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Exploring Database Films with Korsakow at OVC 2011

The Web invites new experiments in media, creating the possibility for new interactive film formats that break the mold of a linear, author-dictated viewing experience. Korsakow, an open source program created by Florian Thalhofer, enables the creation of non-linear, interactive ‘database films,’ without requiring coding knowledge. Thalhofer, Matt Soar, and Dave Reisch are members of the Korsakow team who will be leading the Database-Driven Narratives working group at the 2011 Open Video Conference.

While there are a number of emerging terms for Web-based experiences with interactive and non-linear elements, Soar says Korsakow presents a unique narrative opportunity for both creators and viewers. Korsakow is built around SNUs, or ‘Smallest Narrative Units” of video, which are correlated through tags and rules set by the filmmaker. “I think Korsakow is the only tool out there does database documentary,” Soar says, “meaning that if you’re keywording a bunch of SNUs they are actively drawing from a database based on rules the filmmaker has made.” Soar contrasts this “cloud structure” with another common approach to an interactive, non-linear film format – structuring visual experiences along “a number of fixed paths.”

Though Thalhofer advises viewers not to consciously map out their experience with his Korsakow films, he recently wrote about encountering one viewer’s visualization of his time with the Korsakow-produced “Planet Galata.” While these maps illustrate the complex, cloud-like structure possible with Korsakow, Thalhofer was more struck by the way the literal center of these data maps corresponded to his intuitive sense of the work’s center, writing “I had not planned this. But it made so much sense to me. It felt, it feels like, Korsakow had read my thoughts.” Despite the large number of possible connections viewers could follow between SNUs, multiple trips through the film had continued to center on an element with profound significance to Thalhofer as filmmaker.

The experience seems to address one key concern that prior generations of filmmakers may have with non-linear narratives: the loss of authorial control. Soar says that the current generation of young emerging filmmakers appears to understand the concept of a user-driven narrative instantly and intuitively. As Thalhofer suggests in his post, where he calls the young map-maker “wired in the time of digital,” Soar says that internet-native generations constantly experience at least “perfunctory” versions of non-linear media experiences as they use search terms and interrelated links to navigate the media landscape.

Soar, Thalhofer, and Reisch will be exploring questions like this authorial balance in non-linear works and much more, as they take attendees at their OVC session through an overview of Korsakow. They will also be inviting attendees to contribute to the development of Korsakow and mapping out its future.

If you’re not already signed up for the conference, register today. Registration gets you access to all conference sessions, lunch on Saturday and Sunday, and a tote bag full of cool stuff.

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