Are Interactive Video and Oculus Rift the Future of Storytelling?
Which technologies will bring about the next revolution in storytelling? That was one of the main focuses of conversation at Percolate’s “Transition” conference in New York City last week.
Interactive Video Players
One of the most interesting innovations on display was Interlude, the first video player to master the technology behind seamless interactive video.
“There’s been interactive video for years and years now, but the thing that always held us back as filmmakers was that you always had to pause the action,” explained Kate Oppenheim, executive producer at the production company m ss ng p eces. “You would be in the middle of this emotionally fraught moment when you wanted to make a decision for a character and all of a sudden the action would stop.”
When the solution finally did arrive, it didn’t come out of Silicon Valley like you would expect. Instead, it came from the Israeli pop music industry. Looking to make an interactive music video, musician and songwriter Yoni Bloch started what he thought would be a three-week project. Three years later, he’d helped invent a new technology.
These days, “interactive video is destroying static video,” m ss ng p eces CEO and co-founder Ari Kuschnir said. For example, the average viewer watched the company’s interactive Pepsi spot “Now Is What You Make of It” 2.5 times.
“Which, for those of you who are in conversations about getting people to watch your videos on YouTube and you’re talking about 60 percent finishing or 80 percent finishing if you’re doing really well, the idea of 250 percent finishing is really exciting,” Oppenheim said.
Made with Interlude technology, the video allows viewers direct YouTube drumming sensation Stony through the streets of Rio, where he runs into the likes of Lionel Messi and Janelle Monáe. In all, the video comes with 11 scenes and parallel story lines to uncover and has garnered more than 2.4 million views on YouTube. Not bad for an ad.
And then there’s Oculus Rift, a virtual 3D headset with the promise to not only revolutionize the gaming world, but filmmaking as well.
“Up until this point, the focus has mainly been on rendered worlds,” Oppenheim said. All that changed after two filmmakers in Montreal, Felix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël, found a way to shoot live action for virtual reality.
“So what that means is that you, as the viewer, when you’re in the experience, you are the camera,” Oppenheim said. “And when you are in a space you can see everything around you.”
I was lucky enough to get a demo of the product. After putting on the headset and headphones, I found myself in a lofty apartment watching the musician Patrick Watson play around on the piano. I turned my head. A line of suit- and pencil-skirt-clad marketers had transformed into a wall of exposed brick. I looked back at Watson and when, just for a moment, he looked at me, I actually blushed. As I did so, I understood what Oppenheim meant when she said this new medium was not about making films, “but creating experiences.”
I could see into a future where people didn’t just read or watch the news—they experienced it. I could see home videos being replaced with what amounted to time travel, and pop stars selling downloads to on-stage experiences.
Oppenheim explained that fully recognizing the potential of any new medium is a humbling process of recognizing that the skills a person’s spent his or her life mastering—camera angle, pacing—often no longer apply. But in the end, “It’s not the technology that’s going to come first; it’s always going to be the story and the emotion and the engagement that your audience has.”
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