Author Archives: toolsfortransmedia

About toolsfortransmedia

A blog curated by (initially) @simon_staffans, to gather reviews and info about tools that can be used in transmedia storytelling. If you have a service that might be applicable, drop a line and tell us about your product! Or if you want to write a review, just get in touch.

Tools for Transmedia part 6 – HistoryPin

Short post due to winter holidays…

This, HistoryPin, is a service that was launched in mid-2010 (which makes it ANCIENT, no? ☺) . I saw it back then, in May, and promptly forgot about it until @storytellin tweeted about the service today. Looking at the video embedded below, I think HistoryPin is a tool that could be used for quite intriguing aspects of transmedia storytelling. Say that you are building any sort of scenario, and want to build on the history of the world you’re creating – by using HistoryPin you can a) get an excellent feeling for different places and views, what it felt like, back in the days, or alternatively you can plant your own photos, allegedly from that time and age.
You could even plant clues in these pictures, clues that can lead to other content elsewhere or give deeper understanding about some scenario in one of your storytracks.
The only obstacle might be HistoryPin itself, since I have no idea whether they would agree to hosting ”fake” pictures; on the other hand, deals can surely be made, and the pictures available for a certain time only, for instance.

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Re-posting Tools for Transmedia part 1-5

I’ll be posting Tools for Transmedia to this blog, and other reviews of possible tools as well, should you want to have them included. Also links to reviews on other blogs and sites. Here are five Tools for Transmedia I’ve written on my blog.


Tools for Transmedia part one – Storify and Shadow Cities

Note: this post was originally posted on the 25th of November 2010.

There are a growing number of services and tools available for people who want to create transmedia projects, tools that not only give creators a new way to get their stories out to people but also juggles the creative parts of peoples’ brains (in a good way, I might add!) Here are two quite different ones, Storify and Shadow Cities.

Storify is a ”real-time curation service” that lets a user build his/her own story from a number of sources (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube etc) and insert own comments to create a kind of a story around a subject. It’s easy to handle – what I found is that the most time-consuming part is finding the most meaningful content and arrange them so that the pieces fit together nicely and logically. In a way, it’s very much like writing a blog post, but more handy in many ways – not bothering with embedding, searches possible through the same interface etc.

A brief video explaining the concept:

As for using Storify in a transmedia project, a couple of the things that immediately sprung to mind were, for instance

• curating the storyworld, by being able to in one place give people access to the different narrative strands in a logical and informative (and why not entertaining!) way
• encourage users to use the service to glean new information from seamingly non-connected pieces of content (could be as crude as the classic ”take the first letter of every sentence in the five articles written on the subject and see what they combine too” or something more elaborate)

There are, I’m sure, a number of other ways to use Storify in a transmedia setting. It’s an easy tool that gives quick results that can be easily distributed to a huge number of users/followers. That in itself should be attractive to transmedia creators!

The other service is from the other end of the spectra. The iPhone game ”Shadow Cities” was launched by Grey Area of Finland a little over a week ago. It’s a game that uses OpenMap as the basis, and then puts a magical layer on top of the real world, a layer where the user participates as a wizard of sorts.

You sign up as a wizard for one of two sides; the Animators (or ”Hippies”, as the opposition usually calls them) or Architects (affectionally called ”Drones” by some of the Animators). Then the battle is on, to conquer Gateways that give you energy, to fight and catch Spirits, to Research new Mana Potions, to advance in levels and gain new Spells, and so on. Through Beacons you can jump anywhere in the world, even though the game is only realeased on the Finnish App Store as of yet. (It’s GPS-based, so where ever you are in the real world, that’s where you are in Shadow Cities when you log on. Turning on the app in a crowded place in a big city can very well land you in the middle of a serious magical fight… which is great fun! )

Now, the background story is flimsy to say the least. I do not think anyone has any idea about why we do what we do (yes, I’ve been playing it since it was released, addictive it is, yes!) apart from the need for there to be a struggle between two opponents for there to be the necessary competition. There are also some flaws in the game mechanics, but these are being corrected (hopefully) continously, so there is bound the be many improvements over the coming months.

This game does juggle the transmedia creative brain quite a lot, I must say. If the game engine would be licensable, there is no end to the fun we could have with this app. Think of being the Harry Potter of the real world, throwing ”real” spells as you move through the physical world, fighting monsters and evil stuff along the way (or be a Death Eater, if that’s your thing). Or connect it to something like TRON or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice or suchlike; why not the Underworld property or just about any story where there already is implemented the idea of a ”layer” on top of our regular world.

