Along with the boom of cross-media and multi platform storytelling in recent years, several online platforms have been introduced focusing on interactive storytelling, which significantly simplifies the making of interactive documentaries and fiction projects. They are also available to a much broader audience and also help online journalists with their work. The most widespread form of interactive documentaries is a network consisting of links in which the user can independently navigate between various media content.

The structure of interactive documentaries forms a narrative, gives emphasis to certain plot points and is able to bring content in the documentary genre (photos, comments, documents) which couldn’t be used in a film, even though it makes up a significant part of the story. In the case of interactive documentaries, the user decides which content to watch and how long to watch it, so the user’s interest determines the information, parts of the story and pictures offered by the documentary.

With new platforms getting more attention, new ways of storytelling are also emerging, which in most cases prove to be better at presenting subjects in detail. They also succeed in getting the user more involved personally than what linearly constructed documentaries are capable of. Like the Chinese quote borrowed by Andre DeVigal, Director of Multimedia at the New York Times says: “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand”

The variety of new platforms is quite  wide: starting from the simple “drag and drop” interfaces made for the average user, timelines and mind map types of story editing devices are also being introduced. A big chunk of these new platforms is HTML5-based and is compatible with tablets and smartphones as well, but it is clear that currently every company is making platforms based on their particular visions so they could set the trends of how we will use media in the future.

Zeega is one of the simplest, most user friendly platforms in which we can grab web content from YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, Soundcloud or Tumblr to make our own interactive stories. Zeega also lets us add text, streetview, color layers and pop-ups which create a connection between various contents.

Stroome, the winning project of the 2010 Knight News Challenge is currently on hold, but their promise is to come back as the “web’s most collaborative video editing site”.

Meograph’s own simple user interface focuses on the space and time in which the stories are placed. While this might be the least suitable platform for creating flexible and interactive projects, it could be really useful for journalists and for creating educational content.

Galahad’s Immersive Video Player and Builder was introduced with a stunning comic movie and according to plans, Galahad will also be the online distribution engine of the future for the publication of the related content of various films, TV-series, publications and games, through a constant communication with the audience.

Atavist is a tool that has been primarily made for journalists to integrate photos, Wikipedia articles, comments and videos and present them together on one platform.

Djehouti is currently only available in French, but there are quite a few finished stories on their site. Videos, subtitles and sounds can be merged into one interactive unit nicely. The pre-made transitions can be used to build interactions and movements into the story.

Honkytonk Films, the designer of Klynt, gained attention with its interactive documentary “Journey to the End of Coal”. Users of the platform already include mediums like La Repubblica, France24 and NGOs like WWF, Greenpeace or UNICEF. The user interface of the platform is rather complex yet friendly. Mind-map-type of story editing and real time video control help the editing and the player interface is fully customizable as well.

3WDOC has an easy-to-use interface, while also having a great variety of functions. In addition, it  lets the user edit multiple stories at one time.3 WDOC has been created by a French agency, Hecube, who originally designed the platform for their own productions.

While most of Storyplanet’s functions are not yet available, the platform looks very promising. The designers imagine every story as a grid and each of these grids depict a screen. In the grid, we can freely arrange the elements of our story horizontally and vertically, thus creating our own interactive structure. Simple graphic elements can also be created, and like with Djehouti, we can add transitions and actions to each element as well.

Popcorn.js, developed by Mozilla, has an interface which looks a little like a draft, but due to its open source code, anyone can create their own plugins, which holds great possibilities for the future. Currently, there are numerous web-based services which can be integrated, from Processing scripts, to LinkedIn.

The list, of course, doesn’t end here. For example, YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley’s new project MixBit could spark some interest in the area of social video making. For now, their website only says: “The future of video is launching soon.”

written by Mátyás Mao Kálmán