Interactive media is any digital system that empowers users to manipulate and mix different media types including video, text, sound, games, computer graphics (CG) artwork, and animation.
Most of the best-known types of interactive media are digital. The Internet has greatly facilitated connectivity and interaction, making it possible to engage with (previously) passive platforms in a more interactive and often personal manner.
In today’s digital age, content creators and animation studios have the fantastic opportunity to use transmedia technologies like extended reality (including VR and AR), motion capture, and video mapping.
There has never been a better time to jazz up your animated series’ post-production advertisement or get the crowd pumped for its grand debut!
In fact, Picotion values interactive media solutions so much that we’ve dedicated the 8th stage in our animation production pipeline to it. Read on and by the end of this edit, you’ll come to share the same opinion.
The Rise of Interactive Storytelling Through Time
Well before what we know as “transmedia” existed, people all over the world engaged in astonishing – and sometimes horrifying – interactive storytelling experiences.
Some experts believe that interactive storytelling can be traced back to the campfires of prehistoric times. According to this theory, the storyteller would change the story’s path depending on their audience’s reactions and inputs!
Some others, like the esteemed scholar Joseph Campbell, believed something else entirely. His theory was that the earliest form of true non-linear storytelling happened in the rituals reciting old myths. Such rituals involved dancing, music, and even “acting” in the place of gods and drunken centaurs.
Doesn’t sound very different from modern role-playing games (RPGs), does it?
In her book called Digital Storytelling, Carolyn Handler Miller explains how playwrights like Luigi Pirandello later continued this interactivity practice by deliberately breaking the “fourth wall.”
Think of the fourth wall as the metaphorical barrier between what’s real (from the audience’s point of view) and what’s fiction (played on stage).
For example, in his play Six Characters in Search of an Author, actors embraced their roles as uncompleted characters who needed a playwright to decide their fates! (He won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1934 for that, by the way.)
These traditional modes of social interaction paved the way for the groundbreaking interactive entertainment we see in 2023. Today, there are smart toys, wireless devices, and immersive environments like virtual reality (VR) that are taking interactive media by storm.
Understanding Interactive Media: An Overview
Put simply, interactive media is any form of media that dynamically reacts and responds to user input.
Interactive media also refers to the way that people share information and ideas through creative uses of technology. It goes beyond passive consumption, demanding active engagement from participants.
So instead of simply reading or watching, users get to shape and influence the outcome, making the experience more engaging and interactive.
Even the smallest interactions on social media can be considered interactive media. Be it liking a post, leaving a comment, or sharing content, everything you do affects:
- The content’s reach and visibility
- Your feed
- The app’s algorithm
Media Interactivity Levels
There are many kinds of media in the modern world, and most can be categorized as below:
- Active: The user engages directly
- Passive: The user is merely a consumer of information that is fixed and unchanging.
And according to eLearning 101: A Practical Guide, there are different levels of interactivity in digital media. They include the following and more.
- Real-Time Interactivity: Participants can give an array of cues and responses within a dynamic, simulated 3D environment. Here’s an example.
- Medium Interactivity: Also known as “stimulation-level” interactivity, this interactive media option facilitates branching activities and might even give users diverse media reactions. Take scenario-based examples and Flash-style animation as examples.
- Limited Interactivity: As you can guess from the name, this particular type doesn’t allow for much freedom in interaction. Participants can give simple and uncomplicated responses to the program (e.g., click on an element or trigger an animation).
What all of these have in common is that the user — the participant consuming the material presented — has at least some say in how things progress, and shapes the outcome in a measurable way.
Types of Interactive Media Solutions
Interactive content can appear in many shapes and forms. For example, some are created to cut through the noise and get an important message across and some are meant to gather user feedback and valuable data.
Here, we’ve gathered a collection of the trendiest and most popular formats (plus examples) to give you all the knowledge and inspiration you need in one place.