Do check Shadow Cities out, when you get the chance. Here’s a short explanatory video to give you an idea of what it’s about (mind you, playing it for a week, there is a lot less running around and a lot more farming Gateways….)


Tools for Transmedia part two – ThingLink

Note: this post was originally posted on the 29th of November 2010. For a working ThingLinked picture, unlike the one below, please visit the original post.

There are so many services and tools out there that could be used to enhance a transmedia property, enable creators to implement new solutions or just plain make it easier to do what you want to do with your story. A service that could be a good tool to implement for producers and creators alike is ThingLink, a venture from Ulla-Maaria and Jyri Engeström (of Jaiku / Google fame).

ThingLink is a fairly simple tool, allowing you to tag photos. As the ThingLink ppl say themselves, it’s ”a product identification tool that makes it easy to add clickable tags to any image on the web and share the tagged images on social networks.” What it means is that it enables you to use elements in pictures to help you tell more of a story in a quicker, better streamlined and more logical way than for instance hyperlinking stuff.

It looks something like this:

ThingLink is mostly geared towards advertisers and brands, which might want to have an easy way to forward interested customers to “more info” or “webshop”. But as I see it, it is a tool that can and should also be used for transmedia storytelling.

It’s a very handy tool if you as a creator want to keep a part of your story that you publish online to be based on, for example, just one full screen picture, ThingLinking your audience to different aspects, different storylines etc. It’s also possible to get a mass-tagging version of the tool, although I would feel the impact of one high-res, full screen, detailed image would be more attractive than a number of pics. It could be the entry point to everything you’re offering online, or just a small piece of a much bigger puzzle – the ease with which you can implement it makes it a good tool.

I just have one small favor to ask of the developers – please include some sort of stealth mode, so that you can implement the tagging but without the spots on the picture. That would turn it into a great big Easter Egg hunt, which from a storytelling perspective is oh so much more fun!

And, yeah, it’s free to use btw. I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination and creativity.


Tools for Transmedia part 3 – WireWAX

This post was originally posted on the 29th of December 2010.

I first laid my eyes on WireWAX’s technology for producing clickable videos at this years (2010) Pixel Lab in Cardiff in July. Paulina Tervo of WriteThisDown Productions had used the technology for her documentary work on the Ethiopian village of Awra Amba, adding clickable sections that nicely and seamlessly let you know more about the subject at hand, communicate with the people of the village or take you to a shop to buy goods from the village. All in all, really neat and handy.

The really funky thing, technologically wise, is that everything is embedded in the video itself, you can take the video to any site anywhere and all the clickable things are the same. It’s a stand-alone solution that seems really really nice.

Since I talked to the guys and saw the service for the first time, WireWAX has taken off a bit more. No wonder, as the service to me seems like a no-brainer. If you want to show a video online, why wouldn’t you want to engage the audience more? There are so many possibilities, especially with touch screen devices, to bring the audience deeper into your storyworld and engage and excite them.

There is certainly the artistic view to be taken into consideration; one should not tamper with a video created to convey a message or a feeling. On the other hand, if the video (as all transmedia properties should be) is developed with all the different parts, technologies and storytelling devices integrated from the beginning, in this case the WireWAX technology, then that sorts the artistic issue out. The end result is also guaranteed to be better.

As for how to use the WireWAX technology in transmedia storytelling, I can see many possibilities. The creators talk of clicking oneself on to the next video in a narrative sequence; I think that it could be used in online treasure hunts (”looking for clues”) or in deepening the understanding of the storyworld that we want the users/audience to immerse themselves into (think a segment of ”Avatar”, filmed like a scientific / documentary film, with clickable sections that launches explanatory videos narrated by Sigourney Weaver, for instance). Or something much simpler – or more advanced.

I’d have a couple of requests, as a developer – if there isn’t already, there would be nice to have the possibility to ”hide” the highlighted areas, making it more of an exploration mission to find what to click. Also, it’d be seriously funky if the clicks could launch stuff outside the window – this might be a big nono, but if it isn’t, I’d like that.

For some additional comments on the service, please read these insightsful posts. And WireWAX – congratulations!

Rosie Lavan also reviewed WireWAX for the Pixel Report.


