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Interactive Documentary Blog

“Being there”versus “clicking there”

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When I was working in television I got very frustrated about traveling documentaries. I would travel to Cuba, meet a thousand fascinating people, but I still had to cut down their richness into 30 second grabs that had to fit into a clear, composed linear story. Was I cutting out people because they were not interesting, or just because they did not “fit” the structure of the story? Who was taking the decision here? the author or the media? This is actually when I seriously started to think about interactivity in video: a way to create a space, rather than a story…

I was pleased to notice that long standing interactive video director Martin Percy has produced such interactive space, using a temple in Bali. Bali Temple Explorer is a video walk into a space where you can turn, zoom, listen to prayer as if you were moving within a video. It does not use a 360 degrees video (as used in Out My Window) but it gives the opportunity to link within video (rather than just photo). And now that it is there… what do I think of it?

When I tried to walk around it I actually got quite bored… interesting how “being” there is not the same thing as “clicking” there… there is no immersion, no reason to make such a decision…no incentive. The absence of narrative structure – when there is no reason for the exploration – makes things quite hard for the user… On the other hand the interface offers the option of a map that givesĀ reassuranceĀ and some sort of scale to the explorer…

I also noticed that there is at times the option of having a commentary… this is where I think it starts to be interesting – as you have all the usual documentary language (shots, edits, music and commentary) mixed with the interactive options (moving away from there, going left, zoom in)… and I found that quite powerful. It would be interesting to explore that route more… a sort of idoc where you can follow a narrative and then just turn your head and follow someone else… a mixture between video and game logic…

To be tried…

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 31st, 2011


  1. On June 18th, 2011 at 20:45 David Tames wrote:

    I would like to see something that provides the narrative immersion of a video and the ability to take a side trip to explore something and the return to the narrative. Rachel Strickland did some work this in her research at Interval quite some time ago, I wonder, are there any contemporary examples?

  2. On June 27th, 2011 at 22:14 Sandra wrote:

    … I am not sure I understand what you mean… but I am happy to give it more thoughts if you tell me more precisely what you have in mind…

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