It can be difficult to watch horror movies. Not because they are frightening with too much gore, blood, guts and terrifying monsters. No, it is that too often, the characters in the film make obviously bad decisions.
Let me ask you if, in the middle of the night, you’d think it’d be a good idea to go and investigate an ominous screeching sound coming from the basement? Do you think it wise to be a hero, ignoring the warnings of odd looking towns folk and choosing to move into the hunted murder house? Could it be the case that there are better ways to spend your Thursday evening than strolling through the cemetery under a full moon? When we see horror films in which characters make bad decisions like these, we can no longer suspend our disbelief, we reach for the remote and yell ‘I wouldn’t do that!’
Though this does raise the question, ‘What would you do?’
Fortunately for frustrated & disengaged audiences across the globe, there has been a quiet revolution at work seeking to allow viewers to answer that question for themselves. Welcome to the world of interactive video.
The Evolution of Video Content
For the better part of a decade, traditional video had been dunking on other forms of media. Its ability to capture and hold attention far surpasses that of the written word or static images, making video the tool of choice for astute marketers looking to get their message out there. It’s an incredibly versatile tool, allowing for the long-form presentation of nuanced information and the fifteen-second dopamine hit of ephemeral influencer fluff that keeps us entertained between Zoom calls. From event videos to corporate videos, from empathetic documentaries to personalised sales pitches, as a video production company in Sydney, we know that linear video can do it all. However, despite their discrete use cases accompanied by their own genre tropes, each of these types of video shares a single feature – traditional video is a passive medium. Sit and watch.
Recently, however, a new form of video content has emerged and started to redefine the user experience – interactive video. This progressive medium invites viewers to actively participate in the narrative, rather than passively consume it. Traditional linear video content, while compelling, has its limitations. It offers a one-size-fits-all approach that leaves little room for customisation based on the viewer’s preferences or needs. With the advent of interactive video, this dynamic has changed. Interactive videos have evolved from their linear predecessors, offering customisable user experiences that foster higher engagement and deeper connections.
Understanding Interactive Video
For content creators, it is important to understand not only who your audience is, where and when they will likely be engaging with the content but the technical constraints of the distribution platform. Fundamentally, interactive video is characterised by the technological platform on which it is presented to the audience. Interactive video for a desktop computer offers a different set of potential interactions to an interactive video for a smartphone. The options for an audience to click, swipe, rotate, tap, pinch and zoom will ultimately shape the nature of your audience’s experience.
While interactive video has opened up a host of new possibilities for content creation and consumption, it doesn’t present a true communications revolution like that of the printing press or telephone. American media theorist, Clay Shirky reminds us that that new technologies don’t become socially interesting until they are technologically borging. Suggesting that it is not until a media technology is taken completely for granted, that we see their uses permeate society and spawn truly novel forms of social interaction. Interactive video is stil in its infancy, it is still new, fresh and exciting.
That might be bad news for those hoping to instigae an interactive-video-led reformation, but excellent news for those of us eager to levage the improved engagement, retention and connection offered by interactive video for our brands. To that end, let’s look a few best in class examples of interactive video.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
“Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” is a standalone interactive film from the “Black Mirror” anthology series, released by Netflix in December 2018. This groundbreaking venture is one of the most popular examples of interactive video. The film allows viewers to make decisions for the main character, Stefan, a young programmer who is adapting a choose-your-own-adventure novel into a video game in the 1980s.
The decisions presented to the audience rance from the seemingly trivial (like what cereal to eat for breakfast) to extremely consequential (like how to respond to high-pressure situations). The choices made by viewers affect the direction of the story and can lead to multiple potential endings. This unique level of viewer involvement means that they are no longer passively watching the story unfold, but actively participating in the storytelling process.
From a technical perspective, “Bandersnatch” was a huge achievement. It required intricate scripting, planning, and filming to ensure every potential narrative path was coherent and engaging. The film also demanded a unique approach to performance, as actors needed to convincingly portray different reactions and outcomes based on various user choices.
Coldplay’s “Ink” Music Video
Released in 2014, Coldplay’s “Ink” music video, is another compelling example of interactive storytelling. It was directed by interactive filmmaker, Vincent Morisset, and tells a narrative about a man’s journey to find his lost love.
In this video, viewers can make decisions for the protagonist at crucial points in the storyline, much like the choose-your-own-adventure format of Bandersnatch. The narrative unfolds based on the viewer’s choices, resulting in a unique and personalized story each time the video is watched. The interactions are facilitated through a web interface, where viewers click on various elements of the video to decide what happens next.
As a viewer we can decide what path the protagonist takes on his journey along with what objects he interacts with. In tota, there are 300 different pathways that the narrative can take, leading to an impressive 36 potential endings. If that wasn’t impressive enough, the video is animated with beautiful illustrations.
That Moment When
If you’re a fan of the stomach churning cringe comedy of The Office then let us introduce you to “That Moment When“. An interactive web series produced by Eko, a company specializing in interactive media. The show features Jill, a socially awkward, twenty-something woman navigating the various trials and tribulations of her life.
Much like the interactive elements of “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” and Coldplay’s “Ink” music video, viewers can affect the storyline by making choices for the Jill. These choices can lead to different comedic outcomes. What’s great about this is that it encourages viewers to watch the series multiple times to experience all the possible storylines.
The choices in “That Moment When” are often related to socially awkward situations, like running into an ex or forgetting someone’s name, and how Jill should navigate them. This use of relatable humor and viewer interaction creates an engaging experience that can feel more immersive than traditional, linear narratives.
Ok, let’s move beyond entertainment and into the world of business. Deloitte’s interactive recruitment video is an excellent example of how interactive video can be employed in professional contexts. A truly innovative approach that engages potential candidates and provides an immersive glimpse into what it’s like to work at Deloitte.
The video puts the viewer in the shoes of a Deloitte employee. At various points in the video, viewers are given the chance to make decisions. For instance, viewers may be asked to choose how to handle a client meeting, decide on a course of action for a project, or even select which areas of the company they’re interested in.
Each decision affects the narrative of the video, allowing the viewer to experience different aspects of working at Deloitte. Further, the video contains an element of gamification, illustrating the viewer’s progression through the video and reinforcing the values of a good Deolitte employee. This format provides a unique, personalized insight into the company’s culture, values, and day-to-day operations, which is ultimately far more engaging and informative than a traditional recruitment video or job description.
The Future of Interactive Video
As we look towards the future, we believe that interactive video will grow to be more than just a passing trend. With advancements in AI, virtual reality, and augmented reality, the interactivity of videos will only continue to grow, offering even more personalised and immersive experiences. For marketers, educators, and creators, the potential of interactive video is just beginning to be realised. For an example of a recent Interactive video we created for one of our clients Mortage Choice, click here.
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