Northern Digital Storytelling Festival

During March the first Northern Digital Storytelling Festival took place on line. The idea of a series of talks or discussions around digital storytelling was instantly appealing and I registered as soon as I could. I immediately encountered an issue when I saw the times of the talks, over lunchtimes (12:00-13:30) and early evening (17:00-19:30) which are just too awkward to contemplate. On the upside all the talks are recorded and available on the festival website and will be kept there apparently indefinitely.

I made a series of notes around some of the talks that I got the most from and I’m posting them just to keep myself on track with the gardens project.

Northern Digital Storytelling Festival


Northern Digital Storytelling Festival 10 – Interactive Digital Storytelling.

Narrative concentrates on the experience of the player in game terms, ludo-narrative dissonance occurs when the game play works against the character of the player in the game story.

Standard explanation of the way characters context frames the choices the players make in the game. What is the goal? \what happens if I get it wrong? Etc.,

Key insight is the provision of visual information, or any information, gives the player impetus to proceed or not, too much information can be boring, too little can be frustrating.

Context-Choice-Outcome Nina Roussakoff 

Most of the talks suggest the general storytelling works akin to theatre, and hardly anyone seems to regard books as immersive. [This is a little bit disingenuous of me]

Interactive media is in growth and non-interactive in decline? Strange declaration based on the fact that gaming business has exploded where film and theatre have declined over the last few years.

Bright Black talking about nudge based interactions, branching narratives where choice takes you somewhere different and everything is scripted. No room for emergent behaviour. Highly functional open worlds, like GTA, where emergent behaviour can be the entire of the experience. Speculative Design, make a story world with a question buried inside it. Good branching diagram possible, probable, definite, probable, possible reading down off a central line. Black Bright – 1000 conversations about death, a combined virtual and live experience. Sussex University research into perspective found that first person gives the least accurate perception of that space. Mapping from above might give a good opening perspective for an experience before you enter first person?

Book – Reality is Broken. Jane McGonigal

Is there really a huge exodus into virtual space? BB presenting an alternative to life?

The idea being to enter a ‘flow state’.

They were looking at multi-sensory immersion because they were not making games but were making experiences.

XR_Stories ‘Game Like Experiences’ what defines a game? Competition? Environments that invite play. Involving film as well as sound and 3d architecture. Theatre!!!

Uses mobile phone (provided to the audience – attached to the seat in front) to get a section of audience to vote at certain points in the narrative to provide direction. The phone then gradually becomes a director of the actions.

Audience Q&A ‘was it real?’ was that experience really interactive? It takes work to persuade them that this true. Demonstrate the effects of decisions before they matter. Give evidence to prove this is the case. Be very heavy handed.

Branching narratives are easy but expensive – audiences experience are inevitably linear.

Why interactivity when the experience is linear.

Maintaining Game Balance, how to ensure selections are made equally, often choices are obvious through the text.

Magic Circle – rules are different here, Lusory Attitude and a playful contract. Games as transgression. Space for spectating (how do the audience choose to spectate rather than participate?).

Can the audience fail? How and when?

It occurs to me here that I made no note of what the actual piece was that these notes referred to and I’d need to rewatch the talk to find out.

Ben Kirman.

Analogue game called train – packing people into trains – presented without reference to it but clearly about the holocaust.

Psychological techniques to industrialise killing. Internalises the idea that we can all do wrong. Reminded me of a flash game I saw years ago where you were an American drone pilot trying to kill terrorists in an Arab village. Everytime you target the terrorists in the market place they walk away and civilians take their place, I can’t find it online anywhere.

Ben Kirman noticed that Theatre people solve problems, don’t think about what might go wrong, suck it and see.

Northern Digital Storytelling Festival


Northern Digital Storytelling Festival 13 extra

Samantha Kingston – Co-Founder of Virtual Umbrella – VR Director

Empathy in VR

Films that blend story and technology together so that you forget you’re in a headset.

Topic, children of alcoholics, personal experience. Made a passive experience in VR after losing her mother to stage 4 liver disease when a teenager. The space works through the stages of grief as if speaking to her mother. A set of 5 chairs around the room that speak to you when wearing the headset. Always important to ask why use VR? Is it about the way you – the audience – are addressed? What reaction are you expecting? The experience is not just about the headset, it’s about the whole experience.

Northern Digital Storytelling Festival


Northern Digital Storytelling Festival 13 – The Metaverse and Digital Storytelling – Empathy and VR

Richard England from Reflex Arc spoke about the lack of accessibility for blind, partially sighted and deaf people throughout the interactive media architecture and industry.

Josh Naylor from HTC Vive, for an immersive experience don’t give me an abstraction, give me something I know not a cue I need to learn.

Also talked about embodiment – make me walk in someone else’s shoes.

Lots of the potential solution are suggested as being entirely prosaic, showing recipes when cooking, seeing a screen of additional stats when watching the Grand Prix. etc.,

JN good explanation of AI – anything that has been done loads its good at, not innovation, so it will leave creators free to invent and innovate.

Northern Digital Storytelling Festival


Northern Digital Storytelling Festival 15 – Virtual Production and Its Place in Digital Storytelling.

VR Production at Production Park Wakefield has open entry facilities that are allegedly not expensive?

Northern Digital Storytelling Festival


Northern Digital Storytelling Festival 16 – Digital Storytelling in the Real World, AR and Overlays.

