By robert pratten, June 7th, 2010

Last year I posted an idea of how to document transmedia projects. I’m now back with an improved version :)

Note that this is another two-part post… kinda… with more downloadable content related to documentation and project bibles over here.

To illustrate my latest documentation, I’ve use the 10 minute ARG created by No Mimes Media LLC called International Mimes Academy.  If you’re not already familiar with this game, you can download an explanation at the Unfiction forum.

This pictorial flowchart is pretty good because it shows the media and links or calls-to-action between the media and there’s an implied sequence of experience (from top to bottom).

Updating my earlier ideas, the diagram below shows how the NoMimes flowcart would be represented if the media were separated onto it’s only timeline.

What’s good about this approach is that it hits a lot of the goals desired by Christy Dena:

* indicate which part of the story is told by which media

* indicate the timing of each element

* indicate how the audience traverses the media (what’s the call to action?)

Separating out the media like this is particularly useful if it’s being created by partners or collaborators: it shows what has to be created and how it relates to other media. The colored vectors represent the different platforms and the thin arrows between them document the calls-to-action or bridges between the platforms. I’m sometimes a little inconsistent with how I use these linking arrows, erring on the side of better explanation than rigid documentation dogma.

One “exception” I made here  is the inclusion of the final phone call. Typically I wouldn’t include the audience in the diagram but as it’s a concluding part of this experience it felt incomplete without it.

Although this is a nice example to start with, it doesn’t illustrate the strengths of my approach. Hence, let’s take a more complicated example.

The transmedia project documented in the following figures is called Colour Bleed created by Rhys Miles Thomas at Glass Shot in Wales, UK.

The first thing you see at a glance is the experience runs for six months in three phases each lasting two months and you can see that there are Offline and Online platforms.

You can also quickly see what platforms are being used and their relative timings. So, for example, you can see that “live performance” plays a significant role in this production – starting the experience and ending it. Indeed, Colour Bleed kicks-off with impromptu live dance performances at shopping malls and other public place – I’ve called them “flash dances” :)   – intended to immediately draw a crowd and attention. But this is the start of a futuristic story in which kids rebel against an authoritarian regime that’s banned color and creative expression.

At the flash dances, members of the project team hand out business cards that contain the call-to-action to go online and check out the History of Colour website. Note that I’ve shown two types of video production – “our video”, that produced by the project, and “UG video, for user-generated video that we hope will be captured by bystanders on their mobile phones.

Both types of video are hosted at the website and shown as “uploaded”. This isn’t a call-to-action but it does link and explain how video features in the live performance and on the web. It identifies media that needs to be produced and can be assigned a responsibility.

Other notable things in Phase 1 and Phase 2 are the use of a “rabbit hole” to gain access to the ARG, graphic novels given as rewards for completing phases of the ARG and a series of barcodes given in newspapers to access the second phase of the ARG.

Note that the ARGs are shown as a single platform in this diagram but might they will have their own additional documentation showing a second layer of complexity that’s hidden here.

Phase 3 has slightly more complicated documentation because merchandise given away at a series of live events (DJ-led music events and dance offs) offers two paths to revealing the date and time of a final performance:

* A URL to an augmented reality app on the community website that requires the AR marker on the merchandise to unlock

* A phone number to a voice message.

The first video in Phase 3 is shown to require two pieces of information to unlock it – the webcam app and the AR marker on the merchandise.

Note that the final cinema screening is partially colored indicating that although the date & time is revealed, the event can’t happen until the location is unlocked.

Conclusion

This is a pretty good method for documenting the flow across platforms in a transmedia project.. unless you think otherwise?

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Posted in ARG cross-media storytelling transmedia

robert pratten Robert Pratten is CEO and Founder of Transmedia Storyteller Ltd, an audience engagement company and provider of Conducttr, an pervasive entertainment platform. He has more than 20 years experience as an international marketing consultant and has established himself as a thought-leader in the field of transmedia storytelling. He is author of the first practical book transmedia storytelling: Getting Started in Transmedia Storytelling: A Practical Guide for Beginners. http://twitter.com/robpratten

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COMMENTS

  • My pleasure Luci ;) You haven't been blogging for ages - I guessed you had to be busy with something!

  • Thanks Robert - that's very useful, am working on something at the moment that this will come in handy. I'd come across the No Mimes before, but it is a relatively "simple" project compared to something like Colour Bleed, so am glad you tackled that too :)

  • Yes, please do share widely - no problem Julie (DrWho).

    Brooke, it's not so much that the audience are left out, it's more that it's all about the audience so having a dedicated horizontal (as with the mobile phone) could make the diagram become very messy very quickly. Or that's what I thought anyway.
    I wasn't thinking that this would replace anything one might do for user-interaction design, only that it might help present the experience better as we take the audience from one platform to the next. Kinda beats reading a ton of text :)

  • Love this approach. I tend to struggle to include time with my charts, which always annoys me, and generally leaves me with two or three different types of charts (depending on the complexity of the project).

    I'm not sure, though, that I understand the reasoning behind excluding things related to the audience? I realize that this is a flow chart and not about assets or platform interaction (though it includes both), but audience interaction is still often an important part of the flow of things. I'd worry that to excluding such things from the chart could lead to trouble and/or lead to a rather inaccessible or unfriendly design. (of course, I tend to come from an audience first perspective)

  • docwho2100

    Great article and process! I like the visuals; they help to walk-thru the project and process (I've read a few detailed blogs and articles on the No Mimes example and your visuals help to put some order to that process. Is it alright to share this with others through the classes I am teaching, a few talks I am giving regarding transmedia projects as well as putting it up on the site where I collect transmedia resources? Thanks julie (docwho2100 - geologylady on twitter)

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