Worknote #6 – The Noise, The Story & the Future Of Storytelling

thenoise1Storythings is in New York again this week, attending the second Future of Storytelling conference, run by Charles Melcher at the beautiful Snug Harbor Cultural Center. Last year’s event was incredibly inspiring, and the line-up this year is just as good, with speakers including Kenyatta Cheese, Lisa Donovan from Maker Studios, Chris Milk and Alexis Lloyd, Creative Director of New York Times’ R&D Lab. We’ll share our thoughts and links after the event, and if you’re lucky enough to be there – come and say hello!

Our R&D project with Unlimited Theatre is reaching its final stages, and will launch with the production of their play The Noise in Newcastle in November. We’ve been working with Unlimited and Dundee University’s Product Research Studio to develop new ways to publish playscripts and other media to audiences on mobile devices. The R&D project involved a series of co-design labs with a user group based in Leeds, and this blog post from Leila Johnston on the NESTA/ACE R&D blog is a great account of how the design process developed from these co-design labs. Silvia Novak from Storythings will be writing up more details about the design process and the final product at the end of the project.

We’re also very happy to be working with Lighthouse in Brighton on Helix – an online animation project that has developed out of their collaboration with artist David Blandy and science writer Adam Rutherford. The site will feature new illustrations from illustrator Daniel Locke, and will trace the connections between mythology, remix culture and the history of DNA through a series of beautiful online animations. We’ll be launching the beta site later in October as part of London Science Festival, so will post more details as soon as they’re confirmed.

Other work underway at Storythings include social strategy work for the fashion artists’ agency CLM and the BBC/Arts Council project The Space, creative development work for a major UK publisher on a new film/book/music project, and continuing our partnership with Pulse Films on a new music feature film project and developments for a TV format for a UK broadcaster.

And finally – our annual conference The Story is five years old next year! Speakers announced so far include artists Iain Forsyth & Jayne Pollard, illustrator and model maker Kyle Bean and foley artist Barnaby Smyth. The Early Bird tickets have already sold out, but you can get a ticket from our Eventbrite site now – get yours before they sell out! Thanks also to Ozy.com for listing The Story amongst other great events like Do Lectures and PopTech – its great to be in such esteemed company.

Notes on making the Diesel Days to Live project.

Screen ShotStorythings#5
Diesel Days To Live
Website & iOS app
Client: CP&B
Partners: Anthony Dickenson, Pulse Films
Lead Technologist: Dan Catt

I thought that enough time had passed since the the Diesel Days to Live project launched that I really should get round to writing up some notes and thoughts about some of the thinking behind it.

The brief from the client was to create an online film that gave the impression of time ‘glitching’ or fracturing, to tie in with a new campaign for Diesel Watches. We started with a week sprint at Pulse Films offices, with Pulse Director Anthony Dickenson shooting the watches with a Canon 5d and a motion control rig, whilst James Bridle and I experimented with ways to make the films interactive and playful.

The very basic premise was that we were going after something that had a video/film quality about it, a film that the user could have some interaction with. We were also inspired by the resurgence in animated gifs, particularly the 3d “wiggle” gifs that have spread around tumblr over the last year. weasel 3D Some better examples can be found here (warning, contains photos of youngsters having fun and drinking beer)… http://shakylegs.tumblr.com/tagged/3d-gif …we had a quick look at HTML5 full screen video as there’s a few useful javascript libraries out there. However we quickly found that it was probably going to lack the interaction and “live” glitching we were thinking of. Online video has evolved to be great at streaming high quality content over the intertubes by doing smart compression tricks of only sending the difference between then current keyframe and the next keyframe, and sort of magically smooshing their way forwards from one to the other. Which is great for long scenes where not much moves, not so great for videos with lots of sudden changes and most importantly terrible for playing backwards, and we kind of wanted the backwards thing. This left us with the other option, a fake “video” made up of lots of individual frames, which solved the playing backwards problem at the cost of size.

