Discovery Moments

Let's, finally, talk about something 360 video can do that films can't do.

Discovery Moments.

What do I mean by discovery moments? Well, moments of discovery. Times when the audience goes "oh!", "ah!" or "neat!". Times when the audience has an experience where they follow something they perceive as non-directed (they believe they are following it for themselves, or even in spite of the storyteller) and this rewards them with a pleasant surprise.

I am not referring to "regular" discovery moments, where a question is asked and the audience makes a decision to look around and discovers the answer. That's great, we want that! I talk about it in this section on tension and curiosity.

I refer to discovery moments as such moments that take place while the audience believes they are subverting or ignoring the narrative as it is directed to them.

Let's Talk About Comics Real Quick

A good example is comic books. Comic book artists seem to enjoy filling their comics with little details.1 Background character's facial expressions, or tie-in's and callbacks. Sometimes an illustrator can especially excel at a few panels that deserve one to stop and cherish for a few moments. Because the audience can choose to slow down reading and take in these details or flip back and forth, they can be rewarded for spending more time with the comics than one who just reads them front-to-back, once.

This is an extreme example of the principles I am talking about.

360 is Different, Of Course

Comics, the reader has control over the pacing of the story. If one were to consider and analyze comics as an immersive medium, it's this pacing, and selective attention of the audience, where the decisions would lie.

360 Video, the audience has no control over the pacing. It's video. Yet, the audience can still make decisions that are antithetical to the story as we direct it to them. We can reward the audience in a subtle way with little details and extras that, unnoticed, don't negate from the story.

How can we satisfy the viewers curiosity in unexpected ways?

Do It With A Wink

In order for this to be effective, we don't want the audience to spend the rest of the story constantly looking away from our characters to study wall hangings or bumper stickers. At first, it seems if we are rewarding the audience for subverting the directed narrative, then the audience will continue to feel comfortable subverting it, which we don't want.

There is still a way to do this, which is with a wink. If one can acknowledge, somehow, that the discovery is subverting the narrative, sure, but here you go. Discoveries that requires intricate knowledge of canon or great memory, with a callback, works great. The audience didn't just discover the, say, funny magazine cover in the pharmacy isle, but they recognized that it is funny because of some arcane bit of information that they possess, and understand as being arcane. The audience feels that for them to get this joke, they have to be more knowledgeable than the average audience member.

The Audience Can't Watch Incorrectly

Here is the key. This content relationship is the same as the discovery relationship. The audience gets the joke because they have more knowledge (they may feel) than an average user and because they had more bravery (or less patience) and chose to look away, unlike an average user. The audience chose to behave differently, so we give them a different experience.

It may come to pass that 90% of audiences get bored, look around, and find something interesting that relates to the story.

Yet, we also want to convince the audience that this looking around wasn't necessarily part of the "intended" narrative. This makes the audience feel special.2 It also, hopefully, keeps the audience from spending too much time looking for details, reassuring them that to watch the story appropriately is, well, appropriate.

Remember, we don't want to punish the audience for "doing something wrong". Ideally, there is no way to do anything wrong, and the audience always feels like they did something right. Having discovery moments is a great way to give audiences experiences that feel unique, where they feel like they did something right, and a reason to enjoy and share the story with others.

  1. This is anecdotal. I can say that at least the comic book artists that I read enjoy adding these little details, such as John Allison, Rick Remender, and Craig Thompson. John Allison has a wonderfully intricate and continuous world that his comics exist in, and he frequently has callbacks, tie-ins, and bits of continuity that most readers would never notice. When one does read (and re-read) his comics and discovers these seemingly hidden easter eggs, it feels very rewarding and special. 

  2. "Every audience is special in their own way." - My mom.