Damian Tomaselli, Post Doctoral Scholar, Visual Identities in Art & Design, University of Johannesburg.

Initially the idea is presented that AI functions as a kind of montage of the Real and Virtual with its own character. Eisenstein idea of montage.

Alice’s passage through the looking glass places her in VR, this side of the looking glass is Real Space (Physicality) so the mirror itself is AR if you can see through it to the other world.

Narrative will inevitably run slower in AR than in VR and agency is very different. AR can render the audience from passive to active, from observer to influencer. Ended with talking about Ludo Narrative Dissonance. The way you can miss the mechanics in games if you’re involved as a character, and you can miss the emotions you need through following the plot.

Warren Fearn. Using AR to teach primary sciences.

AR Wonderscope – Storytelling AR App. Indoor

Magical Park – NZ – Selling houses using AR. Outdoor

Merge 3D cube.

Teaching through storytelling, using videos, characterisation, narratives in the classroom. The manner of using the experience needs to be carefully designed for individual/group, spatial awareness, degree of individual agency, language.

Warren’s project is based around the platonic solids(?).

Collaboratively built app around climate change. Different features linked to a cardboard pop up exhibition.

Sound became very important in terms of engaging young people and giving a literal narrative.

Shreyans Jain – Vologram – Volograms will allow users to record a full body message and send it to someone through the app who will then be able to make AR content in their location.

Bethany Watrous from Experience Heritage – they make apps that use Location and Target to give you an animated character describing what you’re seeing.

Northern Digital Storytelling Festival

Durer’s Solid

Northern Digital Storytelling Festival 17 – Trans-media Digital Storytelling

Tomaselli – talks about how trans-media (which he says doesn’t really exist) works. Start with the difference between storyboard and comic, the latter is never intended to be real.

The ‘stage’ what are the compositional requirements, how does the space relate to the storytelling. Blocking etc., Tactics what are the rules of the world and how do they work as patterns and familiarise the audience with them? How do we teach them the role of the participant? Act 1 is the orientation phase, where rules are baked into the game and expectations are set. Once the audience knows the roles they can be undermined if desired.

Interactivity – always writes it with inverted commas because the terminology is too broad to work with the diversity of storytelling we now have. Each Character has different rules, how do we measure their development/ establish a distance so that we can build relationship with the character through interactions or movement. Working towards narrative character relationships through interactivity.

In transmediation the space is an actor, the theme needs to be spatialised. No space for clutter as overloading the senses with information means things, details get lost. Think about level maps in games (he uses Mario Bros 3 as an example). Used the 3 act heroic quest arc as a reference in previous talk. Agency of the user, interactivity, runs the risk of taking away from the things the narrator sets up and works against the story. When working with Mayfire(?) they worked on windows of animation within the comic they were working on, DC comics said let’s do an interactive comic. DC ended up creating an interactive story with multiple endings and it wasn’t what they wanted. The company had wanted to have just windows illustrating elements of one story arc.

Question on using user generated content to bring you in to the story?

Myra Appennah and Simon Wilkinson – BrightBlack. They do brilliant stuff and are well worth a look.

Northern Digital Storytelling Festival

Durer’s Solid – Ink & Chalk on Amazon Carrier Bag

Northern Digital Storytelling Festival 18 – Digital Story Telling with No Budget

Wayne Sables

What Kind of Film do you want to make? Documentary, Narrative, Experimental, Art etc., (Wayne did this in reverse).

Planning – Pre Production: Script/Storyboard/Treatment/Post It Notes/Beer Mat etc.,

What to Shoot off: Phone, Camcorder, Cinema Camera (Tangerine, won Sundance Festival, shot on 2 iPhone 5s)

You need a Crew/Cast (or do you?)

Locations and Release Forms. Release Forms – Get it signed. Free Resources Online. Storyblocks; Wayne’s Google Drive Folder. Can make or break your shoot.

Lighting: Lighting is the key to professional scene making. Natural Lighting, Existing Lighting, Hired Lighting, choose a style and stick to it.

Sound: Where possible use an external microphone. Blair Witch, Cloverfield are essentially sound pieces. Rule of Thumb the closer to source the mic the better the sound quality.

Shoot.Shoot.Shoot: Be well prepared, be decisive, be efficient, be productive. Know what you want to do and do it, shoot and reshoot.

Post Production: Editing -Software – Computer/Mobile

Storing Footage – back up, back up in the cloud. Learning resources, Online resources…

Da Vinci resolve has a good free version. iMovie, splice for windows,

Skillshare, Udemy, Vimeo on demand.

Ben Porter

Who, why, Journey, Test leading to Success or Failure – Home-Away-Home.

All stories are about transformation.

The story must move the audience closer to where they want to be. Always think about the audience, you create stories that resonate by reverse engineering.

Define your audience; the person who knows their audience most wins. Who is my audience, what do I want them to feel, what do I hope they take away from this. Set Deadlines

Simple Repeatable Project; do them regularly, set the parameters and follow them.

Spend your time making not thinking, establish consistency, consistency beats intensity.

5 tips

Find a network/ shared interests etc., reach out to them.

Start your own if you can’t find one!

Be honest: make sure you’re telling stories that are true to you. Be clear about what you want.

Be Grateful, thank people privately and then publicly,

Practice: Know who you are, have your own spiel,

These are the notes I made as I was listening, the talks were all good and I’d recommend having a look at them.

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