Building a “filmstrip”

This bit is fairly easy and straight forwards. In HTML we create a long horizontal “filmstrip” <div> element that holds all of the image “frames”. That filmstrip div is placed into another single frames sized div with overflow:hidden set. SlidingFilmstrip Then by jumping from one frame to another you move the filmstrip left or right by the amount needed to bring your desired frame into view, to create the animation. Something like… left offset = frame number * -frame width …so if each frame was 640px wide, frame0000 would be 0 * -640px left, frame0001 would be 1 * -640px, frame0001 is 2 * -640px and so on. This is very similar to CSS sprites, however in our case we were easily going to have over 200 frames with a width of 1024px per filmstrip, to stick them all together would make a “sprite” of about a quarter of a million pixels wide.

Solving the problem of loading in a lot of frames.

One thing we needed to be very careful about was how we went about loading frames in. The Diesel project was going to have several scenes one after another, some having up to 280 frames (around 28Mb total) each and we wanted the user to be able to enter and experience the scene as soon as possible. We approached this in a few ways.

1. non-sequential frame loading.

The simplest scene we had was one where the user moved the mouse left and right across the screen and it would “scrub” through the filmstrip. If we loaded in the frames sequentially then by the time we’d loaded in 140 frames, or 14Mb worth of images we’d still only have all the frames needed for the first half of the scene. So we did a simple trick of only loading in every 32nd frame, then every 16th, 8th, 4th, 2nd and finally all the missing frames. OffsetLoading By doing this we found that a scene was perfectly “playable” by the time every 4th frame had loaded and sometimes still ok at every 8th frame. Suddenly we could get away with starting a scene with only 70 frames (7Mb), we’d cut the load time down to 25% of the original. The rest of the frames would continue to download while the user was in the scene.

2. Key framing.

However we wanted a little more smarts going on. In some of the scene there were certain key moment, a close up view of a watch, an event (candles becoming lit/extinguished in one scene) and so on that we really wanted to be loaded before the user entered the scene. So in each scene’s definition we specified an array of keyframes which needed to be loaded in before we fell back into our 32, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1 loading pattern

3. Compressing images.

The key framing gave us another idea, along with transitions that I’ll cover in a moment. For most of the time the scene was going to be moving, either glitching around or running a sequence of frames from one point to another. As many of our frames were only going to be on the screen for a split-second or between other frames we could knock the compression of those frames right down… AdaptiveCompression …another thing we had in our favour what that we were attempting to simulate video to a degree and people were kind of used to seeing compression artefacts on YouTube and other buffering video. Which means we could get away with having jpeg compression effects all over the place on some of the fast moving frames, it wasn’t as though we had a gallery of photos that stood up to inspection on their own. We just needed to not compress the product shots or frames too much. This allowed us to apply different tuned compressed to the images and shave a huge amount off our final image sizes. The three steps taken above was enough to make the idea of loading in 280 separate frames not quite so scary and into the realms of do-able :)

Glitching

We also wanted the 3D glitching effect, with a GIF you can get the 3D effect a couple of ways. Either use a proper 3D camera that has 2, 3 or 4 lenses, or use a single camera and shoot several frames as you pan to the side. In our tests we found that in places where the camera was moving sideways, or looking into views with extreme depth (like down the stairwell at the office) we could get the 3D effect by jumping back and forwards around the current frame. Anything that involved panning worked well. PanningForGlitch As well adding some “glitching” code to our filmstrip engine we had to add a small bit of code to check to see if a frame had loaded yet, and jumping to the closest valid frame if it hadn’t.

Enter the scenes, and even smarter filmstrip.

We’re nearly at the point where we could wrap everything up and focus on just making the code work. The almost final thing was that we had not just one scene but 7 scenes (the final project had just over 2000 frames in it) and we needed a way to get from one scene to the next. To make the move from one scene to the next as smooth as possible we also prioritised “transition frames”. A scene’s description would contain the keyframes, the frames for a transition in and transition out. codesnippet The engine would load in the keyframes, then all the frames for a transition in (we wanted the user to have a good experience starting a scene) and every 4th frame for a transition out, to make sure a move from the current scene to the next would actually exists before we allowed the user into that scene. The engine would also attempted to load in the frames for the next scene while the user was still interacting with the current scene. Which means if we could keep the user playing with the current scene then we could sneakily load in the frames for the next one. LoadingPriority Sometimes a user wouldn’t hang round long enough for us to even get started on loading in the frames for the next scene, meaning we had to create inter-scene pre-loaders. We’d immediately stop loading in frames for the current scene, start the next scene’s frames loading and play the transition out frames, of which we knew we’d have at least every 4th. Then hold the user at the mini pre-loader while sucking down the next scene.

