Two storycentral client projects shortlisted at FutureBook Innovation Awards 2014

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Both The Chatsfield (Harlequin Mills & Boon) and The Memory Machine (Media-Melt) have been shortlisted in the final 5 for ‘Best Fiction Digital Book‘ category at this year’s FutureBook Innovation Awards - http://www.thebookseller.com/news/futurebook-innovation-awards-shortlists-unveiled

storycentralDIGITAL is delighted at the news, having worked on strategy for both projects:
- co-producing and strategising Harlequin Mills & Boon’s ‘The Chatsfield‘ …

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and companion web series The Loedown,
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- and, in more recent months, working alongside professional Playologist Denise Chapman Weston on her debut transmedia title for new company ‘Media Melt’s‘ The Memory Machine.
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The awards will be presented at the end of the FutureBook Conference 2014, which takes place at Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, London on 14th November 2014.

Futurebook Shortlist 2014

 

Congratulations to all short-listers!

 

storycentralLABS debuts partnership with SundanceTV at Merging Media 5, Vancouver

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 It’s with great delight and excitement that we can finally announce a debut partnership between storycentralLABS – the training, mentoring and development arm of storycentral – and SundanceTV on the Digital Extensions Story Lab on 12th and 13th November in Vancouver in partnership with Merging Media 5 Talks & Market.

Digital Extensions Story Lab TITLE

In a response to discussions for a creative lab at Merging Media 5 Market & Talks, storycentralLABS has gathered high-level mentors to guide and advise 10 teams of 5 over two-days, working on creative, interactive, digital extensions for a yet-to-be-revealed, exciting, SundanceTV show.

As a Masterclass Trainer for Eurovision Academy (European Broadcasting Union) and a judge for various film, media, publishing and entertainment hacks, labs, challenges and awards around the world I launched storycentralLABS after being impressed and amazed at the energy put in by teams at these events.  I’ve watched passionate creators, inventive creative technologists, hackers, storytellers and artists create extensions around fictitious projects and storyworld briefs only to watch weak and exhausted pitches for a ‘pie-in-the-sky’ brief that, with all good intentions from burned out team members, rarely saw the light of day in the commercial domain.

storycentralLABS launched with a view to partnering with commercial networks, broadcasters, publishers, game developers to allow participants to work their ideas on a tangible IP with a mutual win-win.  The networks/studios/publishers have direct access and introductions to emerging and fabulous talent and the participants gain experience and insight on working on ground-breaking  IP in a fun, lab environment but with the real challenges and parameters that come with strategising extensions around a commercial property.  With associates and colleagues as high-level mentors the SundanceTV lab is as much creative lab as it is masterclass.

Alison & Drew

Dovetailing with Merging Media, the Digital Extensions Story Lab takes place on November 12-13, a groundbreaking 2-day hands-on collaborative workshop in which participants, mentored by Drew Pisarra, SundanceTV’s VP of Digital and Marketing (former VP Digital Media at AMC – who pioneered digital extensions for AMC’s award winning series Breaking Bad, Mad Men and The Walking Dead), and lead by storycentralLAB’s Founder/CEO Alison Norrington, will develop an interactive, complementary element for a SundanceTV series.

Digital Extensions Story Lab 2

The jury-assigned top three teams will be invited to pitch their prototypes before an esteemed international jury on the Merging Media 5 stage and the winning team will gather for a private meeting with SundanceTV, storycentral and key mentors, will be featured on SundanceTV’s website … with potential for further, longer-term discussions at high level…(project-pending).

Basically, make your idea as awesome as you can! The opportunities are very real and we want to discover great things!

The Lab combines all the best features of story hacks and collaborative workshops, but with a real television IP in development and under the mentorship of top notch mentors! Participants will work side by side with facilitators Alison Norrington and Drew Pisarra, as well as receive 2 full days of insightful presentations, guidance and advice from top industry mentors from the US and the UK .

Our mentors, still being finalised, include:

Digital Extensions Story Lab Joerg

Digital Extensions Story Lab EstherWatch this space as we announce more mentors, but act now if you’re interested!  Space is extremely limited to 10 teams of 5 participants each, who must meet eligibility requirements and will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Apply now for the opportunity to collaborate in a fun, creative environment on an incredible TV show. A registration fee of $100 will be made – upon acceptance to the Lab.

For more Info on the The Digital Extensions Story Lab, contact Alison at story-lab@mergingmedia.ca

Click here to download your Digital Extensions Story Lab application.

Click here for an overview of the Digital Extensions Story Lab rules.

 

Breaking the 4th Wall with Virtual Reality : Act 2.5 of ‘Meet Lucy’

 

As a writer you want to make your audience ‘move in’ and then unpack their bags by evoking feeling in the sensory elements of your storyworld, playing on the elegant nuances of the 5 senses.   Experience Designer and Ravensbourne graduate, Robert Andre took a leap to make the audience unpack their bags and experience rather than simply suspend disbelief and imagine with his Virtual Reality experience, Act 2.5 of Meet Lucy, a 3-act interactive story highlighting the reality of housing issues in London which debuted at Learn Do Share at Ravensbourne.

