By Fiona Milburn
Worldwide, transmedia is still an emerging concept. This is especially so here in New Zealand where I’m often asked 'what is transmedia?' followed by, 'so, why transmedia?'
Now the first question I find easy to answer. In presentations, Transmedia NZ usually gives Screen Australia’s definition, but I like to shorten my response to 'Transmedia, or multiplatform storytelling, is the extension of a story across multiple forms of media, with each platform making a unique contribution to the narrative experience', knowing that I’ll need to follow up any definition with a few examples. (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Monsters University are currently two of my favourites.)
With the second question, I find it much harder to be concise. Maybe it’s because an instinctive “Why wouldn’t you embrace transmedia?” isn’t a very helpful answer. Therefore, in an effort to be both helpful and concise, here are three reasons for why you might embrace transmedia storytelling.
1. It meets the expectations of today’s audience
The way audiences consume content has evolved. They are more sophisticated in their viewing habits. It’s content everywhere, all the time. This “always on” access means audiences expect stories to appear on multiple media. Their experience is no longer defined by the device. Audiences can choose their content and the device. For content producers, it makes sense to follow your audience and give your story global reach.
2. It offers new forms of storytelling and creativity
What do stories look like when they play out across multiple media? When characters are not limited to one platform? Multiplatform storytelling means there can be more entry points, more ways for an audience to interact with the story, making it a more immersive experience. The way we relate to an audience and each other has changed. Technology has made it easier for stories to be non linear and interactive. Content is not only viewed, it is experienced. Transmedia offers creative practitioners an exciting new form of artistic expression.
3. It gives access to an expanded business model
Transmedia business models expand upon single platform financing structures by “bringing to the table” funding strategies from all of a project’s component media: film, TV, video games, apps, publishing, live events, etc. Licensing territory by territory is also becoming obsolete. Creating a robust story world enables content producers to build sustaining IP and foster loyal audiences for long term revenue streams. Transmedia can work within a budget but producers must develop content and choose distribution platforms carefully.
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It should be noted that not all projects are suitable for multiplatform expansion. Single platform storytelling is still the right option for many. And, whilst many practitioners are looking to create sustainable entertainment properties, others are using transmedia techniques to explore issues of universal concern.
Here is one such project from Caroline Robinson, The Big Idea's 2013 Digital Artist in Residence, whose art is generally imbued with a "raw physicality" that comes from working with materials such as stone, steel and earth. With ‘back to the source, hoki ki nga waiora’ Caroline has chosen to work with a new form of artistic expression. She is using a variety of digital media to explore her personal journey with water and to engage others in a global conversation about water. This digital work can be described as "transmedia in focus. It aspires to reach and inspire people around the world to have meaningful encounters with water and then join a worldwide conversation, and by doing so, to deepen their own relationship to water."
So, no matter the 'Why?' of transmedia, exciting things are happening.