Profiling

There’s a couple more tricks we threw in to try and make the experience faster.

1. Estimating bandwidth speed.

Because we knew the average size of a frame and scene, right from the start we’d start recording the average download speed of a frame and therefor the time remaining for the current scene and the estimated time for the next scene. If we detected that loading in the scenes may take a while then we could tell the engine to only load in every other frame, i.e. not to do the final pass of loading in frames, before moving onto loading in frames for the next scene. This way for slow connections a 240 frame scene could become a 120 frames scene (give or take a few for keyframes and transitions). We also had plans for an extreme fallback which was to have single high definition frames for each scene, which are loaded in right at the start and which we also measured the download time for. If the user appeared to be on a very slow connection then we would just show the single frames with the questions over the top. Their experience would be one of just going through a gallery of images answering questions along the way. We ended up not having time to implement that feature but will probably add it into future versions of the engine.

2. Minimum frames needed tweaking.

Each scene had a suggested minimum percent of frames that needed to be loaded before we’d allow the user into the scene that we could also tweak. PercentLoaded Some scenes we felt that we could allow the user into with only 16% of frames loaded but others needed at least 75% of the frames for a good experience.

The wrap up.

Needless to say this was a fun and interesting project with various challenges. And I haven’t even got into how we managed the assets as we got frames in from the shoots, first the quick rushes then un-colour corrected frames and so on. We had to devise an identifying keyframes and compression management system for that too. Fortunately that didn’t have to be too pretty :) Of course having an awesome team to pull it all together it what make all the crazy theories work, so huge thanks to the Storythings team on this project –  Natalia Buckley, Pete FairhurstDean VipondRob & Al at Green Shoots Design, and Adrian Bigland (iOS app).

New Year, New Work, New York

 

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Happy New Year!

At Storythings HQ, 2013 has kicked off with the start of a fantastic project for a very cool client in New York. Its part of our partnership with Pulse Films, who we also worked with on a very innovative interactive film project for Diesel that launches on Monday 14th Jan, so look out for more info on that project next week.

At the moment we’re in the middle of a two week sprint with the client in the US, with Dan Catt, James Darling and Hugh Garry working with the film team from Pulse NY and with expert guidance from Kenyatta Cheese, one of the founders of KnowYourMeme. After the sprint, we’ll go into full production from Feb, so we’ll be spending a lot more time in the US. If you’d like to meet up with us whilst we’re over, then get in touch – we’d love to meet up and go for coffee.

Other than that, we’re finishing off on a project for a fantastic global charity, and having lots of fun playing around with Berg’s Little Printer. Sending jokes and notes to your family when you’re away from home is the kind of thing that Little Printer does incredibly well. It feels like a lovely kind of everyday magic. If you haven’t got one – go out and get it now and start playing and hacking!

Worknote #4: Working with good people, The Story and publishing a book

We’re growing rapidly at Storythings right now, and will soon be announcing some exciting news about a new partnership, and what this will mean for the work we do. At the moment we’re working on two production projects – one for a major global charity, and one for an equally famous fashion brand – and also doing some really interesting development work for two UK broadcasters.

We’ll publish some more info on these projects as they emerge, but we can say that we’re working with a roster of awesome talent on these projects. The Storythings core team now includes Kim Plowright and Andrew Birley, and on these projects we’re working with Dan Catt, Chris Thorpe, Hugh Garry, Layla West, Pete Fairhurst, Natalia Buckley, Adrian Bigland and Dean Vipond. It’s fantastic having so many incredible creative brains around the office.

