Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Interactive styorytelling

I ordered 'Interactive Storytelling Techniques for 21st Century Fiction' by Andew Glassner from Amazon a while back and it was delivered today. I had pondered over purchasing this book for a while, but had concerns that it would be too focused on gaming. When I started to read the Preface my fears were justified, but I then flipped through to Chapter 9: Branching and Hypertext Narratives. This section seemed more appropriate to my needs as it discusses non linear narratives. Within the first paragraph of the Chapter, Glassner states that these most frequently used techniques deserve close attention as the structures involve the audience in a story; but then goes on to say that neither branching nor hypertext has been successful (within a commercial context). Glassner has concerns with the non linear narrative as he thinks it can fragment a characters personality and this can make it harder for the audience to identify or care about them. This is an intersting point and is something I should not flippantly ignore just because it does not fit into my plan for an animation. 

Branching narratives provide the audience with some of the story and then require them to make decisions within the story - but this is where the characters personality and story can begin to break down. Glassner also discusses how difficult it is to create lots of stories within a story and still stay cohesive when sharing starting points and many options within them. It is suggested that a more simplified structure is used which is called a 'Bulging tree', this is where the storylines rejoin the main narrative and only threads of the story deviate from the main one. This really is what I had in mind - a main narrative that has threads that lead off from the story, but reconnect again.

Within the hypertext section of the Chapter, Glassner mentions 'afternoon, a story', so I opened a new browser tab while typing this to search for it. It is certainly not for the faint hearted and is not easy to decipher if you start deviating from the main pages. This example is widely taught and studied, but Glassner once again (as with the branching narrative), berates this hypertext story and questions why this style has not been explored and built upon to take to a wider audience. He reasons that it is because hypertext destroys linearity and he suggests that it is not a good technique for storytelling. I don't think that this still applies in the 21st Century, I believe that we are ready for this style of story if it is simplified. We are now desensitised from being as confused when jumping around viewing and linking to a wide range of text, visual and moving image throughout the web, so it is more natural to participate within an interactive story.

The links within a story could be subtle; they could be pop up windows that add to the story rather than deviating from it. I am a very visual person, I can be sidetracked by beautiful things, colours, style, anything visual can catch my eye - but I could really enjoy reading a simplified version of a hypertext interactive story.  I could enjoy having additional pop up windows with additional text; rather than being taken totally away from the story and this tells me that this is how I should go forward with my plan for an interactive animation. I should not make it intricate, it should be scaled down and have threads that move away from the story, but it should always lead back quite quickly and also I should include little additional details for the user to interact with - nothing too taxing, just details that inform the user not detract them from the story.......

I think that it was worth taking the time to purchase Andrew Glassner's Interactive Storytelling, even by reading one chapter - it has helped to clarify some issues that I have been pondering over for too long!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Late night at Tate Britain

Went to the late night at Tate Britain last night. I went with a work colleague to specifically see the Muybridge exhibition.

Leland Stanford, Jr. on his Pony "Gypsy"—Phases of a Stride by a Pony While Cantering 1879
It was interesting viewing - his panoramics of San Francisco were particularly impressive! His studies of animals and people in motion are prolific and are used extensively by creatives around the world. He also invented the zoopraxiscope so that these stills could be put back in motion for audiences. A zoopraxiscope was on view at the exhibition, but sadly the projector that was supposed to project some zoopraxiscope images was not working :(.

About the exhibition: (taken from the Tate website)

Muybridge was the man who famously proved a horse can fly. Adapting the very latest technology to his ends, he proved his theory by getting a galloping horse to trigger the shutters of a bank of cameras. This experiment proved indisputably for the first time what no eye had previously seen – that a horse lifts all four hooves off the ground at one point in the action of running. Seeking a means of sharing his ground-breaking work, he invented the zoopraxiscope, a method of projecting animated versions of his photographs as short moving sequences, which anticipated subsequent developments in the history of cinema.

British-born Eadweard Muybridge, who emigrated to the United States in the 1850s, is one of the most influential photographers of all time. He pushed the limits of the camera's possibilities, creating world-famous images of animals and humans in motion. Just as impressive are his vast panoramas of American landscapes, such as the Yosemite valley, and his documentation of the rapidly growing nation, particularly in San Francisco. His dramatic life included extensive travels in North and Central America, a career as a successful lecturer, and the scandal of his trial for the murder of his wife's lover.

This exhibition brings together the full range of his art for the first time, and explores the ways in which Muybridge created and honed his remarkable images, which continue to resonate with artists today. Highlights include a seventeen foot panorama of San Francisco and recreations of the zoopraxiscope in action. His influence has forever changed our understanding and interpretation of the world, and can be found in many diverse fields, from Marcel Duchamp's painting Nude Descending a Staircase and countless works by Francis Bacon, to the blockbuster film The Matrix and Philip Glass's opera The Photographer.

I also viewed the Romantics exhibition and enjoyed looking at Turner, specifically Sun setting over a Lake (circa 1840) and some of Turners sketches. Henry Wallis' Chatterton (1856) and I had forgotten how much I like Lucien Freud, particularly his black ink sketches.

But the most unexpected treasure was to stumble upon the shadow operas by Matthew Robins and his band! They were joyful to watch and listen to! 

The shadow puppets and cut out stencils were projected and enacted live through an overhead projector and they were glorious to watch. Inspired no doubt by Lotte Reiniger. 

Flyboy goes to the Butchers, Matthew Robins

This week has been an arduous week at work, with so much to do (modules, assignments, course folder to prepare, training day and marking stacking up); it was only the fact that this was the only late night opportunity to get to see the Muybridge exhibition that forced us to make the effort on such a miserable, cold and rainy night. Although we were pretty exhausted at the end of the night, it was refreshing for the soul to go there and I'm glad I forced my weary body and mind to make the effort to go to the Tate!