The brainchild of Creative Director and PhD researcher, Nina Simoes, the story was written by David Varela and designed and built as an environment and a personal experience by Robert Andre.  Housed inside a red booth 2 metres high, 1.5m wide and 1m deep the VR experience lasts between 1.5 to 2.5 minutes, with immersion taking between 20-30 seconds as you become accustomed to the Oculus Rift headset and your experience goes from being physically transported into the middle of a story to an overwhelming ‘wow’.

Now what you’re watching is what you’re feeling!

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Virtual Reality Experience Designer & Creator of Act 2.5 of Meet Lucy – Robert Andre and a player

 

This Virtual Reality component was cleverly designed so that the 400+ players who had already been interacting with the story through email and SMS prior to Learn Do Share would have a ‘real-life’ enhancement at the Ravensbourne event.  Nina explains, “They experienced everything they’d been reading about up to that point – the confinement of the small space that Lucy and her family were living in along with the oppressive sense when all options aren’t ones you’d choose.  This is where technology makes a difference – there is a particular moment in which you want the user to experience with you what it feels like.  It’s deeply immersive.

Robert adds that the sense of confinement was key.  With players arrival point being Lucy’s kitchen it was critical that the space felt cramped and playing with spatial awareness was a deliberate design point.  Robert explains, “The first entry point is the kitchen where you’re immediately feeling the oppressive heat of the oven.  You’re confronted by Lucy, the protagonist, and she talks to you!  This creates an immediate connection, as prior to this moment you’ve been talking to her through email.  You’re not simply listening to her – she’s asking you to talk back.” 

 

Narrative Design meets Experience Design meets Sensory Design

With a history in experience design Robert understands the value in the key question of ‘What do you want your audience to do?’ and has gone through his design career creatively challenging ‘why’.  “It’s so important to put yourself in the audiences shoes and ask ‘Why? Keep it simple – don’t make it flashy  it has to work BUT be functional AND work for the user. If the user can’t fathom it.  Then it’s failed. 

Robert wanted to mix the complexities of narrative design with experience design and sensory design by not only immersing the player visually and aurally at the centre of Lucy’s home, but also played with elements of scent and temperature too.  This multisensory experience was designed down to elegant nuances of story as experience and in addition to the heat in the kitchen and the cold fan in the bathroom, he took time to find the right sounds, even in the background.

I was aware that images and non-verbal choices in the story setting add impact and there is jazz playing on a radio in the environment. I needed to consider appropriateness to the character or the scene?  Is this a movie we’re watching or are we really in somebody’s home?” and to keep it as ‘lifelike’ as possible he avoided characters as computer game-like avatars.  Time was taken to cast and shoot real actors as the 3 main characters (Lucy, Ama and Jemma) in the Meet Lucy storyworld.  This decision paid off by giving the sense that players were really in a blurred reality of being inside a strangers home and not in the middle of a console game.  “It adds to the intimacy of the experience to be confronted with a real character and you have the fluidity of reading the emotions on her face,” he adds.

 

Story & Creation: A collaboration between storyteller & experience designer

From a storytelling perspective the collaborative nature of writing to craft a visual storyworld that then becomes a ‘reality’ (albeit a virtual one) is a dream come true.  Nina spoke about the challenges of that for writer, David Varela.  “As a writer David had to carefully think about the space that he was describing – the senses, the smells and putting himself in the shoes of the characters and becoming a user experience designer.   He was writing from a different and a deeper level – in comprehending the imagined world that will be incorporated into the virtual world”.

Robert explained, “it was essential that we collaborated as we were coming at it from 2 angles.  The writer builds the characters, the back-story and the other beats and fine points.  Then, as the experience designer and storyworld builder/modeller you have to consider the parameters of the story from the writers perspective.”  So where do the lines blur? Or do they? Between imagined storyworld creator, visual storyworld creator and story experience designer?

“It’s all in the collaboration between the designer and writer!  You have to agree on the development points as it all must work together.  The characters have to look a certain way – you’re building an environment and “it’s real but has to be believable rather than realistic”.

Designing a Virtual Reality experience amplifies a combination of writing styles – the sensory look and feel of a novel, the visual stimulation and storytelling of film or TV with the interaction of a game but Robert insists that subtlety is key. “The senses are working hard to make sense of what’s been interacted with. The audience/player is taken on a journey and whilst images are great for the screen, they’re not written, shot or designed for an immersive experience.  It has to be written for a VR experience”.  This means that attempts at repurposing existing screen-centric stories isn’t going to work.  He realized that the editing suite techniques needed to shift too. “In the editing suite, a sudden cut to another scene (as you would in a film) isn’t real or life like.  The construction of story and ideas, scenes, ideas, has to be considered.  A new grammar and design aesthetic has to be adopted.  If you’re giving people the opportunity to roam around in an environment the whole structure of the story has to change along with key questions to be addressed, such as who is the protagonist in your story and why are you following him?”