Secondly, our annual event – The Story – will be happening next year on Friday, February 22nd 2013, at The Conway Hall, London. As usual, it will be an eclectic and inspiring collection of artists, scientists, directors, writers and others talking about their work and what inspires them. We’ll be announcing the speakers over the next few weeks – the first speakers are economist Diane Coyle, co-founder of B3ta.com Rob Manuel, and theatre director Alecky Blythe. Tickets for The Story 2013 go on sale on Monday, 1st October at noon. Be quick – the first batch went in under 5mins last year…

Finally, Storythings is very proud to announce its first publication – an art book edition of Vacuum Days, an online project by Tim Etchells, the renowned artist, writer and theatre director who spoke at the very first The Story in 2010. That year, we published a newspaper that Tim contributed to, creating imaginary posters for bizarre events/performances. He developed the format in Vacuum Days – a year-long online text-based project which ran live from 1 January till 31 December 2011.

Comprising a series of one-per-day posters reminiscent of live show lineup announcements, Vacuum Days proposed a rolling daily programme of imaginary events that responded to, reworked and distorted real-life events. Inhabiting and extending the zone of sensationalist media, news as pornography, hyped up current affairs, Internet spam, twitter-gossip and tabloid headlines, the project mixed reality, political and theatrical spectacle and in a stark combination of overzealous capitals and small-print conjured a set of unlikely, absurd and uncomfortable performances, lectures, contests, fights, film screenings and other kinds of public display.

We’re very pleased that the book version of Vacuum Days will be published by Storythings, on 5th November 2012. Buying a ticket for The Story on Eventbrite will give you the opportunity to get a copy at a special pre-launch price of £15, plus P&P (although you can choose to pick it up in person at The Story in February, and avoid paying any P&P at all!). One final note – as a comical and bitterly mischievous parody of sometimes shocking news events, Vacuum Days is only suitable for mature readers, and should not be purchased by the easily-offended. Any of you who saw Tim perform his monologue Star-Fucker at The Story in 2010 will know the power of his writing already.

Storythings Business Cards

Yearnotes – a year of Digital Attention

Storythings started as a company on March 18th 2011, so we’re just over a year old.

Its been a fascinating year, working with some brilliant people and clients, and developing from a bunch of ideas and contacts into a real pipeline of work and a clear sense of what the company does, and how it can grow. Talking to friends who have started companies, the constant piece of advice was to find the work you want to do, and build your company around that, rather than the other way round. Its good advice – companies are rarely forged in a single strike, but instead accrue like coral, taking shape with every decision, conversation and piece of work they put into the world.

One of the things that has refined a lot over the year is the one line pitch about what Storythings does. Our work this year has been about 50% strategy and R&D projects, and 50% making stuff (like Pepys Rd for Faber & Faber – go and play it now if you haven’t had a chance yet). This balance is important – in an age of agile and iterative culture, the lines between research, strategy and product are blurry and often irrelevant.

What unites everything is an interest in Digital Attention – the way that digital networks change the way people find, share and engage with culture. We’ve been interested in attention and culture for a long time, but this year has focused our thinking away from the debate about digital cultural products – ebooks, online video, apps, games, etc – onto digital attention – the patterns and behaviours that we use to find and share culture.

Over the last five years, digital networks have become the default way of finding cultural products for nearly all culture industries, regardless of whether the product itself is digital or not. Even if the end result is not digital, a digital network will have been involved at some point in the discovery, research, sharing, buying or remembering of that cultural experience.

Most media and culture businesses have waited until the format of their industry turns digital, but really, this is far too late. Way before then, people will have been using digital networks to find and share information about what you make. The cultural object itself is often the very last thing to turn digital.

At Storythings, we’re helping clients understand recognise these new patterns. We can already see reasonably mature patterns of digital attention in most cultural sectors, and help companies think about what this means for their cultural products and business models. We can also develop new products that take advantage of these patterns, or that encourage new patterns of digital attention to achieve specific goals.

This is a more sustainable long-term strategy than focusing on specific platforms. Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest may or may not exist in the same way in five years time, but  the patterns of digital attention that your audiences are using now will have become deeply engrained habits, regardless of whatever platforms happen to be popular. Understanding these patterns and designing for them is what Storythings is passionate about, and what we’re focusing on as we enter our second year.

