It has been a week since buttercamp 2011 at ITP and my mind is still trying to wrap around its impact. Buttercamp was an attempt by the makers and advocates of the javascript library popcorn.js to teach individuals its vast possibilities, primarily in expanding the toolkit available to filmmakers and to get feedback on the popcorn utility ButterAp. Not just satisfied with a stale day of classroom tutorials, filmmakers were partnered with world-class programmers/hackers/developers. From these collaborations came 6 dynamic and interesting starts to impressive projects.

One of the coordinators of the day, the talented filmmaker Brett Gaylor whose accomplishments include the enjoyable and fascinating doc Rip!: A Remix Manifesto, has a video blog of the day:

Two thoughts on the event. One, the web is well-positioned to help filmmakers create a deeper experience for viewers. An edited documentary is a work culled from hours of work and research. Great footage and material is sacrificed to please the narrative and flow gods. This lost info deserves a space, or ecosystem, that helps the argument or story become richer. Having this data be triggered by the narrative is not new (javascript and flash cues come to mind) but it has never been this easy, this fast, and applicable.

There are recent analogs to this multi-path narration. The now-dying medium that is dvd broadened with alternative endings, extras, commentary, games and connection to dynamic websites. It gave more choice to the viewer than we had ever seen, and what has evolved is a excitement to create alternative narrative paths for consumption. The goal should be to avoid making this a gimmick. Done well, it will add to the story. On the web, this information can be dynamic. Done badly, and distractingly, it can hurt the overall ideas the work intends to portray. Multitasking, where popcorn events interrupt important information, is different from complicating a narrative with multiple paths of navigation. Like journalist and media theorist Jeff Jarvis commonly says, this technique has the possibility to being disruptive.

This day did not answer the question of what will work using these techniques.

A second thought is that I hope it becomes commonplace for programmers and hackers to support people who craft stories. Not only do the artmakers get access to expertise that is otherwise expensive and rare, programmers get to interact with users. This was a notable success of the day. Hopefully these relationships stay strong.

I hope an event like this is done again and with the entire ITP community.

links:

web made movies

popcorn.js

The Butter App

Butter Camp

Rip! Remix Manifesto

Great popcorn demo

ITP