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At VideoFest, the Viewer Becomes the Story


by Stephen Becker 21 Sep 2011

VideoFest opens tonight in Dallas. The festival differentiates itself from similar events by focusing on new technology. In the past, it’s showcased high definition, CD Rom and virtual reality. And this year, the tradition continues.

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VideoFest opens tonight in Dallas. The festival differentiates itself from similar events by focusing on new technology. In the past, it’s showcased high definition, CD Rom and virtual reality. And this year, the tradition continues:

  • KERA Radio story:


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A few of the videos at this year’s VideoFest aren’t really videos at all. They’re iPad apps. But they were made by people with backgrounds in film and video. And they represent the next step in visual storytelling.

Bart Weiss is the artistic director of VideoFest.

WEISS: “We try to get a sense of what an artist can do with these mediums. Where does the mix between art and technology fit?”

The apps were created by Moonbot Studios, which is based in Shreveport. The company was founded by Brandon Oldenburg. He helped start the Dallas animation studio Reel FX.

Early last year, Oldenburg and children’s storybook author William Joyce were working on an animated short film. When Apple announced that it was making the iPad, the whole project changed.

OLDENBURG: “We were like, ‘Wow – this is the device we’ve been waiting for.’ Because we’d talked about something like this 10 years prior.”

The team went ahead with the film – called The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. But they also decided to explore the new tablet computer’s storytelling possibilities. The result is an interactive version of the film.

The story follows a writer who is swept up into a Katrina-like storm and loses all of his work. He is introduced to a place where magical books are kept, and that’s where he finds the inspiration to return to his own writing.

As you work your way through the app, you control bits of the action by swiping your finger across the screen. At your discretion is the color of the scenery, a tornado’s movement and which way the wind blows.

At one point, the characters enter a room containing a piano. Up pops a keyboard on your screen to teach you how to play “Pop Goes the Weasel.”

OLDENBURG: “It just seemed cool – an added bonus – that in the middle of the book, you’ve got a piano. Why not? … If it’s a game, or it’s a movie or it’s just text on a page, it’s all seamlessly connected. And it’s the limitless potential of how you connect those things that got us excited.”

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore debuted in May. And users seem to like being a part of the story. The app has been a best seller and already made a profit for Moonbot.

OLDENBURG: “It’s so approachable – from a 2 year old to a 92 year old. There’s no mouse, there’s nothing really in the way to getting to the story and jumping between the content.”

Oldenburg will show off the app at a demonstration on Sunday. He’ll also demo an  interactive music video he created for Dallas’s Polyphonic Spree,. After that, VideoFest returns to the more traditional sit back and relax moviewatching experience.

But Weiss, the Videofest artistic director, says dedicating a festival to video also means embracing video’s increased mobility. That means the festival could become a more active experience going forward.

WEISS: “The future of video is things that are in your hands, and if you can think of new ways to reach people, that’s kind of exciting.”

Click here for a complete VideoFest schedule.

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  • I can’t wait to see this App! Thanks for writing about it.