So – thank you to the people who have worked with Storythings this year – James Bridle, Hugh Garry, Phil Gyford, Alex Parrott, Kim Plowright, Tassos Stevens, Blast Theory, Chris Thorpe, Dean Vipond and Tim Wright.

And thanks to everyone who has hired us for work this year – BBC, CNNi, Dazed & Confused, Faber & Faber, LBi, Manchester International Festival, MSL, P&G, Pulse Films, Speak-It Films, Syrup, and Wellcome Trust.

We’re developing a fantastic roster of clients and work – if you’d like to talk to us about working with you, please get in touch. Its going to be a very exciting second year, and it would be great to find some new clients who are as curious about digital attention as we are.

Pepys Road Sign

Pepys Road – reading, repetition and reflection

We’ve just launched Pepys Road, the first live project from Storythings. Its an online story to support the brilliant Capital, by John Lanchester, an epic tale of post-crash London recently published by Faber & Faber. Storythings was asked to come up with a way of keeping a conversation going around the book after the initial burst of attention from the traditional book launch. As we’re fascinated by attention patterns and how they’re changing, it was a great brief for our first project.

First of all – a huge thanks to the team who did such a brilliant job of bring the project to life. Thanks to James Bridle for co-developing the idea from the very first meeting, and for building some lovely data illustrations. Thanks to Chris Thorpe and Phil Gyford for their epic coding skills and for gluing it all together. Dean Vipond did a great job of making it look elegant and beautiful, and Kim Plowright is the best cat-herder I’ve ever met, and made sure we actually launched something.

Pepys Rd tells the story of the next ten years – the so-called Lost Decade – a period of uncertainty, economic crisis and public sector cuts. Over 10 days, we send 10 emails asking questions about your attitudes to things like health policy, immigration, travel and culture, and send you to 10 new mini-stories written by John Lanchester, one for every year of the coming decade. Along the way, data illustrations by James Bridle position you within the flows of live data that increasingly organise our lives.

During the development, there were a number of ideas that shaped the project:

Reading
The first and most important goal in Pepys Road is that we wanted people to read. This might seem obvious for a book project, but it’s surprising how many marketing projects try to get your attention with one action or behaviour, when the end goal is completely different. It’s hard enough to get audiences’ attention in the first place, let alone shift them from one behaviour to another. The aim of Pepys Road was to get people reading John Lanchester’s brilliant book, so the behaviour we wanted to base the project around was reading. We wanted to get people to read a lot, and to really feel like they were starting to enter the world of Capital and Pepys Road, so hopefully they’d want to buy the book. Its a simple maxim, but you should always design projects that introduce users to the behaviours you’re looking for at the end. If you’re marketing a game, introduce them to the game mechanics in the marketing. If you’re marketing a film, get them involved in the story and characters. If you’re marketing a book, find a way to get people to read.

Repetition
The second idea we discussed in the project was about repetition. Faber wanted us to create something that would have a long attention span, and get people thinking about the issues in the book. In an age of spiky digital attention, its hard to get audiences’ to return to a project after the initial rush of attention. We wanted to design something with a long attention pattern, based on small, repetitive actions. A huge influence on this was OhLife, one of the few services that has really got under my skin and become a habit in the last year. OhLife is a private diary-writing service that you engage with almost entirely over email. When you set up an account, you choose a time of day to receive the email, and you get a daily message from OhLife asking what you were up to that day. Writing your entry is as simple as replying to the email. Its one of the most satisfying things I do, and the daily repetition of it heavily influenced Pepys Road – we wanted to drop something small in your inbox for a run of 10 days, so that the project would gradually build over time, and perhaps become part of your routine. Its something I’ve explored before on SMS with projects like Surrender Control and IVY4EVR, but I think it works better over email than it does on SMS.