It goes without saying that video is one of the most fantastic forms of interactive content to incorporate into your marketing, especially given its inherent immersive nature. Now imagine how invested audiences can get once you add an extra interactive element.
Being a part of an unfolding story and participating in its outcome is a great way to pique users’ interest and even teach them new things.
Coincidentally, the first interactive video ever made was a children’s cartoon title, called the “Cartoon Jukebox.”
“Hours of interactive play awaits kids with Cartoon Juke Box,” read the CD-i’s description. And it delivered on the promise!
The game was presented by Frank Zander and came with drawings that were waiting to be colored and come to life in animation. There were also ten catchy songs you could listen to and a bunch of fun games.
Everyone has surrendered to the irresistible allure of those ridiculous BuzzFeed quizzes at least once in their life. And that’s what we call the assessment interactive media type right there.
Imagine a quiz designed to tell users which character they’re more likely to be in your animated series.
This can be a fun and engaging way to promote your creation. Participants get to answer a bunch of questions and in return, they unlock these incredibly valuable insights. It’s like a treasure hunt for fans!
A classic example is Wizarding World’s Sorting quiz.
#3 Branching Narratives
Do you remember the world’s first interactive title, Cartoon Jukebox?
Later, Sidewalk Studio went on to create branching stories in titles like Sandy’s Circus Adventure. As you might have guessed, these “branching” narratives let participants change the storyline based on the choices they make.
Such narratives were the earliest examples of digital branching stories. Emphasis on “digital” since, as you read above, the history of interactive branching stories goes back to ancient times.
We’ve now come a long way since the world’s first completed CD-i and first children’s title. Today, brand storytellers can harness cutting-edge tech solutions to craft captivating branching narratives. Successful examples like “Detroit: Become Human” are proof of the immense potential these narratives hold when executed well.
#4 Games & Gamification
Interactive media can encompass not only the type of media that engages with the user directly but also the kind that encourages them to engage with one another. Think of video games that bring players from around the world to battle it out or game-like social networks where you can chat with friends near and far.
According to Carolyn Handler Miller, these games should be:
- Intensely competitive;
- Demanding of one’s skills, either physical or mental;
- Governed with set rules;
- Clearly structured, with an established way of beginning and end;
- Played to win and to avoid any setbacks.
Like other forms of interactive storytelling, games also have roots in ancient times.
Of course, long ago, games were not made for idle amusement but for serious purposes: to prepare young men for hunting and warfare. Today’s games may involve fewer people dying as a tribute to the gods, but there are core elements that should remain in modern-time gamification for them to be interesting.
Gamification is the injection of game elements and mechanics in every day, non-game situations. Like other forms of interactive media, gamification aims to motivate and involve the audience.
The best way to explain how gamification works is by reviewing a campaign called “The Beast,” the first of its kind to be introduced to the public.
It was in 2001 when Microsoft launched an interactive game revolving around a murder mystery that many people tried to solve. Yes, The Beast was created to promote a Spielberg movie, but none of its elements referred to the movie.
This is how it went:
This “game” had clues and hidden story elements on different websites, all of which were completely realistic looking and had no mark or hint that pointed at Microsoft. Also, there were absolutely no rules, no rewards, and no explicit objective in sight.
Instead, the game’s most striking quality was how it toyed with the boundaries setting reality and fiction apart by using natural settings as the immersive framework. That’s also probably how it got so many people to plunge themselves into the drama of the story.
In other words, The Beast (which isn’t even the campaign’s real name) created a new kind of virtual reality. It enticed a whopping million participants and unraveled just like a live drama.
Today, creating such campaigns is made much easier with the technology available. And if done well, it can do the same thing The Beast did to so many: encourage people to participate in a deeply immersive, narrative-rich experience they’ll remember for years to come.
#5 Virtual Presenter
“Otter Chat” an Interactive Real-time Animated Talk Show at the St. Louis Aquarium Starring Tommy the Otter”
That’s what the title of the motion-capture-powered interactive show about otters in 2020 read.
