The genre known as reality television sprang into existence
thanks to a drop in camera costs and increased digital storage,
editing and effects capabilities. Now, as we enter the acceleration
era, consistently dropping technology costs and new software
capabilities will enable a radical transformation in in the sorts
of reality shows we see on broadcast television and on YouTube.
One particularly potent reality TV catalyst will be nascent
virtual worlds technologies like Second Life, Multiverse and There which will not only
make possible high-end machinima (animation
via virtual world action capture, which is already taking off), but
also totally new, ultimately genre-busting, broadcast worthy
Back when I lived in LA and worked in reality television and at
the same time encountered virtual worlds for the first time, I
would often image the amazing reality shows that will soon be
possible as production technologies and practices evolve. For your
enjoyment and as a demonstration of just how crazy television
programming is about to get, here’s my current top 10 list of
future virtual world enabled reality TV shows that I’d love to see
1. U-BOAT: 25 contestants live aboard a submarine set and
engage in the historical experience of a lifetime. They must
quickly learn to navigate the craft through a virtual ocean
simulation and a string of dramatic WWII
battle scenarios. To both the contestants and the viewer at home it
looks and feels as if these modern day Americans are actually
piloting the submarine and narrowly staving off infamous Nazi
2. THE BOARD ROOM: The new
flagship marketing vehicle for Milton Bradley is an augmented
reality game show that allows contestants to literally step right
onto their favorite all-time board games. To the audience at home,
it resembles The Price is Right in game structure, but visually
looks like the participants have jumped into a Tron-like world with
their favorite games all around them.
3. REQUIEM: Each episode of
Requiem features one near-death person (young, old, terminal,
famous, interesting, compelling life story) as they leave behind a
3-D “plot” of land for the world. Each individual is given the
opportunity to create a 3-D world in which they deposit memories,
images and descriptions of loved ones, candid descriptions of
historic and historical events, favorite memories, renderings of
their dreams, final farewells, and warnings to society. (cont.)
Alvis Brigis is a former reality television producer and
story editor whose credits include Motormouth (VH1), The Simple
Life 2 (FOX), Making the Band 3 (MTV), and House of Boateng
(Sundance). This is Part 2 of a series envisioning the future of
As I discussed in my last post on
future tv programming that incorporates virtual worlds, reality
TV is one of the many art forms due to experience incredible change
as we enter the acceleration era. The genre is particularly
well-suited to respond to new technology because it that was
recently enabled by dropping technology costs and responds quickly
to market forces.
That being the case, I’d like to explore just how BIG reality programming can get considering the
proliferation of high-quality digital recording devices like the
iPhone (the new better 3G version will start at just $199), the
rise of social media media structures (YouTube, Digg, MemeBox), the
advent of online participatory editing, the near-term potential of
WiMax communication webs, new camera POV possibilities such as
aerial micro-drones, and the steady progress we are making in
digital storage and battery life/weight.
Ultimately, these are the same technologies that will enable
widespread life-logging, surveillance and an emerging participatory
panopticon. But along the way they will make for some kick-ass,
ground-breaking reality television.
Here’s my Top 10 list of future MASSIVE reality TV shows that I’d love to kill some
precious time watching:
1. THE PROTEST: The world’s
largest and most dramatic political protests are examined
inside-out as real-time footage captured on handhelds and by aerial
drones is crowd-sourced and quickly edited online. As viewers watch
the most popular cuts they can click on a frame to directly access
the live feeds of their favorite broadcasters.
2. MANHUNT: 10 professional
soldiers, law enforcement agents, and reformed criminals stage a
fictional prison break then attempt to elude a public manhunt on
10,000 acres in rural Montana. Watch from afar or come test your
tracking skills for a shot at $1,000,000.
3. THE REAL WAR: A reality show
that actually makes a difference in the lives of the persecuted
masses, The Real War brings transprency and accountability conflict
situations in unstable regions. Sponsored by the UN and private
donors, the program is edited by a panel of international
Prediction: Alternate Reality Gaming and Reality Television will converge in a big way by 2013.
Alternate Reality Gaming is a new “interactive narrative structure that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions”, as defined on Wikipedia. Basically, that means a fictitious scenario played out atop the real world.
To date, most of the massively popular ARGs such as The Lost Experience and I Love Bees have been largely organized through the web while serving a broader marketing purpose. But as the genre 1) continues to gain in popularity and 2) the cost of high quality video production continues to decline, it is likely they will gradually develop into a self-sustaining industry capable of generating programs that equal or exceed contemporary broadcast television quality.
This will be made possible by the proliferation of ultra-cheap and capable DV cams, easy and broad wi-fi transfer of footage, smart footage databses, and robust computers/editing programs that can effortlessly manage more video feeds and increase prduction quality in numerous other ways.
For example, it will soon become possible to organize a theme party (i.e., Presidential Campaign Trail), set some basic game rules (i.e. Everyone Must Dress Accordingly, Deliver Stump Speeches, then Vote for the Party President), record the entire experience, and then quickly edit it into a final product good enough to air on, say, a channel like VH1. My guess is amateurs will be capable of producing such programming inside of 5 years time – though by then the primary audience will likely be web-based.
That being the hypothesis, here’s a list of 10 other ARG/Reality Show concepts that I think could be produced over the next 5 years:
1.THE SENATE: This active political reality show pits 100 Americans against one another as they seek re-election by effectively role-playing a live Senate situation. Political parties are formed and dissolved, legislation is proposed and voted on, current events and wild-card situations add spice and flavor. Ultimately, the show serves to mirror and parody real-life politics.
2. FANTASY WILDERNESS ADVENTURE: Small fun-to-watch groups role play a harrowing Robin-Hood-style journey through the wilderness. They proceed from elegant or hilarious sketch-to-sketch and interact with B-actors and extras playing various medieval roles. The final product is an edited story that can be inter-cut with other groups on parallel or complementary adventures.
3. HISTORY: Participants are placed into unique historical and fictional scenarios and must use their role-playing skills to turn the situation to their advantage, often creating alternate versions of past events. The best role-players proceed to the finals where they interact with one another in a grand scenario. Expert judges (historians, psychologists, acting coaches) eliminate the worst player-actors until just one is left standing.
4. HACK ATTACK: America’s best hackers all try to crack a multi-layered and formidable website. They film their efforts via web-cam and provide interview commentary via Skype. The best footage, of both the game leaders and the most interesting personalities, is cut into regular episodes.
5. SECRET AGENT: Ordinary Americans are placed in extraordinary spy situations and must react and solve their assignment. They must unravel clues, decide which characters to trust, and ultimately survive the adventure. The winners are the ones who score the most points by achieving goals in the shortest time span.
Back when I lived in LA and worked on reality TV shows I would
often ponder the future of low-cost video production (which is what
enabled both the genre and the explosion of online video content)
and imagine a variety of camera placements that would soon be
enabled by new technologies. I was particularly excited about the
potential for aerial drone cams that could follow characters in new
ways, allow for low cost establishing shots and get to previously
unreachable positions. And so I was psyched to come across this
demo video of a hovering Microdrone camera that allows for
all of the aforementioned:
Of course, it’s been around for about a year (yet another awesome
technology that I’ve missed at inception) and is already being used
for surveillance, exploration, television and more. It currently
runs about $40,000 U.S. but as it drops in cost I expect that
reality TV producers, documentarians, news producers and low-budget
movie producers across the globe will employ it to shoot previously
unthinkable footage. (cont.)