Reflection
The third idea was also triggered by OhLife. One of the loveliest parts of the service is that in each email, they remind you of something you did a week, a month or a year ago. This moment of reflection is a huge spur to writing a diary, and creates a link with the past, asking you to assess how you were feeling, and your progress since then. There are a few services out now that give you little echoes of your online history, including PhotoJoJo’s TimeCapsule, Twitshift and, of course, Facebook’s Timeline redesign. As we develop longer data trails online, more and more services are going to reflect back your past activity. In Pepys Road, we don’t have a long history of your actions, but we’ve created a number of ways to tell mini-stories about your activity, the decisions you make, and the decisions of the crowd reading the same project as you. I think using little data-stories – prompts of narrative about your activity – will be increasingly important in our online social services. The enormity of our data-trails are almost impossible to understand as huge, complex illustrations. Finding small story elements that help us reflect on what we’ve done – little moments of poetry amongst the data – will be a far more effective way of telling the story of our data trails.

Of course, there is a fourth ‘r’ in this list, which is Results – we were commissioned by Faber to actually sell books. This is the hardest goal of all, but hopefully creating an experience that is fundamentally about reading, creates a usage pattern based on repetition, and gets people to reflect on their stories will lead to people wanting to continue their journeys through Pepys Road and buy the book.

Worknotes: Writing for Wired UK & Making things for Faber & Faber

In this month’s Wired UK there is a short article by us about TV & Data, building on some of the observations about attention and audiences in articles on this blog. It was good fun to write, and hopefully we’ll have future pieces in Wired UK about changing attention patterns, and how to create culture for audiences in spiky networks. Underneath all the writing is a structure for a book looking at the History of Attention over the last few hundred years, and how the way we measure attention affects the economics, creative and ethical aspects of making content. If anyone can suggest a good publisher/agent, let us know…

Workwise, Storythings has just had sign-off for its first product development project, with Faber & Faber, to deliver an online product around one of their key fiction titles for 2012. The team working on the project with us is very impressive – James Bridle, Chris Thorpe & Kim Plowright – so a lot of the next few months are going to spent with vastly more intelligent people, building what we hope will be a very cool thing indeed.

In other projects, we’re developing more consultancy gigs, including some work for CNN and a big event in Geneva for Procter & Gamble before Christmas. For the Procter & Gamble event, we’re producing a Newspaper Club newspaper, so that we don’t have to spend the day looking at powerpoint. The event is about storytelling, and its been good fun pulling together resources and case studies for the newspaper, so that it can act as a working document during the event, but also a very valuable resource afterwards. The brilliant Alex Parrot has designed it, and it looks gorgeous, so I’ll post some photos when they’re back from the printers.

Lots of other exciting projects emerging, hopefully to be signed off before Xmas – we’ll be able to talk about them in the next worknote. In the meantime – the last 100 tickets for The Story 2012 go on sale on Monday 5th Dec at noon GMT – get one whilst you still can!

Worknote #2 – Back in the US

After a brief glut of speaking at events in early October, we’re focusing back on projects for current and new clients. Storythings has just signed up some new clients for short pieces of consultancy, including an event for a major FMCG brand in Geneva, and a London workshop for a global broadcaster. Meanwhile, we’re in early conversations with a major UK broadcaster for a project in 2012 that is, very, very exciting indeed. Getting the balance between short consultancy and bigger ‘making’ projects is important, as you can’t talk about stuff if you’re not doing it as well, but the balance seems to be about right so far.

Storythings is returning to the US in November, first to New York for two days working with a new client on a long-term project, then to Boston to talk at the Futures Of Entertainment conference at MIT, then to Toronto to talk at DocShift. We’re also talking at the Get Together conference, alongside such luminaries as Ben Hammersley from Wired and Tom Uglow from Google Creative Labs. Talking of Wired, we’ve also got an article in the Ideas Bank section of the December Wired UK, about TV and data.

Finally, tickets for The Story in Feb 2012 are selling well. The first two batches of tickets went in 15mins and 5mins, and the current batch of 200 is selling well, so go to our eventbrite site if you want to buy a ticket.

Worknote #1 – Attention problems

(Worknotes are a bit like weeknotes, but not as regular. We’ll publish them when the stuff we’re doing seems to coalesce into thoughts worth sharing)

The Faber & Faber project is halfway through, with an interim presentation of ideas to the Faber team last thursday. I’ve been working with a glittering array of talent on developing ideas for three Faber fiction titles, and the different ideas we’re coming up with for the titles is very interesting, and very surprising. They range from physical objects (there is a tantalising possibility we might press some records, which would please this vinyl junkie no end), audio environments, iterative content distribution strategies, and things that could almost resemble bits of traditional marketing campaigns, if looked at from the right angle.