The idea was simple: Let guests have a fully immersive experience as they speak with the virtual presenter, Tommy the Otter, to learn about the lives of this animal.
As you can see, the Otter Chat team came equipped with an incredible facial tracking camera system. This upper-body motion-capture system lets the actor interact with the audience and speak to them in real-time while synchronizing their actions to the adorable animated character.
You already know the results were incredible. Audiences LOVED that they could get a unique response from the cute otter each time. What’s better, the team behind this motion-capture interactive show did it all on a low budget, with very simple equipment and talented but not heavily trained actors.
You could bring your very own virtual presenter character to life using many other methods. For example, a cute mascot or even a holographic presentation of your audience’s favorite character could really stick with them.
#6 Location-Based Entertainment
Location-based entertainment, also known as LBE, is a very self-explanatory term. From different kinds of theme park attractions and ridefilms to exhilarating multiplayer interactive computer games like shooting simulations, LBEs could have something for everyone.
Think of museums, fireworks shows, water fountain spectaculars, and parades all as LBEs.
#7 Interactive Installations
Interactive installations employ advanced motion-capture technology to intricately digitize the human form, transforming it into numerous particles. That’s how individuals get to interact with their virtual silhouette through a user-friendly interface in a simple, enjoyable, and intuitive way.
You can also fully customize interactive installations to fit whatever kind of campaign you have in mind. For example, see how Netflix Italia employed interactive billboards in their marketing strategy to bring the spine-chilling fear of watching a horror film into reality.
#8 Social Media Platforms
In today’s digital age, social media platforms have become a hub of interactive experiences. They bring people together, connecting users in networks that foster real-time feedback and engagement.
As you read above, even the most trivial actions like your “like” or “comment” can shape what you see and influence the visibility of others’ content.
#9 Live Streaming and Video Conferencing
Interactive live streaming lets you forge genuine connections and engage with your audience in real-time like never before. It’s not just a one-way communication anymore; it’s a dynamic and immersive experience that brings your content to life!
The most known examples of live streaming can be found on websites like Twitch, where gamers and eSport competitors are sometimes paid to play and promote certain games.
If you’re a game developer or want to make one to promote your animated series, consider investing in such interactive marketing efforts.
Why? Because interactive live streaming enables you to launch campaigns that can amass millions of views with a remarkable conversion rate of over 30 percent.
But interactive live streaming goes beyond gaming; it opens doors to a diverse range of possibilities. You could stream events and live performances, allowing those who may not afford to be physically present to enjoy and participate from the comfort of their homes.
#10 Interactive Learning & Training
Nowadays, the concept of e-learning and training is not alien to anyone. Instead of traditional videos, interactive training and learning creates dynamic spaces where students and employees actively participate and apply their knowledge in real-world scenarios.
Now, imagine harnessing the power of interactive learning for your animated series.
You can take your animation’s dance choreography and teach it to kids in exciting settings like a mall. Imagine the delight on their faces as they dance along with their favorite characters, becoming a part of the animated world they adore.
You could also use interactive learning videos (and even combine them with real-time rendering technology) during events where fans gather together to explore other fun aspects of your animated series.
From interactive workshops to hands-on activities, fans can immerse themselves in the magic of your creation, fostering a deeper connection.
What Do I Need to Run an Interactive Campaign?
In the past, it was common practice for those in the entertainment industry to produce content specifically designed for one medium (be it TV, game consoles, or cinema).
But cross-media projects have changed that.
These creations are essentially built to be displayed across multiple platforms, including (at least) one interactive medium.
For that to happen, you’re going to need different talents and resources in your team.
- A project manager or producer
- A creative director
- Lead designer
- Software engineers
The team could also use the expertise of:
- A puzzle master or game designer
- A content expert
- Motion-capture actors
- An information architect
- An animation studio
- A sound engineer
- Technical providers
- Marketing agencies
Necessary Documents & Art Work
Just like every other stage on the animated series creation roadmap, the pre-production phase involves many tasks and documents.
