A NEW PODCAST SERIES FROM AFTRS
Lumina is a series about how tech innovations challenge and shape the way we share stories.
Our host is the head of curation at Tedx Sydney Fenella Kernebone, a former presenter at ABC’s Radio National and Triple J. In the series, Fenella speaks to a carefully curated brainstrust of storytellers about why technological developments in the industry, and in our society, are something to be excited about, not daunted by.
Across a dozen interviews, Fenella investigates topics such as the future of books, how interactive stories can be made for Smart Speakers, whether creatives should fear the rise of Artificial Intelligence and why Virtual Reality is a powerful tool for empathy. Throughout the episodes, Fenella becomes the test bunny, plugging herself into biometric readers and experimenting with interactive sci-fi podcasts, to get to the bottom of how storytelling is rapidly changing. Our talent are at different stages of their careers, some have a creative practice, others belong in the technology development, but all are storytellers at heart.
“For me, the projects are most successful when people say ‘Sorry you’re doing what? Why?” and I say that I think this will make more sense in a few years time.” – Tea Uglow
Since the first time someone told a story around a campfire a lot has changed about how we tell stories to one another. In this first episode of Lumina, Fenella Kernebone talks to two creatives rethinking the way we tell stories; Tea Uglow, Creative director at Google’s Creative Lab in Sydney and Mikaela Jade, CEO and founder of augmented reality company InDigital. Both think screens are just a stepping stone on the way to a world full of interactive stories we can barely conceive of yet.
“I’m interested in the technology and how it can be pushed and squeezed as much as the story and the narrative itself. You’re testing out what the tech can do as much as being interested in the narrative and the story and the drama behind it.” – Nicky Birch
The way stories are delivered and experienced is changing, becoming less linear, more interactive. But even in these new forms, there are good stories and bad ones. What sets a story apart, keeps someone turning the page, watching the TV show or answering their smart speaker? Nicky Birch from BBC R&D has found that even the weirdest of interactive experiments need a few storytelling essentials at their core.
“What we’re concerned about is having computers listen to music and extracting emotional data from that music: the melodies, the harmonic structures, the level of energy, the type of emotion, and then taking all that data and doing interesting things from it. Including generating music itself.” – Charlton Hill
Do machines have what it takes to create music that taps into human emotion? Tech is increasingly aiding human creativity, but is there an x factor to great stories and art that machines can’t replicate? The team at Uncanny Valley shows us how they’re teaching computers to understand human emotion, and Peter Clay tells us about the human intuition at the heart of programming feel-good station smoothfm, where he’s head of programming.
“We don’t have to be a better film, we’re not trying to be a better book. We still use all these old traditional forms of storytelling and they’re not going anywhere… The limit with linear stories is we’ve reached our capacity to view our world, and learn from it, when it’s coming from one point of view.” – Chris Panzetta
The story is all around us—more than ever before we have the power to make stories that engage multiple senses, and toss the audience into a whole new world where they feel they’re part of the action. But does immersion using technology like binaural audio, virtual reality or augmented reality lead to a great connection to story? Chris Panzetta from S1T2 explains the difference between a gimmick and an engaging immersive reality and Screen Audience Research Australia measures audience reaction to immersive experiences.
“It’s so funny when I put people into Virtual Reality and introduce them to a volumetric video person, they’ll stand at the correct social contract distance away from that person. Even though they could walk on top of them – or through them!” – Scott O’Brien
Sink deeper into the world of immersive storytelling—now that we know an immersive story, well told, can make us feel ‘present’, can these stories bring us closer to each other? Can experiencing a story using immersive technology increase our empathy for people with stories very different to our own?
Scott O’Brien thinks so, he’s the founder of VR and AR company Humense, and sees this emerging tech (when used well) bringing us closer together.
“It’s a major challenge of the arts to ever know when you’ve gotten anywhere, because there’s no destination, there’s no career path, there’s no course. And of course if you’re an ambitious person you’re always shifting the goal posts anyway.” – Natasha Pincus
When change is so constant and tech so alluring, it can be easy to forget the skill at the core of every good story. How can practitioners of all creative industries look past the tech and just get really good at what they do? Filmmaker and screenwriter Natasha Pincus loves to experiment with all sorts of new technology, but carves out time to hone her craft.
“The attention span people have these days is short. For the audience that I’m creating for, these are people who are used to watching lots of pieces of short content constantly throughout the day. When I go onto Youtube to watch a series, I think ‘ooh it’s 5 minutes, I don’t know if I can dedicate that much time’, because that’s the nature of the beast.” – Hannah Lehmann
We may not watch them on the box in the living room anymore, but the show runners, writers and directors behind great Australian TV are creating some of the best screen-based entertainment around. What’s the secret to creating and pitching a great TV show in 2018, when the gatekeepers are platforms like Netflix or Stan (or gone entirely)? Hannah Lehmann (The Out There) and Chloe Rickard (Jungle Entertainment) share their secrets.
“This next 50 years could be the second Renaissance, the machines will take the sweat and free us up the time to appreciate the things that are important to us.” – Toby Walsh
Can artificial intelligence create art that’s as good as a human’s? And if they could – would we even care about it, without that beating heart, that authentic human experience at its core? Professor Toby Walsh from UNSW and CSIRO’s Data61 explores the capabilities of AI-composed stories, and whether we will care about them when they get here.
Mikaela Jade, Indigital Tea Uglow, creative director of Google Creative Lab
Nicky Birch, head of Rosina Sound (UK)
Peter Clay, programme director of Smooth FM
Justin and Charlton, heads of Uncanny Valley
Bella Castle, biometrics lab technician at SARA
Chris Panzetta, co-founder of S1T2
Hannah Lehmann, creator of The Out There
Chloe Rickard, CEO of Jungle
Natasha Pincus, director and screenwriter
Scott O’Brien, CEO of Humense
Toby Walsh, Professor in AI at UNSW
Lumina is produced for AFTRS by Audiocraft, with Selena Shannon and Jess O’Callaghan. Our sound engineer is Ryan Pemberton, and our Executive Producer is Kate Montague.