The first phase of work with the Cashback team has ended, and we now have a much more detailed plan and strategy for how their campaign will work across different platforms. Working on a project about the financial crisis over the last few months has been fascinating, but a bit frustrating, as the news cycle moves quicker than the funding and production of the film itself. This is one of the issue we’re tackling in the Cashback project – how can documentary film move as quickly as the news cycle, and yet still be a coherent story in itself? Documentary and current affairs are not the same as news – they are slower, more reflective forms of storytelling, so a lot of the discussion has been about how the production team can release content regularly, and in response to breaking stories, whilst still focusing on the final cinema film as well.

Storythings has also recently starting working with the brilliant Pulse Films on a music documentary for TV broadcast and possibly cinema release. The challenge with this project is how to create an event around the broadcast/release of the documentary, and engage the artist’s fan base in the project. This involves two current obsessions that emerge in a lot of Storythings’ projects – new attention patterns around content, and the emergence of ‘talent’ as owners of their own networks. It’ll be good to have a live project to explore some of these ideas further.

One of the great things about working across Film, TV, music, web and publishing is seeing that all media companies are dealing with the same problem – attention. This problem has been coming for ages, as digital technologies have eroded previous production and distribution monopolies across these sectors, but its only been in the last few years that all these sectors have had new behaviours emerging at a large enough scale across their markets to see enough data.

So the most important thing Storythings is doing for its clients at the moment is solving attention problems. None of the problems are unique (there’s too much competition for attention, and the patterns of attention are not as predictable as they once were) but all of the potential solutions are very, very different. The only constant is this – nothing will ever be simple again. There will never be a silver bullet platform or strategy that will return us to the stable media environment of the last 50 years – it will only ever get stranger, richer and more complex than it is now, as the shifting patterns of attention around content, talent, social networks and brands continue to combine and feed off each other.

The projects Storythings are making are attention probes – projects that test ideas we have about how people find, engage with and share content, and then give us the data and feedback we need to better understand these behaviours, and make even better products as a result.

The Eastern Columbia Clock, Los Angeles

Working & Talking

Storythings has been up and running as a company for a few months now, so its a good time to talk about the work we’re doing. Alongside numerous interesting conversations and bits of consultancy, Storythings is currently working on three projects:

Wellcome Trust
Storythings has been commissioned to research and develop an online video product, based on an archive of factual TV programmes stretching back 30 years. The first stage focused on attention patterns around online factual content, and looking at ways to transform casual viewing into curating and sharing personal journeys through the archive. We’re now building a team to deliver do more detailed scoping work and build a prototype.

Faber & Faber
Faber have commissioned Storythings to develop digital products for three fiction titles – one by a major UK author, one from a new US author, and one for an anniversary edition of a 20th Century classic. We’re pulling together a group of collaborators to look at social behaviour around fiction and new contexts for reading, and to come up with some innovative new ideas about how fiction works on new devices.

Speak-It Films
Cashback is a new film by Speak-it, the makers of Black Gold and  When China Met Africa. Based on the book Treasure Islands, the film will expose the effect that corporate tax havens are having on the global financial crisis. Storythings has been working with Speak-It to develop an integrated strategy for the project, connecting the film production process with an online content and campaign strategy.

We’re really pleased to have book, film and video projects for our first contracts (with a theatre/game project incoming as well) as each of these genres are facing the challenges and opportunities of digital distribution in different ways. Storythings was created to explore digital storytelling across all genres, so its really exciting to be working on such a variety of commissions, and to be able to make connections and transfer knowledge between projects.

We  will also be talking at a number of events later this year, starting with the Immersive Writing Lab at Ravensbourne on August 20/21st, alongside a fantastic line-up of experts in cross-platform storytelling. And finally, we’re busy planning and booking speakers for next year’s The Story conference, which will be on Friday Feb 17th – tickets will be on sale in September, but book the day in your diary now!