VR experience3

 

Robert, Nina and the team see huge value in creating VR experiences to tell societal stories, to allow people to literally put themselves in somebody else’s shoes and experience from an existential point of view and believe that with the involvement of audience they can listen and build a world in which we can help create solutions – this is storytelling with context and purpose!

Nina added, “We wanted to see how people would interact and if the story would hold people together and we proved that it did.  Our proof of concept worked and was very successful, now we would like to explore the concept further.  We need to look at making technology to work more for us. VR allows participants to enter into a different dimension.  These fictional experiences can encourage interactions that can contribute to the development of new solutions for the challenges we face in the world today.”

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 The story of Lucy Maddox (based on a true story) has now concluded but can be found at the Learn Do Share Storify at https://storify.com/RaveDMIC/learn-do-share-london-2014

Further context on Meet Lucy can be found at - http://www.storycentral.com/interactive-purposeful-storytelling-meets-virtual-reality-at-learn-do-share-london-with-meet-lucy/

 

Photo credits: Fabio Vazquez Higueras

 

 

 

 

If Autism Had A Voice.. Experiential Immersion in Storytelling

If Autism Had A Voice… Could This Be It?

There’s an opinion that technology, when applied to storytelling, changes everything.

There’s an opposing opinion that it, in fact, changes nothing – that our behaviors around stories remain the same, simply our way to share and talk about them is enhanced through social media sharing, liking and forum discussions.

Oculus Rift is the Virtual Reality of the moment – immersive storytelling that puts you at the heart of the story, but how can you really put your readers/audience into the mind of a character?  How can you make them see the world from a characters eyes, experience the world from their perspective?  If you don’t have Oculus Rift at your disposal and want to ‘push’ stories to where your audience are already hanging out (their devices) rather than ‘pull’ them to an event or space where they stand in line to try out the Oculus Rift headset?

Every now and then a storyteller comes along who wants to add experiential and immersive depth to their stories;  storytellers that appreciate the intersection of experience design with narrative design, who appreciate and respect the impact of literally putting their readers in their characters shoes.  Professional Playologist and specialized play therapist to deaf and autistic children, Denise Chapman Weston has been inventing magical experiences and bringing dreams to life for most of her life.  Co-author of three books teaching parents how to use play to solve their children’s challenges, she then transformed her skills of play and storytelling into entertainment on a larger scale consulting for companies such as Hasbro, Walt Disney Imagineering, Universal Studios, and other large amusement companies. Continue reading

The Memory Machine – Multiplatform YA storyworld

Memory Machine

Any story that’s designed to combine ‘multiple narratives, simultaneously delivered through interactive experiences’ is always sure to catch my attention. I’m constantly looking for great examples that marry narrative design with experience design and when Denise Chapman Weston told me about her vision for her new company Media Melt, I was excited.

A few months down the line she has launched her debut story,  The Memory Machinean epic story of a family brought together across generations, specifically through the eyes of a nonverbal, autistic boy ‘Blue’ and his Alzheimer-suffering grandfather as they build a fantastical machine on the family farm in the hopes of bringing back lost memories.

I’m excited by The Memory Machine not only because it tells a heart-warming story, but because it uses a distinct ‘media-melt’ approach to bring the storyworld to life in your hands. Continue reading

Interactive, purposeful storytelling meets Virtual Reality at Learn Do Share LONDON with ‘Meet Lucy’.

lds logoThe brainchild of Creative Director and PhD researcher, Nina Simoes, Meet Lucy is an innovative and interactive story that highlights the reality of housing issues in London and runs parallel to Learn Do Share

Nina brought together a smart trio to work together to produce and deliver the story of Lucy Maddox, a fictional character created by writer David Varela.  This interactive story culminates in a live event at Learn Do Share and is supported by 2 technologies: pervasive storytelling tool Conducttr and Virtual Reality technology Oculus Rift, powered by Unity.

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In the run up to Learn Do Share the story of Lucy Maddox highlights the lack of social housing in the UK.  Nina and her creative team’s vision is that the story is more resonant and relevant as it specifically focuses on Lucy, a 22 year old girl and her Mum and sister who are ‘statutory homeless’.  The story is a strong example of purposeful storytelling, as advocated by Learn Do Share Founder, Lance Weiler and explained here by Peter Guber.

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Creative Director Nina Simoes felt very passionate that Learn Do Share was supported by a story that was both relevant, purposeful and interactive and I was lucky enough to speak with Nina, the Conducttr team – Robert Pratten, Jonny Virgo and Eduardo Iglesias and Virtual Reality Experience Designer Robert Andre about the vision for the story and how these 2 technologies dovetailed to create a seamless experience around David Varela’s story:

 

 

Continue reading