Lead Media Forms

While all of the multimedia stories listed on this blog integrate different forms of media in some way, there is sometimes one form that drives forward the narrative with other forms used to support it. This allows for a more cohesive narrative where the user can focus their attention on one form for the story while choosing to pay attention to other forms according to their preference.

Welcome To Pine Point includes just about every media you can think of – photos, videos, audio clips, graphics, animations, and music – all integrated together about as seamlessly as possible. But the basic story that makes use of all of these things is told using text. The words push the story forward and provide the context for all of the other elements. Text describing the creation of the town – “Pine Point has none of the organic growth of most towns … Instead it was Economics 101” – is paired with animation of the town coming together. An animated bird caught in a rain storm is paired with text talking about bad times and the closing of an entire town. A photo slideshow of the area comes with the explanation “Pine Point is surrounded by dozens of otherworldly pits…” This doesn’t mean that there is an over reliance on text. Indeed, often only a few choice sentences are used on a page. But the text serves to tie together the story, an important function in such a rich multimedia experience.

For Want Of Water uses five videos to drive the story. The videos use a relatively traditional documentary style. But while they play, other forms of media react around them. A Bing map shows the exact location being discussed in the video. An info box that gives extra information about certain details mentioned in the video. There is the occasional extra video to watch in the info box that pauses the main video when played. There are pop-up text bios of onscreen interviewees when they talking. All of these extras can easily be ignored by the user without taking much away from the content of the main videos. Here the multimedia is optional. Other stories like Talking To The Taliban, A Year At War, and Behind the Veil similarly lead with videos in this way.

Audio drives the story in This Land, which builds on the story of journalist Dianne Whelan’s journey to Alert as told by narrator Karin Konoval. While the user listens, they can flip through images and videos from the trip, read about the  travel conditions, and view a map of Whelan’s progress. But the story is told by the audio. Indeed, the straight audio story is available for download without any extras at all.

And multimedia stories with one foot firmly planted in traditional print techniques like Our Choice and A Matter of Life & Death put the focus on the text with other elements like photos, videos, text pop ups, and maps used as extras.

The use of a lead media form is particularly useful for linear narratives that seek to tell a single story from start to finish. The lead media prompts the user to continue on with the story instead of getting lost in the multimedia.

While a single lead media keeps things simple, different forms of media can be efficiently used together to similarly keep things moving. Days With My Father, the simplest story listed on this blog, balances photos and text in a way that utilizes the strength of both. And Hope: Living & Loving With HIV In Jamaica effectively combines the text of poems with audio recordings of the author reading that text (a combination that works particularly well for poetry) while linking to secondary video interviews of the people the poems were written about.


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