Master’s Project

Title: 

"Limitations and Potential of Interactive Film and Television; an Interactive Online Resource."
Report Abstract:

This report investigates the topic of interactive film and television in addition to evaluate the user experience of already existing interactive media texts. The study aims to uncover usability issues of two interactive films; the thriller drama Late Shift (2016) and the children’s short film on Netflix called Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale (2017). The study used HCI usability evaluation methods to uncover the user experience and usability issues. From this, design recommendations were made. The study revealed that both interactive media texts suffered from minor problems such as issues with clarity and engagement. But it also revealed that users would find these interactive films interesting because of their novelty. The main conclusion from this study would be that the field of interactive film and television is still in its early stages and that further studies concerning this topic will help create better user experiences and better interfaces in the future.

Excerpt from Chapter 1:

Chapter 1: Introduction and Objectives

1.1 Background and Motivation

Interactive film and television could be considered to be the underdog of film and video games. It’s not quite a film and not quite a game so it falls somewhere in between. There have been some rare attempts at making interactive films or television through cinema history.

This project provides some exploration and insights to two already existing interactive films; Late Shift (2016) and Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale (2017). These interactive films are recent attempts at contributing to the landscape of interactive film and television. This project will carry through user-centric explorations of these films as well as coming up with some design recommendations that could improve their interfaces and the user experience.

The studies implemented for this project explored the limits and potential of interactive films and television. This study could also potentially contribute to the ever-developing ideas in this field and might inspire other studies in the future.

Interactive media and transmedia storytelling have the potential of making the audience an active player in telling a story. Audiences interacting with media is nothing new, but it is constantly changing in terms of how we interact with different media. The purpose of this project would be to discover how the audience interacts with already existing interactive films and television and then to create design recommendations based on these findings. The project is also showcased through an interactive website.

1.2 Objectives

Keeping in line with the original project proposal (Appendix A) the overall aim of this project was to investigate the limitations and potential of interactive films and television and to create design recommendations that could potentially contribute to the field of interactive media texts. HCI methods were applied in order to investigate the research topic.

1.2.1 Breakdown of the Objectives

  1. Define the term “interactive” and “interactive media texts”
  2. Establish the history and evolution of interactive film and television
  3. Investigate people’s habits regarding entertainment consumption through a diary study
    1. Uncover what type of devices people use to consume their audiovisual media
    2. Uncover what kind of audiovisual media people consume the most
    3. Uncover what kind of services people use to consume their audiovisual media
    4. Uncover if people play any digital games
  4. Explore the potential and limitations of already existing interactive media texts through an expert evaluation
    1. Inform the user tests
    2. Explore and gain insight to already existing interactive media texts
    3. Discover their potential and limitations
  5. Explore the potential and limitations of already existing interactive media texts through a user study
    1. Uncover the limits and weaknesses of already existing interactive media texts
    2. Uncover the strengths and potential of already existing interactive media texts
    3. Investigate the overall user experience
    4. Uncover the usability issues
  6. Come up with design recommendations based on the findings from the diary study, expert evaluation and user study
  7. Create an interactive online resource that exhibits some of the findings and other related material to the project topic

1.3 Project Beneficiaries

This project will benefit anyone who would be interested in the topic of interactive film and television and who wish to explore this further. This could be either academic studies to do further research on this topic or it could be people who wish to actually create interactive films or television themselves.

 

In creating an interactive online resource, anyone who is interested in this topic will be able to explore the findings from this study and to create concepts of their own.

1.4 Methods

A short summary of the methods. Each method is detailed in Chapter 3:

  1. Investigate people’s habits regarding entertainment consumption through a diary study

The diary study aimed to investigate different types of people’s habits when it comes to media consumption. The diary study recruited participants that consumed audio-visual media on a daily basis and was asked to record their consumption through a questionnaire form.

  1. Explore the potential and limitations of already existing interactive media texts through an expert evaluation

Two interactive media texts were chosen in order to investigate already existing interactive media texts. The researcher of this project would serve as an expert in order to explore the chosen interactive media texts and to perform a heuristic evaluation.

  1. Explore the potential and limitations of already existing interactive media texts through a user study

A user study was conducted with a test session where the participants would interact with the two chosen interactive media texts that were evaluated in the expert evaluation.

  1. Come up with design concept recommendations

Some suggested design recommendations were created based on the findings and insights from the diary study, the expert evaluation and the user study.