Although each organization may put its own creative spin on documentation and preproduction artwork, there are common types of written materials and visuals every project needs.
The list includes:
- Concept Document
- Project Bible
- Design Document
- Concept Art
Interactive Media Technologies
Wherever there’s a fun interactive media campaign, there’s motion capture involved.
The motion capture technology essentially captures real-life movements and translates them into 3D animation or live interactions with animated characters in real-time.
Whether you’re developing video games, XR experiences, or live performances, motion capture brings that extra touch of realism that hooks your audience and immerses them in your animated world.
It goes without saying that in today’s exciting world of CG animation and gaming, where the possibilities of virtual realism seem endless, motion capture has become an absolute must for every creative studio’s pipeline!
Doesn’t matter if it’s a tech event, a press campaign, a video game, or an interactive talk show with your animation series’ characters like the above example, Picotoin has got your back. We’re experts at connecting motion capture animation technology with all the latest trends. But don’t take our word for it: see the Picofolio for yourself.
Extended Reality (XR)
In real life, it is highly unlikely you’d get a chance to come to blows with your favorite villain or watch them through your smartphone’s lens as they hop around the room. But thanks to interactive media technologies like AR and VR, those once fantasies have now become a reality.
VR & AR
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies are here to make all your wildest dreams come true.
VR uses a headset that whisks you away to an incredible computer-generated world. The technology’s purpose is to provide users with a genuine sense of being present in and interacting with a realistic physical space.
A real VR environment is an advanced form of cyberspace, a computer-generated 3D artificial world designed to appear convincingly real.
One of the most remarkable instances of VR in the entertainment world is at DisneyQuest, an indoor theme park in Orlando. This five-story structure offers a captivating range of VR amusements, all made possible through the use of Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs), Computer-Aided Virtual Environments (CAVE), and simulators.
For example, visitors can hop on Aladdin’s magic carpet, embark on a thrilling adventure through the lush jungle on a riverboat ride, or exchange fiery swords with their favorite villains.
On the other hand, AR offers an exciting frontier for short and snappy video creators. While it may not completely supplant good-old visual effects (VFX), consumer-driven companies embrace AR to whip up fun content.
Think virtual try-on videos, where you can see how that perfect pair of sunglasses or a trendy hat looks on you before making a purchase.
Websites and Web Applications & Mobile Apps
An interactive website is simply a website that, unlike traditional pages, encourages user engagement and goes beyond boring buttons like “learn more.”
When browsing interactive web pages and web apps, users can alter the way they look, play games, or do something together with their friends.
Here are some elements you can add to your website to make it more interactive:
- Social share buttons
- Live chat
- Advanced search bar
Imagine walking around in a trade show or event to see what grabs your attention. Wouldn’t a big interactive screen or a life-sized hologram be the fastest way to make onlookers curious and interested?
We think it would. And not just at events or showroom floors, but anywhere you want to create an engaging physical experience.
Step into a world where augmented reality meets mind-blowing interactivity – introducing life-sized holograms that are taking the tech world by storm, and just maybe, transforming your upcoming corporate event or convention into an unforgettable experience!
Picture this: a holographic display of your audience’s beloved character, seemingly leaping out of the screen and into reality. But here’s where the magic truly unfolds: anyone stepping into the designated control area becomes part of the action.
They can turn this mesmerizing image into their very own personalized avatar. Lift your right hand, and the cartoon character follows suit, mirroring your every movement with precision.
Of course, the technology is far more sophisticated than what meets the eye. Such interactive displays use real-time augmented reality, a full body control system, and gesture recognition technology.
Gesture Recognition / Voice Recognition
Gesture recognition technology allows you to interact with displays and digital signs using different body gestures with your hand or other body parts. They detect multiple data points on the user’s body (hands, head, etc.) and recognize circle and swipe gestures (scrolling, rotating, etc.).
