Immersive Storytelling: Managing the Transmedia Environment From the Back End

December 9, 2013 1 Comment »
Immersive Storytelling: Managing the Transmedia Environment From the Back End

There’s a new storyteller in town. Transmedia storytelling, or multiplatform storytelling, is the technique of telling multiple stories across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies. With the emergence of transmedia in the past several years, the entertainment industry is embracing the capabilities of multiplatform storytelling—so much so that the industry held its first TransMedia Film Festival in October of 2012. Prominent film schools and media research centers such as UCLA and USC have been hosting symposia to bring together media creators, producers and executives to discuss how transmedia works and what it means.

What Is Transmedia?

From a production standpoint, transmedia involves creating content that engages an audience using techniques that provide an immersive entertainment experience.

Transmedia should not be confused with multimedia, which is the telling of a single story in multiple mediums; rather it is the telling of multiple stories over multiple mediums that fit together to tell one pervasive story. Through this method, creative teams are able to create a powerful cross-marketing effect, capturing the attention of demanding “Generation Y” audiences. By providing access to engaging, interactive content via a variety of platforms, movie and television franchises are able to create multiple points of entry into the story world of a franchise, including comics, web content, music and games.

David Howe, president of the Syfy cable network, was quoted in Business Week as saying that transmedia is the “Holy Grail of storytelling,” a good indication that studio and cable-network executives are taking this immersive technology to heart. In fact, Syfy invested in a project that incorporated the technology into one of its newest television shows, Defiance. The ambitious project included a TV show and a multiplayer online video game that includes plot elements from the weekly show.

As this technology permeates the entertainment industry, production companies, studios and content developers will need to look at how they can keep content in sync across the different platforms on the back end.

Additionally, as content developers spin up activities from around the world and consumers sign up to take advantage of this new convergence of digital data, subscription-management and data-location challenges should be addressed from the outset.

The Challenge of Managing Data

Imagine you are the CIO or CTO of a major studio or cable network. Executive management has decided to incorporate transmedia into several new productions. The marketing teams are gearing up to take advantage of the user data that will be collected as fans engage in the project. The CEO and CFO are anxious to see how this powerful cross-marketing vehicle will enhance the revenue stream of the organization, and all eyes are on you and your department to produce the desired results.

The challenges are clear: employees will need to access up-to-date creative data from anywhere in the world, and a subscription database will be required to allow consumers to access all media quickly and easily while satisfying the needs of the marketing executives on the back end.

Synchronization of Content Creation

Today’s reality is that a multitude of programmers, artists, designers and production teams collaborate from around the world and must be able to access the most current rendition of creative content. That data is often managed using metadata—or the data about data—and in transmedia environments, managing that metadata has become a task of epic proportions.

As content developers generate terabytes of data, they also create metadata on the back end, thus allowing computer systems to match iterations of the project. The associated metadata attached to creative content includes important descriptors of the larger data sets, including file name, path, size, data and encryption keys, the computer that created it, and ownership information.

Metadata is crucial to controlling the larger data sets that comprise photos, music, animation and movie files; without it, managing the workflow of these creative endeavors would be impossible. The industry is ripe for a mechanism to simplify the management of the surging volumes of unstructured data while providing access from anywhere in the world.

Relational databases assist in managing metadata by keeping track of where the data is stored, accessed and protected.

Subscription Management

Until now, projects typically had only one point of entry, such as the theater experience, meaning not all potential revenue markets are captured. Film fans are able to enjoy the film at the theater, but comic-book, music and game fans are still a relatively untapped market when it comes to accessing a franchise from the myriad of end points available to consumers today.

When fans take advantage of a franchise’s associated transmedia, such as games or online comic books, they are joining an online community where subscription data is captured. As more and more transmedia projects are spun up, studios and networks must look at the myriad points of entry into the story to capture and use these invaluable revenue sources.

By engaging the fan through multiple end points, data is collected via subscriptions that can be used in a variety of ways, across multiple channels. This user data must be captured, managed, analyzed, stored and secured in such a way that it provides a satisfying experience for the end user while also providing measurable business value.

Management and analysis of this incoming data should be an integral part of the production cycle. Tying into the power of distributed data via the cloud or local servers provides marketing, financial and C-suite executives with access to data that can be analyzed as soon as the project is launched.

Your Audience Is Worldwide—Is Your Data?

Once a transmedia project is ready for launch, its success will be measured through user interaction and accessibility. It is critical to ensure that fans are able to access online databases for registration and login processes seamlessly and without interruption.

To resolve these challenges, media companies need to explore new technologies that will allow them to provide access to the content regardless of location. As user subscriptions grow, bringing data to the edge of the network will not only provide a quick and easy user experience but also protect the project from critical outages and synchronization issues.

Today, synchronization, data accessibility and subscription-management issues can be resolved by storing certain types of data in a geographically-distributed relational-database management system.

Decentralizing Data to Improve Business Resilience and Scalability

Emerging technologies today fundamentally decentralize data to greatly improve business resilience by creating a computing fabric that stays up even if part of it fails. This type of infrastructure automatically stores data across the nodes on the basis of policy, usage and geography, delivering information when and where it is needed. All information is automatically and intelligently replicated across multiple nodes to ensure availability. If a node fails, users reconnect to other nodes so that access to content is continuous and productivity is unaffected. When the original node recovers, it resumes participating in the flow of data, and local users may reconnect to it whenever it’s convenient.

Unlike conventional infrastructures where capacity and performance are increased by “scaling up” (ever larger systems), new approaches provide architecture for “scaling out.” By adding nearly identical database “nodes,” a computing fabric is created. This cluster of geographically distributed independent nodes not only eases bandwidth constraints and places data closer to the user, but it also provides a system that recovers quickly from network outages.

These nodes can be placed in both private and public clouds and can be mixed and matched as needed. The database nodes can span availability zones to ensure adequate response time from any access point, and they can span multiple public clouds to minimize vendor lock-in. Nodes can be easily added when needed, and as production winds down, the number of nodes can be reduced and redeployed when necessary.

Using the Economies of Scale

It is becoming painfully clear that traditional database solutions do not enable content developers, production companies, studios and cable networks to take advantage of the economics and efficiencies of transmedia and the rich data these projects produce.

Transmedia projects, and other content-development collaborations, require a technology infrastructure that provides global support and accessibility. A flexible, robust database infrastructure is quickly becoming an integral part of the creative process. This technology is the next phase in enabling engineers, content developers, designers and marketing teams to stay on the same page, producing measurable results while making sure the end user has an uninterrupted, easy-to-use experience.

Leading article image courtesy of ilovememphis

About the Author

transmediaFrank Huerta is CEO and cofounder of TransLattice, where he is responsible for the company’s vision and strategic direction. Before TransLattice, he was cofounder and CEO of Recourse Technologies. Recourse was purchased by Symantec Corporation, where Frank then served as a vice president. Previously, he was the director of business development for Exodus Communications, focusing on mergers and acquisitions. He also held positions at VeriFone, Seagate Software and Hughes Aircraft.

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