VR Filmmakers Explore New Platforms at Sundance Festival

At the Sundance Film Festival, there was evidence that that some of the pioneering virtual reality companies are expanding — or shifting — their purview from VR movies into other genres. Sundance’s New Frontier program, which launched five years ago, highlighted VR filmmaking. At this year’s festival, long-time VR producers such as Felix & Paul are still engaging in virtual reality projects, but others are exploring augmented reality, connected devices and artificial intelligence in their interactive stories. Continue reading VR Filmmakers Explore New Platforms at Sundance Festival

Jay Z Has Major Plans for Artist-Backed Streaming Music Service

Rap star and mogul Jay Z is giving artists unprecedented control over their music by owning a piece of his new music streaming service. Jay Z bought Tidal, a subscription streaming service, for $56 million and plans to go head-to-head with other streaming services such as Spotify. The platform is a new alternative for artists and labels frustrated with the free streaming model. Tidal will feature $10 and $20 subscription options that provide access to millions of songs and videos. Continue reading Jay Z Has Major Plans for Artist-Backed Streaming Music Service

Taylor Swift Music Video Offers a New Take on Virtual Reality

Pop star Taylor Swift’s new music video “Blank Spaces” comes with an app that offers fans an interactive experience in the video’s pristine mansion setting. The app is available for iOS and Android, and it gives viewers a chance to explore the scenes featured in the music video, see Swift dance just a few feet away, and discover Easter eggs with extras such as Polaroids. This app may point to the future of music videos, and could provide an ideal testing ground for virtual environments. Continue reading Taylor Swift Music Video Offers a New Take on Virtual Reality

Cube: Google Creative Labs Unveils New Storytelling Platform

Google Creative Labs has built an in-browser manipulatable 3D box with different video and audio tracks on each of its six faces. The user decides what to watch and hear by clicking and dragging the Cube to show either one side or a combination of sides. The Cube, which debuted online this week with The Presets’ new single “No Fun,” is a multi-pronged promo. Google considers it a platform that could eventually extend beyond music videos to other areas of art and media.  Continue reading Cube: Google Creative Labs Unveils New Storytelling Platform

First YouTube Music Awards to Feature Worldwide Performances

YouTube will be hosting its first ever YouTube Music Awards on Sunday, November 3 in New York. The event will feature notable performers including Eminem, Lady Gaga and Arcade Fire, among others. It will be modeled after such events as the MTV Video Music Awards, but winners will be chosen by YouTube’s online visitors. In addition to big name artists, YouTube performers such as dubstep violinist Lindsey Stirling and CDZA will be featured. Continue reading First YouTube Music Awards to Feature Worldwide Performances

TED Talk: Aaron Koblin Artfully Visualizes our Humanity with Data

  • Check out this fascinating TED presentation on data visualization, crowd-sourced collaborative art projects, and the interface as a narrative device.
  • “We’re collecting and creating all kinds of data about how we’re living our lives and it’s enabling us to tell some amazing stories,” says digital artist Aaron Koblin. The TED description suggests, “his works brilliantly explore how modern technology can make us more human.”
  • Compelling tweet from the opening: “19th Century culture was defined by the Novel, 20th Century culture by Cinema — the culture of the 21st Century will be defined by the Interface.”
  • The second half ties in with interactive, collaborative music videos featuring Johnny Cash and Arcade Fire, earlier reported by ETCentric.

Musicians Turn to Location Technologies for Creative Fan Interaction

  • ETCentric has featured a number of compelling reports regarding how mobile- and location-based technologies are making their way into the music world. Some very creative uses for location data are currently being implemented by musicians. For example…
  • Arcade Fire’s “The Wilderness Downtown” website asks viewers for an address and then incorporates Google Maps footage of that location into their music video. The band worked with video director Chris Milk, Google and@radical.media to create a fascinating HTML5 multi-browser experience.
  • OK Go (a big fan of technology with a reputation for media experimentation) asked fans to create GPS journeys that the band then edited into one of their music videos.
  • Panic at the Disco asked fans to send their videos of a recent 23-city tour that they will cut into their video. The band teamed up with the Viddy app launched in May (the “Instagram for video” allows users to create stylized videos and share them on social networks).
  • Bluebrain’s “National Mall” album adapts to your GPS location when using their app while walking around the Mall in downtown Washington, DC. Selections from three hours of recordings are designed to correspond to your physical location in the Mall. The band is working on a similar album/app that will be tied to Central Park in New York City.
  • Is this part of an emerging trend? Check out the music videos posted on the Mashable write-up and draw your own conclusions.

Interactive Film: Reinventing the Traditional Music Video

The era of digital music distribution and a shift toward reality TV airing on pioneer networks such as MTV has left the traditional model for music videos in limbo. There is no longer a standard approach to production, budgets, distribution or, for that matter, a clearcut means of generating an audience or revenue.

Today’s music videos may need a new name — and perhaps even a new genre to call home. Innovative artists are leveraging a host of Internet-enabled technologies to break barriers regarding what is possible in short-form visual storytelling. One of the more interesting approaches is taking shape in the form of user control with help from interactive technologies sponsored by Google, Intel and others.

In The Wall Street Journal this week, John Jurgensen provides a fascinating snapshot of the last 30 years of music videos and what has led to this change, citing compelling new approaches from directors such as Spike Jonze and Chris Milk. Jurgensen describes several new approaches to what is being called (for the time being, anyway) “interactive films” — including a new Devo video that enables a 360-degree view of various scenes, a director’s chair feature for newcomer Andy Grammer’s video that allows viewers to select scenes, and a video for Swedish pop artist Robyn that copies fans’ tweets and integrates them into a 3D animated collage.

One of the more notable recent examples is The Wilderness Downtown, directed by Chris Milk and set to the Arcade Fire song “We Used to Wait.” Viewers can enter their home addresses, and by using Google’s maps and street visuals, they essentially personalize the experience with “virtual fly-overs” of their childhood homes (for Google, it has become a way of showcasing new functionality of its Chrome browser). Milk has reportedly been working for five months on another secret project funded by Google that puts control of the content in the hands of viewers. It is expected to debut next week.

The article also points out an interesting shift in distribution (and generating ad revenue):

Three out of four major music companies now channel their videos through Vevo, an online video player and distributor launched in late 2009. After years of licensing their videos to sites all over the Web — and seeing measly financial returns — the labels now rely on Vevo to distribute their videos online and sell ads against them. By focusing on slick presentation and sponsored video premieres, the company has pushed ad rates higher. Vevo, whose traffic includes the videos it funnels into sites such as YouTube and Facebook, is the biggest music provider on the Web, attracting 54 million unique viewers last March, up from 37.5 million in the same month last year, according to ComScore Video Metrix.

According to WSJ, the labels are starting to see financial results from the Vevo model, albeit relatively small. For example, a label whose videos accrue 10 million streams via the online player could collect approximately $70,000.

Identifying the next generation of short form video and its audience’s expectations — whether or not in the form of online interactivity — may become vital to new content production and distribution. As consumers continue to adopt tablet PCs and more dynamic media, this may prove to impact more than just music.

Related: Click here to view Chris Milk’s interactive film “The Wilderness Downtown.”

Related: Click here to view another interactive experiment from Milk, “The Johnny Cash Project.”