Expert tips on making cross-platform projects work

This year's deadline for the Cross-Media Challenge, a copro competition for those working in the multi-platform arena, is quickly approaching. If you want to win CDN$10,000, get your proposal in by October 10. These tips from Sheffield Doc/Fest's festival director Heather Croall may help your odds.
August 25, 2008

Working in the cross-platform arena involves more than simply slapping some content online, and Heather Croall, a cross-platform expert who’s produced cross-platform projects since 1992 and is festival director at Sheffield Doc/Fest, has tips on making the most of your cross-platform project from the get-go.

Doc/Fest has partnered with the National Film Board of Canada on this year’s Cross-Media Challenge to encourage those working in the multi-platform arena in pursuing their projects. The winner will receive a CDN$10,000 copro development deal with the NFB.

Here, in her own words, Croall shares information on the Crossover Labs initiative and tips on making cross-platform projects:

Everything is changing in the audiovisual industries. People are adapting to and adopting digital tools for production, distribution and consumption at a pace which professionals – producers, controllers and commissioners alike – are struggling to match. The fragmentation of audiences, their ability to time-shift, participate, create and consume on multiple platforms has established creative and commercial models of media production and distribution. To help equip producers for this environment, Sheffield Doc/Fest and Unexpected Media run an international series of creative labs called Crossover.

Crossover is an incubator which fosters innovation for the new media ecology. The lab process brings together creative professionals from diverse disciplines, including TV production, animation, games, theater and new media, to share understanding of a rapidly changing mediascape, to form new interdisciplinary collaborations and generate ideas for original, innovative cross-platform projects.

Some of the lessons we’ve learnt from bringing together people from different sectors in order develop cross-platform projects are very different from making television. Here are some tips to get started:

- Don’t just use other platforms to enhance a TV show;

- Think cross-platform from the very beginning of the idea generation process;

- Build relationships with developers and producers from new media/gaming/interactive designers and work with them to develop genuinely integrated projects;

- Be imaginative about business models, don’t treat the interactive producer as a ‘gun for hire,’ look at sharing copyright and IP ownership and working as coproducers;

- Realize that ‘geeks,’ ‘luvvies’ and ‘suits’ inhabit different worlds and speak different languages: take time to understand each other;

- Cross-platform production is a fundamentally different production process from TV: if it involves software design, you can’t sort out problems in the edit suite;

- Don’t assume the audience will just ‘go to the website’ in the way one could once assume audiences would switch on the TV because chances are they won’t!

- Think about people, not technology: place the audience at the heart of the development process;

- Rather than thinking of your audience age group demographics, identify your audience as an individual: identify as much as possible about that person. Draw out their ‘digital day;’ for example, unpick everything about their interaction with different media each day and then create your project around how you can get to them in their already existing digital media behavior;

- Do constant reality checks in the development of your project against the individual profile you have drawn up and never make any assumption that people will seek out things on any platform, always try to get into places where they are already.

TV and film producers work in very different ways than new media and interactive producers: finding a way to genuinely collaborate in productions will involve unraveling many years of work practices. At Crossover, we analyze the production processes of each and explore how the two can come together, equipping producers from each sector with an understanding of how the other works and how they can collaborate. Outcomes of Crossover and many other cross-platform sessions are presented in the DigiDocs program at Sheffield Doc/Fest each November.

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