The Immersive Environments and Interactive Cinema presentation was a case study session looking at the Zone of Separation interactive film (warning: some scenes are NSFW). If you haven't seen interactive cinema before, think back to the mid-90s CD-ROM movie/games that were popular at the time or the choose your own adventure books for kids, but done with video. Essentially, the end user watches a short video clip and then gets to choose what direction the story takes. They have multiple opportunities to make choices and shape the story that they get to view.
The challenges creating this type of interactive narrative are many. The presenters noted specifically:
- You have to shoot a lot more than a linear film. Every possible story line needs to be shot.
- Likewise, you have to storyboard a lot more. They kept track of scenes to be shot through extensive charts.
- It was difficult to find writers and directors familiar with the medium. Most were used to linear writing and storytelling. For this reason, interactive professionals helped with the writing and were on set all the time to assist with understanding of the medium.
- They couldn't create a very complex story -- it would have been logistically difficult, expensive to shoot and likely would not have worked well.
- They were grateful to get support from the Bell Fund for this project, but didn't expect that an advertiser would spend a $2 million budget to support a project of this scope.
The shoot took only a week, but post production took much longer and more than double the budget than the shoot, which is not surprising with interactive cinema.
If you're interested in seeing more films of this type (or games as presenter Daniel Riley referred to them), check out ZOS as well as Late Fragment which was featured in Wired Magazine early this year. The ZOS team is now looking to develop a television series.