Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dead Books Project: A Jump into the Future?

Approximately two months ago, I received a request to review a new project that by the looks of it would erase the conventional ties between different multimedia and create a hybrid never seen before. The creator Hasso Wuerslin calls it Hyper-Serialization and has spent the last eight years into bringing story telling into a new phase of evolution. The process involved over 30 actors and over 40 musical bands from all over the world to take the Dead Books series written by Hasso and transform them into something else entirely.

In its essence Hyper-Serialization adopts features from common mediums. For instance the novel has been uploaded into chapters and a certain amount of chapters build a season. The first season is now available and consists from 38 chapters, which promise a solid 10 hour experience, and will be soon available for 8.95$. Each chapter acts more or less like a TV series episode with a short introduction what happened previously with the story and a small portion revealing snapshots of what is to follow. On the site there are around 12 chapters free. The first three as a demo to test the waters and determine whether this is something worth investing time in and several others out of order at the press release site.

The building blocks of each chapter are the same, but they don’t fail to captivate and entrance. The eerie and different for each chapter soundtrack give more power to the voices of the actors that narrate much like the early radio shows that featured actors to play different story lines for entertainment. However there is an actual visualization part consisting of collages, which instantly remind a person of a scrapbook, and some animation techniques that give the images a certain sense of life. The animation personally gives of the vibe of being related to how one can add effects of PowerPoint presentations, not to say that this is necessarily bad. There are sections of text provided to guide the viewer with segments that are narrated by the actors and sections, where the reader has to read for himself. If you need to take a break from a chapter there is a Stop button and a Start Button to resume.

I am going to post from the press release what the story behind this monstrous project is as it is best formulated and compensates for the small amount of chapters I had a chance to read:

“Dead Books tell the story a mining scout ship, led by the gifted Shallen, who discovers an Earth void of human life... except for the memories of a long dead, Will Lant - memories so powerful that they posses Shallen, revealing to him Lant’s final days; days in which Lant was forced to live the lives of three alternate beings in a desperate attempt to rectify a terrible mistake. Now, like the spider, the ghost of Lant traps all passersby, in the hopes that one can achieve what he could not bring himself to do.”

In any case I should go on with my personal verdict after explaining the mechanics of Hyper-Serialization. Dead Books as a product and an execution of the idea leaves me with a large set of mixed feelings. Positive is how Hyper-Serialization engages more human senses and attempts to aid the viewer in imagining the settings and characters, something which so far has been left to the individual imagination. Sounds, text and images can greatly enhance the story and entrance the person watching and I admit I had some pretty strong eerie moments that caused chills to run up my back, something I wouldn’t otherwise feel if the story was a simple novel. Another effect is that you feel immersed in the story and are a bystander just there near the characters but far away to remain unseen.

But this spell is a fragile being. There quite some dampers that dragged me out as fast as I was submerged, giving me an uncomfortable bumpy ride. If something isn’t executed as well as it should or if the product doesn’t match the general buyer’s tastes, it can ruin the experience as a whole. I had those moments, where the chapters ran too fat for me to read the text meant for me to read and watch the collages come to life before moving to the next collage. The timing was an issue with me as well as the art quality involved. My tastes lie with the more refined display of art such as illustrations and more digitalized and more Photoshop touched pieces. This is something I didn’t find in the Dead Books. But yes it is understandable, why there are more kinks to work out in the Dead Books project. Hasso has been a one man show to organize and lead the project and has relied on his own resources and as a pioneer in this field nobody could have forecast what is to be expected.

The idea of such a mishmash of elements from the modern media is not entirely new, different or alien. One by one the different mediums tread unto each others’ territories and give birth to new forms of entertainment such as interactive animated sites with more sound effects. In the future with a selected team of renown artists, animation experts and selected bands and the resources to employ popular actors or lance the careers of voice actors, Hyper-Serialization may become a new form of storytelling to establish a solid presence in our cultural life.

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