Tools for Transmedia part 4 – MyHistro and Magma


Screenshot from MyHistro

MyHistro – telling stories in a new way

I just stumbled upon an Estonian startup called MyHistro, which looks a bit interesting from a transmedia point of view. The idea is to tell stories, but to do it in a new and more social way. What you do is you sign up (it’s in open Beta, so go ahead and try it out) and start creating your MyHistro. It is an event-based way of telling stories, where you create your different events (you can check my test-event of a trip from Helsinki to Vaasa here), geotag with Google Maps interaction, add comments, pictures and YouTube videos as you please, and arrange these in the desired chronological order. Anyone viewing can then ”play” your story, which takes the viewer through the events with the possibility of stopping to read more, examine photos or suchlike.

Now, the ones using MyHistro at the moment are for the most part people trying it out – there are stories about Manchester Utd:s football games, one story from a person training for a ski competition later this year and so on. But for a transmedia producer, this tool could come in handy.

Firstly, it could be used to tell the development of your property in the real world. I would, for instance, love to follow the shooting of the crowdsourced Iron Sky movie via a service like this, instead of reading a blog or Timo’s tweets, as they move from Germany to Australia and onwards.

Secondly, as a part of a narrative, it could very nicely blur the lines between reality and fiction. A series like Lowlifes (which I thoroughly recommend everyone to check out) could perhaps have used this as an additional way of telling one side of the story. Just about anything set in the real world could use MyHistro to let a fictional character tell a story in a new and interesting way.

The stories are, of course, instantly shareable on the most important social platforms.

Magma – publishing made easier?

The second service that could be interesting from a transmedia point of view is Magma from Denmark. It is not possible for me to recommend this service yet, as I have not tried it out – it’s a 30 day free trial, but I have not yet started one – but on the surface it looks handy. Magma is about publishing for instance a magazine or a book. It lets you ”simplify your flatplanning, organize your content and resources” and the most important from my point of view ”Collaborate on content creation and keep track of photos, files and text.”

In a transmedia world where many (me included, if it fits the project in question) advocates the publishing of a graphic novel or similar, to enhance the value of your content and establish the mythology/canon in a more tangible form, Magma looks like a tool that might be useful. I have been looking at collaborating with people from all over the world on different projects, and Magma might just be the tool for that. I will get back with a fuller review once I’ve had the chance to use the service.


Tools for Transmedia part 5 – Voxora and Geoloqi

There are constantly opening up new services and software that could be used in a transmedia setting, and I will admit it is hard to keep up. So a big thanks to Scott Walker for pointing me in the direction of two more of these, this time focusing on enhancing geolocating possibilities, Voxora and Geoloqi.

Voxora

This is a service that on the surface is basic, yet does something no one has done before (at least to my knowledge). Voxora ties in with your Foursquare account and lets you leave a message tied to the location you are in, a voice message that you can listen to yourself and that others can listen to as well, by calling a certain number.

Now, I have not been able to try this out, so I might be missing something. I think it would be a wonderful tool for just about anyone doing transmedia stuff; this could be used, for example, to leave voice messages for people at certain locations, messages that tie in with some sort of ARG or other – could potentially be quite powerful stuff.

It could also be tied to a viewing of a movie at a cinema, for instance; at the end of Avatar, if there would’ve been a number there to call, where Jake would have told me 30 seconds more of how life on Pandora went on after the humans had left, I would’ve called that number immediately. Basically, Voxora has potential to be of very good use for transmedia content developers.

Geoloqi

This is a somewhat similar service, but handier for a developer of transmedia. Through the interface – a world map with a simple interface – you can drop Geonotes just about anywhere (like dropping a geonote on the grocery store before leaving the house, which means you won’t have to bring a shopping list). Through the website you can also drop notes for other users – just know the username of the user and you can decide where on the map you want to leave a geo note for them. This note will then pop up when they go past that place.

Now, the ways to use this service in the realms of Transmedia are numerous. The only hitch being that at the moment you would need for people to sign up, and in some way, shape or form tell you their user name on the service, for you to be able to create these geo notes for them.

On the other hand, once you have their usernames, you just have to plant clues, information, greetings, reminders or conversation out there, in their geologically logical places. If you’re shooting a documentary, you could concievably have messages ready for different places that were seen in the documentary, places of interest, and have these messages communicated to people who are dedicated followers of the subject or of the documentary itself.

These were just a couple of examples, and more Tools for Transmedia are sure to spring up. In the meantime, does anyone have any experience of using the examples above? I’d be happy to hear more.