Category Archives: Multimedia

Interactive: Des Moines Register’s game like feature story

desmoines1

The Des Moines Register recently produced an interactive feature called Harvest of Change. Designed with Oculus Rift in mind, the newspaper partnered with Gannet Digital to “to tell the story of an Iowa farm family using emerging virtual reality technology and 360-degree video.

The first of this five part series makes the user explore the farm to find icons that tell fragments of the story and unlock extras through special objects hidden in the scenario.

It wasn’t a thrilling experience for me, and though they add a 360º video to download, its 1.2 gb are taking too long.

Update: After downloading the file, we can watch a 360º video intro that will lead us to the farm setting and instead of pics  – like we have in the Des Moines Register website – we have videos. The navigation is a bit buggy though, and it sent me back to the intro more than once.

Probably the full series will be worth it, and this is definitely a great effort to bring virtual reality into news games and storytelling. But after unlocking all the photos and going through all the icons I can’t remember the story.

Was I too focused in the goal that somehow forgot to learn? This is a risk with this type of narratives. It must have some sort of challenge to be engaging:

“Games are about decision making, about consequences of actions. And while you are playing, you are picking up facts, pieces of the puzzle, learning tactics, because you have to, and want to, in order to progress to the next level.”

News as games: Immoral or the future of Interactive Journalism?

Maybe we’ll meet the farm boss in part 5. Until then, let’s stroll around and see what we can find.

desmoines2b

Online is not television

That’s what I have been saying, but no…

Creating compelling television, it turned out, meant more than putting talking heads around a table. It required millions of dollars, new innovations, and, most important, experienced producers and compelling on-air talent…

“Is video alone going to save newspapers? Absolutely not,” said Bruce Headlam, managing editor of Times video. “A lot of newspaper people quite comfortably make fun of television people, but it’s very hard and very expensive to do what CNN, Fox, MSNBC do.”

Why isn’t live video working for news sites?

Authors of amazing Interactive Doc “Hollow” explain how they did it

When I started going through “Hollow” (can’t find a better verb, “watching” is not what I did) I was amazed with the amount of elements it has. Imagine a dynamic collage of audio, stills, images, data and video, divided in six different chapters, each one including short but deep, well crafted video stories.

In a nutshell, it’s a story about the rise and fall of McDowell County, West Virginia, USA. The remaining inhabitants of this now decadent area show their lives in this empty land, while making ends meet and trying to resurrect their towns.

Its makers, Director and Producer Elaine McMillion, Sound Designer Billy Wirasnik, Technical Director and Senior Developer Robert Hall and Art Director/Designer and Architect Jeff Soyk, held  a Hangout where they talked about this project, their sucesses and failures.

I’d like to highlight Billy Wirasnik’s advice : “Don’t forget about sound!”. This project relies a lot in natural soundscapes and music tracks, which adds a whole new dimension to the story. Try it without sound and you’ll see what I mean.

Another thing you should notice is that you have to watch some videos to unlock extra  features. It’s a way to reward the users who explore the most.

There is a lot to learn from the mechanics and looks of this interactive doc, especially the mix of still and dynamic visual elements, pushed forward by html5/css3/js cogwheels, and the awesome video narrative.  A must “scroll through” (?!?).

Check out Elaine McMillion’s blog to watch the Hangout videos and access the links they mentioned and other assorted tools and tips for storytellers.

Here’s the trailer for “Hollow”:

The Guardian creates the refugee game

Again, The Guardian. They have a new interactive story dedicated to Syrian refugees situation, and their hardships to find a safe haven far from the civil war afflicting their homeland.

The premise is that you are “a 28-year-old Sunni woman from Aleppo, and you have two children, a girl aged eight, and a 10-year-old boy. Your husband was killed in a mortar attack three months ago. The air strikes have continued – a recent bomb, you hear, killed 87 children – and you now feel you must try to leave Syria.”

At the end of each section, describing different scenarios faced by real refugees, dictated by legal, logistical and political parameters, you are presented with options. You have to choose carefully, to find refuge. The results are – to say the least – bleak.

The game logic applied to this story is a good way to empathize with the refugee situation, it looks simple, and it’s frustrating enough to gain awareness about the issue and, in the comfort of our homes, step into the refugees’ shoes.

Best Interactive Stories: Maps, Graphs, Timelines & Scrollers

The Visual.ly blog made a list of the Top interactive visualizations of  2013. The formats are pretty much the same as in years before: maps, data visualizations, timelines, but this year we have “snowfallers” which is to say scrollers or stories you have to scroll along to navigate.

If you’re interested in this type of structure, there is a spreadsheet with snowfall-like stories available on Google Drive. I doubt the Scroller will become a standard narrative structure, because it doesn’t feel mobile friendly, which in essence is more modular than linear.  But it definitely set a standard for production: lengthy and expensive.

But like David Sleight said:

But there’s a bigger picture that extends beyond debating specific executions and business models. These things are about experimentation: necessary design and technical experimentation, something news organizations need to shine at if they want to thrive. That means stopping to shake out how they think about content, again and again.

In Portugal, the setting is pretty much the same as before: only a couple of media companies are regularly producing multimedia journalistic content. This year the major winners of the ObCiber awards were the same as in previous editions: Jornal de Notícias, Público and Rádio Renascença.

Some narrative devices are pretty much well established by now, but there’s still no norm. And that won’t be defined by the end product, but by the investment in production processes.