The best part? No need to stop and undergo lengthy measurements or calibration processes. Just stroll up to the system and start interacting right away.
While not as advanced as gesture recognition, voice recognition technology can also be an attractive addition to your interactive display. You’ve likely encountered it before when asking virtual assistants like Alexa for the time or talking to interactive game characters like Tom Cat on your phone.
The systems can greet individuals and efficiently answer simple questions or requests.
Some even go a step further with natural language processing capabilities, using advanced voice recognition technology to understand and respond to more complex commands. Others usually need the participant to use a keypad for operation.
Video and 3D projection Mapping
While video mapping itself is not inherently interactive, it can be combined with interactive technologies to create interactive experiences.
Traditional Media vs. Digital Interactive Media: Which is Better for My Animated Series?
When we talk about traditional media like broadcast television and film, we’re talking about an audience that is just sitting there, watching without any chance to explore or get involved.
And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Except sometimes, engagement levels might drop and ad campaigns might become less effective. That’s when businesses and studios might wonder if it’s time for them to switch to interactive media advertising solutions.
If you’re also asking “Which one is better for me, traditional media or digital interactive media solutions?”, the answer is: it depends on factors like what you’re promoting, your target audience, and your marketing objectives.
If, like Netflix, your goal is to get more exposure and drive positive engagement, then interactive solutions might work best. But certain audiences don’t find interactive technology very interesting, especially if they face difficulties while trying to navigate them.
For example, research shows that brand-interactive advertising can have a positive impact on children’s and teenagers’ emotional responses. This is mostly because of how playful and fun the content can be for them.
On the contrary, interactive ads can be counterproductive if the audience (usually the elderly) finds them technologically challenging or boring. They will then associate their negative experience with the brand.
So do research, seek out expert advice, and consider combining traditional and digital media solutions to bring even more value.
Benefits of Interactive Storytelling: A Novel Approach to Driving Results
Wondering if interactive content lives up to the hype?
Rest assured because the short answer is yes, it does.
Adding a touch of interactivity to your animated series characters or elements will help you drive more user engagement and boost sales. Stand out from the crowd and give your creation the competitive edge it deserves!
Here below are three of the main advantages of incorporating interactivity into your campaigns.
Better Reach & Conversions
Customer-centric interactive marketing strategies are an effective way to connect and engage with your ideal customers. Looking at the examples above, you know now that such campaigns have a proven track record of success by establishing genuine connections and making audiences feel “special.”
Naturally, the more you can connect with your audience, the higher your conversion rate will soar!
In today’s era of data-driven insights, the information we gather about online users undeniably holds immense value for marketers.
Interactive content lets you analyze your target audience’s behavior and gain valuable insights into their preferences, habits, and choices. The more accurate and relevant data you gather, the better you can optimize your marketing campaigns to their fullest potential.
Think of interactive media solutions as a high-five between the content creator and their audience.
Based on insights from content marketing institutes, incorporating interactive content can significantly augment the user experience, boosting marketing campaigns’ effectiveness as they become more intriguing and leave an indelible impact on viewers.
The ability to engage, entertain, and empower audiences through interactivity is a powerful tool in the hands of content creators.
Interactive media solutions let your audience control their journey and make their own decisions. The ability to influence the story’s outcome fosters a sense of ownership and investment in the narrative, making the experience more memorable and enjoyable for the viewers.
As with any creative endeavor, there are challenges to overcome when delving into interactive media. Crafting a seamless and intuitive user experience requires careful planning and execution. Balancing interactivity, budget, and technologies with a compelling story arc can especially be a delicate process.
But worry not! At Picotion Studio, we have the expertise and experience to guide you through every step of this journey. Our team of skilled professionals will collaborate with you to create interactive media solutions that perfectly complement your animated series while staying within your budget.
Don’t let the challenges deter you; reach out to Picotion instead and let us turn them into opportunities to bring your vision to life.