Photographers can organise hyperlinks, text, video, photo and audio clips within the associated timeline of each sequence, previewing the results in real time.
Interactive web documentaries aren’t new, but until now they have required a daunting amount of investment and strong programming skills. Now the Klynt app is aiming to eliminate these impediments, finds Olivier Laurent, speaking to the man behind the program, Arnaud Dressen.
High-speed internet connections along with tablet computers have revolutionised the way we interact with media online. Where newspapers, magazines, television networks and publishers once merely republished their content online, they now want to use the whole array of tools, features and formats the web can offer. This factor has given rise to, among others, interactive info-graphics and web documentaries.
A web documentary is more than just a traditional, linear documentary transposed online. In addition to audio and still and moving images, a web documentary features multimedia tools that facilitate viewer interaction. “Web documentaries are clusters of information,” writes Melahat Hosseini and Ron Wakkary of the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at the Simon Fraser University in Canada. “They are hypermediated. They demand the audience’s participation and interaction. Different events and documents are not re-presented to the audience in a coherently perceived three-dimensional world on a screen that is representative of the historical world; rather, they are laid out in different windows and layers in which two- and three-dimensional views are presented.
“The audience of a documentary film is the spectator of a sequence of images that follow each other without his control in a coherent space/time reality. Web documentaries use a model of exhibition, magazine, or map to organise their data in a perceived digital space and invite the audience to move through this data space and explore the documents. As a result, equivalents to temporal or continuity editing are almost absent in web documentaries. The audience proceeds through the material and retrieves information through participation in the digital space and through getting physically and cognitively engaged interacting with the interface.”
Until now creating such a digital space required highly evolved programming skills, but Arnaud Dressen, co-founder and producer at multimedia company Honkytonk, says the Klynt app could help alleviate this. A mixed-media editing and storyboarding application designed for visual journalists, Klynt allows photographers to produce anything from simple portfolios to investigative pieces, using various narrative structures. “It helps journalists take control of their narratives and to experiment with new formats and ideas,” Dressen tells BJP.
“They can play with different levels of information or with different narrative tracks. The idea is to work autonomously to create, in a few days, a complete interactive feature that mixes different media. We hope this affordable tool [priced €150 for the Lite version, or €500 for Pro, which allows users to brand their products and comes with 24-hour support] will become part of most newsroom toolkits.”
The app is the result of seven years of collaboration between Honkytonk and visual journalists such as photographer Samuel Bollendorff, who started working with the producing company in 2005. “Arnaud asked me to think of a way we could publish a photographic story on the internet but by using the medium’s true singularity – its interactivity, its mix of media,” Bollendorff told BJP in 2011.
In 2008, they produced the award-winning Journey to the End of Coal, which attracted more than 250,000 viewers, followed by The Big Issue in 2009 and Rapporteur de Crise last year.
“When we started working on Journey to the End of Coal with Samuel, we realised there was a real need for such an application – something that would allow photojournalists, directors and writers to work with an arborescent timeline or scenario – the mind map; something that would allow them to bring together images, text and video in one place,” says Dressen. “From the beginning we wanted to create something that would reduce the amount of time and resources needed to build web documentaries.”
Honkytonk first developed the app solely for internal use. “After Journey to the End of Coal, we started receiving more commissions for new web documentaries, and each time we had the opportunity to further develop our software,” says Dressen. “Then one day, it just made sense to allow anyone to use the app.
“We theorised five or six years ago that web documentaries would become increasingly popular,” he adds. “We quickly realised that people would be migrating from traditional media to the internet, engineering, in their wake, new desires and ways of consuming content. There is this misconception that internet is Twitter, that everything has to be short – that your video cannot exceed five minutes, for example. But the internet is more than that. It’s a space that allows for interactions. It can support what we call long-form journalism. And by playing with the notions of interactivity and audience participation, we can help develop new journalistic narratives with images at the centre.”
Journalists and editors are starting to take notice. For the past three years, web documentaries have been recognised at the Visa pour l’Image photojournalism festival – although they have yet to find a place in its exhibition halls – and in 2011 World Press Photo launched its first multimedia award, rewarding linear and non-linear, interactive documentaries. In France, Le Monde, Canal+, France 5 and organisations such as Universal Music and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been using web documentaries to inform and communicate; in the US, Current TV and the World Wide Fund are also banking on the technology.
Klynt is playing a crucial role in this development, and is used by France 24, RTBF in Belgium, La Repubblica in Italy, and by Greenpeace worldwide. It’s also used by several universities in the US to train new-media journalists and visual storytellers.
The Klynt team is continuing to develop the app, and is now looking to take web documentaries beyond the desktop – web documentaries have traditionally been Flash-coded, preventing them from being viewed on many tablets and mobile phones. “When we first started working on Klynt, we wanted to make sure everything that’s produced using this tool could be viewed on any platform – computers, tablets or phones,” says Dressen. “We wanted to make sure that the work produced could be hosted on any site and integrated within a newsroom’s website or platform.”
Klynt will release an iOS player allowing web documentaries to be played on iPhones and iPads in spring. “A project should be shareable – and for that to happen, it has to be universal,” Dressen tells BJP. “And with the iPad and other tablets, photographers have the opportunity to start charging people for their work using existing marketplaces such as iTunes. This can take the form of a standalone app for each web documentary or portfolio-type apps that offer several documentaries like a magazine would offer different issues. These apps could attract people interested in documentaries and traditional reportages – a very specific and specialised audience.”
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