevant descriptions. The authoring tool describes the narrative structure, a description tool tags media objects and a preview tool shows the effects of user choices, validating the story works.
Storyboards are defined by what the researchers have called ‘Placeholder Narrative Objects’, which identify key points where the narrative could shift into a new story arc.
In all, NM2 has produced a complete package capable of allowing developers to produce stories in a totally new, paradigm-shifting fashion. The industry has been quick to recognise the value of the researchers’ work, and responses show that media professionals believe NM2 offers an original and technically accomplished new direction for storytelling.
NM2’s researchers officially finished their work on 31 August 2007, but the project team have set up a community portal for interested users and potential customers of NM2 tools as part of their business development.
And that means that the new millennium will soon be able to enjoy new media storytelling.
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