Friday, October 19, 2007

The Origins of Trans-Media Storytelling

The storytellers behind properties like Lost, Heroes, and The Matrix weave incredibly rich stories across multiple mediums. But they were not the first to do so… far from it. For that, give the credit to Cavemen -- no, not the ABC sitcom...

The Origins of Trans-Media Storytelling
By PGA NMC member Jeff Gomez

Prehistoric men and women would supplement their fireside accounts of great hunts and rich harvests with images painted on cave walls, as well as with expressive dances.

Early multi-platforming!

With the advent of mass media in the late 19th century came a rise in demand for books and periodicals with broad appeal. Fictional characters came to prominence, and readers wanted to enjoy their further exploits in sequels or other iterations. So Sherlock Holmes would venture through issue after issue of Strand magazine, and then those short stories and novellas would be collected as books. Later, there would be stage plays and radio shows adapting his exploits or inventing new ones. He arrived on the silver screen in 1912 in France, and has never been gone for long.

The same can be said for Dracula, Tarzan, Little Orphan Annie and the Lone Ranger. The Superman radio show would even add to the canon established by the original comic series by introducing Jimmy Olsen and kryptonite into the mythology.

Jeff’s examples of Sherlock Holmes and Superman support Principle #4 of his 8 Defining Principles of Trans-Media Production – “Content is unique, adheres to platform-specific strengths, and is not repurposed from one platform to the next.”

In his next post, Jeff introduces us to more colorful trans-media icons like Astro-Boy and Speed Racer.

Jeff Gomez (, is the CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, Inc., a developer and producer of highly successful trans-media projects whose clients include The Walt Disney Company, 20th Century Fox, the Coca-Cola Company, Mattel and Hasbro. Over the next few weeks he’ll be sharing his expertise on the white hot trans-media industry – exploring its fascinating history and expanding upon the 8 Defining Principles of Trans-Media Production

previous Jeff Gomez trans-media post
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"New York rocks digital media!" - Bob Greenberg at Night of the Producer

The PGA NMC East was well-represented at last night’s 3rd annual ‘Night of the Producer’ event at the New York City Fire Museum, on Spring and Varick, at which Jane Rosenthal, co-founder of TriBeCa Productions, and Bob Greenberg, founder of R/GA, were feted.

Our own Jeff Dachis, who was able to bring in Bob Greenberg for this event, conducted a 45-minute discussion with Bob, who was in rare form. For those that don’t know, Bob Greenberg practically invented computer-based special effects and graphics in the film industry, having handled titles and effects for some 400 feature films (‘Superman,’ ‘Alien,’ and ‘Body Double,’ among others) and 4,000 commercials.

Bob’s presentation was preceded by a 5-minute piece on his career (with a wide range of talking heads, several of whom were in the audience), which has interestingly been segmented by 9-year cycles, in which he “re-invents” his business (he said that his girlfriend of 22 years is a numerologist, and this helps place this in perspective). His 1977-1986 period included the development of computer-assisted filmmaking; 1986-1995 and 1996-2005 saw the development of a digital agency.

The unique aspect of Bob’s career is his active visionary capabilities. He explained that his father helped invent a computerized process for manufacturing mirrors in Toronto, where he grew up. Bob’s brother, Richard (with whom he founded R/GA), plied his Chicago neo-Bauhaus training into the business, and this has formed the core of R/GA’s approach; assembling the best talent for the operation and meshing these talents seamlessly (it also explains the Bauhaus-like structure on 39th St. that has housed R/GA for years).

Bob had a number of key points, including:

  • He disclosed that R/GA will open a San Francisco chapter soon. This move is purely to attract talent for R/GA, not to support any Bay Area clients

  • He believes that we are in a “four-screen” universe now (t.v., computer, mobile, digital signage) that will create a “one-screen” experience, meaning that consumers will choose what screen they want to watch when they want to watch

  • He is actively involved in trying to fill what he sees is a massive gap in new media talent, particularly coming out of design schools (he has recently met with leaders of RISD and other noted design instititutions)

  • He is building the next platforms for communication (the Nike Plus; the Nokia N95). He referenced mistakes that companies – such as Kodak and railroad companies – have made in not understanding their businesses (he said that he was on a “Kodak 2010” panel for Eastman Kodak, at which he stated that “by 2010, no one will be using film any more”)

  • He believes that the moviegoing experience is moribund and needs to be changed (“a kid with a DLP projector, two honking Aiwa speakers, and a bed sheet can create a superior experience for his friends – why does he need to go to a movie theatre?”)

  • He believes that watching a full-length film on an iPod is perfectly acceptable and natural and that anyone who doesn’t believe this is probably too old

Bob was very positive about his work in New York, and several times cited the fact that he believes New York is the capital of the digital media industry. “New York rocks digital media!” was his emphatic end-remark.

- Chris Pfaff, President, Chris Pfaff Tech/Media LLC; board delegate,

PGA New Media Council

A board delegate of the PGA New Media Council since 2006, and a PGA NMC member since 2004, Chris Pfaff leads a consultancy – Chris Pfaff Tech/Media,LLC – that represents some of the leading service providers, audio/video technology firms, networking vendors, and media companies in the world, from PRIMEDIA and Eastman Kodak to Cantor Telecom. A veteran of the venture world, Chris helped launch more than 20 ventures from the Lucent New Ventures Group, including iBiquity Digital; Flarion; Lucent Digital Video,and GeoVideo Networks, among others. In addition, he has helped launch AT&T’s Internet strategy; the Viacom New Media division of Viacom, Inc.; Sony Electronics’ Digital Betacam format, and Sharp Electronics’ LCD produc division.