RETAINING INTEREST COMES AT THE EXPENSE OF CREATIVE CONTROL
For its initial demo, the BBC’s experiment can change the action in a scene, who a scene focuses on, or if a scene is even present at all. It can also change the color grading and music, potentially even altering the overall feel of a movie or scene. In its example, the BBC shows how a sequence can be altered to focus more heavily on a male or female character. It also shows how a room can be altered to look pleasant or dark and grungy. It’s not particularly well done in the BBC’s initial demo video, but it gets the point across.
The BBC is probably right that it could better retain viewer interest this way, though it presents other problems. For one, it becomes harder to tell a story as there’s no longer a singular vision coming through, although the BBC would disagree. “This approach to storytelling does not remove the creative process of filmmaking,” it says in a video. “Rather, it allows production teams to explore new modes of storytelling for diverse audiences.” Nonetheless, the idea that a movie could add or adjust scenes could also bring out the worst in filmmaking, with sexual and degrading material left in for some audiences and taken out for others. Talking about a movie, too, would be a challenge.
For now this remains an experiment inside the BBC, although it’s building a prototype for release to the public. The BBC imagines that this’ll be used for online video, as it could easily serve up different streams. As for whether this idea is effective or not, the BBC doesn’t really know yet — or, at least, it isn’t saying. It’s conducted “initial research” into how effective these adaptive videos are at holding attention, but it hasn’t yet released the results.