  1. Create an interactive online resource that exhibits the findings

An interactive online resource was created in order to showcase some of the findings as well as other relevant information regarding the topic of interactive film and television. This could potentially benefit those who wish to perform further studies in this field or industry professional who wishes to gain insight into the findings from this project.

Excerpt of Results:

4.2 Diary Study

4.2.1 Results

  • 47 participants
  • 7 days
  • 201 responses in total
  • On average 4,3 days answered per participant

Figure 6: Translated results from the diary study questionnaire. Asking the question: “Which of these services did you use to consume video entertainment today?”

“Which of these services did you use to consume audiovisual entertainment today?”

This results showed that a majority of the consumption of video entertainment happened through social media channels like YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. There were also a large number of people who watched their video entertainment through linear TV channels. “Linear” in this context refers to TV channels in the traditional sense where the TV channels decide the content and the schedule of the programming, as opposed to streaming services where you can decide what to watch and when you want to watch it yourself. There seemed to be a high percentage of people who used streaming services on a daily basis. Netflix, Viaplay, TV2 Sumo NRK Nett-TV, HBO and Amazon Prime are all streamings services that are available in Norway. Combined, these services were consumed more than traditional linear TV.

4.3.2 Heuristic Evaluation

The two interactive media texts were evaluated against the modified heuristics from Hochleitner et al. (2015) (Appendix I). Each goal was considered and the evaluator assessed if the heuristics were met or not. It is important to note that some subjectivity was difficult to avoid and that another expert might have evaluated the interfaces differently.

Figure 12: The Heuristic Evaluation Spreadsheet (Appendix I).

Total: 33 heuristics

Late Shift

Heuristic met (v): 23

Heuristics not met (x): 10

Main usability problems according to the heuristics:

  1. There are no clear goals
  2. Some of the tasks (choices) seem boring an unnecessary (because it does not affect the plot)
  3. There are no levels
  4. There are no guides displaying how the interaction works
  5. The player is not in control all of the time
  6. The player can impact the story, but only to a certain degree
  7. There is no visual feedback other than the story playing out the choice the player made
  8. The interactive controls use the colour white and are transparent: this could potentially be an issue for people with bad eyesight or dyslexia (the controls does not have an option to change the colours or fonts)
  9. There are no alternative ways on interacting (can only use the mouse or trackpad to move arrow)
  10. No customization available: only brightness and language settings are available

Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale

Heuristic met (v): 21

Heuristics not met (x): 12

Main usability problems according to the heuristics:

  1. There are no clear goals
  2. There are no rewards
  3. Some of the tasks (choices) seem boring an unnecessary (because it does not affect the plot)
  4. There are no levels
  5. There are no guides displaying how the interaction works
  6. The player is not in control all of the time
  7. The player can impact the story, but only to a certain degree
  8. You are not able to respond to threats in the story (only a few, but the story pauses as you make this choice)
  9. It doesn’t emotionally transport you into a personal level of involvement because the interactions are limited and seem inconsequential
  10. There is no visual feedback other than the story playing out the choice the player made
  11. There are no alternative ways on interacting (can only use the mouse or trackpad to move arrow)
  12. No customization available: only language settings are available

 

4.4 User Study

4.4.1 Warm-up interview

The warm-up interview (Appendix J) aimed to gain some insight into the participant’s past experiences and to expand on some of their opinions regarding the topic of interactive media texts. The answers were recorded in a spreadsheet in order to get an overview and to be able to compare the answers (Appendix M).

Summary of the answers

None of the participant’s had any past experience with interactive films or TV series. Some of the participants said that they play digital games regularly, but most of them said that they didn’t. They reported that their TV consumption habits were varied. Some participants reported that they watched 3 hours of TV every day, while some said they only watched 30 minutes of TV every day. All of them answered that they interact with the media they consume in terms of searching for information about actors online or reading reviews. They all seem to engage with the media they consume because their answer was unison when asked the question of whether they commented on the TV while watching something.

4.4.2 Rainbow Spreadsheet

The rainbow spreadsheet was created in order to organize the observations from the study (Appendix N), which were created from the transcriptions (Appendix K). Both positive and negative observations were listed and the colour code indicated which observation belonged to which participant.

Figure 14: Rainbow Spreadsheet (Appendix N)